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A few major milestones

All photos courtesy Tennessee Dept. of Tourism

Visitors to Tennessee can look forward to 800 festivals throughout the year: 2010’s milestone celebrations include the 25th anniversary of Dollywood, Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday at Graceland and the Grand Ole Opry’s 85th birthday.


Dollywood, the reigning winner of Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Award for Best Shows and Best Christmas Event, pays daily tribute to its 25th anniversary with an afternoon Silver Celebration featuring entertainment by the SilverTones. Through September, a park guest is being selected each day to participate in the daily street party, which takes place in Dollywood’s Adventures in Imagination area.

Complete with music, dancing and a colorful spray of butterfly confetti, the Silver Celebration features a special anthem written by Dolly Parton to commemorate the park’s anniversary season called “Celebrate the Dreamer in You!”

“As part of our celebration, unsuspecting park guests are selected throughout the day to receive random prize giveaways, which include everything from free merchandise to meals,” said Dollywood representative Trish McGee.

New this year, Adventure Mountain covers 2 acres of mountainside terrain with four different adventure courses featuring 140 obstacles that range from easy to expert.


Graceland’s Elvis Week in August annually commemorates the King of Rock ’n’ Roll’s legacy. Fans can enjoy a full week of music, dance, sports, and social and charitable events at Presley’s former home in Memphis.

A special 75th-anniversary exhibit focuses on Presley’s birthplace, Tupelo, Miss., where he bought his first guitar at the local hardware store and spent his early years.

A two-year exhibit that opened in March, “Elvis Presley, Fashion King,” is Graceland’s first fashion-focused display. It showcases Presley’s handmade shirts and suits, his iconic stage wear and his  flashy jewelry.

Grand Ole Opry
At Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, two 20-foot-tall, 3,000-pound steel and aluminum Opry 85th-birthday guitars officially welcome visitors to the Opry’s anniversary party. Fans and superstars will be invited to sign other oversized guitars on display.

A who’s who of celebrities are appearing as guest announcers throughout the year, and the show’s “I’m With the Band” series invites personalities from outside the country music world to sit in with the Opry band on country music’s most revered stage.

The Opry’s 85th Birthday Bash weekend, featuring Opry birthday shows and an Opry Plaza Birthday Party, is scheduled for Oct. 8-9.

“Our attractions are experiencing increased interest from the group market due to a Grand Birthday Celebration package, which includes the Grand Ole Opry and General Jackson Showboat, celebrating its 25th year of rolling down the river in Nashville,” said Wayne Chandler, senior sales manager for Gaylord Attraction Sales.

Festivals galore

Tennessee’s culture shines through in its festivals. The National Cornbread Festival in South Pittsburgh, home of the Lodge Manufacturing Co., centers around the 100-year-old family-owned and -operated cast iron foundry. Festival goers can tour the factory, see a quilt exhibition and eat some of the best cornbread this side of the Mississippi.

Memphis in May, held each weekend in May, includes one of the nation’s major barbecue cookoffs. Music takes center stage during the event, which closes with a symphony concert on the banks of the Mississippi River.

The Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree July 2-3 expects to attract approximately 100,000 attendees this year. The festival showcases bluegrass, folk and Appalachian musicians and serves as one of the major fiddling competitions in the United States. It also features artists, craftspeople, dancers and down-home Southern cooking.

“Southeast Tennessee is rich with Cherokee History, including Red Clay State Park, which was the Cherokee Nation’s last headquarters before the Trail of Tears,” said Cindy Dupree, director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. “The Annual Cherokee Days of Recognition, which honor the Cherokee people, are celebrated there each August.”

For the nation’s largest Labor Day fireworks show, look no further than Boomsday in Knoxville.

Held on the downtown waterfront, the three-day event includes live entertainment, a petting zoo and contests with giveaways.

The festival closes with fireworks choreographed to a soundtrack and bursting into brilliant colors over the Tennessee River. The spectacular finale dazzles onlookers as a fireworks waterfall spills over the Henley Street Bridge.

“People watch on the Tennessee River from their boats,” said Tyler Lewelling, public relations manager for the Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corp. “Two riverboat companies take out dinner cruises to watch the fireworks from the river.”

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Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.