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Stampeding to Pigeon Forge

Prancing horses, glittery costumes, slapstick humor and pig races make Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede more than “dinner and a show.”

Trick riders and horses gallop into a dramatically lit arena and perform stunts ranging from thrilling leaps through a ring of fire to intricate square dancing. With a cast of characters ranging from a local yokel doing a chicken dance to handsome stars singing a spectacular patriotic tribute to America’s freedom, this production is pure entertainment.

The action takes place in 35,000 square foot arena in the heart of Pigeon Forge, the place to go for dinner theater-style entertainment in the Smokies. The crowd gets riled up for a friendly North versus South competition. Horse-drawn wagons rumble into the area, followed by charging buffalos, feuding lumberjacks, singing Southern belles and dancing cowboys. A Native American tribute featuring aerial acrobatics to shadow a covey of flying doves left audience members spellbound.

During the 1.5-hour presentation, youngsters squeal with excitement when costumes flash with lights and horses thunder around barrels in figure 8 formations. This wholesome family entertainment with lots of music, comedy and theatric drama is a memorable treat for locals and the many vacationers sitting around me. We got to know each other during a stage show in the Carriage House about an hour before the main show. The bluegrass and country band Mountain Rukus warmed up the crowd with medleys and mountain humor. Once dinner was ready, we moved into the arena and sat down to rotisserie chickens, hickory-smoked barbecue pork loin, creamy vegetable soup, biscuits, corn on the cob, potato wedges, and apple turnovers. Seated next to me, a family from Kentucky talked how they look forward to summertime visits to Pigeon Forge and always take in a show at Dixie Stampede. The popular attraction is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Pigeon Forge’s selection of dinner theaters runs from good, old-fashioned mountain music and comedy shows to some that aren’t nearly as mainstream. One of the most recent to open is the Lumberjack Feud, in which the brawny jacks demonstrate skills like tree climbing and log rolling in a friendly competition. The Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Theater—called a feud and stunt show—adds the twist of an old country family rivalry to a variety show of singing, dancing, and comedy.

There’s a breakfast theater called the Country Jamboree Breakfast Show.  The Great Smoky Mountain Murder Mystery Dinner Show, the Hazard County Hoedown Dinner and Show and the Smith Family Dinner Theater are also popular. Those are the shows I know that offer a meal while you’re entertained. Many more entertainment offerings are available in Pigeon Forge, ranging from Terry Evanswood’s The Wonders of Magic to the Soul of Motown at the Grand Majestic Theater. And, that’s not counting Dollywood, which seems to have a stage at about every corner.

Though Pigeon Forge seems to have cornered the market on dinner theaters, entertainment venues are found in neighboring destinations also. In Gatlinburg, Sweet Fanny Adams Theatre has been a mainstay for decades. The Rocky Top Comedy Club leaves them laughing in Sevierville.

What’s your favorite thing to do when you visit Pigeon Forge?

Hi! I’m Linda Lange. As a travel writer living in Knoxville, I fully appreciate barbecue, bluegrass and Dollywood. My story...Read on

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