The Dixie Stampede reopened February, 2015 in Pigeon Forge with stunning new lighting capabilities. Photo courtesy Dixie Stampede

The Dixie Stampede reopened February, 2015 in Pigeon Forge with stunning new lighting capabilities. Photo courtesy Dixie Stampede

You can’t fool me.

I know I felt a breeze from those Smoky Mountain trees on stage at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

They were moving. Gradually on one side, breeze building up and more motion stage left. I’m sure.

Wrong. They’re just LED lights rigged by savvy lighting set designers. 12.5 million of them to be precise.

Lights create new realities

Surely looked like sunset and moonrise in action me. This is a $2.5 million new look at the Dixie Stampede; it’s not happening at the Branson, Missouri version, at least not yet.

This is all about Pigeon Forge audiences and it opened mid February.An astonishing 1,100 people show up daily for dinner, a musical pre-show and the big extravaganza-action show including 32 horses.

That happens three to five times a day! No wonder presenters clever enough to create the stage lighting and video mapping on the arena floor at Dixie Stampede are equally clever about determining how many folks are showing up per show and adjusting seating arrangements to always feel like a full house. And generally it is.

Mountains, forests, moonrise appear via 12.5 LED lights. Photo by Christine Tibbetts, Blended Family TravelingMom

Mountains, forests, moonrise appear via 12.5 LED lights. Photo by Christine Tibbetts, Blended Family TravelingMom

Family experiences and memories

Woody Peek, director of marketing, told me this is the 28th season of families returning year after year for what he calls a “family, faith and fun” experience. Food too.

“The creamy vegetable soup is our marquis food item,” Peek says and chef is happy to share the recipe. Only challenge is adapting his kitchen quantity and  cooking pots to yours.

The chicken is always roasted and edible with fingers; the apple turnovers are served piping hot, every show, every day. Corn on the cob too, pork loin, biscuit and herbed potato.

National Park so close

Since Great Smoky Mountain National Park is only seven miles from Pigeon Forge, it’s believable in this theater that you are looking at real peaks and valleys.

Seeming quite at home in the midst of new music, new aerial acts and scene-changing video, are the teams of Percheron and the quarter horses.

Here’s a big fact: The great white horse is the great-great-granddaughter of Silver. Yes that one, “Hi Ho Silver.”

That’s just more multigenerational family action in Pigeon Forge.

Another Pigeon Forge icon is The Wheel, views from The Island into the mountains. Photo by Christine Tibbetts, Blended Family TravelingMom

Another Pigeon Forge icon is The Wheel, providing views from The Island into the mountains. Photo by Christine Tibbetts, Blended Family TravelingMom

Grandparents returning with 3rd generation

Generations of people fit a lineage too; Peek says elders who attended when their children were young are now returning yet again with the grandchildren. “Multigeneration dominates our audiences,” he says, “ with families seeing the same show again and together.

Now with the massive changes, perhaps they’ll be starting all over again.