Dolly Parton loves having a theme park, but don’t expect to see her on any thrill rides.
When Dollywood’s newest and longest coaster debuted in mid-May, she joked, “I think I’d lose my hair. I think I’d lose my nerve before even going on it.“
Parton does a lot more behind the scenes at her namesake theme park, where she is Dreamer in Chief. But she does make occasional public appearances, like at the opening of Big Bear Mountain, which she attended dressed as “bear bait.”
And she enjoys watching others enjoy the park, as she shared with USA TODAY.
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Question: What do you enjoy doing when you visit Dollywood?
Answer: I enjoy doing all the fun things, like every year we have a theme. When we had the Festival of Nations, it was really fun because I got to dress up in all the different costumes … just like I was dressed in a little bear dress with my little ears and the bees and my big honey basket. It’s just fun to get to do all that.
But I love the music that we have in the park. Of course, I would be drawn to that as much as anything. I just think that all the things that we have are special in their own way, and everybody relates to things different. Everything kind of speaks to people at different times, but I know it all speaks to me, and I can find some connection to my own life, my own childhood here in the hills.
But I think we have so much to enjoy: the food, the rides, the music, the rooms, you know, the hospitality. We have some of the sweetest people on Earth working here at the park.
Q: Do you have a favorite food?
A: I love all the stuff. I always like the funnel cakes. We almost made the funnel cakes famous on my Christmas show last year because everybody, all the guests were coming and they wanted a funnel cake. But it’s all good.
They have great food in the restaurants in addition to our resort, the DreamMore Resort that adjoins the park here. We have really upscale dinner foods. And the local people, a lot of them come to the restaurant just for a night out, in addition to the guests that stay at the hotel.
Q: What are your favorite memories in park?
A: Well Lord, my memories go all the way back from when we started, when we had so many (famous) guests that would come every year to kind of, you know, enhance it. We don’t have as many celebrity guests that come that much anymore, but often a lot of them come though to entertain themselves, to bring their kids to the park. So a lot of my show business friends come here and we always treat them nice and show them around and all that. But I just think the park is just wonderful for anybody and everybody. And I personally love it all, of course.
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Q: Your family has also been involved in the parks. Can you tell us about that?
A: It’s always good if you can involve your family. If they’re capable of doing the job, you’d rather give them first choice of that – if they’re capable of doing the job. So we don’t just throw people in just because they’re family.
I have a lot of really qualified people … especially the ones that entertain because that is so much a part of who we are. We’re very musical as a family. So a lot of my family have worked in the entertainment business here since we started the park. And so even now, at any department or any of the areas that they work, you know they take a lot of pride in it, and I take a lot of pride in them as well. So it’s a win-win all the way around for us.
Q: Is there anything you’d want people to know that we haven’t talked about?
A: No, one other than just keep your eye on us. We just opened the new roller coaster over in Wildwood Grove, the Big Bear. We’re in search of the big bear that we used to hear about all of our lives, that there’s a bear roaming around (here) like Bigfoot. And we’re out to find him and we use that as the theme for the Big Bear Mountain … We kind of connect things to stories or something that’s been a little part of my life.
But we’re expanding every year. We’re opening the HeartSong Lodge and Resort over in the holler back here at Dollywood in (the fall), so I’ll be coming back for that.
Published: 2023-06-12 12:36:04