PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. — Whether you know her as the Smoky Mountain Songbird, the Leading Lady of Country or the Backwoods Barbie, there’s only one Dolly Parton.
Since this beloved icon is celebrating her 75th birthday, we are taking a look at the 10 things you should know about Dolly's legacy in East Tennessee and beyond.
- Dolly Rebecca Parton was born in Sevier County, Tennessee in 1946 to a family of 12, and her dad paid for her delivery with a sack of cornmeal.
- She got her start on the Cas Walker Show in Knoxville and did her first performance when she was just 10 years old.
- She’s been a member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 50 years. Her first appearance at the Opry was actually 10 years before she became a member when she was just 13 years old.
- She has written thousands of songs. While many know her hits like “9 to 5” and “Jolene,” Dolly is still writing music and says she has thousands of songs we haven’t heard yet.
- Dolly is constantly giving back to the community because this Smoky Mountain girl never forgot her roots. Just to name a few, she raised funds to help hospitals in Pigeon Forge. She set up a scholarship to reduce dropout rates in local high schools. The American Eagle Foundation, which rehabilitates bald eagles, is based at her theme park, Dollywood. She established the “My People Fund” to help Sevier County recover after a devastating wildfire in 2016. Most recently, she helped fund research for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in Nashville.
- Her Imagination Library has donated more than 100 million books to help promote childhood literacy across the globe, and the accomplishment was even recognized by the Library of Congress in 2018.
- She basically turned Pigeon Forge into an East Tennessee entertainment empire with amusement parks like Dollywood and Splash Country, the DreamMore Resort, and dinner theatre shows like Pirates Voyage and Dolly Parton’s Stampede.
- As if music and theme parks didn’t keep her busy enough, she has also written books, been in movies and tv shows, produced and starred in a few Netflix Originals, and was the subject of the award-winning podcast, Dolly Parton’s America.
- There is a history class at the University of Tennessee dedicated to her called Dolly’s America.
- Fans just can’t get enough of Dolly. Murals. Paper mache puppets. Pantsuits. Art contests. A racecar. Campers. And even an entire home. It seems Dolly’s fans will never run out of ways to show their love to this icon.
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