AMORY, Miss. -- When Dolly Parton and her husband, Carl Dean, drove into this small town of 7,000 last week at the crossroads of state highways 25 and 6, no one recognized her. She stopped in at the Piggly Wiggly and the Wal-Mart and looked around the hamlet located about 20 miles southeast of Tupelo.
Why was country music's top diva and youngest living member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in Amory? Scouting out the town before signing on for a huge show here.
Organizers of Stars Over Mississippi, a semi-annual fund raiser for educational scholarships here, on Thursday announced the singer as the headliner for their Oct. 7 concert and festival.
The concert will be one of only three anticipated by the multi-Grammy winner this year, the first being a special New Year's Day show she performed at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville (see stories and photos here) and the other being an expected fund raiser for her Dollywood Foundation at her theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., which several sources tell Dollymania will be moved to the fall from her usual April date.
Parton performing at the New Year's Day Opryland Hotel show. Photo by Duane Gordon
"If we'd known she was here, we would have just gone crazy!" said Judy Holman of the Mary Kirkpatrick Haskell Foundation, which hosts the event.
Since 1992, Stars Over Mississippi has been held every other year as the foundation's major fund raiser. The four previous shows have raised a total in excess of $1 million toward college scholarships for the area's youth.
Held in the Amory High School football stadium with an audience of about 9,000, it is the creation of Amory native Sam Haskell, worldwide head of television for the William Morris Agency, for the foundation he established in memory of his mother, who was valedictorian of her graduating class at Amory High School and worked for 20 years as the school nurse.
All performers and event personnel volunteer their time free of charge, and corporate sponsors take care of expenses, leaving all money collected from ticket sales going to the foundation.
The hosts for the event will be Whoopi Goldberg, Kathie Lee Gifford and Brooke Shields.
Other entertainers participating this year are Tony-winning actress and singer Nell Carter; Grammy winners Marilyn McCoo and husband, Billy Davis Jr.; singer Guy Hovis; Emmy-winning choreographer and actress Debbie Allen; Amory native John Dye of CBS' Touched By an Angel; actor Gary Grubbs; Broadway performer Laurie Gayle Stephensen; singer Marsha Tindall; former Miss Mississippi and Miss America Mary Ann Mobley and her husband, Gary Collins; Haskel's wife, former Miss Mississippi Mary Donnelly Haskel; and Christy May, spokesperson for the foundation.
Holman said the weekend's festivities begin the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 6, when the stars arrive for a ceremony to imprint their hands in cement for display downtown. That evening, a $100-per-person gala will be held where guests can mingle with some of the stars.
At 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, a parade with all of the performers winds through the town, ending with many of them addressing the crowd from a podium afterward. The big concert, which will feature Parton as the headlining act, begins at 7 p.m.