The country music icon joined "Good Morning America" host Robin Roberts from the 150-acre Pigeon Forge, Tenn. park on Wednesday morning in honor of its annual flower and food festival, which this year is honoring Parton's mother with a colorful statue erected in the park made of flowers.
Parton reflected on just how far Dollywood has come since its 2020 season, which was placed on restrictions due to COVID-19.
"I think it's amazing how our crew has done all the things that they've done. Last year, of course, like everybody else, we were open on a limited basis but everybody was so great to practice the safety rules," Parton told Roberts while sitting outdoors at the park. "The people here are like family so any time you have a process of any kind you just kind of pull together and get it done. People always brag about the staff here at Dollywood."
2021 marks the park's 36th season and it appears Dollywood staffers very much feel like it is home, as does Parton, who considers herself a "coworker" among staffers.
"We've had all kinds of people who have been here from the very start. That's the way I'm with my band. We're just all partners here. It takes us all to make it work," she said.
The flower-filled statue dedicated to Parton's mother is called the "Coat of Many Colors" which symbolizes the significance her parents, and specifically, her mother, had on her growing up. It's also the name of a song she performed on stage, complete with a rainbow-colored guitar.
"I was really emotional and I took a lot of pictures," Parton said of seeing the statue for the first time on Tuesday. "I had seen brochures of it and I knew what it was supposed to be but just seeing that whole thing knowing my life as it's turned out, thinking about my mom and having that thing there that represents who I am as a person, who my parents were and the kind of mother that I was lucky enough to have -- and that little coat that's carried me so far."
"It's kind of like a figurative thing. My life has been a life of many colors, not just a coat. It's significant to me but just seeing that whole thing just made me grateful," she said.
Parton's visit to the park on Wednesday marked the first time she's returned since last year when the coronavirus pandemic first surged.
"We came up here last year to open the show and that's when they closed everything down. We came here to have a press conference, we didn't even get to have it. I just walked off that bus, they said, 'No we're closed down.' This is my first time back so it's exciting to see all the new things we've got for the flower and food festival for this season. We've got a lot of things to be thankful for," she added.
Dollywood is now filled with "millions of flowers" to celebrate this year's food and flower festival, she said.
The worldwide performer made headlines last year for donating $1 million to Vanderbilt University for coronavirus vaccine research and development. Her seven-figure donation allegedly helped researchers conduct trial phases that led to the development of the Moderna vaccine, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.
The 75-year-old announced in early April that she received her second dose of the vaccine on her official Twitter account.