PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) — Season passholders were the first guests to experience Dollywood on its delayed opening day Monday due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dollywood was originally scheduled to open for its 35th season in mid-March, but because of the coronavirus, the opening was pushed back.
The park implemented 700 operational changes to follow state guidelines and to keep visitors and employees safe.
Before entering the park, guests were asked to make a reservation online to help Dollywood hosts keep track of capacity.
Guests will immediately notice changes once they arrive at Dollywood.
As part of the new operation changes amid the pandemic, every guest’s temperature is checked and everyone must answer a ‘no’ to four questions.
“First we had to get our temperature checked at the tram stop, which was not bad. The lines have not been bad. Everybody that’s working here have been super-friendly and I think a lot of the Dollywood staff’s really glad to be back too,” Natalee Elkins, a Dollywood season passholder, said.
Guests 3 years or older are required to wear masks throughout most of the park. The only exceptions to wearing a mask include while eating, while taking pictures, on high-thrill rides or water rides and in relaxation zones.
Some visitors said they were so happy to be at Dollywood that they were OK with the changes, or were willing to get used to them.
“It’s a little difficult getting used to the mask thing, but at work I have to wear one so it’s kind of getting easier. Right now I’m just excited to be back and I’m appreciating Dollywood for their social distancing measures that they put in place,” Isak Larsen, a Dollywood season passholder, said.
Guests have also noticed how often employees were cleaning.
“They’re cleaning our hands on a regular basis, so it’s been a lot of fun. We’ve done a couple of rides and they’ve done a really good job about it. It’s a lot, they’ve done a better job here than they’ve done at some of the retail stores we’ve been in,” Rich Antonucci, a Dollywood season passholder, said.
If guests aren’t comfortable with the changes, Dollywood staff asked them to please wait and be patient. The guidelines aren’t set in stone.
“We’re in ‘phase one’ now, and we’ll see what the governor decides to do as he moves forward and how quickly we can get to the next phases, lift some of the restrictions on attendance and maybe lift some of the other requirements. We’ll see what he decides,” Pete Owens, vice president of marketing at Dollywood, said.