Good Day Exclusive: Dolly Parton decks the halls of Dollywood

If Dolly Parton strikes you as the kind of person that really loves the holiday season, that’s because she is.


"I’ve got trees in all of our rooms in all my houses scattered around, and I love dressing up for Christmas," laughs the country music icon, who — in an Atlanta exclusive — recently sat down for a virtual interview with Good Day Atlanta.

And nowhere is the entertainer’s love for Christmas more evident than at her Pigeon Forge theme park Dollywood. The park’s annual Smokey Mountain Christmas Festival returns Nov. 6, capping off the property’s 36th season.

"We have all the lights and all the great food and all the great music and all the wonderful shows. The families seem to love it. Every year we just grow and grow," says Parton. "We have, they tell me, over five million lights, and to me, it looks like a trillion! They start stringing those lights early."

And in just a few short years, crews will have a new place to cover in lights. Plans have been drawn up for a new resort at Dollywood, the first since 2015. Called Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort, it’s currently scheduled for a 2023 opening

"It is very true, we’re working on it, and we’ll be doing a big special announcement and presentation for that," teases the Grammy winner. "We’re going to be building more resorts. This is the second one, and eventually, we hope to have a campground and some other special things."

Meanwhile, even with those millions of lights, the falling faux snow, and a full lineup of live performances, Dolly Parton says the true spirit of the season is captured in what happens behind all the glittering decorations.

"When you’re an artist, when you get in a position to do something good, you should. Because it makes you feel like you’re not just taking, but you’re giving back."

And the entertainer gives back regularly through her nonprofit Dollywood Foundation, and the global impact made by the foundation’s flagship program, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

"We give books to children from the time they’re born. They get a book a month in the mail with their little name on it, and they get that so they can learn to read and love books," says Parton. "I started the Imagination Library because of my father. My daddy couldn’t read and write, and that was so crippling for him. He was embarrassed about that. So, I thought, I’m going to start a program and let my daddy be involved in it with me."

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library has gifted more than 150 million books to children up to five years old since its inception in 1995. The singer-songwriter and accomplished actress also made headlines last year for her $1-million donation toward research for a COVID-19 vaccine. Now, with vaccines readily available, her holiday message to fans is one of unity.

"Just know you’re loved. God loves you. I love you. And we need to learn to love each other a little more, and we need to stop this great divide and we need to stop all this fussin’ and fightin’ and all this stuff we’re doing to tear ourselves down. We need to pull it together, and get to being better people."