Dolly Parton is a national treasure. Dollywood has been on my bucket list for years, and I hoped it would be a down-home, campy place. Dolly even she knows she’s camp; everything about her looks personifies the need for exclamation points. To quote her, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.”
There were some down-home aspects, but it was anything but camp. In fact, it’s gone Disney. Not full-Disney, with obnoxious vendors selling LED-lit swords and princess paraphernalia. But Dollywood is a well-oiled megaplex. Vast parking lots, tram system, and roller coasters.
But Dolly never forgot her roots. They do a beautiful job embracing the scrappy, Smokey Mountain lifestyle. You can watch up close, as a gristmill breaks up grain. The warm smell of cinnamon wafts through the air as ladies make cinnamon rolls from scratch, right from the flour ground on-site.
Wooden aqueducts wove overhead, showing visitors how water was transported. There’s killer fried chicken and biscuits. As sparks flew around the room, blacksmiths hammered out homemade signs and mercantile goods for folks to take home.
A steam engine train pulled guests past weeping willows and magnolias. The landscaping was impeccable, surrounding wood cabin structures throughout the park. Fiddlers sat on rocking chairs on small stages that resembled covered porches, delighting us with the sounds of Appalachia.
It was thematic and beautiful. My only wish is that I saw a little more Dolly.