Dolly Parton stops by senior center for a surprise visit and special dedication.

A group of senior adults received a surprise visit from Dolly Parton on Monday, May 7, 2018. Dolly dropped in the newly renamed My People Senior Activity Center for a special dedication ceremony in honor of her parents, Lee and Avie Lee Parton.

Before the dedication and renaming ceremony, Dolly toured the facility. She sat in on an exercise class and a woodworking demonstration. There she was given a wooden bowl made from trees burned in the Gatlinburg wildfires. Another crafting club gave her a beautiful mosaic butterfly. She also popped in on a quilting class where talented quilters practice their handiwork. The beautiful quilts reminded her of her mother's handmade quilts and clothes that were such a big part of her childhood.

At the center, seniors in Sevier County enjoy a number of activities, including fitness classes, crafting clubs, games and much more. As one of the center's newest members, Dolly received her membership card allowing her access to all the amenities offered at the center. Of course, Dolly joked about her own senior status. She said,

"I am so excited to be part of this today. Of course, you know I'm a senior too. When I was over in Sevier County High School, I couldn't wait to be a senior, and now that I'm in my second childhood, I'm a senior again."

Renaming The Center

The name change is part of a rebranding initiative. The goal is to set the center apart from area medical facilities and remind people of their focus on programs, activities and services for adults over 60. The center provides a place for seniors to keep active and involved in a number of areas. Dolly spoke about how she maintains her young-at-heart mentality.

"I just keep myself busy, and I think that's the key to staying young, and I'm proud to be a senior citizen. Of course, we all wish we could stay 30 forever, but we can't, so I think it's important that we stay active," Dolly said. "We stay with a good attitude and get out and stay involved, make friends and be whatever, and I think being a part of this whole thing is really great, and it is my pleasure to dedicate this to my people."

A number of Dolly's family attended the dedication ceremony. Sevier County Mayor, Larry Waters and Sevierville Mayor, Bryan Atchley were also present. And Mayor Waters announced plans to expand the facility.

The My People Senior Activity Center is located at 1220 West Main Street Sevierville, TN 37862. Call 865-453-8080 for more information on programs and membership.

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Lodge Manufacturing Company named presenting sponsor at Dollywood’s Aunt Granny’s Restaurant

One of Dollywood’s best-known restaurants was recast in 2018 with a little help from another iconic Tennessee brand, Lodge Manufacturing Company. Aunt Granny’s All-You-Care-To-Eat Buffet earned its name from the loving nickname Dolly Parton’s nieces and nephews gave her. The eatery has a fresh look this season complete with new menu items which will have guests ready to pull a seat up to the table.

Now named Aunt Granny’s Restaurant presented by Lodge, it features a number of changes. These new elements create a bright and airy space. Guests will find a comfortable respite to slow down and enjoy a meal together. Interior renovations include action stations, like a new carving station. Here guests can watch Dollywood chefs create a number of delightful delicacies.

“Dollywood is known for its quality southern food offerings, and a visit to the buffet at Aunt Granny’s certainly should be on the list for any foodie,” said Dollywood Vice-President Phil Bernard. “With our continuing focus on great food, we felt the time was right to recast the restaurant and add new menu items, while also keeping many of the old favorites.

“The opportunity to partner with Lodge, which is another iconic Tennessee brand, also made perfect sense. When you think of traditional southern foods like fried chicken, cornbread, or apple cobbler, you think of cast iron cookware. And when you think of cast iron cookware, there’s only one company that comes to mind—Lodge.”

Lodge Manufacturing Company

The unique partnership with South Pittsburg, Tennessee-based Lodge brings a selection of the company’s famous cast iron cookware into the dining experience. The iconic cookware adorns displays throughout the restaurant. And the buffet line serves food from Lodge products.

“We are extremely excited about the collaboration between these two great Tennessee companies,” said Mike Otterman, President of Lodge Manufacturing Company. “We share company values, consumers, location and brand similarities that should allow us to grow together for many years.”

With more than 130 different items, Lodge Cast Iron produces the largest selection of cast iron cookware on the market. Popular items include skillets, griddles, grill pans, Dutch Ovens and restaurant serving pieces.

Founded by Joseph Lodge in 1896, Lodge is the oldest continuously operating cast iron cookware foundry in the U.S. Also, it's the oldest family-owned cookware company in the country. Henry Lodge, CEO, and Lee Riddle, Vice President of Sales, are fourth and fifth generation descendants of Joseph Lodge.

Aunt Granny’s Restaurant presented by Lodge

Located in Dollywood’s Rivertown Junction, Aunt Granny’s was constructed in 1986 and opened during the park’s inaugural season. It is a favorite spot for guests. Its all-you-can-eat format offers a wide selection of the southern staples Dollywood’s foods team has cooked up for years.

The park is fresh off winning Amusement Today’s 2017 Golden Ticket Award for Best Theme Park Food. The foods team has refreshed the menu with a number of items sure to become new guest favorites. Among those new offerings are Southwestern herb baked chicken, country chicken & dumplings, roasted red-skinned potatoes with cheddar cheese & bacon, corn puddin’, and much more. Stone Soup, inspired by Dolly’s famous story about her mother using the classic fable to encourage her children, also finds its way on to the buffet. Those with a sweet tooth have plenty to select from including apple cobbler, various cupcakes, brownies and more.

For more information about Dollywood’s 2018 Season of Showstoppers, please visit or call 1-800-DOLLYWOOD.

The three-time GRAMMY Award-winning singer/songwriter Jennifer Nettles returns to her role as Avie Lee Parton.

It was her break-out acting role and Dolly hand-picked her for the part. In a comment to the press about her involvement in the casting process, Dolly recalled her reaction to watching Jennifer's video submission when auditioning for the role. Dolly said,

"She had sent in a little video. I didn't even know she even acted. She had had her hair dark. I didn't even recognize it as her. And when they started rolling that film, I said 'that's Mama.' Nobody could have done it better."

Landing the role was the first step. In preparation for her acting debut, Jennifer sought out advice from Dolly about Avie Lee. In an interview for the first film, Jennifer said,

"I asked Dolly about her mother and also pulled from my own precious relationship with my mother, not to mention my own relationship with my son as a mother myself."

Jennifer delivered a moving performance as Dolly's mother who grieves the loss of a child yet manages to cling to those she loves to begin healing and restoration.

At a press conference to promote the new film, "Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love" Jennifer eloquently answers a few questions about returning to the role of Avie Lee, how the first film has impacted her career and even shares a few of her favorite Christmas traditions.

Watch Jennifer Nettles as Avie Lee Parton in "Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love" airing on NBC on Nov. 30. It is also coming to DVD on Dec. 20, 2016.

See more cast interviews

Avie Lee Parton writes to Dolly's fans in 1975 about her daughter's love of shoes and her generous spirit.

In 1975, Dolly released "The Bargain Store" which topped the U.S. Country Singles Charts becoming her fifth consecutive No. 1 single and the album became another Top 10 hit. In October, Dolly was named Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMA awards. The following month, she released her 16th solo album "Dolly: The Seeker / We Used To." "The Seeker" climbed to the No. 2 spot on the U.S. Country Singles Charts and "We Used To" reached No. 9.

The same year, Dolly earned her 10th GRAMMY nomination for her live performance of "Jolene." It was an incredible year of awards, nominations and chart-topping hits.

Quietly living behind the scenes, Dolly's mama, Avie Lee Parton looked on with pride and admiration. It had been 11 years since her daughter moved to Nashville, TN to follow her Music City dreams. Avie Lee was beyond proud of her Smoky Mountain Songbird and not just for the fame and notoriety she had earned. She was proud her daughter was getting everything she had dreamed of while keeping herself grounded and focused.

In this letter to Dolly’s Fan Club, Avie Lee shares two stories. The first is a delightful tale about 1000 pairs of shoes and the second is about Dolly's overwhelming generosity that surprised even Avie Lee.

Submitted by Avie Lee to Dolly Parton's Fan Club Journal, December 1975

Mama's Memories

As I watched the CMA awards Oct. 13 and saw Dolly win Female Vocalist of the Year, I said to myself, "I've seen another of Dolly's dreams come true."

Hi, I'm Dolly Parton's mother and I want to tell her many fans how proud I am to be her mother and to share some memories with you for this holiday season.

One year for Christmas we bought all the children new shoes, and my sister bought Dolly a pair of black patent leather slippers with bows. Another aunt gave her a pair that were too small for her child, so Dolly had three pairs. I can still remember how proud she was to have that many shoes at one time, and she said in her child-like voice, "When I grow up I'll have a thousand pairs of shoes."

Two years ago when I was helping Dolly move into her new home, I decided I would count her shoes just for fun, remembering what she had said as a child. I counted over a thousand pairs of shoes. She still loves pretty shoes and jewelry, and I remember how she would make rings and bracelets from any pretty thing she could find. I really enjoy seeing Dolly in all her pretty clothes and jewelry.

Dolly has always been sincere in that when she tells someone she is going to do something she does it. When Dolly was fifteen years old we bought a farm. We sold the house we had built because we didn't need two houses, but I cried anyway because I felt close to the home Lee and I had built with our own hands. I remember Dolly saying, "Don't cry Mama. I'll buy it back for you when I get rich." Well, I felt ashamed for crying and didn't let anyone know how foolish I had been. Five years later I had forgotten the promise Dolly had made. She came home for a visit, but it was more than a visit. She came in and said, "Mama, I've bought back your house for you. I told you I would and I have." Lee and I tried to tell her we didn't need it with the house on the farm, too, but she said, "I wouldn't be happy or satisfied to buy a home for myself until you had yours back," so that's where we live today.

Now that the children are all grown up and gone away from home, I have time to look back and think about things. I remember that Dolly made up songs before she could write them down. Her music has always been a sacred thing to her. When other children were going to ball games or out on dates, she would rather be somewhere singing. She would stay up all night writing songs and come downstairs to breakfast singing and laughing and tell her Daddy a joke before he left for work. She would say after he left, "I feel better if Daddy laughs before he leaves for work."

Dolly is a very sensitive person and she can't stand to see anyone sad or hurt. I believe that is why she has such a great talent to write. She can see sorrow and heartache in other people's lives and it hurts her very much.

Lee and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for helping Dolly see another dream come true.

Merry Christmas,
Lee and Avie Lee Parton

Read more about Avie Lee including the famous Stone Soup story in A Mother’s Love & Inspiration – Avie Lee Parton

Order "Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors" on DVD starring Jennifer Nettles as Avie Lee Parton.[su_button url="" target="blank" style="flat" background="#c13f47" size="6" center="yes" radius="3" text_shadow="0px 0px 0px #fff"]Order "Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors" on DVD[/su_button]


Dolly Parton shares a Christmas story about surprising her parents with big gifts in this exclusive video from Billboard.

Dolly's parents, Robert Lee and Avie Lee Parton raised 12 children in a tiny cabin in East Tennessee. They taught all their children to appreciate what they had, even if that was very little at times. In turn, Dolly always found joy in giving back to her family, especially her parents. Dolly said,

"It was always my wish to be able to do something great for my family. And, of course, I love my Daddy and my Mamma."

Find out what Dolly calls the "Dolly Mamma" in this exclusive Billboard video.

Billboard Video Exclusive: Dolly Mamma



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