Vacation 2016: The Tyrees do Dollywood

Published 9:34 am Wednesday, July 27, 2016

by Danny Tyree

When my wife, son Gideon (age 12) and I made our latest pilgrimage to the Dollywood theme park earlier this month, it reminded me of 1967, when my parents took my younger brother and me to Goldrush Junction (which, like Rebel Railroad and Silver Dollar City, was one of the earlier incarnations of Dollywood).

I remember the Tyree boys participated in a staged gun battle with some desperadoes in the streets of the frontier “town.” The souvenir newspaper our father paid for bore the personalized headline “Danny And Dwight Gun Down The Bad Guys,” over a generic story about strangers cleaning up the town.

The newspaper was remarkably frill-free. Nowadays the 24-7 news cycle would require bulletins such as “What Did Danny And Dwight Know And When Did They Know It?,” “What Inspired The Paid Park Employees To Engage In A Gun Battle?” and “Fact-Check: Surveyor’s Report Shows The Town WAS In Fact Big Enough For Danny And Dwight And The Gunmen.”

I am glad the family tradition continues. I’m glad Gideon got to ride a steam locomotive (after seeing one on reruns of “Petticoat Junction”), visit the eagle sanctuary, ride the Mountain Slidewinder water ride and watch mountain craftsmen performing their wizardry. (I do so want him to pursue some practical skills, as the norm today seems to be the skill of crafting an excuse for why one deserves a tuition-free eight years of Underwater Post-Renaissance Women’s Studies.)

I’m glad we got to eat at the sleek Red’s Drive In while in the ‘50s-themed Jukebox Junction, although if we had been hungrier, we could have eaten at Aunt Granny’s Buffet in Rivertown Junction.

I’m glad the bumper cars convinced Gideon that he’s a long way from being behind the steering wheel of a real car. My experience has me singing, “I Will Always Love You” to the airbags.

I’m glad we got to see the reconstruction of the cabin where Dolly Parton grew up with her parents and 11 siblings. (We also got to see youngsters sending a message of “Can you imagine the lack of privacy???” across ALL their social media.)

Dollywood is already the home of the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame, so it’s a little surprising the park didn’t also grab the life-size Noah’s ark that was recently unveiled in Kentucky.

They could have paired it with an eatery such as Cousin Sister’s Kitchen. (“Eat two of every unclean animal and seven of every clean animal. And wash it down with a deluge of sweet tea!”)

Speaking of the ark, it’s a wonder Bill Nye The Science Guy wasn’t picketing Dollywood. (“No, love is NOT like a butterfly! True, science has shown that bemusement is like a centipede and consternation is like a cicada, but love is categorically not like a butterfly!”)

Dolly has wisely decided not to take sides in the presidential election; but the way the park innovates ways to make money beyond the cost of admission, it makes me think she would be a good trade negotiator in a Trump administration. (“Dolly will be out to see you trade emissaries momentarily. We’ll snap a photo of you paying the tariff and all you have to pay for the photo is one of your monuments, like maybe that so-called Great Wall. By the time we get through with it, it’ll be yuge!”)

DANNY TYREE welcomes email responses at and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”