Dollywood is prepping for another holly Dolly season this year.
Employees strung and stapled lights on buildings throughout the empty park on Tuesday. Dollywood is closed on Tuesdays-Thursdays at this time of year, giving employees a chance to begin the months-long process of preparing for the Smoky Mountain Christmas.
“We try not to be seen in the park preparing for upcoming events because we don’t want to take away from the guests’ experience,” said Matt Young, manager of Dollywood’s special events team.
‘It’s like a jigsaw puzzle’
Every summer, a team of 15 to 20 employees string 5 million LED bulbs along the edges of buildings, tree branches and anything else they can fit a staple on. The process requires meticulous attention to detail and plenty of patience.
Andrea Fontana has been hanging lights at Dollywood for more than 15 years and still enjoys the challenge. To hang the lights, employees twist each bulb to create tension so that the lights face the right way. If a strand goes out, employees have to redo all of their work.
“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” she told Knox News. “There’s always something new to figure out, and it’s going to be even different this year.”
Fontana shared that the special events team is using different colors of lights throughout the park and trying out a new type of light on trees that should stretch as the trees grow.
Making the holidays happen
Although it may seem like Dollywood transforms into a winter wonderland overnight, hundreds of employees make the holiday season happen at the park. Hanging lights is only the first step.
Dollywood will soon be decorated for Harvest Festival, the park’s annual fall celebration that includes the guest favorite Great Pumpkin Luminights.
Wes Ramey, Dollywood spokesperson, said the park is “kicking up the decor” this year for the harvest and Christmas festivities. He said guests can expect a “modern, fresh look” for the holiday season. Bigger and better elements including plant displays will be installed around the park in the coming months for the celebrations.
Young’s team must work constantly from now until months after Christmas to install and remove all the decorations. The team calls the busiest week between Harvest Festival and Smoky Mountain Christmas “crunch week” because employees often work their longest days to prepare the park for guests.
“It’s all worth it because we value the look on people’s faces when they walk in, especially with everything happening in the world today,” Young said.
Dollywood’s Harvest Festival will run Sept. 25 until Oct. 31. Smoky Mountain Christmas is planned for Nov. 14 through Jan. 2. For days and hours of operation through the end of the year, visit the Dollywood website.
Email Allie Clouse at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @allie_clouse. If you enjoy Allie’s coverage, support strong local journalism by subscribing for full access to all our content on every platform.