Country icon Dolly Parton’s Dollywood just got even more magical with the announcement of the I Will Always Love You Celebration, a limited-time festive event that will celebrate the Grand Ole Opry member’s impressive songwriting on the 50th anniversary of her monumental hit, “I Will Always Love You.”
Set to begin on March 11 and run through April 8, the event will kick off Dollywood’s 2023 operating season.
Penned by Dolly and originally recorded in 1973, the chart-topping single shares a powerful story, demonstrating the great impact one song can have on the world. The song acted as a farewell to Porter Wagoner, the singer’s business partner and mentor, as Parton made the decision to pursue her solo career.
“I Will Always Love You” was a game-changer for Parton, earning the top spot on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs twice: once in June 1974 and again in October 1982. Whitney Houston’s take on the song took the track to the next level, securing Houston the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks, breaking the record at the time.
“I was trying to get away on my own because I had promised to stay with Porter’s show for five years [and] had been there for seven … I thought, ‘He’s never going to listen. He’s just going to bitch every day that I go in to talk about this,” shared Dolly in an interview with CMT in 2011 of the track. “So I thought, ‘Well, why don’t you do what you do best? Why don’t you just write this song?’ Because I knew at that time I was going to go, no matter what. So I went home and out of a very emotional place in me at that time, I wrote the song, ‘I Will Always Love You.’”
She continued, “It’s saying, ‘Just because I’m going don’t mean I won’t love you. I appreciate you and I hope you do great and I appreciate everything you’ve done, but I’m out of here. [That’s] basically what I was saying. And I took it in the next morning. I said, ‘Sit down, Porter. I’ve written this song, and I want you to hear it.’ So I did sing it. And he was crying. He said, ‘That’s the prettiest song I ever heard. And you can go, providing I get to produce that record.’ And he did, and the rest is history.”
To celebrate the strength of songwriting and storytelling, attendees of the I Will Always Love You Celebration will can experience a unique lineup of performances every Saturday during the weeks-long celebration in Dolly Parton’s Celebrity Theater. The Celebrity Concert Series will feature performances from Natalie Grant (March 11), Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder (March 18), Jo Dee Messina (March 25), Larry, Steve & Rudy: The Gatlin Brothers (April 1) and Lauren Alaina (April 8). Each concert is included with park admission.
The fun doesn’t end there — guests will also have the opportunity to hear from some of the industry’s biggest songwriters during the Showstreet Songwriting Showcase. Songwriters in the showcase include Dana Black, the writer behind “Check Yes or No” by George Strait and “Write this Down,” Billy Montana, the writer on Sara Evans’ “Suds in the Bucket,” Steve Dean, who wrote Reba McEntire’s “Walk On” and many more. Multiple writers will be featured during each showcase.
Dazzling décor will adorn Showstreet and Rivertown, making the experience even more special for guests as they move through the themed areas. A glittering display of pink sequence will shimmer above guests on Showstreet, creating a sparkling experience. Dollywood’s culinary team will also offer special decadent treats for the celebration.
For more information on the limited, one-time only I Will Always Love You Celebration, visit dollywood.com.