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Pigeon Forge, WinterFest

Smoky Mountains Holiday Event Makes National Top 10 List

Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade Draws Thousands

"Music, Lights and Magic"

Pigeon Forge, WinterFest 2005
Courtesy of

The annual four-month celebration is loaded with entertainment, special events, twinkling lights, shopping bargains and Southern mountain-style hospitality. During the festive months more than five million lights twinkle each sundown creating a glamorous and sometimes whimsical backdrop. The rich aroma of hot mulled apple cider and tasty fresh baked ginger cookies provide the perfect compliment to the crisp mountain air. Fireside folktales, toe tapping banjo music encourage smiles and laughter.

WinterFest includes a series of remarkable annual events each with a memorable line up. The 15th annual Wilderness Week (Jan. 8-16, 2005) offers a series of outdoor themed activities designed to connect visitors with the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains.

During the unique event nearly 100 experts on wildlife and nature, host walks, guide hikes, conduct seminars and provide clinics on variety of topics, including Smoky Mountain history, music, and folklore as well as plant and animal life. Bonus points: A number of Wilderness Wildlife Week programs are designed for children. Try tracking and identifying scat coordinated by Mary Burke. Enjoy storytelling moments like A Year In The Life Of A Bear provided by Anne Allison & Kathy Sherrard.

Go to the wild. While the guided Wilderness Week hikes have become a popular draw, the weeklong festival also offers marvelous opportunities for learning. Greg Ward and Gene Rayfield will once again conduct their famous novice fly casting clinic. Trekking with Sandy Sgrillo and her gregarious llamas is an option as is going on an owl prowl with Steve Garr. This year Alfred Ballinger will coach rappelling for beginners.

For the less adventuresome but more rowdy folks there is a hog calling contest with Jim Headrick from the Comedy Barn Theater. For the more studious there is an old time spelling bee with Robin Goddard. Lloyd Arneach will explain that Indians laugh too, as he shares his humorous stories. How about learning to play a mountain dulcimer or folk dancing with Anne Lough? Most Wilderness Week activities are offered free of charge. The Music Road Hotel Convention Center is the headquarters for the event.

Make your own story. February brings the return of the Smoky Mountains Storytelling Festival (February 3-5, 2005) which celebrates the traditional mountain-style of spinning tales for fun and education. Each year the festival attracts some of the best tale-spinners in the country. They perform and conduct workshops throughout the weekend. Artists participating at this year's festival include: Donald Davis, Kevin Cordi, Charles Maynard and Doug Elliot. Bonus points: Haunts 'n' Haints Trolley Tales combine storytelling with an evening ride aboard a Pigeon Forge WinterFest Trolley.

Hear the music. Rounding out the season the 5th annual Saddle Up! Celebration (Feb. 24-26, 2005) will feature concerts by some of America's finest western musicians and cowboy poets. Featured entertainers include R. W. Hampton, a cowboy singer, songwriter and musician from Cimarron, New Mexico who will perform his one-man musical play "The Last Cowboy." Waddie Mitchell, one of America's most noted cowboy poets, will also appear. Other scheduled performers include Sons of the San Joaquin, and Brenn Hill, one of today's outstanding young cowboy singer/songwriters; and award-winning singer Joni Harms. Bonus points: The festive weekend also includes a cowboy action shooting competition, a western songwriter's workshop, and a cowboy clothing mart.

Smoky Mountains Holiday Event Makes National Top 10 List
Nov 17, 04 | 10:47 am / Courtesy of

Smoky Mountains Winterfest-a winter tourism event with activities in Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevierville-is ranked fifth on a list of the nation's top 10 holiday light shows. The list appears on the America's Best and Top 10 website ( The website features more than 50 "Top 10" lists. Writer Dow Scoggins, author of "America's Best National Parks" and "America's Best Lighthouses," compiles the lists. He started posting his lists in 1996.

"This is one more vote for the great work done here to make winter a viable tourism season," said Leon Downey, director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. "The list has some very impressive light displays, so we're in some great company."

Smoky Mountains Winterfest was fifth on the Top 10 list, following Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri., the Oglebay Festival of Lights in Wheeling, W. Virginia, Bright Lights at Forest Park in Springfield, Mass., and Fantasy of Lights at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

"The Oglebay Festival of Lights was one of the inspirations for what we created in the Smokies. Winterfest now is 15 years old, and it's exciting to be on a list that includes the place that helped us get started," Downey said.

Listmaker Scoggins said a lifelong "desire to know what's local, what's best and what's worth seeing" motivates his compiling his lists and accumulated others from various sources.

The other light displays on the Top 10 list are the International Festival of Lights in Battle Creek, Mich.; the Holiday Festival of Lights in Charleston, S.C.; the Trail of Lights in Austin, Texas; the Enchanted Garden of Lights at Rock City Gardens in Chattanooga, Tenn.; & the light display at Mission Inn, an historic hotel in Riverside, Calif.

The Pigeon Forge portion of Smoky Mountains Winterfest has received several other honors. The Southeast Tourism Society has named it the Festival of the Year three times and the American Bus Association named it the Top Event in the U.S. in 2003.

Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade Draws Thousands
By Candice Grimm

Gatlinburg - The city's Winterfest Celebration was kicked off, literally, with nearly 1,000 high stepping cheerleaders who participated in the 29th annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade on Dec. 3, 2004.

In addition to the cheerleaders, who were in Gatlinburg to participate in the "Jingle JAM Open Nationals" at the city's convention center, there were more than 100 other entries in the parade.

The millions of lights festooning the city served as a backdrop to a beam of light aimed into the sky, which could be seen for miles around during the parade.  As local residents know, when George Hawkins, manager of Gatlinburg's office of special events, is involved in anything, the event can always be expected to be outstanding and the 2004 Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade was no exception.

Hawkins was quoted prior to the parade as saying, "We will have artificial snow, sparklers, dance teams, elves, walking inflatable costumes, clowns, horses and dressed up llamas. We've also ordered several new giant helium balloons to float through the crisp mountain air for spectators to see this year."

The parade, as well as a 30-foot tall Christmas tree placed at traffic light No. 3 and the city's numerous lighting displays were all geared toward sending a warm holiday welcome to visitors to Gatlinburg.  Through the end of January, the city also offered a one-hour Trolley Ride of Lights in conjunction with Winterfest. The rides took passengers through the downtown and the Glades arts and crafts community, and for the first time, riders received a guide telling them about the area and stories about local people.

Until the end of December, visitors could also view the lights and sights from a tractor-drawn hay wagon trip along Baskins Creek and Historic Nature Trail, as well as a short distance into Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The grand finale of the city's Winterfest activities was the New Year's Eve fireworks show and ball drop at the stroke of midnight.

Jon Elder of the city's special events office said this year's New year's Eve crowd numbered 60,000 people, according to a Homeland Security Ageny who was there watching over the crowd.  The last event of the season related to the Winterfest is the Miss Winterfest Pageant, which is sponsored by Renee Howard, owner of Glamour Showcase in Sevierville.

The pageant is open to any girl up to the age of 18. The winner and three runners up will receive crowns and trophies when the pageant takes place Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. in the Gatlinburg Ramada. The entry deadline is Feb. 23 and contestants may reach Howard at 774-3559.

"Music, Lights and Magic" has become city's signature Winterfest event each November
By Brian Graves

Sevierville - More than 50,000 light bulbs adorned this city for its annual Winterfest celebrations.

The kickoff came in November 2004 when the "Music, Lights and Magic Winterfest" kickoff event drew approximately 4,000 people to the Sevierville Municipal Complex - a number double that of the first time the event was held in 2003.

"Music, Lights and Magic" is a joint project between the city of Sevierville and the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce.  "The partnership between these two quality organizations has resulted in a very successful event," said Sevierville City Administrator Doug Bishop.  Chamber of Commerce Director Brenda McCroskey said, "Music, Lights and Magic" has become Sevierville's signature Winterfest event that the community will look forward to each November."

Activities include old-time children's games, moonwalks, a climbing wall, photos with Santa, baloon animals, polices services, fire truck bucket rides and hayrides.

Music and entertainment was a staple of the kickoff with Come Celebrate America, Rock-iT, the Sevierville Intermediate and Middle School Choirs, Elizabeth Williams School of Dance, the Faith Trio and Power Dance Factory.

There was no lack of food for visitors on kickoff evening. Barbecue, hot dogs, soft drinks and hot chocolate all flowed for free.

Sevierville Public Information Officer Bob Stahlke said the event went very well.

"More concentrated planning on parking and other logistical work help make this year run even better than the last," Stahlke said.  "It's great to see our community come together an enjoy themselves at this annual event," said Sevierville Mayor Bryan Atchley. "I'm sure next year will be even bigger and better."

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Sevierville Chamber of Commerce

Sevierville Winterfest Information Provided by the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce

Pigeon Forge Chamber of Commerce

Pigeon Forge Winterfest Information Provided by the Pigeon Forge Chamber of Commerce

Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce

Gatlinburg Winterfest Information Provided by the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce