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Dixie Stampede: Local favorite gets new look

In early 2015, Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge underwent a transformation — and the word of Dixie’s new look quickly spread to communities far outside the region, from New Jersey to Atlanta.
But as the months went by, organizers came to a realization, according to Woody Peek, director of marketing and sales with Dixie Stampede.
“It’s important for us to recognize where we get our bread and butter from, where our folks are coming from — and that’s places like the Tri-Cities,” Peek said.
So Dixie Stampede performers and staff are shouting the word out once again — and they’re making sure it’s hitting local audiences.
Dixie Stampede is back and better than ever, they say, but it hasn’t lost what decades of fans have grown to love.
“We still have the 32 magnificent horses and the stampede of the buffalo, and the top-notch trick riders,” said Anne Mane, guest services with Dixie Stampede. “We still have all the elements that have made Dixie Stampede ‘Dixie Stampede.’ But we have upgraded it.”
In its 28th season, Dixie Stampede has been telling its tale of America for nearly three decades. Centered around a good-natured battle between North and South, the part musical, part old-time western rodeo, part comedy routine chronicles everything from horse races and Western hoedowns to Southern plantations and Native American dance.
Recent upgrades now include a state-of-the-art theatrical lighting and sound system, as well as a new musical score and aerial act.
“It helps to deliver a deeper experience,” Peek said.
Another big change is the Southern mansion that used to be on the back wall is now a little slice of the Smoky Mountains, complete with a 12.5-million LED light backdrop.
Still, Peek stressed, Dolly Parton and her Dixie Stampede have remained loyal to longstanding Dixie fans.
“We have people that come year after year after year,” Peek said. “We wanted to maintain the things they love.”
In keeping with that concept, visitors to the 2015 show get to enjoy their favorites, as well as a few new tricks. Cost is currently about $55 for adults and $28 for children.
“When we talk about the Dixie Stampede experience, it really begins before the show,” Peek said.
As guests arrive, they get the chance to tour the stables and meet some of Dixie’s stars, like Elvis, Peyton, Hashtag and Cornbread. “These horses are the true stars,” Peek said.
Once inside, it’s time to head to the saloon, where mugs of soda, along with popcorn, are available to enjoy while the music of Mountain Rukus fills the room. “We call ourselves the three ugliest cheerleaders,” said Gary “Biscuit” Davis, an international banjo champion who leads the group in helping the crowd get excited.
Next, it’s time for the main event. After being seated in the large auditorium, guests are treated to a four-course meal ­— soup, cheddar biscuits, roast chicken, pork loin, corn, potato and an apple turnover for dessert — while they watch the rollicking show filled with lights, sound and music.
The effect, Peek promises, is still pure magic.