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ABA names Gatlinburg's Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade among North America's 100 Best Events for 2013

By Jeaneane Payne

The American Bus Association (ABA) has again named Gatlinburg's Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade among North America's 100 Best Events for 2013. Each spring, a committee of ABA-member motorcoach and tour operators selects the Top 100 Events in the United States and Canada for the subsequent year. Winners are chosen from hundreds of celebrations, festivals, fairs, commemorative events, and more that have been nominated by ABA members.

gatlinburg christmas parade
The Polar Express float was part of Gatlinburg's Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade.

"The attractiveness of the Fantasy of Lights Parade as a don't-miss entertainment value is only part of why its selection this year is such a distinction for Gatlinburg," said Peter J. Pantuso, CTIS, ABA's president and CEO. "The real news here is that the parade has been recognized as a potential magnet for tourism dollars, at a time when reenergizing domestic tourism is so important to our spirit and our economy. The honor gives Gatlinburg an important boost in visibility among professional tour planners."

According to studies completed by researchers at George Washington University and Dunham and Associates, one overnight visit by a motorcoach group can leave from $5,000 to more than $11,000 in a local destination's economy. Those dollars are spent on lodging, meals, admissions, fees, shopping, souvenirs, services and local taxes.

"Motorcoach groups spend more and stay longer," Pantuso said. "That's why this parade is truly a local economic asset. There is no better way to jump-start tourism than to attract motorcoach groups to a great event and convince them to extend their stay."

ABA's Events Selection Committee peruses hundreds of event nominations submitted by member organizations. Judges considered the event's broad appeal, its accessibility to motorcoaches and skill at handling large groups, and a variety of other relevant criteria.

The parade was nominated for ABA recognition by Christ In The Smokies Museum and Gardens and the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau on behalf of Ober Gatlinburg, Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies, Ole Smoky Mooshine Holler, and many lodging properties including Park Vista Hotel, Edgewater Hotel, Clarion Inn, Glenstone Lodge, Hilton Garden Inn Gatlinburg, Greystone Lodge, Sidney James Mountain Lodge and others.

Six other festivals in Tennessee were also named among North America's 100 Best Events for 2013.

International Biscuit Festival - Knoxville TN
Only in its fourth year, the International Biscuit Festival made the ABA's Top 100 Events list. This popular event celebrates the heritage of home cooking through the Biscuit. The festival includes Biscuit Breakfast, Bsicuit Art, Biscuit Bazaar, Biscuit Brunch, Mr. & Mrs. Biscuit Pageant, Biscuit Bakeoff, and other events which take place in Downtown Market Square. The next festival is set for May 15-18, 2013.

A Country Christmas, Nashville TN
This six-week long event from mid-November until January 1 is a Nashville tradition featuring nearly 2 million spectacular Christmas lights, live music, craft shows, and carriage rides. Other events include a Christmas Dinner Show, Radio City Christmas Spectacular & ICE, and Christmas specials at area attractions.

Chattanooga's Riverbend Music Festival, Chattanooga TN
This internationally award-winning nine-day music festival will be held June 7-15, 2013. Riverbend takes place on the waterfront along the Tennessee River and attracts over 600,000 visitors annually. More than 100 bands feature world-class entertainment ranging from blues, classic rock, country, Christian, urban, and bluegrass -- all on six stages.

Secret City Festival, Oak Ridge TN
On the third weekend in June Oak Ridge remembers its origin as the Secret City, a secret during World War II when Oak Ridge became the town that made the atomic bomb. Events include WWII re-enactments, music, crafts, and food vendors.

CMA Music Festival - Nashville TN
Featuring four days and more than 100 hours of live music, autograph signings by country music's biggest names and up-and-comers, and celebrity events, the CMA Music Festival is Nashville's signature music event. The festival is held the first week in June annually.

Pigeon Forge Winterfest
From early November through February 28 this winterfest festival features over five million lights displayed throughout the city. A special festival event, Wilderness Wildlife Week, features 50 guided hikes and walks, lectures, seminars, and hands-on-workshops.

Published December 31, 2012

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