SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. - Tennessee legend Dolly Parton makes a pilgrimage back to her hometown in the Smokies. The legendary singer, business woman, actress, and philanthropist grew up in Sevier County.
Getting back to her roots is nothing new for Dolly Parton. Even after 27 years of East Tennessee homecomings, Dolly told News 5, it never gets old.
"I just love the people. I just love the mountains. I love how it feels up here," said Parton told News 5 on Friday. "I love how I feel when I'm up here. It's just home. Hey, welcome back!"
Each year she celebrates something new at Dollywood, like the Wild Eagle ride this year, but it is something older she is really proud of; her Imagination Library.
The program grants free books to children here and across the world. It?s one of Dolly's deepest passions. She told us it all started in 1996 to honor her father.
"My dad couldn't read or write, but he was a brilliant man. He just knows how to trade, he knows how to think, and I got a lot of my business sense from my dad, but I always thought if he could've had an education [there?s] no telling what all he could've done," Parton said.
This year, she has new help. Former Prisoner of War Jessica Lynch isn't just West Virginia's Imagination Library ambassador; she's a testimony Dolly's reading program.
"My daughter was raised on the books and she was in the program," said Lynch. "Every time she gets a book in the mail, we'd rip it open, and we'd have to look at it, and we sit down and read," said Lynch.
Lynch will join forces with Dolly to encourage all kids to begin with books.
"We've given away 41 million books now, [that's] like 700 hours and books a year that we send out, and so it's growing, and it's great knowing we're putting that many books in the hands of that many kids," added Parton.
Just like the Imagination Library, Dollywood continues to grow. This year, the Wild Eagle takes flight and more plans could be on the way.
"We got a lot more property to build on. We try to brainstorm every year to see what we're going to come up with next," said Parton. "We spent a lot of money on this ride so we may kinda keep everything up to date and stop a year or so," she laughed.
But she's not stopping in Nashville. Dolly told us, she's working on a name for her new park with Opryland.
As for her career as an artist, well that's never complete. She's told us, she's working on writing her life story and hoping to turn it into a movie and a musical.
It's a lot of hard work, but that nothing this homegrown star has ever been afraid of.
"I'm never gonna kick back. I'm gonna kick butt the rest of my life," Parton laughed.