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31 Years Ago: Dollywood Opens in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Dollywood opening date history
Brendan Hoffman, Getty Images

Thirty-one years ago today, on July 16, 1986, Dolly Parton opened her theme park, Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.

Dollywood began as Rebel Railroad, a small tourist attraction, in the early 1960s. The Civil War-themed attraction morphed into Goldrush Junction, then Goldrush, as it changed owners, before becoming the popular Silver Dollar City Tennessee in 1977. In 1986, Parton bought into the theme park, in an attempt to increase employment for her family and fellow East Tennessee natives.

“I always thought that if I made it big or got successful at what I had started out to do, that I wanted to come back to my part of the country and do something great, something that would bring a lot of jobs into this area,” Parton said in 2010. “Sure enough, I was lucky, and God was good to me, and things happened good.”

Dollywood has expanded plenty since its opening, including the addition of more rides, roller coasters, theaters, a water park and a resort. In 2013, Parton announced a $300 million expansion to the theme park, adding as many as 2,500 jobs and even more amenities to the bustling tourist attraction. The country icon, who still appears at Dollywood as her schedule permits, calls the success of the park one of her proudest accomplishments to date.

“I would honestly say that with all the awards and all the other things that I’ve done in my life, Dollywood is one of the greatest dreams that I’ve ever had come true,” Parton tells News 24. “I am so proud of that I can’t even begin to tell you. Dollywood is real special to me.”

Additional information about Dollywood, as well as ticket details, is available on the theme park’s official website.

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