I am often asked what it is like at Dollywood when the boss is in town. By boss I mean, of course, Dolly Parton. Dolly is the Dreamer in Chief for Dollywood, a company she owns with Herschend Family Entertainment and her partners Jack and Sherry Herschend and Pete and JoDee Herschend. Dolly comes to town many times a year for business meetings and to check on things, but she is also scheduled for several public events each year.
First, when Dolly is on park, it is busy. I mean really busy. The main goal of any public Dolly visit is to spread the word about Dollywood through the media and to allow our guests to see Dolly at the park. That opportunity might be a surprise walk-on to a show, or it could be a ride through the park in her antique car. As you would expect the planning is extensive. The events are scripted like Broadway productions, and the logistics would rival a trip planned by the Secret Service. All needs to be perfect for Dolly so that the experience is memorable and flawless.
Over the years, we have had guests on stage with Dolly ranging from Ricky Skaggs and Rhonda Vincent to Barney and Garfield.
Dolly has emerged from a cake; by magic trick in a tiger cage; carried by Cossack dancers and African Contortionists; you name it, she is game for anything that is fun, puts on a show and allows for new and even more exciting costumes to share with our guests. She is truly a diamond in a rhinestone world.
When Dolly rides in an in-park parade, the reaction is amazing. The outpouring of love by children, teens, adults and seniors is very similar. They loudly call Dolly’s name and express their admiration and love. Faces smile and tears fall as she rolls through the park providing guests with a once-in-a- season or a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see Dolly within 10 feet of where they are standing. Over the years walking in these on-park parades, I am sure I am in tens of thousands of photos as I try to remain as unobtrusive as possible. It never fails, however, that like a pied piper Dolly’s fans and regular families fall in behind the car for that once, slight chance they might get another photo or maybe a handshake. Hope springs eternal.
I would encourage you to make the pilgrimage to Dollywood at Grand Opening in March or around the time of the Pigeon Forge Music in the Mountains parade. Dolly is normally on park and you could experience one of these events for yourself. It will be something you will never forget.