Adriana Zoder: Wilderness Wildlife Week a free, annual tradition

Jan. 11, 2014 @ 11:49 PM

For the third year in a row, we will take our children to the Wilderness Wildlife Week, a free, annual event in Pigeon Forge. Besides the new programs featured, it will be exciting to explore its new location. LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge looks pretty impressive from the outside.

The event will take place Jan. 25-Feb. 1. LeConte Center is at 2986 Teaster Lane in Pigeon Forge.

Looking a bit into the history of the event: Ken Jenkins started presenting evening programs in his studio, Beneath the Smoke, 24 years ago. The event grew from there, winning dozens of awards along the way. Just last year, Wilderness Wildlife Week won four silver Pinnacle Awards in Pittsburg, Pa., at the International Festivals and Events Association’s Pinnacle Awards ceremony.

To quote Mr. Jenkins, “Wilderness Wildlife Week was intended to be an event committed to the education and enjoyment of the public as to the wonders of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It has been our commitment to create an enjoyable yet enriching series of walks, talks and workshops.”

Our children are small, but the kids’ track offers enough events in the lineup for us to attend or, at least, start. We have had to leave toward the end of a workshop or two because of their short attention. However, they enjoy the event and I do, too. I find attendees very understanding when I have to remove fussy children from the room. In fact, most attendees beam at the sight of small children.

We have not attempted the hikes yet, and we probably will not start this year, either. Too many logistics involved with small children on winter trails. But the idea of a guided nature walk sounds very appealing. They have some bus tours called field trips, and we might venture in that direction. It all depends on the weather and how everybody is feeling that week.

The program can be downloaded at To stay green, I don’t print it out. Not even the kids’ track or the hikes and field trips. I have selected what interests me and put it on my Google calendar, which I can access on my cell when I am out and about. We can pick up a paper copy of the schedule on site, of course.

Here are some of the workshops we would like to attend: Family Fun in the Smokies; Compost Stew; Fred and Ted the Fish; Batteries Not Included: Old Time Toys and Games; Wild World of Animals: Knoxville Zoo’s Zoomobile; Learn About Bears Through Hands-On Activities; Bear Tales: True, False and Partially True Stories About Bears; and Blindfold Surprise.

The field trip to the Townsend Railroad Museum sounds intriguing. Also on my radar are the Pigeon Forge Greenway Litter Pickup, the Sevier County Compost Facility Tour, the Pigeon Forge History Tour and Owl Prowl. This last field trip, Owl Prowl, takes place in the evening, 6-9 p.m.

We look forward to another enriching adventure at Wilderness Wildlife Week and we say thank you to the many volunteers and staff for all their efforts in making this event special every year.

Adriana Zoder, a Gatlinburg resident, is a writer and homeschooling mom. She and her husband have two children. She maintains the award-winning blog