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Looking for Southern Hospitality?
by Maxine Sommers

Tucked away at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the rolling hills of east Tennessee is Sevierville, a great travel destination. Plus, the town has the added bonus of being located near the well known communities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Tourism is the economic engine that drives this part of Tennessee with hundreds of entertainment activities.

Downtown Sevierville is filled with historically-rich Victorian styled buildings. Perhaps one of the most intriguing is the Sevierville County Court House, which sports a bigger-than-life bronze statue on its front lawn of Tennessee’s own, Dolly Parton.

Annual visitors to the courthouse number in the thousands, many of whom come to obtain a marriage license. Believe it or not, Sevierville County is second only to Las Vegas in annual destination weddings — perhaps in part because there is no waiting period or blood test required.

To speed a happy couple toward wedded bliss, the “Smoky Mountain Wedding Chapel” is a short walk across the street. The chapel has three preachers at–the-ready from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M, Monday through Friday. While many of the happy couples are young, the oldsters hold their own — the oldest couple to marry there knew each other fifty-one years and were in their 80s when they finally threw caution to the winds and tied the knot.

A prospective bride and groom need only to present the following: a marriage license, social security number and a driver’s license, then — zippidy-do-da — after the preacher pronounces the magic words the deed is done. For further information, visit Smoky Mountain Wedding Chapel.

If you are interested in just plain fun and entertainment, a diverse assortment of activities abound in and around the community. Check out the “Legends of China” show held in the Smoky Mountain Palace.

This spectacular theatrical presentation with over 60 internationally acclaimed Chinese performers features acrobats and thunder drum performances by the “Shanzi Jiangzhou Thunder Drum Troupe.” By the way, take the words “thunder drum” literally. Walls reverberate as the booming of the big kettle drums fill the theater with a cacophony of mesmerizing sounds. The performers —covered from head to toe in a rainbow of vibrant colored costumes — all serve to enhance the electrifying performance. An absolute glorious experience. For further information, click here: Legends of China.

In the near-by community of Pigeon Forge, the “Dixie Stampede” dinner theater group strut their stuff during a flash-bang performance in a huge arena which seats 1,000 visitors in tiered seating. There are actually two shows in one: a short musical pre-show and a full blown star-studded spectacular where the performers are garbed in the Union Blue or Confederate Gray of the Civil War as they engage in mock competitions. They gallop into the arena of hard–packed sand with the thunder of horse hooves and the stomping of dinner guests' feet. (You’re right, this is not a formal evening.)

Before the big show actually moves into full swing, an army of waiters dressed in Union and Confederate styled uniforms sweep into the tiered seating area at a fast pace. Each patron is served assembly line fashion with a whole chicken, hickory smoked barbequed pork, soup, home-made biscuits, baked potato wedges, hot buttered corn on the cob and Dixie baked pastry.

Now comes the fascinating part: no forks, knives or spoons are provided —nope, nary a one. Imagine 1,000 patrons eating whole chickens to say nothing of barbequed pork, buttered corn as it drips down arms — with only their hands. Big time messy! ASAP: tons of wet-wipes to get rid of sticky/greasy stuff from faces and hands are needed when the meal is over.

Once dinner concludes, the show moves into high gear with various performances such as: trick riders on horseback jumping through rings of fire or racing around the track at break neck speed while doing rapid dismounts and handstands.

Not to be outdone by horses, there is also an ostrich race. These birds cannot fly, but even with a rider attached to its back an ostrich can run like the wind. However, the birds do not seem to comprehend their rider’s directions. Picture this: A large ostrich with its head held high and its flat, plate-like feet hitting the ground with a loud splat, as it gives a one hundred percent effort in running the race while trying to understand where in the world the rider wants him to go.

Once the audience recovers from the ostrich experience, a passel of squealing pigs run their stubby little legs like pistons, as they enter into a frenzied race around the arena. At the conclusion it is evident pigs — while enthusiastic —do not comprehend the “racing” concept.

To top off the pig race, a herd of big ol’ buffalo appear front and center. No doubt thinking they are home on the range, off they go around and around the racing track in a thick cloud of dust and flying sand. Since they all appear to finish in a great clump at the same time, forget looking for a winner there.

A chicken race is held for the children as an incredible racing finale to this bodacious evening. Both excited kids and chickens are placed at the starting line. Loud cheering by the audience fills the arena as the children valiantly urge the chickens along a dizzy path. Confusion reigns as waving-armed children and wing-flapping chickens run every which way but towards the finish line. To insure the children are happy campers, each child receives a prize.

How to top this? The performers on horseback, decked out in brilliant red, white and blue sequined costumes and waving United States flags, are spectacular as they gallop into the arena and race through a fast-paced ending for the show. This is a fun-for-the-family “happening” you do not want to miss! For further information, go to DixieStampede.com.


A Texan and veteran travel writer, Maxine Sommers may be reached at this e-mail address: CLICK HERE

Please write Sommers for permission to reprint this article.

~ Read more of her travel articles at USADEEPSOUTH ~
Montgomery, Alabama ~ The Cradle of the Confederacy
Black Bear Treasures in the Smokies


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