Dollywood is a special place. I know, I know… I’ve said that to start so many blogs I’m sure you’re tired of hearing it. “You have to tell us that because you work there,” you’re thinking. No, I really do feel that way about Dollywood, and sometimes things happen and I feel I need to shout it out again.
Each year we have our annual service awards breakfast where we honor employees for reaching milestones in their terms of employment. First, instead of the typical watch, clock or knick-knack item you may receive from many employers, our awards are handmade by Dollywood’s talented craftspeople. So, not only do you get a unique gift, you get a gift that has had much time and effort poured into it; this alone makes it much more meaningful than a clock that was mass-produced in a factory somewhere. Every year on their work anniversary, our hosts receive a silver dollar to add to their collection and remind them where our park started.
Every single person celebrating a five-year milestone (5, 10, 15, etc.) working anniversary has their picture made with Craig Ross (president of The Dollywood Company), Gene Scherrer (VP/General Manager of Dollywood), as well as Andrew Wexler (CEO of Herschend Enterprises) and Jane Cooper (President/COO of Herschend Family Entertainment). Andrew and Jane travel in just for the occasion. The fact that these very busy people make time to ensure they have a photo with every single person is beyond humbling. Additionally, we receive a handmade leather frame to put the photo in.
But the awards are more than just that. Employees from across our properties come together to celebrate each other and this special day. It is overwhelming to see people who could be at their work location taking care of things on their own to-do list, taking the time to come and tell you congratulations. It feels like a family. It’s one of the things that makes Dollywood some place special.
Because we care for one another, it in turn makes us more eager to take good care of our guests. It’s the reason we win the award for friendliest employees year after year. We take pride in making sure our guests have a great time. And it makes an impact as well. Here is a great example of what we did for a boy who enjoys Dollywood so much that he wants to be a Dollywood host when he is older.
We take pride in this place and the guest experience. You’ll see hosts picking up trash as they walk through the park. Our house and grounds crews do an amazing job keeping the park spotless, but occasionally something is dropped before they get back to the area. All employees notice and take the time to pick these pieces up. I’ve heard stories of hosts searching through dumpsters for retainers and dentures accidentally thrown in the trash, stories of hosts working on guests’ disabled cars in the parking lot past midnight, or driving stranded guests to their hotels.
I’m proud to be able to tell my kids I work at Dollywood. They’re too young to understand it, but the smile I see on my daughter’s face as we walk through the park tells me what I need to know about how she feels about this special place. It’s a full circle moment as I think back on the times I came with my parents and grandparents.
During our recent Thrills in the Hills event, I was lucky enough to let my daughter ride Whistle Punk Chaser during the evening exclusive ride time. The priceless screams and laughs will be a memory I’ll always keep as she rode her first “big” roller coaster a month before she turned three.
What I’ll also remember is how the employees—who were staying an extra hour on an already long day—treated her when they saw how much fun she was having. They didn’t treat her this way because she was the daughter of an employee. They didn’t know who I was and had no way to know that. They saw a young child having the time of her life, and they wanted to help share in that moment to make it even better for her.
I realize this was a rambling post. I could have rambled for many more pages, but my editor would have told me to shorten it up, so I’ll just end here. I may be paraphrasing, but the old saying really is true. If you love what you do, you never really work a day. I’ve not worked a day since January 2013. It really is a special place.
The great thing is that you too can be part of this special place. Visit dollywoodjobs.com to see what available positions are appealing. Who knows; we may see you collecting your service award in the next few years.