Country music superstar Dolly Parton paid a surprise visit to a senior centre in Sevierville, Tenn., where she sang, lifted weights and joked about her age.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reports Parton came for a dedication ceremony Monday to give the facility a new name: the My People Senior Activity Center, in honour of her parents, Robert and Avie Lee Parton.
Parton is a native of Sevierville in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains.
The 72-year-old singer joked that she’s a senior, too, and made fun of her plastic surgery. She shouted “girl power” when she saw more women doing woodworking at the centre than men.
Parton also shared her own secret to staying young during the event saying,”be busy, stay active and get involved.”
The country singer addressed the centre’s visitors in the cafeteria, where more than 100 people crowded in for the ceremony.
“I am so excited to be part of this today. Of course, you know I’m a senior too. When I was over in Sevier County High School, I couldn’t wait to be a senior, and now that I’m in my second childhood, I’m a senior again,” Parton said. “Anyways, I saw one of my old boyfriends from high school. He said, ‘Dolly, you look like a million dollars.’ I said, ‘Well, thank you. That’s just about how much it’s cost to make me look like this.'”
Parton continued: “Anyway, I’m so honoured and so proud to be here, and I want to thank everybody that’s had a part in this, and for years, I talked about my brothers and my sisters, my mom and dad and my aunts, uncles, cousins, and I call them my people.”
“Now of course, when I started Dollywood and the employees there, I thought of them as my family, and they became my people, and of course when we … actually got involved in the fires up here in the heart of the Smokies. We call that My People, so I was just thinking, you know, I’m looking out at you, and I think you are, all of you, you’re my people, and this is great, and I’m so proud and so honoured that I’m a Smoky Mountain girl, and I’m so proud of my home, and I’m so proud of my family,” Parton concluded.
“I’ve been so excited, and we’ve been trying to keep it under wraps because we have 3,000 members here, and we knew if the word got out too much, we’d have three or four or five thousand people here,” said Jane Howes, executive director of the My People Senior Activity Center. “We knew we couldn’t fit everyone. So I’m apologizing to everyone that we could not tell about this, and a normal Monday anyways is pretty busy, so we had a lot of people in here anyway, and word got out a little bit.”
Howes also shared that a lot of people would confuse the centre with “an assisted living or nursing home, so we kind of thought maybe we needed a change away from a medical name, so we thought, ‘I wonder if Dolly Parton would do it?”
Howes said Parton got involved and the centre’s new name describes it more accurately than before.
“It just kind of fits more about what we are, and staying active and staying young, living independently and coming out and meeting friends, and you know, just being independent, so that’s kind of how it came about,” Howes said.
—With files from the Associated Press