Foot-stomping, laughter, singing and yelling were the proof of hundreds of people having a good time at the Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge on the last weekend of March. The main event was preceded by a gathering in the saloon, with entertainment by comedy and bluegrass music as the salon crowd munched popcorn and peanuts and sipped drinks from souvenir boots.
About 200 media personnel and their families were special guests at the dinner attraction on March 29 — now in its 27th season. Hostess Dolly Parton (by video) welcomed the crowd seated in the huge 30,000-square-foot arena.
And on the arena floor, horses and festooned riders, wagons, animals and people kept excitement on a high note as dinner was served — creamy soup, homemade biscuit, a whole rotisserie chicken, baked potato, barbecued pork tenderloin, corn on the cob and, for dessert, an apple turnover.
No wonder Dixie Stampede is known as “The Most Fun Place to Eat in the Smokies.” You could say it was hard to go from food to show as 32 horses went through barrel races and other tricks as the North and South were in competition.
In its 27th season, some favorites were in evidence — the miniature horse race and the audience participation contests: bucket brigade and “horseshoe” throw for adults and the chicken chase and pig race for children — the North and South teams alternately rooted to victory by the fans with stomping and yelling.
The appearance of buffalo was a surprise in the show and helped establish the theme of American patriotism. Comedy routines served to keep clean humor as part of the family entertainment and the finale brought everyone to recognize our country. Using state-of-the-art audio and video technology, the arena floor was filled with the image of an American flag blowing in the breeze as a dozen horses and riders presented the nation’s colors in choreographed pageantry set to “Color Me America!,” which was written and performed by Dolly.
“When I wrote ‘Color Me America!,’ I never dreamed the song would be brought to life quite like this,” she said. “When that giant American flag fills the area, you just swell with pride. Between the finale and a few other surprises we’ve worked into the show, I just know families will be talking about Dixie Stampede all the way home.”
And “all the way home” could mean from to California, Virginia, Mississippi or Kentucky ... guests hailed from so many states, it was hard to recognize all of them. One couple came from Ohio with their 6-year-old son — it was his first trip to the Stampede. They said they had a long weekend and decided to come to Pigeon Forge — it has become a tradition every spring.
The Dixie Stampede dinner shows are performed daily. Showtimes and reservations are available by calling 800-356-1676 or visiting www.dixiestampede.com.
Dixie Stampede is a sponsor of Imagination Library, Dolly Parton’s free book program for preschoolers. Every child in our area receives a free age-specific book each month from birth to age 5, a total of 60 books and a Little Engine bookcase. Dixie Stampede has contributed more than $10 million to the program and has distributed more than 50 million books worldwide.