Dolly stands by her mountain folks

Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton

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Dolly Parton’s ‘My People Fund’ has taken off big time in her personal initiative to help her “ain folks” badly affected by the wildfires that ravaged a large part of the Great Smoky Mountain Park in East Tennessee at the end of last month.

Four people were killed and some injured in the fires which lasted several days in the beautiful and heavily forested national park.

Families in Sevier County, where the Parton clan grew up and which includes the highly popular tourist towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, lost their homes. The fund, headed up by Dolly, provides 1,000 dollars each month for up to six months to any family whose property was destroyed.

Dolly, who feels it is her duty to stand alongside her neighbours, confirmed: “I’ve always believed charity begins at home and for me my Tennessee Mountain home is some place special.

“That’s why I’ve asked my Dollywood companies, including the Dollywood theme park at Pigeon Forge, and the adjoining Dream More Resort; my dinner theatre attractions including the Dixie Stampede and Lumberjack Adventure; and my Dollywood Foundation, to help me establish the ‘My People Fund’.”

The Dolly appeal is expected to net millions of dollars and the 70-year-old will boost the fund by organising a live charity bash in Nashville next Tuesday. She will also take part in a special Smoky Mountain Wildfires Telethon at Dollywood next Friday.

The charity event will also feature performances from Nashville stars Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, and Brad Paisley.

Dolly and her Dollywood theme park partners were forced to shut down the tourist attraction last week as the fires threatened the area. The park re-opened for business last Friday.

“We want to provide a hand up to those families who have lost everything in the fires. I know it has been a trying time for my people and this assistance will help get them back on their feet.”

The Great Smoky National Park is one of the most treasured, highly picturesque parts of the southern Appalachian region. I passed through the Park several times in the past two years, as part of my regular visits to East Tennessee, and I again found the region an enchanting microcosm of back country, rural American life. In the Summer and the Fall, it can be ‘heaven’ in the Smokies.

Many of the folks there can trace their roots back to the hardy Scots-Irish migrants who moved to East Tennessee in the late 18th and early 19th century and the music they play is traditional country, mountain-style and Bluegrass.

The Smokies are embedded in Dolly’s DNA and her multimillion Dollywood theme park and adjoining attractions inject a huge amount of money into the local economy, providing hundreds of jobs and establishing a mecca for tourists from around the world.

* Husband and wife GARTH BROOKS and TRISHA YEARWOOD have joined in a classic ‘Christmas Together’ album which should be a best-seller this seasonal time.

It is the pair’s first duets album, covering 28 minutes of Christmas nostalgia.

Selections include the jazz standard I’m Beginning to See the Light, Santa Baby, Marshmallow Christmas and Dolly Parton’s Hard Candy Christmas. The 11-track collection closes with their original What I’m Thankful For (The Thanksgiving Song) featuring James Taylor, who joined Garth and Trisha at the White House Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Washington.