For the upcoming 75th anniversary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, officials wanted to bring national attention to the area's pristine forests, diverse wildlife, high mountains, and deep history. So they've decided to choose an ambassador who practically radiates authenticity and the natural world: Dolly Parton.
OK, to be fair, country icon Dolly Parton grew up just outside the Smokies in Sevier County, Tenn., and several of her best-known songs feature Smoky-centric themes, like "My Blue Ridge Mountain Boy," "Mule Skinner Blues," 'My Tennessee Mountain Home," and "Tennessee Homesick Blues." Her massive theme park Dollywood isn't far from the borders of the park. either.
“The Smokies are part of my DNA,” she said. “I have always been an 'Ambassador,' but I am particularly honored to become 'official' for this special 75th Anniversary.”
Parton will lend her name and image to a several park events during the 75th anniversary of the park, but beyond endorsing the park, she'll actually record an entire album as a tribute to the Smokies and donate the rights to the park. The album, "Sha-Kon-O-Hey," is a phonetic spelling of the Cherokee word “Shaconage”, which means “Land of the Blue Smoke.”
Next year's anniversary edition of Smokies Life magazine will feature this personal message from Parton:
"The Smoky Mountains have inspired me and my music since I was a little girl. They touch my soul and lift my spirits. Let’s celebrate America’s most popular national park, but most especially, join me in making sure its magnificent beauty thrives for generations to come.”
Well, yeehaw to that. We can only hope more musicians endorse their hometown national parks—we could see the Foo Fighters endorsing Shenandoah, Gloria Estefan for the Everglades, and Queens of the Stone Age for Joshua Tree. I predict a rough-and-tough battle between Rainier and Olympic to to see who nabs Pearl Jam, though.
— Ted Alvarez