The Harvest Festival is now underway at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., kicking off a tradition that features sweet treats, seasonal food, live music and larger-than-life displays.
One of the park’s most popular events is presented by Humana and Covenant Health.
The fall celebration will run throughout September and October at Dollywood. Remember to check the days of operation as you plan your trip since the theme park will run on a limited schedule.
So what can you expect at Dollywood this season? There will be thousands of decorations including a tall pumpkin tree, a large crop of beautiful sunflowers made of pumpkins and plenty of fun activities around every corner.
Of course, Dolly Parton knows how to impress her guests, and some of the decorations are quite eye-catching.
Notably, Dollywood’s colossal pumpkins are making a return this year. These massive gourds are one of the newer aspects of the fall festival. These huge pumpkins can weigh up to 1,500 lbs each.
Are the pumpkins at Dollywood real?
In short, yes, most of the pumpkins at Dollywood are real, including the colossal pumpkins.
While admiring the giant pumpkins as they made their debut, my curiosity piqued.
A dozen questions swirled in my head as I stood face-to-face with a pumpkin large enough to crawl inside and take a nap. How did you get here? Why are you this big? What’s your opinion on pumpkin spice?
The first year the giant pumpkins came to the park, I spoke to an expert pumpkin grower, Andy Wolf.
Wolf lives in Little Valley, New York and has been growing giant pumpkins competitively since 1999. He specializes in pumpkins that weigh over 1,000 pounds and has broken records with his giant creations.
His pumpkins have been on display all over the world, including right here at our “homegrown” theme park: Dollywood.
Q: How does one get into competitive pumpkin growing?
“When I was young, my parents took me to see a pumpkin competition about an hour from where we lived,” said Wolf.
“It wasn’t until years later that I decided to give it a try and got serious with better seeds and advice from a high school friend who knew how to grow them.”
Q: What’s the secret to growing a massive pumpkin?
“It’s a combination of a lot of things: Hard work, good soil, getting through the summer without any devastating weather events, good seeds and a bit of luck.”
Q: Do all pumpkins have the potential to grow to this size?
“These [pumpkins] are a bit special in that they are grown from seeds out of other giant pumpkins. For example, the 1507-lb pumpkin at Dollywood was grown out of a seed from a 2517-lb pumpkin last year,” says Wolf. “It’s not something you get off the rack at the garden center.”
“Most ‘modern genetics’ of giant pumpkins easily have the potential to grow pumpkins over 1,000 pounds in good conditions. However, results may vary. I have had some incredibly ugly ones and some perfect orange pumpkins through the years.”
Q: How many giant pumpkins are you able to produce in a season?
“Since the pumpkins require a lot of time and hard work, I usually only grow about seven or eight each season. Due to splits, rot, bugs or disease, I lose a couple along the way, so on average I finish with three or four good ones.”
Q: How did you transport this 1500-lb pumpkin?
“Carefully,” says Wolf.
“We used a lifter designed specifically for giant pumpkins and put it on a trailer to go to a contest in Kentucky. After Kentucky, we just loaded it on the back of a different pickup truck and it began its journey to East Tennessee.”
In total, the pumpkin traveled almost 900 miles.
Q: Do you get a lot of funny looks while traveling down the interstate?
“Yeah, really changes the traffic patterns,” Wolf says with a laugh.
“People love to take pictures.”
Q: What happens when the pumpkin begins to rot?
“There’s not much you can do to stop the process once it begins. The cooler fall weather helps slow decay, but a mess is not necessarily a foregone conclusion.”
“I have held pumpkins well into December before I finally chopped them up and fed them to the cows,” says Wolf. “And I request all of my seeds back from any pumpkins sold.”
Q: Why is it important that you retrieve the seeds?
“Seeds out of these pumpkins will hopefully grow the next generation of contest winners. In the winter, growers will swap their seeds with each other.”
“Seeds are also used to help raise funds to support the local pumpkin clubs, which support the pumpkin contests and events. I usually give most away for new growers that want to give it a try.”
Q: Do you eat a lot of pumpkins at your house?
“Nope,” says Wolf with a chuckle.
“We never really got into it. The giant pumpkins are practically inedible from what I understand – the water content is so high, they’re pretty bland. I suppose if you throw enough sugar and spices on them, it would be tolerable.”
Q: Are your giant pumpkins for sale?
“Yes. However, for the most part, they are usually all spoken for with the few that I have. When I do get requests, I will pass them off to growers I know who live closer to the buyer. I’ve been growing giants for over 20 years and have made a lot of good friends around the world.”
“The community is small enough that I can usually refer someone to a grower I know fairly close to them and hope they can work something out.”
How many pumpkins are at Dollywood?
Dollywood’s Great Pumpkin LumiNights event and Harvest Festival features about 13,000 pumpkins total, according to this year’s press release.
Whether they are colossal pumpkins grown by folks from around the East Coast, or hand-carved little works of art, each of the thousands of pumpkins has a special place in the Dollywood family.
If you want more information about Wolf and his giant pumpkins, visit his website.
The Dollywood park has been nationally recognized for its fall event, once winning the top spot for “Best Theme Park Halloween Event” with USA Today.
There are always new, fun things to see at Dollywood. A new feature that is part of the Harvest Festival this year is the Hoot Owl Hollow. The new Hoot Owl Hollow is an enchanting hideaway for a gigantic, glowing owl and its hooting friends.
Of course, this season’s event promises to bring back all the fan-favorite fall colors, concerts and intricately-carved pumpkins we know and love.
Make new memories this season with a number of exciting activities and impressive displays at the Dollywood theme park in Tennessee.
When you plan your trip, remember you can book ahead of time with Tripster and save time in line.
For more information about Dollywood’s Harvest Festival or to check the calendar, please visit dollywood.com or download the Dollywood app.
Have you been to Dollywood for the Harvest Festival? Let us know in the comments below.