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Sevier County hosts Dolly Day
By Michael Williams

dolly parton
Dolly jokes with a character named Francis moments before throwing the switch to open, River Rush, the first water coaster in Tennessee.

Friday was a big day for Sevier County’s favorite daughter, Dolly Parton who opened a new ride at her popular Splash Country water park and rode in the Homecoming Parade honoring her along the parkway.

The festivities began with members of the media and a handful of VIP guests at Splash Country, Parton’s. The reigning queen of country music was on hand to open River Rush, Tennessee’s first and only water roller coaster.

The $6 million attraction was christened opened when Dolly, joined by a character named Francis, threw the main switch which put the first boat in motion. The first riders, the Key family of Pigeon Forge, rode the boat to the top of a hill and quickly made their way through a maze of winding tunnels over hills and around bends powered by hydromagnetic technology and linear induction motors. The new roller coaster extends 1,176 feet at a maximum height of 237 feet. River Rush spans nearly an acre.

Parton declined to ride the water coaster. “I'd mess up my makeup, and I'd lose my hair and my pride," she joked.

Parton was asked about the economic impact her business ventures have had on the community. She responded that more than 3,000 jobs have been created between the Dixie Stampede, Dollywood and Splash Country.

Following the opening of the ride, Parton went across the road to Dollywood, the popular theme park that bears her name, for the opening of a new show starring her brother and sister. Throughout the season Randy Parton and Cassie Parton will perform regularly at the new show. The show was written by Dolly.

Later in the afternoon, Dolly was the grand marshal of the Dolly Homecoming Parade along the parkway. Thousands of fans cheered as Parton rode along on a float that bears the name of her new water coaster, River Rush. Dolly waved to excited fans as she rode along followed by more than 100 floats from area shows and attractions including the Dixie Stampede, the Great Smoky Mountain Lumberjack Feud, Smith Family Theater, the Grand Majestic Theater, the Wonders of Magic and many others.

Published May 13, 2013

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