Dollywood Season Opening 2024

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Video 1: here (by Duane Gordon)
Video 2: here (by Duane Gordon)
Video 3: here (by Duane Gordon)

Photo Galleries

Gallery 1: Outfit 1 at Friday media event (by Duane Gordon; posted March 11)
Gallery 2: Outfit 2 at Friday media event (by Duane Gordon; posted March 12)
Gallery 3: Outfit 3 at Friday media event and Outfit 4 at Friday parade (by Duane Gordon; posted March 17)


Dolly returned home to Dollywood to open the park's 39th season with appearances at passholder preview day on Friday and public opening day Saturday to kick off the 2024 season and "I Will Always Love You" Music Festival. The festival returns for its second year and welcomes three new shows: From The Heart: The Life & Music of Dolly Parton, Sing-A-Long With Dolly, and Trio, Again.

On Friday, she and Dollywood President Eugene Naughton welcomed fans in a media event at Celebrity Theater and previewed the three new shows, including Dolly joining in on the sing-a-long to her "Two Doors Down" as well as in the Heart inclusion of the Broadway adaptation of her "9 To 5." She also toured the park in her Dewitt vehicle that afternoon. On Saturday, she made unannounced pop-ins at the Heart show and Trio show to welcome the crowds. footage from the media event is available on YouTube here or in the media player above.

The park was named last week to Southern Living's "South's Best Attractions" list in its The South's Best Awards and an article headlined "Why Dollywood is Better than Any Other Theme Park."

From The Heart in Celebrity Theater will run through both the "I Will Always Love You" Music Festival (now-April 14) and Flower & Food Festival (April 19-June 9). Narrated by Dolly, the show summarizes her childhood in the Smoky Mountains, her teenage travels to Music City and work on Knoxville's Cas Walker Show, her time on Monument Records after moving to Nashville following high school, her years with The Porter Wagoner Show, her breaking out on her own, her pop crossover, her collaborations, her return to her roots, her witty "Dollyisms," and her songs. The cast is stellar, with multiple spectacular singers taking on Dolly's classics. The stage is amazing with a turntable and set pieces shooting across the stage carrying cast members behind them to appear "out of nowhere." The "Coat Of Many Colors" segment is particularly moving, as is the ending when Dolly herself sings "Smoky Mountain Memories" swathed in light on video. Costumes are gorgeous. My only critiques are the wigs were a bit messy, the Porter Wagoner offered an interesting interpretation of Porter as influenced by Elvis Presley, and for someone so well-known for her figure, it was a bit odd for the actresses playing her to not be padded to suggest her famous silhouette. But overall it is a wonderfully-entertaining and adequately reverent tribute to a legend and one of the best productions ever at the park.

Sing-A-Long With Dolly at Back Porch Theater features three hosts dressed in 60s-inspired costumes leading the crowd in watching an animated Dolly on screen with the lyrics of her biggest hits and a bouncing butterfly to follow as the audience sings along. The brief show is a fun romp through Dolly's catalog.

Trio, Again at Showstreet Palace Theater features Three Times A Lady, consisting of Nashville singer-songwriters Lauren Mascitti, Kenney Scott and Hannah Blaylock, performing songs from the three Trio albums Dolly recorded with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris. The three ladies possess powerful voices and have learned how to closely harmonize so tightly they really do replicate the Trio's unique sound. The ones singing Emmy's and Linda's parts are fortunate to have natural voices in similar registers as the originals, allowing them to more easily imitate each performer's unique vocal characteristics in order to sound very much like them. The Dolly performer's voice isn't in as high of a natural register, given that particular characteristic of Dolly's voice is very rare, but she effectively employs her signature trills and tonal qualities to sound similar on the upper harmony parts even if her solos, while absolutely gorgeous, aren't as reminiscent of Dolly as the other two are of their originals. Overall, the show is a master class in live performances including a really tight band.  

Dolly said: "I'm so excited for everything we have in store for our guests in 2024. We're investing a lot of time and money into our entertainment this year, and I think the work we've put into these shows really is going to be noticed. One of those new shows is 'From the Heart.' It is a Broadway-style production about my music and my life, and John Dietrich (co-writer/director) and I can't wait to hear what guests think about it. We also have 'Trio, Again featuring Three Times A Lady' to celebrate the Trio albums I did with my good friends Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. Those were such fun albums to make so I'm glad we are going to have a show to remember those. And you know, the last show might be my favorite. I always hear people everywhere I go singing my songs, so we thought it would be good to give folks a place to come and do it with their friends. We're doing a show called 'Sing-a-long with Dolly' so guests can come to the park and sing along to my songs as loudly as they want. I'm sure it will be a joyful noise! But if Eugene is leading the singing, it might just be noise."

Dolly teased the Dolly Parton Experience to open May 24 with the entire Adventures in Imagination area transformed into an interactive storytelling experience of Dolly's life and career to replace the Chasing Rainbows Museum. That date will also see the opening of a revamped family show called Heidi Parton's Kin & Friends. She also said the park's largest-ever sit-down restaurant is being added, and the plans are continuing for several more resorts on the property after opening the second, HeartSong Lodge, last year.

After the flower festival will come the Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration June 15-Aug. 11, Harvest Festival with Great Pumpkin LumiNights Sept. 9-Oct. 28, and Smoky Mountain Christmas Nov. 1- Jan. 5.

Other coverage included Kyle Grainger's interview with Dolly on WVLT here and a story on Friday's media event from them here, a livestream of the entire press event from The Knoxville News-Sentinel here and story here, and stories from WJHL here, WBIR here and WATE here.