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Why the Dixie Stampede Changed Its Name, a Local Weighs In

Dolly Parton's Stampede in Pigeon Forge

This attraction changed its name from the Dixie Stampede to Dolly Parton's Stampede in 2018 (photo by Morgan Overholt/TheSmokies.com)

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Dolly Parton renames a popular Pigeon Forge attraction

I was born in North Carolina but had no real connection to the South. Growing up, we were Indiana Hoosiers on a temporary assignment. I was back in Rust Belt Northern Indiana by the time I was four. We had no affection for the Confederates. My earliest understanding was that the North had the good guys. At an early age, I learned that Lincoln was our greatest president. We reinforced that with visits to the Abraham Lincoln State Park, where we learned about his life in Indiana. 


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Archive photo of the Dixie Stampede in Branson Missouri
This 1995 photo of the Branson, Missouri location shows the old name Dixie Stampede (archive photo by Wirestock Creators/shutterstock.com)

The normalization of Confederate iconography

All that being said, Confederate iconography was strong. I wasn’t taught to reject it. In fact, some of it was a big part of my childhood, building a deeply-seeded fondness that lingers beyond reason today. From cartoons to music to the “Dukes of Hazzard,” our culture was inundated with the normalization of the Southern cause. 

In fact, I’m pretty sure I still know at least the first stanza or two of “(I Wish I Was In) Dixie’s Land”. In childhood, I owned a Civil War hat, known as a kepi. I’m also ashamed to admit how old I was before I realized that “cotton pickin'”, as frequently used by Foghorn Leghorn and Sir Mix-a-Lot, was not a phrase I should just be throwing around. 

The original Dixie Stampede show

So when Dolly Parton talked of innocent ignorance, I got it. We were privileged to not have to think about things we did not want to think about. When she partnered to found the Dixie Stampede Dinner Show in Pigeon Forge in the late 80s, I believe she didn’t think it was “that” bad. The show pitted the North against the South in a mostly cartoonish manner. The patrons picked sides and rooted for the boys in blue or grey. Some nights the Union won, some nights the Rebs won. 

Many people – most of them white people – viewed it as harmless fun. The war was so long ago, after all. You could make the argument being an adult woman at the time, she should have known better. But Dolly has been genuinely great on issues of diversity and inclusivity, so I tend to want to be generous. 

a rider on a horse at the Stampede attraction in Pigeon Forge
A Stampede actor rides a horse while carrying an American flag in Pigeon Forge, TN (media photo courtesy of Dolly Parton’s Stampede)

The renaming, and rebranding of the Dixie Stampede

In 2018, Dolly Parton announced that the attraction was dropping Dixie from its name and lessening the Civil War-ness of it all. Some folks were predictably outraged. Others were gratified by the gesture. Even today, some people still call it the Dixie Stampede instead of Dolly Parton’s Stampede.

So why is it not called Dixie Stampede anymore? Because Dolly realized changing the name was the right thing to do. Today, it goes by the name of Dolly Parton’s Stampede. The locals often refer to it as The Stampede for short. You will certainly find people who were a little too attached to the Dixie name. Some don’t understand why the name was changed. Some don’t want to understand. But for the most part, life and the show has gone on. In 2020, Dolly explained the decision and gave one of my favorite quotes of all time. 

“There’s such a thing as innocent ignorance, and so many of us are guilty of that,” she said. “When they said ‘Dixie’ was an offensive word, I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to offend anybody. This is a business. We’ll just call it ‘Stampede. “As soon as you realize that [something] is a problem, you should fix it,” she said. “Don’t be a dumbass. That’s where my heart is. I would never dream of hurting anybody on purpose.”

Dolly Parton

I would wear that quote on a T-shirt if I could. Ultimately, our society has spent a lot of energy, and a lot of mental bandwidth debating the reverence that the Confederacy has in our lives. Big minds and passionate debaters have pushed the boundaries of what should or should not be acceptable. Some people cling to the heritage, the history, the legacy of that Southern iconography. Others use those same ideals as shields for their racism. Often it can be impossible to tell one from the other. Ultimately, maybe we should have just listened to Dolly.

A rider jumps through a fiery hoop on horses
The show features live animals and impressive special effects and stunts (media photo courtesy of Dolly Parton’s Stampede)

The new Dolly Parton’s Stampede show

Today, it’s basically the same attraction but with a name change and a lessened “civil war” vibe. The show is still “filled with friendly North and South competition, thrilling horse riding stunts, spectacular effects [and] phenomenal musical productions.” It also still concludes with a patriotic salute of red, white and blue. The patriotic come-together theme still has riders in gaudy red, white and blue spangly outfits singing about how we are all Americans. 

On a personal note, I should warn, you that if you’re planning on checking it out, those with animal allergies should take necessary precautions prior to entering the arena. The tickets include a four-course feast. The menu includes vegetable soup, a homemade biscuit, a whole rotisserie chicken, hickory smoked barbeque pork loin, corn on the cob, a tasty herb-basted potato, an apple turnover for dessert, and unlimited soft drinks. They also offer gluten-free and vegetarian options.

In the Christmas season, things get festive with a Christmas show that features a yuletide feast, holiday music and wise men in a live nativity scene, complete with a sugar plum fairy and a North Pole and South Pole competition.

How much does it cost?

Dolly Parton’s Stampede currently starts around $69.99 for adults and $39.99 for children 3-9. However, ticket prices change seasonally. Check for deals on Tripster before you go.

Overall, it’s an adventure filled with family fun that is backed by the Dolly Parton name. For more information on the show or to buy tickets, visit their website.

Have you been to this show in the Great Smoky Mountains? Let us know in the comments below.

Have a question or comment about something in this article? Contact our staff here. You may also contact our editorial team at editor@thesmokies.com (preferred) or call 865-505-0648.

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