Frenzy in Gatlinburg: Parade goers mark spots days in advance

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Visitors planning to attend the Gatlinburg Fantasy of Lights Parade on Friday have already marked their sports. Chairs are already lining the parkway on both sides.

The Gatlinburg parade has become a family tradition for many. One group of friends have met here the past 6 years, from Ohio to New York, they all gather to celebrate.

"Every year we come back as a theme. Last year it was the Grinch and this year it's Elf on a Shelf. Some people think we're in the parade, but we're just bystanders. We just dress up and have a good time," said John Ratliff.

The Gatlinburg parade draws both locals and visitors and gives a glimpse into Sevier county.

"It truly is a picture of our community here in Sevier County. At the same time it is just a world class parade that entertains tens of thousands of our visitors every year," said Marci Claude, Gatlinburg Spokesperson.

Four-time world barbecue champion and star of the TV series BBQ Pitmasters, Myron Mixon, acts as Grand Marshal during this year's procession. Known as the "Winningest Man in Barbeque," Mixon is a New York Times bestselling-cookbook author, television personality and entrepreneur.

Beginning at 7:30 p.m. from Baskins Creek Bypass, a spectacular parade line-up of balloons, floats decorated by local businesses and groups, and 11 marching bands, spans through downtown before ending at traffic light #10.

Parade-goers are encouraged to arrive early to find a spot on the Parkway to watch the parade.