Dollywood preparing for Christmas festival | News

It’s months away, but Dollywood is already busily working toward one of its most popular times of the year — the Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival, which is Nov. 6-Jan. 2.

Workers have been painstakingly placing lights on the buildings and other structures around the park, in preparation for the festival, which has won Dollywood one of the highest industry awards — a Golden Ticket — for 12 years.

“We are the only park to ever win Best Christmas event. A lot of work goes into it,” said Wes Ramey, Dollywood public relations director.

It’s easy to see why Dollywood continues to win the category, with over five million holiday lights, festive holiday performances and warm Christmas atmosphere.

The park is currently closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and workers are out in full force placing lights on the buildings, preparing for the Christmas festival while plans are also underway for the Harvest Festival, which is Sept. 24-Oct. 30, and features Dollywood’s Great Pumpkin LumiNights presented by Covenant Health, with visitors staying late to enjoy the glow of thousands of carved pumpkins, visiting crafters and harvest-themed food.

“It is really rewarding. A lot of work, but really, really rewarding,” said Diane Tucker, special events administrator.

“We have about 15,000 hours of labor that goes into getting this set up.”

It is truly a year-round production, with lights being ordered around January of the year, planning and preparation and then placing of the lights.

“We have over 100 miles of lights,” Tucker said.

Somewhere around 465 cut trees also come to the park, ranging in size from three feet to 12 feet, and each area will have its own unique look.

“The church will look amazing. It is going to have all these lanterns and will kind of have this warm feeling,” Tucker said.

Carol and Rick Gates are among the workers who carefully place the lights on the buildings, working together on Showstreet. They have been working part time at the park on lighting for 15 years.


“This will go right up to November, and we start in July,” Rick Gates said.

One of the biggest helps has been going to LED lighting rather than incandescent, because strands of LED lights can be strung together, unlike incandescent lights.

The pair love Showstreet especially when the park is lit up.

“Showstreet especially, this is the prettiest area of the park, is the most beautiful area of the park when it is done,” Gates said.

Smoky Mountain Christmas would not be complete without entertainment, including live music and multiple shows.

Dollywood is currently seeking audition submissions for children’s roles during Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival.

The park is casting young male and female performers who can play children ages 8-12.

Children selected from the audition process will perform in one of three guest-favorite productions, “Christmas in the Smokies, “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” or “O’ Holy Night.”

Parents of interested applicants should submit a video or their child singing their favorite song along with a video of them reading “Bear in There,” by Shel Silverstein.

Parents should also include a headshot, resume (including child’s height), and links to live performances. Materials should be sent to [email protected] Submission deadline was extended to Sunday, Sept. 5.

“The main thing we look for is a performer who can make a connection with our audience,” said Roger White, entertainment manager. “We want the audience to have an engaging experience when they come watch a show.”

Speaking and singing parts are available, and dialogue memorization is required. Children’s parts are double-cast so that the child actors are not expected to be at performances every day.

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