The 69-year-old appears in PEOPLE this week wearing the same yellow eyelet top she wore on a 1986 cover of the magazine. In both issues she’s talking her theme park, Tennessee’s Dollywood, and in both issues, she serves up her special brand of Southern charm.
In the 1986 issue she was celebrating the opening of Dollywood – then just $14.20 a ticket (these days it’s $59 for adults) – an entity many considered a gamble given its remote location and the cost of running a theme park. But she’s obviously proved them wrong: 30 years later, Dollywood has expanded to include a water park and this summer, the DreamMore resort near the property.
“It is amazing how time goes by,” she told PEOPLE in our recent interview. “When I think 30 years, to me it seems like about 15 at the most. To think 30 years, and then I think how old I’ll be in the next 30 years, I think, ‘Let’s not think about that.’ But [the park] has not only survived, it’s grown every year.”
What’s also grown: Her relationship with her husband, Carl Dean. “He’s a blessing to me,” she said. “Not everyone is lucky enough to be with someone for 50 years, but I have been. He has been the love of my life and the life of my love.”
Hear more from Parton in this week’s PEOPLE.