Though Narromine is 15,000 kilometres away, Dolly Parton’s ode could almost be about the rural town in central-west NSW.
The community of 6000 is home to Australia’s first Dolly Parton festival, with crowds of people adorned in pink, sequins, butterflies and platinum blonde beehive wigs filling the main street on Saturday afternoon.
Strains of Parton’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ and ‘9 to 5’ drifted over the palm trees and spring blossoms on Dandaloo Street, while cardboard cut-outs of the country queen stood in every window, including a farm workwear shop.
While the roads leading to Narromine were muddy and riddled with potholes from recent flooding, Dolly fans flocked in under blue skies and sunshine.
Narromine local Susie Rae, who organised the festival to put her hometown on the map, said she expected to sell 700 tickets but ended up with almost double the crowd.
Droughts, mice, floods
“It’s been so tough for so long, with the drought, the mouse plague, COVID and now floods, that’s why the vibe is so good,” Mrs Rae said, wearing a rhinestone-covered outfit from Tennessee that arrived at her farm gate on Friday afternoon.
Posters lined the post office windows with Parton quotes like: “We cannot direct the wind, but we can direct the sails.”
The festival echoed the revived adoration of the singer after her philanthropy to fund COVID-19 vaccines and the popularity of the podcast Dolly Parton’s America.
Festival headline act Kirsty Lee Akers said she has always considered Parton to be her “magical fairy godmother”.
“I always looked up to her as a kid, and I loved her story,” the country singer told AAP.
“She comes from a big family and she grew up quite poor. I could relate to that, I was one of four children and my parents were very young.
“We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but we always had music.”
One woman burst out from the crowd to spin around, lifting her white cowgirl hat and throwing her arms in the air while listening to 13-year-old singer Amy Ryan play Dolly tunes.
Ryan travelled 14 hours with her parents from Beaudesert in Queensland to perform.
“We’ve always travelled around Australia listening to country music, including Dolly,” she said from beneath her blonde wig.
“Her lyrics are so important to me. All my songs are the stories of my journeys.”
Ahead of an evening concert, Dolly fans who bought VIP tickets sat in the shade, with a private bar and portaloos called “Islands in the Stream”, a cheeky nod to Parton’s duet with Kenny Rogers.
Akers, who has been performing in far north Queensland, said she would travel anywhere for Dolly.
“I’m a Dolly tragic. She has a way of telling stories that make you want to sit and listen to every single word.”
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