PIGEON FORGE — Dollywood opened for the 2021 season this weekend after spending the last several weeks making improvements to the park to enhance the guest experience while continuing to take the necessary health precautions and follow recommended guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re excited for the season. We had a lot of momentum coming off of the 2020 season and had a lot of reservations for season pass holders to come in and visit today and through the weekend,” said Pete Owens, vice president of marketing and public relations.
Visitors — including those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine — are required to wear face masks throughout Dollywood, and capacity is limited so reservations are recommended.
Owens said the policies at Dollywood, like wearing a mask, are consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines being followed at theme parks across the nation, including areas where mask mandates have been lifted.
The park has increased some of its entertainment opportunities from what was available last year.
“We have more shows, more indoor theaters that are opened, Dolly’s museum is back open,” Owens said.
“We’re adding a new closing show for the Summer Celebration that’ll start when the festival starts in June that will be really unlike any show anywhere. It’ll have hundreds of drones that will be part of it as well as the fireworks that we’re doing.”
The drones in the program will move in unison to create a show that hasn’t been seen before. Summer Celebration runs June 25-July 31.
“That’ll be a nightly show,” Owens said. “We’ll kick things off with a street party in Wildwood Grove and then they’ll count down to this closing show that we’re going to be doing every night during the festival.”
Dollywood is focused this year on guest experience and making sure there is always new things to do in the park as the season moves forward.
“We’re working hard to make sure every festival we have something different that will make them want to come back throughout the season,” said Wes Ramey, Dollywood’s public relations director.
“They’re going to be looking throughout the year at new things they can add, new experiences for folks to enjoy, just to give them something different.”
Dolly Parton, who has only had her first dose of the vaccine, wasn’t at the opening event this year but did release a statement encouraging guests to come and enjoy the park that shares her name.
“Our people are doing a great job to care for our guests, and I’m just glad that everyone is seeing what the good folks at Dollywood have been doing to make it one of the best family destinations in the entire country,” Parton said. “What we have is special. It’s a place where folks can come to enjoy those precious moments they will cherish forever. This season looks bright, and I just know families are going to love making a lot of great memories this year.
“I wish I could be there for the opening, but the doctors said I need to wait until after I’ve had the second dose of the vaccine. Let’s all be patient. All of this stuff is going to be over soon, and I know it won’t be long until we can be together.”
One of the most notable changes to the park is in Craftsman’s Valley where the blacksmith shop has been relocated to a familiar spot which most recently housed a pottery shop.
When Dollywood was Rebel Railroad and Goldrush Junction the blacksmith shop was in The Village, but when the park became Silver Dollar City the blacksmith shop was moved to the same location it now stands for the 2021 season.
“The original Silver Dollar City blacksmith shop was in that building,” Owens said. “Moving them back there into a new facility with new equipment just shows our commitment to crafts and the work that they do every day.”
The Dollywood Company earned several awards and designations last year, including Dollywood theme park being recognized by Tripadvisor as the eighth best park in the world.
In addition, Dollywood’s Splash Country was named a top-five water park by USA Today readers, while Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa was named a “Top 15 Best Resort Hotel in the South,” as well as one of the “Top 25 Resorts in the US that are Perfect for Families” by Travel and Leisure magazine.
“There is no doubt; this is the year to have a season pass,” said Eugene Naughton, president of The Dollywood Company. “We have so many exciting things planned for our festivals this year — like concerts, new shows and entertainment, a number of new culinary items and more — that our guests are going to want to come back time and time again to experience the fun of Dollywood and the beauty of the always-changing Smoky Mountains.
“Our goal every single day is to provide the best possible experience for our guests. It is a lot of hard work, but the reward for all of us is to see the smiles, hear the laughter and read the great notes and emails about how they love the moments they have here at Dollywood. They tell us it is that time that helps them come closer together as a family and that those are the memories they will keep forever. That is the reason we all do what we do.”