PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WJHL)– While Big Bear Mountain is new to Dollywood this year, the Flower and Food Festival is making its fourth return bringing over two million blooms to the park from April to June.
It all starts months, sometimes years ahead of the festival with the Mosaïculture team in Montreal, Canada.
“They create the structures and they work with them on what plants to do,” Dollywood’s Senior Operations Manager, Chris Houser, said.
The park’s operations team bases the sculptures on what you see in the Smoky Mountains: bears, raccoons, and of course the iconic Dollywood Butterfly. The most iconic structure depicts Dolly’s mother, Avie Lee Parton, sewing the coat of many colors.
“Her sewing the coat of many colors is a big part of our brand as well so we take those and when we expanded into the Valley we added the beekeeper and the bees,” he said. “You have the two butterflies here that are essentially pulling up colors to bring to her.”
Just to give you an idea of how detailed the structures are, each one of the butterflies has more than 200 plants in their bodies.
“Each one of the icons has an irrigation set up within it to help with the maintaining and watering of flowers,” said Houser. “We still have a grounds team that goes around and manually waters everything in the ground and hits some of the tricky spots to get like some of the little butterfly bodies are tricky. There is irrigation going to them, but it won’t hit the whole thing.”
The night before the festival, the grounds team is hard at work installing the icons and planting the blooms.
“We have to do all these in an overnight install. [The Coat of Many Colors] is the more difficult one. This one has 14 different pieces to come together to create this sculpture,” Houser shared. “Some of them are two or three pieces [each]. The butterflies have a body, a backside and each wing comes on.”
Another crew comes in to place the soil and prep the beds before the planting team comes in ahead of the cleaning crew. But the work isn’t finished there.
“We’re in the season where we could get a frost so we have a team that works overnights and we have rolls of what they call frost cloth,” Houser said. “If we were to have a questionable evening, a nighttime team would come overnight, drape items with this frost cloth to try to protect them until it gets the proper temp. Then we pull them.”
Another fact: it takes three tractor-trailer loads full of mulch to prepare the park for the Flower and Food Festival. You still have time to see the stunning masterpieces for yourself as the festival runs through June 11.