published Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

New sign in downtown Ringgold tells Dolly Parton's wedding story

Dolly Parton is featured on the Wedding Walk in Ringgold, Ga.
Dolly Parton is featured on the Wedding Walk in Ringgold, Ga.
Ringgold chapel hosts 700 weddings each year
The Ringgold Wedding Chapel, located directly across from the Catoosa County Courthouse, hosts about 700 weddings each year, sometimes as many as 20 per day.

Country music superstar Dolly Parton and husband Carl Dean picked Ringgold, Ga., as the place to get married on May 30, 1966, partly because Dean lived on Missionary Ridge in his youth and knew about Ringgold.

"I also liked the idea of 'rings of gold' -- Ringgold. I thought that sounded like a good sign," Parton said.

It must have been, because 47 years after the Rev. Don Duvall performed the ceremony at Ringgold Baptist Church, the couple's 47-year union is still going.

Visitors to downtown Ringgold can read that and more about the history of Parton's wedding on an interpretive sign that was placed recently in front of the church at the corner of Nashville and Cleveland streets.

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The Ringgold Convention and Visitors Bureau installed the Dolly Parton sign and another interpretive sign just down the street near the Ringgold Wedding Chapel.

Dubbed "Ringgold's Wedding Walk," the history markers are meant to play up the town's status as a "marriage mecca." The city of about 3,500 residents has a long-standing reputation as a place to get hitched. The courthouse issues 2,000 to 2,400 marriage licenses annually and still has on file the license for country superstars George Jones and Tammy Wynette, whose stormy six-year union began there in 1969.

"Every time we have events downtown, people are checking [the interpretive signs] out," Director of Downtown Development Joseph Brellenthin said.

Money for the signs comes from hotel and motel tax revenue, he said.

"It's all paid for by tourists, and it helps enhance the tourism aspects of downtown," Brellenthin said.

City Councilman Randall Franks, a former journalist who is vice chairman of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, wrote the history of Parton's and Dean's wedding.

"Dolly shared her wedding story with me to write some years ago," he said in a statement. "And I am pleased it is in a place where all can read it right where it happened."

The Ringgold Convention and Visitors Bureau plans to install a third interpretive sign downtown soon as part of the Wedding Walk.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a townshipÂąs government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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