Dollywood celebrates 30th anniversary in Pigeon Forge

PIGEON FORGE (WATE) – Dolly Parton is celebrating 30 years since Dollywood’s grand opening.

The park opened for season ticket holders Friday.

In 30 years, the park said they have had more than 75 million guests and become one of the largest seasonal employers in Sevier County.

For the park’s anniversary Parton said she plans to unveil thirty new items in 2015.

Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort is nearing completion, expected to add about 2,000 jobs.

Previous story: Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort nearing completion

The queen of country said she is also bringing back the “Showcase of the Stars Concert Series,” with a new goal to raise one million dollars for Dolly’s Imagination Library.

Parton said she’s planning a movie of “The Coat of Many Colors.”

WATE 6 On Your Side reporter Whitney Good talked one-on-one with Dolly Parton about the changes she has seen in the 30 years since Dollywood opened.

“Every year we come up with new things, and it’s just been amazing. I think back on it, and I just can’t believe it’s been 30 years. It seems more like 10 or 15 at the most,” she said.

More than three decades ago the park was called Silver Dollar City, and in 1985 when Dolly Parton got her hands on it, it became Dollywood. It was just a dream beginning to take off for Parton.

“Thirty years ago, I was 39 and holding!” she joked to an audience Friday afternoon.

Some employees have been around since those days. They remember it well.

“It’s hard to believe. Just really flown by. When we had our 20th anniversary that just seems like day before yesterday,” said Grounds Manager Morgan Duckworth.

Duckworth has worked in the park for 35 years at what started as a summer job, and has seen a lot change.

“A lot of expansion. We’re standing in what used to be a pasture at one time,” he said.

Parton says more changes are in store this year, including expanding the Festival of Nations and all the shows getting bigger and better.

“We’re going to be bringing back some things that we’ve done through the years like the concert series, and so I’m going to be kicking off the new concert series in August,” she said, adding that her friend Kenny Rogers will be the last performer. The others have not been released.

“We just want to do greater things still,” said Parton. “I’m just looking forward to the next 30. I’ll probably still be around. I’m planning to!”

Another big addition coming this year for the park is the DreamMore Resort which is expected to open later this summer.

Parton also told WATE 6 On Your Side the park is planning a new ride for 2016, but no details are being released just yet.

Opening day

Season pass holders got a sneak peak at Dollywood Friday. The most loyal Dollywood fans lined up while it was still dark out – some even took the day off from work – just to spend the day in the park.

“We got up at 4:30 this morning and started getting ready,” said Robert Ratliff, who drove almost 3 hours to get to the park.

He and his wife, Linda have been season pass holders for 6 years, and say they love everything about Dollywood, especially sneak preview day.

Visitors headed for rides, shows, and food – all while hoping to catch a glimpse of Dolly herself.

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