Dolly Parton has been one busy… well… Butterfly! Just last Friday we were on site at Dollywood in the park’s newest expansion with Dolly herself to officially open Wildwood Grove. Inspired by the beauty of the Smokies, Wildwood Grove is Dollywood’s brand new $37 million dollar land addition that is the theme park’s largest capital investment ever. The last time the park made any new land expansion was with the creation of Wilderness Pass in 2008. Dolly shared the inspiration and dreams that led to the creation of Wildwood Grove, calling the area “the new standard for Dollywood”.
The stage was set, right over the bridge that crosses the new Wildwood Creek and Splash area. The backdrop was ready, a 50-foot-tall Wildwood Tree that serves as the focal point of Wildwood Grove. The tree comes to life each evening during a unique nighttime experience which begins on June 15. Each season will feature a spectacular new experience for guests to enjoy. The Wildwood Tree features nearly 650 lighted butterflies and almost 9000 leaves! Now all that was missing was the “Dreamer-in-Chief” herself.
“Why hello there everyone!”, Dolly exclaimed as she made her way through to the stage. She was the most bright and sparkly butterfly you will ever see! Wearing a custom designed multi-sequin outfit designed with a butterfly body and wings she took the stage to talk about her new Wildwood Grove and what the area means to her. “Wildwood Grove is so special to me because so many of the same daydreams and imaginations from my childhood have now found a perfect place at my Dollywood. I hope families will enjoy laughing, playing and exploring together in this great new place that truly does feel like home for me”, explained Dolly. “When I was a little girl growing up in the hills of the Smoky Mountains, I’d often let my imagination just run away, something I still do now, dreaming these big dreams about what it’d be like to venture off with a family of bears in to the woods or how fun it would be to hitch a ride with the butterflies and dragonflies. All us kids would splash and play in the creeks and ponds around home and have these daydreams about the world around us, and that’s what’s so special about Wildwood Grove. We’ve been able to create a new area to allow families to experience some of those exact dreams we all had when we were little”.
Dolly wasn’t the only butterfly on hand Friday, as she brought her 2 resident butterflies, Flit and Flutter, to the stage with her. She talked about how they would represent her and her dreams in the new area and be available for meeting and pictures. After posing for some pictures with them, just as quickly as she brought them on state, she told them to “fly back to one of their trees” and find another place to land. Dolly then brought Craig Ross, President of the Dollywood Company on stage to help her answer a few questions and talk more about the new area. Ross stated, “Without doubt, this is one of the most exciting days in the history of our company. It is rare in our industry that a park adds a completely new land in its entirety, and as we continue to grow and set attendance records, we needed to add more area to give guests more room to spread out and explore. Additionally, we were able to take many of Dolly’s childhood dreams and create experiences that are uniquely Smoky Mountain themed and really help tell the story of this beautiful place. “
After Dolly and Ross finished their Q&A with the media, Dolly brought four very special guests on stage. Four beaming children each carried a silver box and after Ross did a countdown from 3-2-1…. The lids came off and out flew hundreds of multi-colored butterflies! This was probably the most unique way of “opening something new” at the park we have watched Dolly do since she opened the new Sweet Shoppe on Showstreet in 2006 by having a “taffy cutting” where she actually bit off a piece of taffy from a stretched out “taffy ribbon’.
After Wildwood Grove was officially opened and the media and VIP’s were given the opportunity to try out the new rides and attractions, lunch was served. We were given a tasty sampling of the new Till & Harvest restaurant that features burritos, salads and more.
As we were guest of Dolly on Friday, she had another very special guest and surprise for us all. After lunch, Dolly walked around Wildwood Grove with Jenna Bush – daughter of the 43rd U.S. President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush – to give her a personal account of the new area and then be interviewed for The Today Show.
Since this new area is so huge, we can’t fit everything we want to tell you into just one article. So make sure you come back next week as we give you an in-depth review of each of the new attractions and landscape of Dollywood’s newest land, Wildwood Grove!