There are a lot of companies that claim their secret sauce is their employees. From my experience, I’d say this statement is truly authentic at Dollywood. Have you noticed how many of their hosts have spent years—even decades—of their working lives at this beautiful park? Because it’s something I appreciate about Dollywood, I wanted to speak with one of these veteran hosts to find out what makes them stick around.
I had the absolute pleasure of chatting with Amy Owenby. Amy started working at the park in concessions in 1987 when she was just 17 years old. She still speaks fondly of her days making cotton candy and filling popcorn buckets. Amy had the opportunity to help in concessions recently, and she said she had to get a picture to mark the occasion. Her original plan was to work at Dollywood the summer before college and then move on to bigger and better things. But Amy fell in love with Dollywood and never left. As of August 2021, Amy is now the Vice President of Product and Planning. (More on that role later!)
Okay, so why would a woman who’s done so well and climbed up within a great company like Dollywood not be enticed to move on to see what else is out there? My curiosity got the best of me and I asked her. Amy told me that she loves the culture of service and care that Dollywood provides their guests. She explained that she is so proud that Dollywood hosts are empowered to serve guests well during their visit. She also is thankful for the deep-rooted relationships that the hosts have with each other, as well as, with Dollywood guests.
I asked Amy what her favorite job has been during her tenure, and she said her current role has been her most fulfilling. Amy told me that every time she has changed jobs through the years that she was afraid that she was leaving her favorite job. (What an awesome problem to have!)
What does it mean that Amy Owenby is the Vice President of Product and Planning? Let me list some of the things that Amy had a hand in: she was on the team that opened Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa, she helped bring Great Pumpkin LumiNights to Dollywood’s Harvest Festival, and she introduced us to the new awesome drone and fireworks show Sweet Summer Nights just to name a few. “I love being able to look ahead and change the course of the company and guest experiences,” she told me.
When I asked Amy what she would tell someone if they were thinking about visiting Dollywood, she had an immediate answer: “In a time when the world is feeling kind of torn apart, you get to step away from that to a positive, safe, reinforcing place and enjoy your day with your family. That can be rare. These are the moments families carve out to spend time together and I love when families give us this gift of their time.”
As a Dollywood Insider and a native Tennessean, I am quite familiar with Dollywood’s Dreamer-In-Chief, Dolly Parton, but not as familiar as Amy! Because Amy has been around for so long, she’s had the opportunity to work with Dolly. Not only does she have pictures with the legend, but she even has signed thank you notes! Now that’s a job perk you don’t hear about!
For fun, I wanted to know what Amy’s Dollywood must-dos are. She told me the number one thing is cinnamon bread (I totally agree!). Her favorite ride is Blazing Fury because it holds a lot of special memories with her family. She loves touring the Robert F. Thomas Chapel in Craftsman’s Valley when it is decorated for Christmas. Amy also says you absolutely cannot miss the “Christmas in the Smokies” show when you visit at the end of the season.
I loved chatting with Amy about the past 34 years. I believe it says a lot about the company when people never leave their very first job.