By Jim Callicott
Beginning Sunday, the 21st and lasting through Saturday, the 27th, the National Quartet Convention will make its initial appearance in Pigeon Forge and it is bringing an estimated attendance of 40,000 fans with it.
The quartet convention was the brainchild of former Pigeon Forge resident J. D. Sumner, Hall of Fame honoree, member of the Grand Ole Opry and situated in the Guinness Book of Records.
In 1957, J. D., James and Cecil Blackwood founded the first convention in Memphis where it was home, off and on, until Sumner moved it to Nashville in 1972. In 1993 the convention moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where it remained until this year.
As September, after the Labor Day weekend and the rod runs, is a slow time for tourist, an influx of 40,000 people is a welcome sight for local businesses, especially motels and restaurants.
With the advent of that many people, traffic and parking could present a problem. The convention is centered at the LeConte Center, which has a capacity of approximately 1,500 vehicles. Additional parking will be allowed at the Pigeon River Crossing outlet mall and Dollywood Splash Country. Shuttles will be available between the parking lots and the LeConte Center.
Officials for the convention have stated that attendance for the seven day event has definitely increased and there is strong belief that an attendance record will be set for the event. It should also be noted that Dollywood is the permanent home of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and extra added attraction for attendees of the convention.
The Singing News Magazine, which is recognized as the printed voice of southern gospel music, and the convention board of directors have finalized a multi year agreement for the Singing News fan awards are to be presented during the convention. The first award presentation will be on Thursday, the 25th. The awards are voted on by subscribers of the magazine.
There will be both daytime and evening performances daily. The daytime events will be showcases for regional groups while the evening concerts will range from hall of fame members to up and coming national artist. For the evening concerts, doors at LeConte will open at 4:00 with the concerts beginning at 5:30.
Some of the artist scheduled to appear are: Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Karen Peck & New River, Kingdom Heirs, the Collingsworth Family, Gold City, Dixie Echoes, Isaacs, Jeff & Sheri Easter, Triumphant, Legacy Five and far too many others to name.