PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) — Dollywood‘s newest roller coaster Big Bear Mountain opened to the public on Friday, May 12. Dolly Parton was back home in East Tennessee for the ride’s grand opening.
Crowds gathered Friday morning to wait for their turn on the theme park’s largest roller coaster, as well as to see Dolly herself.
The international icon appeared Friday in a brown dress with rhinestones along with a bear-ears headband and honeybees “buzzing” around her while toting what she said was a basket of honey so she could help “catch the big bear,” as part of the theme of the ride.
“I love having a theme park so I get to dress up, do all these things,” Parton told the crowd Friday. “I have the best time.”
She then performed what she called “a little song about Big Bear Mountain.”
As Parton took her acoustic guitar in hand and placed the strap around her hair, bear ears and bees, she told the crowd, “I wrote this little song ’cause we thought, ‘this is the bear that we’re all looking for,’ and when you get out there, sing like this….”
She played the opening chords and sang to the cheering crowd. Riders on the roller coaster zipped by and more cheers erupted.
After her performance, Parton left the stage and visited with some of the crowd. More people gathered at the coaster for their turn.
The coaster that was announced two years ago is complete, and some Season Passholders have already been able to preview the ride.
Big Bear Mountain is Dollywood’s longest ride, Dollywood Publicist Josh Sauer said. With almost 4,000 feet of track, the ride is over three-quarters of a mile long. Riders will get to search for the legendary big bear with Wildwood Grove’s fictional caretaker Ned Oakley. The ride has onboard audio, letting riders hear Ned (and maybe even the bear) during their search.
Sauer describes the ride as a “family thrill” that everyone in the family, from children up to grandparents, can enjoy. The ride has a 39-inch minimum height requirement, the average height of a 4-year-old, and takes riders to a maximum speed of 48 miles per hour — Twice!
Big Bear Mountain has 23 air time moments, Sauer confirmed. The park has also said that the rollercoaster has high-speed carousel turns and tunnels, including a pass behind a waterfall. According to Dollywood, Big Bear Mountain’s structure hugs six acres of land that run along the border of Wildwood Grove.
When the ride opens on Friday, Dollywood says registered Dollywood Diamond Passholders will be the first to ride after the opening ceremonies.