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Dolly’s Dixie $tampede

September 5th, 2006

Several months ago my wife was watching an interview of Dolly Parton and liked it so much she gave me the synopsis (I don’t watch very much TV). In the interview Dolly apparently did a fantastic job of coming across as the perfect blend of simple country girl and shrewd business mogul. It seemed like a contradiction, but my wife assured me, Dolly pulls it off with perfection. So, on our most recent trip to Pigeon Forge, Tenn. to attend the annual KIDabra Conference where I’ve been a lecturer every year for the past few years, my wife decided that we would eat dinner at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. It was quite an experience, and an interesting lesson in “money getting”.

First of all is the uniqueness of the experience. Unique means “One of a kind”, and Dixie Stampede fits the bill on at least two different levels.

On one level it is a dining experience like no other. You eat in an indoor, air-conditioned stadium while below are horse races, wagon races, pig races, ostrich races (with human riders!). The food is served in a way probably unlike any meal you’ve eaten before (more on that later) and you are seated to either cheer for The North or The South as the entire experience is sold as an opportunity to settle the Civil War dispute once and for all.

The very premise qualified as “one of a kind” but it goes even deeper when you realize that, since the entire evening is a “contest” between the two sides, with points being earned by audience members on stick horses, as well as staff members riding on horseback, and even by racing pigs, so that each show ends up a little differently. Sometimes The South wins, sometimes The North. Sometimes it is neck-and-neck and sometimes it is a landslide. This makes even repeat trips a new experience and truly every single meal there is “unique”.

The food is served with no silverware. The soup bowls have handles on the side so you can sip it. The main course consists of an entire Cornish hen, half of a baked potato served as a plain “wedge” so you can eat it with your hands, corn on the cob, and for desert you get a pastry. No table ware to wash, but I think the real brilliance is not in the savings from replacing lifted tableware or the soap saved from not having to wash dishes. The real value is in the marketing that becomes “viral” as people tell their friends and family about eating an entire meal with their hands.

That’s a story that people remember and it is something that is different enough to make listeners want to learn more, and even want to repeat to others. That’s the real essence of “viral marketing”, not sending SPAM e-mail.

Okay, that’s all I’m going to write about the Dixie Stampede in this post. Later this week I’ll come back and share with you the real nitty-gritty. I’ll share with you the various vacuum hoses they had invisibly tucked into everyone’s wallet and how they were able to extract a great deal of money that Friday afternoon and leave everyone in attendance smiling about the whole thing.

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