Dollywood's DreamMore project proceeding as planned
A diverse group of individuals was on hand Friday morning at the DreamMore Resort site in Pigeon Forge.
Dolly Parton and Dollywood Company President Craig Ross were present to give some details of the building process of the 230,000-square-foot resort, while Dollywood Chaplain Joey Buck and Cherokee Nation Elder Jerry Wolfe blessed the land where the facility — which is billed as creating 2,500 jobs — will sit.
"Back in August, we told the world that Dollywood was investing $300 million over the course of the next 10 years, to take a huge leap into the future," Ross said. "Our desire is to build a place where families can get away and make more time familytime.
"During our research for this project, families told us they were finding it more difficult these days to spend quality time with their kids … whether it's time together or communicating face-to-face, families told us they were looking for opportunities to do that," the company president continued.
"So, with the opening of FireCoaster Express family coaster just a few weeks ago, and now this resort hotel that you see under construction here next to us, we believe that we're doing just that. We're very excited about the future of Dollywood and the future for this market."
Parton announced that some of her personal items will be displayed at the resort.
The items for Parton's Dream Box display will include a copy of her 2012 book "Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You," which expands on the 2009 commencement speech she gave at the Unviersity of Tennessee; a piece of wood from the porch of her Tennessee mountain home; and a sealed chestnut mystery box, to honor her uncle, Bill Owens. The box, which holds unknown contents, will remain sealed until 2045, when Parton would be 98 years old.
"I'm going to write a song that's never going to be heard until then, and I'm going to put that song for the future in (the box)," Parton said of the time capsule-like container.
The song, she said, "shares her hopes and dreams for the future."
Parton said the resort, the shell of which is already under construction, has been in her plans for some time.
"This has been … a dream of mine for the last 30 years — (and) of course it'll be our 30th anniversary when we get to open the resort, which is really a wonderful way to celebrate. I've been dreaming about this resort since the very day we actually opened Dollywood."
After Parton and Ross spoke on the details of the resort and Parton's Dream Box display, the spiritual leaders blessed the ground where the resort is being built.
Buck offered a traditional Christian blessing, while Wolfe offered blessings from both Christian and traditional Cherokee tradition, including the Lord's Prayer in both languages.
Wolfe performed a "smudging" of the area, which he said is believed by Cherokee to ward off evil spirits.
Following the ceremony, The Mountain Press interviewed Dollywood PR manager Trish McGee about further detail of the resort's plans.
While the first jobs of the 2,500 proposed to be created are for subcontractors in the construction of the facility, the company will begin seeking employees for permanent jobs next year when its opening is eminent, McGee said.
"As we get closer to the summer, we'll begin to (hire) new employees, who will go through our Dollywood training process," McGee said. "We're looking more into 2015 before we start recruiting people. We need the building in place, what it looks like, the functional needs of the building, before we can fill those positions."
McGee said the number of future hires is still unknown, as the park is unaccustomed to running a full-time, year-round resort.
"This is totally new to us," she said. "It's a learning experience, but it's one that we're enjoying, and we're learning."
Progress on the resort is on time, McGee said, thanks especially to mostly cooperative weather since the groundbreaking. DreamMore is set to open in the summer of 2015.