When it comes to country, top of the list is Dolly Parton and we are not just talking about music.
Dolly has just nailed her flag to the mast of conservation by extending her theme park to include an amazing forest – but she ain’t giving up on concerts, No sirreee!
She has always said that she is a country girl at heart and who would argue with Dolly, especially now that her ever popular Dollywood theme park has opened a new area, Wildwood Grove, which encourages families to have fun among the trees.
“We need to take care of the world’s trees,” said Dolly. “Without them we wouldn’t be here. They are friends who help us enjoy life on this planet, so we have opened this new part of Dollywood which means that folks can enjoy rides and games among trees. The trees are part of the fun and part of the dream.
“When I was a little girl growing up in the hills of the Smoky Mountains, I’d often let my imagination just run away – something I still do now – dreaming these big dreams about what it’d be like to venture off with a family of bears into the woods, or how fun it would be to hitch a ride with the butterflies and dragonflies.
“All us kids loved being out in the open country or in the forests where the trees seemed to be there to watch over us.
“We would splash and play in the creeks and ponds around the home and have these daydreams about the world around us, and that’s what’s so special about Wildwood Grove.
“We’ve been able to create a new area to allow families to experience some of those exact dreams we all had when we were little.
“When you see Wildwood Grove in the daylight it is quite breathtaking and has been designed so that there is the fun of the theme park but the real delight of the woods, too. It was important to me to get it right, I was involved with the design from the start.
“It is exciting from the minute visitors enter Wildwood Grove because they go through the trunk of a giant fallen tree, emerging into a forest with lots of special areas and attractions including the Dragonflier, the treetop Tower, Black Bear Trail, Sycamore Swing, Hidden Hollow and the Frogs and Fireflies carousel.
“There is even a really big indoor play area and it has all be tastefully set in a backdrop of beautiful forest.
“At the heart of the land, a 55-foot-tall tree grows from a cluster of natural rock and boulders, offering a natural platform for live performances from the park’s entertainers.
“At night, the tree will come to life, with a show featuring butterflies glowing in a kaleidoscope of spectacular colours.
“Wildwood Grove really gives families a place to explore, play and imagine together, but more importantly, it’s a place where they can spend more time together. I believe everyone has a song in their heart that needs to be set free. Wildwood Grove will be a place where families can learn together about what their heart song truly is.”
Dolly is clearly thrilled at the new addition to her Dollywood theme park but talking about songs means that music his never far from her heart either.
She said: “I like visiting Dollywood myself and I love to see people enjoying it but that doesn’t mean that I am cutting back on concerts and not just in the States either. I love touring elsewhere and none more so than in Britain which has become a second home to me.
“I have been there so many times for so many reasons through the years – of course, I love coming for concerts and other gigs but I have been to encourage reading and sometimes I have been just because I wanted to.
“Britain is pretty unique and I am proud to have appeared at the Royal Variety Show and at Glastonbury as well as all the great concert halls and arenas.”
Dolly’s diary is pretty full already for 2019 with a Netflix series based on her songs and many special appearances including a Dolly week at the Grand Ole Oprey to celebrate her 50th anniversary since she was inducted. She was, of course, very young at the time.
“I was just a child,” she laughed. “I cannot believe how the time goes, they do say that time flies when you are having fun and that’s what I have been doing all this time.”
There is no doubt she has worked hard all her life as well.
“Well, you have to get things right,” she said.
“That means that you have to put in the effort and be as good as you can be whether it is how you look, how you sound, what you do, where you go – everything.
“You must set yourself a high standard and then live up to it.
“That can be tiring at times but then when you walk out on that stage and get such a great greeting, you are not tired any more – you are elated and you want to skip and sing which is what I do.”
Of course, Dolly does take a break now and then and when she does, she likes nothing better than heading off with her husband Carl Dean in their camper.
“We have been together since we got married in 1966 and I could not have picked a better guy,” she said.
“Carl has always been really a great support and never been one of those guys who is jealous of their wife’s career.
“He has his own business and I have mine and we support each other.
“You know we met at a laundrette. Can you believe that, a laundrette. That was on my first day in Nashville and we saw each other quite often for the next two years before we got married.
“We have had and we are having a great marriage. We spend a lot of time together even though we are both busy.
“Carl likes to stay in the background but he is never far away. He is quite a romantic too and often buys me surprise flowers and little gifts. He’s lovely. He loves me and he knows I love him. He also knows I’m a flirt and a tease but it is harmless. I’ve never met the man that would take his place.”