Winterfest brings hope to Gatlinburg after wildfires - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Winterfest brings hope to Gatlinburg after wildfires

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GATLINBURG (WBIR) -

Tourism leaders in Sevier County are hoping this year's Smoky Mountain Winterfest will help the area continue to bounce back after last year's wildfires.

Mary Hope Maples, director of the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Council, said crews have been working to put up more than 15 million lights across the county since late summer.

While the decor outside may still look like fall, the lights are mostly up and ready to be turned on when Winterfest kicks off in Sevierville on Monday, Nov. 6.

"It really is a beautiful time of year," Maples said. "Even now, you can still come up and catch those fall colors still remaining in the mountains. Of course, in the evenings as the time changes, you'll see those lights come on."

When the lights come on this year, it symbolizes another step in the recovery process for Sevier County following last year's wildfires.

Maples said last year there was a noticeable hit to revenue during the Winterfest season following the wildfires, but tourism leaders have worked to get the message out that Sevier County is open and ready for tourists to come visit.

"We've been through a lot over the last year and come a long way in the recovery," Maples said. "We're very much unified in our promotion this year."

Businesses in Sevier County are looking forward to the Winterfest season and the tourism dollars it brings to the county.

The Incredible Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge specializes in Christmas decor year-round, but Winterfest typically brings in even more customers during what could be a slow time for business.

"Obviously January and February, people aren't looking that much for Christmas presents or decorations," said Janet Donaldson, chief marketing officer at Christmas Place.

Donaldson said the lights outside give a warm feeling during wintertime when it could be cold and dreary, and it draws people into the store.

After last November's wildfires, Donaldson said the store is ready for the crowds of Winterfest to return to Sevier County.

"It definitely affected our business," she said. "We've been excited to see that growth pick up and build through the fall. We're looking forward to a great month."

The lights will officially switch on in Sevierville Nov. 6. The kick off in Pigeon Forge is Nov. 7, and Winterfest starts in Gatlinburg Nov. 8.

Tourism leaders believe this Winterfest will be a bright spot and bring hope after a tough year.

"It'll be a very sweet, sweet moment for all of us really," Maples said. "Last year's challenges certainly showed us just how well we can soldier on and work through things together."

Read more at WBIR's website.

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