IRELAND was the star at the just-wrapped Festival of Nations at Dollywood, the theme park owned and operated by country superstar Dolly Parton in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.

Dolly was all dolled up in her Irish finest as she greeted her friends from Enterprise Ireland, the Irish government agency which helped get the project off the ground. The EI folks flew to Dolly's place in Pigeon Forge from their New York base for a weekend of Irish music, dance, food, crafts and anything else you can think of, with a healthy dose of Dolly to really get things going.

"Our Irish roots run really deep in East Tennessee, and I'm especially proud of my Irish heritage. You can bet I'm gonna show folks a jig or two of my own!" Dolly said.

Her famous warmth and hospitality were also on display for all to enjoy. This girl sure knows how to throw a party!

The Festival of Nations featured the show Rhythm of the Dance, an Irish music and dance spectacular, other Irish bands and dance troupes, free music lessons, demonstrations in Irish basket weaving, sheep shearing and knitting, and all kinds of great Irish foods and goods.

Dolly is the quintessential southern belle, but there certainly is Irish flowing through those red hot veins, and all of her other formidable assets, too! She wrote a song that y'all might know called "We Irish," which featured on her 2004 Live and Well album, and she's performed in the country on several occasions, most recently in March.

Enterprise Ireland, through its popular senior marketing executive Maeve O'Malley, has been linked with Dollywood since 2004, when a group of theme park execs took up an offer to visit the annual Showcase Ireland fest in Dublin, the country's largest consumer goods trade show.

The Dollywood people loved what they saw and heard, and plans were put into motion to bring the best of Ireland to Tennessee. The Irish vendors who made their way there were thrilled with the results (not to mention the food at the specially created O'Malley's Place restaurant!), and Enterprise Ireland are working with Dollywood as we write to repeat the experience next year.