Tell me about the day when you became a fan of Dolly…And why is Dolly special for you?
I’ve always been a Dolly fan. Being that Dollywood is just a four hour drive from my home, I spent many family vacations there as a kid. I took my first trip to the park when I was just 2 years old. So I can’t remember a time when Dolly wasn’t in my life. June of 2003 was the first time I got to see her in person at the park. Up until that time, I knew a few of her songs and movies but I didn’t make an effort to grab every piece of Dolly merchandise as possible. I didn’t know she was going to be at the park during the June 2003 visit until a few days beforehand. My usual family vacation was scheduled to begin the day after she was to appear there. After getting the news she was coming, we decided to leave a day early to see her. My parents visited the park long before it became Dollywood. It was called Silver Dollar City before Dolly bought into it. They had never seen her there either so we made certain to leave a day early to see the woman that had help bring so much fun into our lives each summer. After my first time seeing her at Dollywood on that June 2003 day, I was hooked. I was an instant mega fan. I got to see her make a special appearance at the Purina Dog Chow show the park was having for their Kidsfest festival at that time. She was so energetic and larger than life for the two or three minutes I got to see her. From that point forward, I’ve made every effort to be at the park when she’s there too. In 2005, I was in the audience when she gave away a 20 year pass to the park to everyone inside Celebrity Theatre that showed up to help her celebrate the park’s 20th anniversary.
Dolly is special to me because she help to bring a lot of fun and laughter in my family’s life through Dollywood over the years. I think she has a song for every situation. I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs in my life. When I’m down, I can always play a few of her songs and I suddenly feel a lot better. When I’m up, I can play a few of her songs and feel even better! She has given so much to her community, numerous charity efforts, etcetera.. I think the world could learn a lot from this special lady.
Tell me about the day you met Dolly…
I’ve had the honor of meeting Dolly one time at Dollywood in April of 2007. I still dream of meeting her again and again! At that time, the park was set to open a brand new rollercoaster called Mystery Mine. They decided to auction off the first official rides on eBay and it also included a meet and greet with Dolly just before riding it. I was about to graduate high school so my graduation present from my parents was one of the first official rides and the meet and greet. I was so nervous in the days leading up to the big moment. I had been driving myself to school each morning but I started making my Dad drive me because I feared wrecking and getting hurt before my meet and greet! HA! I thought about everything I wanted to tell her. It did no good because once we were face to face, I forgot everything! I remember checking in at Dollywood and being led up to the new ride. They lined us all up down the exit stairs and suddenly I could hear Dolly’s voice at the load platform of the new ride. After she addressed the media a few minutes, I heard her say “well it’s time for our first rides. Let’s bring up our eBay winners!” My heart nearly stopped. It was time to meet my hero. I was #12 in line so it didn’t take long for me to make it up to the platform. I approached her as she turned around to greet me. “Well hello Ms. Dolly!” I said. She gave a big smile and said “Well hey there!” as we shook hands. I remember saying “oh I just love you” and she said “awwww.” The photographer took our picture and then I stepped over to get on the new rollercoaster. After the ride, we arrived back in the station where she was still meeting with all the eBay winners. She finished up and then we were back at the front where they could release the rollercoaster restraints so we could exit the ride. Just as we were exiting, she began walking down the stairs to leave. Those of us that just got off the rollercoaster ran over to see her one more time before she left. All I could do was reach my hand out for a hand shake. I was so star struck. She reached for me and shook my hand. She looked me right in the eye and said “Oh you’re precious.” Gave a smile and a wink, then proceeded to walk down the stairs to exit. About six weeks later, the picture we took together arrived in the mail and she autographed it. I took the picture to school to share with all my classmates just a few days before graduating.
If you had the possibility to go out with Dolly, what would you do?
I would want to go somewhere for a nice dinner and talk awhile. I don’t know why because I wouldn’t be able to eat! HA! I’d want to tell her how much of an impact she’s had on my life. I’d like to walk around Dollywood with her one time as well.
Do you have any more goals to make about your dreams?
I feel like I’ve achieved my ultimate goal already by getting my opportunity to meet her. I guess my new goal is to meet her again! HA! I would like at least one more opportunity to meet her. I want to be able to tell her how much we love her, thank her for the 20 year pass to Dollywood, and let her know that I’m the guy that always gives her a teddy bear every time she has a parade through the park! HA!
By: Diana Falheim