Each year, millions of vacationers flock to the Sevier County Courthouse in Sevierville, TN to take advantage of the area’s most iconic photo-op. In front of the courthouse, visitors can snap a selfie with a bronze statue of country superstar Dolly Parton, the patron saint of the Smoky Mountains.
This famous statue is Sevier County’s way of saying thank you to their favorite daughter for her incredible generosity and relentless promotion of tourism in the Smokies. To help you prepare for your next getaway in the Smoky Mountains, Timber Tops Cabin Rentals has put together a brief history of the Dolly Parton statue in Sevierville.
Dolly Parton: Hometown Hero
Before we delve into the story of the statue, it’s worth remembering what made Dolly Parton statue-worthy in the first place! Dolly Rebecca Parton was born on January 19, 1946 in a one-room cabin on the banks of the Little Pigeon River in Sevier County. The fourth of 12 children, Dolly grew up in a family that struggled financially but always had plenty of love to go around. Dolly showed musical ability from a young age and moved to Nashville the day after graduating high school in order to pursue her career.
Dolly eventually became one of the biggest stars on the planet, an icon of both country and pop music. Despite her tremendous success, Dolly never forgot where she came from. In 1986, Parton opened the Dollywood theme park in the Smoky Mountains, which is now the largest employer in Sevier County and the #1 ticketed attraction in Tennessee.
The Creation of the Statue
Soon after Dollywood was launched, the people of Sevier County started raising money for a statue of Dolly to display in downtown Sevierville. Local artist Jim Gray was chosen to create the statue, having submitted a 10-inch wax-over-metal maquette of the statue as a proposal.
Once Gray’s concept was approved, Dolly came down to pose for the statue, sitting on a stool, barefoot, with her arms wrapped around a guitar. Next, Gray built a skeleton of Dolly from steel and brought her to life with 300 pounds of clay. In order to make sure that the statue would be able to sit comfortably on top of the rock outside the courthouse, Gray created a plaster cast of the top of the boulder. Finally, the statue was sent from Gray’s studio in Knoxville, TN to the Wagner Foundry in Fredericksburg, VA, where it was cast in bronze. Jim Gray spent over 2,000 hours creating the Dolly Parton statue in Sevierville.
The Unveiling of the Statue
The statue was officially unveiled on May 3, 1987, exactly one year after Dollywood’s very first opening day. The ceremony was attended by Dolly, her father Lee, the famous Knoxville grocer Cas Walker, and a crowd of around 500 spectators. Speaking at the event, Dolly told the people of Sevierville that the statue “makes me feel like you folks are proud of me, and I’ve always wanted you to be.”
Jim Gray also spoke at the ceremony, telling the crowd that he had received more offers for help on creating the statue than any other project he had worked on. Gray recalled, “Everyone wanted to help…carry clay, or anything. But I wanted to do this one myself.”
What the Statue Means to Dolly and Her Family
The Dolly Parton statue meant a great deal to Dolly’s late father, Lee Parton. In an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Parton told a heartwarming story about her father’s devotion to 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.”
Visiting the Dolly Parton Statue in Sevierville
If you want to see the Dolly Parton statue for yourself during your getaway, head on over to the Sevier County Courthouse at 125 Court Avenue in Sevierville, TN. The statue is situated outside of the courthouse and is an extremely popular spot for taking vacation photos.
Want to learn more about Dolly? Check out these fun facts about Dolly Parton!
Where to Stay Near Sevierville
When you stay with Timber Tops Cabin Rentals, you will be near all of the best attractions, restaurants, and shops in the Smoky Mountains. With everything from 1 bedroom cabins to 15 bedroom lodges, we are sure to have the perfect property for your escape. To start planning your vacation, browse our selection of cabin rentals in the Smoky Mountains!