Winter Magic Kickoff & Chili Cookoff
|It’s now but a mere few months before Gatlinburg is lit up like so many other towns around the holidays. Although, when you’re the town of Gatlinburg, you tend to take it a step further.
The light switch to Gatlinburg’s Winter Magic lighting display will be flipped up on Nov. 13 and for four months visitors can cruise, mouths agape, through the wintery lighting spectacular. The town promotion has continued to grow in popularity and it shows with the million dollar investment in LED (light emitting diode) bulbs strung across every light post and city tree. Displays highlight the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its inhabitants including deer, foxes, squirrels and rabbits. Many of the timeless displays visitors have grown accustomed to over the past 24 years have been converted to crisp LED as well. Most recently, fanciful snowmen, dancing fountains, a group of international children and a shiny rocking horse have joined the lineup.
According to town officials, this transformation has brought about a new era of holiday entertainment in Gatlinburg, that has in years past attracted thousands of visitors each year with its wintery displays. These new lighting displays can be found along Gatlinburg’s famous Downtown Parkway, adjacent River Road, and the triangle juncture of the two.
The first three phases of the $1.6 million-plus rollout of custom designed and fabricated lighting displays are marked by sections reminiscent of winter forests, evergreens and romance. Now, Hwy. 321 features an injection of new displays. In all, switching to LED displays have saved some 95 percent in energy costs and allow for 120 days of lighting.
But don’t just come down for the lights on Wednesday, Nov. 13, stay for the Chili Cookoff that day as well. Homemade chili ranging from mild, hot, to really hot will be served from 5 to 8 p.m. on the Downtown Parkway, highlighted by the Winter Magic LED lights unveiling. The Winter Magic Chili Cookoff will feature more than 20 restaurants, attractions, civic groups, retailers, banks, and public service agencies serving more than 30,000 cups of chili and competing for a variety of awards.
Those attending are encouraged to vote for their favorite chili. These votes will be tallied to award the coveted People’s Choice Award to the most popular chili. A panel of judges will cast their votes for other awards, including: Best Presentation, Best Chili Apron, and Best Chili. Cookoff winners will be announced and trophies awarded at 7:15 p.m.
Chili providers who have participated in this event include: Corky’s BBQ, Crawdaddy’s Restaurant, Dick’s Last Resort, Fox & Parrot Tavern, Gatlinburg Elk Lodge #1925, Gatlinburg Fire Department, Gatlinburg Police Department, Great American Grill at Hilton Garden Inn, Johnny Rockets, Loco Burro Cantina, Mellow Mushroom, Mountain Brook Village, Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery, Partridge & Pear, Puckers Sports Bar & Grill, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Sugarland Cellars, Citizens National Bank, Flying Saucer Bistro, Diamond Mountain Rentals/Smoky Mountain Real Estate, Sevier County Utility District and Titanic Museum Attraction.
Although admission for the event is free, an $8 wristband is required for chili sampling and can be purchased on-site the day of the event, with a portion of proceeds going to benefit Pi Beta Phi Elementary School PTA. Wristbands can also be purchased in advance at Home Federal Bank at their Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, or Sevierville locations, or at City of Gatlinburg Welcome Centers. Wristbands will be available for purchase onsite the day of the event as well. For more information, please call 800-568-4748.
Other holiday events occurring in the Great Smoky Mountains region during Gatlinburg’s Winter Magic festival include Gatlinburg’s own Trolley Ride of Lights and Pigeon Forge’s Winterfest.