2013 event draws visitors from 26 states, three foreign countries
PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (February 2013) – Wilderness Wildlife Week, Pigeon Forge’s annual salute to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, attracted visitors from 26 states and three foreign countries and put 556 people on trails in the national park.
“We had some very rainy weather, that didn’t really dampen anyone’s enthusiasm,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism.
There were 304 workshops, lectures, panel discussions, mini-concerts, hikes and excursions that had a cumulative attendance of approximately 23,500 people.
The Jan. 12-19 event was at the Music Road Hotel and Convention Center. It relocates next year to the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge, the city’s new special events center, which is to open this fall.
“This was the 23rd Wilderness Wildlife Week, and it continues to be a big draw for Pigeon Forge in the winter,” said Butch Helton, manager of the tourism department’s special events office.
Helton said visitors came from 26 states as well as from Australia, China and New Zealand.
“We expect visitors from Pigeon Forge’s traditional marketing area, so it’s wonderful to see long-distance travelers for this event. We had people from Arizona, California and Colorado out west, plus New Englanders from Vermont and New Hampshire – and there was a big contingent from the upper Midwest states of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Helton said.
Despite inclement weather, Wilderness Wildlife Week’s hiking program attracted 556 hikers who tallied 2,595 miles on various trails.
The hiking program has tracked cumulative mileage for nine years, and the total now is 23,818.
More than 200 experts donated their time and talent to present Wilderness Wildlife Week programs. There were 142 new programs, and the lineup was different every day.
“We work to find new and interesting topics,” Helton said.
Wilderness Wildlife Week, named 10 times as a Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event, is a part of Pigeon Forge Winterfest, which starts in November and goes through February.
Wilderness Wildlife Week 2014 will be Jan. 25-Feb. 1.
Pigeon Forge completes Winterfest with Saddle Up, a celebration of cowboy poetry, western music and chuck wagon cooking, Feb. 21-24.
Information about Saddle Up and other events is at MyPigeonForge.com and 800-251-9100.
Tom Adkinson, APR