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Glass Artist Retiring After Decades at Dollywood

What started as a hobby when Rob Parkin was 10 years old turned into a career crafting unique items and creating lasting memories for countless guests in Dollywood Parks & Resorts for four decades.

His first job crafting glass was at Disneyland in California, and then he was sent to Disney World to work. “I was there for the grand opening (of the Magic Kingdom theme park) in October of 1971,” he said. Rob continued at the Orlando theme park through 1978, then moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he worked from 1978-82 at the Carowinds theme park. He moved to East Tennessee in 1982 after receiving a call from a friend at Disney. “They needed someone to run the glass shop at the 1982 World’s Fair in Knoxville, and I said yes. I met my wife Elaine there; she was a sales person in the glass shop.”

When the World’s Fair concluded in late 1982, Rob and Elaine decided to get married, and Elaine told her husband that a park in nearby Pigeon Forge was looking for craftspeople to work there. “So, I came to Silver Dollar City, and they let me set up a shop for the 1983 season,” Rob recalled. He stayed and was there in 1986 when the park became Dollywood. “Our sales went up 125 percent the first year. We all were not sure how it would go, but it was great. I remember (in the first year) they ran out of Dollywood items to sell.”

This talented host says that he has so many memories of working at Dollywood. “I make Christmas ornaments all this time and have collectors who have very large collections of my ornaments. Some have complete trees with only my ornaments, and I have three generations (of guests) who come back to our shop.”

Rob says he’s made some special items for Dolly over the years and has crafted small butterflies that guests have taken home as special Dollywood keepsakes for the last 35 seasons. “I make about 500-600 a season – you do the math!”

Like how excited you are when planning on things to do this summer, it must be the same for Rob as he is looking forward to spending more time with his wife and family when he retires from Dollywood at the end of the 2020 season. “Glass artists are a dying breed, but I’ll keep doing glass and other things although I have no ‘official’ plans.” One thing he doesn’t plan to do is leave the Smokies. “I will be here until I die. Why would anyone ever move from Tennessee?”

Our longtime glass artist summed up his Dollywood experience by simply saying, “It has been a great ride.”

If you want to look at Rob’s magnificent glass creations, visit him at his Custom Glassworks Shop beside Granny Ogle’s Ham ‘n’ Beans in Craftsman’s Valley.

By | 2021-08-24T14:02:53+00:00 December 11th, 2020|Shopping|0 Comments

About the Author:

If it has anything to do with East Tennessee, this Dollywood blogger loves it. Ellen Liston was born in Kingsport and grew up in a rural environment that she says has many similarities to the Sevier County area and the beautiful Smoky Mountains here. When she’s not at Dollywood or enjoying the multitude of activities and attractions in these mountains, Ellen can usually be found cheering on the Tennessee Volunteers, particularly at football and Lady Vols basketball games, or hanging out with her family – sometimes cheering on the Vols together! Some of her favorite things are reading almost any kind of book imaginable, history, crime dramas (especially Perry Mason and Forensic Files), old movies, ‘80s music, and most anything to do with her Scottish heritage, including kilts and bagpipes. She and her husband Scott live in South Knoxville on 6 acres with their yellow labs, Charlie and Rudy, and a Maine Coon cat with a major attitude, Sam.
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