What goes into Dollywood’s transition from Fall to Smoky Mountain Christmas?

Dollywood spent early November moving 12,000 pumpkins out and turning on six million Christmas lights for Smoky Mountain Christmas.
Published: Nov. 2, 2023 at 8:02 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 15, 2023 at 9:07 AM EST
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PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Pumpkins and mums are out, and poinsettias and Christmas lights are in at Dollywood. Dollywood closed for four days to make the transition, looking almost like a completely new park. With Smoky Mountain Christmas in full swing, WVLT News got a behind-the-scenes look at how the park changes for the season.

2023 was Lexan O’Reilly’s first season working at Dollywood. She had never been to Smoky Mountain Christmas and was ready for it to open.

“I’m so excited. The other three festivals have been so fabulous. And this one is the one that I’m the most excited about,” said O’Reilly as she worked in The Bakery at Dollywood.

She and the team in the bakery went through nearly 1,000 eggs to bake the thousands of cookies and cupcakes before the park opened for the first day of Smoky Mountain Christmas. Each day through Smoky Mountain Christmas, The Bakery prepares 300 ginger bread cookies, 400 sugar cookies and 200 of each seven flavors of cupcakes.

“It takes a team, it takes a lot of very capable hands, a lot of time to make all of these beautiful things,” she said.

While the finishing touches went up in November to get everything ready for Smoky Mountain Christmas, the work actually started months before way back in the summer.

Previous Coverage: Dollywood ahead of schedule on installing Smoky Mountain Christmas

“Our team started in about June, starting to hang all the Christmas lights that you see throughout the park. So we have six million lights in the park. That’s a large undertaking to be able to hang that,” said Dollywood spokesperson Wes Ramey.

The events team was outside in the cold at the beginning of November, moving the last of Dollywood’s Harvest Festival out and all Christmas decorations in. Teams strung the last of the lights in trees and over Showstreet.

“So that during this week they can focus on getting all the harvest decorations out, all the mums, that colossal pumpkin with 12,000 pumpkins as part of the Harvest Festival. So it takes time to get all of that out of the park and all these Christmas decorations,” added Ramey.

Hanging all the lights is a feat in and of itself, with millions of staples holding even more lights to Dollywood’s buildings and trees.

“You never really have an appreciation for it until you get in here and actually do it, and I grew up coming to the park,” Events Supervisor Nick Rainey said. “To see what the team goes through to get that up, especially with the tight turnarounds we have... it’s truly impressive to see that.”

The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally the single busiest day of the year for the park.

“So spring was fun. Summer was more fun. Harvest was a complete blast. And this one knowing full well what we’ve got coming. Everything is so pretty and I’m just I’m unbelievably excited,” added O’Reilly.

Dollywood is open for more hours during Christmas this year.

Also, instead of a parade, the park will welcome a brand new drone show to end the evening.