Imagine this: you are in early middle school and summer has finally rolled around, filling your adolescent heart with all the joys that summer break does. You decide one afternoon to dust off those Dollywood Season passes that you’ve barely used all year because of school and decide to bring your best friend along for a day of rollercoasters, themed shows, and deliciously overpriced food. While strolling through the streets of the amusement park, you notice people are coming by and roping off areas near the middle of the street, and you wonder: what could possibly be going on? Is there a parade we didn’t know about?
And before you even have a moment to process what’s happening, you see her: Dolly Parton herself. She was sat atop an actual, honest-to-God horse-drawn carriage and was parading down the streets of Dollywood.
Well, I don’t have to imagine this, because I lived it.
We had no idea the queen herself was supposed to be there that day when my mom, my friend and I decided to spend our day at Dollywood. We didn’t even know when they started to rope us off!
At first we were confused, and it wasn’t until we saw the horse-drawn carriage rolling down the street in front of us and we spotted the tall-haired beauty sat within it that we even realized what was happening. There she was, in all her honky-tonkin’ glory: Dolly Parton.
To say I was completely shocked was an understatement. Having grown up in Knoxville, Tennessee, I spent my childhood going to Dollywood any chance I could get, but I never once saw the park’s namesake until that faithful day. It was magical. It was fantastical. And it only got better.
As we stood in the streets of Dollywood, watching the makeshift parade lead by Dolly make its way through the park, my friend and I noticed people dodging under the ropes and gathering directly behind the carriage, running after Dolly. What else were we do to but join in? The chase was on. (Note: my mother never chased Dolly with us; she instead chased after the two children she took to the park who decided, without consulting her, to chase Dolly Parton through Dollywood. Oops. Sorry mom!)
And suddenly there we were, running down the streets chasing Dolly Parton surrounded by other Dolly fans, also chasing her. We followed her all the way to the front of the park, where a side fence opened up just enough to only let her through. Just like that, the chase was over.
I’ve been to Dollywood plenty times since then but never quite had the experience I had that faithful summer day. Although, I will admit that every time I go I definitely keep an eye out for any horse-drawn carriages coming my way.