PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) — The rain could not keep away the sunny disposition of country music icon and East Tennessean Dolly Parton, who made her first appearance at Dollywood since the pandemic arrived in Tennesse, and since she’s received the Moderna vaccine she helped fund.

Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts interviewed Dolly to highlight not only what makes Dollywood special, but also how the region has bounced back from the economic strife caused by the pandemic.

“This is what we wanted to do. We wanted to show everybody is remerging and what better place to start than Tennessee. East Tennessee at that. Dollywood,” Roberts said in a one-on-one interview.

Dolly also sang, “Coat of Many Colors” during the live event with GMA; which is scheduled to stop in every state as they reopen amid the pandemic for its new “Rise and Shine” special. East Tennessee and Dollywood were their first stop.

(Photo: WATE)

Because of the rain, the live audience wasn’t able to get as close as they would have been able to, but fans still had a view of Dolly and Robin Roberts as they conducted the interview and Dolly sang.

Robin Roberts later said that coming to East Tennessee for the “Rise and Shine” tour was also a way to show off her Southern roots.

“It was important for me to show this area of the country first. Southern strong, you know? And how we are remerging,” Roberts said.

Also in attendance were some Lady Vols basketball legends.

“It was just really great to be able to kick (the show) off here. We had Kellie Harper, Tennessee Lady Vols,” Robins said.

Roberts also commented that it was great to be back in the Knoxville area, where she was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

(Photo: WATE)

In a one-on-one interview with Roberts, she told 6 On Your Side Reporter Kirstie Crawford what her favorite part of her visit is to East Tennessee.

Food was definitely one. She said she can’t get the delicious brisket or funnel cake in New York like she can at Dollywood.

She also said it was just being able to see all the different ways the state came back strong from the pandemic.

“Seeing people. Seeing the smiles. Feeling the excitement of knowing that we as a nation, we’re turning the corner. We’re getting out of this,” Roberts said.

Roberts also looked back at the past year, talking about what was the hardest part and what she had learned from the pandemic.

“We lost members of our staff. And it was so difficult to see not only our country, but the world really brought to it’s knees,” Roberts said.

She said she has learned to take a step back and really think about what is important in her life.

“There is no silver lining to a pandemic, the lives lost. But, for those of us who could take the time and go like, ‘everything happens,’ and to understand and to just try and be better. All of us try to be better for it,” Roberts said.

Roberts also talked about how special Dolly is for helping fund the Moderna vaccine research.

“She exudes goodness, kindness and what she did, helping with the vaccine…what she was able to do with that is just um, something that is so special,” Roberts said.

The ‘Rise and Shine’ segment is one of the first times Roberts and some her crew have been able to tour the country since the pandemic together.

She said the reunion couldn’t have been any better at Dollywood.

“Even the crew here, because we had a big crew set this up. Many of us haven’t seen each other in over a year. And so, it’s just that connection. We’ve missed that. You know? We’ve missed that connection with folks,” Roberts said.

She said she knows that connection is what a lot of people had been missing during the pandemic, and she hopes now those connections can be rebuilt–even if it’s in the cold rain.

“After you’ve gone through a pandemic, ‘uh it’s raining.’ Don’t sweat the small stuff. That’s all small stuff,” Roberts said.