Pigeon Forge, TN
March 29, 2014 – A perfect pastime on a rainy day in Pigeon Forge, I was happy to have the chance to see this show. For the little girl in me who sometimes wanted to be a cowgirl (but usually an Indian princess) while growing up, it was a perfect opportunity to fall in love with horses all over again!
As they say, the “stars” of the show are the 32 horses. They are awesome creatures ridden expertly by riders in beautiful costumes (some lit up ala The Electric Horseman) and it is just so exciting to see them enter the arena, hooves flying and shaking the seats with their grand entrance.
The arena itself is pretty impressive – 30,000 square feet featuring the latest video technology, special lighting effects and pyrotechnics. The arena floor is soft white sand – better on the horses’ hooves and no dust flying around to get in your meal.
I was actually relieved they don’t allow photography during the show so I didn’t have to worry about trying to get good shots, which usually results in me missing more than I see. The above collage was made from brochure pictures and from their Facebook page. The buffalo stampede is particularly exciting!
The meal was really good, but I remember being a bit shocked when someone told me before I went that there is no silverware for use with the meal. When I looked at the menu, I said, “But how do you eat soup without a spoon?!” Since it’s a creamy vegetable soup (delicious, by the way), you just pick up the bowl by the handle and slurp it up. I’ve seen some complaints from people about this, but it really wasn’t a problem at all and the moist warm towels they provide at the end of the meal helps. True Southern cooking and ambiance here – four courses including rotisserie chicken, barbequed pork loin, creamy veggie soup, buttermilk biscuit, corn on the cob, potato wedge, dessert and tea, coffee or Pepsi. Vegetarian meal (substituting meat for Garden Vegetable Pasta) is available upon request when you make your reservation. I do wonder about eating that vegetable pasta dish without silverware, though…
But I was impressed with just how they handled the meal service so efficiently. The logistics of serving that many people without interfering with the show is remarkable in itself.
But most impressive to me was this girl – these are the kind of stories I really love: Check out Tennessee cowgirl Dusti Crain – she tells me she saw the show here when she was 8 years old and became determined to become a trick rider. She began Roman riding and trick riding at age 11 and performed in her first rodeo at age 12!! It is incredibly inspiring to me to hear she made that dream come true and is now the lead Roman rider at the Stampede! At 18 years old, she was the youngest Roman rider ever to perform in the Dixie Stampede show. “I’m living my dream,” said Crain, a Dolly Parton fan who once tumbled in gymnastics class to the superstar’s music. “Trick riding for Dixie Stampede is amazing.” Doesn’t she look like she’s having a blast?? Ride ’em, cowgirl!
The show is about 1-1/2 hours long, has plenty of variety, featuring dance numbers (even horse square dancing!), comedy, audience participation with a bucket brigade of friendly competition between the north and south, and kids can join in the fun chasing chickens to the finish line. I really did enjoy it all, but my only complaint comment is that I would have liked less comedy (a bit too corny for my taste) and to have seen more of the horses and trick riding – those went by more quickly than I would have preferred. They do have a horsewalk where you can visit with the horses throughout the day, but unfortunately, I didn’t hear about that until after I had left. Gonna check them out, though, next time I’m in Pigeon Forge to let the 8 year old in me get her “horsey” fix!
Here’s something I learned about here that I think is just such a neat idea. Imagination Library is a project of Dolly’s that provides preschoolers in the area free age-specific books each month from birth to age 5. What a great idea to get kids involved in the love of reading! Dixie Stampede is a sponsor, having contributed more than $10 million to the program. Dolly talks about her dreams as a little girl, always keeping faith they would come true, despite the odds seemingly stacked against her. She says about Imagination Library, “The seeds of these dreams are often found in books and the seeds you help plant in your community can grow across the world.” From what I learned about Dolly at her museum at Dollywood, I am more and more impressed with this woman who has never abandoned her Tennessee roots and continues to support the community in so many ways.