Remembering former Gatlinburg mayor and parade founder, George Hawkins
Former Gatlinburg mayor, George Hawkins, died early Sunday morning at the age of 79.
GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) - George Hawkins, former mayor of Gatlinburg, died early Sunday morning at the age of 79. Hawkins founded some of Gatlinburg’s most famous events such as the city’s Fourth of July Midnight Parade, the Fantasy of Lights Christmas Parade and the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop.
Before Hawkins’ death, plans were underway to honor him in the 47th annual July 4th parade. “It’s his heart and soul. He put everything into it,” said John Scott, a longtime friend of Hawkins and is working on the parade float in his memory.
Hawkins’ friends said his final moments were spent planning the celebration. “He was sitting in his recliner talking about all the stuff he was going to do for the parade, and he said, ‘I’m coming to your warehouse on Monday to pick up those stars to put on my float.’ And I said, ‘Well, we’ve got it all ready for you.’ And then within three hours. That’s the phone call that he was gone,” said Special Events Director for Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Chuck Winstead.
Hawkins was also known as ‘Mr. Gatlinburg.’ He founded the midnight parade in 1976.
“This was all his idea. Everyone thought he was crazy when he first started talking about doing a parade at midnight. Now, it’s the first 4th of July parade to run in America,” said Scott.
Since then, it’s become one of the top ten parades in the country.
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