PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (January 2012) – Wilderness Wildlife Week, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.’s, annual salute to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, expanded its reach by attracting visitors from 33 states and the District of Columbia. That’s six more states than in 2011.
In addition, travelers from New Zealand, England and Canada also registered their attendance.
“The international guests were an unexpected treat. More important, however, is that this special event appealed to travelers from so many states. That really validates the reach of tourism during Pigeon Forge Winterfest,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism.
The 22nd annual presentation of Wilderness Wildlife Week offered 288 programs, hikes, excursions and owl prowls from Jan. 7-14.
It began in 1991 to draw attention to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and to attract winter visitors. It is part of the city’s Winterfest celebration that runs November through February.
Cumulative attendance at the week’s programs totaled 24,630, a record. Snowy weather held that figure to 18,450 in 2011.
Forty-eight hikes and excursions of varying lengths ventured into the national park and attracted 630 participants who collectively hiked 3,705 miles. Hiking mileage has been tracked for eight years, and the total now is 21,223 miles.
“Wilderness Wildlife Week hikes help people burn a lot of calories. We have 57 people who have hiked more than 100 miles with us, 10 who have hiked more than 200 miles, one who has hit 300 miles and two who have recorded 400 miles,” Downey said.
More than 150 experts in wildlife, photography, mountain history, wildflowers and other subjects volunteered their time to lead programs. All of the week’s indoor programs were at the Music Road Hotel and Convention Center.
Dates for Wilderness Wildlife Week 2013 are January 12-19.
Pigeon Forge’s next special event is Saddle Up, a celebration of cowboy poetry, western music and chuckwagon cooking. Dates are Feb. 23-26, and details are available online at www.MyPigeonForge.com/saddleup or by calling toll-free to 1-800-251-9100.