Dolly Parton came to the aid of Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and greater Sevier County, Tennessee residents after a wildfire claimed over 1000 homes in those Tennessee mountain towns. Dolly immediately pledged to help, promising each family who lost their primary residence $1000 a month, through her Dollywood Foundation.
Still, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg Tennesee residents are struggling in the midst of winter with higher than normal rents. Income is lower in the winter for almost all Sevier County residents in their tourism-dependent economy. Dolly Parton’s generosity is helping them stay alive at least.
Gatlinburg Tennessee, Pigeon Forge, Dollywood and the Surrounding Sevier County won’t see a lot of tourist dollars until spring, although of course visitors are welcome anytime. Most of Sevier County residents depend on tourism in one way or another, yet tourism is down 10 – 15 percent from last year’s offseason.
Dolly Parton said in an e-mail interview with The Tennessean, it was very fortunate that nearly all of the downtown tourist attractions in both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge survived. Even though homes were lost, at least the people still have jobs. Dolly Parton said it was a real “blessing.” Dollywood also survived the fire.
“It is a blessing that the business districts in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge were untouched, but there are more than a thousand families who lost their homes. The places you know and love about the mountains and come to visit are open and operating and helping with the recovery, but those families who lost everything need our help and our prayers to get through.”
Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park was completely undamaged by the fire,but it is currently closed for winter. Many other Pigeon Forge Tennessee attractions are open, though.
Dolly Parton’s Dollywood in Pigeon Forge will be opening again for the spring on March 18. Nearby Gatlinburg is also developing new tourist attractions including a new $47 million mountaintop tourist facility. Anakeesta Village will offer a choice of chairlift or gondola style access. See the video for details.
In addition to the old Gatlinburg Tennessee attractions, and Dolly Parton’s Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, this new Anakeesta project is being built during the winter months, according to The Knoxville News Sentinel. A new 70-acre attraction should be open by June and will create about 130 new jobs.
In Gatlinburg Tennessee, the mountaintop Anakeesta Village project will be accessible from downtown near the Ripley’s Aquarium by way of a half mile “Chondola” ride. By July, Anakeesta will feature the first American single rail “mountain coaster.” There will be shops, rides, and child-friendly activities at Anakeesta Village.
Dolly Parton and her people are hanging tough and waiting for spring in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg after wildfires ravaged Sevier County. Parton is still receiving donations through the Dollywood Foundation.
Dolly Parton has raised most of the funds to cover six months for the “My People” fund through The Dollywood Foundation. Dollywood has been able to provide the $1000 a month checks, but more is needed. Dolly Parton invited the public to visit Gatlinburg as a way to help her people who are devastated by the fire.
“It is important that people remember other than donating, the best way to help the people in Sevier County is to visit. Tourism is what Sevier County is all about and we need you to visit to make that work.”
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Tennessee’s tourism is suffering after the fire. People saw the fire videos and think the entire place it gutted, but the cities survived. There is still plenty to see and do in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Dollywood is opening in March, and Anakeesta will open in June. All of Ripley’s attractions, including the Ripley’s Aquarium, are now open for business.
Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Foundation checks are keeping most residents afloat, along with church donations and the often short time wages they are making. Higher rents for available apartments and homes are making it difficult, though. The Knoxville News Sentinel tells the story of a Gatlinburg family earning $350 a week and often less in winter. The only available cabin they could find was $1500 a month.
While Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Foundation contributions are helping mountain families survive and deal with higher rents, they are not the only assistance available. Knoxville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg Churches are helping all they can, but supplies are dwindling, leaving those trying to assist hard-pressed.
Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge Tennessee Churches could also use donations. Those Churches are offering food, clothing, and furniture to struggling Sevier County families. including Hispanic immigrants as well as Tennessee Mountain natives.
Dolly Parton’s Dollywood Foundation is helping all Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee residents. Parton is helping both renters and former homeowners who lost their primary place of residence.
Dolly Parton is confident that Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevier County, Tennessee will “endure” with the help of The Dollywood Foundation.
“Mountain people are tough. If you look back and see what they had to do to settle this area, you know they are tough. We have always relied on one another and God to bring us through and with the help of the My People Fund, we will endure.”
Dolly Parton grew up in Sevier County near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. In those days, Sevier County was an impoverished area, and Dolly Parton’s family was perhaps poorer than most. Dolly Parton developed the Dollywood theme park and foundation to help poor mountain families. Dolly grew up with economic hardship and sang at first out of necessity to help her family.
Dolly Parton knows what hardship is. Dolly has suffered through tough mountain winters, blizzards, and slim budgets. It was because of her own experiences that she created The Dollywood Foundation.
Parton had never encountered a fire like the one that took over 1000 homes in Gatlinburg. Even with the extremely dry weather, it was not mother nature that caused that fire, it was arson by two teenaged boys.
Gatlinburg Tennessee, Pigeon Forge, and Sevier County were nearly decimated by a deliberately set fire during record-breaking dry conditions. It was a perfect storm type scenario that is unequaled in Sevier County’s long history. No details of the arson are available due to a “gag order” according to The Knoxville News Sentinal, as the culprits are aged 15 and 17.
Sevier County natives will not give up, and eventually, they will recover. Their spirit is palpable in this place. Today, a banner flies from atop the Gatlinburg Space Needle declaring “Gatlinburg Strong.” There are hundreds of attractions, restaurants, and hotels currently operating in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Dolly Parton has been giving out the promised Dollywood Foundation checks, and there has been a generous outpouring of help, but it’s still tough on families. The cameras and media left after the fire finally went out, but Dolly Parton is still helping and taking donations for her mountain people.
RELATED REPORTS FROM THE INQUISITR
Pigeon Forge, Dollywood, and Gatlinburg, Tennessee are lovely places to visit and located only about a half dozen miles apart. The people are friendly, and there are plenty of things to do there. Visiting Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge helps the fire victims, and it’s a great place to visit.
Gatlinburg Tennessee is also the perfect setting for weddings, and there is no waiting, just like in Vegas. There are still beautiful wedding chapels and plenty of venues for parties in Gatlinburg despite the fire that seemed at the time to be consuming everything.
Dolly Parton urges families to vacation in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and to visit Dollywood in Sevier County this summer.
[Featured Image by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP Images]