Dolly Parton grew up in Tennessee not far from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, she's sung My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy, Mule Skinner Blues, My Tennessee Mountain Home, and Tennessee Homesick Blues, so should it be any surprise that the singer has been named ambassador for the park's 75th birthday?
True, it might seem a bit odd that park officials, hoping to gain the nation's attention for its birthday, would resort to the Country Western singer as the person to get the job done. Will Olympic National Park or Mount Rainier National Park now look to Pearl Jam to boost their visibility?
But then, you can't get much more country than Dolly Parton, and her roots in the Smoky Mountains are deep. Not only did she grow up in Sevier County, Tennessee, just outside the park, but her elaborate "Dollywood" theme park is just beyond the park's boundaries. And there's no doubt the Tennessee mountains run through her discography.
In agreeing to be the park's ambassador, Ms. Parton will lend her name and image to a variety of park events, activities and informational media, says Great Smoky Superintendent Dale Ditmanson.
“When we first sat down with our park partners and began brainstorming about how the park’s anniversary could best gain national stature we asked ourselves: ‘If we could pick one person who is the most recognized and personifies the love of the Smokies, who would it be?’ The answer was a resounding ‘Dolly Parton!," said the superintendent. "But she’s so much in demand; do you think she’ll do it?”
After networking with the singer's foundation, park officials learned she'd be delighted to take on the title.
“The Smokies are part of my DNA,” she said. “I have always been an 'Ambassador,' but I am particularly honored to become 'official' for this special 75th Anniversary.”
In addition to lending her endorsement to various park-related publications and other informational media, the singer/actress has written an entire album entitled “Sha-Kon-O-Hey,” which is the phonetic spelling for the Cherokee word, “Shaconage”, or “Land of the Blue Smoke,” that the Cherokees attached to the mountains.
The rights to the entire album will be donated to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park through the Friends of the Smokies during the 75th anniversary year.
This week the Great Smoky Mountains Association plans to begin offering its 75th Anniversary edition of Smokies Life magazine, which includes a wide range of feature articles and photo spreads including a “then and now” look at preserving historic buildings, a feature about the various species of native wildlife that the park has restored, a profile of the park’s first superintendent, Ross Eakin, and a conversation with the park’s current superintendent, Dale Ditmanson. It also provides a timeline of milestones in the park’s creation and development.
When readers open the 125-page souvenir edition, the first thing they will find is a welcome to the 75th Anniversary from Ms. Parton and her personal message: “The Smoky Mountains have inspired me and my music since I was a little girl. They touch my soul and lift my spirits. Let’s celebrate America’s most popular national park, but most especially, join me in making sure its magnificent beauty thrives for generations to come.”