Sevier County hopes to expand the 25th Winterfest Celebration

LED lights have saved thousands of dollars for city governments. (Source: Kyle Grainger, WVLT)

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Sevier County tourism leaders have started planning for this year's 25th anniversary of Winterfest.

The winter festival has become an economic success for the county and now they want to take it to the next level.

"You don't have to be the big guys, Even as small businesses we want you to participate," said Mary Hope Maples, with The Smoky Mountain Tourism and Development Council. "We got together and said what do we need to do to get the businesses on board, get them re-excited."

Business leaders got together Tuesday to go over ideas on how to make Winterfest even better. They shared ideas with each other and vendors were on hand to show off the latest light displays.

"We wanted to see maybe what we can do to put more lights and things on our property So we're really excited to see what we can do to improve the looks in general," said Kate Barido, with Ober Gatlinburg. "Working together toward the common goal of Winterfest, increasing activities and just more things for people to do while they're in town is just great for everyone."

Pigeon Forge in making new investments in Winterfest. They're planning 2 new large displays that cost thousands of dollars.

Maples says Winterfest is the most successful county-wide event. Unemployment in the county dropped from around 14% in 1989 to 4% in recent years.

"After October you'd see the doors lock the marquee going up closed for the season, and you could shoot a cannon down the parkway it was a ghost town," said Maples. "We're able to keep folks working throughout the year. We're able to keep visitors coming and enjoying the smoky mountain area."

Winterfest group plans another workshop in the future as needed.

In recent years the cities have transitioned to LED lights. The cost of Winterfest lighting, before LED lighting, additional electricity expenditures by governments in Sevier County for the four month period rose as high as $180,000. Last year's increase for Sevier County and Townsend was $31,896.

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