Originally created 02/11/00

Ramblin' Rhodes: Dollywood a dream park for young fans



Opryland theme park in Nashville, Tenn., may be just a wonderful memory (it was leveled for a shopping mall), but Dollywood -- on the other side of Tennessee in Pigeon Forge -- is thriving.

When Dollywood opens its 15th season April 15-16, visitors will find Dreamland Forest, a new $5 million children's play area.

It will boast what Dollywood publicists are calling "America's largest interactive treehouse," a five-story structure that will house "interactive games, gadgets and gizmos."

Dolly Parton, the namesake and co-owner of the park, said the giant treehouse is an outgrowth of her childhood when she and her many siblings would climb huge trees and pretend they were grand houses. Miss Parton said she has two treehouses in the back yard of her suburban Nashville home.

Construction workers at Dollywood are also building a $20 million water park. Miss Parton, pun intended, said she wants to make a "big splash" when the water park opens in May 2001.

For information about Dollywood, including its star-studded concert schedule and Friends of the Forest parade on Friday, April 14, visit the Web site www.dollywood.com or call (865) 428-9488 for ticket information or a brochure.

Miss Parton, who turned 54 on Jan. 19, is coming off two career highs. She was inducted into the Country Music Association's Hall of Fame in September and has received critical acclaim for her first all-bluegrass album, The Grass Is Blue.

Produced by Steve Buckingham, the album is her 161st recording. It debuted at No. 28 on Billboard magazine's country chart and was a No. 1 best seller for e-retailer Amazon.com. Guest artists include Sam Bush, Alison Krauss, Patty Loveless, Claire Lynch, Rhonda Vincent and Jerry Douglas.

ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST:

Dave Pierson, leader of the Horse Creek Band, the house band the past 15 months at the Rub It Inn lounge on Gordon Highway, sent an e-mail saying the group is disbanding.

He cited the family strains on band members who were trying to play every weekend while working day jobs during the week.

"It's hard to quit doing something you love so much and put so much effort into, but the time was right for us to pack it in and return to our families," Mr. Pierson wrote.

"Anyone in the business knows what I'm talking about. We just want to say a big thank you to everyone who has supported us and seen us play live. It was a pleasure and a privilege to have played together, and also to have played for you all."

The band's drummer, Jamie Jones, resigned recently to join Augusta rock group People Who Must. He was replaced by Danny Coburn, who had spent 13 years with the Friends band.

REMEMBERING BLUEGRASS BILL:

James Monroe, son of the late bluegrass music founder Bill Monroe, is organizing a new bluegrass festival in Rosine, Ohio, scheduled for May 25-28.

One unique feature of the inaugural Bill Monroe Memorial Day Weekend Bluegrass Festival in Mr. Monroe's hometown will be a reunion of members of his Bluegrass Boys band.

James Monroe reportedly has mailed invitations to more than 170 musicians who played in his father's band between 1929 and his death in 1996. Other top bluegrass acts also will perform.

Don Rhodes has written about country music for 29 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at ramblin@groupz.net.