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Dollywood Harvest Festival celebrates the splendor of autumn in Pigeon Forge

by Susan and Simon Veness

Dollywood’s Harvest Festival runs from Sept. 24 through Oct. 30, bringing award-winning entertainment, tempting culinary delights, and thousands of glowing pumpkins to Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains.

Dollywood Harvest Festival

Rolling hills and the colors of autumn make the annual Harvest Festival at Dollywood one of the most picturesque celebrations in the country, highlighted by the premier event, Great Pumpkin LumiNights, a glowing display of thousands of carved pumpkins.

Great Pumpkin LumiNights

This guest-favorite series of set pieces from past years leads visitors from one pumpkin photo-op to the next. Carved pumpkins, animals made of pumpkins, and pumpkin structures fill the park with autumnal atmosphere.

Watch for Great Pumpkin LumiNights displays in Timber Canyon, Wilderness Pass, and upper Craftsman’s Valley.

Dollywood’s Dreamer-in-Chief, Dolly Parton, spoke about the festival’s ideal setting: “Fall is a special time of year in the Smoky Mountains, because God’s handiwork is on full display for everyone to enjoy when they come to visit. It’s also the time when the heat of the summer fades and the crisp, cool evenings make it just right to enjoy the fresh mountain air. Some of my most treasured family memories took place during the fall, and I want our guests to make their own wonderful memories while they are here.”

Dollywood Harvest Festival ambiance

In 2020, the festival was reinvigorated through “visually-impactful landscaping techniques,” giving this year’s event a fresh, new look. One of the “biggest” updates is the chance for guests to peruse more than a dozen gigantic pumpkins. Last year’s super-sized entries, grown at farms on the East Coast, ranged from 800 to 1,500 pounds each.

Award-winning entertainment is also part of the celebration, as artists representing Southern gospel, bluegrass, classic country, and Americana genres take to the park’s indoor and outdoor stages from Sept. 24 – Oct. 21. This year’s lineup includes:

  • Taylor Red (Sept. 24)
  • Janelle Arthur (Sept. 26)
  • Pam Tillis (Sept. 29)
  • Jimmy Fortune (Oct. 2)
  • Karen Peck and New River (Oct. 3)
  • Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver (Oct. 4)
  • CeCe Winans (Oct. 9)
  • Rhonda Vincent and the Rage (Oct. 14-15)
  • The Lee University Singers (Oct. 17)
  • Shenandoah (Oct. 20-21)

“Dollywood is one of our all-time favorite places to play, and has been for years,” said Karen Peck, Gospel Hall of Fame member. “We love how nice everyone is at the theaters and the awesome family-friendly feeling we get when we perform at Dollywood. Sometimes, it’s like church breaks out at our concerts!”

Dollywood Harvest Festival entertainer CeCe Winans
CeCe Winans

Further live entertainment can be found roaming the park during the day, and at the new Night Time at the Back Porch during the evening.

Enticing culinary creations add a delicious aroma of smoked bratwursts and turkey legs, the creole flavors of Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo, and the sweet, earthy fragrance of luscious Sweet Potato Poutine and Spiced Pumpkin Bisque, along with other autumn-inspired sweet and savory dishes.

Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo

Indulge in pumpkin spice churros with pumpkin fluff, pumpkin spice salted caramel mocha iced coffee, maple pecan and bacon funnel cake, apple pie milkshakes, and the classic fall drink, hot apple cider. Or, just munch on a pumpkin cookie!

Pumpkin cookies

Visiting artisans ply their trade alongside Dollywood’s master craftspeople in Craftsman’s Valley, demonstrating their skills and creating one-of-a-kind treasures guests can purchase as a special memory of their day.

Behind the scenes preparations for Christmas have already begun, but right now it’s all about Fall. “Our team works so hard to bring the mountains right into the middle of the park with all those great decorations and experiences,” Dolly added. “You really are surrounded by the colors of fall the whole time you are here. It’s no wonder we won this year’s Golden Ticket award for Most Beautiful Theme Park in the whole world. No other park in the world is built right into the middle of the Smokies!”

The park is open from 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. on Wednesdays-Mondays during Dollywood’s Harvest Festival. For more information visit Dollywood.com.

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