Festival of Nations kicks off 2013 at Dollywood

J. H. Osborne • Mar 31, 2013 at 5:49 AM

PIGEON FORGE — There’s a lot going on at Dollywood this year, from new shows and special summertime hours to the removal of an old attraction to make way for an as-yet-to-be-revealed something new in 2014.

For six weeks this summer, Dollywood will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and put on a nightly fireworks show, “Dolly’s Nights of Many Colors,” for which Dolly Parton wrote a special song: “Paint Your Dreams Across the Sky.”

“I know one of the best things I have to offer folks is more Dollywood time to enjoy and spend together,” Parton said. “This year, we’re going to share more show time, more nighttime, more summertime, and more fun time. But, most especially, more good old-fashioned family time. And to me, that’s the best time of all.

“With the love of your family, all things are possible,” Parton said as she was joined onstage by siblings Randy and Cassie as she kicked off the 2013 season at Dollywood.

Parton has, for the first time since 2009, written a new show for Dollywood this season as well as penned new music for another (a holiday classic).

“My People,” set to debut May 10, will feature Randy and Cassie along with other family members in a showcase of the Partons’ strong faith and deep love for the Smoky Mountains. It will be performed in the Dreamsong Theater in the park’s Adventures in Imagination section. That’s the former Imagination Theater, which has for years been a simulator ride, with “Thunder Road,” “Smoky Mountain Adventure” and “Polar Express” among popular presentations.

The ride components were removed over the winter and the theater was refurbished and reformatted to become a new live performance venue which will open with “My People” in May.

Parton also wrote all new music for Dollywood’s own upcoming full-scale production “Dollywood’s Christmas Carol.”

The park’s original adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic — staged as a 45-minute musical — will debut Nov. 9 as a headliner for Dollywood’s immensely popular Smoky Mountain Christmas festival, which will run through Jan. 4, 2014.

There already are hints of something big coming to the park for the 2014 season: the multi-level challenge course that has been a prominent part of the Wilderness Pass section of Dollywood since 2010 is being dismantled — and a sign on park maps simply says “Coming In 2014.” But mum was the word from Dollywood staff about what the new attraction will be.

The 2013 season got underway last weekend with “Festival of Nations,” which continues through April 22.

“Festival of Nations” includes food and live entertainers representing the heritage, music, dance and art of more than 25 countries from around the globe.

“During all my travels, I’ve seen so many amazingly talented performers,” Parton said. “I love having them entertain during my Festival of Nations so that folks can come and experience all the beautiful sights and sounds of this big ole world right here in my Smoky Mountain home.”

Several new shows highlight the exciting lineup of acts, illustrating the festival’s extreme diversity. Located in Celebrity Theatre, “Cirque Shanghai” combines traditional and modern Chinese acrobatics alongside amazing displays of physical strength and incredible feats of balance. This heart-pounding production features beautifully costumed performers and a visual feast of breathtaking white-knuckle stunts.

Also new, “Mystic India” takes audiences on a celebratory journey through India via a stunning performance that fuses dance, theatre and visual effects into an amazing explosion of color and energy. “Mystic India” takes the Showstreet Palace Theatre stage.

Dollywood’s 2013 “Festival of Nations” lineup also includes the new shows:

• Mariachi Divas — A multicultural, all-female ensemble, Mexico’s Mariachi Divas are three-time Grammy Award winners with unique songs infused with the Latin sounds of mariachi.

• Glass Duo — Classically trained musicians using crystal glassware as their instrument of choice, Poland’s Glass Duo performs a wide repertoire of music.

• Pause Café — The French duo performs traditional and modern folk music on a variety of instruments, including the rare hang drum.

• Ugandan Children’s Choir — From the Royal School and Orphanage of Mityana, Uganda, the Ugandan Children’s Choir features children ages 8- 15, performing Ugandan drum songs.

• Hodman and Sally — This interactive street act features two wanderers, Hodman Dodmanott and Sally Forth, traversing the park while trying to understand the new and baffling world around them.

• Rolla Bolla — This highly-skilled performer displays amazing feats of balance and concentration, along with a large dose of humor, atop a rolling balance board.

• Scottish Bagpiper — A roving bagpiper fills the Smoky Mountain air with the beautiful sounds of the Scottish highlands.

Returning favorites are:

• Atahualpa — From Ecuador, Atahualpa combines Native Incan instruments with contemporary backups to celebrate the history and culture of the Andes Mountains.

• Zambian Vocal Group — Five young men from Zambia combine traditional African rhythms, vocal percussion and complex harmonies to deliver a message of unity, hope and blessings.

• Swoon Sway Pole Act — This Melbourne, Australia-based group fuses theatre, dance, circus and comedy into a unique act. Perched atop 15-foot high flexible poles, the troupe bends and sways in the air, engaging the audience in absolute fascination.

• Zebra Stelzentheater — Stilt dancers in original Bavarian folk costumes interacting with guests throughout the streets of Dollywood.

All Festival of Nations shows are included with park admission.

Each day, Dollywood’s One World Celebration unites all Festival of Nations’ visiting performers in a colorful musical bash throughout Showstreet.

A plethora of tasty and unique food options awaits guests thanks to the new World Passport to Food, an expanded international menu. Upon arrival, guests pick up a passport and use it to navigate their way to the delectable delights found throughout the park. At all international food locations, guests’ passports are stamped to signify their visit to each country. Dollywood’s new World Passport to Food provides a gateway to experience the culinary highlights of cultures from around the globe. (Food is an additional fee.)

For ticket prices and operating hours, visit www.dollywood.com.

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