Dollywood is my favorite park in the United States without question. Sure, it’s got great roller coasters and fantastic food (you haven’t lived until you’ve tried the cinnamon bread). Personally what I love about Dollywood is the authenticity.
Dollywood is located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee: smack dab in the middle of the Great Smokey Mountains. The park features a real church (with real church services), a real blacksmith (where you can buy what is made in front of you) and a real steam train that will most likely put a real cinder in your eye when you ride it.
If you’ve ever ridden the Klondike Katie, you’ll know what I mean, the coal-fired engine sends tiny pieces of coal flying in the air and I’ve managed to get some in my eye every single time I’ve ridden it (it’s harmless). However, my favorite thing about Dollywood and it’s the reason I keep coming back year after year: they have a live music show starring Dolly Parton’s real family and it never disappoints.
Different versions of this show have been playing for decades at Dollywood now. To say that the Parton’s are a musical family is an understatement. The show has always starred various members of Dolly’s family from her Grandfather to her Uncles, and Cousins. She comes from a huge family and giving them a chance to perform at Dollywood. I’ve always thought it a really cool way to not only showcase Dolly’s songs, but also country and gospel music as well.
The show I started going to several years ago was called “My People, My Music” which starred even more of Dolly’s family Most notably, Dolly’s brother Randy Parton and his daughter Heidi Lou Parton. It was a 40-minute musical extravaganza featuring songs not only from Dolly Parton, but favorites from the family as well. During some of my visits, I’d see this show two or three times if I could.
As fate would have it, Randy Parton passed away on January 21, 2021, less than 2 months away from Dollywood’s opening day for the 2021 season. After his passing, Dollywood put out the following statement: “Randy was a creative force and a good friend,” Paige Bales, Director of Dollywood Entertainment said. “He has left a lasting legacy at Dollywood with his talent, his creativity and his leadership. We will all miss him but heaven has gained another star.”
Randy was quite a showman and a highlight of Dollywood every time I visited. Heidi Lou was also a powerhouse singer every time I saw her. Would the show continue in 2021 without Randy and would Heidi Lou be a part of it? Will they acknowledge Randy’s passing in the show as fans have seen him perform in Dollywood for years?
With Dollywood being the leader in authenticity, those questions were all answered with a resounding: yes indeed! “Harmonies Of The Heart” follows the traditions of the previous “Kinfolk” shows with Dolly’s family members taking center stage. It features Dolly’s cousin Shelly, Barry J (a friend of the family) and her nieces Jada Star and Heidi Lou!
These four song birds harmonize for a 30-minute show that is full of country and gospel music that can stand up to any live show inside or outside of a theme park. You’ll hear some of Dolly’s classics, a few gospel tunes and even some originals from the family as well.
What makes the show for me? That authenticity I mentioned earlier. These are real people that are truly family that have performed at Dollywood for decades. Several of them have passed on since the park opened including Randy Parton whom I mentioned earlier. Barry J pays tribute to these family members during the show in a moving Memoriam piece that is emotional for the cast and the audience.
I’ve said it a million times before: if you go to Dollywood and only go on the rides, you’ve never been to Dollywood. Nothing is more authentically Dolly Parton than live performances and music. The live entertainment is where it’s at and the “Kinfolk” shows are the heartbeat of Dollywood. “Harmonies of the Heart” is a can’t miss and you’ll make it your tradition for years to come.
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