Abingdon, Va. - Since 1996, more than 40 million books have been put into the hands of pre-school children from Dolly Parton's idea of an Imagination Library, which is now available in three countries.
One perk of being a local organization affiliated with the program is getting a visit from some of the actors and characters from Dollywood's Imagination Playhouse. Otis the Tractor and friends brought the Loren Long story to life for a group of children at the Washington County, Virginia library.
It is a story of friendship and loyalty between a loveable farm tractor and a little calf on the farm where they both live.
The performance is in support of Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. Washington County and Bristol are partners.
As many as 1,600 books are mailed each month to children from birth to age five absolutely free. And last year, there was a special delivery from the Imagination Library. "We had a ton of books, ton of fun event that we on to give away some free books that we received that was in August or September. We distributed books for the tornado victims in Glade," Gina Nittag, local president said.
It's that special connection that books and imagination have with children that seems to make the actors operating their puppets disappear as they perform. "That's a huge compliment you know to get that. They watch the puppet, the character, we just fade into black that's why we wear black so we just fade into the darkness," actor Adam Hartsock said.
These performances are part of a bigger show going on this summer at Dollywood, shows all geared towards kids and reading.
"During the Summer this goes to the park and it fleshed out, there's more actors added to it and there's two more, Lady Bug Girl and The Bug Squad and The Little Engine That Could those three including Otis. They do those at the park from June to August during Kids Fest," actor Jordyn Linkous said.
Even though the Imagination Library idea came from Dolly Parton, the funding for each affiliate is 100 percent local. For Washington county and Bristol, that's $3,000 to $3,500 a month.