I think it’s safe to say that the year 2020 didn’t exactly turn out the way any of us had expected. And I’m pretty sure folks at Dollywood are feeling that too.
While most of the guests seemed happy to be back at the park on Monday, and the beautiful flower displays were in full bloom, it still wasn’t enough to completely mask (pun intended) an element of eerie sadness.
Sadness brought on by the gray skies, lightning and rain. Sadness brought on by people in masks, covering their otherwise smiling faces.
But that being said, if I had to go through a global pandemic, I’d rather go through the version of the pandemic that includes Dollywood.
While there may be those who are unhappy about Dollywood’s encouraged face mask policy, I invite my fellow guests to remember that it could be this very policy that allows Dollywood to begin its first phase of opening. And it’s just that — an initial phase.
I empathize with the people who find the masks uncomfortable. But I also empathize with the people at Dollywood who are tasked with the tough job of making these decisions about the park’s policies. Who need to keep their guests and employees safe. Who feel it would be irresponsible to go against the grain when this mask policy has been an industry standard for so many other theme parks during this time.
And I invite my fellow Dollywood fans to remember that these policies will only be temporary.
But what is not temporary is my love for Dollywood. Dollywood has been there for me throughout my whole childhood, helping me get over my fear of coasters and strengthening my love of bluegrass music. It was one of the first places I took my now-husband on a date. It floods me with nostalgia every time I walk through those turnstiles.
To widen that scope, Dollywood has brought many jobs to Sevier County. Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Foundation has decreased school dropout rates in Sevier County and supplies scholarships to high school seniors. Dolly’s non-profit, the Imagination Library, mails free books to children to help foster a love for reading.
When massive fires swept through homes of over 1,000 families in Sevier County, Dolly asked the Foundation to lead the effort in distributing $1,000 per month for 6 months to families who lost their primary residence. And let’s not too soon forget, Dolly also donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University for coronavirus research.
And if you need more reasons to support Dollywood, remember that the park is doing its best to support its most faithful guests by allowing season passholders to still be the only ones who have seen the park up to this point. They are also extending season passes until June 15, 2021.
My friends, if you can, I invite all of us to return the favor and be there for Dollywood now the way they have been there for us. And not just with money, but with patience, gratitude and kindness.
I realize that everyone’s situation is unique. But by supporting them during these unprecedented times, we are able to enjoy the park we know and love, and they get to continue to help our community.
As Dolly Parton herself has said, “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”
We are in some rain, my friends. I will choose to believe Dolly when she says that brighter days are ahead.
In case you missed it, here’s some more notables about the Dollywood’s reopening:
The Food & Flower Festival
Dollywood kicked off its reopening with the inaugural Flower & Food Festival, featuring a kaleidoscope of colors and more than half-a-million flowers.
Dollywood has partnered with the internationally acclaimed Mosaicultures flower sculpting team to create floral works of art that come to life in the form of Smoky Mountain turtles, raccoons, frogs and black bears. These whimsical creations reach heights up to 14 feet and celebrate the spirit of the Smoky Mountains.
Throughout the festival, the park will be open until 9:30 pm each night and will conclude with a fireworks show. The park will reopen to all guests on June 17, 2020.
The new safety guidelines
Masks are required to enter the park, and temperature checks will be given upon entrance.
Dollywood officials note that the mask policy is not “everywhere and all the time,” but will be encouraged as much as possible.
On media day, Pete Owens, VP of Marketing and Public Relations, said “I think some of these things are going to be fluid, but we’re doing what we can to try to keep folks that come to visit us and our employees as safe as we possibly can.”
Daily capacity will be restricted, so be sure to make reservations.
Additional information about the safety and operational changes at the park are available at Dollywood.com/playsafe.
For more frequently asked questions about the reopening, visit the Dollywood FAQ page. Follow TheSmokies.com on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news developments on attractions in The Smokies.