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Winterfest brings in millions for Sevier County | News

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Winterfest brings in millions for Sevier County
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Sevier County is kicking off a winter tradition that brings in millions of tourism dollars to the area. The Smoky Mountain Winterfest has been around for 25 years.

"It is helping us for jobs. It has greatly increased the unemployment numbers in Sevier County, especially in November and December. It's tremendously increased our tax base. So this has been a wonderful investment with a great return for our community," said Amanda Marr with the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce.

For 25 years, this event boosted tourism in Sevierville greatly. It started as a way for the city to extend the tourism season.

"The season of tourism for us has changed in the last decade. And there are more things going on in the winter, and Winterfest has helped with that. Now instead of having several months of slow time, now we only have a few weeks of slow time. That's great for the area," said Bob Stahlke with the City of Sevierville.

Since 1989, lodging occupancy increased from 20 percent to 65 percent last year. Attraction and entertainment sales have grown from $1 million in 1989 to $10 million last year. And restaurant receipts have doubled from $18 million to $36 million today.

"It's a great event for the people who live here, our citizens to come to. Everything here is free, from the vendors to the entertainment have things to give away. Some are food, and some are other items." said Stahlke.

This year, the festival has grown. It will now feature a new LED sign commemorating 25 years and a big screen that will play the movie "the Polar Express" during the festival.

"Our visitors will come back year after year, and sometimes they will come back several times during a Winterfest celebration, so we always try to have some new light displays, some new placements of things, some new attractions that are going on, just to keep it exciting and keep it fresh for people," said Marr.

Officials expect more than 7,000 to attend Monday's event. Pigeon Forge is holding a kickoff Tuesday night, and the following night, Gatlinburg will hold its kickoff. Winterfest concludes February 28th.


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