Dolly Parton Shares Reason Behind Inaugural ‘Pet Gala’ [EXCLUSIVE]

Dolly Parton is once again doing something that has never been done before. The country music icon is hosting the first-ever Pet Gala, a two-hour variety show featuring celebrities like Young Sheldon‘s Iain Armitage, Lainey Wilson, Chris Janson, Carly Pearce and more. Jane Lynch will co-host with Parton, while Kelly Osbourne and Rachel Smith serve as the runway correspondents.

For Parton, the decision to create the Pet Gala, which features celebrities and their pets, was an easy decision for her.

“I think everybody needs some fun in their lives,” Parton tells Everything Nash, explaining the inspiration behind the Pet Gala. “We’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, and then the strike happened, so we had to put it on pause, but when we started our own Doggy Parton line of accessories and all, so that kind of kicked it into first gear to say, ‘Okay, let’s just go for it.”

Parton’s Pet Gala includes pet attire, musical performances, collaborations and more.

“We’ve got the fashion show,” Parotn shares. “We’ve got the cute little dogs. I think more than anything, [it’s] just to have something fun and uplifting on TV, because what you see now is all the craziness. We’ve got all these celebrities that came out, bringing their dogs…But I think just being on the show with their pets is great. We always want to take our dogs everywhere we go, don’t we?”

Janson not only got to be part of the Pet Gala, but was able to bring his own dog, which became part of the performance.

“I love that part of it, and I love that Dolly asked us to be here,” Janson gushed. “I love that she’s asked us to do three performances, one with her, and so we’re doing the grand finale with Dolly, and then I’m doing two solo numbers. I’m doing the new single, ‘What You See Is What You Get,’ and I’m performing the classic Elvis’ ‘Hound Dog,’ singing to my hound dog. Legitimately, when you rehearse these things, it can easily go one way or the other. It can work or not work, but he’s done a great job. And it’s great.

“It’s been a really good experience, one of the more fun shows I’ve ever been a part of,” he continued. “Everybody’s so nice, and I think that’s a really great depiction of how Dolly just depicts herself overall, because don’t think she doesn’t know everything that’s going on. She treats everybody how she wants to be treated, and that’s why everybody’s so nice.”

Armitage, who has a close connection to country music, thanks to both Reba McEntire and her boyfriend, Rex Linn, being part of the cast of Young Sheldon, was thrilled to be able to participate in the unique event.

“It’s Dolly Parton and a bunch of dogs, and you can’t get better than this,” the 15-year-old said. “I am so happy, having the time of my life. It’s so much fun. Getting to see all those adorable puppies in the green room, in the Puppy Green Room they call it, and getting to see their cute little outfits. And it’s Dolly Parton! So I’m having the time of my life.”

Emily Ann Roberts first met Parton while on Season 9 of The Voice in 2015, has been heavily influenced by Parton, which is why she was so grateful to be invited to participate in the Pet Gala.

“This means the world to me,” Roberts gushed. “I grew up in East Tennessee, so I grew up with Dolly my whole life. So I was so thrilled to be a part of this tonight. She has been one of the biggest influences to me. And I actually got to meet her briefly when I was on The Voice, and she came out to give advice to us. I will never forget what she told me, and all the advice she poured into all of us contestants on the show. She’s just wonderful, inside and out.”

Lynch, no stranger to being on TV, didn’t hesitate when Parton asked her to co-host the Pet Gala with her.

“Who says no to Dolly?” Lynch reflected. “She has such good will in the world, and she does wonderful, generous things for people. I want to get in on that. Her band, and everybody around her, many of them have known her for 50 years. She has a backup singer that she’s been singing with for over 50 years. She’s known the drummer, the guitar player, the bass player, the security around her, her stage manager — everybody has worked with her forever.

“Her makeup person, her wardrobe guy, who designed all the looks the dogs are wearing, are based on the designs that he created for her,” she added. “So it’s just a really, big tight family and they adore her.”

Musical performances as part of the Pet Gala include Parton and Pearce performing “9 to 5,” Parton and Wilson singing “I Will Always Love You,” and Prton, Pearce and other performers singing “Jolene.” Joy Oladokun, Grace Bowers and KC of KC and the Sunshine Band also performed.

Dolly Parton’s Pet Gala will air on Wednesday, February 21, at 9:00 PM ET on CBS.

Photos courtesy of NBC Entertainment