It was a sunny fall afternoon. The smell of fresh baked apple pie burst from the Spotlight Bakery on Showstreet. Jerry and his wife Kay, a life-long friend of our family, sat across from me at a nearby table. A few weeks earlier, I discovered a picture Kay’s daughter posted of their recent trip to Dollywood. Immediately, I reached out to schedule a time to hear Jerry’s story.
The couple have been married for 4.5 years. Jerry, originally from Illinois, shared how he and his bride visited the Smoky Mountains on their honeymoon. On Jerry’s 80th birthday last year, there was one place he wanted to go to celebrate – Dollywood! Jerry’s son Chip traveled to spend the milestone birthday with his dad.
Kay admitted she saw little of Jerry that day as he and his son ventured from ride to ride around the park. “We started with Thunderhead. I told Chip, ‘Wait! We have to get the front row.’,” laughed Jerry reflecting on the day. When the ride was over, Jerry urged his son to ride again but Chip replied, “No, I think I’ll sit this one out Dad.” He and his son set out on a mission to ride every coaster on the park – that’s exactly what they did.
On the day I met Jerry, I brought along my two children. My son and daughter love roller coasters, but I do not feel so hot when I ride them. They were thrilled when Jerry offered to be their riding companion. Watching Jerry enthusiastically join my kids’ on favorite rides gave me great joy. When I asked him which was his favorite coaster he said unequivocally, “The Wild Eagle,” with a smile.
Jerry’s joy riding Dollywood roller coasters is infectious – it even made me consider trying it again! There’s no age limit to enjoy all Dollywood has to offer. You can stay young at heart just like Jerry on your favorite thrill-seeking ride!