On Tuesday evening, May 3, leaders from across the state came together at the Bill Haslam Center at the Tennessee State Museum to recognize former governor and first lady, Bill and Crissy Haslam, for their outstanding leadership. The Dolly Parton Excellence in Leadership Award, first given to Dolly in 2018, was created to honor a Tennessean who exemplifies Leadership Tennessee’s values: Impartiality, Collaboration, Equality, Respect, Unification, Accessibility and a passion for Tennessee.
Performing at the evening’s event were husband-wife duo, Drew and Ellie Holcomb, who sang their original song, “Feels Like Home,” and the unofficial anthem of the state, Dolly’s “Tennessee Mountain Home.”
Taking the stage to a standing ovation, Dolly shared her appreciation for the Haslams,
“We know they’re great leaders in Tennessee and have served the people in many ways. We want you to know we love you. Don’t we?” The audience applauded, and Dolly continued with a famous line from her classic song, “I will always love you.”
The Haslams graciously accepted their award and the former governor commended Leadership Tennessee for their work, stating, “Where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit. What Leadership Tennessee is about is getting people to sit in different chairs, geographically, different chairs on issues and the needs of the folks.”
Lee didn’t miss the chance to take a selfie with Dolly. “To be able to sit at the table with, and take a selfie with, unashamedly, Dolly Parton…I think she felt bad for me because no one was talking to me. That’s when I got my selfie,” he said with a chuckle. He also took the opportunity to list Dolly’s credentials as a leader and philanthropist, kindly referring to her as “the most genuine person.”
Dolly is proud of her Tennessee Mountain Home, so when officials from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) asked her to serve as the park’s celebrity ambassador during its 75th anniversary, she answered with a resounding YES! Dolly said,
"Having grown up and lived in the heart of these beautiful mountains, my love for this area is deep and genuine. The mountains have inspired so much of my music, and through my songs, I’ve always been sort of an unofficial ambassador for Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’m truly honored to join this yearlong celebration."
To commemorate the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 75th anniversary, Dollywood unveiled a new show, "Sha-Kon-O-Hey!." The 45-minute musical production incorporated scenic elements and stage effects never before seen at Dollywood. "Sha-Kon-O-Hey!" captured the spirit of the mountains and the rich heritage of the people who call them home. The title, Sha-Kon-O-Hey is the phonetic spelling of "Shaconage," the Cherokee word which means "land of the blue smoke."