Winterfest At A Glance:
- Nov 12 Sevierville Winterfest Kickoff “Music, Lights, & Magic”
- Nov 12 Pigeon Forge Veteran’s Parade and 24th Annual Winterfest Kickoff
- Nov 13 Gatlinburg Winter Magic Kickoff and Chili Cookoff
- Nov 8 – Jan 5 Sevierville Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland at Smokies Stadium
- Nov 29 – Dec 21 Gatlinburg Winter Magic Tunes and Tales (Fri & Sat)
- Dec 6 Gatlinburg 38th Annual Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade
- Dec 7 Sevierville 51st Annual Christmas Parade
- Dec 31 Gatlinburg 26th Annual New Year’s Eve Ball Drop & Fireworks Show
- Jan 25 – Feb 1 Pigeon Forge 24th Annual Wilderness Wildlife Week
- Feb 19 – 23 Pigeon Forge 14th Annual Saddle Up
- Feb 22 Sevierville 5th Annual Rose Glen Literary Festival
Smoky Mountain Winterfest
For the better part of the last two decades Sevierville’s Smoky Mountain Winterfest celebration has been growing in energy, festivities, and impact. What has come to span nearly 70 square miles of Sevierville’s main thoroughfares, bring economic stability to the area year round, and attract a growing amount of tourists during the winter months started out as a simple replacement of aging Christmas lights in downtown Sevierville. Now it takes a 50,000 cubic foot warehouse to store all the Winterfest decorations that will sparkle and magnify the beauty of our hometown. Smoky Mountain Winterfest has become a holiday tradition for many visitors who return year after year to enjoy the lights, shopping, shows and attractions.
This year Winterfest will once again be host to the Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland at the Smokies Stadium. This 1.5 mile drive through LED light experience features extras for the kids, including a petting zoo, pony and camel rides, photos with Santa and a Christmas tree lot (after Thanksgiving) and delicious holiday foods. www.shadrackchristmas.com
Viewing Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland and all the Smoky Mountain Winterfest lights with friends and family is a great way to get in the holiday spirit. For added fun while viewing the lights, visitors are encouraged to make a quick stop on their way into town at the Sevierville Visitor Center on Hwy 66 (1.5 miles from I-40 Exit 407). There they can purchase a pair of Winterfest in 3D glasses while supplies last for only $1. The glasses shift each point of light into a snowflake, adding even more interest to the intricate light displays.
November 21, 5:30pm at River Plantation Conference Center. Tickets are available for $5 in advance or $7 at the door.
Sevierville Sugarfest attendees will have the opportunity to sample sweets and confections from area restaurants and civic groups while also bidding on delicious desserts during a live auction conducted by Thompson Carr Auctions. Proceeds from Sevierville’s Sugarfest 2013 benefit the E.L.F. (Education & Leadership for the Future) fund which helps provides extra dual enrollment scholarships to qualifying students attending high schools in Sevier County. Sugarfest attendees can also vie for the winning bid on the upcoming Sevierville Chamber of Commerce Membership Breakfast Title Sponsorship.
“This is one of the best ‘date night’ ideas and really perfect for anyone who has a sweet tooth,” says membership coordinator Jim McGill. “Bring a friend, bring your family, bring a date and help us raise money to impact education in a positive way.”
Funds raised through Sugarfest are given to the public high schools in the Sevier County school system and used to meet the need for additional Dual Enrollment scholarships while also providing an emergency fund for students in need. The dual enrollment program allows students to take college level courses and earn college credits while still in high school, thereby giving them a jumpstart on their college education.
Until Winterfest began taking root as an event that attracts tourists many area businesses were forced to close their doors during the Winter months. Since most of the attractions that draw tourists to the area have historically been suited for milder weather, cold and snowy conditions meant closing up shop. And the area’s retail presence is second to none it doesn’t bring the traffic to the area by itself to warrant paying the overhead for many businesses to stay open. However, since Winterfest’s inception in the mid 90’s our area has sen consistent growth in Wintertime tourism. Now the traffic is to a level that can sustain our businesses year round which in turn means people keep their jobs, tax money is generated, and the wheels of our local economy are turning. However, the tipping point that made Winterfest an economic catalyst came when Dollywood agreed to stay open during the Winter. And now with events like Sugarfest that reinvest money into our schools and education along with City’s dedication to work efficiently and environmentally sustainable way we see the triple bottom line of Winterfest’s impact in our area.
Over the last 2 decades Winterfest has grown by leaps and bounds. Before maintaining the lights and equipment locally Sevierville entered into a lease/purchase of the Winterfest Lighting Program along with purchasing the large Smoky Mountain Winterfest sign that can be seen on I-40 near Exit 407.
In 2003 the lease/purchase program ended and the city began to maintain the lighting program in house. From this the Winterfest Display Committee was born that guided Winterfest from then on out. Soon after the city hired one full-time employee to maintain the equipment. This usually involved the laborious task of replacing the man many c-7 incandescent bulbs. Since then Sevierville decided to invest in LED lights, which while more expensive than the older C-7’s, save the city $25,000 annually in utility costs. Plus they last longer so they don’t need to be replaced every year. 2011 was the first year that all the lights were LED.
All installation, maintenance, and repairs is now conducted by the Parks and Recs Maintenance Division. It typically takes 3 workers to install one lighted snowflake. The installation is done mostly at night to avoid interfering with traffic. The installation usually begins mid-September and finishes within the first week and a half of November. The goal of the Winterfest Program is to install Winterfest Displays on every power pole from Exit 407 to the Pigeon Forge City Limits (14 miles); Newport HWY City Limits to Chapman HWY bridge on US 411 and to continue to install ground displays on both public and private property where available.