Gone Dollywood by Graham Hoppe, a Book Review

Gone Dollywood by Graham Hoppe, a Book Review

Gone Dollywood: Dolly Parton’s Mountain Dream is a new book of essays by Graham Hoppe, an author who focuses on food and culture. Being a Dollywood Insider and a huge fan of Dollywood, I reached out to the publisher to inquire about a review copy. When the book arrived, I read it during the middle of the Dollywood Social Media Influencers Gathering that I attended in late April. Reading the book during a visit to Dollywood created some inspirational moments relating to the park and its environs.

In some aspects, the book reminded me of Vinyl Leaves by Stephen Fjellman, the seminal work on Walt Disney World and culture that was published in 1992. Gone Dollywood takes a similar look at Dollywood and how it represents and changes the views of Appalachian culture. The work is academic in nature, but Hoppe writes in a way that doesn’t alienate the lay reader. Dollywood fans will be intrigued by the book and theme park fans will devour it. Fans of Dolly Parton and Appalachian culture will find it a work of love and respect. But that doesn’t mean that Hoppe doesn’t question what he sees around him in the park and the Pigeon Forge area.

Why Should I Read Gone Dollywood?

Gone Dollywood is a series of essays that chronicle Dolly’s life in relation to the culture of her home town, her career and the Dollywood theme park. The book also takes a detailed look into how Appalachian culture, or mountain life, has been purveyed to the rest of the country and how Dolly has fought that image through her music and life. Hoppe also looks at Sevier County and how modern Sevier is vastly different from the history it wants to portray. It’s not mentioned often, but most of Sevier County voted against seceding from the Union and was against slavery. That flies in the face of the number of confederate flags flown today and on display in the area. It really wasn’t part of Sevier County history.

Yes, Hoppe addresses how in the world Paula Dean was able to open a very successful restaurant in the Pigeon Forge area and how it relates to the current culture of the area.

Gone Dollywood takes us inside the theme park and explains the representations of Dolly’s life that we see throughout as well as the representations of mountain life. Hoppe stresses that hillbilly popular culture was not as it was presented in the 1950s, but more akin to the Craftsman’s Valley and Rivertown Junction areas. It’s more about hardworking people trying to survive and pass on their culture.

Hoppes’ book offers insight into Dollywood as a social and cultural institution that goes beyond expectations of a modern theme park. Gone Dollywood is a look into  the modern stratification of a park and how it exists inside and outside of its mountain environs. It’s interesting when Hoppe points out that Dollywood is a park paying tribute to Appalachian culture and is nestled serenely in the Great Smoky Mountains.

The Tennessee Mountain Home, a representation of the home in which Dolly Parton grew up, is located in Rivertown Junction.

To me, Hoppe looks at how Dolly is able to connect to disparate audiences through her music and her messages. Not only is she a country super star, but Dolly is a gay icon and has stated that she believes that love is for everyone. It’s very heart-warming to read about Dolly’s stance in regards to hatred, and bias, even when it’s shown in her hometown. Dolly believes in love and people and it shows.

Anyone with a vested interest in Appalachian culture and how it manifests in Dollywood and in Dolly Parton’s life will find Hoppe’s book a pleasure to read. There were moments that reminded me of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, but that simply relates to the economic depression of the area. Overall, Hoppe weaves a view of a theme park that exists to boost Dolly’s people and her way of life. Hoppe also provides insight into Dolly’s life, based on interviews and articles, that help explain how Dollywood has evolved since her partnership with Herschend Family Entertainment started in 1986.

Title: Gone Dollywood: Dolly Parton’s Mountain Dream
Author: Graham Hoppe
ISBN: 978-0-8214-2323-3
Release Date: March 15, 2018

Are You Going to Pick Up a Copy of Gone Dollywood?

FTC Disclosure: A copy was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links, which means that ImagiNERDing receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site. Thank you for your support!

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Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Adventures Christmas Dinner and Show

Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Adventures Christmas Dinner and Show

As a Dollywood Insider, I was invited to experience the new Smoky Mountain Adventures Christmas Dinner & Show and I posted a video review about the new show, here. With this article, I wanted to focus on the overall experience, especially if you’ve never visited a dinner show before (I highly recommend this one). The entertainment is top-notch and the food is outstanding!

The Smoky Mountains Adventure Theater is located at 2713 Parkway in Pigeon Forge, TN. It’s about a ten-minute drive from Dollywood and within walking distance of many hotels on the parkway. You’ll want purchase your tickets ahead of time to get the best deal and get the best seats. The doors open about an hour before showtime and you can hang out in the Bass Mercantile while enjoying special holiday drinks and games.

According to my son, the Candy Cane Cocoa is the best drink ever! I ordered Applejack’s Spiced Cider and loved it (but I agree that the cocoa was astounding).

There are games like Tic-Tac-Toe, checkers and corn hole that you can play while you’re waiting.

The theater opens about 15 minutes before show time and you’re directed to your assigned row, which seats about 10-15 people per row. Your server will come around and explain the dinner while she takes your drink order (Pepsi products, sweet tea and coffee). Even before everyone is seated, the pre-show begins!

Notice the Mischievous Elf carrying the presents?
The pre-show with the Mischievous Elf and other musical performers lasts during most of the meal.

Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Adventures Christmas Dinner and Show: the Meal

Served over several courses, the meal is simply fantastic. The holiday dinner includes: a special holiday soup recipe, homemade buttery biscuits, spiral ham, pan fried chicken, old fashioned Southern dressing, a sweet potato treat, buttery corn on the cob, and Southern Peach Pie for dessert. Even my picky fourteen year-old loved the chicken, corn on the cob and biscuits. He felt like there was a great choice of foods for everyone.

The creamy soup was very reminiscent of the soup from Dixie Stampede. I love that you can use a spoon, your biscuit or drink straight from the mug!

There was plenty of time to enjoy the food without feeling rushed during the pre-show. The portions were large and will satisfy the heartiest eaters.

Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Adventures Christmas Dinner and Show: the Show

The show lasts about an hour and a half and it’s a high-energy spectacle full of dancing, jokes, songs, ice-skating (yes!), gymnastics and a death-defying feat! (But no spoilers.)

The digital projections were charming and helped tell the inspiring story.
It was hard to believe that the performers could sing, dance, act and perform complicated acrobatic scenes. They were all wonderful.
Adding the ice skating was charming and unexpected.
The show balanced high energy scenes (like this one) with more sedate scenes to keep the entire show engaging.
There were even several audience participation moments for children and adults during the Smoky Mountain Adventures Christmas Dinner & Show.
There’s a modern, Smoky Mountain spin on many standard and classic holiday favorites!

Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Adventures Christmas Dinner and Show

My family loved the Smoky Mountain Adventures Christmas Dinner & Show. The food was lip-smacking great and the entertainment kept us engaged the entire show. And let me tell you: these entertainers know how to sing, dance, act, skate and perform acrobatics.

The show his a great way to spend an evening in the Pigeon Forge area. You will create fun, family memories that will stay with you for years. Plus, the whole experience is captivating enough to keep the kids away from their screens!

Are you going to check out the Smoky Mountain Adventures Christmas Dinner & Show?

Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Adventure Christmas Show Video

Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Adventure Christmas Show Video

As a Dollywood Insider, I was offered the chance to take my family to experience the new Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Adventures Christmas Dinner & Show. (It used to be the Lumberjack Adventure show.) I experienced the Dixie Stampede show back in April, so I was excited to see how this show differed.

Check out my video on the Smoky Mountains Adventure Christmas Dinner & Show

The show that we saw is the brand new Christmas version that is playing until December 31, 2017. Like the Dixie Stampede Dinner show, the food is served in courses, but with a few changes. At the Smoky Mountain Adventures, the dinner is served during the entertaining pre-show and it is a different menu. I have to admit that the food was fantastic; even my 14 year-old son enjoyed the meal (and he’s very picky).

Make sure to visit their website to make reservations in advance if you plan on visiting.


Great Pumpkin LumiNights at Dollywood!

Great Pumpkin LumiNights at Dollywood!

Great Pumpkin LumiNights at Dollywood sounds like it’s going to be an amazing addition to the Harvest Festival this season. Are you going to check it out?

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (Friday, August 18, 2017)—Dolly Parton today shared plans with media about her award-winning park’s upcoming harvest and Christmas events, as well as a new album project which features music from Dollywood’s Little Engine Playhouse.

“I love fall in the Great Smoky Mountains,” Parton said during the media event. “It truly is one of my favorite times of the year to come home. God’s coloring book is in full display with the Great Smoky Mountains painted in reds and golds.

“I’m also really excited to be here to let you know about our brand new nighttime event we are adding for families in October called Great Pumpkin LumiNights. You know, people from all around the world know us for the millions of twinklin’ lights we put up at Christmas time. Well, when guests see thousands of these glowing pumpkins all lit up in Timber Canyon, they’re going to have that same special feeling. We think Great Pumpkin LumiNights will become just as popular with families as our Smoky Mountain Christmas festival. I’m pretty sure there will be a lot of new family traditions made this October!”

Dollywood’s Harvest Festival presented by Humana (Sept. 29- Oct. 28) provides families with great Southern gospel entertainment during the day and fabulous fall fun during the evening thanks to the new Great Pumpkin LumiNights. This season marks the first time the Smoky Mountain theme park has opened every day—and stayed open after dark—during its family-favorite harvest event. The expanded operating schedule allows Dollywood to provide guests with additional autumn experiences designed to help them create cherished family memories.

The biggest names in Southern gospel take to stages every day throughout the park with more than 500 individual performances during the run of the festival. Additionally, Great Pumpkin LumiNights offers whimsical, family-friendly activities that are sure to make this event a new harvest tradition.

Families will bask in the glow of thousands of intricately-carved pumpkins as they wander through immersive harvest-themed displays throughout Dollywood’s Timber Canyon. Beyond the impressive displays, guests can find a number of exciting activities to create thrilling memories together. With so many carved pumpkins needed to create Great Pumpkin LumiNights, Dollywood has a number of “pumpkin artists” who will host demonstrations to help guests learn how to produce the perfect pumpkin masterpiece.

Check out the Great Pumpkin LumiNights video from Dollywood

Unique harvest games and attractions—including a glow maze—for kids, a nightly Pumpkin Boogie dance party, and friendly costume characters help add to the festive atmosphere. New themed food options and exclusive harvest-themed Coca-Cola products make Great Pumpkin LumiNights the place to be when the sun goes down in the Smokies.

Alongside Great Pumpkin LumiNights, Dollywood once again hosts the largest Southern gospel music event in America with the biggest names in the genre visiting the Southern Gospel Jubilee. Karen Peck & New River (Oct. 21-22), Guy Penrod (Oct. 23-24), The Isaacs (Oct. 12-13), The McKameys (Oct. 6-7), Gold City (Oct. 2-3) and many more provide inspirational music to fill the autumn air.

The park’s Year of the Family continues with America’s most-loved holiday theme park event, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas presented by Humana (Nov. 4- Jan. 1, 2018). Honored for nine-consecutive years with Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket for Best Christmas Event, Dollywood is home to a festive holiday atmosphere that truly puts guests in the holiday spirit.

“I just love Christmas at Dollywood, and I know you all do too,” Parton said. “The Parade of Many Colors is back this Christmas, along with seven holiday shows and four million beautiful lights. We even have Rudolph and his friends back for another year of creating family memories. It will be a November and December to remember!”

From the spectacular shows and elaborate holiday decorations to the four million sparkling lights and Christmas-themed menus, Dollywood captures the essence of Christmas in the Smoky Mountains.

Parton also spoke about her newest project, a children’s CD entitled I Believe in You. The CD will be released in September and features songs she has written throughout the years for Dollywood’s Little Engine Playhouse. It includes a new version of Coat of Many Colors which debuted in the playhouse this summer.

For more information about Dollywood’s Harvest Festival or Smoky Mountain Christmas, please visit www.dollywood.com or call 1-800-DOLLYWOOD.

Are you going to check out the Great Pumpkin Luminights this year?

Dolly Parton Helps Distribute Final My People Fund Checks And Surprises Families!

Dollywood My People Fund Press Release

Press Release: Dolly Parton Helps Distribute Final My People Fund Checks And Surprises Families With $5,000 Checks

Dollywood Foundation pledges at least $3 million from My People Fund to the Mountain Tough Recovery Team

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (Friday, May 5, 2017) – The Dollywood Foundation administered the final distribution from the My People Fund on Thursday with recipients noticing an extra surprise when they received the check.

Dolly Parton and recipients of the Dollywood My People Fund.

Thanks to fundraising efforts, Dollywood Foundation officials were able to provide a $5,000 check to each family as they work to recover from the Smoky Mountain wildfires which occurred last November. Beginning last December, the My People Fund provided $1,000 each month to Sevier County families whose primary residences were completely destroyed due to the fires.

In total, recipients received $10,000 as a hand-up to help start their rebuilding efforts following the fire. The fund, which was established by Dolly Parton, The Dollywood Company, Parton’s dinner theaters and The Dollywood Foundation, was supported by contributions from across the country, as well as donations made through the Smoky Mountains Rise telethon which took place in early December.

“The My People Fund has been a great success,” said Parton. “I want to thank my team, the Dollywood Foundation, my friends in the music business and the thousands of people from all over the country who opened both their pocketbooks and their hearts to help us.

“Over the last five months, we’ve given nearly 900 families $5,000 to help them recover. Yesterday, we had our last distribution and I went over to The LeConte Center to say thanks to all the volunteers and to help give out a few checks myself. We matched what they’ve received already with another $5,000 check. I know $10,000 can’t solve everything, but I do hope the money will help them to dream again.”

Dolly Parton and a recipient of the Dollywood My People Fund.

In addition to providing initial monetary support to displaced families through the monthly check distribution, the remaining funds from theMy People Fund will continue to help the people of Sevier County. At least $3 million will be contributed to the Mountain Tough Recovery Team which will serve the continuing needs of residents during the critical rebuilding period ahead. This program will begin helping families on June 1.

“We’re still receiving money, so we aren’t finished yet,” Parton added. “Recovery will take some time, so a new organization—called Mountain Tough—has been created to help our people get back on their feet for the next three years. We’re giving at least $3 million to help this new organization begin the next chapter of our journey.”

Mountain Tough assists individuals and families recovering from the wildfires by providing resources for the unmet needs of low-income families and individuals in Gatlinburg and the surrounding Sevier County area. The team seeks to restore the quality of life and provide for the long-term needs of those affected.

“Mountain Tough will help pick up where the My People Fund left off,” Dollywood Foundation President David Dotson said. “They will be staffed with case managers who will work to identify the immediate needs of residents and our funds will be used to address those needs. For example, it may help with transportation so someone can continue to be employed, or it may help with medicine for conditions caused by the fire. The case managers will coordinate with county agencies to ensure needed assistance is not duplicated and achieves its maximum impact.”

Anyone who wants to help the Mountain Tough Recovery Team with their efforts should visit www.mountaintough.org for information on how to donate, how to volunteer and much more. The website is the official source for all information regarding the recovery effort.

Dollywoods DreamMore Resort, A Review

Dollywoods DreamMore Resort

I was invited to experience Dollywoods DreamMore Resort during the Family Media Day on August 1. My overall thoughts on rooms and recreation will follow later. The DreamMore Resort just opened and offers over 300 rooms, set-up for multi-generational families. My room had a king-sized bed and a bunk bed. I have to admit that the bed was one of the most comfortable I’ve experienced.

I was completely impressed with the resort, especially comparing it to the Deluxe resorts at Walt Disney World. It really felt like the Grand Floridian mixed with the comfort and welcoming nature of the Wilderness Lodge. It’s definitely a step above most hotels in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area.

Outside Dollywoods DreamMore Resort

The resort has a great opening, with lots of green to play off the softer white of the building. I was surprised that you enter from the back and get a strange view of the support services from the parking lot, but the resort looks amazing from the main road. Once the vegetation fills in, it will be even more striking.

There’s a great fountain that welcomes you to Dollywoods DreamMore Resort. It offers some inspirational phrases from Dolly Parton, herself, and some butterflies! (Thanks to MoJo for the photos!)

As you cross under the porte-cochère, you’re welcomed by a wonderful stream that runs under the entrance. It’s very welcoming and very soothing. It will make a great photo op and a great space to wait for friends and families.

Dollywoods DreamMore Resort is surrounded with lush landscaping and surprises at every turn!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Dollywood Resort without some rocking chairs. There are 70 rocking chairs scattered around the resort. How fantastic is that?

Rocking chairs galore at Dollywoods DreamMore Resort!

Inside Dollywoods DreamMore Resort

They were still doing a few finishing touches to the interior (in the image below, they were installing a gorgeous inlaid DreamMore logo), but it was incredibly impressive to walk into the space. The check-in desk was very minimal and it only took a few minutes before I was greeted.

Behind the front desk is the Windows of Wonder, which are five screens that show some amazing high-definition videos of the Smokies. Once people noticed the Windows of Wonder, there were audible gasps and the front desk staff smiled. Seeing the clouds drift by or the bubbling brook was a very nice way to start the check-in process.

You can always find a five-gallon pitcher of pink lemonade in the lobby! It’s a refreshing treat while you’re waiting to check-in or while you’re headed to your room.

The windows along the back wall show off the pool and recreation area. There’s also a breathtaking view of Mt. LeConte. Obviously, great care was taken in laying out the resort.

Dollywoods DreamMore Resort is full of places for sitting and gathering, so to speak. The resort has several areas on the main floor (where the DreamMore Pantry is located) for sitting with family and friends and enjoying a quick meal or beverage.

The DreamMore Pantry is the place to pick up  biscuits, cinnamon rolls, cookies, fudge, sandwiches, soft drinks, coffee, tea and other to-go items. The prices didn’t feel too high, but were what you would expect from a theme park hotel.

Dollywoods DreamMore Resort: The Song & Hearth: A Southern Eatery

DreamMore offers one full-service restaurant, The Song & Hearth. I didn’t get to eat there, but I did look around and it’s very well designed. With Dollywood opening at 10:00 AM most days, it will be a great place to stop and get breakfast before taking the trolley to the park.

The press release for the opening of the resort offers some information on the menu:

  • Southern favorites served here include chicken pot pie; corn fritters; fried chicken; corn pudding; chicken fried steak; and eggs, biscuits and gravy.
  • A family-style dinner priced at $54.95 serves four people. It includes the resort’s special “stone soup” or a salad, bread and butter pickles (which Parton says could always be found on her family’s table when she was growing up), fried chicken, pot roast, mashed potatoes, green beans, and signature apple donuts for dessert.
  • The Smokies are known for their abundance of pancake houses, and these popular breakfast spots line the parkway that leads to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Keeping in that spirit, the resort’s breakfast service is over the top. In fact, Song & Hearth serves four pancake flavors on its buffet – banana pudding, birthday cake, cinnamon roll and double chocolate – in addition to the standard buttermilk pancakes that can be ordered from the menu.

The Song & Hearth looks like a very comfortable, yet elegant restaurant.

Dollywoods DreamMore Resort: More Interior Photos

This is the shot of the lower level by the Song & Hearth. It’s a very refined stairwell that connects the two spaces. Restrooms are located down here as well as several private areas for conversations.

The signage is low-key but offers great way-finding. We’ll explore the other areas of the resort in later posts.

On the way to the Spa, Indoor Pool, Game Room, Camp DW and Fitness Center, you’ll pass by the wall featuring 69 album covers from Dolly Parton. Apparently, there’s room for more because she’s recorded more than 69 albums!

The Perks of Staying at Dollywoods DreamMore Resort

The best reasons for staying at Dollywoods DreamMore Resort are based on access to Dollywood and the fantastic attractions!

  • Wait Less in Lines- Reserve access at select Dollywood rides, shows and attractions with a complimentary TimeSaver Pass to hold your place in line – up to $25 value per guest per day.
  • Early Saturday Entry- Experience some of your favorite rides first at Dollywood Theme Park and Dollywood’s Splash Country on Saturday mornings.
  • Complimentary Door-to-Door Transportation – Enjoy our convenient resort shuttle to Dollywood parks.
  • Exclusive Entry – Use the special resort guests-only entrance at Dollywood parks.
  • Complimentary Package Delivery – Take advantage of in-room delivery for Dollywood parks’ shopping purchases.

Besides the beauty of the resort, the biggest reason to stay is the availability of the free TimeSaver Pass for each guest. It normally costs $25.00 per person. A family of four can save $100.00, which needs to be factored into the total cost. (The TimeSaver Pass is a much more effective version of Disney’s FastPass.)The six trolleys are a very nice feature, considering parking and taking the tram to the front gates. There is a special resort-only entrance (near the VIP/Press parking) that is very convenient and never crowded.

I’ve spent a good 20-25 minutes in the entire parking experience (even much longer in the evenings), so the trolley is a great idea.

Would you stay at Dollywoods DreamMore Resort? Leave me a comment and tell me what you think about the resort?

Check out my Trip Report on Communicore Weekly (the Greatest Online Show), as I discuss the Great Smokey Mountain Alpine Coaster and staying at Dollywoods DreamMore Resort!