Christmas in August: Dollywood preps for annual fall and Christmas festivals

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PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) — It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in August, but really only at Dollywood.

Dollywood closed its doors Tuesday so crews can make a dent in their work for the park’s upcoming holiday festivals.

“Part of our team hanging is Christmas lights up, other teams are actually still breaking down Flower and Foods items from the Flower and Food event, but we also have other teams working on our Harvest and (Great Pumpkin LumiNights) element,” Matt Young, director of events for the Dollywood Company, said.

By the time Dollywood is ready for its Smoky Mountain Christmas festival, more than five million lights will be hanging around the park.

Young said that preparing for the Christmas festival is truly a year-round project.

Of course this year, the novel coronavirus pandemic made planning a little more difficult.

One reason is because the lights Young’s team ordered last Christmas still hadn’t arrived as of Tuesday.

They had no time to wait before hanging up lights.

“The good thing is we had a good inventory and back-stock of lights leftover from years past that we’re able to reuse and re-purpose and and still deliver… we can’t wait until September or October start lights, otherwise we won’t get done,” Young said.

Despite taking a little more time to hang up decorations due to social distancing and extra sanitizing, Young said they were still on schedule.

He said crews actually started adding the Christmas décor in June, around the same time the park reopened after the pandemic.

While lighting displays always change slightly every year to create a new experience, Dollywood crews are having to take social distancing into configuration this year and spread Christmas cheer to more areas around the park.

“We’re just spreading a lot of those out so people won’t be encouraged to get really, really close together. We’ll spread it out across the park and still offer the same thing that we always have and some new things along the way as well,” Young said.

Young wouldn’t give away any secrets. Instead, he said guests have to come to Dollywood and see the magic for themselves.

He did leak a little nugget about the Harvest Festival.

Young said they are bringing in the largest pumpkins Dollywood has ever seen.

While the coronavirus has changed the typical Dollywood experience, and will change the typical holiday experience at the park, Young and Wes Ramsey, director of Public Relations for the Dollywood Company, said no matter what, guests will create unforgettable memories.

“We hope that our guests get to experience and enjoy and get to enjoy their time in the park and take a break from all the craziness that’s going on in the world and to really create those memories that are worth repeating,” Young said.

“We want to give them that experience where they can kind of forget about what’s going on outside. I know the experience looks a little bit different while you’re here, but at the same time it’s still the same, great Dollywood. And my kids, and I know my coworker’s kids and families, they just wanted get out and do something different but that was also familiar. And for us, it’s just being able to give that to our guests,” Ramsey said.

Dollywood’s Harvest Festival and the Great Pumpkin LumiNights starts Sept. 25 and ends Oct. 31.

The Smoky Mountain Christmas festival starts Nov. 14.

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