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Dolly’s Dollywood Reminds Visitors to Dream Big

 Most people probably don’t consider a trip to a theme park as an opportunity to broaden one’s horizons or to serve as the inspiration to reach for the stars. But then again, Dollywood is much more than a “regular” theme park. Inside Dollywood, guests can find several attractions designed to inform, entertain and encourage them to pursue their own dreams—just like Dolly!  

 Chasing Rainbows      

To share the results of her decades of dreaming, and to inspire others to follow their own, Dolly introduced Dollywood’s Adventures in Imagination area in 2002.  The area includes a state-of-the-art museum called Chasing Rainbows, featuring interactive and behind-the-scenes collections, stories, and memorabilia from Dolly’s life and career. 

Visitors see costumes from Dolly’s movie career including 9 to 5 and Straight Talk, as well as many of her lavishly sequined gowns worn during her countless concerts, award shows and special appearances.  An entire case contains Dolly’s many awards, including Grammy, Country Music Association and People’s Choice Awards, as well as plaques commemorating gold and platinum records.  In addition, a touching display features the original handwritten lyrics to some of her biggest hits.

Through special notes, pictures and keepsakes, guests are able to follow Dolly’s path from the mountains of East Tennessee to the grandest stages around the world.      

Dolly’s Home-on-Wheels

            Just outside Chasing Rainbows, park guests can find Dolly’s Home-on-Wheels, an immaculate motorcoach once used by the entertainment legend on her many trips throughout the United States. Designed by Dolly’s longtime road manager, bus driver and friend Don Warden, and his wife Ann, the 1994 Prevost features hand-tooled leather from Germany on the sofa and chairs, cherry cabinets and brass fixtures. In addition to the bedroom, the coach includes three bunks, two bathrooms and a shower.

            Guests are invited inside the coach for a brief glimpse into Dolly’s life on the road. Three clocks in Dolly’s bedroom always receive a special glance from guests. One clock is set to Los Angeles time, one is on Nashville time, and the third—in a nod to her roots—is set on Dollywood time.

Tennessee Mountain Home

            Millions around the world have heard the beautiful song about Dolly’s upbringing in the picturesque Smoky Mountains, but only visitors to Dollywood can see for themselves a replica of Dolly’s Tennessee Mountain Home. In this small, two-room replica of her Locust Ridge childhood home, guests gain a greater understanding of why Dolly’s rise from the hills of Tennessee to superstardom and stages around the world is even more impressive.

From its newspaper covered walls and quaint kitchen to its modest living quarters, many guests leave amazed the Parton family lived in a house just like this one. But while it may have been small, and lacking electricity and running water, love was abundant in the tiny little mountain house that Dolly and her family called home.

Southern Gospel Music Museum and Hall of Fame

            It’s only fitting that the Southern Gospel Music Museum and Hall of Fame make its home at Dollywood.  The granddaughter of a Pentecostal preacher, Dolly first sang in church.  In 2010, Dolly received the Southern Gospel Music Association’s James D. Vaughan Impact Award. Gospel music has and always will hold a very special place in her heart. And, the Southern Gospel Music Museum and Hall of Fame has a very special place in her theme park, too.

Located on Showstreet, near Dollywood’s entrance, the Southern Gospel Music Museum and Hall of Fame tells the story of a timeless genre of music, passed down from one generation to the next and steeped in the traditions of Sunday worship and all-night gospel singings. Southern gospel music traces its roots back more than 100 years when hymns rang from the many tiny churches that dotted the landscape of the Southeastern U.S.  Soon, groups—often families—decided to share God’s word through gospel music.  By doing so, the Southern gospel music industry was born.  And, oh, how it has grown.          

            On April 17, 1999, Dollywood welcomed the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum.  The 4,000-sq.-ft. facility serves not only as the industry’s headquarters, but also as a tribute to all who contributed to Southern gospel music’s success.  More than 350 artifacts are displayed, representing more than 100 groups and individuals.  The Hall of Fame pays tribute to 80 members with new honorees inducted annually.   

            The Vaughan Radio Quartet, the Stamps All-Star Quartet, the Speer Family, the LeFeveres, the Blackwood Brothers, the Chuck Wagon Gang, the Rangers, the Sunshine Boys, the Happy Goodmans, the Statesmen, the Harmoneers, the Florida Boys, the Oak Ridge Quartet, the Weatherfords and the Rebels all laid a firm foundation for those who would follow.  Today, such groups as the Gaither Vocal Band, the Martins, the Isaacs, and the McKameys still travel across the country and around the world sharing their musical ministries.