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It'll take a lot of planning on their part, but the Duggar Family of the TLC series "18 and Counting" plans to visit Pigeon Forge and Dollywood next month. They'll be part of the annual Dolly Parton parade and shoot segments of their show while on vacation.

The ever-expanding Duggar family will be visiting May 5 -9 to "explore" Dollywood and shoot an episode of their show.

Pigeon Forge Mayor Keith Whaley invited the reality TV family; They will be traveling 750 miles from their hometown of Springdale, Ark., to participate in the upcoming Dolly Parton Homecoming Parade on May 8.

The Duggar family trip to Pigeon Forge will be featured in a summer episode of "18 Kids and Counting," which airs on TLC Tuesdays at 9 p.m. Each episode chronicles the lives of an Arkansas couple, Jim Bob and Michele Duggar, and their 18 natural-born children, who range in age from four months to 21 years. The family includes two sets of twins. For more information, visit TLC.com.

Details of Parton's float are a secret, but the Duggars will participate with an honorary float the City of Pigeon Forge has crafted for them.

In days leading up to and after the parade, the family will visit many Parkway attractions during their five-day stay, including seeing several live comedy and musical theaters, going to Zorb, the mountain-side free-fall inside a gigantic ball.

Posted: 4/27/2009 4:05:32 PM by Jessica Bookstaff Doppelt | with 0 comments

Clingmans Dome Road in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park willl be closed to visitors from 7 p.m. on April 23 to 5 p.m. on April 24.

The Governors' Proclamation Ceremony in honor of the park's 75th anniversary will be held in the Clingmans Dome parking area.

To accommodate the private ceremony, park officials will close the road temporarily. Over 200 guests, including city and county elected officials, tourism representatives and state officials from North Carolina and Tennessee, have been invited to attend the event.

Organizers planned the event to recognize the vital role of local citizens, community leaders, state legislators and governors in establishing the park.

The park will host different events in honor of the anniversary throughout the year.

For a list of events celebrating the 75th Anniversary of The Smokies, visit Pigeon Forge.com's Calendar of Events.

Read the full news story at WBIR.com
Posted: 4/20/2009 5:00:00 AM by Jessica Bookstaff Doppelt | with 0 comments

The 5th Annual Bloomin' Barbeque & Bluegrass Festival in Sevierville is scheduled for May 15-16, 2009. This event features delicious southern barbeque, family-friendly activities and free bluegrass concerts. Barbeque cook teams from all over the nation gather in Sevierville, Tennessee to compete for $15,000 in cash & prizes and the title of Tennessee State Champion.

On Friday, May 15, guests will want to take time to stroll through the "Que Zone," where cooks will be preparing their barbeque specialties. The Eating Tent is the place to gather after you pile your plate high, as a variety of entertainment will be available throughout the event. Plus, Summertown Road, Cherryholmes and Marty Raybon will be performing Friday night, at 5pm, 6:30pm, & 8pm respectively.

On Saturday, May 16, a Kids' Que event takes place for children 6 -16, sponsored by the Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union. The championship cook teams will be mastering their BBQ recipes throughout the day, and at 4pm, the winners are scheduled to be announced. Categories include Chicken, Ribs, Pork, Brisket, and specialty categories like "Anything Bush Beans" and Dessert. Performers on Saturday include Mountain Ruckus at 1pm, Barry Scott at 1:50pm & 3:30pm, Charlie Sizemore Band at 2:40pm & 4:15pm, Daily & Vincent at 5pm, Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier at 6:30pm and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver at 8pm.

Along with Championship Barbeque, the Bloomin' Barbeque & Bluegrass event is presenting their 5th Annual Mountain Soul Vocal Competition Finals on May 16. The competition honors Dolly Parton, and participants must sing a song written by Dolly Parton, of which there are more than 3,000, in any style of their choice. The Kids' Zone also returns this year, and is bigger and better than ever. It will provide climbing walls, bounce houses, and old time toys to play with so fun can be had by those of all ages. The Bluegrass Music Tent will also give kids and adults who are still kids at heart the opportunity to play instruments like banjos & fiddles, all with an instructor on site. Both the Kids' Zone & the Music Tent will be open until 9pm both Friday and Saturday.
Posted: 4/16/2009 5:00:00 AM by Jessica Bookstaff Doppelt | with 0 comments

There have been several cartoonists' caricatures this year of President Barack Obama disguised as President Franklin D. Roosevelt, complete with hat, glasses, wide grin and cigarette with holder.

Most of these appropriately involve comparisons about FDR's response to the Great Depression of the 1930s and Obama's response to the current recession.

One caricature that also might be appropriate will be available for cartoonists if the president decides to visit East Tennessee Sept. 2 to help commemorate Roosevelt's dedication of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican and advocate of the Smokies, said he intends to extend an invitation to Obama. "I'm going to personally encourage him to come," Alexander said.

U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., a Knoxville Republican, said he has mentioned the idea to Obama's congressional liaisons.

If Obama accepts the planned invitation, he will be only the second sitting president to visit the Smokies. We hope Alexander and Duncan extend the invitation, and we hope Obama accepts. The park is a treasure for our region certainly but as well for the entire country as the most visited national park in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Alexander has an elevated platform for his advocacy of the famous park in our midst. A Maryville resident, Alexander already had developed a reputation as the Smokies' biggest booster.

Recently, he became the top Republican on the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, the panel in charge of funding for all national parks.

Alexander, who lives on the edge of the park and often sees its wildlife up close, said he sought the position primarily to make certain the park received its share of federal funding and to help the park confront some specific problems, such as the blight that is killing the park's hemlock trees and the dirty air that renders it difficult for people to view the mountains.

"Ten million people a year don't drive to East Tennessee to see the smog," Alexander said. "They come to see the blue haze that gave the Smoky Mountains its name."

Duncan and Tennessee U.S. Sen. Bob Corker also count themselves friends of the Smokies. Corker hiked in the mountains when he was a student at the University of Tennessee.

In fact, Corker was hiking up Mount LeConte with former Senate Majority Leader and Tennessean Bill Frist one summer when Frist convinced him to run for his Senate seat, which he won in a close race in 2006.

Corker said he believes some additional federal funding is in the works for the Smokies, citing former President George W. Bush's initiative to increase federal funding for all national parks through 2016. Duncan believes the Smokies funding also has improved in recent years.

Alexander, Corker and Duncan are in a good position to help safeguard the park's funding, and we hope they can convince Obama to make a presidential visit to the park in September. It will mean recognition at the top level of government of the park's importance.

Posted: 4/2/2009 2:00:21 AM by Jessica Bookstaff Doppelt | with 0 comments

Dollywood guests will fly over the 150-acre theme park and experience the majesty of the Great Smokey Mountains with the opening of SkyZip. The first multiple station zip-line experience to open at a US theme park will debut at Dollywood in May 2009.
"SkyZip is the first of a series of premium experiences Dollywood plans to launch in the coming year. These high level family experiences are 'ready-to-go' meaning our guests just show up for the thrills, no previous experience or expensive gear needed," said Ken Bell, president of Dollywood. SkyZip will be an up-charge premium attraction at Dollywood.

"These deeper, personalized experiences will challenge our guests and often, fulfill lifelong dreams," added Bell.

The hour-long program will include up to five zip-line treks ranging in length from 100 to nearly 1,000 feet. There will also be a 100-foot long swinging bridge perched above the trees. Each zip-line is an elevated and inclined wire from which a pulley and a seating apparatus are suspended allowing the guest to move between two points via gravity.

Fliers will launch from a perch above the park's region called Wilderness Pass and soar to Dollywood's famed triple spiral-looping roller coaster, Tennessee Tornado, and beyond. One trail takes adventurers breathtakingly close to Eagle Mountain Sanctuary. After a brief hike, the adventurers will zip above Craftsman's Valley, home to Dollywood's talented artisans, and back to the same point where their adventure began. Each SkyZip tour offers a distinctive adventure with a theme.

As part of Dollywood's celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the tour will also provide an environmental and historical tour of undeveloped and unspoiled property surrounding Dollywood hosted by specially trained adventure guides. The new SkyZip is powered by Hawaii-based Skyline Eco-Adventures. In addition to park admission, an additional fee is required to experience SkyZip.

Posted: 4/1/2009 5:00:00 AM by Jessica Bookstaff Doppelt | with 0 comments

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Laughing until we had tears. I’ve never seen anything like the look on my kids’ faces when we drove down the Parkway past Pigeon Forge attractions. Our hotel was so vibrant and the staff was upbeat and helpful. Pigeon Forge is the brightest spot in the Smoky Mountains. The high energy (and clean language) shows we saw in theaters had everyone in my family clapping their hands…even “sour” Uncle George.

Mary Parker - Mobile, AL

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