Dolly Parton

Why is there a Dolly Parton statue? A brief history, where to find it

There’s a bit of danger in commissioning a statue. 

First, of a practical nature, what if something isn’t quite right?

I’m thinking about the infamous bust of soccer player Christian Renaldo. Which turned one of the best-looking men in the world into an evil-eyed psycho.

Instead of a tribute, whoever commissioned that work got infinite rounds of mocking internet memes and a front-page listing in the book of cautionary tales. 

But there are other dangers. If the subject of the statue is living, there’s a chance that something could go wrong. We’ll call this the OJ Simpson corollary.

In 1990, either the city of Buffalo or the University of Southern California would have been perfectly justified in commissioning a statue to honor a favorite son. 

Just a couple of years later, all they would have had was a very difficult-to-explain landmark. 

But there are also times that creating a statue to honor a native son or daughter is a no-brainer. Such is the case with the Dolly Parton.

Dolly Parton’s statue is located at the Sevier County courthouse where it regularly receives seasonal decor such as this festive lei necklace for Independence Day (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

Where is the statue of Dolly Parton located?

Dolly Parton’s statue is located on the grounds of the Sevier County courthouse in downtown Sevierville. 

When the statue was dedicated in 1987, Dolly was already one of the most beloved women in the world.

A talented songwriter, singer, musician and actress, she was just embarking on an endeavor to show off her business acumen as Silver Dollar City was rechristened Dollywood. 

Tack on her legendary philanthropy efforts and the only issue with Dolly’s statue is that there aren’t more of them. Sevier County should issue a series of Dolly statues at various stages of her life and locate them all around the county. 

Dolly is truly a native daughter that can’t be celebrated enough. 

But let’s return to the statue we do have, that made its debut more than 30 years ago.

Now, I don’t like to brag. But I’ve seen a few statues in my day, and in my humble opinion, this one is among the best I’ve seen. 

Dolly Parton’s statue was created by artist and sculptor Jim Gray (photo by Alaina O’Neal/TheSmokies.com)

Who created the statue of Dolly Parton in Sevierville?

Created by Jim Gray, the statue is an excellent representation of Dolly’s spirit. 

There’s a joy of heart present that transcends the cold bronze of which it is made. It reminds me, honestly, of Peter Pan’s statue in Hyde Park in London.

It captures a puckish spirit, that I find befitting a young Dolly. I can picture her running around the mountains like something out of an East Tennessee Shakespeare play. 

Dolly is more than a local girl made good. She’s a sprite, a fairy, a being of light and magic who has made the world a better place. 

In this imagining, Dolly sits on a rock, hair pulled back and holding her beloved guitar.

Her rolled-up jeans give the impression of her bare feet dipping into a frigid mountain stream on a warm summer day. 

A butterfly rests near one of the guitar’s frets and Dolly looks off into the distance with a beaming smile. 

In a way, it’s interesting that this is the season of Dolly’s life they chose to portray. I guess it makes sense, logically. A young Dolly with big dreams.

But this isn’t the Dolly most of America knows.

This is an unadorned young woman. Not the giant star who built her reputation on elaborate outfits, outlandish talent and a bawdy sense of humor that charmed the rest of the world. 

What did Dolly Parton say about the statue?

In a Youtube video uploaded in 2011, Dolly talks about her statue.

“I’ve had the good fortune of getting to travel all over this world. I’ve had all kinds of wonderful awards. But I think probably one of the things I’m proudest of in my whole career, my whole life, really, is this statue of me in the courthouse yard in Sevierville.”

She says in the video that her dad would try to humble her a bit by telling her, “To your fans, you may be some sort of an idol, but to the pigeons down at the courthouse, you’re just another outhouse.”

“My dad was so sweet, he was proud of it,” Dolly continued.

“They told me later before my dad died … he used to sneak out at night, late after the town had kinda calmed down and go down and scrub the pigeon poop off my statue. I know that you think I’m tryin’ to be funny, but I’m not, cause I cried my eyes out when I heard that.”

It’s been 30 years since the statue was built. I imagine she’s used to it, but I wonder what it’s like for Dolly to roll past that likeness of herself every time she comes back to town.

It must be odd to have a life-size version of your younger self, frozen in time ready to star in dozens of selfies at a moment’s notice. 

I picture Dolly going there on quiet evenings and communing with herself.

I’ve long been told – and believed – that Dolly is able to move around Sevierville, and her park, virtually unrecognized without makeup and wigs.

I like the idea that she can shed the butterfly wings she painted for herself and crawl back into the comfortable cocoon of who she was before the world knew her name.

I like the idea that the young mountain girl forever perched on that rock can visit with the woman she became.

Have you ever seen the Dolly Parton statue in Sevierville? Let us know what you think about it in the comments below!

Dolly Parton accomplishments: 6 amazing things she has done

It turns out, East Tennessee is a matriarchy.

Oh sure, there’s some popular men ‘round these parts, most of them former Volunteer football players in descending order from Peyton Manning.

But while we may have a few kings, in East Tennessee, there is only one queen… Dolly.

Ain’t nobody doesn’t like Dolly.

Born and raised in the hills of Sevier County – where the seat of her vast empire remains – Dolly used her immense talents and a keen business sense to rise to levels of fame that only a few reach.

Of living icons known the world over, there’s Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Michael Jordan, Pele and Dolly Parton.

And while East Tennesseans are happy to share Dolly, and her many “Dollyisms” with the world, and invite the world and its tourism dollars to East Tennessee, there is no place where she is beloved like in her home.

Why do we love Dolly? Well, let us count the ways.

6. The Music

“If you talk bad about country music, it’s like saying bad things about my momma. Them’s fightin’ words.”  – One of Dolly’s many famous ”Dollyisms”.

First, few songwriters have had longer, more successful careers than Dolly. McCartney? Paul Simon? Stevie Wonder? You won’t find Dolly mentioned among the all-time greats as often as she should be. Some of that is genre bias, but also some of it is that Dolly’s other successes overshadow the massive talent that got her started. A quick perusal of her work shows massive hits, cultural touchstones, spread across multiple decades.

That kind of success and longevity is rare but the talent doesn’t stop at songwriting. A natural performer, Dolly was singing on the radio before she was 10. Her voice – with that East Tennessee accent – perfect for the coming wave of country music. She could – and can – duet with almost anyone and in a genre that fell into cookie cutter traps periodically, she consistently stood out both with her musical choices and her voice.

5. The Acting

“I’m not going to limit myself just because people won’t accept the fact that I can do something else.” – Dollyism

Dolly’s a natural performer and her charm and charisma pops every time she’s on the screen. Whether she is co-starring with Burt Reynolds, playing in ensemble casts or taking a turn making Johnny Carson blush on the Tonight Show, few people in the world are blessed with more natural talent than Dolly.

It’s the realm of her empire she’s probably developed the least, often playing Dolly Parton-esque roles. But watch some of the tender moments in “Steel Magnolias” and you’ll see Parton holding her own with some of the most talented actresses of the ‘70s, ’80s and ’90s

4. Her look

“I’m like a cartoon! I’ll look this way when I’m eighty. I can see it now, people will be rolling me around in a wheelchair and I’ll still have my big hair, nails, my high heels and my boobs stuck out!” – Dollyism

From her over the top outfits, to her liberal use of rhinestones to her iconic collection blonde wigs –  Dolly’s iconic look is unapologetically like a 1950s mountain girl version of Barbie. Dolly has no interest in looking like anybody else.

“I’ve often made the statement that I’d never stoop so low as to be fashionable. That’s the easiest thing in the world to do,” she told Barbara Walters in 1977.  She even famously once entered a drag queen celebrity impersonator contest as herself – and lost. But it’s more than just her look. It’s the disarming way she handles herself, both bawdy and somehow sweet, like a bubbly, country version of Mae West.

3. Her sense of humor

“I know some of the best Dolly Parton jokes. I made ’em up myself.” — Dolly in a 1980 interview with Roger Ebert

Among her many talents, Dolly Parton is quick-witted and genuinely funny. She likes to play the role of a stereotypical blonde, but Dolly’s sense of humor reveals a quick, agile mind. Brash, Bawdy and Brilliant.

Dolly is always quick to make a joke at her own expense, often pushing the limits of what might be considered good taste if normal humans attempted it. But with Dolly? No one ever takes offense. She’s a conversationalist in the tradition of Mark Twain, a natural born story-teller. Watch Dolly work a room for 10 minutes and you’re guaranteed a handful of lols.

2. Her business acumen

“I look like a woman but think like a man and in this world of business that has helped me a lot…by the time they think that I don’t know what’s going on, I done got the money and gone.” — Dollyism

From Day 1, Dolly was hustling. Underestimated because of her looks, her background, her accent, Dolly happily played her role, set the pieces on the chessboard and checkmated local entertainment impresarios before moving to Nashville, then Hollywood and doing the same thing time and again.

She’s built herself into a conglomerate and Dollywood, her namesake park, has grown from the rinky-dink former Silver Dollar City into truly one of the best theme/amusement parks in the country. Growing by leaps and bounds, Dollywood is in position to rival anyone in the country except maybe for Disney – and Walt had a 50-year head start.

See Also: How Dollywood’s Wildwood Grove expansion embraces innovation, sets itself apart from any other theme park in the world

Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton donates millions of free books to children with Imagination Library (photo by John Gullion/TheSmokies.com)

1. Her local, and global, philanthropy

“If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.” – Dollyism

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a program that began providing a book a month to children in Sevier County from birth to age 5, quickly grew to all of Tennessee – then the United States.

Now, Imagination Library serves Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the Republic of Ireland. When the wildfires burned Sevier County, killing 14, injuring 134 more and costing millions upon millions of dollars to her home community, Parton stepped up and organized massive fundraising.

Her My People Fund promised each family which had lost its primary residence in the fires $1,000 a month for the next five months.

When Parton arrived to help dole out the final payments, she brought the nearly 900 families an unexpected bonus – another $5,000 each for a total of $10,000. Parton revealed another surprise – the creation of the Mountain Tough organization to provide ongoing support to fire victims over the next three years and the pledge to fund it with at least $3 million. Parton may live in homes in Nashville or Malibu or wherever in the world, but her actions showed her home remains in East Tennessee.