(WBIR - Pigeon Forge) The Robert F. Thomas Chapel at Dollywood dedicated the arrival of a new piano on Sunday that had been donated by a former employee.
Michael Stinnett said he hand-picked the 1901 Lester Victorian Upright Piano to donate to the park after he heard the chapel needed to replace its aging piano, one which Stinett played during his time working at the park.
Stinnett is a professional when it comes to Pianos and Dollywood. Him and his parents used to operate the Vintage Piano Works store located inside the park for nearly 10 years before he left to open his own business. Today, he operates the Antique Piano Shop located in Friendsville, Tenn.
It was at his new shop that Stinnett said he found the perfect piano for Dollywood.
"It was one of those beautiful special pianos that I knew someday the right buyer would come along and lone behold it was Dollywood...they're the ones the piano was meant for," Stinnett said.
Stinnett said he had purchased the Lester piano from a dealer in Pennsylvania but it was in extremely poor shape and needed to be fully restored.
600 hours worth of restoration work later, the piano was ready for its new home.
"Every person had their own two hands on this piano at one point in time to get the restoration done. What you see now is not the way it came to us. It was unplayable. It was moth eaten. It was really in deplorable condition but I could tell it had an amazing sound to it and when we restored it the sound came back to life," Stinnett said.
With restored strings and soundboard the like-new piano can now entertain guests each and every week at the park's unique attraction.
Each week, the Robert F. Thomas Chapel holds an early morning service for employees and then holds another service while the park is open so visitors can participate.
Dollywood spokesman Pete Owens said as far as he knows, Dollywood is one of only two amusement parks that has a chapel with its own congregation and services every Sunday.
Owens said the donated piano is surely going to be a plus for the people that use the chapel as their home parish.