Want to catch a glimpse of Dolly while at Dollywood? Then head to Chasing Rainbows Museum! Stroll through the larger-than-life exhibits and enjoy the history of one of the world’s most celebrated entertainers—and if you’re interested, you can look more closely and find some hidden gems from Dolly’s illustrious life. So, what do you say? Let’s put on our “imagination opticals” and have a little fun!
Although there are literally thousands of things to take in while journeying through the two-story treasury, let’s focus on finding these Top 10 hidden gems! And if you really want to have some fun, use this checklist as a scavenger hunt and see if you can find all of them!
1. Avie Lee’s Needlepoint: Dolly’s mother, Avie Lee Parton, was more than just a homemaker. She could sing, she could write and she could dream. She often incorporated those gifts into her daily “motherly” routines. Of course, you can see a replica of the coat of many colors in the museum, but can you find the needlepoint, handcrafted by Avie Lee with all of Dolly’s sibling’s names and birthdates? Dolly cherished this piece of her momma so much that she proudly displayed it in her home in Nashville until it was time to share it with the world. Now, it resides somewhere in “Dolly’s attic.”
2. Dolly’s Childhood “Love Notes”:Way before emails and texting, to get an admirer’s attention, you simply used a piece of paper and a pencil. Dolly hung on to a lot of letters from her grade school friends and crushes; she found a special place, near a very special teacher’s picture, to display those thoughts of admiration.
3. Dolly’s First Airplane Ticket:By 1965, just one year after graduating from high school, Dolly was digging roots for herself 200 miles away in Nashville. She was on the road to making her dreams come true. Recording demos of her songs, writing letters to her family back home, and photo shoots to promote this “rockabilly songbird” are archived in an exhibit that also showcases her very first airplane ticket. Having never traveled beyond the state of Tennessee, this is a cherished keepsake of Dolly’s.
4. Dolly’s Red Turtleneck:It didn’t take long for Dolly to find herself in the middle of a “dream come true”—she was THE girl singer for “The Porter Wagoner Show.” As their popularity grew, so did Dolly’s recording catalog. “Just Between You and Me” is the first duet studio album by Porter and Dolly. Released in 1968, the album cover reflects a friendly hug between the two donning matching red turtleneck sweaters. Look carefully, you’ll find the turtleneck in a special place filled with love.
5. Dolly’s Swing:By the mid-1970s Dolly’s career was in full swing, if you’ll pardon the expression. (Do you love my puns??) “Dolly!” was her first syndicated solo television show. Each episode opened with her singing “Love is Like a Butterfly” while being lowered to the ground on a swing. If you spot the picture of Dolly in one of her famous [yellow] jumpsuits, you’re sure to notice the swing.
6. Dolly’s Wit and Wisdom:Known not only for her poetic prose, Dolly also tends to speak the truth in a way that often encourages and inspires. All around the museum are bits of her wit and wisdom. How many can you spot? By today’s standards, we would certainly call these “tweetable.” She once said, “Many an old boy has found out too late that I look like a woman but think like a man. It is a great mistake to assume that because I look soft, I do business that way.”
7. Steel Magnolia’s Scrapbook:Many of Dolly’s costumes, scripts and props from her blockbuster movies like “9 to 5” and “Straight Talk” can be found throughout the museum. One interesting movie memorabilia is the Steel Magnolia’s Scrapbook. The movie was based on a true story and filmed in the hometown of the writer, Robert Harling. The townspeople embraced and loved the experiences they shared with Dolly and the other leading ladies and turned their memories from a small town into a scrapbook for the fans! Dolly’s copy is displayed among her “Magnolia Memories”!
8. Floyd Parton’s Music City News Songwriters Award:Dolly is the fourth in a family of 12 children. She recently lost her brother Floyd. Floyd “was a renaissance man…of many talents and areas of knowledge.” To his credit, he wrote the 1991 hit song, “Rockin’ Years,” recorded as a duet by Dolly and Ricky Van Shelton. That year he won the Music City News Country Songwriters Top Ten Song Award. In a fairly new showcase at Chasing Rainbows, guests will find a collection of his talent, including this award.
9. Aunt Dorothy Jo’s Red Bible:Most of Dolly’s family is musically-gifted, and most of her family taught her valuable lessons about songwriting, giving credit where credit is due, and sharing love with the world. One of her hero’s, Aunt Dorothy Jo, was a great influence in Dolly’s life. Together, they wrote the Dolly/Porter hit, “Daddy was an Old-Time Preacher Man.” Aunt Dorothy Jo’s red Bible highlights a special tribute to Dolly’s Grandpa—Reverend Jake Owens—and his children.
10. Unlikely Angel Tree Topper:Christmas is one of Dolly’s favorite times of the year, and in 1996 she told the tale of a would-be country singer, Ruby Diamond, trying to earn her wings in the made-for-TV film, “Unlikely Angel.” The film ends with an unlikely Christmas ornament being placed atop the tree. One that looks a lot like Ruby Diamond—with her wings! Dolly managed to ‘steal’ away with the prop and upon completion of filming added it to her collection at the museum.
Bonus Fact- Throughout the museum, you will see some of Dolly’s favorite books, including “The Little Engine that Could.” In 2018, she dedicated the 100 millionth book, “Coat of Many Colors,” to the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.