Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wednesday Review: Dixie Stampede

Have you ever been to dinner and a show?

I don't mean dinner and then a movie.  I mean dinner and a live show at the same time.

I've been to a couple of dinner theaters, and that's a lot of fun.  But yesterday I had dinner at Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge, TN.

Introduction: The Dixie Stampede consists of a pre-show (three guys playing music and generally entertaining the crowd), and a main show with dinner.  You get there about an hour before the main show if you want to see the whole pre-show.  They file you into the 'saloon', where there's a small raised stage so people can see the musicians as they nibble on popcorn or sip a drink (these things cost extra).

After the pre-show, everyone files out of the saloon and into the arena.  The layout is pretty cool - you've got big long counters with big long benches (very cushy benches, I must say, with a nice cushy back to them).  You're directed to your seat and the waiter takes your drink order (included in the meal).  From there, you sit back and enjoy.

The main show consists of singing, dancing, a really awesome magic trick, audience participation events, and lots of horseback riding.

Over the course of the show, you're served dinner in several courses.  There is no silverware - you eat everything with your hands.  Except the soup.  Your soup bowl has a handle - you sip your soup directly from the bowl.

And that's it!

My Review: I had a great time, and I'll tell you about it piece by piece:

The Pre-Show: This was pretty fun.  The banjo player was amazing.  It's your typical family corny pre-show, but it was a kick.  At one point they did a medley of unlikely songs to do bluegrass style (including Justin Beiber's Baby, ugh).  They did a gospel medley, too.  And of course, a bunch of mountain music.  It was entertaining.

The Dinner: The food was surprisingly delicious (you'd think, in those quantities, that it would be mediocre.  It wasn't.  It was fantastic.  Creamy vegetable soup, savory biscuit (no that's not apple butter in that bottle - it's BBQ sauce.  Trust me.), a whole (small) rotisserie chicken, a slice of pork loin, corn on the cob, and half of a big roasted potato, then apple pastry for desert.  Yum.

The Main Show: Alright.  The main show starts with some fancy synchronized riding, and the leader introduces the through-line for the evening: a competition between riders representing 'north' and those representing 'south'.  The audience is split in half according to where you sit and told which side they're rooting for.  First sign that this will be a show that loves audience participation.

After the opening ride (and song), there are quite a few acts.  One of the best acts of the evening was a magic trick.  It was really well done, so much so, that even Dad was impressed!  The second best 'act' was the pig race. They had four little pigs run a half-circle track, then they had two run it with two little fences to jump over.  This was highly entertaining and the adorable factor was pretty high.

There were a few audience participation activities; kids chasing chickens, folks doing a bucket brigade, etc.  The kids and the chickens were fun to watch.  Personally, I would've traded the rest of those events for some more horseback riding - there wasn't as much of that as I had been expecting.

Still, they did a flag race and a slalom race and a wagon race.  There was some trick riding, which is always cool to watch.  The bit with the buffaloes (or were the bison?) was cool, as were the doves.  And the Indian act with the guy on horseback and the bird in flight was pretty mesmerizing.

The riders stayed on the edges of the arena afterwards for people to go down and meet them and pet the horses - great for the kids in the audience.

Overall, a fun, delicious way to spend an evening.  If you're ever near Pigeon Forge, you should go!

Duration: 2 or 3 hours
Number of acts: Lost count.  Quite a few.
Locations: Pigeon Forge, TN; Branson, MO
Restrictions: No photography or video taping during the show
Warning: You'll eat with your hands; there are live animals; it can get loud; there is real fire

My Ratings:
Pre-Show: 3 stars
Dinner: 5 stars
Main Show: 4.25 stars

Overall Rating: 4.5 stars

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