Iconic Dolly Parton Statue Turns 30: Sevierville Celebrates with Special Exhibit

The Dolly Parton statue at the Sevier County Courthouse.

While Dolly Parton turned 71 in January, she will be having another “birthday” this spring! On May 3, 1987, the city of Sevierville, TN unveiled a bronze statue of the country legend in front of the Sevier County Courthouse. This year, the iconic Dolly Parton statue will turn 30 years old, and Sevierville is marking the occasion with a special exhibit that is free and open to the public. Visit My Smokies has all of the details on the new exhibit.

30: Celebrating Dolly in Bronze

The Sevierville Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center is currently hosting a one-of-a-kind exhibit entitled 30: Celebrating Dolly in Bronze. The exhibit tells the story of how the Dolly Parton statue came to exist and includes artifacts and artwork from the sculptor, Jim Gray, and from Dolly herself. Highlights of the exhibit include:

  • A bronze bust of Dolly’s head that was used as a “study” for the statue
  • A miniature wax version of the statue that Gray used in his proposal
  • The autographed stool that Dolly sat on when she posed for the statue
  • Letters and stories from Dolly Parton’s personal collection

The exhibit is open daily from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and will run until the end of December 2017. The Sevierville Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center is located at 3099 Winfield Dunn Parkway in Kodak, TN.

(See Also: Dollywood Theme Park Turns 30)

About the Dolly Parton Statue

The Dolly Parton statue is one of Sevierville’s most visited destinations. Artist Jim Gray spent more than 2,000 hours working on this very special project. The statue making process included creating a steel skeleton, sculpting with 300 pounds of clay, and then shipping the sculpture from Gray’s studio in Knoxville, TN to the Wagner Foundry in Fredericksburg, VA, where the statue was cast in bronze.

When the statue was officially dedicated in 1987, Dolly stood at the Sevier County Courthouse and addressed a crowd of 500 people, telling her hometown, “It makes me feel like you folks are proud of me, and I’ve always wanted you to be”.

During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live last year, Dolly told a moving story about her father’s affection for her statue:

“After my Dad died, one of my brothers told me that Daddy used to put a big bucket, a big oil drum of soapy water, and a broom in the back of his truck, and late at night, he’d go down to the statue and scrub all the pigeon poop off that. Isn’t that the sweetest thing?…It touched me. I cried my eyes out.”

You can hear Dolly tell the story in this clip from the show:

Dolly Parton Vocal Competition

To mark the 30th anniversary of the Dolly Parton statue, the Bloomin’ Barbeque & Bluegrass Festival will honor the country star with the Mountain Soul Vocal Competition. In this contest, vocalists can perform any of the 3,000 + songs that Dolly Parton has penned over the years.

Entrants in the competition are encouraged to adapt one of Dolly’s tunes to fit their favorite musical genre. Amanda Marr of the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce explains the idea behind the contest:

“If you’re a rocker, if you’re a rap artist, if you’re a country singer, if you’re a bluegrass artist, whatever style yours is, show how versatile Dolly’s songwriting is. Take that song, make it your own, sing it in your own style”.

Aspiring musicians can fill out the official entry form and send their audition in for a chance to perform at the Barbeque & Bluegrass Festival in Sevierville on May 20, 2017. Entries must be postmarked by April 7. The winner will receive $500, a recording session in Nashville, and a guitar autographed by Dolly.

Our Interview with Dolly Parton

Last year, Dolly answered questions from fans of Visit My Smokies about her life in the Smoky Mountains. Follow the link to watch our exclusive video interview with Dolly Parton!

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