Look up in this area of the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and you're vision is filled with color as rows and columns of umbrellas are suspended overhead. They call it Umbrella Sky, and it really does bring a new dimension to the area. Together with the shadows dotting the sidewalk, this area becomes a bright and upbeat beginning to your day in the park.
Music in the area during the springtime festival is decidedly rain-themed but not gloomy, and I loved spending time here.
Silver Dollar City has a different version of the project for its own spring festival. There are no umbrellas there, but pennants instead, and the colors are dark and subdued. While the pennants are pretty and provide a bit of shade, the effect is considerably less noticeable and less inviting. I seemed to be the only one taking pictures at Silver Dollar City, while many people felt compelled to take selfies and photos of their families at the Dollywood display.
I believe there are times when our economy works against us. Not only do we think we need to get something for our money, our time, and our effort, but we tend to want to get the most for our money, time, and effort. We tend to believe that someone must give us something in trade for the things we give to them. We tend to work for money, serve for a thank-you, and pay for our needs and wants. Some might even evoke the eastern term of karma, or whatever you put into the world will come back to you in kind.
But that’s messed up, and it’s not exactly what the intended when He inspired Paul to write, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Trading good deeds does not constitute true love. Look, I understand the concept of doing “Random Acts of Kindness”. But why perform random acts instead of just being kind all the time?
I get this whole “Pay It Forward” idea. I understand that people are trying to inspire others to be nice. But I’m afraid we pass along the wrong idea if we wait for someone to do something for us before we will do something for someone else. Do we do it out of guilt or a sense of duty, or do we serve others because it’s the right – or righteous – thing to do?
Even more troubling might be the idea that people continually try to get something for nothing. I can think of two times in our lives in which we receive something for nothing: one is at our birth – a time when we did nothing to deserve life (That would be ridiculous.), and the second is our rebirth – a time that begins when we obediently respond to the Gospel, with a reward made possible by our Savior’s sacrifice on a cross. He did it before we existed so we could spend eternity in Heaven, because he knows there is nothing we can do to gain that reward for ourselves.
"Don't place your mistakes on your head;
their weight may crush you.
Instead, place them under your feet
and use them as a platform
to view your horizons."
It seems like fire is a common theme at both Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, and at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
That classic, powered roller coaster has seen its better days and is scheduled to be shuttered at the end of the 2023 season (with the rumored 2.0 version of the ride opening up in the Fireman's Landing area in '24).
The firefighting theme is also visible at the sister park, Dollywood. In fact, a more updated version of Fire in the Hole is there, sans the Bald Knobbers, but with all of the special effects intact, including the falling effect of the burning covered bridge. Their version has the unimpressive name of Blazing Fury to identify it.
Head around a couple of corners in the same park, and you'll find Firechaser Express, Billed as a "family coaster", the Express appears to be a firefighting train that stops in the center of a factory full of some pretty impressively sized fireworks. Your train arrives and stops at just the right time as you see flames engulfing the factory. Just as you think you're going to heroically extinguish the fire, an explosion hurls the entire train backwards through a new section of track - which somehow returns all passengers to the launch station.
And George Washington is still the first president of our democratic republic.
We're headed to Dollywood which is located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. This theme park receives a lot of attention due to the co-investor in the property, Dolly Parton. While we are used to the parent park, Silver Dollar City, in Branson, Missouri, we thought we should finally check this place out. We did spot some similarities in this park (which used to be called Silver Dollar City, Tennessee). Then again, we also spotted many, many differences.
I won't go into all of that here. In the interest of brevity, let me introduce our day at Dollywood by just offering the first three photos on my photostream. The first is a shot of our first ride of the day - Thunderhead - which reminds us a lot of ThuNderaTion at SDC. The second picture is on top of one of the concession stands; I really appreciated the detail and cleanliness. Then the third photo is of Blazing Fury, which is the Dollywood version of our original Fire in the Hole. BF has received a major update and all of the features seem to be working inside of it, while FitH is seeing its last year of operation this year, presumably to be replaced in the spring of '24 with FitH 2.0, for lack of a better name.
“Every step forward begins
with a foot planted firmly in the past.”
(Auggie Anderson, Covert Affairs)
Coming down from the peak of Clingman's Dome was much faster than ascending, but the grade was pretty steep. I took some time-lapse videos of the ascent, but they do not display the angle very well.
As I had to wait for my wife, who is more meticulous in her stepping, I took a side trail into the forest and discovered a completely different view. In there, the trees are so dense that they appear to enclose you. All of the greenery is at the top to gather energy from the sun, so the trunks grow long and tall to compete with each other.
"Hope holds *crisis* in one hand
and *joy* in the other.
Hope deals soberly and honestly
with the worst situation,
while persevering joyfully,
because hope knows how the story will end."
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