Dolly Parton recently announced a $300 million investment in her Dollywood empire that will expand the country singer’s Pigeon Forge, Tenn., theme park to include new rides, shows, and, most notably, a 300-room resort.
The DreamMore resort is scheduled to open in 2015. Designed to be a place where families can come together, DreamMore is a continuation of Parton’s dedication to imagination. The property will include restaurants, meeting rooms, pools, a spa, firepits, and front porches—a throwback to Parton’s time spent on her family’s front porch as a child.
“That’s where we laughed together; that’s where we cried together,” Parton said during a press conference at Dollywood in August.
The new resort will be within walking distance of Dollywood’s Splash Country, a complete water park that is part of the Dollywood enterprise.
The $300 million investment will be distributed over 10 years; however, visitors to Dollywood will see immediate results with the opening of the FireChaser Express rollercoaster with the 2014 season. The rollercoaster is the first of its kind in the country with a dual launch, forward and backward motion, and a low height restriction so that even young children may ride. The ride’s slogan, “from zero to hero in 1.1 seconds,” is a nod to the coaster’s theme—saving the Great Smoky Mountains from forest fires. The coaster follows the 2013 addition of WildEagle, the first of its kind, which gives riders the sensation of flying 21 stories high. Despite Dollywood’s trend of rollercoaster innovation, Parton leaves enjoying the rides to others.
“I never ride the rides, you know,” she said.
Parton, born in Sevierville, Tenn., is responsible for much of the East Tennessee region’s tourist draw, adding significant dollars to the state’s economy.
The state saw $15.36 billion in tourism expenditures last year. This year Gov. Bill Haslam has added $8 million to the state’s tourism marketing budget to reach new, international markets.
Parton’s involvement in the tourism industry is spread across several destinations in the Pigeon Forge area, including the perennially popular and routinely sold out dinner theater show, Dixie Stampede, which brings in 3,000 visitors a day. The family-friendly show features talented horseback riders competing against one another for bragging rights in an age-old battle between the North and South. In addition, young cast members sing and dance as native Cherokee, determined settlers, and antebellum ladies. A few lucky audience members are chosen to participate in the show, which the crowd of 1,000 enjoys over a finger-licking—one’s hands are the only utensils—meal.