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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Romantic Evening and a Fountain of Fun

We are always on the lookout for fun places to spend some time and things to do when we are traveling. It is always fun to discover something new and or exciting. It is even more fun when it is an attraction that is free. In a previous post, I wrote about just such a place. To revisit that post, you can go here. In that post I wrote about The Island at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and an evening my husband and I spent there last Fall.

The Island is steadily evolving and changing with lots of new shops, eateries and entertainment.  Paula Deene is slated to open a fabulous restaurant there this year and a four star hotel and restaurant, Margaritaville Hotel and Restaurant, is nearing completion and scheduled to open this summer. The first floor of the resort will be home to many new shops and the second floor will have some 132 guest rooms.

As we did in the Fall, we timed our visit to The Island so as to watch the progress of things as the sun went down and the lights came up, because that is when it is most exciting. We walked around for a while, touring some of the shops and buying a few items. My husband purchased a University of South Carolina themed tumbler from here:
Tervis Shop at The Island at Pigeon Forge, TN
This above shop opened since our last visit. You might have heard of the Tervis brand and their shops have a vast array of specialized items, including themed tumblers. I am planning to personalize my husband's tumbler with his initials using my Cricut machine. Look to the upper left corner of the photo and you can see one of the balconies in the Margaritaville resort.

Though it was a tad cloudy when we arrived it was very pleasant strolling along the main thoroughfare as I snapped some photos of some of the restaurants, shops and entertainment spots in the complex.
The Island at Pigeon Forge, TN
A Restaurant at The Island at Pigeon Forge, TN
Each to his or her own taste. The mix of shops, boutiques and stores will be somewhat diverse when construction is complete. Here is one of the shops that will be opening in the Fall of this year (2014).
Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine Distillery Coming to The Island Shops in the Fall of 2014

Surrounded by the shops and boutiques located on the first floor is the centerpiece of the Margaritaville Restaurant and Hotel. It is The Fountain at The Island.  What a spectacular centerpiece it is! I went a little camera crazy as the evening progressed and I had a difficult time trying to decide which photos to post here. The following picture is a just a portion of the hotel and fountain plaza.
The Fountain at The Island at Dusk in Pigeon Forge, TN

As you can see, there are handy rocking chairs placed along the sides all around the fountain. You can also see the balconies outside the rooms where guests will be able to view the activities all around The Island and witness the awesome dancing frenzy that takes place at The Fountain at The Island after dark. There is also an awesome view of the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel from the hotel and from The Fountain Plaza! The area where The Fountain is located was not visible to the public at the time of our last visit and we were quite impressed with The Fountain when we first arrived. As night gradually fell upon the place we found it to be an awe inspiring mix that tantalized the senses of sight, sound and touch. The fountain "performs" a dance in sync with the music of each song. The music that accompanies this fountain is diverse in genre, ranging from classical to rock and much more.
The Fountain at The Island in Pigeon Forge, TN

The following is how I would describe the experience. The Fountain seems to awaken and begins to come alive with colors that become more visible and vivid with the approaching dusk.
The Fountain at The Island in Pigeon Forge, TN
There are hues of pink and ocean greens and blues.
Fountain at The Island in Pigeon Forge
A bit of red and orange (some fire) join the others in the dance and we can feel the romantic and somewhat chilly kiss of an evening breeze on our cheeks. As the dance continues, the movement of the water is hypnotizing as we follow its gracefully orchestrated twists and turns, moving with the rhythm and beat of the music as Old Black Magic is playing and things are spinning "round, round, round." We slowly make our way around the perimeter of this fabulous stage, not wanting to miss any aspect of this extravaganza of water and lights.
The Fountain at The Island Swirls with the Rhythm of the Music

The dance is enchanting!

The Smoky Mountain Wheel at The Island in Pigeon Forge
A breeze begins to stir again as the fluid spires appear as arms reaching up to the sky in this graceful and most splendid ballet and we can feel the spray of the cool mist.
The Fountain at The Island in Pigeon Forge
The Fountain at The Island in Pigeon Forge, TN

Once again, the air becomes still and another performance begins. The colors are much more saturated now as darkness approaches.
The Fountain at The Island in Pigeon Forge, TN

The Island at Pigeon Forge, TN

The Island at Pigeon Forge, TN

The Island at Pigeon Forge, TN
It was a beautiful date night experience and we would have liked to have stayed all night, but had to be on our way. We decided to stay through only one more performance of the fountain. I felt compelled to record an amateur video of the event. It is now on my Youtube channel. You can watch the video, if you care to do so, which would please me greatly. I think it will give you a better idea as to what a mesmerizing experience The Fountain at The Island is. The song is Volcano by Jimmy Buffett. How fun is that! Looking through the lens, in spite of the cool night mountain night air, with the addition of the fire effects, this performance by The Fountain made me feel like I could have been standing next to a molten inferno.

Please overlook my obvious inexperience and the fact that it is recorded by my little camera(not a video camera) and the video and audio could definitely be of better quality and I would have edited out the very end where I got a shot of the pavement when I forgot to stop recording(duh)! Please go here if you would like to watch the short video.

The Island is such a fun and romantic place to visit and there is no admission fee to stroll around or to sit in a rocking chair and watch the ever changing lights of the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel and be mesmerized by a really good "song and dance" routine performed nightly by The Fountain.

I hope you enjoyed this attraction that has now been added to our list of "must visit" again and again places. Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and check things out!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Festival of Nations Parade 2014 at Dollywood

It is a rainy day here in South Carolina and I am thinking back and dreaming of a beautiful Spring day a couple of weeks ago. We were sitting in a perfect location at the exact spot where the Festival of Nations Parade at Dollywood was about to begin.

This day the parade featured not only the outrageously beautiful lady, herself, but representatives from the countries that are represented at the festival this year. The beautiful lady actually appeared near the end of the parade, but I thought it only fitting that I post a picture of her first. After all, she is the lady from whom the wonderful park gets its name.

 Being chauffeured by the "Mayor of Dollywood," here is the star herself, Ms. Dolly Parton!
Dolly Parton in The Festival of Nations Parade at Dollywood

I once heard her jokingly say to someone who was interviewing her on television something to the effect of "I pay a lot of money to look like this." That was years ago and I am almost certain that these were not her exact words, but it was something like that, as I recall. I suppose the reason I remembered this is because my thought at the time was that she had gotten her money's worth and I still think so today. Isn't she gorgeous?

First in the parade was the Piano Music Box ballerina and music box piano player from Italy. The piano moves along the street while the pianist plays music, which sounds like the notes are coming from a music box. As the piano moves and the music plays the wonderfully elegant live ballerina spins on top of the "music box!"
Ballerina and Piano Music Box Player from Italy
Here are some photos of the ballerina as she spins atop the Piano Music Box while the musician plays 
while they move rather slowly along the street. They made appearances throughout the day in the park. It was beautiful thing to behold!
Piano Music Box Ballerina from Italy in Dollywood's Festival of Nations Parade
Piano Music Box Ballerina in Dollywood's Festival of Nations Parade

Africa was represented by members of the troupe from the Mother Africa show.
Africa is Represented in Dollywood's Festival of Nations Parade

The two men in the following pictured, wearing green shirts represent Zambia. There are actually five of them in a vocal group which performed at the Back Porch Theater which is one of the open air theaters in the park. They make scheduled appearances throughout the park's hours.

Zambia(Dressed in Green Shirts)Represented in Dollywood's Festival of Nations

Just behind Zambia's vocal group  is this Polish accordion player. He roams the shops and restaurants of Dollywood during the festival as he plays traditional Polish folk music.
Polish Musician Plays Traditional Polish Folk Music

This group is from Ecuador, this talented group of musicians plays a combination of Native Incan instruments with contemporary backup. They perform at the Show Street Gazebo periodically throughout the day during the festival. As quoted from the brochure they celebrate in their music "the history and culture of the Andes Mountains."
Atahualpa Represents Ecuador at Dollywood's Festival of Nations
This is a photo of the group as they perform at the Show Street Gazebo.

Atahualpa Performing at Show Street Gazebo During Dollywood's festival of Nations 2014
Here the beautiful people in La Danza de Columbia represents Columbia.
Columbia Represents La Danza de Columbia Troupe

Performers from Germany included these stilt walkers, among others. The colorful traditional costuming displayed throughout the festival's performances are awe-inspiring.

Germany is Represented by Zebra Stelzentheater

Now, lovely people, I will leave you with a few more photos of someone that I believe to be one of the most generous and gracious, intelligent, talented and beloved personalities in the world of entertainment, Dolly Parton. 
 This photo is another from our first day of the Festival of Nations parade.
Dolly Parton and the "Mayor of Dollywood" in the Festival of Nations Parade 2014

This side view (of her cute hairdo). It is one that was taken on our second day at the park for the festival this Spring.
Dolly Parton in the Festival of Nations Parade at Dollywood in 2014

This one is not from this year. As I recall, this photo was taken during the National Southern Gospel and Harvest Celebration in 2011.

I hope you have enjoyed this recap of the Festival of Nations parade at Dollywood!

Be blessed!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Festival of Nations at Dollywood - Mother Africa and La Danza de Columbia

Some of you know how much my family loves to visit Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We especially enjoy going during the times when the various festivals are taking place in the park. When the park opens each year in the spring, usually around the third week in March, it welcomes guests with an extravaganza called the Festival of Nations.

This year the Festival of Nations opened on March 21, 2014 and runs through April 21, 2014. This season marks the 29th year of this festival. We have attended the festival a number of times and it seems to get better with each passing year. This year, we went into the park on the first two days, March 21st (a day for pass-holders) and March 22nd. I took a lot of pictures and am posting a number of them here, in hopes of giving anyone who might be thinking of visiting during the Festival of Nations some idea of the first-rate character of the shows. On the first day, we attended two of the biggest shows of the festival. I always enjoy sharing with my readers the things we like to do and the places we enjoy visiting and what goes on at these places.

The first show we attened is named Mother Africa and features  a group of extraordinarily talented artists from, of course, Africa. This troupe is composed of a number of top-notch professional musicians, singers, dancers, acrobats, contortionists and more! It takes place in Dollywood's enormous DP's Celebrity Theater. Because of our proximity and distance from the stage and the lighting effects (low and mystical), my pictures are not as vivid as I would have liked. You can go here to get a more close up look at the troupe, if you like.

You can see the backgrounds and stage props bring to mind the animals in the jungles of the continent. The costuming in the opening act is tribal in nature and the singing and music is, as well. Throughout the show, the music and dancing ranges from tribal and native to modern and funky. It was all very lively and entertaining.
Mother Africa at Dollywood's Festival of Nations
The young man wearing a blue costume in the picture below is the most mind-boggling contortionist I have ever seen. At one point, he bends totally over, backwards, with the backs of his legs touching all the way up the length of his back, like a folded sheet of paper. He then places a ring about the size of a round dinner platter or embroidery hoop over his backwards-bent body and performs a lot of other feats while he is in that ring. Truly, truly, amazing!
Contortionist in Mother Africa

This picture is of one of the acrobats, whom I should mention are solid muscle, who continues to balance on his hands on top of the chairs as they are  being added and, at the very top of the pile, two stacks of blocks is added, one by one. Then each block is removed, one at a time, and each chair, while he remains balanced upside down on his hands, as the stack of chairs decreases. Oh my arms are breaking, just thinking about holding myself up at all, not to mention for that long! Honestly, you have to see these people to understand how mind-blowing it all is to behold. I was holding my breath, as there is no net to catch him if he falls.

An Astounding Acrobat in Mother Africa

This beautiful young woman is incredible, in that she is able to keep an unbelievable number of hoops, added one at a time, twirling around on her body and move to the music at the same time.

Mother Africa  Performer with Many Twirling Hoops
These are just a few of the awesome acts in the Mother Africa Show. There is much more, but I was not able to get pictures clear enough to share with you.

At the end of the show's performance, the gracious and beautiful Dolly Parton came out on stage to welcome everyone to the park and Festival of Nations.

 La Danza de Columbia, another new show for the festival this year, is spectacular. The narration, music, dancing and costuming are extraordinary. The performance takes place in the Show Street Palace Theater. The entire performance is narrated and accompanied by the songs and music of a wonderful band. I was not able to capture all of them in this picture.  
The Band of La Danza de Columbia at Dollywood's Festival of Nations

The bands costumes are beautiful in pristine white and red. Their music is wonderful!

The narrator tells the audience some of the history of Columbia as the show progresses along. He tells of the rich cultural, ethnic and industrial aspects of the country over the years as the performers illustrate, through their costumes and dancing, the rich and diverse cultures of this beautiful country.

To represent Columbia's background of farming, including the working of cattle, the dancers in the following pictures are wearing costumes that exemplify the clothing that would be worn by the gauchos and llaneros for those activities and by the women in their lives. Different parts of the country wear different clothing. Some carry guns and others swords and whips. If you understand the lively and exuberant nature of dancing in this country, you will appreciate how difficult it is to catch these photos in still frame while using my tiny point and shoot camera. Therefore, it is my hope that you will understand and enjoy my imperfect effort.

The pictures do not do the performers or their costumes due justice. The women are drop-dead gorgeous and the handsome men could make many a heart skip a beat. And the costumes, well they are so luxurious and flamboyant as to take one's breath away. They are totally outrageous, with so much rich and vibrantly colored satin and all the lace and ruffles. I have never seen more beautiful costuming! I have heard that the people of this country have a great passion and love of dancing, the use of vibrant color and extravagant clothing and if this is any example, then surely it must be true!

Here are some red gingham dresses that somehow do not seem at all plain or simple to me. They, too, are gorgeous!

Here is an enactment of a young and flirting couple in the act of courting.

In the seaside villages and towns of Columbia, fishing is a very important way of life, so is represented in the performance, as well. There is no lack of color here either!

 Here is another couple in courting.
  These pictures will show still more elaborately vibrant and lustrous costuming, though it is difficult for my simple little camera to catch the wonderful movement that is taking place in the dance. 
 Aren't these ponchos wonderfully colorful?

I was able to capture a portion of the grand finale and aren't these people beautiful?

Here is another link to Dollywood where you can read more about La Danze de Columbia.

Mother Africa kept us on the edge of our seats. It is chock full of high drama and breath-holding anticipation. The many and varied talents of all the performers is magnificent. La Danze de Columbia offers an awe inspiring display of unsurpassed beauty and sumptuous color and awesome talent and entices me to visit Columbia.

Both shows are wonderful and helped to make our morning in the park spectacular.

A day at Dollywood is always immensely entertaining and great fun and this one was no exception!