Dolly saw a cherished dream become a reality in 1986 with the opening of her own theme park called Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, at the base of the Great Smoky Mountains. The state’s number one tourist attraction, Dollywood was selected by the theme park industry as one of the top three theme parks in the world in 2006.
In 1988, she began the Dollywood Foundation to inspire children in her home community to dream more, learn more, do more and care more. Currently the foundation funds the Dolly Parton Imagination Library across America and in Canada, by giving every preschool child a book each month from the time he or she is born until the child reaches kindergarten. With the help of local sponsors, this program has expanded to over 800 communities in 41 states and will give away over 5 million books in 2007 alone. Dolly says, “My dad was prouder of me for this program than for my music career. He thought it was grand that all the kids called me the Book Lady.”
Also in 1988, Dolly founded a group of dinner attractions called Dixie Stampede. In 2001, she built Dollywood’s Splash Country, which is Tennessee’s largest water park. Dolly Parton’s entertainment businesses attract 4.5 million visitors annually and employ more than 3,000 people.
Long respected for her instinctive business savvy, Dolly established Velvet Apple Music (BMI) early in her career and owns the copyrights and the publishing for her vast songwriting empire. She owns her own successful record label, Dolly Records.
Dolly Parton transitioned her flair for making hit music into producing hit movies and television shows when she established Sandollar Productions with former manager, Sandy Gallin. A film and television production company, Sandollar has produced feature films such as Father of the Bride I and II, Straight Talk, Sabrina, Shining Through, IQ, and the Academy Award-winning (for Best Documentary) Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, along with Fox television shows Babes and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Her 1994 autobiography was aptly titled “My Life and Other Unfinished Business.”
Dolly Parton is the most honored female country performer of all time. Achieving 25 RIAA certified gold, platinum and multi-platinum awards, she has had 25 songs reach number 1 on the Billboard Country charts, a record for a female artist. She has 41 career top 10 country albums, a record for any artist, and she has 110 career charted singles over the past 40 years. All-inclusive sales of singles, albums, hits collections, paid digital downloads and compilation usage during her Hall of Fame career have reportedly topped a staggering 100 million records world-wide.
She has garnered 7 Grammy Awards, 10 Country Music Association Awards, 5 Academy of Country Music Awards, 3 American Music Awards and is one of only five female artists to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award.
In 1999, Dolly Parton was inducted as a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. She has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and became a member of the National Academy of Popular Music Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001. Broadcast Music, Inc. honored Dolly with their Icon Award in 2003, and in 2004, the U.S. Library of Congress presented her with their Living Legend Award for her contribution to the cultural heritage of the United States.
This was followed in 2005 with the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor given by the U.S. government for excellence in the arts.
In December, 2006 Dolly was honored by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for her lifetime of contributions to the arts. In June 2007 Dolly was named the recipient of the prestigious Johnny Mercer Award from the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. The Johnny Mercer Award is exclusively reserved for a songwriter who has already been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in a prior year, and whose body of work is of such high quality and impact, that it upholds the gold standard set by the legendary Johnny Mercer.
Yet with all of the national and international recognition given her, Dolly Parton calls the bronze statue of her, which stands on the courthouse lawn in her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee, her “greatest honor, because it came from the people who know me.”