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Dollywood Expansion Exceeding Goals Ahead Of Schedule

Published March 23, 2017 / Last Updated March 23, 2017

Outpacing expansion estimations, Dollywood is quickly becoming a renowned vacation destination and increasing their economic impact!

In 2013, Dolly Parton promised to deliver $300 million in expansion investments over 10 years to her Smoky Mountain businesses. Part of that plan included the 2015 opening of Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort. The resort had been a dream of Dolly’s since first opening the park back in 1986.

In addition to the resort, two award-winning Dollywood roller coasters were built and a new dinner theater opened in Pigeon Forge. Current aspects of the investment plan include two new events and two family attractions coming to Dollywood. Dollywood’s Splash Country is also expanding. This summer guests can expect to enjoy a new five-story tall family racing slide called TailSpin Racer.

With the current level and pace of investment, Dolly and her talented team will exceed $300 million in investments well ahead of their original timeline. Craig Ross, Dollywood President said,

“Our financial successes are based on our loyal customers and new consumers who have been sampling Dollywood thanks to smart investment and solid marketing. We will continue to fulfill Dolly’s dreams and will continue to expand our lodging and entertainment offerings as the Great Smoky Mountains becomes a year-round destination.”

Economic Impact

A study commissioned in 2013 to project Dollywood’s economic impact and future growth put its impact at $1.1 billion annually, creating more than 12,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs to the region. It was projected that Dollywood’s 10-year investment would create 2,500 additional direct, indirect and induced jobs in the area and would pay $7 million in additional state and local taxes.

An updated study was conducted by Dr. Burton English and his team at The University of Tennessee. Results show Dollywood has already exceeded the projected levels after setting earnings records in each of the previous five years. Dollywood’s impact is projected to exceed $1.84 billion annually. Also, the company expects to create more than 23,000 direct, indirect and induced jobs in the region.

Dollywood celebrated opening day on March 18 with the park’s annual Festival of Nations. The 2017 season is known as the “Year of the Family.” Dollywood will devote the year to creating getaway opportunities for families to make lasting memories and continue traditions.

Explore Dollywood’s “Year of the Family”

Team DollyDollywood Expansion Exceeding Goals Ahead Of Schedule

Dollywood’s “The Year of the Family”

Published March 17, 2017 / Last Updated March 17, 2017

Visit Dollywood in 2017 and celebrate “The Year of the Family”

The “world’s friendliest park” is set to celebrate 2017 and “The Year of the Family!” When visiting Dollywood, friends and families can enjoy more than 40 rides as well as 15 outstanding shows. The park also features five of the South’s largest festivals and plenty of Southern-style dining!

2017 Highlights

The exciting 2017 season starts on opening day, March 18. Dollywood’s Festival of Nations (March 18 – April 9) displays the most captivating entertainment from around the world. Park visitors can sample a celebration of music, dance, food and art. Many guests are excited about the return of Mother Africa. This amazing show combines skillful acrobatics, modern and traditional dance, comedy and colorful costumes, all set to the music of a renowned live band.

Slask, one of Europe’s most prominent folk dance and music ensembles will perform at Showstreet Palace Theater. Hodman & Sally from the country of “Oblivia” will stroll the park and pose for photos. Husband and wife duo, Dearbhail Finnegan and Robin Slater will bring their Irish harp and flute duo to the Back Porch Theater. Other acts include Streichmusik Alder, Invaders Steel Orchestra and Kelly Shipe!

This summer, Gazillion Bubbles Show returns to Dollywood’s Summer (June 17 – Aug. 6)! Guests visiting during this time can enjoy extended hours and nightly fireworks. Plus, Parade of Many Colors will return during Smoky Mountain Christmas (Nov. 4 – Jan. 1, 2018).

New additions include Great Pumpkin Luminights during the Harvest Festival (Sept. 29-Oct. 28). Also, enra, a Japanese performance art company, will perform during Spring Break (April 10-22).

Special Events

Festival of Nations: March 18 – April 9
Barbeque & Bluegrass: May 26 – June 4
Spring Break Featuring enra: April 10 – 22
Dollywood Summer (Extended Hours & Nightly Fireworks): June 17 – Aug. 6
Harvest Festival Featuring Great Pumpkin Luminights: Sept. 29 – Oct. 28
Smoky Mountain Christmas: Nov. 4 – Jan. 1, 2018

New This Summer – Dollywood

Drop Line
Whistle Punk Chaser

New This Summer – Dollywood’s Splash Country

TailSpin Racer

Stay & Play

Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa
Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Cabins


In 2017, Dollywood’s “The Year of the Family” offers 250 days of memory-making fun starting March 18! Visit for dates & hours, show schedules and to get your season passes.

Team DollyDollywood’s “The Year of the Family”

My People: Dolly Parton’s Greatest Investment

Published March 15, 2017 / Last Updated March 15, 2017

A reflection on Dolly Parton’s devotion to her people and her home.

By 1985, Dolly was a CMA, ACM and GRAMMY award-winning artist. Her acting career was flourishing with blockbuster hits such as “9 to 5” and she had earned her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! Dolly had reached superstar status. Yet, to the surprise of many, she dreamed of home and the people living there. Her vision, to build a place where her success would be enjoyed by many for generations and generations to come.

A Dream

Most folks have heard how Dollywood got its name. On one of her first trips to California, Dolly fantasized about changing the H to a D in the iconic Hollywood sign. But what about her vision for the actual park. What motivated the young star to invest so much of herself back home in the mountains of East Tennessee? The answer is simple, Dolly loves her people, her home and everything about her heritage that helped shape her into not just the star but the person she became. A kind, generous, real soul who knows where she is going and loves where she came from.

In her autobiography, “Dolly My Life and Other Unfinished Business” Dolly reflected on why she wanted to open Dollywood. She said,

“The theme park is much more about the mountains and the culture of the people who live there than it is about Dolly Parton. Dolly Parton simply happens to be the most famous hillbilly from those particular hills, and a lot of people are curious about me and my life. There is plenty there to satisfy that curiosity, but there is also plenty that celebrates the spirit of a people who made a life for themselves in that very stingy countryside. These are my real people, the seed from which I sprang. I saw Dollywood as a chance to honor them.”

Grand Opening

Despite naysayers, the park was nearly an overnight success. The 1986 grand opening saw around 10,000 guests pass through the gates. Five months later, the park welcomed its one millionth visitor. Today, Dollywood sees 2.5 million visitors per year. That number hits 4 million when combined with other Dollywood properties such as Splash Country and Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort. In 2013, Dolly and the Dollywood Company announced a 10-year, $300 million expansion plan. The plan included the 300-room resort which opened in 2015.

While the guest experience is at the center of the “world’s friendliest park” the people are still the heartbeat. The Dollywood Company now employs over 3000 people. In her book, published in 1994, Dolly wrote,

“I love the fact that I am able to give something back and provide so many people with jobs where none existed before. Of course, the Great Smoky Mountains were there for a couple of million years before I came along, and they are still the main attraction in the area, which is as it should be. If Dollywood can give some people a little extra incentive to visit there, then I am absolutely tickled.”

Perhaps Dolly’s sentiment for her people is best expressed in the words to her song, “My People, My Home” the opening number at Dollywood’s My People show.

These are my mountains, these are my valleys,
these are my rivers flowing like a song.

These are my people, these are my memories,
These are my mountains, this is my home.

“My People, My Home” – By Dolly Parton


Dollywood opens March 18, 2017! This year, the park will unveil two new rides, Drop Line and Whistle Punk Chaser, and Dollywood’s Splash Country will debut TailSpin Racer later this summer.

Visit to see upcoming festivals, events and more!

Team DollyMy People: Dolly Parton’s Greatest Investment

Honoring Don Warden: “Mr. Everything”

Published March 13, 2017 / Last Updated March 13, 2017

Dolly Parton pays tribute to legendary singer, manager and Steel Guitar Hall of Famer Don Warden.

Born in Mt. Grove, Missouri, Don Warden was a self-taught steel guitar player, singer and savvy business manager. Don Warden and Dolly Parton enjoyed a long-standing career together lasting more than 50 years. She affectionately called him her “Mr. Everything” and in remembering Don after his passing on March 11, 2017, Dolly said,

“I’ve known and loved Don Warden since I joined The Porter Wagoner Show in 1967. He was like a father, a brother, a partner and one of my best friends. I feel like a piece of my heart is missing today. Certainly a huge piece of my life is gone. Rest in peace Don and know for sure that I will always love you.”

Don and Dolly met after she joined “The Porter Wagoner Show” in 1967. Prior to the popular television show, Don was a founding member of the Porter Wagoner Trio and joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1957. Fittingly, he was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 2008.

Dolly’s “Mr. Everything”

Don’s 14-year run on “The Porter Wagoner Show” ended in 1974 when both he and Dolly departed the show. Don loyally served as Dolly’s manager and her “Mr. Everything” for nearly five decades. For Don, retirement didn’t come until his health kept him from the work he loved so dearly. During a 2008 concert honoring their late boss and band leader, Dolly presented Don with the Angel Award. The concert took place at Dollywood and became the last stage shared by both Dolly and Don.

Dolly recorded her fond admiration for Don within the pages of her 1994 book, “Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business.” In talking about Don, Dolly said,

“Anybody who knows him – and he knows everybody – looks up to him. At one time there was even a T-shirt being sold around Nashville that read ‘I KNOW DON WARDEN.’ People are still calling me and asking, ‘How can I get one of those Don Warden T-shirts?’ Sometimes it feels like people are only using me to get to Don.”

In addition to Dolly’s working relationship with Don, his wife Ann became a dear friend and valuable part of Dolly’s career. Ann lent her artistic eye for design to some of the early decorations at Dollywood. Later, she and Dolly’s brother Bobby worked together at the Parton family homestead also known the Tennessee Mountain Home. Perhaps most notably, Ann served on the board of the Dollywood Foundation which launched Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in 1995. Ann’s loyalty to Dolly is surpassed only by that of her love and devotion to her husband.

Career & Achievements

Music was a huge part of Don’s life from an early age. In high school, he formed his own band, The Rhythm Rangers. In addition to his band leader role, he played steel guitar and sang. As a young man, he had an afternoon radio show on KWPM-AM in West Plains, Missouri. The band eventually made their way to the Louisiana Hayride. There, they backed The Wilburn Brothers and Red Sovine. In 1951, Don stepped away from the show for two years to serve in the US Army.

After returning from the Army, Don had another short run on the Hayride. Soon after, he returned to Missouri where he attended flight school. It wasn’t until a visit to his parents’ home in West Plains, Missouri that he met Porter Wagoner. Along with Speedy Haworth, they formed the Porter Wagoner Trio. In 1957, Don joined the Grand Ole Opry with Porter. Three years later, he started what would become a 14-year television run on the syndicated program, “The Porter Wagoner Show.”

Don Warden was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 2008. His profound influence on artists such as Dolly and Porter will live on both in the music he made and in the lives he touched.

Don Warden (March 27, 1929 – March 11, 2017) was 87 years young.

Team DollyHonoring Don Warden: “Mr. Everything”

Dolly Parton On Sprout’s “Lily’s Driftwood Bay”

Published March 10, 2017 / Last Updated March 13, 2017

Dolly Parton guest stars on a special episode of “Lily’s Driftwood Bay”

On March 13, preschoolers are in for a surprise when Dolly Parton guest stars on “Lily’s Driftwood Bay.”

Noleen is a famous singing chicken. Her luxury yacht gets beached on Driftwood Bay during a storm. Noleen’s arrival is a big surprise to her greatest – and rather star struck fan, Lord Stag (Stephen Fry). An impromptu concert sees old sea dog Salty (Peter Mullan) duet with Noleen. As a result, Noleen’s astonished by his talent and tries to persuade him to go on tour with her. Will Noleen convince Salty to give up the sights and sounds of Driftwood Bay for an international singing career? Viewers of all ages will have to watch and see.

The special double-length episode featuring Dolly as Noleen airs on Monday, March 13 at 9 am EST on Sprout. In addition, the episode will premiere in the United Kingdom on Nick Jr on May 12.

About The Show

Sixteen South’s “Lily’s Driftwood Bay” is a preschool mixed-media animated show. It stars five-year-old Lily who lives in a beach hut with her Dad. Every day, the sea washes up a curious new treasure. These treasures spark Lily’s imagination about what might be happening across the way on Driftwood Bay.

Common themes include intergenerational relationships and the idea of community in a non-family environment. The series’ unique look is completely created from things that have been found washed up on the beach. It encourages kids to make good use of the things that we otherwise throw away.

The show mirrors society and isn’t afraid to tackle difficult storylines – telling stories of hope in our challenging times. The series has won over a dozen international awards including the Prix Jeunesse, Royal Television Society and British Animation Award.

Team DollyDolly Parton On Sprout’s “Lily’s Driftwood Bay”