By Alex Shelton
Gatlinburg will kickoff the 26th year of Smoky Mountain Winterfest with the annual Gatlinburg Chili Cookoff presented by Bush Brothers and Company and Winter Magic Kickoff on Wednesday, November 11 from 5 p.m.–8 p.m. on the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg. City dignitaries will signify the start of Gatlinburg Winter Magic with a ceremonial lighting of more than three million lights throughout the city.
The Chili Cookoff, presented by Bush Brothers and Company and Winter Magic Kickoff, fall on Veterans Day this year. In tribute, Gatlinburg will honor all service men and women with the annual Veterans Day Celebration on Ripley’s Aquarium Plaza at 11 a.m. Gatlinburg’s Veterans Day Celebration is recognized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as an official site for the observance of Veterans Day. In accordance with honoring the military, The Ladies for Liberty will provide entertainment. The Ladies for Liberty perform in TheAndrews Sisters-style with their own rendition of vocals, costumes and the spirit of patriotism reminiscent of the 1940s. The Ladies have performed at patriotic ceremonies around the U.S.
Smoky Mountain Winterfest has had significant economic impact on holiday tourism in Sevier County. Since its debut in 1989 to 2013, the unemployment rate dropped from 14 to 4.5 percent for the months during Winterfest. Lodging occupancy increased from 20 to 65 percent in that same time frame across the county.
“November 11 is going to be a day packed full of both recognition and celebration,” said Vicki Simms, executive director of the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “First and foremost, we want to honor our Veterans. But also, we will be kicking off Winterfest and highlighting Gatlinburg as a popular winter destination. Winterfest has obviously had an unbelievable economic impact on all of Sevier County.”
Participants in the Chili Cookoff will be competing for the coveted People’s Choice Award, Best Booth Presentation and Best Apron. While the street event is free, tickets for chili sampling are $10. There is also a special edition t-shirt available for purchase.
For more information about the Winter Magic Kickoff and Chili Cookoff presented by Bush Brothers and Company or to purchase tickets and a special edition t-shirt, visit www.gatlinburg.com/events or call (800) 588-1817.