knoxville news
knoxville news knoxville daily sun lifestyle business knoxville sports travel knoxville classifieds knoxville jobs knoxville legal notices knoxville yellow pages smoky mountains contact facebook twitter linkedin rss entertainment knoxville advertising

Wintry blast doesn't stop Smoky Mountain Winterfest
By Jeaneane Payne

tune and tales
The Smoky Mountain area is ready for the hundreds of thousands of people who will be visiting during this year's Smoky Mountain Winterfest. Image of Smoky Mountain Tunes & Tales courtesy of Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce.

Smoky Mountain Winterfest kicked off this week with Sevierville’s kickoff on Monday. Pigeon Forge held their opening festivities on Tuesday and Gatlinburg began Winterfest on Wednesday with a Chili Cookoff. Today, Winterfest was greeted by a wintry blast which temporarily closed Newfound Gap Road (Hwy 441) between Gatlinburg, TN and Cherokee, NC due to ice and snow. But that doesn’t stop all the wonderful activities planned for guests visiting the Smoky Mountain area between now and February 28, 2015. Besides, Hwy 441 will most likely reopen on Friday, Nov. 14 after the National Park has an opportunity to clear the roadways.

More than 12 million lights adorn the streetscapes from Hwy 66 at the I-40 corridor all the way to the Gatlinburg entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Smoky Mountain Winterfest. Folks, that’s about a 30 mile stretch of festive lights and great activities. This annual magical event features enchanting light displays, unique shopping, award-winning shows, family attractions, lots of special events, and the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains.

This year, each city has added more lights and light displays with 100% of lights being sustainable LED lights which aves thousands of dollars annually in electric and maintenance costs.

Each city has special events planned all the way through February 28, 2015. Most of the music theatre will have a special Christmas show.

When arriving in Sevierville, visitors will find incredible shopping, shows, and attractions. Sevierville features nearly 150 name brand outlet stores where shoppers can find everything from fine China and clothing to tools and furniture. Specialty retail shops featuring items like fine art, antiques and collectibles and outdoor items are also popular. Visitors can even take a piece of Winterfest home by visiting stores like Country Christmas & Collectibles where Winterfest style lighting displays are for sale and custom displays are built to order.

Sevierville kicked off Winterfest with its annual Music, Lights & Magic event on November 10 at the Sevierville Municipal Complex. Approximately 8,000 people attended the event which offered entertainment, free food like hot cocoa, egg nog ice cream, caramel apples, kids’ games, fireworks, and, of course, an appearance by Santa. In addition, school dance teams, Elizabeth Williams School of Dance, Donna’s Majorettes, the SCHS Concert Choir, Move Dance Factory and 3D Studio of Dance performed.

This year, the City of Sevierville partnered with Operation Warm Wings, a program facilitated by the Tennessee Museum of Aviation, to provide new coats to children in need in Sevier County, and the Sevier County Food Ministry, a local non-profit providing food and clothing to those in need, for a Winterfest Coat Drive. Coats can be dropped off at Sevierville City Hall through November 14.

Sevierville is one of the host cities for Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland, a mega drive-thru light show featuring Santa playing in the Smoky Mountains. From Nov. 7 through Jan. 4 this mile and a half maze of lights will glow into the night sky.

On Sunday, Dec. 14 the annual Santa Hustle 5K & Half Marathon will take place in Sevierville.

A favorite stop during Winterfest this year will be at Eagle Springs Winery located at 119 Dumplin Valley Road just off I-40 at the Sevierville exit. The winery is highly appealing from the outside and tasty on the inside. Wines are honey-based with a crisp and refreshing flavor. The Wildfire wine combines strawberry and kiwi and honey. The Pride of the South selection unites sweet honey and muscadine grapes.

Also at the I-40 corridor is a magical Christmas village at Bass Pro Shop featuring a carousel, Uncle Bud’s Nut Shop, a duck shooting gallery, a remote controlled truck track, and Santa’s Village where live elves will accompany Santa. Pets are allowed in the Christmas village. You can have your picture made with Santa, and your pet can join in.

Sevierville is rich in culture. On December 6, celebrate the gifts of the season at the Robert A. Tino Gallery located at 812 Old Douglas Dam Road for a holiday open house. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. you can sample the delightfully spiced cherry port that is Winter's Blessings. Every bottle you buy will generate a $5 donation for Friends of the Smokies to help the Park's special places and the life within them. This extremely limited release makes a great holiday gift, especially when paired with a matching art tile by Robert A. Tino. Get him to autograph your gift set to make it an especially memorable and collectible keepsake.

Also on December 6 is the Sevierville Christmas Parade at 11:00 am. Everyone gathers near the intersection of Court Ave. and Forks of the River Parkway in historic downtown Sevierville. You will find lots of great mom and pop restaurants in the area to satisfy your winter appetite.

The city of Pigeon Forge remembers when winters were dark and unexciting throughout the town a quarter-century ago. Tourism was strictly seasonal. This little city nestled at the edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park curled up at the end of fall foliage season and hunkered down until spring.

“Our traffic lights back then really did go into blinking yellow mode, and you could fire the proverbial cannon down the Parkway and not endanger anyone,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism.

All of that ended when millions of colorful lights adorned the streets and Dollywood stayed open through December. Theatre owners committed to offer shows, restauranteurs and retailers agreed to stay open and the city promised major special events.

Today, 5 million lights flash throughout Pigeon Forge declaring a winter of fun. Two bridges crossing the Little Pigeon River showcase major new displays. Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas, which runs from November 8 through January 3, 2015, is hosting a variety of Christmas shows, holiday foods, crafts, and a display of another 4 million holiday lights throughout the park which complement those in the city.

The focal point of Winterfest this year is The Island at Pigeon Forge. This upscale theme park-like village has lots of free parking, lots of festive lights lining the entrance and continuing throughout. At The Island you will discover great restaurants, an arcade, a sky wheel, specialty shops, sweet shops, classy bars, and lots more.

The Titanic Museum Attraction will hold its third annual fireworks extravaganza on Thanksgiving evening (Nov. 27). The museum itself is decorated for an Edwardian-period Christmas celebration.

On Monday through Friday nights from Nov. 11 through Jan. 9, 2015, guests can enjoy the Trolley Tour of Lights with narrated rides through Pigeon Forge on the Fun Time Trolley system to see all of the major Winterfest light displays.

From Jan. 24-31, 2015, the city of Pigeon Forge will sponsor Wilderness Wildlife Week which features special programs about Great Smoky Mountains National Park and numerous other outdoor topics at the luxury LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge. More than 400 programs and 65 hikes have been planned for 2015 — all free.

Saddle Up! rides into town on February 18, 2015. This is another city-sponsored event which runs through Feb. 22 showcasing cowboy poetry, western music and the American West at the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge.

ober on ice
Ober on Ice is one of the favorite activities during Winterfest.
Pigeon Forge is geared up for Winterfest.

For Appalachian culture related events, head on over to Gatlinburg to hear strolling musicians and see Winter Magic Tunes and Tales amidst 3 million lights that make Gatlinburg a winter wonderland. Winter Magic Tunes and Tales features characters in costume singing and playing music along the Parkway downtown.

“Winter Magic Tunes & Tales celebrates the musical heritage of Appalachia,” says Gatlinburg Events Director, Jim Downs. The cast includes strolling singers and guitar players, Christmas carolers, a four-piece band, and each evening, dancing elves, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The characters will be out each Friday and Saturday from 5-9:30p.m. Nov. 28 through Dec. 20.

There are animated displays throughout the city and the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community, some as much as 40 feet tall.

gatlinburg christmas parade
Knoxville Pipes & Drums performing in the Christmas Fantasy of Lights Parade in Gatlinburg. Image courtesy of Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce.

Other special events in Gatlinburg during Winterfest include the award winning 39th Annual Christmas Fantasy of Lights Parade set for 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 5. Approximately 80,000 people come to view the mile-long parade featuring lighted floats, marching bands, equestrian units, giant balloons and, of course, Santa Claus. The Grand Marshal for this year’s parade will be Caleb Johnson, the 2014 winner of American Idol.

If you’re in town Thanksgiving weekend, you can enjoy a crafts show by some of the finest artisans in the U.S., Festival of Trees, and The Nutcracker “Sweet”.

The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday Show, with items made by members of the Gatlinburg Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community runs Nov. 25 through Dec. 7. The free show is held at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.

From Nov. 25-29, the Festival of Trees will be at Mills Auditorium. Admission is free and the event, a benefit for Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries, includes more than 75 decorated trees, a Santa Store, a gingerbread house competition and more. A luncheon at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 25 kicks off the event. Tickets are available through the SMARM office at 865-908-3153.

Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights, with departures at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 each evening Nov. 12 through Dec. 30 will provide guests with a guided tour of the lighting displays. Tickets are $5 and reservations are recommended. You may purchase tickets online at

On Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 28 and 29, The Nutcracker “Sweet” is performed at the Gatlinburg Mills Auditorium. The Great Smoky Mountain Dance Theater performs this all-local production at 7 p.m.

Snow tubing and skiing has already opened for the season at Ober Gatlinburg. On Nov. 21 Ober kicks off the winter season with a night of solid riding, food, drinks, music, giveaways, and a whole lot of fun! The event is free to enter but all competitors must have a helmet and a signed release waiver. Cash purse and prizes for the top finishers. For more information, visit

On Dec. 6 and 7 Ober presents Christmas on Ice.

Celebrate New Year’s Eve in downtown Gatlinburg at the New Year’s Eve Fireworks Show and Ball Drop on Historic Nature Trail at the Parkway. For the 26th year, the Space Needle area at traffic light #8 comes alive at the stroke of midnight with a fabulous fireworks show. Free entertainment beginning at 10 p.m.

When you are making your trek through the different cities during Smoky Mountain Winterfest, you will want to follow the winery trail which features five great wineries stretching from the I-40 exit in Sevierville all the way to Traffic Light #10 in Gatlinburg.

Finally, complete your visit by visiting the Smoky Mountain distilleries located in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

To request free brochures and other visitor information on Smoky Mountain Winterfest, visit

Published November 13, 2014

Related Articles:
25th Anniversary of Smoky Mountain Winterfest kicks off Monday, Nov. 10

knoxville daily sun Knoxville Daily Sun
2014 Image Builders
User Agreement | Privacy Policy