Now Open: The Barnstormer at Dollywood - Come Fly Away
By Jon Hoffman © 2011, All Rights Reserved

On March 25, 2011, Dolly Parton launched a new swing-type thrill ride at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  If being swooped up to the sky and then plummeted toward the earth is your idea of fun, you're in for a real treat!  Dolly invested big bucks ($5.5 million) to make sure your screeches are louder and clearer than those of professional pig callers.

The themed Owens Farm is named after Dolly Parton’s maternal family and houses the Barnstormer and several play areas for smaller children. The original idea came from Dolly's memories of her daddy and granddaddy talking about thrill-seeking stunt pilots flying over their Tennessee farm. She wanted to celebrate the 1920s aerialists, thus the theme for the Barnstormer was developed.

The Barnstormer is a modern-day representation of the planes that 1920s daredevil stunt pilots used.  The pilot would fly the plane, completing a few trick moves over a small town in the country to get the attention of the residents. Then he would land the plane in a farm field, and the local folks would pay him for joyrides and for performing daring airplane feats in a stunt show.

Pull Up Now!

How does Dolly's Barnstormer ride compare? It’s two giant swings on long metal bars with seats. You sit down, strap yourself in with a shoulder and lap belt, and hang on!

The swings are set between two representations of the old Appalachia cantilevered barns. The ride is tall, so you notice right away that the arms of this swing are long enough to take you over the barn rooftops. By the very first swing, you are over the roof. But you aren't done yet.  The swing goes higher with each successive thrust.

By swing seven, you are looking at only blue sky and facing a stomach-lurching drop that catapults you backward until you are staring face first at the ground. Parallel between sky and earth, the swings take you only feet from the ground, then up to the sky. During all the hoopin’ and hollerin’ you also notice a warning painted on the top of the bar: “Pull Up Now!”

What’s That in Your Throat?

This pendulum swings 81 feet into the air in a 230-degree arc. Reaching speeds of 45 miles per hour, for a minute you believe you are really a Barnstormer.  The sound of rushing wind is all you can hear, as your stomach settles in your throat during your death-defying drop toward the ground.

Become a Wobbler!

There are approximately 10 repetitions to each ride with the ninth pass slowing the ride's momentum. The good news for thrill seekers is that 10 swings is more than enough to turn you into a wobbler. Isn’t that the goal of any thrilling amusement ride? When you get off the Barnstormer, it will take a few minutes to regain your ability to walk a straight line, according to the reviews written by actual riders. Mission accomplished!

As you stumble back through Owens Farm, don’t be surprised if you find yourself humming “My Tennessee Mountain Home.”  When you get to the line that croons, “...on a distant hilltop, an eagle spreads its wings…” you will realize that your family now has their own memories of the day when everyone was able to soar on the Barnstormer.

Jon Hoffman is Reservations Manager of Volunteer Cabin Rentals specializing in luxury Smoky Mountain cabins. Visit the main website to book cabins for your next Smoky Mountain Vacation.