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July 3, 2013

Jim Bailey: Pigeon Forge has Dolly's stamp all over it

Pigeon Forge is the glitz to Gatlinburg’s rustic as tourists approach the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s where Dolly Parton is from, and many of the attractions have the famed country singer’s stamp all over them.

We had heard about the Dixie Stampede, so on our recent sojourn to East Tennessee we decided to take in the country-style dinner theater. It’s one of a kind, nonstop entertainment from start to finish.

A word of warning: While the food is sumptuous, it is served entirely without utensils. So if you are fastidious about getting your hands greasy you may not enjoy it.

We were ushered into the “carriage room” for the opening act, a string band titled Mountain Ruckus, consisting of a banjo, guitar and string bass. It’s an old-fashioned saloon (minus spirits) where you can order up a variety of beverages and popcorn to whet your appetite, and appropriately costumed saloon girls bring it right to your table. In anticipation of an impending full meal, we decided to pass, although we picked up one of the souvenir boot-mugs somebody left behind when we headed for the arena.

Dixie Stampede is in fact a Dolly Parton enterprise, though quite understandably her personal presence is limited to Memorex. The show is a modern-day Wild West revue, themed around a contest between North and South. We were on the north side, though I don’t recall if we specified it when we ordered our tickets or not – but somehow all the Northerners were on our side and the Tennessee-Alabama-North Carolina-Georgia crowd were across the way.

The show begins, and then the servers start bringing the meal. We had a whole rotisserie chicken, barbecue pork loin, creamy vegetable soup (the bowl had a handle so you could drink it), a homemade biscuit, corn on the cob, herb-basted baked potato and a melt-in-your-mouth iced apple turnover, plus choice of beverage (we opted for Diet Pepsi). All of it had to be eaten with the hands.

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