The nation watched as wildfires swept through Gatlinburg and parts of the Great Smoky Mountains. Then, over the next few days, the resiliency of the people from this extraordinary place became evident, and an outpouring of support swept into the mountains from around the country and the world.
Most recently, the Smoky Mountain towns of Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Townsend have announced businesses are open, including Dollywood in Pigeon Forge; Tanger Outlets in Sevierville, Cades Cove entrance accessible from Townsend among others. Gatlinburg welcomes visitors to its Downtown Parkway, the ever-popular visitor destination, Friday, Dec. 9.
The Smoky Mountain Winterfest celebration, with millions of lights, Christmas shows and special events, continues in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Townsend.
Each year, families from all over the country stream in for one of East Tennessee's most famous festive displays. Extending the holiday season from early November until the end of February, millions of lights festoon shoppes and line the roadways. Ripley's Aquarium, Dollywood, The Island at Pigeon Forge and nearly all the other mainstay attractions of Sevier County come alive with the joy and spirit of Christmas.
Gatlinburg's mayor, Mike Werner declared confidently, "If you want to help Gatlinburg, come back and visit us. We're gonna be back and we're gonna be better than ever."
Perhaps no one would have expected Gatlinburg to be open as early as Friday, but it is.
Of all the amazing festivals and events to organize your visit around, Smoky Mountain Winterfest is a great time to celebrate the Tennessee spirit that's as strong as the ridges of those mountains in which they live and work.