by Linda Burlingame
Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction in Branson, MO, opened for its 24th season February 23, 2018. You know what Dolly says, “It’s the most fun place to eat in Branson, I guarantee it!” And I have to agree. One, I love horses, and so anything that involves these extraordinary animals is going to be fun for me. Two, I think the food is delicious. (It was a happy day when I found out you can buy the mix for their scrumptious creamy vegetable soup!) Everything is cooked right there in Dolly’s state-of-the-art kitchens. It’s fresh and hot when you get it — the servers are amazing.
Thirty-two magnificent horses and a cast of skilled riders perform amazing stunts in the beautiful 35,000 sq. ft. arena. Add spectacular special effects, comedy escapades, a “buffalo” stampede (six tons of American bison!), musical productions, longhorns, wild horses, friendly competitions — like this year’s new Cowboy Joust — and you have a recipe for outstanding entertainment. The Cowboy Joust combines high-speed horsemanship with pinpoint accuracy when two teams of riders try to hit targets with “specially designed” lances. Talk about incredible skill! The whole show is fast-paced and high energy. Everyone enjoys it — I always see families with mom and dad, the kids, and the grandparents. I see young couples and senior citizens. The show really is unique and has a wide appeal.
Dolly Parton has said she wants her guests to have “some jaw-dropping equestrian excitement,” and that’s exactly what you get. The Roman Ride of Fire is just one instance of “Wow!” You’ll enjoy the gorgeous Belles of the Ball and the fascinating aerial feature, Spirit of the Bird. Canine Capers was introduced a couple of years ago and quickly became a crowd pleaser. The dogs Fly-Ball racing, running agility courses, and high jumping in a head-to-tail competition are all rescue dogs.
But back to the delectable food I mentioned. The four-course meal starts with the creamy vegetable soup I like so much. There’s a mouthwatering rotisserie chicken and a generous slice of hickory-smoked pork loin, with a truly yummy homemade buttermilk biscuit and corn on the cob. The meal is finished up with Dolly’s specialty dessert. With at least two shows every day, that’s a lot of cookin’ … how many biscuits is that?!
And think about this: in the dance scene there are 350-400 lights on each dress, 75-100 lights on each man’s topcoat; 104,000 pounds per year of grain for the horses, who generate 832,000 pounds of manure; 1,152 horse shoes; 13,200 bales of bedding. Now you know!
Speaking of fun, Skeeter & Nugget’s hijinks will tickle your funny bone. It’s hilarious when they hide a lady in a barrel on a wagon … well, you have to see it and you still won’t believe it! (Did I mention the racing pigs?) And the fun starts even before you get into the arena for the main show and meal. The White River Wranglers entertain you for an hour, with Ozark Mountain music — folk tunes, early country, and “hard-driving bluegrass.”
Be sure you arrive at Dolly Parton’ Stampede early so that you’ll have time to enjoy the Horse Walk. Meet the exquisite equine stars of the show in their gleaming, polished stalls. The horses are gleaming and polished, too, beautifully groomed and cared for.
I’ve met a lot of famous people in my almost 30 of writing about Branson, but I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Dolly Parton. However, I know several people who know and work with her. They all say the same thing, that she’s remarkable — kind, thoughtful, generous. Her generosity is unquestioned. A perfect example is the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. It’s book-gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth until they start school. The program was launched in 1995 in Sevier County, Tennessee, where she grew up. A national effort began in 2000.The program is now statewide in Tennessee; it’s in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. In 2017 the official Dolly Parton License Plate became available in Tennessee, benefiting the Imagination Library. (Hey, Tennessee friends!)
Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction is full of talent and showmanship, fun and smiles. The pageantry of the dazzling patriotic finale will leave you enthused, thinking, I’m so glad I came to Branson to see Dolly Parton’s Stampede!