Beginning last Sunday and running through this Saturday, the National Quartet Convention has finally made its initial appearance in Pigeon Forge and is bringing an estimated attendance of 40,000 fans with it.
September, especially after Labor Day weekend and the rod runs, is a slow time for tourism and an influx of 40,000 people is a welcome sight for local businesses, especially motels and restaurants.
With the advent of so many people, traffic and parking could present a problem, but so far everything has ran smoothly. Pigeon Forge officials and planners are to be congratulated for their foresight, as traffic has not been rod run crazy. Some locals, however, discovered Jake Thomas Rd. is closed for the week (except for shuttle buses).
The quartet convention is centered at the LeConte Center, which has a parking capacity of approximately 1,500 vehicles and a seating capacity of 11,500 people. Additional parking is being utilized at the Pigeon River Crossing outlet mall and Dollywood Splash Country. Shuttles are available between the parking lots and the LeConte Center. Some events are being held at the Music Road Convention 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. Events for Wednesday through Saturday evening are already sold out.
It should also be noted that Dollywood is the permanent home of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, an extra added attraction for attendees of the convention. Dollywood’s National Southern Gospel & Harvest Celebration began Tuesday and will run to November 1. There will be more than 350 concerts, all free with park admission.
The quartet convention has a colorful history. It 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 World Records.”
In 1957, J. D., James and Cecil Blackwood founded the first convention in Memphis until Sumner moved it to Nashville in 1972. In 1993, the convention moved to Louisville, Kentucky until now, where it’s new home is now Pigeon Forge.
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 that the Singing News fan awards are to be presented during the convention. The first award presentation will be on Thursday, Sept. 25. 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 artists. For the evening concerts, doors at LeConte will open at 4:00 p.m. with the concerts beginning at 5:30 p.m. Again, please note that all evening performances from Wednesday to Saturday are already sold out.