Dolly Parton may have the fake hair, but it was her fans who were flipping their wigs Sunday night at Thompson-Boling Arena on the University of Tennessee campus.
Bekki Vaden, a 26-year-old stay-at-home North Knoxville mother, came dressed as Parton from the 1970s — the “Dumb Blonde” era, as she called it — to mark Parton’s first Knoxville concert in more than 25 years. She was with friend Meg Davis, 28, a stylist from Nashville who was decked out as the Parton from the 1980s.
Vaden had on a flower-print dress — short cut, of course — complete with a blond wig and red heels accented with big butterflies across her toes.
“I am the biggest Dolly fan,” Vaden said with a smile.
Her car hood features Parton’s likeness.
Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt attended, sitting in the second row. “I know people,” she deadpanned about how she scored such seats. “I’ve known Dolly for a long time.”
More than 8,600 tickets were sold to Parton’s show. Proceeds are earmarked for her Imagination Library project, which distributes 700,000 books monthly to preschoolers around the world. Dollywood Foundation President David Dotson estimated the show raised around $200,000.
Regardless of why she was here, Parton’s fans were just eager to see their favorite star performing here again.
“I love country music. I love Dolly. … This is a bigger venue where (more) people can come to see her,” said Alyssa Strom, 22, of Williamston, S.C.
This was Strom’s first time to see Parton in concert, but her companion, Mary Ann Kirby, 66, had seen Parton before at Dollywood. “We’re just Dolly fans,” Kirby said of why she and Strom were at the show.
Parton came back to Knoxville to kick off her “Better Day” tour. The audience was eager to see the busty blonde from Sevier County break out her hits and some new tunes.
She opened with a medley of “Light of a Clear Blue Morning/Walkin’ On Sunshine/Shine Like The Sun,” strolling out on stage playing the fiddle. She followed it up with “Jolene.”
“It’s so good to see you,” Parton told the audience, “and I’m so glad to see you lookin’ so good.”
She talked of her early days with the late radio legend Cas Walker and her humble Sevier County beginnings.
Not everyone who attended — including Don and Donna Sokol of Farragut — wants to make the trek to Dollywood to see Parton perform. They’d rather see her in Knoxville.
“Dollywood has a lot of things to see,” Don Sokol said, “but this show lets everybody focus on just Dolly.”
Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445.
© 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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