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Chris Edington and Becci Gilmer of Crossville became the One Millionth riders on the Wild Eagle, Dollywood's newest roller coaster
When the Wild Eagle roller coaster pulled into the boarding area at Dollywood last week, two riders, Becci Gilmer and Chris Edington, were greeted with an unexpected surprise. As soon as the ride came to a stop confetti began streaming down, cameras flashed, news reporters surrounded the puzzled couple and a representative of Dollywood stepped up to inform them they were the one millionth rider to ride the roller coaster.
Gilmer and Edington of Crossville, Tennessee had been anxiously anticipating riding the Wild Eagle rollercoaster at the popular theme park. They rode in the front car of the roller coaster early in the morning and returned later in the afternoon to ride again. Having ridden in the front they decided to ride in the back this time. But the lines for the back car were too long and the couple decided to return to the front car. It was a fortunate decision.
“We had to wait for two more turns before we could get on,” Edington said. “But, I am glad we did.”
As the ride came to a stop the couple was surrounded by representatives of the media and Dollywood, other riders exited the ride expressing frustration for missing the opportunity to be recognized as the one millionth rider. “If I had only come up here five minutes sooner” one rider said as he departed.
The Wild Eagle is Dollywood’s newest attraction. The $20 million ride was completed in March of this year. In only seven months the attraction has taken one million riders over hills and loops along the track swooping down at dazzling speeds and simulating what it might be like to soar with the eagles.
To recognize the excited couple’s participation on the park’s milestone achievement, the couple was presented with a travel voucher for $1,000 to fly to St. Louis and two passes to Silver Dollar City in Branson. In addition, they were presented with two season passes to Dollywood.
“It was something,” said Gilmer. “We got off and everybody was screaming and there were TV cameras and reporters.. We were confused and I didn’t know what was going on. This was the smoothest ride ever. I always wanted to be on TV. I guess I can cross that off my bucket list.”
The hiker that reported he had been shot on a hiking trail in the Great Smoky Mountains is now being investigated by authorities. According to reports there is more to the story than the man originally reported.
Last week Sanford Lethco, 29, reported to Park Rangers that he had been shot by an unknown assailant while hiking off trail in Cosby. Lethco sustained two gunshot wounds to the lower leg and was flown to the University of Tennessee Medical Center, where he was treated and later released.
Lethco later admitted to park rangers he was shot outside the park at a private residence. According to Sevier County Sheriff Ron Seals, sheriff’s Investigators have interviewed a man, who has admitted he shot into a vehicle which was leaving his residence after he caught two white males stealing items from outside the home on Saturday Sept 7th in the Boyd’s Creek area. Lethco was reportedly shot while fleeing the home that had been burglarized
Investigators are still looking for another person of interest and witnesses to interview in the case. The investigation is still continuing at this time and more details will be released as they come available. Charges are pending in the case.
Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office.
Police and Park Rangers are investigating the shooting of a hiker in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park Friday. According to reports, the Cocke County Sheriff's Office received a call at approximatley 5 p.m.from an individual claiming he had suftered gunshot wounds while hiking in the Laurel Springs Road area near Cosby.
Emergency personnel located a 29-year-old male with two gunshot wounds to his lower leg. He was flown to University of Tennessee Medical Center for treatment.
The victim, whose identity has not been released, told investigators he heard two gunshots just before he realized he had been struck. He said he never saw the assailant.
Rangers are working with the Cocke County Sheriff's Office to secure the area along Laurel Springs Road, the closest road to where the shooting reportedly occurred.
"We do not perceive any threat to visitors inside the park as this incident occurred in a remote area well off established trails," said Chief Park Ranger Clay Jordan.
Police have now released a composite sketch of a man that attacked a woman Friday afternoon on a trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
According to reports, the 44-year-old victim was sexually assaulted and stabbed multiple times while she was on the trail. The attacker fled the scene and the victim made her way down the trail to Highway 441 where she flagged down a passing car who notified authorities at approximately 2:43 p.m. The woman was flown to UT Medical Center. Park rangers and Gatlinburg police closed the Gatlinburg Trail at both ends and combed the area.
Authorities say they don't know a motive for the stabbing.
The suspect is described as white, around 5'7", appearing to be in his 40s, with a thin build, a crew cut and a thin mustache. He wore black dress pants and a T-shirt. He also has multiple tattoos, including one on his stomach, and no distinctive accent. Police have released a composite sketch of the attacker. A reward of $5,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the suspect. All tips will be kept confidential.
Anyone with any information about this incident should call the park dispatch emergency line at 865-436-9197.
Excellent choreography and music made the Smoky Mountain Opry a hit in 2011. The show returns this year with a bigger variety.
The Smoky Mountain Opry in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., will open the area's largest musical variety show on March 23, with a nationally renowned singers, dancers, illusionists, comedians, jugglers, and musicians. “This theater has undergone a whole metamorphosis and The Smoky Mountain Opry is now 'Simply the Best' musical variety show in town,” said David Fee, president of Fee/Hedrick Family Entertainment and theater co-owner. “With a multi-million dollar upgrade the Opry features the best of everything - fantastic lights and lasers, lavish sets and costumes, incredible music, a live band and lots of talent.
This show includes everything - even the magical appearance of a 23 ton stealth fighter jet onstage,” Fee said. “We'll provide our audiences with a musical experience that's first class. We think our audiences deserve the best and this show has it all!
“This show has everything from old and new country to rock and roll and Forties swing to gospel and patriotic,” said theater co-owner Jim Hedrick. “On top of all that it has a lot of unique technical concepts including shadow dancing, lots of flying musicians and singers, thousands of lights, aerial dancing and state-of-the-art sound. We're proud to bring this kind of first class family entertainment to Pigeon Forge.”
Nationally acclaimed comedian Bob Nelson provides comic relief with some of his most famous skits. Nelson has appeared in numerous movies and HBO comedy specials and brings his hilarious, Red Skelton-like brand of comedy to the show.
The “Smoky Mountain Opry” has performances at 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and has afternoon matinees at 3 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Tickets for the Opry Show are $36.95, plus tax each for adults, and children's tickets, age 11 and under, are $19.95 plus tax. For more information call the theater's box office (865) 428-7469 or 1-800-768-1170 or visit http://www.Smoky MtnOpry.com.
The Smoky Mountain Opry provides light hearted family fun
Pet owners can now have their favorite pooches or felines photographed for a calendar to raise money for the Pets Without Parents Shelter in Sevierville. Local Photographer, Christine Rich-Romano of Rich Blessings Photography is excited to announce the launch of the ”Paws of Love” Calendar.
Rich-Romano hopes to raise awareness to the growing population of homeless pets in the community. All profits from calendar sales are being donated to the shelter.
Romano will use 12 adorable dogs and cats from the Sevier County area to be featured in this whimsical calendar that is guaranteed to pull at your heartstrings .
Applications are now being accepted from local families who would like to have their dog or cat featured in the calendar. All applications for featured pets must be received by April 15, 2012. The application can be found on the project website at www.pawsoflovecalendar.com
Twenty-four local business sponsors are also needed to help with the cost of the project. Advertisements will be sold for $75 each and will be printed within the calendar as well as on the calendar website with a link to each business. There will also be a coupon sheet inserted into each calendar, should the sponsor want to include a coupon for their business.
“This is a fantastic way to spread the word about your business and pull together as a community while helping the plight of these precious animals,” Rich-Romano stated.
The Pets Without Parents Shelter is a no-kill shelter that was started a year ago. Since that time a dedicated staff of volunteers have found homes for more than 500 homeless animals. The shelter operates solely on donations and funds raised in fund raising events. They receive no funding from any government agency.
The calendar will be in print by early October, just in time for holiday sales. Calendars will be sold for $10 each with 100% of the proceeds going to the shelter. There will be 1000 calendars printed with the potential to raise $10,000 for the animals.
To learn more about the project, apply to have your pet featured in the calendar, or become a sponsor visit the "Paws of Love" Calendar project website at www.pawsoflovecalendar.com. Pets Without Parents is located at 1401 Old Newport Highway in Sevierville.
For more information about the calendar call Rich-Romano at 865-325-9241.
A photography contest is one of several events at Wilderness Week
Wilderness Wildlife Week is the best way to get in touch with nature. This free event is offered every year in Pigeon Forge and it features eight days of wilderness fun. Wilderness Wildlife Week kicks off January 7, 2012 and ends January 14.
Wilderness Wildlife Week in opens up with a keynote address from Peggy Callahan, the executive director of the Wildlife Science Center. During the week attendees learn from some of the area’s experts as well as participate in hands-on workshops, seminars, and lectures.
Get back to nature on more than 50 guided walks and hikes throughout the Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. These excursions are designed for all levels of experience. If you’re a music lover, you’ll enjoy some Smoky Mountain music performed during Appalachia Fest.
Every year, nature lovers flock to Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge, TN for a week of fun, learning, and nature! The International Festivals & Events Association has recognized the event for its environmental and educational efforts.
Thanks in part to our wonderful friends at the Nantahala Outdoor Center,the Wilderness Wildlife Week Photography Contest has expanded. For the first time ever, the contest will feature seven divisions:
- Youth & Young Adults (ages 17 and under)
- Great Smoky Mountain Landmarks
- Nature’s Wonders in Black & White
Also new to the contest is the implementation of the Judges’ Choice Award.
Cades Cove Heritage Track
Listen and enjoy as Cades Cove experts bring the history of the people and area to life.
Echoes of the Smokies!
Be prepared to relive the history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Wilma Durpo.
Smoky Mountain Heritage Track
Reminisce and experience life throughout the history of Pigeon Forge, Sevier County and the Great Smoky Mountains.
It sounds like a scene from "Yogi Bear." A Gatlinburg candy store was burglarized by a mischievous black bear early Wednesday morning. Two Employees of Ole Smoky Country Kitchen arrived at work Wednesday and discovered candy and other treats strewn about the floor. Upon further investigation the pair discovered the glass on the front door had been broken.
Moments later supervisor Harold Wright arrived and entered the storeroom where he came face to face with the errant intruder. The three fled the store and called police.
Police arrived and propped open doors and and began making loud noises. The bear scampered outside and and scurried across the parking lot and into the woods.
Shop co-owner Patti Edwards estimated the bear destroyed more than $500 of treats as well as a broken door. Edwards joked about the experience saying 'the bear had good taste"
Great Smoky Mountain National Park spokesman Bob Miller said the bears are trying to put on additional weight for hibernation season. This has been especially difficult this year due to a poor berry and acorn crop. The sparse crops have forced the bears to become more aggressive as they seek out food.
Miller is recommending residents take extra precautions not to attract bears with several tips that might discourage foraging. Miller suggest residents not refill bird feeders and don't leave garbage outside. Grabe should be taken out on the morning of trash collection day. Store dog food and cat food inside.
The right ingredients are beginning to emerge, the time when cooler night temperatures and sunny days mix with rainfall to bring on a spectacular autumn color display in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The timing of color change and the falling of the leaves is primarily keyed by the calendar, or more precisely, the increasing length of nighttime. As days grow shorter and nights grow longer and cooler, chemical processes in the leaf begin to paint the landscape with Mother Nature’s autumn palette.
While the typical peak of fall leaf color is at the middle to lower elevations where the greatest diversity of deciduous trees live, color displays above 4,000 feet begin the parade of color which then moves down the mountainsides into the valleys. The high country is still predominantly green.
Sourwood, dogwood, maple, sassafras and birch trees are the first to make the change, turning red, orange and yellow. At this point, there is just a hint of color change among those early fall starters. A few trees here and there, along the roadsides and mountainsides, are in full color and dot the landscape. Perhaps more notable now are the fall wildflowers cardinal flower, black-eyed Susan, coreopsis, great blue lobelia, skunk goldenrod, southern harebell, ironweed, and a variety of asters, as well as the bright fruits on trees and shrubs such as hearts-a-bustin.
Suggested scenic drives: Newfound Gap Road and Clingmans Dome Road
Suggested hikes: Albright Grove and Sugarland Mountain Trail
Many people would like nothing more than to dunk their boss into a pool of water. The employees at Wyndham resorts got that opportunity Thursday. But, it was all in good fun and for a good cause. The employees hosted a cookout to benefit the Victory Junction Hole-In-the-Wall Camp for children with debilitating illnesses. The cook out included a dunking booth in which the employees paid $5 for a chance to dunk their supervisors in the tank of water.
Victory Junction is located in Charlotte, North Carolina and provides fun, activities and outdoor adventure to children suffering from any of 24 chronic conditions including spina bifida, diabetes, hemophilia, sickle cell and others. While providing the children with lots of fun and activities, the camp helps them to take their minds off their health problems for a while.
The employees at Wyndham Resorts have hosted several fundraisers throughout the year including a bake sale, a cookout, dress down Friday, ice cream sales, and a pancake supper held at Flapjacks on the Parkway.
Collectively, the employees have raised $7,000 throughout the year. That's almost enough to send three children to the camp for a fun-filled week.
The fundraisers are a joint effort of Wyndham Smoky Mountain Resorts, Wyndham Smoky Mountain Sales, Wyndham Great Smoky Mountain Lodge and Resorts and the Wyndham Welcome Welcome Center. This joint effort is a testimonial of the company's motto "One team, one vision, one family."
Lynne Lang dunks her supervisor as part of the fundraiser for Victory Junction
Kimber Rose gets ready to dunk John Geissberger
Geissberger gets ready to face his next pitcher, Anna Simmons.
Ronnie McCutchan winds up and takes aim.
Black bear harvests have increased an astounding 21 percent annually since 1977 in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Prior to 1977, the average harvest of black bears was usually less than 20 bears. Since 2004, the annual harvest has been more than 300 bears per year. These numbers indicate the bear population is growing.
A mother and her cub. Cubs usually remain under the care of their mothers for the first two years of life.
According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, more than 1,500 black bears are estimated to inhabit the park. According to the TWRA, these estimates indicate the bear population is now at its highest level in almost 150 years.
The successful conservation of the black bear is attributed to the TWRA, the National Parks Service, the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the establishment of the Cherokee National Forest.
These agencies restricted hunting of the black bear and established conservation measures to protect the species.
The growing bear population has created challenges for conservationists who must accomodate the bears in the company of an ever increasing human population that occassionally come into conflict. In 2009, at least 30 deaths to bears in Tennessee were attributed to human contact.
The Cades Cove Loop Road and the Alum Cave Trail parking area will close temporarily Thursday June 16, so workers can install new toilet facilities.
Cades Cove Loop Road closes at 12 p.m. Thursday and reopens Friday at 8 p.m.Park officials say it is because the tractor-trailer hauling new concrete vault toilets is too heavy for the Abrams Creek bridge and needs go around the loop the wrong way.
Later Thursday evening, the Alum Cave Trail parking area will close at 6 p.m as well. Overnight backpackers hiking Alum Cave Trail during the closure to Mt LeConte must park in an adjacent lot.
The placement of these ADA-compliant vault toilet systems is intended to satisfy visitor needs as well as to help reduce the sanitary issues associated with the heavy use that these areas receive.
By C. Montgomery
The entrance road to Elkmont is closed to all motor vehicles and pedestrians use between 5 PM and Mid-Night June 4 through June 12. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is busy taking visitors to Elkmont to see the amazing FireFly Symphony.
It is that time of year again when the synchronous fireflies return to Elkmont. This event happens only two places in the world. Here at Elkmont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a remote similar place in Southeast Asia.
These lighting patterns are a part of the adulthood mating display. Every June for about 2 weeks during mating season, the fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains begin to flash in unison. This phenomenon involves both the males and the females. They are the only species in America whose individuals can synchronize their flashing patterns.
There are 14 different species of fireflies in the Park. Fireflies which are sometimes called lightening bugs are actually beetles. Each species has its own characteristic flash patterns that helps its male and female individuals recognize each other. The males fly and flash and the usually stationary females respond with a flash. Competition between the males maybe one reason they all want to be the first to flash. Or perhaps; if the males all flash in unison, they may flash in waves across hillsides and at other times will flash randomly. Synchrony occurs in short bursts that end with abrupt periods of darkness.
What a symphony this is that you will see should you decide to make the trip to Elkmont. The Gatlinburg Trolley service is the sole transportation mode for visitor access to this activity. Trolleys begin picking up visitors at the Sugarlands Visitor Center RV/Bus parking area at 7 PM. The trolleys will continually run until the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area is full or until 9 PM whichever comes first. The last Trolley to return to the Sugarlands Visitor Center is 11PM. The cost is $1 round trip per person. For more information on this event contact 436-1200 then 0.
The Great Smoky Mountains peers through the morning fog looming prominantly over the horizon inviting visitors for the holiday weekend. Several trails damaged by a tornado are now reopened.
A portion of the Abrams Falls Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains was closed after it sustained damage from a tornado that touched down on April 28. The trail was reopened this week in time for the Memorial Day weekened.
Visitors can access the trail from the Cades Cove trailhead and hike 2.5 miles to the waterfalls.
Two trails, Hannah Mountain and Little Bottoms Trails, remain closed as repairs continue.
More than 33 miles of trails were damaged by the tornado. Thousands of trees were uprooted, tearing massive gaps in the trails.
Several local people and 23 trail workers from six western parks were hired to help clear and rehabilitate the damaged trails.
There is no estimate when the repairs to the other trails will be completed.
The trails that remain closed are: Ace Gap Trail, Beard Cane Trail, Cooper Trail Road, Hatcher Mountain Trail, Wet Bottom Trail and Abrams falls Trail beyond the waterfall.
It is suggested that visitors to the park should stop by a visitor's center inside the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to inquire which trails are open and ask about trail conditions before hiking.
Tourism will not be affected by the collapse of a 40-foot wall at the Gatlinburg Wastewater plant that resulted in the deaths of two workers and dumped more than two million gallons of wastewater into the Little Pigeon River.
The wall collapsed on April 5 killing Dan Storey, 44, and John Eslinger, 53. The cause of the collapse is under investigation.
According to Dave Perella, Executive Director of Gatlinburg’s Department of Tourism, the collapse will have no affect on tourism based on water samples taken at the site.
“Water samples have been taken above the site and below the site of the collapse,” Perella said. “Based on these water samples, the water is now safe for recreational use.”
Perella said most white water rafting is done in Hartford and no white water rafting companies operate on the western prong of the Little Pigeon.
The sewage that made its way into the river was waste water and there was no raw sewage. Immediately after the wall collapsed, officials began monitoring the water conditions to ascertain affects on the environment.