PIGEON FORGE — There’s more of Dolly Parton in this year’s Dollywood than ever. Parton officially kicked off the opening of the Pigeon Forge park’s 28th season Friday amid acrobatics by the Cirque Shanghai, singers, dancers and fireworks.
“I always have a lot of influence — as much as I can,” said Parton in an interview after the event.
Parton is, of course, East Tennessee’s most famous export. Her music, her acting, her philanthropy and her rags-to-riches story have made her one of the most recognizable people in the world. But, she also spends time every year concentrating on the theme park that bears her name. On opening day, she meets with fans, patrons and the press.
“It’s important that I be involved in this stuff. And when we talk about what are we going to invest in this year? Will it be a new coaster? Although we do have a new water coaster this year called River Rush. But we’re focused a lot this year on the entertainment.”
Parton, 67, has spent several months writing songs for the new show “My People: Dolly’s Letter Home,” which features family members performing several new songs as well as vintage Parton favorites, and a new version of “A Christmas Carol,” which will feature Parton in holograph form as The Ghost of Christmas Past. In addition, she’s also written the song “Paint Your Dreams Across the Sky” to accompany the park’s new nightly fireworks display.
In addition, the park will extend its hours, opening 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. from June 22-Aug. 4.
Friday was filled with family. Parton brought her siblings Randy and Cassie Parton out to announce the “My People” show. Both will be featured vocalists.
“All the money from this show will go to some very needy people — mine!” joked Dolly during the presentation. Afterwards, she moved on to the Dollywod Museum in the park to dedicate a permanent exhibit to her Uncle Bill Owens, who was her first manager and has been a regular performer in the park. During the dedication and ribbon cutting, Owens and Parton traded stories about the beginnings of Parton’s career. A 45-rpm single of Parton’s first recording, “Puppy Love,” is framed on a wall of the area.
“If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have made it out of these old hills,” said Parton to Owens.
Owens will regularly be in the area answering questions while the park is open.
There is one aspect of Dollywood that Parton does not enjoy.
“I do not ride the rides and I will not ride the rides!,” said Parton. “Early on when we first opened the park there were a couple of rides they talked me into it and said I HAD to do it. After that, I said, ‘Well, you kiss my foot! I ain’t doing that anymore.’ ... I have a tendency to get sick. I have a tendency to get claustrophobic if I’m fenced in. I have a tendency to not want to lose my hair or whatever else might fall out on me!”
Parton said the park once filmed Dolly look-a-likes riding the Tennessee Twister when it was introduced.
“We had all these girls with Dolly wigs on, so nobody really knew which one was me. So when they came down to the thing I just walked out from behind. I had the same outfit and people thought that I rode it. I didn’t have the guts to carry it on and I let them know that it really wasn’t me. I didn’t want to be a liar and a chicken!”
Parton said when her Dollywood obligations were over she planned to return to working on a musical about her life, which she would like to present on Broadway. She’s also working on a movie of her life and some television projects, which she might or might not appear in.
She said if she were limited to only one creative outlet, she’d choose writing.
“My favorite thing in the whole wide world to do is to write,” said Parton. “That’s how I express myself, my soul, my feelings. That’s my therapy, my hobby, my joy. I just love to write songs. Not just songs, but poems and stories, too.”
With any celebrity, there are rumors and misinformation always in circulation. Parton says she has no interest in correcting any of it:
“I don’t know what people say and I really don’t care. I won’t deny or admit anything. If I ain’t done it, I’m capable of it! I just try not to get caught at it anymore than I have to. If it entertains somebody, it’s fine. Some of it is true. Some of it ain’t.”
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!