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Wednesday, 21 March 2012 20:52

Dolly’s sister offers to lend a hand for Ghost Town comeback

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Ghost Town in the Sky owner Alaska Presley has recruited singer and longtime friend Stella Parton to help her draw tourists to Maggie Valley.

Presley spoke to the town’s Board of Aldermen last week about the idea of hosting at least a couple of concert events this year in the parking lot of Ghost Town, an amusement park that was once kept the pace of the valley’s economic heartbeat. The park was closed for two years after going into bankruptcy. However, Presley has purchased the property and promised to restore it to its former glory.

Parton, sister of the famed Dolly Parton, was on hand to introduce herself to the new town leaders and speak a bit more about the possible event.

Although it is too late in the year to plan a Memorial Day event, Parton said she wants to host concert events, tentatively titled Pickin’ in the Parking Lot, around July 4th and Labor Day Weekend.

“It will be almost like a weekend festival,” Parton said.

Friday would feature bluegrass bands; Saturday would showcase country singers, including Parton herself; and Sunday would be reserved for gospel music. Each day would spotlight “local flavor as well as a headliner.”

Parton, who has roots in Haywood County, told the town aldermen and those in attendance that she is not an investor but simply someone who wants to help Presley and help the valley.

“We are going to bring people into the valley,” Presley said. “Ghost Town will go. I have no doubt.”

Presley also stated that she was grateful for the advice and kind words she has received from Maggie Valley residents since she purchased Ghost Town.

“This is the first time in so many years that I’ve seen the valley come together,” Presley said.

And, despite a couple snags in her plans, Presley is still confident that parts of Ghost Town will be open and running smoothly come summer. Topping the to-do list is getting the rides up and running, including a chairlift that takes tourists from the valley floor to the mountaintop theme park. If and when Ghost Town opens this year, the chair lift will be the sole mode of transportation up the mountain.

“The chair lift won’t take very much (to repair),” Presley said, estimating that it will cost about $30,000 to “perfect it.”

Although she originally thought that incline railway could be repaired by summer, Presley did not officially own the amusement park until the end of last month, which kept her from starting repairs earlier. When state inspectors came to tour Ghost Town a couple weeks ago, they advised Presley to hold off on the incline repairs until the end of tourism season this year, saying it would likely not be fully functional until late in the season.

By forgoing the incline repairs, Presley can focus more time on other important obstacles — such powering the mountain and fixing the water system.

After being stiffed an unknown amount of money by the previous owners, the electrical power company that serves Ghost Town said it would not restore electrical services to the mountain unless Presley shells out $30,000 before Aug. 1. And, after paying $20,000 for a new water pump to push the essential liquid up the steep mountain slopes, the municipal water district told Presley that her best opinion might be to dig wells, which could provide aqua to the amusement park.

On the sunny side, Presley is currently on the look out for someone to construct a zipline, one of several attractions she hopes to open this year.

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