Pigeon Forge brings us historical interpretation at its finest

Pigeon Forge, TN is the hap-hap-happiest place around when it comes to learning about the past, and I’ve got some news that’ll make every history enthusiast within two hundred miles of the Smokies start wetting their pants with excitement.

First up, check out what’s happening for the holidays over at a site this blog has featured before—the Titanic Museum Attraction: “Starting Saturday, November 13, it will snow – yes, REAL snow – at the Titanic every Friday and Saturday evening at 7:00pm through January 1, 2011.  The snow is part of the museum’s ‘Christmas in a Winter Wonderland,’ which is dedicated to honoring and celebrating the lives of the 2,208 passengers and crew of the Titanic.”

And we’re not talking cheap, second-rate snow here, either.  This snow equipment cost $150,000.  That’s not even counting the “additional $100,000 [that] will be spent on Christmas trees, lights and decorations that will decorate the interior and exterior of the Titanic Museum Attraction.”

This may be the best quarter million ever spent in the history of museum budgeting.  I’ll tell you what I’m doing for the holidays, ladies and gents. I’m driving to Pigeon Forge, where I can enjoy a frothing mug of egg nog while I watch artificially generated snow gently blanket a fake ship festooned with garlands and Christmas lights.

Perhaps I’ll make a second trip on January 22, when they’ll be hosting—I kid you not—the First Pigeon Forge Professional Ice Carving Competition.  I can’t think of a more appropriate way to commemorate the deaths of 1,517 people than by carting in a bunch of chainsaw-wielding artisans to fashion decorative shapes out of the very same substance that killed them.  Can you?

You’ll want to come back to Pigeon Forge in the spring so you can be first in line to buy tickets for the upcoming “Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud and Stunt Show.”  Now, maybe you’re thinking that a dinner theater/stunt show isn’t the best way to teach history.  Well, think again.  The visionaries behind this enterprise are making cultural edification a top priority:

The new production is scheduled to open in early Spring of next year, and will be loosely based on the true story of the famous Hatfield and McCoy feud.  The audience will be divided into the Hatfield and McCoy families by special seating areas.  The show will extend throughout the theater as the audience participates in the good natured rivalry.  Dangerous and comical stunts will be performed throughout the show to add a special excitement.  Singers, dancers, actors, musicians and specially trained stunt people will round out the cast.  As with all Fee/Hedrick shows, this new show will have a family friendly atmosphere with a focus on fun.

“Our area is rich with Appalachian heritage,” said theater co-owner David Fee.  “Mountain clans were a way of life here, and this show will showcase all that’s great about them!”

And just what is it that’s so great about mountain clans?  Well, being a native Appalachian myself, I can personally attest that “dangerous and comical stunts” are right at the top of the list.  Indeed, when my family gets together for any special occasion, we make a special point to engage in as many dangerous and comical stunts as possible.  Last Thanksgiving, for example, after we had all eaten our fill and hanged a member of the opposing clan with which we were feuding at the time, everyone adjourned to the backyard to watch as I climbed to the roof of my uncle’s house and (wearing nothing but a pair of leopard-skin underpants and a gigantic foam Yosemite Sam hat) shoved a fistful of lit bottle rockets into each nostril, took a running start, and leaped off into a kiddie pool filled entirely with creamed corn.

But I digress.  The news item continues:

The building, will undergo a multi-million dollar renovation and transform in appearance into two neighboring hillbilly style mountain homes complete with a decorative moonshine still and barnyard animal areas.  The theater lobby will also feature the largest moonshine still in the world – soon to be verified by the Guinness Book of World Records.  “The Moonshine Still will be an interactive learning center that highlights the history of the mountain people, but interjected with lots of humor”, says Hedrick. “Our customers will have a better understanding of everyday life back in the hills, while making them laugh at the same time!”

It’s no secret that negative Appalachian stereotypes and historical misperceptions are a ubiquitous problem, but the best way to inculcate an appreciation for the rich, subtle past of the mountain region is to have a feuding-themed theatrical production and then decorate the lobby with the biggest frocking moonshine still you can find.

My history buff nerve endings are just buzzing with anticipation.


Filed under Appalachian History, History and Memory

7 responses to “Pigeon Forge brings us historical interpretation at its finest

  1. Wow. Gatlinburg needs to fire its moribund, ripley’s-believe-it-or-not promotional people and join the 21st century. Pigeon Ford is leaving them in the dust.

    I like that that Hatfield/McCoy presentation is “loosely based” on reality. Dinner theater should never be constrained by the dull narrative of actual history.

    Tennessee is enjoying a sort of anachronistic renaissance these days. The recent lawsuits over the mosque in Murfreesboro (asking whether Islam is a true religion) caused me to read up again on the Scopes Monkey Trial.

    Too bad Kentucky beat them to the Creationism museum, with the most profitable and ahistorical dinosaur/caveman dioramas in the country.

  2. Lest I sound too snarky, I should point out that I love Tennessee. The two weeks I spent in the Smoky Mountains as part of a biology field trip for the University of Evansville was one of the highlights of my college career.

    Nashville is cool. Enjoyed my trips to Chattanooga. Memphis has earned its stripes. I have warm, dream-like memories of an overnight trip to Fall Creek Falls.

    Grateful Dead and Dan Fogelberg ballads always made it sound appealing.

  3. Michael Lynch

    Well, in the interest of accuracy, I should point out that the creation museum isn’t really a Kentucky thing. The impetus behind it was an international ministry organization run by an Australian. They built it in Petersburg because it was close to Cincinnatti and had easy access to major population centers. It’s unfortunate that they ended up building it in Kentucky, because it unfairly perpetuates a lot of stereotypes. But I agree that it’s a pretty wacky thing.


  4. Matt McKeon

    I read the Titanic attraction material and especially its avaliability for weddings. Nothing says “good karma” like getting married on a sinking ship.

  5. Michael Lynch

    You’ve got that right. Might as well release a horde of black cats to run across the deck during the ceremony.


  6. Joe




    Do I need to say more? I didn’t think so.

  7. Michael Lynch

    Thank you. This post is what happens when I plow into the keyboard in full snark mode without taking the time to go back later and tone it down a notch.


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