PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WJHL) — As Dollywood opens for the 2022 season, News Channel 11’s Josh Smith sat down with the legend herself, Dolly Parton, in a one-on-one interview.

Parton made an appearance at the park as it opened to pass holders on Friday. It will open to the general public on Saturday.

Parton said it was great to be back and there is so much to be thankful for.

“It’s like a whole new day, I feel like a new person,” she said. “It’s been so long, I kind of miss it.”

The 2022 season, which will be the park’s 37th, will see all COVID-19 protocols lifted after two years of restrictions.

“It just feels good to walk around the park and see everybody out having fun, no masks on, doing their thing and feeling free,” Parton said. “Let’s just hope that lasts and just hope for the best.”

There have been difficult times over the past couple of years for many people, and Parton is no exception. Last year, she lost her brother, Randy Parton, and uncle, Bill Owens. Parton said when times get tough, she turns to God for support.

“But I keep my faith — God leads me and guides me and gives me the strength I need,” she said.

Parton said Dollywood is a place where she, like others, can escape for a while.

“Dollywood is a happy place, so yeah, this is a great place for me to come and kind of forget my woes and just be even more thankful, to think ‘look at all of this, look at what all God has provided,’ and all these wonderful people that work here that’s helped make it all come true.”

You can watch Josh Smith’s full interview with Dolly Parton above.