Duncan Hines and ‘Dolly.’ The Perfect Mix.

by | Nov 2023

NATASHA NEELY doesn’t just work “9 to 5” to make a living. And like most of us, she didn’t start her first job at 15. Neely was 3! 

“THere was a hometown country music show in Owensboro, where I grew up, called Goldie’s Best Little Opryhouse in Kentucky. My parents signed me up to sing on a Friday open mic night, and I was hooked! I was asked by Goldie, the owner, emcee, and star of the show, to be part of the regular cast, and I performed every weekend until she closed the Opryhouse in 2008.” 

Neely has performed at prestigious locations, including The Country Tonite Theater in Pigeon Forge, Dollywood, Hersheypark, and Music City on Stage at Barbara Mandrell’s former home, The Fontanel Mansion. She spent eight years cruising the Cumberland River and entertaining guests on the General Jackson Showboat. She opened twice as an accomplished singer, dancer, and emcee for country legend George Jones. Neely even shared the stage with Louise Mandrell in her Christmas show at Gaylord Opryland Resort. With this impressive resume, Neely also finds time to perform regularly at the Music City staple, The Nashville Palace, and the world-famous Wildhorse Saloon. 

Everything Neely has set her mind to, she has achieved. As a native of Owensboro, she graduated valedictorian of her high school before relocating to Nashville for a degree in music business from Belmont University. 

“I try to set an example,” said Neely. “I always want to be a good person and encourage others to embrace who they are with zero judgment. I just love people for who they are, and I wish in today’s society, people would learn to do more of that. I believe in spreading joy and happiness because there’s so much sadness in our world today.”

As a child, Neely said she wanted to grow up to become a famous country singer. 

“Although it looks slightly different than I would have predicted, I never dreamed I’d be doing it dressed up like Dolly and sharing her songs with the world.” When asked who she admires the most, Neely said, “Well, Dolly, of course! She is a businesswoman and someone everybody likes. Dolly never fails to give back to the community — well, the world, really — and do things for others. Goldie Payne is also someone I admire, as she gave me my start in show business. If it weren’t for her, I truly believe I wouldn’t be who I am today. She taught me how to perform in front of a crowd, how to tease my hair, and how to wear lashes and red lipstick!”

Neely donned her tallest pair of heels, a “Dolly Parton” wig, and that infamous red lipstick for Duncan Hines Days this past June. This event attracted 16,000 visitors from 28 states to our community. The city of Bowling Green (BG) and Warren County estimate this first festival, which celebrated the life and legacy of native Duncan Hines, brought in over $2.28 million to our local economy. Neely, showcasing her talents as “Dolly” at the Capitol Theatre, sharing her “Tribute to Dolly,” which she personally wrote, and taking part in Uncle Duncan’s Walk ‘n Wheels Parade played a big role in the overall success of the weeklong festivities. Neely also participated in a “Baking with Dolly and the Pie Queen” class hosted by the Pie Queen of BG herself, Brie Golliher.

Duncan Hines Days involved three downtown BG parks run by the city, plus Warren County Public Library’s Capitol Theatre and SoKY Marketplace. The Kentucky Museum, Historic RailPark & Train Museum, BG Trolley, National Corvette Museum, Traveler’s Cellar Winery, a score of restaurants and food trucks, and private businesses partnered to ensure this successful inauguration. 

“Bowling Green doesn’t have a signature event,” said Telia Butler of the Downtown Development Division of the City of BG. “The Duncan Hines Days event offers a seat for everyone at the community table, a celebration of good food, good fun, and good entertainment.”

Look for Natasha Neely as “Dolly” during the second annual Duncan Hines Days, June 3-9, 2024. Until then, find her traveling with The Downtown Band Entertainment and a country band called Rodeo Disco this Christmas season. Neely will also be traveling with the Nashville Merry Country Christmas tour, traveling north to south on the east side of the States. For more information regarding tickets for upcoming performances, visit www.natashaneely.com. GN 

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