Dollywood has requested that a gay and lesbian group immediately stop advertising "Gay Day at Dollywood" for an event that attracted about 1,000 gay men and lesbians last year. Dollywood is a theme park named after country singer and Tennessee native Dolly Parton. Spokesman Pete Owens said the park was not trying to stop anyone from attending, noting the request was a standard one sent to anyone regarding trademark violations. "All we've asked them to do is remove the [Dollywood trademark logo] from their Web site, and they did," Owens said. "We appreciate that." Similar requests have been sent to about two dozen groups, such as tour operators and hotels, who have used the Dollywood name or logo without permission, he said.
The Dollywood attorney's letter, forwarded by activists to fellow gays and lesbians by e-mail throughout the state and nationwide, has sparked anger. "What are we supposed to say, 'I'm going to the theme park run by the woman with the big breasts?"' asked Nashville resident Michael Romanello, 56. Romanello said he sent about 200 e-mails Thursday to friends on the East Coast urging them to attend the May 22 event in a gesture of defiance. The event's Web site advertised "Gay Day at Dollywood" until Thursday, when the home page was replaced with one renaming the event "Gay Day 2004," without
the trademark violations alleged by Dollywood. The site had featured Dollywood's butterfly logo and a cartoon likeness of Parton.
Knoxville-based gay, lesbian, and transgender group Tri-Cities Pride began the event last year. This year executive director Ryan Salyer said he expects 5,000 to attend from places as far away as New York and Philadelphia. "We just want to go to the park and just have a fun day to be had by all," he said. The event has been publicized on the group's Web site, along with the sites of other gay and lesbian groups in neighboring states. Dollywood lawyers have had a "focus on the Internet in earnest over the last
several years" to monitor possible trademark infringements, Owens said. Salyer said his group would continue to visit Dollywood and also plans to send a group to Rhea County on May 8 for a planned gay and lesbian event, responding to the county commission's recent effort to bar gays and lesbians
from living there.