Welcome to Dollyware! Dolly Parton visits Wilmington to celebrate her Imagination Library
She’s everything you dreamed she would be.
She wore something sparkly, colorful and a bit magical. She joked and charmed and joked some more. And she had the audience in the palm of her hand.
Dolly Parton, one of the country’s most beloved musicians, came to Wilmington on Thursday to celebrate Delaware’s participation in her Imagination Library program, which gives young children a free book every month until they are 5 years old.
As a little girl in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Parton was raised in a home that didn’t have many books. She grew up incredibly poor, which later became the backdrop of many of her songs, notably “Coat of Many Colors.”
Her father was also illiterate. Parton started the Imagination Library in his honor.
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Decades later, the nonprofit has given out nearly 200 million books. The Imagination Library here in Delaware is now statewide. Newborns will be registered for the program before leaving the hospital and will be able to receive a book every month until they turn 5 years old.
“I always say, 'I dreamed myself into a corner,'” Parton said. “My dreams came true, so I have to be responsible for all the things going on.”
The program, held at the Wilmington Public Library, was brief, with most of the time dedicated to the governor and first lady Tracey Quillen Carney asking Parton questions about the library.
It was mostly politicians, state officials and library staff in attendance. Many had their phones ready so they could snap a photo the minute Parton stepped on stage.
Just before she was introduced, Carney joked that some of his Cabinet members in attendance were going to need smelling salts due to the intensity of their love for the soon-to-be Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
“As far as I can tell, there is nobody in the state of Delaware who doesn't love Dolly Parton,” Carney said. The governor himself was quite giggly as he listened to Parton speak.
Parton, who recently authored her first novel, “Run, Rose, Run” with James Patterson, spoke of how “The Little Engine That Could” was one of her favorite books as a child. It became the first book as a part of the library program. She wanted children to read it and feel confident.
“I just always thought, you know, ‘I think I can; I think I can,’” she said. “And I just up and done it.”
When the first lady asked what she hoped she would be remembered for, Parton said her music. Though, of all of her philanthropy efforts, she said the library is the most important to her.
“As long as I'm around,” she said, “I’m going to be doing everything I can to try to make life better for anybody and everybody, especially the little kids,” she said.
The governor, soon after, gifted Parton with a stuffed miniature Blue Hen (it was unclear if Dolly knew its significance). And he handed her a box of the iconic Dolle’s Candyland saltwater taffy.
“I was meant to have this,” she said of the treat.
Then she sang, just her and her guitar, two songs, “Coat of Many Colors” and "Try.
As she finished strumming her guitar, bedazzled just like her, she was quickly whisked away.
Contact Meredith Newman at (302) 256-2466 or at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @MereNewman.