Date of Award

5-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Communication and Information

Major Professor

Eric D. Haley

Committee Members

Heejin Lim, Michael J. Palenchar, Ronald E. Taylor

Abstract

Nostalgia has been shown to be a powerful force in the marketing of various products and services, such as theme parks. Dollywood, a theme park nestled in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, does not try to evoke a modern vision of the future, but instead, serves as a tribute to the heritage of the area, using nostalgia to appeal to its guests, many of whom directly or indirectly experienced this celebrated past. Guided by hermeneutic phenomenology and using in-depth interviews, the following study uncovered a more nuanced understanding of how visitors of Dollywood interpret their experiences through the lens of nostalgia. Five main themes emerged from the data: (a) childhood revisited, (b) interpersonal and intergenerational connections, (c) appreciation for heritage and values, (d) yearning for an idealized state, and (e) connecting with the celebrity. These findings illustrate the role that nostalgia plays in visitors’ experiences to Dollywood. Through these findings, a new category of nostalgia is proposed. Implications for management are also presented.

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