Pigeon Forge takes on a western flavor Feb. 18-22 for the 15th annual Saddle Up, a celebration of cowboy poetry, western music, two-steppin’ and chuck wagon cooking. It is the final major event of Smoky Mountain Winterfest.
Saddle Up is a mixture of big concerts, smaller performances, one-act dinner shows and a competitive chuck wagon cookoff. Also on the calendar are a program about old-time cowboy songs, a western swing fiddle class and a western dance class. Most of the music programs are ticketed, while several other events are free.
Performers for 2015 are cowboy poet Baxter Black, cowboy band Wylie & the Wild West, T. Scot Wilburn and the Shut Up-N-Playboys, Utah singer Brenn Hill, songwriter Chuck Pyle, the husband and wife team of Jean and Gary Prescott, singer and western and Celtic fiddler Skip Gorman, western radio show host Andy Nelson and cowboy poet and chuck wagon cook Kent Rollins.
Three multi-act concerts will be at the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge (3 and 7 p.m. on Feb. 20 and 6 p.m. on Feb. 21). Tickets are $21.95, tax included. One hundred passes covering all three concerts will be sold for $60.36, tax included.
Three “Intimate Evening” dinner shows are scheduled. Kent Rollins and Jean and Gary Prescott will perform Feb. 18 at Mama’s Farmhouse. The other two are Feb. 19 at the LeConte Event Center, one with Brenn Hill and Andy Nelson, and the other with Wylie & the Wild West. Each is limited to 50 tickets ($54.88, tax inclusive).
“Stories and Strings” is a special daytime show on Feb. 20 that will feature eight of the performers as they talk about their special connections to their music. That show is at the Stages West store on the Parkway. Tickets are $21.95, tax included.
A new program for 2015 is Cowbucks Café on Feb. 19. This is a mid-morning meet-and-greet session with Saddle Up entertainers at the Pottery House Café and Grille in Old Mill Square. Fifty seats are available ($15, tax included). Guests will receive the 2015 Saddle Up commemorative poster and a limited edition Saddle Up coffee mug.
Free programs include a Skip Gorman symposium about old-time cowboy songs on Feb. 18; a western swing fiddle class with Paul Anastasio on Feb. 18; a western dance class featuring a reunion of dancers from cable television’s “Dance Club” on TNN; and “Tales and Tips from a Cowboy Cook” featuring Kent Rollins on Feb. 20.
One of Saddle Up’s major activities is the annual chuck wagon cookoff on Feb. 21 at Clabough’s Campground. Chuck wagon cooks prepare lunch for guests and evaluation by a panel of judges. Tickets for the noon lunch are $12.50. Beginning at 9 a.m., visitors can hear cowboy entertainers and participate in cowboy-themed activities free of charge.
The Saddle Up Cowboy Dance ($5), with music by T. Scot Wilburn and the Shut Up -N- Playboys, follows the Feb. 21 concert at the LeConte Event Center.
The weekend concludes with a chuck wagon breakfast ($5) Feb. 22 at the LeConte Event Center, followed by Cowboy Church at Stages West. Cowboy Church is free.
A detailed schedule of Saddle Up activities is at MyPigeonForge.com/saddleup. Tickets are available online. Remaining tickets will be sold at the event.