She’s a legend. An icon. The voice of a generation. We may not all agree on much these days, but most of us can probably agree that the divine Dolly Parton is a national treasure. And now, there’s a new way to celebrate her. Located just about an hour away from Dollywood, in Knoxville, TN, Dolly Fest 2022 will be a joyful celebration of all things Dolly on a grand scale.
From June 2nd-5th, Knoxville’s Old City district will be transformed into a festival celebrating the iconic life and career of Dolly Parton. Entering its second year, the festival will bring an estimated 1,000 fans and participants together over three days to enjoy a variety of Dolly-themed events. Here’s everything you need to know about the event.
Because music is so central to Dolly’s identity, fame, and public persona, it only makes sense that the 2nd Annual Dolly Fest will revolve around music. For the first time at this event, a main stage will be erected on State Street. Throughout the weekend, it will offer live music, including five featured performers. More musical guests may be announced as we get closer to the event, so stay tuned.
Interestingly, Dolly Fest began with an art contest. Four years ago, local Knoxville shop Rala announced their Dolly Art Contest, which allows artists of all disciplines and experience levels to submit Dolly-related artwork. As it continued to grow, the idea for Dolly Fest was born. During the festival, winning pieces from the contest will be displayed. There will be art shows featuring Dolly-themed works, as well as pieces available for purchase, in case you want to bring a little Dolly home with you.
We all know Dolly is an amazing musician and vocalist, but it’s easy to forget that she’s also an accomplished actress. Throughout the festival, Dolly Fest will be showcasing this area of her career by screening films in which she has appeared. Exact titles and screening times will be announced closer to the event, but we think it’s safe to assume that all your favorites will be well represented.
Let’s be real. We can’t talk about Dolly without talking about her iconic, one-of-a-kind style. She’s got a look and aesthetic that can’t be duplicated… but that doesn’t stop people from trying. Dolly Fest is leaning into this with a costume contest. This fun event, set to take place on the main stage on Saturday, June 5th, will give entrants a chance to strut their stuff in the spotlight while channeling their favorite looks made famous by Ms. Parton herself.
Also on Saturday the 5th, Dolly Fest will present a talent show on the main stage. Entrants can perform a talent of their choosing, paying homage to Dolly. We’re not sure what types of acts will be participating this year, but we know that some serious talent is likely to show up and show out. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get a glimpse at Tennessee’s next big star doing their thing up on the stage.
New this year, the centerpiece of Sunday’s schedule will be a Dolly-themed makers’ market. This shopping event will feature crafts, creations, artwork, and more from local and regional artists and makers and will run during the day on Sunday. If you’re hoping to take home a unique, locally made souvenir by which to remember the weekend, this is the place to look. More information about vendors will be released closer to the event.
Deals and Special Events
In addition to the officially announced events presented by Dolly Fest, local businesses will also be getting in on the fun. Several local establishments ranging from restaurants to stores to bars will offer special deals, discounts, and items to celebrate the weekend. This could mean drink specials, Dolly-themed meals, limited-edition items commemorating the festival, and more. Be sure to check out the offerings, and support small local businesses in the process.
Travel and Lodging
For those traveling to Dolly Fest from out of town, it’s important to have your travel plans nailed down before departing for Knoxville. The area is served by two local airports. The closest is McGhee Tyson Airport, located about 14 miles away from Knoxville. This domestic airport is served by a small number of airlines including Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, and United. Although further away (about 175 miles), Nashville International Airport is a larger option serving many airlines.
If you are planning to stay in the city for the weekend, there are several hotel options close to the Old City. Choose from local establishments like The Oliver Hotel or the Tennessean Hotel, or stick to offerings from well-known brands like Hilton, Embassy Suites, and Hampton Inn. Be sure to call and ask if they’re offering any Dolly Fest discounts before booking.
The Best Part: Imagination Library
Although Dolly Fest is not affiliated with Dolly Parton or Dollywood, they are doing their part to give back. Proceeds from the festival will be donated to Imagination Library. Founded by Dolly Parton in 1995, Imagination Library is a program that mails free books to children ages 0-5. Although the program began as a local Tennessee initiative, it has grown into an international organization, serving children and families in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and Ireland. To date, they have given away more than 150 million books.
More information, including a schedule and event map, will be released closer to the dates of the festival. Be sure to check the Dolly Fest website often to stay up to date on the latest announcements and offerings.
Whether you’re a lifelong fan or a recent Dolly devotee, Dolly Fest is sure to be an unforgettable weekend filled with art, music, film, and fun. Over the course of three days, you’ll be immersed in a world of Dolly-centric creations and be surrounded by a fan base full of people who love her with their whole hearts. Whatever the final schedule ends up looking like, this will be a weekend full of laughter, love, and lots of celebration of one of the most iconic personalities of our time. Cheers to Dolly Parton!