Dolly Parton
Knoxvile News Sentinel
May 18, 2007
Performing at home has Dolly Parton a little nervous
By Terry Morrow

When Dolly Parton steps onstage Sunday night to raise money for a new medical center in her native Sevier County, she'll be a bit nervous.

It's not like she hasn't performed for the home crowd before. She's done dozens of shows over the years, mainly to raise money for educational projects in her native area.

But no matter what the cause, she says playing for the home folks is a different experience altogether.

"When you perform for friends and family, you are a lot more nervous than when you just do a concert," Parton wrote in an e-mail interview with the News Sentinel. "Naturally you always want to do great, but it's just more important what (the locals) think of you."

Parton's show at Smokies Park on Sunday is a major push to raise money for a new Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center facility. The center will be built on 74 acres at the site of the former Cherokee Textile plant, across the street from the current hospital.

The entire building project - including a cancer center - is estimated to cost $100 million and be complete by fall 2009, said Amanda Brabson, spokeswoman for the hospital.

Brabson said the concert probably will raise around $500,000. The heftier tickets - going for $150 and $75 - were gone, but some $33 tickets were still available.

Parton made a commitment in late 2006 to help the project. Dollywood, her Pigeon Forge theme park, and Dixie Stampede, a Pigeon Forge attraction with which she is affiliated, have donated $500,000.

Parton's die-hard fans are coming from across the country to see her performance. Brabson said her office has been fielding calls from fans who are curious to find out what kind of public appearances Parton will be making Sunday and Monday, when she is in town.

"Dolly's fans are a hoot," Brabson said.

Though Parton was mum on details of the show, Brabson said it will be "90 minutes of Dolly," refuting rumors that the renowned entertainer would bring some of her Hollywood buddies along for added star power.

This is the first time in more than a decade that Parton has performed to benefit the Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation, the fundraising group for Sevier Medical Center.

The group is named for the late horseback-riding physician and minister who delivered dozens of babies around Sevier County, including Parton. It's hard to imagine now with her flash and glossy style, but Parton's first moments in this world were humble.

Ava Lee Parton gave birth to her daughter, Dolly Rebecca, at home, as was customary 60 and 70 years ago in the backwoods of Sevier County. Thomas arrived at the Partons' modest home riding a horse.

Undoubtedly, the doctor had no idea the baby would one day grow up to honor his name. Parton was named the foundation's honorary chairperson in 1990.

"Dr. Thomas was an unselfish and caring man," Parton wrote when asked about her impressions of him.

"He never worried about getting paid. He just took care of everyone."

For a young Parton, Thomas was one of the most educated men she had ever met, and his ability to help make sick people feel better was almost "magical" for her.

"He was sort of a hero because he could make them feel better," she wrote. "It was like he had magical powers. I wonder when he spanked my butt if he could tell I was going to be a singer."

Parton wrote that her involvement in the fundraising is not as much about community service as it is "loving and caring" about where she came from.

"I've had a lot of my folks in Sevier County hospital," she wrote.

"Just knowing that I can help get a better (medical center built), not only to take care of the sick, but to help prevent sickness, seems like a noble thing to get involved with."