The spectacular Smoky Mountain Opry in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

IMG_4164To most the name “Opry” brings to mind a great show that is primarily of the country-western music genre. The Smoky Mountain Opry at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee will change your expectations. You will be amazed at the quality of the performances offered.

Not only are the performers top notch but the staging, lighting and costumes are superb. The opening act features flying western guitar players. Yes, this is your introduction to several aerial acts during the show. The highlight of the show is of course the music. The house band is absolutely marvelous.

Be prepared for numbers from nearly every genre. Motown, Broadway musicals, country, sixties rock, gospel and a patriotic tribute will keep you enthralled. Featured numbers from artists like The Eagles, Marti Robbins, Charlie Daniels and Carrie Underwood are highlights of this professional show. The 1400 seat facility uses sophistocated lighting, sound, lasers, video screens and pyrotechnical effects.

The opening number

The opening number

Charlie Bob Smith

Charlie Bob Smith

Sher and I were surprised that this show would even attempt doing the number “Circle of Life”. Wow. This was one of the most amazing acts of the night. The costumes were unbelievable and included tall life sized giraffes. What an exciting number. There were even two live tigers on each side of the stage

The memories returned for this boomer during a number that brought back the days of the Beatles. The band and cast were dressed in the style of the times and band director John Hodges and his band were right out of Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. “Hey Jude” echoed through the auditorium as dancers, singers and band members spread out in the aisles. Beach balls were bouncing throughout the crowd and all enjoyed this time travel back to the days of love, love, love.

Vocalist Anthony Bailey

Vocalist Anthony Bailey

Patriotic Finale

Patriotic Finale

Every show needs some comedy. The Smoky Moutain Opry fills the bill with comedian/juggler David J Hirschi (stage name Slim Chance). He juggles saw blades. He juggles a ping pong ball, rubber chicken and a bowling ball. He is hilarious.

Like Broadway musicals? “I’m singing in the Rain” was performed complete with real rainfall and dancing ala Gene Kelly. Nat King Cole’s iconic “Unforgettable” is presented as a marvelous tribute to the ground breaking entertainer.

Charlie Bob Smith is new to the show this season and performs several numbers. He is known as the man of a thousand voices as he sings in the style of many different famous singers. He nails them.

A special treat during this show is the remarkable performances by Leann Farley and Semyon Gruzdev. These aerialists have developed breathtaking routines performed above the stage. In addition they have a quick change act that approaches the feel of magic. How they change into so many different costumes on stage behind a curtain is mind blowing.

The Smoky Mountain Opry presents a world class, professional variety show. The beautiful facility is located right on the strip in Pigeon Forge. Without a doubt any visit to Pigeon Forge should include attending the Smoky Mountain Opry. Here is their website with all the details.

Semyon Gruzdev and Leann Farley (Aerialists/Quick Change Artists) Photo by Steven Bridges http://stevenbridges.com

Semyon Gruzdev and Leann Farley (Aerialists/Quick Change Artists) Photo by Steven Bridges http://stevenbridges.com

 

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River Plantation RV Resort in Sevierville, Tennessee is an RVC destination

Office/Lodge and store

Office/Lodge and store

The River Plantation RV Resort is one facility that truly lives up to the use of “resort” in its name. As part of the RVC Outdoor Destination group of campgrounds it provides a nearly perfect place to stay when visiting the attractions of Pigeon Forge and Sevierville as well as nearby Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains.

The first thing you will notice about this park is the friendliness and sincerity of the staff. From manager Mike Hale to the rest of his staff you will be greeted and taken care of with respect. River Plantation offers a genuine, real concierge service. You will feel appreciated and safe in this RV destination.

 

The park is located in the valley and is bordered by the Little Pigeon River. Even though it is on the Parkway the sounds of the traffic do not reach your campsite. The park is remarkably quiet for being so close to the main drag. All of the sites are level and on paved or good gravel roads. You will love how deep and wide the sites are. The smallest spots are a full 60′ deep and range up to the big 120′ spaces for the big rigs and trailers. All are full hookup with 30 and 50 amp service. Site amenities include a concrete patio, picnic table and fire ring. Free WiFi and cable tv is also included. Two sizes of cabins are also available.

Large well spaced sites

Large well spaced sites

The Conference Center

The Conference Center

Other site features include two new pools and hot tub, a large arcade room, open air pavillion for get togethers and picnics, propane filing station and an on site RV and truck wash. The bath houses are immaculate and the laundry rooms are fitted with new industrial size machines.

There is a large conference center on site that is home to many RV rallies. There are usually over a dozen rallies held in the park and conference center each year. Many of the motor coach and RV clubs use this great facility each year for their meetings.

Cabins and beautiful landscaping

Cabins and beautiful landscaping

Arcade/game room

Arcade/game room

This park is the perfect place for everyone from retirees to families with kids. It is a safe environment for the kids to ride their bikes and just be kids on vacation. Moms and Dads will appreciate sitting around a campfire. You’ll see folks walking their dogs or just walking. During our stay Sher and I enjoyed this relaxing place after days filled with activities and shows at Pigeon Forge which is just a few minutes away.

This is the best RV park in the Seviervile-Pigeon Forge area. It is clean, well managed, up to date, Good Sam approved and reasonably priced for a weekend stay or longer. Reservations are strongly recommended for this popular RV resort. Click River Plantation website for all the details.

Comfy firepit waiting for you!

Comfy firepit waiting for you!

 

The Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Hillbilly wheels

Hillbilly wheels

You know that there will be some great family friendly comedy as part of the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Feud. What you may not expect is that fact that you’ll start grinning and chuckling as soon as you leave your car and approach the building. The outside of the facility is covered with good humor in the form of signs, artifacts on the walls and even a real two hole outhouse! Around the front are a couple of barnyards filled with critters to see and several interesting vehicles.

The seating in the facility is very comfotable. Sher and I had our own table as did all the other couples. Large tables are available for families of four or more and groups. One side of the theater is tagged as the Hatfield side. The other, where we were seated, is of course the McCoy side. Good natured cheering is encouraged throughout the evening for your side.

Sher in the two hole outhouse

Sher in the two hole outhouse

Comfortable dining

Comfortable dining

Let’s talk about the meal. As soon as you are seated your server brings your drink of choice followed by soup and rolls. The meal is served family style and includes fried chicken, pulled pork, corn on the cob, cole slaw and mashed taters. The food is excellent and you can have seconds or more if you want. The service is fast and efficient. A nice dessert is included with your meal. Beer and “moonshine” is also available at extra cost.

Playing "Foggy Mountain Breakdown"

Playing “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”

She has a great voice

She has a great voice

The show starts with the groundwork of the Hatfield-McCoy feud described as both sides of the crowd start to hoop it up! The show is made up of a series of great bluegrass music numbers, hilarious banter between the two families and some absolutely fabulous dance numbers. Amongst the dancers are a young man and even younger girl. Both of these kids have great careers ahead. Watch for these talented youngsters.

Granny McCoy and Elder Hatfield

Granny McCoy and Elder Hatfield

One of the great clogging numbers

One of the great clogging numbers

There are some great sight gags and fun slap stick comedy during the show. The excitement and professionalism of the cast is noticeable in each segment of the show. Granny is head of the McCoys and of course the elder Hatfield runs his clan with an iron fist. However both end up getting together and all ends well.

The patiotic ending of the show will have you on your feet. The newly remodeled Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Theater is a marvelous venue for this rousing and entertaining show. It is hard to beat good food and a great show. Put this one on your list when you visit the Great Smoky Mountains and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Get all the information you need for tickets and times at the show website here.

Have to love a 5 string

Have to love a 5 string

 

Red Skelton Tribute Show in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

My time with Brian before the show

My time with Brian before the show

Every once in a while you come across an entertainment opportunity that really tugs at your heart. Sher and I attended such a show at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The Red Skelton Tribute show is the work of Brian Hoffman. He presents Red Skelton just as he was during the heyday of Skelton’s TV shows on CBS so many years ago.

Hoffman had a ten year run in Las Vegas but moved to Pigeon Forge a couple of years ago. I was able to talk with Brian before the show, and I asked him what prompted the move to Tennessee. He responded simply: “Divine intervention.” This set the stage for my learning about Brian and his calm and gentle demeanor. He explained that he loves putting on shows that are funny and filled with clean and clever comedy just as Red Skelton always performed.

He thoroughly loves presenting Red Skelton not only as a trip down memory lane for us baby boomers, but also as an education for the younger generation who have never heard of Red Skelton. Brian chuckled when he said that the younger generation includes youngsters including those in their late thirties!

An ad you won't see today

An ad you won’t see today

Gertrude and Heathcliff

Gertrude and Heathcliff

The entertainment begins with a 30 minute pre-show presentation in slide show format. Accompanied by vintage songs from the 50’s and 60’s you are treated to a montage of pictures from days gone by. All your old favorite autos are pictured. There is a series of photos of movie stars from those days. Ed Wynn, Humphrey Bogart, The Marx Brothers, Audrey Hepburn and Hopalong Cassidy are but a few of those dispayed. Old toys, cereals, games and even ads are shown, all getting you ready for the show.

Brian Hoffman as Red Skelton

Brian Hoffman as Red Skelton

Clem Kadiddlehopper

Clem Kadiddlehopper

Brian starts his performance as Red Skelton doing standup. It is remarkable how much he looks, acts and sounds like Skelton. His unobtrusive interaction with the crowd in the intimate Starlight Theater is a big part of the show. Everyone feels at ease and at home during the patter. You will have a huge grin on your face between those outbursts of the laughter that keeps on coming.

During the show you will be treated to several of the many characters that Skelton made famous during his career. Hoffman nails each one of them perfectly. Remember the pair of seagulls named Gertrude and Heathcliff? They apperar often during the show. You will appreciate Clem Kadiddlehopper in his coat of many colors. The act is vibrant and energetic as Hoffman switches back and forth from routine to routine.

Becoming Freddie the Freeloader

Becoming Freddie the Freeloader

Freddie the Freeloader

Freddie the Freeloader

Hoffamn changes into the Freddie the Freeloader character is a very unique way. He sits with his back to the audience and delivers a beautiful monologue as he applies the makeup for the transformation to Freddie.

During the final portion of the show you will be treated to Skelton’s famous reading and interpretation of the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag. This heart warming finale will make you think, bring a tear to your eye and reinforce that you made the right decision to see Brian Hoffman as Red Skelton.

I know there are lots of great entertainment choices in Pigeon Forge, but do yourself and your family a favor and make sure that this show is on your list. Here is the Red Skelton Tribute website.

Brian Hoffman as Red Skelton as Freddie the Freeloader

Brian Hoffman as Red Skelton as Freddie the Freeloader

Happy Days Diner in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

20160309_182245Sher and I were looking for a place to grab a bite to eat one evening before a show when we were in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The Happy Days Diner caught our eye with its nostalgic 50’s and 60’s look.

What a cool diner! The inside takes you right back to the good old days. The counter seating is something you rfarely see anymore. The tables and chairs are brushed aluminum with red trim. The pictures on the walls hearken back to the days of Elvis, hot rods and cruising the strip on a Friday night.

 

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20160309_175127The menu is just what you would expect at a vintage diner. The selection of burgers is extensive. Of course you can get fries onion rings and all the trimmings. Appetizers are great for sharing or can be a meal in themseves. Milk shakes, sundaes and banana splits add to the culinary delights available. The menu items are named after the characters from the Happy Days TV show. Have a Fonzy burger.

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I ordered a classic cheeseburger and fries. Sher enjoyed the potato skins (without the bacon). Pricing is reasonable, the service is great and fast, and the manager even came to our table and offered to turn on the lights in the large back dining room.

The Happy Days Diner is located on Pigeon Forge’s main drag right next to the Comedy Barn. We attended the show after we ate. You can read about our fun time at the Comedy Barn here.

The Comedy Barn in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Steve Curry on guitar with Katie Anne in background

Steve Curry on guitar with Katie Anne in background

Want an evening of good clean family fun? Well go no further than the Comedy Barn in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. This show has been running for decades and for good reason. Not only is the comedy literally side-spitting, but the music, singing and dancing are also top quality.

The best way to describe this fun filled event is to tag it a comedy variety show. The musicians are top notch. The band includes Steve Curry, Clyde Foley Cummins, Ron Jeffrey and Buddy Cline. They provide music for the acts and also perform some classic bluegrass numbers.

The comedy segments will have you howling  with laughter and nearly in tears. Look out for Danny Devaney. What he does with ping pong balls, a plexiglass sheet and audience members is a sight to behold. Danny comes out on stage a second time and once again blows you away when he drags four guys up on stage and uses them with four five gallon buckets. You have to see it to believe it.

Harry Edenburn as "Harley Worthit"

Harry Edenburn as “Harley Worthit”

Ventriloquist Steve Knowles with help from the crowd

Ventriloquist Steve Knowles with help from the crowd

“Harley Worthit” (get it?) is the character stage name of veteran comedian Harry Edenburn. “Harley” brings a unique brand of comedy to the Comedy Barn. One liners follow one liner so fast you can hardly recover from your laughing to hear the next joke. When he performs his second set his costume is, ah, unique. Think striped tights, leopard skin mini skirt, flowered shower cap and white underwear for a shirt. Yep, it is quite a visual. His second act is as funny as his costume.

Venriloquist Steve Knowels will amaze you with his skill at throwing his voice. He stands center stage without the typical dummy on his hip. He throws his voice all over the auditorium and you’ll laugh your head off. Steve’s second act features his famous talking dog. Get ready: this is a real live dog that works with Steve. Oh, Steve also brings a couple of guys up to be his dummies. See the picture.

Rounding out the cast are two spirited dancers. Katie Waltman and Katie Anne Smith really know how to clog/tap. Their energy is amazing and wow can they dance! These two beauties add a spark of excitement whenever they are on stage.

The Comedy Barn should be on your list of must see shows in Pigeon Forge. Take the whole family for an energetic laugh filled night out on the town. Go straight to the Comedy Barn website for all showtimes, ticket information and directions.

Grand Patriotic Finale

Grand Patriotic Finale

Danny in rare form

Danny in rare form

Katie and Katie-Anne with Danny on stilts

Dolly Parton Dixie Stampede at Pigeon Forge

Mountain Ruckus in the Dixie Belle Saloon

Mountain Ruckus in the Dixie Belle Saloon

The Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee is one of the most popular events in the Great Smoky Mountains. Sher and I found out why when we spent the evening at the Stampede.

Touted as the most visited dinner show, your evening’s entertainment is really two shows in one. You start out in the Dixie Belle Saloon. Starting about 50 minutes before the Dixie Stamede show you will be treated to a great trio of musicians known as Mountain Ruckus. Playing your favorite bluegrass songs with a touch of gospel these guys have played with Dolly Parton in the past. Grab a bucket of popcorn and a cool non-alcoholic drink and enjoy this fabuous, professional quality music.

When it is time to move to the arena you leave the Saloon and are directed to your seats. The seating consists of rows of long tables, all of which offer great views of the arena. Once seated your server pours your drink in a Mason jar. Yes, a real mason jar! Keep in mind that your meal is served item by item while the show runs. You will be fed well. Soup and bisquit, whole small baked chicken, pork chop, half a potato and corn on the cob. No silverware provided (or needed) makes for a fun dining experience. Your server will bring you a warm moist towel when you are finished for hand cleaning. Dessert is a large apple turnover. Sher ordered the vegetarian meal with veggies, pasta, the potato and corn.

In the arena

In the arena

The set with changing video screen.

The arena is a sight to behold. One end is formed to look like a rocky mountain cliff complete with a huge video screen across the top. This serves as the entrance for the perfromers as well as the changing of the scenery for each act. The show starts with the host on horse back setting up the friendly competition for the night. The arena crowd is divided in the “north” and the “south”. Part of the show is a series of contests between the performers.

The skills of the riders are amazing. One gal stands with a foot on two different horses as she perfroms her tricks. She has remarkable balance. Her horses are not spooked by the pyrotechnics and flames, including a large circle of fire that she jumps through. Other trick riders will take your breath away.

The production is professional with dynamic sets that even drop from the ceiling of the arena. The costumes are magnificent and the musical numbers will have you tapping your feet. You’ll see a herd of buffalo, wagon trains, an eye popping Native American number complete with a flying performer. The north vs. south events all showcase equestrian skills. Ever seen pigs racing? You will at the Dixie Stampede. It is hard to describe in words this full evening event. But rest assured this Pigeon Forge attraction has earned its name as the most visited dinner show in the area. Plan you visit and make reservations at the Dixie Stampede website. You’ll have a great time.

"King" ready to perform in the Dixie Stampede

“King” ready to perform in the Dixie Stampede

Update! I-75 southbound is closed at the Kentucky/Tennessee line

Update: Today we took the “car” detour for I-75 that is still closed due to a huge rockslide. This detour followed road 297 that s runs roughly parallel to I-75. Wow. What a lousy road to become a detour for a major interstate. This road is narrow, windy and goes over at least tow pretty high mountains. At best we could travel at 45 mph (which is the posted speed limit). Lots of the time 25 mph was the maximum safe speed.

Large RV’s and towed travel trailers should take the truck route. Our 24′ Class C handled the road ok, but it was a bit of white knuckle driving.

Well, at least it was a surprise for us. We left Indiana on our way to Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, Tennessee. About 50 miles into Kentucky on I-75 we saw one of those big information signs that hang over the highway. There was quite a bit of writing on the sign, but traffic was busy and all I could catch was I-75 closed. It seems that there was a huge rockslide on February 27th that closed the entire interstate in both directions. I guess if you don’t live in Kentucky or Tennessee you don’t get the news.

Closer to the border the road side signs spelled out more details. Trucks must get off at Exit 29 in Kentucky. Cars must get off at Exit 160 just inside the Tennessee State line.

OK, we are in an RV. We’re not a truck, we’re not a car. Do the trucks have one route due to width or height restrictions? Road /bridge weight limits? Guess we’ll find out in the morning. We are taking the car exit. Stay tuned…

Washington State Cascade mountain range

Beautiful mountain stream

The Cascade Range in Washington is one of the features of the Pacfic Northwest that draws tons of folks each and every year . The Mt Baker-Snoqualimie National Forest offers a tremendous varitey of recreation and nature loving opportunities.

We have family in the Seattle area. When visiting we always try to allow for some time up in the mountains. The Mountain Loop Drive gives you some fantastic scenery, incredible photo ops and a chance to enjoy the lush forests of the mountains.

Roads turn to gravel but are very well maintained. Of course the season does make a difference, as winter snows can be very intense to say the least.

 

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Snow melt and waterfalls on Big 4 Mountain

Snow Melt and waterfalls on Big 4 Mountain

Erick Oklahoma on historic Route 66

When traveling east on I-40 into Oklahoma from Texas you should take Exit 7 and head south into the town of Erick. This former boom town was founded in 1901 but fell into trouble after WW II. The main street is filled with several nice old brick buildings that unforunately are mostly empty.

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IMG_3999Of special interest in Erick is the relic adorned “City Meat Market” building. This brick is covered in old signs the likes of which would make any antique picker green with envy. This is the current home to the Sand Hill Curiosity Shop. We did not hit Erick on a day that the shop was open. A local shared that the shop is owned and operated by a pair of characters named Annabelle and Harley, AKA the Mediocre Musicians. They will play and sing for you if you catch them there.

 

 

 

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Erick was the birthplace of Roger Miller who fittingly was the writer and performer of the hit song “King of the Road”. Another native son is Sheb Wooley, an actor on the TV series “Rawhide” and the artist who wrote and sang that unique hit “Purple People Eater”. If you know any of these references you are dating yourself!

A detour off of I-40 to see Erick,Oklahma is worth your effort and time.