ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. -- Upon arrival at the future site of the Randy Parton Theater and Carolina Crossroads Music & Entertainment District, a huge crowd of locals was visible in a field just off Exit 171 on Interstate 95. Rows of parked cars along with several white tents and two stages filled the field. Several thousand people were ushered past some tables where free commemorative t-shirts were distributed along with an informative pamphlet.
In what was a standing only crowd, many people anxiously awaited the appearance of Dolly Parton.
Jeannie Seely Speaks
Several local officials made speeches or remarks about the positive impact of the future entertainment district. Just after 11 a.m., Jeannie Seely, Billy Walker, Jim Ed Brown, Ray Pillow, Jan Howard and Helen Cornelius were introduced to the stage. Seely and several others stepped up to the microphone to say hello to the crowd and mentioned their excitement over the new venue, comparing it to their experiences in Branson and Pigeon Forge.
Dolly Enters The Stage
Randy Parton, his wife, Deb, and daughter, Heidi, were already seated together on stage along with local officials. Parton then rose out of his seat to escort his sisters Stella and then Dolly to the stage. Stella thanked the Caroline citizens for being so warm and for "helping her pay rent for over 30 years." Wearing sunglasses, a leather coat and big smile, she waved to the crowd.
Stella, Randy, Dolly
Dolly was then introduced stepping up the stairs from the side onto the stage in a cinnamon brown two-piece skirt. The crowd gave a big cheer, to which she gave a big wave stepping to the side of her brother and sister at the podium.
Heidi, Rachel, Randy, Dolly, Opry Legends
A few remarks were made by Randy and then Dolly said what a wonderful looking crowd we were. Randy pointed out that Dolly had made special effort to be in attendance since she was currently on tour and on her way to NYC. In brief, Dolly was humble, as she did not want to take away from her brother's special event. She stated that she'd be back once the venue was opened and looked forward to it.
Don Warden (far left), Dolly
The crowd cheered for her to sing to which Randy said that everyone would join in song. Randy then led everyone on stage into "God Bless America," another Americana song and one gospel song (sister Rachel came scurrying across to stage to join in on this).
Dolly Stands And Fields Questions
Dolly's voice was a bit low or tight when she first started singing, but by the second song you could hear her much better and she got more into the song. Once the singing was over, the crowd cheered for Dolly to sing a song, to which she seemed flustered, trying not to take away from Randy, but replied that she was headed to NYC to sing on the CMA Awards with Elton John. In joke, she said she'd be wearing a gold and white dress and she wondered what dress Elton would be wearing. The crowd laughed and Dolly scurried away from the mic. Everyone exited the stage and a side band played some Waylon Jennings songs.
After some off stage press opportunities were over, the Opry Legends along with Dolly, Stella and Randy returned to stage. The crowd called to Dolly, who posed a bit for the crowd with her brown matching shawl. After her posing, a male on stage said that no more needed to be said, to which people laughed.
People in the crowd still cheered for Dolly to sing, but she opted to answer a few questions. One or two general questions were asked about her brother and the venue. Dolly pointed out that Randy had helped with Dollywood and that in her opinion his show was the best one at Dollywood for 19 years. She and Stella stated that their "little brother" would be living in North Carolina and asked that locals support his venue. Everyone then exited the stage.
Within just minutes, Dolly was spotted posing for a group picture in front of her bus and then boarding it to depart for NYC.
Dolly's Bus Parked
(On a personal note, it was great for my family and me to see you Dolly, Stella, Randy and Jeannie!!!!)