MARYVILLE, Tenn. – Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge’s neighbors south of Sevier County are helping the region say “thank you” to native daughter Dolly Parton as her #MyPeopleFund telethon gets underway, raising significant dollars to help individual families who lost their homes in recent wildfires – the worst in Tennessee’s past-100-year history.

The Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority (SMTDA) in nearby Blount County, Tenn., commissioned a thank-you illustration by twice-Pulitzer-Prize-nominated editorial cartoonist Marshall Ramsey – a University of Tennessee-Knoxville graduate with family roots in the East Tennessee area – to pay tribute to Parton and also help drive social media traffic, both to The Dollywood Foundation’s #MyPeopleFund hashtag and to this region as a continued tourist destination.

“Blount County had already planned an editorial cartoon series last week to spotlight the continued welcome that our entire area extends to visitors, as tourism is a life-blood industry in the Smoky Mountains and is open for business,” said SMTDA Director Kim Mitchell, who oversees “The Peaceful Side of the Smokies” tourist region. “When we heard of plans for Dolly’s telethon, we knew the first graphic we released needed to lift up this philanthropic effort with a ‘Blount Backs You’ message from our community to our neighbors in Sevier County. We are excited to share it the night of this event to drive community support for Sevier County families.”

The cartoon depicts Dolly Parton flying Santa’s sleigh into the East Tennessee night sky, having delivered aid to a family in need through the #MyPeopleFund effort. According to Mitchell, SMTDA will donate the original Marshall Ramsey illustration to The Dollywood Foundation, if Dolly wishes to sign it or additional prints, whether for charity auction or online sale through the Foundation’s website, benefiting the #MyPeopleFund.

State officials have encouraged visitors nationwide to continue to visit the Smoky Mountains, since the influx of tourism dollars will help the area recover. Numerous popular areas throughout the immediate region in and around Sevier County are open for overnight stays, shopping, holiday events and entertainment.
Blount County’s Townsend entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open, as is the Cades Cove section of the park. Hotels in the area have welcomed aid workers and evacuees.

For more information on contributing to Dolly Parton’s #MyPeopleFund for Sevier County families, visit The Dollywood Foundation,
Interested visitors can learn more about tourism destinations throughout the region at websites for Gatlinburg (; Knoxville (; Pigeon Forge (, Sevierville (, and Townsend/Alcoa/Maryville (