Gatlinburg celebrates the 25th anniversary of Winterfest

ZZ Winter Magic in Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg Winterfest / photo submitted

By Marci Claude

Gatlinburg is pulling out all the stops to make the 25th Anniversary of Smoky Mountain Winterfest over the top. Enchanting light displays, decorations, strolling musicians, special events and seasonal activities will create special Smoky Mountain memories for Gatlinburg visitors of all ages.

A summary of what is scheduled over the next several weeks in Gatlinburg includes:

The 25th Annual Chili Cook Off and Winter Magic Kick Off on the downtown Parkway from 5-8 p.m. on Wednesday, November 12. The event features the ceremonial lighting of more than 3 million lights that make Gatlinburg a winter wonderland. There are animated displays throughout the city and the Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community, some as much as 40 feet tall.

The Chili Cook Off features teams from local businesses, service organizations and restaurants vying to win trophies for cooking up the best batch of chili. While the street event is free, tickets for unlimited chili tasting are $10. There is also a hot chili eating contest and live music featuring Emi Sunshine and Sonia Leigh who will perform on the Bush Brother’s Stage. Sonia is a rising star in the Nashville music scene with her female-attitude, modern country sound. Tickets may be purchased on line at www.gatlinburg.com/events.

Back by popular demand, Winter Magic Tunes and Tales features characters in costume singing and playing music along the Parkway downtown. The characters will be out each Friday and Saturday from 5-9:30 p.m. November 28 through December 20.

“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 award winning 39th Annual Christmas Fantasy of Lights Parade will step off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 5. Thousands of people come to view the mile long parade featuring lighted floats, marching bands, equestrian units, giant balloons and, of course, Santa Claus.

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.

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

The Festival of Trees, November 25-29, 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. November 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 November 12 through December 30 for a guided tour of the lighting displays. Tickets are $5 and reservations are recommended.

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

To learn more about these and other events in Gatlinburg, call 800-568-4748 or visit www.gatlinburg.com.

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