KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Participants in the ninth annual Light the Way 5K will run through five million Christmas lights inside Dollywood on Friday, Nov. 12 beginning at 11 p.m. as they make this festive race one of their favorite holiday traditions.

Light the Way 5K returns this holiday season with a new and improved course that winds its way through the holiday atmosphere at Dollywood not once but twice. When the race was unable to take place in 2020, Light the Way 5K officials looked at how to improve this special race and make it an even better experience for both the serious and casual runner. Participant feedback over the last several years requested finishing medals for all participants and more time running inside and through the theme park, with both changes being implemented for the 2021 race.

Light the Way 5K’s new route will start runners at Dollywood’s front gate area and travel through the theme park twice, giving them time to take in the five million Christmas lights of the award-winning Smoky Mountain Christmas festival. Walkers will have the opportunity to follow the route for one loop around the park. Additionally, 2021 will be the first year that participants will experience Wildwood Grove, which opened in 2019, as part of the race course; this area was unable to be included until this year’s race.

Proceeds from the event benefit Keep Sevier Beautiful (KSB) and the Share It Forward (SIF) program at Dollywood.  KSB, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, is a volunteer-based organization which focuses on waste reduction/recycling, litter prevention and beautifying public spaces through education and community-based programs. KSB’s goal is to protect the natural beauty of the area that millions of visitors come to see each year. SIF is a non-profit organization to serve The Dollywood Company employees and their families through a variety of quality programs. SIF programming is funded primarily through employee donations which are matched dollar for dollar by The Dollywood Company.

“It’s so exciting to be hosting runners at the Light the Way 5K, with an expanded course. The beauty of Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas festival combined with the challenge of a course that only a theme park can provide makes Light the Way a one-of-a-kind event for runners and walkers,” said Aaron Newberry, Executive Director of Share It Forward.

“Most importantly, this event helps provide our non-profit organizations with financial assistance just before the holidays,” added Lisa Bryant, Executive Director of Keep Sevier Beautiful.

The certified race will be chip timed and managed by Scenic City Multisport. Awards will be presented to the top three finishers for both men and women.

Pre-registration is encouraged for the Light the Way 5K as the race is limited to 1,500 participants. Registration fee until race day is $50.  Register online at  Race day registration takes place from 11 a.m. -9 p.m. at Dollywood’s Splash Country. 

For more information, email or visit