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Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the transportation schedule for visitor use during the mating period of the synchronous firefly beetles at Elkmont. The plan, coinciding with the expected peak flashing period, will be in operation from June 8-16, 2007.

In order to more safely accommodate an anticipated large turnout for this year, the City of Gatlinburg trolley service will once again operate transportation between the Sugarlands Visitor Center and the Little River Trailhead at Elkmont. The trolleys will start at 6 p.m. picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area. The trolleys will continually run until the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area is full or until 9 p.m., whichever comes first. The last trolley to transport visitors from Elkmont to the Sugarlands Visitor Center is scheduled at 11 p.m. The cost will be $1 round trip per person.

The Gatlinburg trolley service will be the sole transportation mode for visitor access during this period; no private vehicles will be allowed. In order to accommodate the public transportation, starting at 5:30 p.m. each night June 8-16, the Elkmont entrance will be closed except to registered campers staying at Elkmont.

The annual appearance of the synchronous firefly beetles in the Park has become so popular that Park officials began managing the number of visitors to the trailhead. This area has very limited parking spaces that were designed to accommodate day use for several trails. The dates that the mating behavior begins can vary each year due to weather and other natural factors, but generally starts around the second week in June and lasts for about two weeks.

"The public who visit this area for the purpose of watching fireflies in the dark should recognize this is a natural environment with no other restrooms or other facilities and that
the fireflies flashing synchrony becomes more apparent later in the night," said Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. "So for those catching the early trolleys, there will be several hours before the fireflies come out," he explained.

In order to provide a safe and enjoyable experience, the following procedures will be in effect during the firefly managed viewing period June 8-16 in the Elkmont area:

It is recommended visitors bring flashlights with red cellophane covers to reduce white light. Coolers and alcoholic beverages are prohibited. Visitors can bring lawn chairs, and carry food and water in backpacks that can fit on their laps in the trolleys; there are no services available. Dogs/pets are not allowed on the trolleys or on the trail.

"No Parking" at the Little River Trailhead will be enforced. The Little River Trailhead parking area will be used to serve as a turn-around area for the trolleys. Starting at 5:30 p.m., the public will not be allowed to access the Elkmont Entrance Road, except for those camping at the Elkmont Campground. Park Rangers will be stationed at the intersection of Little River Road and the Elkmont Entrance Road to manage this restriction.

Posted: 5/31/2007 7:07:40 PM by Jessica Bookstaff Doppelt | with 0 comments

Next stop on Dolly Parton's Sevier County tour- the Dixie Stampede. After raising approximately $500,000 during her benefit concert Sunday night, Parton made her presence felt Monday evening as she helped her other Pigeon Forge business venture celebrate it's 20th anniversary during a special VIP show at the popular dinner theater.

Parton appeared earlier in the day at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new hospital in Sevier County, where proceeds towards her concert went towards the project.
She appeared twice during the Dixie Stampede festivities, first signing with the theater's in-house band during it's regular pre-show, then making an appearance at the end of the show, singing a patriotic number to close it out.

During the pre-show, Parton congratulated the theatre for 20 years in business, and then brought out Pigeon Forge City Manager Earlene Teaster, Tourism Director Leon Downy, Assistant. Director of Tourism Kay Powell, and newly-installed Mayor Keith Whaley and presented them with a commemorative plaque, and the biggest surprise - a bronze horse statue.
"Your always ready and always willing to work with the City of Pigeon Forge," Teaster said to Parton. "We've been great partners over the years, and we look forward to many more years."

"We've had many wonderful performers here over the years," Parton said.  "Anytime you can bring all your family and friends to Dixie Stampede, we would love to have you. You know I could use the money- I told you how much it cost to make someone look this cheap,"  she said with a laugh.

Posted: 5/24/2007 4:05:13 PM by Jessica Bookstaff Doppelt | with 0 comments

Southeastern Tourism Society has selected Gatlinburg's 4th of July Midnight Parade as a top 20 event for July.

The list is compiled by the Atlanta-based organization, which is dedicated to the promotion and development of tourism to its member states of Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.
For the 32nd consecutive year, Gatlinburg will kick off America's Independence Day celebration with the nation's first parade, which will lead off at midnight on July 4. A tribute to the military and the observance of Gatlinburg's Bicentennial will be among the highlights.

'This will be one of the most patriotic and colorful midnight parades that the City of Gatlinburg has ever produced," according to Special Events Manager George Hawkins. "We are very excited about the entire day of events."

Pre-parade entertainers are followed by giant helium balloons, which include Alphonso the dragon, Humpty Dumpty, and a patriotic Eagle and All-Star Train. More than 100 volunteers help navigate the balloons. More than 100 parade entries are planned.

Red Baron Pizza plans to bring a squadron of Stearman bi-planes to Sevier County in conjunction with the parade.

Gatlinburg's River Raft Regatta takes place at noon on July 4, beginning at the Christus Gardens bridge on River Road and ending at the Ripley's Aquarium bridge. This unmanned river raft race is open to anything floatable except balls and plastic eggs. In the past, families have entered boats made out of matchsticks, floating rocks, as well as little rubber ducks.Registration takes place between 10:30 a.m. and noon, with the race at noon.

An hour after sundown will come fireworks visible all along the Parkway. The fireworks last almost 20 minutes.

For more information about the parade or River Raft please call 865-568-4748 or visit www.gatlinburg.com

Posted: 5/18/2007 3:07:09 PM by Jessica Bookstaff Doppelt | with 0 comments

The Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation and Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center announce that tickets are available for Dolly Parton's benefit concert at 7:30 p.m. May 20, at Smokies Stadium. Proceeds will support the construction of a new Fort Sanders Sevier campus. Advertisement Tickets are available through all Tickets Unlimited outlets. Prices range from $33 to $150 each. To purchase tickets, call (865) 656-4444. Tickets can be purchased online at www.knoxvilletickets.com or www.concertsinthesmokies.com.

Tickets will not be available for purchase through Dollywood, the Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation or the hospital. Proceeds will benefit the campaign for a new Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center. Parton announced in December a $500,000 contribution to the campaign from her Dixie Stampede and Dollywood Foundation. The concert will add to that contribution.

Ellen Wilhoit, president of Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center, expressed the hospital's gratitude to Parton. "Her support to the economic development of this area and to a healthier future for Sevier County families is a true blessing for us all," said Wilhoit. Fund-raising for the campaign is coordinated by the Thomas foundation, a private non-profit group charged with raising money for health care needs of Sevier County.

It is named for a doctor who served in the dual role of minister and family physician in early Sevier County. Dolly Parton is one of the thousands of babies he delivered, and she memorialized his work in a song bearing his name. Parton also serves as honorary chairwoman of the foundation. Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center is a member of Covenant Health.

Posted: 5/8/2007 5:52:47 PM by Jessica Bookstaff Doppelt | with 0 comments

Pigeon Forge has joined Gatlinburg and Sevierville in recognizing what a valuable asset the river is to its community. In Gatlinburg you can stroll along the river in places on the two main streets through downtown. In Sevierville you can walk up and down the river on a scenic river walk built by the city.

Now Pigeon Forge is taking advantage of its river, often hidden by the Parkway development. The first phase of the city's greenway project was dedicated on Monday, as officials gathered at the plaza and cut the ribbon to open the trail. The first section of what one-day will be almost four miles of greenway trail goes from Jake Thomas Road to Ashley Avenue. The plaza includes flags and a plaque honoring former City Commissioner English McCarter.

The greenway will be a bonus for local residents, but over time, especially as the length grows during the ensuing phases of construction, we'll see visitors discover this treasure too.
Sevierville's river walk draws tourist as well as locals. The Parkway through Gatlinburg is naturally a Mecca for tourist. And so too will be Pigeon Forge's greenway, because it will go from Ole Mill down to Jehu Street. That will be a much more accessible and visible stretch of the trail. Work on that will begin in about a year.

Imagine a greenway walk of four miles or so, much of it along the scenic river with views of attractions as well as nature. How peaceful that walk will be for those seeking an escape from the buzz of Parkway activity.

Pigeon Forge has done a great thing with its greenway project. We can't wait for the rest of it to come along.

Posted: 5/7/2007 6:45:15 PM by Jessica Bookstaff Doppelt | with 0 comments

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