Gatlinburg kicks off its Winterfest activities

Nov. 15, 2013 @ 11:06 PM

The smell of fresh-cooked chili accompanied the sights and sounds of the season Wednesday night in Gatlinburg as the city hosted its annual Gatlinburg Winter Magic event as a kickoff to Smoky Mountain Winterfest.

The 24th Annual Chili Cookoff and Winter Magic Kickoff featured the ceremonial lighting of over three million lights and a little friendly competition as dozens competed for the title of best chili in Gatlinburg.

Nashville-based Natalie Stovall and the Drive and the local band Tuatha Dea entertained the thousands in attendance at the event, which also served as a fundrasier for Pi Beta Phi Elementary's PTA.

Crawdaddy’s Restaurant garnered the People’s Choice Award this year for their chili, as the awards were announced by the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Top honors went to Dick’s Last Resort for Best Booth Presentation and Citizens National Bank for Best Apron.

The annual competition between the Gatlinburg Fire Department and Police Department was really close again this year with the Fire Department claiming 1st place in the Service Category by a very narrow margin.

Other top chili honors in voting by judges went to:

  • Restaurant Category – 1st place, Dick’s Last Resort; 2nd place, Mellow Mushroom; 3rd place, Loco Burro.
  • Attraction Category – 1st place, Lumberjack Feud; 2nd place, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
  • Retail – 1st  place, The Island; 2nd place, Ole Smoky Distillery; 3rd place, Davy Crockett’s Whiskey
  • Financial Institution – 1st place Citizen’s National Bank
  • Lodging – Hilton Garden Inn

Other Gatlinburg events slated for Winterfest include:

  • Winter Magic Tunes and Tales, which features characters in costume singing, playing music and telling stories along the Parkway downtown. The characters will be out each Friday and Saturday from 5-9:30 p.m. Nov. 29 through Dec. 21.
  • The 38th Annual Christmas Fantasy of Lights Parade, set for 7:30 pm on Friday, Dec. 6, where thousands of people come to view the mile-long parade featuring lighted floats, marching bands, equestrian units, helium balloons and off course Santa Claus.
  • Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday Show, with items made by members of the Gatlinburg Great Smoky Arts and Crafts Community. The free show runs November 26 through December 8 at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.
  • The Festival of Trees, November 26-30, at Mills Auditorium. Admission is free and the event, a benefit for Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries, includes more than 75 decorated trees, a Santa Store, a gingerbread house competition and more. A luncheon at noon November 26 kicks off the event. Tickets are available through the SMARM office at 908-3153.
  • Winter Magic Trolley Ride of Lights, with departures at 6:30, 7:30 and 8:30 each evening now through Dec. 30 for a guided tour of the lighting displays. Tickets are $5 and reservations are recommended.

u The Nutcracker “Sweet” is performed at the Gatlinburg Mills Auditorium on Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 29 and 30. The Great Smoky Mountain Dance Theater performs the all-local production at 7 p.m.