Dolly Parton Nearly Dies at Dollywood Theme Park, “Is It My Time?”

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A woman with blonde hair and wearing a glittery silver dress poses with arms outstretched in front of a white building. The building has a large pink butterfly sign with the text "Dollywood" on it. Trees and hills are visible in the background.

Credit: Inside the Magic

Dolly Parton was ready to ascend to the gates of heaven after experiencing her newest attraction at Dollywood theme park.

Dollywood Sign
Credit: Dollywood

Nestled amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains lies Dollywood, a theme park unlike any other. Founded in 1961 by the legendary Dolly Parton, Dollywood has grown from a small folk music park into a world-renowned destination brimming with thrilling rides, captivating shows, and a deep appreciation for Appalachian heritage.

Dolly Parton’s vision for Dollywood was simple: to create a place that celebrated the music, crafts, and stories of the Smoky Mountains. The park’s early days featured live bluegrass performances, showcasing the region’s rich musical tapestry. Over the years, Dollywood has expanded its musical offerings from high-energy country shows to heartwarming gospel choirs. Today, the park boasts multiple theaters and stages, ensuring there’s always a toe-tapping tune to fill the air.

Dollywood isn’t just about music; it also boasts a stellar lineup of exhilarating rides. Adrenaline junkies can tackle the heart-pounding Lightning Rod, a wooden coaster renowned for its record-breaking speed and inversions. Families with young children will delight in the charming Country Fair area, featuring classic carnival rides and playful attractions.

Credit: Dollywood

The magic of Dollywood extends far beyond the thrill rides. Guests can delve into the rich history of the Smokies by exploring authentic craft demonstrations – witness the artistry of glassblowing, pottery making, and woodworking.

For a taste of Southern cuisine, Dollywood offers a mouthwatering selection of restaurants, from traditional barbecue to home style fried chicken. On weekends, Dollywood transforms into a dazzling spectacle of light with the Dazzling Sweet Summer Summer Nights drone and fireworks show, leaving guests awestruck.

The park offers a variety of on-site accommodations, catering to various styles and budgets. The luxurious DreamMore Resort and Spa provides guests with a relaxing haven, complete with spa treatments, delectable dining options, and breathtaking mountain views. For a more rustic experience, Dollywood offers cabins nestled amidst the Smokies at Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort, perfect for families seeking a cozy retreat.

Dollywood recently unveiled its most anticipated addition yet – The Dolly Parton Experience! This sprawling, multi-building exhibit immerses guests in the iconic singer’s life and career. From her humble childhood in Locust Ridge to her meteoric rise to stardom, the experience offers a captivating journey through Dolly’s story.

Visitors can explore replicas of her famous outfits, see her handwritten lyrics, and even step into a 360-degree projection show that transports them to pivotal locations in her life.

Dolly Parton Dollywood
Credit: Dollywood

Parade was able to chat with the country star about what it was like to walk through The Dolly Parton experience as Dolly herself, seeing her life flash before her eyes.

“Well, the whole experience was overwhelming to me because it really just showed my life just flashing before my eyes,” Parton tells Parade. “People talk about when you’re dying, that your life flashes before you. I was looking for the pearly gates when I finished. I’m like, ‘Is it my time?’

It was overwhelming just remembering so much of my life through the years and all the people that have been a part of my life—some of them still here, some of them not,” Parton explains. “But it really makes you take inventory and appreciate all of the people and all those things and just think about what a journey has been.

When I was going through with all the entertainers on the walls that I’d worked with, [and I would come across] someone I might have forgotten that [I got to work with]. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s right, I got to meet so-and-so,'” Parton shares. “When you’ve lived as long as I have, sometimes your memories fade and then you see them on the walls.”

“I was very touched by Kenny Rogers, who I love dearly,” she continues. “And we just had such a magical relationship. And then the song that they were playing [in the exhibit] “You Can’t Make Old Friends,” it is just like a dagger through my heart. Of course, I was emotional, but there was so much joy in it as well. To think that I had been able to do what my little girl dreams were. To be able to see those dreams come true, and then to see them all play around us.”

Digital rendering of a theme park entrance at sunset. The entrance is adorned with colorful butterfly decorations, vibrant flowers, and a large pink butterfly with "Dollywood" on it. Visitors are walking around, enjoying various attractions and vendor stalls.
Credit: Dolly Parton

The Dolly Parton Experience isn’t just a celebration of her professional triumphs; it’s a heartfelt tribute to her family. The love that binds the Partons together permeates every exhibit. In “Precious Memories,” a 30-minute video and accompanying visuals honoring Dolly’s loved ones left more than a few visitors (and even Dolly herself) misty-eyed. This section serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of family in Dolly’s life and her music.

The dazzling costumes, chart-topping hits, and international fame – it’s all undeniably impressive. But amidst the celebration of Dolly Parton’s illustrious career, one aspect shines brightest: her unwavering dedication to literacy. Inspired by her own father who couldn’t read, Dolly spearheaded the Imagination Library project, gifting free books to children worldwide.

This initiative, a cornerstone of the “Songteller” exhibit, even features a real-time counter that ticks with every new book delivered – a testament to Dolly’s immense pride in fostering a love of reading in generations to come. Her father, who became a pillar of support for the project, would undoubtedly share in her joy.

A woman with blonde hair waves from a red carriage adorned with an abundance of colorful flowers. A man in a beige suit and cowboy hat sits beside her. Spectators in the background watch and capture the moment at Dollywood Theme Park. The scene appears festive with vibrant decorations.
Credit: Dolly Parton

“So I want to be remembered for anything good that I’ve done. And I think that the Imagination Library is one of the best things I’ve ever done or will ever do or be involved in,” Parton said

“I’m very proud that I can leave that, you know, that is part of my legacy, to be able to put books in the hands of children that can’t read—give them a love for learning and love for books,”

She continues. “If they feel like somebody cares enough to put their little name on a book and send it to them, [it] makes them feel important even early on in their lives. And maybe that might be the one thing that might give them the confidence to do something else, not just learn to read, but to feel like somebody cared enough to pay special attention to them.”

A person with long blonde hair and a sparkly blue and white outfit standing in front of the Dollywood sign, channeling their inner Dolly Parton. They are smiling with their arms raised. The background includes colorful flowers and part of a building.
Credit: Inside the Magic

Dolly Parton may have recently announced her retirement from touring, but that hasn’t slowed her down creatively.

A new album, “Dolly Parton & Family: Smoky Mountain DNA – Family, Faith & Fables,” dives into her family history and is set for release on November 15th. This project is accompanied by a four-part documentary series.

Parton is also bringing her music to life in a new way with “Dolly Parton’s Threads: My Songs in Symphony.” This live performance features an orchestra playing her hits alongside videos of Parton herself. While she won’t be performing live, her stories and music will come alive on stage.

In addition to the musical offerings, Parton is teaming up with her sister Rachel for a cookbook titled “Good Lookin’ Cookin’.” This playful nod to Hank Williams features 80 recipes and holiday menus.

Dollywood, Parton’s theme park, is also back in full swing after a brief closure due to a storm earlier this month.

Would you like to visit Dollywood one day? 

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