The Sevierville Chamber of Commerce is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the unveiling of the Dolly Parton Statue. Created by artist Jim Gray, the statue is located on the Sevier County Courthouse lawn in historic downtown Sevierville. The exhibit, 30: Celebrating Dolly in Bronze, will be on display from March 15, 2017, until the end of December at the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center.
The centerpiece is a bronze study for the statue measuring 23”h x 18”w x16”d. The remainder of the collection includes a 10-inch tall wax-over-metal maquette of the statue made by Gray to use as a proposal, the autographed stool on which Parton posed for the statue, as well as several other items used by the artist to create the monument. There are also banners depicting the process used to create the statue and interactive, fun displays.
These priceless artifacts are on loan from the East Tennessee History Center with the permission of the Gray family.
The finished statue is six and a half feet tall, plus the base. After positing the rock, Gray did a plaster cast of the top, so the statue would fit properly. Once the skeleton was made of steel, he used 300 pounds of clay. The work was done in Gray’s south Knoxville studio, then moved to Wagner Foundry in Fredericksburg, Virginia where the bronze was actually poured.
On Sunday May 3, 1987, Dolly Parton came back to her hometown to participate in the event in which the impressive statue was unveiled. An estimated 500 people crowded closed-off Court Avenue in front of the courthouse for the ceremony.
Her remarks were brief, with her acknowledging the attendance of her farther, Lee Parton, and several other members of her family as well as legendary Knoxville grocer Cas Walker. “Cas you told ‘em I’d be a star,” Parton said. “And I couldn’t let you down.”
Parton joked about the possibility of her statue falling prey to courthouse traditions. “Now, I don’t want any of you men down here on Saturday afternoon spitting tobacco juice on my legs,” she said. “But no matter what it looks like maybe it will keep the pigeons off the roof.” The international star then turned sentimental saying, “It makes me feel like you folks are proud of me, and I’ve always wanted you to be.”
Jim Gray also spoke saying he had received more offers for help on this project than any he had ever undertaken. “Everyone wanted to help…carry clay, or anything,” Gray said with a chuckle. “But I wanted to do this one by myself.” He said more than 2,000 hours went into the project.
In the past 30 years, millions of visitors from all over the world have made the pilgrimage to the Sevier County Courthouse to see the famous statue. The statue was awarded a 2015 Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor, an award which is based on the quality of reviews and opinions earned on TripAdvisor in the past year.
The exhibit is open daily from 9-5 at the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center located at 3099 Winfield Dunn Parkway, Kodak, Tennessee. For more information call 1-888-738-4378.