PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — Dollywood is starting its 2019 season with its Festival of Nations celebration on Saturday with new headline shows, the return of Passport to Foods and special cooking demonstrations. But season passholders can get a sneak peek on Friday, March 15, a news release from Dollywood said.
Dolly Parton herself appeared in East Tennessee to kick off the season, and announced that Wildwood Grove would open to the public on May 10.
She appeared on-stage with celebrity Chef Pepin, who will be appearing at Dollywood this weekend for the Festival of Nations.
"When we started the Festival of Nations about 20 years ago, I felt it was so important to reach out to welcome the whole world to Dollywood," Parton said.
Parton emphasized how powerful the language of music can be in connecting people from all over the world in the opening ceremonies.
"As we become more and more disconnected as people, as you know we are, it's more important than ever that we continue to reach out and to remind ourselves that music is truly an international language," Parton said. "It brings people closer together. I've always called it the voice of the soul. I really believe this is a wonderful way to make friends from all over the world."
Dollywood is billing the 2019 season as their "biggest ever," particularly with the opening Wildwood Grove, the largest expansion in the park's history, Wildwood Grove.
The event will run through April 14, and include opportunities to see "world-renowned Chef Pepin whip up his favorite dishes."
"Guests can experience the spirit of the Smokies at Dollywood while also taking a trip around the globe thanks to authentic glimpses into a number of fascinating cultures," the release said. "It’s a vibrant and exciting way to celebrate spring break!"
New headline shows include the Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba, a "fusion dance and music company that mixes Hispanic and Caribbean cultures into each performance."
The company is considered to have some of the best performers from Cuba, according to the release, and has been together for more than 25 years, entertaining people across five continents.
Drumstruck is the first interactive drum-theater experience, the release said, and will leave "families laughing and creating memories to remember for years to come." Audience members will find drums at each seat in the venue to use and become part of the show alongside the performance on stage.
"This high-energy production weaves South African music and culture with West African rhythms," per the release.
Passport to Food will have an expanded international menu and let guests "enjoy savory and sweet delights from a number of countries" ranging from Trinidad to Canada.
Chef Pepin, a celebrity chef from Cuba, will host several cooking demonstrations during the opening weekend. Other chefs will "share their secrets" each subsequent weekend during the event.
The demonstrations will take place on Saturdays and Sundays at noon and 2 p.m., the release said.
Other shows and acts include Invaders Steel Orchestra, Atahualpa, De Temps Antan and Les Grands Hurleurs. They represent musical traditions from the Caribbean, Ecuador and Quebec, Canada, respectively.