Dolly Parton’s Fla. dinner theater closes
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Dolly Parton’s dinner theater, the Dixie Stampede, abruptly closed its branch here after receiving a lucrative offer for the land it sits on.
The 1,086-person theater was situated alongside Orlando’s busy Interstate 4, a few miles from Walt Disney World. Stampede spokesman Pete Owens said the company received unsolicited offers for years on its 13 acres, but couldn’t turn this one down.
The famed country singer’s company runs the dinner-theaters, but she does not perform at them.
“We at Dixie Stampede have been blessed, but I am a firm believer in timing and opportunity,” Parton said in a written statement. “This was an opportunity we could not pass up. We’re exploring our options now and we will be back better than ever!”
Stampede employees, which range from office workers to performers and support staff for the production’s many horses, bison and other animals, were shocked and upset.
“We felt something was going on, but we gave them the benefit of the doubt,” part-time auditor Hope Alberdeston said.
“Even on the last show day this weekend, we didn’t know. It’s not right to do business like this.”
Owens said the company had no choice, because the deal wasn’t finished until Jan. 7. He said it couldn’t tell the estimated 150 to 200 workers until then, because it would have been speculative.
A confidentiality agreement prevents Dixie Stampede from disclosing who bought the land or for how much, because the buyer wants to make a separate announcement, Owens said.
“We did notify employees as soon as we could notify them,” he said.
Owens said all are getting at least two months of severance pay, and some are being asked to stay through the transition to a new location in the area. Dixie Stampede LLC, based in Pigeon Forge, has hired a real estate scouting company to help.
Some were also being offered jobs at the company’s other theaters in Pigeon Forge, Branson, Mo., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., though Owens couldn’t say how many.
Sarah Flatt, a server who had worked there eight months, told the Orlando Sentinel they should have at least been warned.
“Some people have been here five years, and they aren’t at all happy,” she said. “I mean, all we know now is that we don’t have jobs.”
Information from: Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com
Published in The Messenger 1.16.08