A History of Dolly Parton and Dollywood
Born January 19, 1946, singer, songwriter, and actress Dolly Parton inspires locals and visitors! Locust Ridge, Tennessee, Dolly’s hometown in the Great Smoky Mountains was not a large enough place to contain all of this amazing woman’s dreams. A day after Dolly graduated from Sevier County High School, she packed her cardboard suitcase with songs and moved to Nashville, Tennessee.
Robert Lee and Avie Lee Parton’s fourth child, Dolly Rebecca Parton, wrote songs from an early age and made appearances on WSEV radio in Sevierville by the age of nine. At ten, she became a regular performer on the “Cas Walker Show” broadcast on Knoxville, Tennessee television.
Only three years after leaving home, Porter Wagoner selected Dolly as his new “girl singer” for his syndicated show. This 21 year old was on her way! After seven years of performing on the Porter Wagoner Shower, Dolly left with two Country Music Association Awards for Duo of the Year in search of a solo career. Two years later, Dolly Parton joined the Grand Ole Opry. Dolly has won countless other awards and dazzled fans with many albums. This spectacular performer has also entertained on the big screen in movies such as Nine to Five, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Rhinestone, Steele Magnolias, Straight Talk, and Joyful Noise. Other works that bare this talented lady’s name are two books: Dolly Parton: My Life and Other Unfinished Business and Coat of Many Colors.
World renowned, Dolly Parton received the highest honor for a country singer in 1999; she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Dolly released a country/gospel album, For God and Country, in 2003
This performer is also a businesswoman! Each year she returns home for her parade through Pigeon Forge and to visit her theme parks, Dollywood and Splash Country. The little girl who grew up in the mountains of east Tennessee and made them a part of her music still loves her home.
Dolly Parton’s theme park, Dollywood has not always carried her name. This amusement park began in 1961 as Rebel Railroad. The Robbins Brothers ran a small entertainment park featuring a coal-fired steam train named Klondike Katie and shops such as a general store, blacksmith shop, and a saloon. In 1970 Rebel Railroad became Goldrush Junction when the Cleveland Browns owner, Art Modell purchased the park from the Robbins Brothers.
While Mr. Modell owned this theme park it began to expand to include rides such as the Log Flume, which was relocated from the New York World’s Fair. Before selling Goldrush Junction to Hershend Enterprises in 1977, the park was known as simply Goldrush for a single year. Once the Hershend brothers, Jack and Pete, owned Goldrush, it became Silver Dollar City, Tennessee. The brothers had succeeded in opening the original Silver Dollar City in Branson, North Carolina in 1960.
In 1986, Dolly Parton joined the Hershend brothers in owning Silver Dollar City. She also shared her name with the theme park and from the opening day in 1986 forward, it became known as the now famous Dollywood.
Now Tennessee’s most-visited tourist attraction, Dollywood ranks in the top fifty most attended theme parks in the world and has now doubled in size. Covering over 100 acres, with several new areas and many more attractions, this theme park draws over two million visitors per year to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee! Though Dollywood has expanded and changed ownership, it continues to offer family values and several old-fashioned time periods. Its friendly workers strive to help visitors create “Memories Worth Repeating”.