Tennessee Department of Tourist Development presents January 2008 Rythm & News for industry partners of Tennessee
Articles Industry Trends Calendar Noteworthy Tips
A Message from
Commissioner Susan Whitaker

Happy New Year!

It’s wonderful to be at the beginning of a New Year and already have so much for which to look forward. This year holds major milestones for Tennessee and the entire nation, including the 200th anniversary of the birth of President Andrew Johnson and the 40th commemoration of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Both occasions will be observed with year-long events and major highlights.

This year also holds our second annual Tennessee Blizzard, sponsored by the TACVB, taking place at Fall Creek Falls State Park, January 17 and 18, and our first Sustainable Tourism Summit, April 28th and 29th in Knoxville. Look for more information on these special events in this newsletter. The Tennessee Sampler will take place this year in Chicago, April 14-18, and the 25th annual National Tourism Week will be May 10-18, with the theme “Discover Great American Traditions.” And that’s just the beginning!

The Department of Tourist Development is committed to stand with each of you in taking our 2008 successes to even greater heights.In 2008, Tennessee tourism will also celebrate several new attractions and events. These new opportunities for economic growth will impact communities throughout the state. I am especially proud to recognize the efforts of several of Tennessee's rural communities in their new tourism ventures.

The Bemis Mill Village Museum, located in historic and rehabilitated Bemis Theater, contains exhibits and memorabilia portraying the story of Bemis, TN, a cotton mill town forged out of the cotton fields in 1900 by Judson Moss Bemis.

“Stay Down on the Farm” in Cottontown features a three-bedroom red farmhouse furnished with antiques and located on a 100-acre farm with miles of walking trails and a catfish pond. It is located just off I-65 North and close to Gallatin.

The Old Trade Mill opens January 2008, in Trade, the oldest community in Tennessee and an early trading ground for Native Americans and pioneers. The working mill is built from the remnants of an 1800s local grist mill. It will house a full-time miller to grind corn and grits as well as locally handcrafted items and historical artifacts from the area.

For a complete listing of What’s New in 2008, go to http://press.tnvacation.com/media/media-kit/.

Our industry is about the business of entertaining, and more than 181,000 people employed throughout the state continually devote themselves to the hard work of ensuring our visitors' great vacation experiences. Thank you for all you do to make Tennessee such a leader in this competitive industry.

The Department of Tourist Development is committed to stand with each of you in taking our 2008 successes to even greater heights. We consider it a privilege to assist you and your businesses in every possible way. We look forward to continuing and growing our partnership as we heighten the awareness of Tennessee tourism throughout the state, our region, the nation and even the world.

Together, let’s go out and make it a great year.


Susan Whitaker

Featured Articles:


Harold Dodd and Cary Winchester
showcase their 108lb prize.

Not One Fish But TWO!

The Mississippi River gave up two record size catfish recently at the Annual Bass Pro Shop’s Big Cat Quest Championship in Memphis. On November 3 – 4, 2007, more than 160 teams launched their boats from docks throughout Shelby County to compete in this record-breaking event.

The excitement of the popular tournament reached the high mark at the end of day when veteran angler Phil King of Corinth, Miss. brought in a gigantic, record-breaking 103.11-pound blue cat. The previous record was 93.7lbs.

“We’ve just seen history being made,” said Ken Freeman, founder, owner and director of the event. “Never before has a century-mark catfish been weighed in a catfishing tournament.”

However, day two proved to be even more exciting as another unbelievable fish story began to spread. Rumors were that Harold Dodd and his team of Cape Girardeau were also bringing in a 100 pounder.

“There was no way I thought anyone would beat the big fish from day one,” Freeman commented.

But Big Cat Quest Weigh Master Denny Halgren, confirmed it when he gasped, “It’s even bigger than yesterday’s fish!”

It was almost five pounds heavier. Dodd’s 108-pound catch had set the second national record in just two days. Tourists from across the region can learn while enjoy viewing the celebrity catch at the in-store aquarium at Nashville’s Bass Pro Shop.

TDTD's Marty Marbry with
Ken Freeman

The tournament’s championship however went to Phil King and teammates Tim Haynie and Leland Harris who swept the world championship with a cumulative total of 291 pounds. They also won nearly $30,000 in cash and prizes.

The tournament was also a TV producer’s paradise. A crew from Freeman’s syndicated show, Bass Pro Shop’s Big Cat Quest, recorded the event for broadcast on the first two Saturdays in January (7:30 a.m. CST) on cable’s Great American Country (GAC). Celebrity TV fisherman Bill Dance not only participated, but brought his TV crew as well. Fox News Channel aired numerous live segments Sunday from Mud Island River Park during their Fox & Friends morning show. ESPN, as well as local media, were also reporting on this huge Tennessee event.

Many who were in Memphis that weekend believe there were other winners. One was the sport of catfishing.

“If there was ever any doubt in anyone’ s mind that catfishing is truly exciting, or doubt as to whether or not catfishing deserves respect in the world of sportsfishing, those questions have now been answered two times over,” Freeman said.

The other winner, Freeman believes, is the state’s 34 inch catfish protection law. Tennessee has been recognized by several major sporting publications as a leader in protecting its resources, thus spawning additional tourism dollars to communities.

Reflecting on the event, Freeman recalled the old saying: “One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, now go cat go.”

What’s New in Tennessee

National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis

The year 2008 brings several major additions to the tourism industry and a few historical milestones. Yearlong activities and events will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. Special museum exhibits at the National Civil Rights Museum will celebrate Dr. King’s life, legacy and his profound effect on the world. Also in 2008, the city of Greeneville will remember the life of the 17th President of the United States for Andrew Johnson’s 200th birthday. This is an exciting time for new exhibits, attractions, hotels, restaurants and experiences in Tennessee. The Official 2008 Tennessee Vacation Guide, featuring more than 3,000 Tennessee tourism attractions, is now being distributed. Below, please find a brief example of the What’s New in 2008 listings. For a complete listing, go to http://press.tnvacation.com/media/media-kit/

East Tennessee:

The $110 million Belle Island Village project is set to open in the fall with 126 hotel rooms, 95 retail locations, four major restaurants, and attractions such as the Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Motion Picture Museum and the Darrell Waltrip Racing Experience.

The Old Trade Mill built from an 1800’s local gristmill, opens in January 2008. Trade is the oldest community in Tennessee.

Middle Tennessee:

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, in Nashville, will feature the works of Aaron Douglas a leading artist of the Harlem Renaissance (Jan. 18, 2008 – April 13, 2008). From Feb. 15 – June 1, the museum will feature works from Cezanne, Dali, Degas, Gauguin and Renoir.

Stay Down on the Farm features a three-bedroom red farmhouse furnished with antiques and miles of walking rails and a catfish pond in Cottontown.

West Tennessee:

Opening in 2008, the Bemis Mill Village Museum, located in the historic and restored Bemis Theater/Auditorium, contains exhibits and memorabilia portraying the story of Bemis, Tenn.

The Collierville Train Museum features a 2-8-2 Frisco Steam Locomotive, a Southern caboose and a former business car from the Seaboard Railroad. The museum brings back to life the 1940s passenger train, The Tennessean.

The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development strives to maintain an up-to-date listing of new events and attractions across the state. Please submit any additions to this list to Jennifer Littlejohn, senior writer, at Jennifer.Littlejohn@state.tn.us. Updates to the list are made throughout the year and are utilized among our media outlets, tourism inquiries, newsletters and Web site listings.

TACVB’s Winter Blizzard

Blizzard II is fast approaching on January 17 and 18 at Fall Creek Falls State Park Inn. The event, sponsored by the Tennessee Association of Convention and Visitors’ Bureaus, will be a day and a half packed full of information and motivation to get the year off to a great start.

Sessions begin Thursday, January 17 at 1 p.m. with a welcome and general session. Kayla Barrett, owner/president of Organizational Impact, will be the featured speaker. Friday morning, Mitch Bowman will conduct a general session on the Tennessee Civil War Trails Program. Commissioner Susan Whitaker will follow with a special session for community and government leaders. The conference will conclude following lunch. Other highly-regarded speakers will conduct presentations during the conference to make it impactful, enlightening and engaging.

For more information on Blizzard II, contact Sheila Leggett at Sheila@associationpartners.com.

Sustainable Tourism Summit To Focus on Best Practices

Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains

Plans are underway for the Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Tourism Summit to be held April 28 – 29, 2008 at the Knoxville Convention Center. In honor of the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Sustainable Tourism Summit is designed to provide the Great Smoky Mountains gateway communities with an opportunity to hear from leading experts in sustaining historic, cultural and environmental resources while also sustaining economic growth.

Sponsors for the summit are The University of Tennessee, Middle Tennessee State University Center for Historic Preservation, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, North Carolina Department of Commerce and the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations.

The summit will feature experts to provide resources, best practices and national examples pertaining to sustaining economic growth while protecting the natural resources.The summit will feature experts to provide resources, best practices and national examples pertaining to sustaining economic growth while protecting the natural resources. This forum will enable participants to learn from experts exactly how to build sustainable tourism assets without harming the environment and heritage. In addition to the two day seminar, gateway communities will be encouraged to identify specific “sustainable projects” and implement a plan for community action.

Speakers include such notables as Senator Lamar Alexander, Dr. Suzanne Cook, Senior Vice President of Research with the Travel Industry Association, and Keith Bellows, Vice-President and Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic Traveler.

Tourism and business leaders, economic development officials, Chambers and CVB’s, hoteliers, restaurateurs, land and resort/attraction developers, state and local elected officials as well as others interested in sustainable tourism practices are encouraged to attend.

For More Information: Contact Lee Curtis, Director of Program Development, 615-741-9045, lee.curtis@state.tn.us or Patricia Gray, Research Development Coordinator, 615-741-9004, patricia.gray@state.tn.us with the Tennessee Dept. of Tourist Development.

Registration details, Web site and agenda will be available soon.

Tennessee Civil War Trails Clearing New Paths

The roll-out and details of the Tennessee Civil War Trails Program will be featured at the TACVB Blizzard, January 18 - 19 at Fall Creek Falls State Park. Guest speaker, Mitch Bowman, the multi-state coordinator of the Trails Program, will make a special presentation during the session.

This exciting statewide program will create a uniform and well-designed path for travelers to follow as they explore sites and transportation corridors associated with the American Civil War in Tennessee. These trails will help to define and tell the Civil War story, while preserving our state's scenic and historic landscape.

This exciting statewide program will create a uniform and well-designed path for travelers to follow....Mitch Bowman, who developed the Civil War Trails Program based in Virginia, and who will implement the Tennessee Trails Program, will share his enthusiasm and provide detailed information for Tennessee’s tourism partners on how to participate. The project will enable the state to identify the important historical sites and create a network of directional signs and historical markers. It will also encourage partnerships between state agencies and local communities.

The department will soon be hosting statewide community meetings to be held in mid-February with Mitch Bowman. Scheduled dates are February 12-14. Two meetings will be held in each region; East, Middle and West. Exact locations and times of these sessions will be provided in the next two weeks to our industry partners as well as civic and social leaders.

The Civil War Trails Program exists because of a $537,240 enhancement grant made possible

through a federally funded program administered by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. The Tennessee Civil War Trails will also become part of the existing three-state Civil War Trails Program which has been developed through similar grant funding. The states that are already on board are Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. Soon to become a part of the program, along with Tennessee, is West Virginia.

For more information on the TN Civil War Trails Program, please contact Noell Rembert, Heritage and Civil War Trails coordinator at 615-532-8077 noell.rembert@state.tn.us or Lee Curtis, Director of Program Development at 615-741-9045 lee.curtis@state.tn.us

New Places, New Faces

As the Tennessee tourism industry grows and continues to show such a dynamic statewide economic impact, the department has taken on projects that require dedicated staff to develop and coordinate services.

Lee Curtis has been named Director of Program Development. Because of her extensive background in cultural and heritage tourism, Lee’s new responsibilities include overseeing the Tennessee Civil War Trails Program and the upcoming gateway Great Smoky Mountains Sustainable Tourism Summit in Knoxville (see detailed stories in this newsletter). Patricia Gray, research development coordinator, will be working with Lee on the Sustainable Tourism Summit.

Noell Rembert has joined the TDTD staff as Civil War Heritage Coordinator for the Tennessee Civil War Trails Program. Noell will coordinate the grant proposals and requests, and service all components of the grant. Noell’s past experience includes positions in the Governor’s Scheduling Office and the Department of Commerce and Insurance. We are very pleased to have her on board.

Sales duties will now be managed by Kristi Driver, sales manager. She is your first point of contact with sales initiatives and continues to report to Assistant Commissioner Jennifer Spence. Regional Managers Derrick Smith, Dave Jones, and Marty Marbry will assist with the travel shows, along with Laura Heatherly, staff from the Welcome Centers, as well as industry partners, as has been done in past years.

Additionally, Derrick Smith serves as your first point of contact for the department’s sports initiative. This project, developed by Asst. Commissioner Spence, is in response to the industry desire for the department to become more aggressive in promoting the outstanding sports venues available throughout the state, from community parks to major professional facilities.

As you can see, the Department of Tourism is continuing to grow and branch out in many areas that will be helpful to the entire industry and have a major impact on future growth and development.

Smoky Mountains 75th Anniversary Events

Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park continues the buzz with more activities in the coming months as it gears up for the 75th Anniversary. As was reported in the August e-news, there will be an official 75th Anniversary Calendar of Events to commemorate the event.

The event application is open, and will remain open as we approach the 75th Anniversary. The "first cut” of events will be reviewed and finalized at the end of January. After January 15, there will not be another review for sanctioning for several months. Following the first review, event applications will be reviewed on a quarterly basis to be added to the Official 75th calendar.

Event coordinators will receive notification that their event has been accepted, and possibly will be contacted for additional information.

In order to be considered for sanctioning as part of the Official Calendar of Events for the 75th Anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the event must be solely a community-based event, and be held in the community, not in the Park. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country, located in Tennessee and North Carolina.

For more information, please contact Ann Froschauer at ann@gsmassoc.org or call her at 865-436-7318 ext 349.

Employee of the Month

Meredith Thomas

Our December Tennessee Welcome Centers Employee of the Month is Meredith Thomas. A Welcome Center Assistant at the I-75 Hamilton County Welcome Center in Chattanooga, Thomas has just completed her sixth year with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. "Meredith is so sweet and kind to everyone," said Jan Elliott, I-75 Welcome Center Manager. "I've never known anyone as easy going and patient as Meredith," Elliott said.

Visitors passing through the Center have been treated to true Southern hospitality from Thomas. Here are just a few of the many comments we have received from visitors about her.

"Meredith gave wonderful help - Thanks"
"Meredith was pleasant and helpful with my reservations...she is a great lady."

"Meredith was very helpful and went over & above to help us."
"Thanks so much for all the help and friendliness, Meredith."

"I love working with people and everyone here is great", said Thomas. "The employee of the month goes to everyone here", said Thomas.

One example of her dedication to serve is when a lady left her breathing equipment and Thomas mailed it back to her. In return the lady sent a really nice thank you letter. "That made me feel real good," said Thomas.

In a bitter sweet thought, "Meri" will be retiring February 1, 2008. We will miss her but wish her nothing but wonderful days ahead.

Industry Applause

Double Arch Bridge on the Natchez Trace

The Natchez Trace Compact, the marketing arm of the National Scenic Byway that stretches through Tennessee, Alabama and Tennessee, has been awarded the 2007 National Scenic Byways Grant in the amount of $297,368.

Hoot a Top 20. Southeast Tourism Society has selected the annual Honda Hoot rally as a “Top 20 Event” for the month of June 2008. The Honda Hoot, one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the nation, brings approximately 15,000 motorcycle enthusiasts to town every June and 2008 will mark the eighth consecutive year that the rally has been held in Knoxville.

Memphis' South Main District Best Place to Retire. CNNMoney.com has ranked Memphis number one in affordable housing for its annual list of Best Places to Retire.

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site

National Parks Celebrated at the White House. Andrew Johnson National Historic site Ornament is displayed on the official White House Christmas tree. The tree is the centerpiece of elaborate decorations celebrating the theme of Holiday in the National Parks. Local artist Martha Scull and Patty Lane designed the ornament to represent Greeneville Tennessee commemorating the bicentennial of Andrew Johnson’s birthday.

Music City Bowl Sells Out In 24 Hours The 2007 Music City Bowl featuring the Kentucky Wildcats and Florida State Seminoles sold out in less than 24 hours, marking the second consecutive sell-out for the bowl game. It is also the second straight appearance for the Wildcats.

Gibson and McNairy Airports Receive State Aeronautics Grants. West Tennessee airports in Gibson County and McNairy County have been named as two of eight Tennessee airports that have been approved for the Aeronautics Grants. The grants are being made available through the Tennessee Department of Transportation's Aeronautics Division.

Destination ImagiNation

The Department of Hospitality at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville has received a $625,000 USDA Grant to do measurements (dietary, physical activity and BMI) on the Destination ImagiNation Global Finals participants that convene in Knoxville the last week in May each year. The grant will be administered by Dr. Carol Costello of UT. “I am thrilled …to investigate the phenomenon of the kids being of lower weight than the national averages.” Destination ImagiNation is a week-long, student-centered competition with 18,000 youth, family members, volunteers and international dignitaries from nearly all 50 states and 13 foreign counties. It has a $22 million economic impact for the city of Knoxville and events are held on the UT campus and throughout the city. It is the largest creative problem solving program for youth in the world. The Tourism Department’s Education Initiative plays an active role with Destination ImagiNation.

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts has been certified as an accredited museum by the American Association of Museums (AAM). This accreditation marks the Frist Center’s commitment to excellence, accountability, high professional standards and continued institutional improvement.

The Georgia Society of Association Executives honored Susan Flynn, Director of National & Regional Accounts for the Chattanooga Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, with two outstanding recognitions. Flynn was presented with the “Corporate Member Representative of the Year Award” at the Annual Meeting and Trade Show and was named one of GSAE’s “Movers & Shakers” at the 90th Anniversary.


Tennessee, The Stage is Set For You

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