Joleen Holt may be a master seamstress but her early days at Silver Dollar City were spent cutting pies, not patterns.
Her father was a fiddler at the park in 1975 when he heard Jack and Mary’s Pie Shop needed some help.
“I had been working at a factory and thought making pies sounded so fun,” she remembers. “I started working at The City and knew right from the start this place would become family.”
That work family stuck beside her as she eventually made the move from the pie shop to the costume shop, with a stint at the Employee Lounge in between.
“At the time, Silver Dollar City didn’t have a Christmas festival so my work was over in October,” she recalls. “But the costume shop was year-round, full-time work. I made my move!”
“This was so much different and so much better though,” she smiles. “Creating these costumes allowed me to be creative and put my own spin on the patterns. I love picking out small details like the lace and little buttons.”
Attire inspired by the 1880s is one of Silver Dollar City’s trademarks, and Joleen takes each stitch to heart knowing it represents the company’s brand.
“I get tickled seeing a worker walking through the park commenting how much they love their dress,” she says. “I think to myself how proud I am that I could make that for them. It’s so rewarding to see our employees get so excited about the costumes we design.”
And, she’s made a lot of them.
“I can create three or four a day. So, times that by five days a week and almost forty years. You know what? Let’s just say it’s a lot! Thousands and thousands of dresses!”
A love for Silver Dollar City is a family affair for Joleen, who says she might hold the unofficial record for having the most relatives who’ve also worked at the park.
“I guess you could say my passion for this place is in my blood,” she smiles. “On the list of past and present employees is my husband Robert, my son Shannon, my dad Joe, my mother-in-law, my daughter-in-law, and a whole string of cousins!
It’s not only those actual relatives that have made work joyful for Joleen, it’s also her work family at the Costume Shop.
“We’ve all gotten good at chatting while we sew,” she smiles. “It makes the days go by a lot faster when you’re having a good time.”
While Joleen – herself – is quiet by nature, she does enjoy visiting with her team and park guests when they come in for a fitting. But, she has one very well-known Silver Dollar City “sister” who goes way back and likes to talk a lot.
“I used to ride the school bus with candy maker June Ward,” she laughs. “We’re the same age. I was the shy one on the bus, but she was sort of chatty…and mischievous.”
The pair remained close friends once they grew up and have been co-workers now for almost five decades. Next summer, Joleen will join June in an elite group of Silver Dollar City’s workforce when she marks that 50-year milestone.
“I’ll get a Dogwood tree planted in my honor. Isn’t that something?” she says. “The years sure fly by. These hands will keep stichin’ as long as my health holds up. There’s always more dresses to make.”