November 16, 2010 / 6:48 PM / 8 years ago

Dolly Parton theme park wins top industry award

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Dolly Parton, her signature extreme hourglass figure firmly intact at age 64, accepted the amusement park industry’s top theme park award for Dollywood at the sector’s annual international expo in Orlando on Tuesday.

Singer Dolly Parton is pictured in New York in this May 6, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

“Of course, Walt Disney became successful because he had Mickey Mouse who has two big ears. So I figured I could be successful with Dollywood with my two big partners,” Parton said in her acceptance speech.

That was followed by a quick gesture toward her business partners, Pete and Jack Herschend of Herschend Family Entertainment, part of the standing-room-only audience for the event.

The country music star later told Reuters she is working on a CD to be released next summer in conjunction with a summer 2011 U.S. tour and fall and winter tours in Europe and Australia.

She also has stockpiled a collection of her own children’s songs which she said she hopes to incorporate into a children’s television show produced at Dollywood.

Wearing gold stiletto mules, skin-tight black leggings embellished with gold glitter and her trademark big blonde hair, Parton said Dollywood, now in its 25th year, represents a $400 million investment and $1 billion in accumulated payroll in Pigeon Valley, Tenn., an impoverished region when Parton grew up there.

The park is the area’s largest employer and most employees are locals, Parton said.

“I know how important these jobs are to people and they’re proud to have them,” Parton said.

Mats Wedin, who led the selection team for the Liseberg Applause Award, the industry’s version of an Oscar, said of Dollywood: “It’s probably the friendliest park in the world.”

“The thing that stands out the most are the people.” The two other finalists for the biannual award were Alton Towers in Staffordshire, England, and Phantasialand in Bruhl, Germany.

Editing by Jerry Norton

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