TWINterns: An Interview with Dollywood Interns Evan and Landon Sherwood

Recently Coaster101 traveled to Dollywood, and sat down with summer interns Evan and Landon Sherwood, who are rising seniors at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. Evan and Landon took some time out of their busy schedules to talk to us about their experiences as interns at Dollywood, where they have been visiting since they were 5 years old.


C101: Why did you want to intern at Dollywood?

LANDON: I am interested in pursuing an MBA in Hospitality and Tourism management and thought this would be a good way to get my foot in the door with one of the best in the theme park industry.

EVAN: I grew up coming to Dollywood every year. I always thought it would be a cool place to work. I wanted to intern at Dollywood because I have always wanted to work in the theme park industry (ever since my first day playing Roller Coaster Tycoon). I feel like Dollywood provides a top notch theme park experience and I wanted to see how that was done. I wanted to see what went into providing that experience and how we can replicate that for future guests.

C101: What was the application and hiring process like?

EVAN: We were interviewed in December in the park and then were notified of our status by the beginning of February. Before we started work we had to go to Dollywood University which is located outside the park. This is a place to get familiar with everything Dollywood and what their mission statement and core values are.

LANDON: The interview was really casual and they really just wanted to get to know us and see if we really believed in helping create memories worth repeating- their motto.

EVAN: We also had to attend a wardrobe fitting. Dollywood is a theme park that is themed to be in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. That requires a  new kind clothes that the typical person is not used to.

C101: What’s a typical work day like for you?

EVAN: Typical work day depends on the day of the week. I am one of two parking interns so my job revolves around cars and getting people to and from their cars. Monday is my office work day. It mainly consists of doing paperwork and doing any necessary errands my supervisor needs done that day. I will shadow him at any meetings he has that day to see what it is that a Supervisor is responsible for. Tuesday is the day that I work in Valet. Dollywood just began offering Valet services in October. From Wednesday on, I am a front line host on our trams that take people from their car to the park and from the park back to their car. I drive the trams and conduct on the trams. The conductor on the tram is the person on the back who welcomes you to Dollywood and tells you important info about services the park offers. My spiel includes safety info, and promotion for our new rides and other properties owned by the Herschend Company such as Dollywood’s Splash Country and Dixie Stampede. Throughout the day you alternate between driving and conducting the tram with your partner for the day.


LANDON: Well currently we are open for 10am-10pm.  I work most of the time at Wild Eagle. It takes 6 people to operate the ride. Each morning the PIC (Person-In-Charge) assigns people to a position. At Wild Eagle, the positions are: Front  A&B, Back A&B, Dispatch, and Grouper.  Front and Back refer to what part of the train you will be checking restraints and “A” and “B” refers to which side of the train. In these positions you are in charge of checking guests’ restraints and ensuring guests place all loose articles in the bins provided.

Dispatch is mainly in charge of sending the train out and controlling entry and exit gates.Dispatch is the most fun position because you get to get guests excited about the ride. Grouper’s position is located below the loading platform and is in charge more or making sure we keep the lines even on both sides of the loading platform while also checking heights to make sure children are tall enough. Once we are assigned these positions, we rotate every 20 minutes once the “breakers” come in to start the rotation schedule. You take your break depending on what side you are on.

It should be noted that every two hours we have to do a test run of the ride to ensure it is safe to ride. If we hear any strange noises or see any maintenance gates on the ride open, we must shut down the ride. While there seems to a routine, every day is an adventure and brings new challenges that always keep you on your feet. Every day is unique because each day you are trying to help guests make memories but all them wish to do it in different ways.


C101: What’s your favorite part about working at Dollywood?

LANDON: My favorite part of working at Dollywood is seeing families faces light up as they experience memories that last a lifetime.  When I see them smiling it reminds me of all the memories I have made at Dollywood with friends and family. It is these moments that I help create that make working at Dollywood so much fun.

EVAN: My favorite part about working here at Dollywood is being able to a part of a place that creates memories worth repeating. You here so many stories from people about how they had such a good time and loved every moment. It is awesome to be able to say that you are a part of that. You helped create a trip they will not forget. I helped make a great day for someone. It is an awesome feeling!

C101: What’s it like working with your brother?

LANDON: Well I really do not see Evan that much.  Even though we both work for the operations department, I work with the coasters and he works with parking.  Thus, I never really see him until we head home for the night. I like it that though because we both get to exchange stories about our day and get to interact with a lot different people. Being in different department offices also helps us learn a lot more about the park than if we both were in the same department. There is not a day that goes by that I do not learn something new about the park, how it operates, and how they strive to serve guests.


C101: What’s your favorite memory of Dollywood?

EVAN: For me it has been whenever I take a friend and they get experience Dollywood for the first time. Seeing their reaction to a place I have been coming for over 15 years, and seeing them fall in love with it like me is pretty cool. I’m reminded of the effect this place has on people and the memories it can provide.

LANDON: My favorite memory of Dollywood just happened recently actually. I was working at Fire Chaser Express with a guy named Chris from the Q to Q reservation system. This family came up to him not knowing anything about Dollywood and how to use the Q-bot they rented. He took this opportunity to give them his park map and highlighted all the rides and shows they could use with the Q to Q system. At the end of the conversation, they gave him a huge hug and told him he was a lifesaver. One lady even said she wanted to kiss him.

After he left, he told me “always go out of your way to help guests. It will make your job so much more enjoyable.” This moment helped me see why Dollywood stands out from other theme parks: their willingness to make your day a more memorable one.

C101: What’s your favorite ride at Dollywood and why?


LANDON: I love every ride at Dollywood. If I had to pick one though, a favorite would be Barnstormer. The air time is great and is such a different and unique experience form a roller coaster since there is only one row on this ride: the front row.


EVAN: My favorite ride by far is Thunderhead. The ride is just relentless from beginning to end. It never slows down and there is so much airtime. It is just a great ride that I haven’t gotten tired of and it is celebrating its 10th season this year!  Having this ride situated between two mountains sets this ride up to be a timeless classic. I’m also proud to say that it has twice received the Golden Ticket Award for being the world’s top ranked wooden coaster!

C101: Do you spend any of your free time at the park?

EVAN: I do spend some of my free time there! Gotta ride the rides on my off days and eat all the good food like our famous cinnamon bread from the Grist Mill!


LANDON: I spend some of my free time in the park. As hosts, we get complimentary admission to Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country. I think it is great so many people who work there also spend their free time there. It is a testament to the type of culture the Dollywood Company has created with its hosts.

C101: What are some other things you enjoy doing in Pigeon Forge?

LANDON:   Recently, an Alpine Coaster opened up in Pigeon Forge which was really fun. I love mini golf and there is no shortage of courses here so I have spent many days off practicing my short game.

EVAN:  There is also a pretty neat Titanic Museum that is inside a huge replica of the Titanic. I also love Splash Country!

C101: Do you have a favorite fun fact about Dollywood?

LANDON:  Dollywood is owned by Herschend Entertainment who just bought the Harlem Globe Trotters this year. I never thought these two would be owned by the same company.

EVAN: Another really cool fun fact is that we house the American Eagle Foundation. This foundation helped take the American Bald Eagle off the endangered species list.


C101: Would you consider working at Dollywood full time after college?

EVAN: I definitely would consider working here full time after college. I really am enjoying the experience of working in a theme park so far. It is so different than anything else I have ever done. It always keeps you busy and on the go and that is something I really value. I love to be kept busy. I also really enjoy the culture of the Dollywood. Everyone is so supportive and helpful. They want to see you succeed. They are also probably the nicest group of people I have ever met!

LANDON:  I absolutely am! I am hoping to get a full time offer after my internship this summer and will look to see where that can lead me in the next 3-5 years before I go back to school to get my MBA. The future looks bright!


C101: Anything else you want to tell our readers about your experience?

EVAN: I really think that Dollywood is a hidden gem in the theme park industry. It has so much to offer from our amazing shows, to the food that always has your mouth watering, to the rides that all ages can enjoy. It has something to offer to everyone and I promise it is worth a trip to the Smokies to find out why people always rave about it. The attention to detail that goes into every detail at the park is truly remarkable. It holds itself to such high standard which is why it is slowly moving up the ranks in theme park world. If you come take a visit to Dollywood, I guarantee that you will create memories that you will want to repeat!

LANDON:  I encourage everyone to visit Dollywood.  Dollywood is the best theme Park that not enough people know about. They just announced a 10 year, 15 million dollar expansion. The start of which included a new roller coaster this year- Fire Chaser Express- and will continue next year with the opening of Dollywood’s Dream More Resort. The future is looking very bright at Dollywood. Do yourself and your family a favor and go to a park that will treat you like family from the time you pay for parking all the way until you leave the park exhausted and filled with memories that will leave you wanting to come back time and time again. In my opinion, Dollywood will be challenging Disney World as America’s best Theme Park within the next 10 years.