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39th season pays tribute to Dolly Parton's life and career

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Dolly Parton helped with the kickoff Dollywood's Longest Season Ever with an explosion of pink streamers and three outfit changes. And what makes this season even more special is that it will celebrate its Chief Dreamer like never before.

“I can't believe it's our 39th season and we have so many great things this year and definitely great things for next year, our 40th anniversary. We continue to grow every year,” said Parton at the park ceremony. Season pass and media day on March 8.

“I looked at the parking lot when I walked in and I thought, oh my lord, look at all these cars, all these people. But I'm so proud of every moment,” Parton added. “It’s going to be a busy year for Dollywood, there’s no doubt about it.”

One of the most anticipated moments this year is the opening of the park's newest attraction, The Dolly Parton Experience, scheduled for May 24.. The interactive museum will allow visitors to travel with Dolly from Locust Ridge to stages around the world. The exhibit spans multiple buildings and highlights Parton's iconic career, her iconic outfits and wigs, and pays tribute to her family.

“It brings up a lot of emotion in me,” Parton told Knox News of her thoughts on life and career while developing The Dolly Parton Experience.

“I don't (really) think about it the same way that other people see it, you know, I've been through it and I've done it,” she told Knox News. “I remember things that happened around that time. I remember things backstage when I wore that dress or working with the person who made that outfit, or behind the scenes of a movie.”

Parton's life story will also be told in a new Broadway-style show. “From the Heart – The Life and Music of Dolly Parton” will be shown during the Flower and Food Festival this spring, but passholders were treated to a special preview including performances of “9 to 5” and “Islands in the Stream”.

And a new family show written by Parton will debut when The Dolly Parton Experience opens. It will feature Parton's niece, Heidi Parton.

“I have so many treasured memories and so many things that I've done over the years and been lucky enough to work with so many great people,” Dolly Parton said. “One of the greatest things I ever did was go into business with the Herschend family and start Dollywood!”

Dollywood continues to make progress toward its goal of becoming the nation's #1 family destination and potentially remaining open all calendar year. The 2024-25 season will be the park's longest ever, as it will remain open for 280 days. This is 23 days more than the previous season, and 44 days more than in 2022.

Dollywood was voted best park in the world at the Golden Ticket Awards last year and park leaders are hoping for an even bigger year in 2024.

“(Dollywood is) becoming more and more of a national destination, that’s for sure. If not international,” Tim Baldwin of Amusement Today told Knox News, adding that the park has made “dramatic decisions” over the years to increase attendance.

“The great thing about Dollywood is that it has more than just roller coasters and water rides. It has all the mystique and personality of Dolly Parton herself to attract a diverse group of fans,” Baldwin explained. “Of course you have the kids ready to go on the thrill rides, and then you have an older crowd ready to enjoy the shows.”

More details on the Dolly Parton experience

The Dolly Parton Experience takes place in the former Adventures in Imagination area, which has not been renovated since 2002. The entire interactive museum project is three times larger than the former Chasing Rainbows museum.

The Dollywood Experience will feature these three exhibits:

  • Song teller: Guests will browse exhibits spanning Parton's life and career that share the inspirations behind her greatest successes and achievements.
  • Behind the seams: A curated selection of Parton's iconic style throughout the decades will be featured in this exhibition, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process of the iconic looks.
  • Precious memories: At the DreamSong Theater, audiences can learn about the importance of faith and family to Parton.

What's new at Dollywood for 2024

  • The Lightning Rod roller coaster has been upgraded to a high-speed chain system to allow more people to enjoy the ride.
  • The park invested $1 million to modernize its entertainment spaces and productions. Four new shows will debut this year, including one written by Parton.
  • Guests will now enter via a QR code system to expedite park entry time. Traditional ticket options also remain available.

Upcoming Festivals and Events at Dollywood

Award-winning festivals and events take place at Dollywood throughout the year. With each event, the park is transformed with a unique decor and fun activities. The 2024 season kicks off with the 2nd annual I Will Always Love You Music Festival, celebrating the art of songwriting.

  • I Will Always Love You Music Festival – March 9 to April 14
  • Flower and Gastronomy Festival – April 19 to June 9
  • Smoky Mountain Summer Celebration – June 15 – August. 11

How much do Dollywood tickets cost?

  • Dollywood tickets are $92 for adults. Tickets for children and seniors are $82.
  • Seasonal memberships that offer access to festivals and events throughout the year, discounts and other perks range from $164 to $239. Payment plans are available.
  • Dollywood tickets and season passes can be purchased at Dollywood.com.

Devarrick Turner is a trending news reporter. E-mail devarrick.turner@knoxnews.com. On X, formerly known as Twitter @dturner1208.

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