SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Dolly Parton turned 75 Tuesday. To celebrate her birthday, we’re celebrating her career, her giving, and the economic impact and jobs she’s brought to her hometown.
Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters has had a front row seat since it started. He says tourism was already booming before Dollywood opened in 1986, but credits Parton for taking it to new heights.
“She’s had, I think, more positive impact on our area than any one person I know in this county,” he said. “Over her entire career she’s been an advocate for our area. She’s shown her love for the people of this area and has promoted it like no other person can,” he added.
We’ve watched Dollywood expand many times. Outside a global pandemic, Dollywood employs more than 4,000 people. It’s now the largest ticketed attraction in the state and brings around 3 million visitors to East Tennessee every year. A recent study at the University of Tennessee found the annual direct and indirect economic impact of Dollywood to be more than $1.8 billion. It found the park helped create more than 23,000 jobs for the region.
Before our interview wrapped up, Waters wished Dolly a Happy Birthday this way: “If I were to say to her, I’d say, Happy 39th Birthday Dolly, because she certainly looks and acts 39.”
Tennessee Tourist Development Commissioner Mark Ezell applauded Dolly’s philanthropic work in literacy, the victims of the Sevier County wildfires, and most recently with her donation to help the search for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Ezell also applauded her economic contribution across the state.
“Dollywood is truly one of our state gems in attracting visitors to come and spend their money. When they spend their money, with our sales tax, that helps our total economy, helps our state government have money for schools, law enforcement, and so many things that take care of us as residents.” He added, “East Tennessee is truly leading our economic recovery comeback. That is in part being lead by places like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and awesome places like Dollywood.”