Archive for the ‘Press Releases’ Category

Wilderness Wildlife Week 2019 Invites Outdoor Enthusiasts to Pigeon Forge for Excursions, Seminars, and More This Spring

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (April 10, 2019)—Featuring more than 200 free sessions and activities spanning five days, Pigeon Forge’s award-winning Wilderness Wildlife Week is set for May 7-11. The event is headquartered at the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge.

In its 29th year, Wilderness Wildlife Week offers a variety of workshops, lectures, seminars, concerts, hikes and other activities designed to introduce or reacquaint participants of all ages with the great outdoors.

“Whether it’s a hike through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, learning about wildflowers, or participating in our kids’ trout fishing tournament, Wilderness Wildlife Week brings together leading experts with outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and experiences,” said Leon Downey, Pigeon Forge executive director of tourism. “Over the course of five days, participants have an opportunity to learn about the beautiful Smoky Mountains that we call home.”

The event’s headline session features Jeff Rennicke in a program entitled Hiking Towards Hope: Empowering the New Greatest Generation in the Great Outdoors (May 7 at 7 p.m.). Forensics expert Dr. Bill Bass (May 8 at 7:45 p.m.) returns with special guest emcee Frank Murphy to discuss forensic cases throughout the Smoky Mountains region.  Ken Jenkins, Judy Felts and friends host the moving program Heaven & Nature Sing (May 9 at 7:30 p.m.) with Ken providing a second evening session entitled Inside Adventure: My Unplanned and Exciting Happenings in the Smokies (May 11 at 5:30 p.m.).  Additionally, Pulitzer prize finalist Ben Montgomery shares the story of Grandma Gatewood and her experience on the Appalachian Trail during The Fascinating Story of Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring True Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail (May 10 at 7:45 p.m.).

Outdoors enthusiasts, nature lovers or those who simply want to learn more about Great Smoky Mountains National Park can choose from lecture topics ranging from the area’s rich heritage to conservation.  Workshops focus on photography, fishing, wildflowers and more.

Among the new sessions this year are Love, Trails and Dinosaurs: The Inspirational Story of the First Person With Autism to Complete All Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trails with Theresa Moore, Cherokee Myths and Truths with Jon Elder, I Found It in the Archives: Researching History and Family at

Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Michael Aday, Neatless, Wheatless and Sleepless: East Tennessee’s Contributions to World War II with Kathy Gwinn, and Ephemeral by Nature with Stephen Lyn Bales where he looks into some of the unusual animals in the Smokies including Appalachian pandas.

Outdoor excursions of all levels are available throughout the week. Highlights include an 11-plus-mile hike to the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower located less than a mile off the Appalachian Trail (May 10 from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), a six-hour hike highlighting the People and Places of Cades Cove (May 10 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), and a nearly five-mile Hen Wallow Falls trek that takes hikers through a hemlock and rhododendron forest (May 10 from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.).

A special kids’ fishing tournament kicks off on Saturday, May 11 with registration at LeConte Center Circle Drive covered pavilion. The Wilderness Wildlife Week Youth Trout Tournament will run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for children ages seven to 12. There is no fee to participate in this tournament. Fishing supplies are not provided to participants.

Throughout the concourse more than 40 exhibits and vendors, including the not-for-profit Cades Cove Preservation Association, East Tennessee Historical Society, and Keep Sevier Beautiful, are open daily during the event beginning at 10 a.m.

This spring celebration of the great outdoors is free and open to the public. For more information, a complete schedule and registration details, visit


 About Pigeon Forge: Pigeon Forge is located in East Tennessee, approximately 35 miles from Knoxville and McGhee-Tyson Airport. Two-thirds of the nation’s population east of the Mississippi River lives within a day’s drive, making it an easily accessible family vacation destination. The city’s neighbor is Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most-visited national park in the U.S. It also is home to Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park, Tennessee’s most-visited ticketed attraction. More information about all aspects of Pigeon Forge are available at or toll-free at 1-800-251-9100.


Media Contact:

Katherine Henry


Park Recruits ‘Adopt-a-Plot’ Volunteers

Release Date: March 1, 2019

Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers are recruiting volunteers to adopt a monitoring plot in areas throughout the park. In an effort to track nature’s calendar, or phenology, volunteers will collect information as part of an important research project tracking seasonal biological data such as plant flowering dates and the presence of migratory birds.

Previous experience is not necessary but an interest in science and love for nature are characteristics of a successful volunteer. A 3-hour training workshop is provided and will include topics like tree identification techniques, stages of tree change throughout the year, fruit and flower identification, and phenology data collection protocols. Volunteers must attend one of these training opportunities which will be held at Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, TN on Saturday, March 9 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and at Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC on Saturday, March 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Plots are available for adoption near parking areas at several locations in the park. Volunteers will monitor their adopted plot at least two times per month from the first leaf bud in spring to the final leaf drop in fall.  The Adopt-a-Plot project helps us better understand how changing weather patterns affect our diverse ecosystem and the seasonal timing of wildflower blooms and fall color.

If you are interested in this exciting volunteer opportunity, please contact Paul Super at or 828-497-1945 to register for the training.  For more information about phenology research efforts across the country visit the National Phenology Network at


Dana Soehn,, 865-436-1207

Jamie Sanders,, 865-436-1203


Pigeon Forge Celebrates 25 Years of Craftsmanship at ‘A Mountain Quiltfest’ March 20-23

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (February 20, 2019) – Pigeon Forge (Tennessee) invites quilters and friends to celebrate tradition and art at the 25th Annual A Mountain Quiltfest March 20-23. This year’s event will feature 67 on-site vendors, quilting classes and more than 500 quilts competing for $23,000 in prize money.

Located at the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge (2986 Teaster Lane, Pigeon Forge, Tenn. 37863), the artistic quilts are displayed throughout the 232,000-square-foot event center, and attendees can peruse the vendor booths stocked with quilting essentials and one-of-a-kind accessories. On-site demonstrations are available daily and free parking is available at the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge.

Quilt show and vendor hall hours:

  • Wednesday, March 20: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 21: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Friday, March 22: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 23: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Experienced quilters and spectators are encouraged to visit the show to admire the intricate handiwork found throughout the quilt exhibition. For those looking to learn more about this time-honored American folk art, more than 70 classes are available beginning Tuesday, March 19 for a fee, however admission to the internationally-recognized quilt show and vendor hall is free. Participants also can enjoy dedicated classes and special lectures from prolific quilter Bonnie Hunter. A complete class and lecture schedule is available at

Quiltfest patrons also are invited to bring their quilted items to Show & Tell on Friday, March 22 for the chance to win prizes. Doors open to the Show & Tell event at 5:30 p.m. and admission is free. Additional information about Show & Tell can be found in the 2019 Event Program Guide.

Attendees may submit heirloom quilts for appraisal by Cindy Stuart, an American Quilter’s Society certified appraiser. Stuart will be available for quilt appraisals March 19-23 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. by appointment only on a first-come, first-served basis. Contact Cindy Stuart at 865-980-2162 or to schedule an appointment.

A Mountain Quiltfest also offers several antique quilt bed turnings during which local quilters and guild members offer detailed information about collections of quilts made before 1969.

To register for A Mountain Quiltfest, visit For more information about Pigeon Forge, visit


Photos of A Mountain Quiltfest available here.

Media Contact:
Katherine Henry 615-327-1189


Icelandic Gymnasts Make 6,000-Mile First-time Journey to Pigeon Forge

PIGEON FORGE, Tennessee (Feb. 11, 2019)—Competitive sports continues to prove their worth in Pigeon Forge (Tennessee) as nine gymnasts, two coaches and three chaperones will make a 3,000-plus-mile journey—one way—from Iceland to compete in the Make It Count Gymnastics Classic (Feb. 16-18) at the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge.

More than 1,000 gymnasts from 11 states will take to the floor of the LeConte Center’s 100,500-square-foot clear-span space. The three-day event is expected to attract 5,500 spectators, athletes and coaches. None will have traveled as far as the Icelandic team.

This marks the sixth time the Make It Count Gymnastics Classic has taken place at the LeConte Center, and the first time the Maryville, Tennessee-based organization has hosted an international team.

“This trip was two years in the making,” said Make It Count’s Tracy Counts. “Our coaches became friends with the Icelandic coaches at a 2017 Pennsylvania gymnastics camp, and we encouraged them to come to Pigeon Forge for this event. Next thing we know, the girls began fund-raising—including baking thousands of cookies for sale—to make the trip happen.” The athletes’ first introduction to the Great Smoky Mountains was the lyrics and music of local favorite Dolly Parton.

“Iceland’s team listened to a lot of Dolly’s music on their flight from Pennsylvania to Iceland in anticipation of making this trip to Pigeon Forge,” Counts added.

In addition to any awards the team earns on the competition floor, the Icelandic team’s coaches knew the trip to Pigeon Forge would gift the girls by broadening their horizons, and allowing them to experience different things and places while getting to know people with different backgrounds. “They would also discover that all people have a lot in common regardless of where they live,” said Sesselja Jarvela.

The 232,599-square-foot LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge was designed for many types of activities, many of which feature competitive sports. In addition to gymnastics, the venue hosts cheerleading, volleyball and basketball events. In its first five years of operation, the LeConte Center has hosted more than 150 events and driven an additional $175 million in attendee spending in the city.

“In addition to providing a great travel experience and lifelong memories for this Icelandic team, their trip to Pigeon Forge continues to demonstrate the LeConte Center’s commitment to its mission, and that includes introducing new people to our family-friendly vacation destination,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “Hopefully, the team members will become Pigeon Forge ambassadors for us at home in Iceland and in the many other destinations they visit.”

Both the LeConte Center and the Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge were intended to serve as catalysts for bringing new first-time visitors to the city. During Ripken’s nine-month 2018 season, the facility hosted 925 teams from 25 states, Canada and Puerto Rico, with some athletes, coaches and their families traveling from as far away as California, New York, and Texas.

Tournament participants, coaches, and their families contribute to the local economy through overnight lodging stays, ticket purchases to area attractions, restaurant dining and other purchases.


Dolly’s Dinner Theater Company Purchases Fee Hedrick Entertainment

Acquisition includes Comedy Barn, Hatfield & McCoy and Smoky Mountain Opry 

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (Friday, February 1, 2019) – World Choice Investments, the operating partner of Dolly Parton’s dinner theaters, will expand its dinner theater holdings to seven with the purchase of three theaters and a restaurant from David Fee and Jim Hedrick’s Fee Hedrick Entertainment in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.   Parton’s enterprise now operates spectacular shows in Branson, Missouri, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and with the purchase, five theater attractions in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

“My theater production company just purchased Fee Hedrick Entertainment, and I am so excited to have more family entertainment to present to our guests in Pigeon Forge.  In 2019, we’ll operate Comedy Barn, Hatfield & McCoy and Smoky Mountain Opry in the same way folks have come to remember them,” Dolly said.   “David, Jim and their team have done a great job with these shows through the years and, for now, we don’t plan to change anything.  They are fun family entertainment, and that is the business I’m in.”

The terms of the purchase are private but Fee and Fred Hardwick of World Choice Investments stressed this is a win-win for both companies.

“David Fee and his staff have been great competition for us over the years,” Fred Hardwick, Chairman of the Board of World Choice Investments, said.   “He produces high quality, successful shows.  As Dolly said, this is an opportunity to expand our portfolio of theaters in Pigeon Forge with quality family entertainment.  We will also continue to expand our own brands like Pirates Voyage – opening this year in Pigeon Forge.”  WCI had previously announced it planned to open Pirates Voyage in Pigeon Forge adjacent to The Island in time for the summer tourism season.

“All of these theaters provide a great opportunity for us to package our shows in an affordable way and to focus with Dollywood to bring people to the area,” Hardwick said.  “Dolly’s enthusiastic leadership will continue to focus on bringing the best in entertainment in an affordable way for the families visiting the Smoky Mountains.”

For more information and tickets, go to


About World Choice Investments: Founded in 1988, World Choice Investments, LLC, doing business as Dolly Parton’s Stampede Dinner Attraction and Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show, operates dinner attraction venues for family fun and adventure in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Branson, Missouri and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Our shows feature special effects, musical productions, live animals and a four-course family feast.

Media Contacts:

Pete Owens: (865) 428-9486, (865) 755-7972 or

Ellen Liston: (865) 919-7001 or

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Pigeon Forge Offers New Reasons To Use Vacation Days in 2019

Family-friendly destination ready to prevent millions of vacations days from going to waste.


PIGEON FORGE, Tennessee (Jan. 30, 2019)—According to the latest research*, 705 million vacation days go unused annually in the U.S. The city of Pigeon Forge (Tennessee) has several new reasons for workers to spend those hard-earned vacation days in the family-friendly destination located in the Great Smoky Mountains.


“What better way to spend vacation days than with family and friends, sharing great times and memories,” said Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism Executive Director Leon Downey. “With the wide variety of attractions and entertainment that Pigeon Forge offers for all ages, including lots of new ones this year, folks should get their calendars out now and start planning to come see us!”


Pigeon Forge always delivers on the promise of something new for visitors to see and do each year, and 2019 is no exception.


Dollywood theme park’s Wildwood Grove, opening this spring, features 11 new experiences for guests, six of which are ride attractions, including a suspended family roller coaster called the Dragonflier as well as a 55-foot-tall Wildwood Tree, live entertainment, the Till & Harvest restaurant, and various indoor and outdoor play areas including Hidden Hollow, a 4,000-square-foot indoor play space.


The Island, a retail, dining, lodging and entertainment complex, has added Yee-Haw Brewing Company, a production brewery and taproom that offers ales and lagers, including Yee-Haw’s World Beer Cup award-winning Dunkel, as well as seasonal and high-gravity beers. Visitors also can enjoy the Spinning Parrots family coaster; RideMakerz, an immersive remote-control car customizing experience; and the Savannah Bee Company which sells specialty honey and honey-based products. TheIsland


Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Show is the centerpiece of the new Lumberjack Square, which also is home to Paula Deen’s Lumberjack Feud Adventure, a ropes course, extreme zipline, roller coaster, an 80-foot-tall jump tower, a multi-level lumberjack-themed adventure park and an aerial kids’ playground. The show features 11 competitive lumberjack events including axe throwing, chopping, sawing, speed climbing, and log rolling in a 350-seat climate-controlled outdoor venue where world-class lumberjacks square off daily from spring through December. LumberjackFeud


The new Rocky Top Mountain Coaster sits on more than 20 acres and takes riders on a nine-minute journey that traverses multiple 360-degree turns, four tunnels, thrilling curves, and daring hairpin turns, all propelled by four uplifts and four drops, allowing it to reach a maximum speed of 30 miles per hour. Able to accommodate riders as young as three years of age (with minimum height requirement), it is another family attraction.


Other attractions opening this summer include Titanic Museum Attraction’s collection of Titanic lifejackets, the world’s largest ever assembled since the ship’s maiden voyage. Only 12 lifejackets are known to exist, and beginning July 1, seven from collectors worldwide will be on display through November 2019 in Pigeon Forge for the first time in history. TitanicMuseumAttraction


The 200-foot-tall Mountain Monster three-in-one thrill ride anchors the Tower Shops at Mountain Mile, a 180,000-square-foot multi-purpose retail, dining and family entertainment development that spans 174 acres. Mountain Monster, opening this summer, will offer guests a drop ride, a dive ride and a swing, all in one attraction.


Uncle Lem’s Outfitters, a soon-to-open 4,580-square-foot retail space, supports and encourages a love of the great outdoors by supplying enthusiasts with the necessary gear. Uncle Lem’s takes advantage of the area’s natural setting and plans to offer the services of hiking, fishing, bicycling, and outdoor adventure guides. It will open with paddle board and kayak rentals with bicycle rentals to follow.


Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show, a Dolly Parton Company, will be located adjacent to The Island in Pigeon Forge in a 21,000-square-foot arena. Crimson and Sapphire pirates battle on deck, in the water, and in the sky above their full-sized ships in a 15-foot-deep indoor lagoon. The show also includes a four-course pirate feast.


Pigeon Forge offers more than 14,500 overnight accommodations, ranging from hotels and condos to cabins and campgrounds. Joining the lineup this year are the 200-room Ramsey Hotel & Convention Center; the 108-room Fairfield Inn & Suites; and the 102-room Tru by Hilton.


For more information about what’s new for 2019 as well as existing favorites, please visit or call 1-800-251-9100.


*Research from the U.S. Travel Association’s



About Pigeon Forge:

Pigeon Forge is located in East Tennessee, approximately 35 miles from Knoxville and McGhee-Tyson Airport. Two-thirds of the nation’s population east of the Mississippi River lives within a day’s drive, making it an easily accessible family vacation destination. The city’s neighbor is Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most-visited national park in the U.S. It also is home to Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park, Tennessee’s most-visited ticketed attraction. More information about all aspects of Pigeon Forge are available at or toll-free at 1-800-251-9100.


Images are available for download here.




Media Contact:

Trish McGee

on behalf of the Pigeon Forge Dept. of Tourism

615-327-1189 ext. 327






Pigeon Forge Offers Year-Round Trolley Service Beginning Jan. 6

PIGEON FORGE, Tennessee (Jan. 3, 2019)—For the first time in 14 years, Pigeon Forge Trolley ticket prices increased, effective Jan. 1, 2019, allowing for year-round trolley service. Beginning Jan. 6, 2019, the North and South Parkway winter trolley route will operate from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily and remain in effect until the trolleys resume full operation on March 12, 2019.

The Pigeon Forge trolley system is the third-largest rural transit system in the U.S.

The winter route will travel as far north as Sevierville and to light number 10 on the south end of town. The route also will travel portions of Teaster Lane. In total, there are more than 100 trolley stops located on the winter route.

“Our city leaders are constantly looking for ways to improve life in Pigeon Forge for our residents,” said Pigeon Forge City Manager Earlene Teaster. “Transportation is an important factor to everyone, and by expanding our transit services and offering year-round trolley service, we hope this provides a convenience to those who live and work in Pigeon Forge.”

Previously, trolley service in Pigeon Forge ceased the first week of January and remained out of service until early March. The schedule aligned with the city’s tourism season, which typically begins to increase in March as spring break travelers return to the area.

Trolleys do not operate on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Pigeon Forge residents and those who work in the city may purchase a year-round pass ($35 per person), a $3 one-day pass, a $1 North or South Parkway ticket as well as tickets for additional route options at the Pigeon Forge Trolley Office located in the Old Mill district at traffic light seven. (There is no charge for children ages three and under.)

Last year, more than 750 year-round passes were sold. City leaders hope to see an increase in those numbers with the winter route addition.

“Year-round trolley service is not only a convenience that the city can offer Pigeon Forge residents and workers, but trolley use also helps ensure cleaner air by decreasing the number of cars on our streets and, in turn, the amount of emissions released into the air,” Teaster added.

During peak season, the Pigeon Forge transit department offers six trolley routes, all of which originate and end at the Pigeon Forge Trolley Station located in the Old Mill district on Old Mill Drive. Annually, more than 2.9 million passengers use the mass transit system in Pigeon Forge.

All Pigeon Forge trolleys and trams are lift-equipped for wheelchairs and/or other mobility aids and may be accessed at any designated trolley stop. Passengers who are unable to get to a designated trolley stop may schedule a paratransit van for next-day pickup. Paratransit van reservations may be made by calling (865) 453-6444.

For more information about trolley service, please visit or call 865-453-6444.


Media Contact:

Trish McGee

(615) 327-1189


The Ripken Experience Scores Winning Third Season in Pigeon Forge

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (Nov. 28, 2018) – At the completion of its third year of operation in the Smoky Mountains, The Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge scored yet another homerun with baseball fans and city officials alike.

Research recently released by the city determined that The Ripken Experience was responsible for $33.8 million in visitor spending during its 2018 season which began in March and concluded in November. In that nine-month period, The Ripken Experience hosted 925 teams from 25 states, Canada and Puerto Rico, traveling from as far away as California, New York, and Texas. Other states represented are Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Further demonstrating the sports facility’s success is that 99 percent of those who visited the facility reside outside of Sevier County. Pigeon Forge is located in Sevier County just six miles from the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Tournament participants, coaches, and their families contribute to the local economy through overnight lodging stays, ticket purchases to area attractions, restaurant dining and other purchases.

Since opening its doors in March 2016, more than 2,100 youth baseball teams and 150 high school softball teams have taken the fields at The Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge for competition in 80 events. In total, more than 33,500 players and coaches have traveled to play ball on fields that offer unobstructed views of the Great Smoky Mountains, with an additional 1,000 teams expected to travel to the complex for competition in 2019.

“The partnership with Pigeon Forge has been fantastic. The fact that the complex has had this positive impact on the city is wonderful and confirms what we all had hoped and believed would be the result of the project. I am excited to continue to grow with our great partner, and we are all proud of being a member of this wonderful community.” Cal Ripken, Jr. said.

The appeal of Pigeon Forge as a family vacation destination was a major reason the city built the $22.5 million complex and contracted with Ripken Baseball to operate it.

“The Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge continues to demonstrate its ability to attract young people and their families to Pigeon Forge,” said Pigeon Forge City Manager Earlene Teaster. “We continue to see more and more Ripken guests who are first-time visitors to Pigeon Forge, which further underscores the value of the city’s investment in this fine property.”

The Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge youth complex is located on a ridge above Pigeon Forge. Each field borrows its design inspiration from current and former ballparks highlighting the professional player progression from the Minor to Major Leagues, including Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

The others are Calfee Park in Pulaski, Va., the oldest park in the Appalachian League; Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C., known as “Little Fenway”; Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, Tenn., a filming location for the “42” movie about Jackie Robinson; BB&T Ballpark in Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Isotopes Park in Albuquerque, N.M.

The Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge hosts tournaments nine months out of the year and offers year-round branded events in its 14,000-square-foot clubhouse. Tournaments are free to spectators, and parking is free at the complex.

Visitor information about Pigeon Forge is available online at and toll-free at 800-251-9100. To learn more Ripken Baseball and for The Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge tournament schedule, visit


Cal Ripken, Jr. headshot and The Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge facility images available here. Photo credit The Ripken Experience Pigeon Forge


Pigeon Forge Honors America’s Military with Annual Veterans Homecoming Parade

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (July 10, 2018) – Pigeon Forge (Tennessee) will honor U.S. military veterans with its Veterans Homecoming Parade on Saturday, Aug. 18. Tennessee Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder will serve as grand marshal of the parade.

Grinder was appointed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in 2011.  Colonel Grinder is the first female in the state to serve as Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services. The retired colonel received the Legion of Merit award and the Bronze Star Medal for her more than 35 years of service in the Tennessee Army National Guard prior to accepting her current appointment.

The Veterans Homecoming Parade starts at 9 a.m. and travels north on the Pigeon Forge Parkway between Traffic Lights Eight and Five.

“Pigeon Forge feels privileged to have the opportunity to recognize the many brave men and women who have served our country,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “This parade is our way of welcoming U.S. military veterans from near and far with open arms.”

In the parade, Grinder will be joined by the Pigeon Forge city commissioners and Pigeon Forge City Manager Earlene Teaster. The parade will once again be led by the Veterans Military Honor of Pigeon Forge. More than 50 entries, including groups from three additional states, will take part in the parade, including several chapters from Vietnam Veterans of America. American Legion posts as well as Disabled American Veterans will be represented as well.

Every August, Celebrate Freedom!™ offers discounts to active and veteran military personnel, police, firefighters, paramedics and other first responders at participating Pigeon Forge businesses. Present a valid form of identification at the Pigeon Forge Welcome Center at Traffic Light Zero to receive the benefits. More information is available here.

For information about all aspects of Pigeon Forge and other city-sponsored events, visit or call 1-800-251-9100.


Trish McGee

17-Year-Old Singer/Songwriter Named Pigeon Forge Path to Fame Talent Competition Grand Champion

Springfield, Tennessee’s Brenna Beatty will begin a 12-month career development program with Nashville-based talent executive as well as perform at Pigeon Forge theaters.

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (June 18, 2018) — A 17-year-old singer/songwriter from Springfield, Tennessee, was named grand champion of the Pigeon Forge Path to Fame Talent Competition on Saturday (June 16) at the Smoky Mountain Opry. Brenna Beatty was selected from 12 contestants all vying for the title.

Beatty will spend the next year working with John Alexander on career development. Alexander was instrumental in the careers of Patty Loveless and platinum-selling country star Kelsea Ballerini. Alexander, who was one of four judges for the finals, will work with Beatty, a prolific songwriter, and establish instrumental industry meetings with top executives, songwriters and more.

Approximately 450 contestants registered to compete in the Pigeon Forge Path to Fame. A three-month auditions tour visited Cincinnati, Nashville and Atlanta and produced four finalists from each city, all of whom competed in Saturday’s finals. Contestants competed for a grand prize package that includes a 12-month career mentorship with Alexander and a consultation with Ballerini.

Beatty has written over 500 songs in the last six years. She taught herself to play piano and learned how to play guitar using YouTube videos at just 11 years old. Born into a musical family, Beatty’s father was lead singer of a band for most of her life. She and her younger siblings are all following in his footsteps. Beatty has been homeschooled since the fifth grade which gave her the flexibility to focus on her songwriting craft and musicianship.

The singer/songwriter started performing in her parents’ bar in Oregon until the adventure-seeking family packed it all up in a fifth wheel trailer and moved across the country so Beatty could be closer to Music City to further her career. Beatty constantly seeks opportunities to develop her songwriting skills. In addition to seeking mentors and playing as many gigs as she can in Nashville, Tenn., she has participated in the Use Your Gift Foundation where she recorded a five-song EP. Founded by Firefall drummer Sandy Ficca, Use Your Gift provides mentoring to aspiring performing artists. She has opened for Nashville local Meghan Linsey in addition to Trick Pony, Dylan Scott and more.

Each contestant performed in front of a live audience and a diverse panel of judges. Alexander was joined by Michael Headla, general manager, producer and director of the Smoky Mountain Opry, Jeff Taylor, general manager of Country Tonite Theatre; and Kyle Grainger, WVLT-Knoxville reporter.

“There was a lot of incredible talent on stage at the final competition. Brenna’s songwriting is on par with successful musicians today,” said Alexander. “When the music industry meets her, they will see the same ‘it’ factor we saw radiating from her at the auditions and in Pigeon Forge.”

Beatty will return to Pigeon Forge to perform at a number of the theaters along the Parkway, receive media training, headshots, studio time and a shopping spree.

The top three finalists included the duo, Ashley Tragler and Christian Simcox from Bristol, Tenn., and Taylor Deaton from Springboro, Ohio. Deaton won in more than one way when her boyfriend, Zack Fogelman, proposed on stage during the final competition.

Pigeon Forge is a family-friendly vacation destination with over 80 attractions including award-winning entertainment. Janelle Arthur, Craig Morgan and Carly Pearce all got their start in Pigeon Forge. The city embarked on a three-city tour to discover new talent that could entertain Pigeon Forge audiences.

For more information about the Path to Fame Talent Competition, visit For more information about Pigeon Forge, visit


Media Contact:
Jess Pangrazio
615-327-1189 ext. 350