Back in the 1980s, Dolly Parton wanted to create a place where someone could be entertained while they also enjoyed a relaxing and fulfilling meal. Through The Dollywood Company she partnered with Fred Hardwick and the Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation in 1988 to open the doors of the first Dixie Stampede near Parton’s home in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The entertainment proved to be impeccable, and in 1992 the second location was opened in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with a Civil War theme. The original Tennessee location and a second one in Branson, Missouri, that opened in 1995 continue to thrive.

In June of 2003 the forth location of the Dixie Stampede was opened in family friendly Orlando, Florida. A few years later in 2008 the location was purchased and bulldozed by Orlando Premium Outlets to make way for a new strip mall.

The South Carolina location was re-themed by Dollywood Corp. in 2011 as Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show. A four-course BBQ feast is served while Crimson and Sapphire pirates perform epic battle sequences set to Parton’s music.

The crowd-interactive production begins with a pre-show about an hour before the colorful extravaganza begins. In Pigeon Forge the pre-show begins with entering into a non-alcoholserving saloon. Patrons gear up for the show with help from the Americana, Southern Gospel, and Country music played by humorous but skilled musicians during a live performance. The songs include Dixie inspired melodies and a mix of Dolly’s top songs.

In Branson the pre-show includes music from the White River Wranglers inside the Dixie Stampede’s carriage room. The music is similar to that heard at the Pigeon Forge location with wonderful acoustics and early Country music sounds. Before the show customers are asked if they would like to be seated on the North’s Union side or the South’s Confederate side of the stadiumstyled arena. As the show begins cheerful servers dressed in the blue of the Union or Confederate gray begin serving a four-coarse meal. Everyone receives hefty portions including a small rotisserie chicken, hickory smoked pork loin, corn on the cob, a half baked potato or herb roasted potato, vegetable soup, a biscuit and to top it all off, a scrumptious pastry. There are also vegetarian options available at both locations. The show includes two hours of music, sounds, lights, pyrotechnics, intricate costuming, humorous skits, powerful sets, well-trained animals and amazing trick riders. The show has a theatrical quality yet it also displays showmanship and professionalism with a down-home feel

On the official Dixie Stampede website Dolly Parton describes a Christmas experience from when she was a young girl in the Smoky Mountains. She recalls hunting for Christmas trees with her father and hanging stockings by the chimney with her brothers and sisters. There is no doubt that Dolly’s vision for her restaurants was to recreate that same festive, family feeling with the special Christmas productions at the Dixie Stampede attractions in Pigeon Forge and Branson, Missouri, which is done each year November 1 through January 1. The pre- show is funfilled. It offers live music medleys and a chance to purchase holiday

non- alcoholic beverages served in a souvenir boot. Nachos and popcorn are readily available for purchase as well. The main event includes a sugar plum fairy that turns toys into life. Santa makes an appearance, and a spectacular living nativity scene is a must-see during the holiday season.

The holiday adventure starts in the Pirates Village with a cast of pirates presenting an entertaining and interactive experience that includes a pirate holiday sing-a-long. Visitors experience the 12 Days of Christmas with a pirate twist – everything from ten crewmen leaping and six Jolly Rogers to a parrot in a palm tree. Kids can be “transformed” in a pirate or mermaid makeover at the Village’s Join the Crew area. Finally, guests enter the arena for the main holiday show, a swashbuckling spin on “A Christmas Carol” with Captain Scrooge and his faithful first mate Bob.

Not only has Parton’s beautiful voice and lyrics entertained for decades, her family-friendly restaurants create lifetime memories for their visitors. 

By Sasha Kay Dunavant