Celebrating 50 Years of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” Festival

Love is central to everything that happens at Dollywood; the iconic theme park is, after all, Dolly Parton’s ultimate labor of love. The same can be said of Dolly’s amazing music. It never fails to reveal her deep-seated passion and her loving heart. Dolly’s ode to country music and the Smoky Mountains will be front and center at the I Will Always Love You festival. It will pay homage to one of Dolly’s most memorable songs. This is an exciting opportunity for hardcore enthusiasts and casual fans alike to celebrate all that’s special about Dolly Parton. As well as country music in general.

Why Is This Event So Special?

Photo Credit by @dolly_parton_bigfan on Instagram


Dollywood is constantly hosting special events, but the I Will Always Love You festival stands out. This event is unique in that it will pay tribute to a groundbreaking song that helped distinguish Dolly Parton. As both a singer and a songwriter.

Telling the relatable tale of two people going their separate ways but wishing the best for one another, this song touched many hearts when it was first released nearly five decades ago. It famously reached the pinnacle of success on two separate occasions: landing atop the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in both 1974 and 1982.

In addition to celebrating one of Dolly’s biggest hits, the upcoming Dollywood event will draw attention to the art of songwriting and its impact on the bluegrass and country scene.

At this point, you may be wondering, should you attend this celebration? Or save your Dollywood visit for a later date? A lot depends on how invested you are in Dolly Parton’s music and country singer-songwriters in general. Of course, Dollywood is always worth a visit, no matter which festivals or other events are on the calendar.

To help you decide, we’ve highlighted several need-to-know details, such as the dates, the performers, and the other exciting opportunities this anniversary event will bring to your favorite theme park.

Festival Dates & Decor

I Will Always Love You was recorded in 1973, so this year marks the song’s 50th anniversary. The festival will transform Dollywood for nearly an entire month in 2023. The event launches on March 11th and draws to a close on April 8th. This is a great opportunity to get your hands on a season pass. This pass will grant you access to a variety of live shows, plus all your usual Dollywood favorites.

Like many special events, the I Will Always Love You festival will bring themed decor to every nook and cranny of Dollywood. Get ready to pose alongside carefully curated decorations — or simply stroll around the park as you gaze at these displays. Even if you don’t visit when one of the more noteworthy concerts is scheduled, you’ll be glad you had the chance to see the theme park decked out in its bluegrass finest.

Celebrity Concert Series

Live entertainment will be a central component of the I Will Always Love You festival. Many of these are scheduled for Saturdays. This is when the Celebrity Concert Series will bring a variety of beloved musicians to Dollywood’s Celebrity Theater.

Saturday performers will include:

  • Natalie Grant
  • Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder
  • Jo Dee Messina
  • Larry, Steve & Rudy: The Gatlin Brothers
  • Lauren Alaina

These artists are clearly excited about this special occasion. Jo Dee Messina explained in a recent statement, “It’s humbling to be a part of such a beautiful celebration. This isn’t just a show; it’s inclusion in celebrating a huge part of musical history.”

There’s no need to pay for concert tickets; these performances are included with the price of admission. Make a full day of it. Use the live performances as a way to relax after you’ve hit up all the park’s best rides.

Songwriter’s Showcase

Photo Credit by @dollyparton on Instagram

Dolly Parton’s impressive reputation stems not only from her angelic voice but also, from her songwriting skills. She’s long known how to craft lyrics that evoke a range of emotions. With I Will Always Love You, these lyrics are simple, yet sweet.

Dolly’s exceptional abilities as a songwriter were also evident in hits such as Coat of Many Colors and 9 to 5. Dolly has long been supportive of those who wish to follow in her footsteps. She provides both inspiration and encouragement for many of the singer-songwriters we hold dear.

In an effort to draw attention to the most talented country and bluegrass songwriters, Dolly’s I Will Always Love You festival will include a special panel known as the Songwriter’s Showcase. This will incorporate live musical performances but will make them far more meaningful by highlighting the stories behind the genre’s greatest hits. Held at the Showstreet Palace Theater, this heartwarming experience will be a must-visit for anyone who is passionate about well-written lyrics.

Singer-songwriters will also be highlighted throughout the park, with acclaimed acts such as Harmonies of the Heart and Wild Roots keeping guests tapping their toes throughout the day.

Special Bites & Merchandise

In addition to serving up plenty of live entertainment, the I Will Always Love You festival will bring unique merch to Dollywood’s finest shops. Stop by one of the theme park’s many stores to grab a limited-time T-shirt, emblazoned with Dolly’s face. There will also be many handcrafted products available. This will make your Dollywood shopping experience that much more enjoyable.

After a busy day of shopping and taking in live music, you’ll be ready to grab a tasty treat. Usual favorites such as the Grist Mill’s cinnamon bread are well worth sampling. However, you’ll also want to check out the many specialized snacks that will only be available during this particular celebration.

Celebrate Dolly Parton During Dollywood’s I Will Always Love You Festival

If you’re truly passionate about Dolly Parton and the country songwriting scene, you will make every effort to visit Dollywood in time for the 50th anniversary I Will Always Love You festival. Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate all that makes Dolly Parton special.