Festival of Nations like the UN
Dollywood’s Festival of Nations gathers performers from all over the world. They have to be good.
“With Dolly involved, we have pretty high standards,” said Dave Anderson, the park’s director of special events.
The program of music and dance has been a Dollywood staple since 2001. This year’s fest begins when the park opens on March 23 and runs through April 22.
There are Festival of Nations artists from Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America and Australia. “We’ve got folks, in some cases, who haven’t been to the States,” Anderson said. “So for them to come to the mountains is a change of lifestyle.”
International vendors will display crafts. “And we’re really putting a focus on international menu items,” Anderson said. “Folks can eat their way around the world.”
The biggest new show is “Cirque Shanghai.”
“It celebrates the culture of China and a tradition of acrobatics that goes back thousands of years,” Anderson said. “It’ll show the pageantry, with wonderful music and great costumes.”
Another new show is “Mystic India.”
“It’s a dance show that goes from ancient to a little more modern Indian dance,” Anderson said. “The tie-in is Bollywood cinema, which has blown up in the last few years: from Bollywood to Dollywood. It’s a really high-energy show.”
Other groups include Glass Duo, who make music using crystal glassware; the all-women Mariachi Divas; and the Ecuadoran group Atahualpa. Australia’s Swoon Sway Pole Act performs aerial ballet, Anderson said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
For the first few weeks of the festival, Ugandan children’s choirs will sing. “They’re coming out of an orphanage over there,” Anderson said. “Their tour will help them raise money for their cause back home. Folks will love them.”
Each day, Festival of Nations performers will march in the One World Celebration. “They’ll proceed down the main Showstreet area,” Anderson said. “We invite guests to join in the music, dance and celebration. Hopefully folks will leave their inhibitions behind and interact with the performers in a fun, entertaining way.”
The festival is one of a series of special events this year. Others include Barbeque & Bluegrass (May 25-June 9), the National Southern Gospel & Harvest Celebration (Oct. 2-Nov. 2) and Smoky Mountain Christmas (Nov. 9-Jan. 4). New this year is Great American Summer (June 22-Aug. 4), featuring extended park hours and nightly firework displays set to Dolly Parton’s music.
The Festival of Nations reflects Parton’s experiences traveling the world. “She has,” Anderson said, “the opportunity to bring the world to us.”