Sevierville is the hometown of internationally known singer, songwriter and entertainer
Dolly Parton. Dolly grew up in Sevierville, the fourth of 12 siblings. She knew at a
young age that she wanted to sing and entertain for a living. By the age of 6, Dolly was
singing live at WIVK radio station in nearby Knoxville, Tennessee. She was also making
weekly appearances at Cas Walker’s Grocery Store, which still stands today and now houses
a portion of First Baptist Church on the Parkway in Sevierville. Dolly attended Sevier
County High School and played drums in the marching band. After graduating in 1964,
Dolly packed her music career hopes and dreams and moved to Nashville to become a star.
More than 50 years later, Dolly is still at the top of her game. Her 2014 headline performance at England’s Glastonbury Festival
drove the crowds wild and the first of several NBC movies based on her life and songs,
Coat of Many Colors, shattered network television viewing records and earned a second
airing on Christmas night in 2015. In fact it was so popular, NBC plans to follow up
with a holiday sequel, Christmas of Many Colors,
in 2016. A made-for-television version of Jolene is also planned for 2016 on the network
as well. On a personal note, Dolly and her husband Carl Dean also celebrated their 50th
wedding anniversary on May 30, 2016, with a splashy vow renewal ceremony just before
her Pure & Simple tour,
the largest North American tour she has done in 25 years, kicked off in June.
During her prolific career, Dolly has written more than 3,000 songs, many of which are
number one hits. She also has 25 number one country singles, 55 Top 10 country hits, 8
Top 40 pop hits, 26 gold and platinum record awards, 7 Grammy Awards (and 44 nominations),
11 CMA Awards, 2 Oscar nominations (Best Song), 5 Golden Globe nominations (3 for acting),
an Emmy nomination and more than 100 million records sold. But no matter how much she
achieves, Dolly always makes sure she gives back.
In 1986, Dolly wanted to do something for the folks in her Tennessee mountain home. Partnering
with Herschend Family Entertainment, Dolly opened her Dollywood family theme park
in nearby Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. This 150 acre park has grown adding new rides, shows,
restaurants and festivals in the past 30 years.
Only two years after Dollywood opened, Dolly cut the ribbon on her Dixie Stampede dinner
attraction, also located in Pigeon Forge. The show features a friendly rivalry between the
North and South with 32 magnificent horses plus ostriches, pigs, and amazing stunts! In
2001, Dolly opened the third of her Dollywood companies in Sevier County, Dollywood’s
Splash Country. This 35 acre park, filled with slides, a lazy river and wave pool, is open
late May through early September each year. In 2016 she added Dolly Parton’s Lumberjack
Adventure dinner show to her collection of quality family fun attractions in the area.
Considering Dolly’s international fame, it’s no wonder why Dollywood continues to be a hot
spot for celebrity sightings. Brett Favre, Martina McBride, Melissa Etheridge, Rose
McGowan, Robert Rodriguez and Jodi Foster have all been reported as having made visits to
Dolly’s theme park in recent years. Even pop music star, Katy Perry tweeted about her
“country bumpin’ time” at Dollywood.
Education and imagination are cornerstones of success. In 1996, Dolly Parton launched an
exciting new effort to benefit the children of her home county in East Tennessee, Sevier
County. Dolly wanted to foster a love of reading among her county’s preschool children
and their families. She wanted children to be excited about books and feel the magic they
can create. Moreover, she wanted to ensure that every child would have books regardless of
their family’s income.
With the introduction of Dolly’s Imagination Library,
Dolly began mailing a brand new, age appropriate book each month to every child under the
age of five in Sevier County. With the arrival of every child’s first book, the classic
“The Little Engine That Could” TM, every child could experience the joy of finding their
very own book in their mailbox. By the time each participating child entered Kindergarten,
he or she had a 60-volume library of books. The last book of the collection, “Look Out
Kindergarten, Here I Come,” prepared them for school.
Needless to say, the program has been a success. So much so that many other communities
clamored to provide the Imagination Library to their children. Dolly thought long and hard
about it and decided to help develop a way for other communities to participate. With
Penguin Group USA as the exclusive publisher for the Imagination Library, the program
is now replicated in 1,600 communities throughout the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.
Dolly has also been a major supporter of health care in Sevier County. She is the honorary
chairperson of The Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation, named for the doctor who delivered
Dolly and helped establish adequate healthcare facilities in Sevier County. This
organization helps expand the range and quality of health care services available
by helping Sevier County meet the continuing challenges of the rapidly changing healthcare
field. Today, Sevierville’s award-winning LeConte Medical Center is the proud home of
the Dolly Parton Center for Women’s Services and The Dolly Parton Birthing Unit.