Dolly Parton was at the park Friday to perform for Dollywood employees and to give a preview of Smoky Mountain Christmas to members of the media. The park was closed to the public, as workers made final preparations for Saturday’s grand opening of the Christmas festival. As a steady rain fell Friday afternoon, some employees estimated the work would continue throughout the night.
Just last Sunday, the park was still decked out in its fall splendor, including hundreds of pumpkins. But all that was gone Friday. Lighted trees lined walkways while garlands festooned with ornaments and bows draped doors and windows.
This year, the number of Christmas lights has grown to more than 5 million thanks to the all-new Glacier Ridge component of park decor, which adds 1 million more lights compared to previous years. Parton is expected to host a 6 p.m. ceremonial tree lighting at Glacier Ridge’s centerpiece, a 50-foot Christmas tree that will feature synchronized lights and projected animation.
Located in Dollywood’s Timber Canyon, Wilderness Pass and Craftsman’s Valley (the upper portion), Glacier Ridge is anticipated to become the latest “must-see” during Smoky Mountain Christmas.
Glacier Ridge is designed to make guests feel as if the Smokies have frozen over, thanks to an arctic color palette and a mesmerizing atmosphere that looks to equal that of Pumpkin LumiNights. The Plaza at Wilderness Pass has been transformed into a winter wonderland, dominated by that big Christmas tree. Every 30 minutes the Plaza will sparkle to life with a fully synchronized, dazzling light show complete with holiday favorites Dollywood hopes will have guests singing along.
For guests entering from Timber Canyon, the Arctic Passage, a 130-ft. long programmable light tunnel, transports them into Glacier Ridge in a stunning array of light and color. After emerging from the tunnel, guests will be greeted by polar bears who have made a home at Drop Line Bay. Because the Smokies have frozen to create Glacier Ridge, these friends from the North are able to spend time with their Smoky Mountain cousins.
Those coming to Glacier Ridge through Craftsman’s Valley experience a one-of-a-kind, new light installation that mimics the natural phenomenon known as the aurora borealis. Guests can walk through Dollywood’s version of the northern lights — brought to life with music as only Dolly can — making it feel as if the celestial lights have come south, even if for just a few weeks.
Since Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas helped kick off Sevier County’s Winterfest in 1990, the festival has been known globally as a must-see Christmas event. Amusement Today contributors and voters bestowed the Best Theme Park Christmas Event award on Dollywood in 2008 when the honor was first created. Dollywood is the 11-time — and only — winner of the honor.
“Christmas is so important to me for so many reasons,” Dolly Parton said. “I’m so thankful that it’s a time when our family comes together to share stories, remember old times and make new memories we’ll take with us through the next year and beyond. There’s a lot of laughin’ and a whole lot of love when we all get together. I want those folks who come to experience Christmas with us at Dollywood to feel like they’re part of the family, making those memories and sharing those special times. I know the fun they’ll find in Glacier Ridge will help them create brand new memories and traditions.”
But longstanding favorites abound as well, including Dollywood’s Parade of Many Colors, the live stage version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Christmas in the Smokies.”
For more, visit www.dollywood.com.