Haunts and Haints at Marble Springs

Two days before Halloween, the former home of Tennessee’s first Governor, John Sevier put on a new face and had some Halloween fun.  Marble Springs was the home of John Sevier from 1745-1815.  It has been kept as a historic landmark of the history of Tennessee.  Throughout the year, living history and educational tours happen daily.  Along with the living history they have many special events.  One of the events this year was their Halloween Haunts and Haints.  The event included decorations, a costume contest for the kids and storytelling around a bonfire.

Haunts and Haints at Marble SpringsMarble Springs is a beautiful location.  Set in the woods right off Governor John Sevier Highway in South Knoxville, it is idyllic.  Add to that setting, lots of pumpkins, the gorgeous colors of an East Tennessee fall and you have a painted landscape that is the perfect backdrop for Halloween fun in the Smokies.  Luminaries lit the path down to the historic buildings and pumpkins were placed at the door of each log structure.  Trying to replicate the late 18th century means that electric lights are few and far between so the light of a bonfire provided the majority of the lighting in the area after the sun went down.

Before the sun sunk below the horizon, the kids and adults went house to house to learn about the history of the site.  Most of the kids came in costume and participated in the Halloween costume contest.  Pirates, princesses, superheroes, ghost and ghouls roamed around the site and the winners were chosen.  Candy was handed out and as the day grew older, the light got dimmer and the bonfire began to rage, everyone settled in around the bonfire or in the tavern to listen to ghost stories.

The Smoky Mountain Storytellers Association provided their voices for the ghost stories. As promised they had not so scary stories around the bonfire for the young and timid at heart and seriously scary stories in the tavern for those that were feeling more adventurous.  The atmosphere around the bonfire was warm and inviting.  With a bit of a nip in the air, everyone gathered around the bonfire for fellowship and warmth.  The stories began and everyone from the youngest to the oldest person listened with rapt attention as the stories unfurled around them.  The stories at the bonfire were new telling’s of fairy tales and fables, tales that everyone had heard but were fascinated to hear again in this wonderful environment and unique setting.

The stories in the tavern were of a different nature.  None were gruesome or graphic but they were not for the faint of heart.  With just enough edge to set your hair on end, you experienced the feeling of sitting around a campfire swapping stories with you friends.  The listeners in the cabin sat facing the fireplace and the storyteller.  The fire gave off more than enough warmth to keep everyone toasty but the sound of the wind whistling across the top of the chimney certainly added to the tales being told.

Speaking to some of the guest that attended, parent and child alike had a great time.  One family said that they would like to make this one of their fall traditions.  Another group said they were looking forward to telling their friends how much fun they had so that they could bring them back in 2012.  All in all, this is one of those events that will stick with the attendees for years to come.  They will look forward to the net trip to Marble Springs, especially the next trip at Halloween, to revisit the Haunts and Haints at Halloween.

4th of July and New Years in Gatlinburg

Not only does the town of Gatlinburg offer some of the area’s best attractions (i.e. Ripley’s Aquarium), it also knows how to throw quite the party. Each New Year’s and Independence Day, Gatlinburg is the site for two of the biggest celebrations for each respective holiday.

Each has become an event that visitors will travel in droves to be a part of, or stay up at night to catch a glimpse of on television.

For the New Year’s Eve crowd, including us locals, experiencing the celebration in Gatlinburg ranks right up there with seeing the ball drop in Times Square – you have to see it at least once. And if you do decide to go, just follow the crowd. The space needle in the middle of downtown is where all the action takes place. Starting around 11 p.m. on December 31, vendors start handing out free party favors such as whistles, funny glasses, hats, streamers, etc. This all builds up to the midnight crescendo when Gatlinburg’s own ball drops at the top of the space needle downtown and fireworks light up the night sky to mark the coming New Year.

For those of us who have been a time or two, the best places to go are old hat. So, if this is your first New Year’s in Gatlinburg, try to find a place near the space needle. Many people use the parking garage as a birds-eye-view for the celebration/fireworks display. If you’re not staying in Gatlinburg that night, but just want to do a bit of partying, find a parking spot along River Road and the commute out should be an easier one.


Gatlinburg also bills itself as the town with the first 4th of July parade of the year. Starting at midnight on the evening of July 3rd, the annual Gatlinburg Midnight Independence Day Parade brings in 90,000 to 100,000 spectators each year with their patriotic celebration.

You’ll want to leave a bit early because the town of Gatlinburg closes all the streets at 11 pm. It’s not uncommon for it to take 1-2 hours to get in and out of town because of the number of people that come in for the parade. As far as the best place to view the parade, basically anywhere downtown along the main strip is a prime place. So if you’re not directly in the middle of downtown by the time fireworks start don’t sweat it too much. If you’re in the vicinity of downtown, you’ll be able to see plenty. The parade is also the same at the beginning as it is at the end of the route.

All five military branches are recognized during the parade for their service to our country…. It’s definitely one of the highlights.

And if you didn’t get enough fireworks during the New Year’s celebration, Gatlinburg also does a fireworks show on July 4 just after dusk. It’s about a half hour show that you’ll be able to see from as far as the lift at Ober Gatlinburg.

If you’re planning on being in Pigeon Forge for the day, you can stop by their event which usually features a free concert and is of course FREE, like the Gatlinburg fireworks show. They’re both a great way to spend time for the entire family and can be a great reminder of why we celebrate the Fourth.

Gatlinburg’s Smoky Mountain Springfest

In most Smoky Mountain towns winter seems to always go out like lion, so when spring comes along it’s no wonder that Gatlinburg welcomes in the new season with a slew of events aimed at getting people outside and aptly named Springfest.

Beginning in mid-March and continuing through the first week of June, Gatlinburg’s Smoky Mountain Springfest celebration transforms town from a wintery wonderland into a blooming, colorful display of Smoky Mountain wildflowers. The streets are practically overflowing with baskets of flowers and plants in bloom. The aroma of pansies, daffodils, tulips, mandevillas, lantanas, and wave petunias are just a few of the many varieties of wildflowers that bloom in the area and can be seen throughout Gatlinburg during Springfest.

In actuality, Springfest really kicks off with Ober Gatlinburg’s Easter Sunrise Service. Celebrate the season against the beautiful backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains. Ober provides free tram rides up the mountain beginning at 6 a.m. and continues every 15 minutes until the service begins at 6:30 a.m. Complimentary parking is always provided at the resort as well. The Ober Gatlinburg Restaurant will serve a breakfast buffet from 7 a.m. until 10:30 a.m.

One of Springfest’s more delectable events is Gatlinburg’s Ribfest & Wings cook off. If you aren’t a fan of the smell of hickory-smoked barbeque, or just BBQ itself, don’t come in to town. If reading this is making your mouth water, get there early.  It’s not just a competition though; everyone gets to sample each vendor’s secret sauces on delectable ribs and wings from some of the best grillers in the Southeast. The festival also doubles as a street party featuring live entertainment, great music, lots of fun and those oh-so-good barbeque ribs and wings sizzlin’ on the grill.

If it’s getting more in touch with nature that you crave, the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage & Greener Living Expo is geared specifically for hikers and nature lovers who want to see Gatlinburg’s wildflowers in their native environment – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This five-day educational program, hosted by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the University of Tennessee Botany Department, includes walks, exhibitions, demonstrations, lectures and guided auto trips into the wonderful season of spring in the Smoky Mountains.

Need an excuse to buy a few local crafts during all the Gatlinburg Springfest events? How about doing some early Christmas shopping at the town’s Easter Arts & Crafts show? The Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community artisans put their unique gifts up for show and sale annually at the Gatlinburg Convention Center during the final weeks of April.

Spring events continue with the Scottish Festival & Games, which has been moved in recent years from Gatlinburg to Maryville College in Maryville, Tn. The annual Scottish Festival & Games is a gathering of local clans and features traditional Scottish athletics, bagpipe competitions, Highland dancing, Border collie demonstrations, haggis hurling, Scottish entertainment, along with food and various Scottish crafts on the grounds.

Gatlinburg also offers its own Fine Arts Festival that features a panel of juried artists from around the country. Delicious local fare and music are a large part of this festival that takes place in downtown Gatlinburg, usually on a weekend in mid-May. Festival proceeds go to benefit the Sevier County Arts Council.

To learn more about these and other events in Gatlinburg, call 800-56-VISIT (568-4748) or visit the town’s tourism website at www.gatlinburg.com.

Corn Mazes

What’s better than the fall colors cascading down the mountains as summer slowly turns into crisp autumn nights? I know what most of you were thinking and that’s nothing really, especially when you’re talking about fall. And that’s OK, but for some fall brings the outdoor fun of corn mazes in all different shapes and sizes. In the Great Smoky Mountains, there are quite a few of these attractions beginning with the Kyker Farms Corn Maze in Sevierville. It’s a great way to enjoy the autumn air and snuggle up to fire with smores and hot chocolate afterward.

So on with our list, here are some of the best corn mazes, as well as haunted corn mazes, in the Smokies – Tennessee and North Carolina:

Kyker's Corn Maze

Kyker Farms Corn Maze – Located in Sevierville, TN, this 5 acre maze runs from September 21 – October 28 with a haunted portion opening in October, running on Friday and Saturday nights through the end of the month. Kyker also features a “Tater Tot” maze for small children, a pumpkin patch, hay rides and much much more. There is also a petting critter barn and straw crawl for the kids. Check out Kyker Farm’s Website for up to date times and events. Located at 938 Alder Branch Road, Sevierville, TN  37876. Phone: (865)679-4848

Fender Farms Corn Maze

Fenders Farm Corn Maze – Head northeast to Tennessee’s oldest town – Jonesborough, and experience the corn maze at Fender’s Farm. The maze opens on September 14 and runs through November 14. There, you’ll find a haunted maze, animal shows, playground, milking parlor, calf roping, a cow train, horseshoes, wagon rides, and a zipline. If you can’t find something to do and entertain you at Fender Farms, well, you’re out of luck. Located at 254 Highway 107 in Jonesborough, TN or visit their website at fendersmaze.com.

Blue Ridge Corn Maze

Blue Ridge Corn Maze – The Blue Ridge Corn Maze in Brevard, NC boasts 6 acres of “Corn-fusion”, opens in July and operates through the end of October. *By appointment only July – August. They claim that their haunted maze is one of the best in the western North Carolina area. Located at 1605 Everett Rd. in Pisgah Forest, NC, they have tents for large parties and pumpkins and Black Angus beef for sale. Visit their website at blueridgecornmaze.com.

Eliada's Corn Maze

Eliada’s Annual Corn Maze – Eliada’s annual corn maze is a 12 acre maze and Western North Carolina’s largest. Besides a maze, come play with corn cannons, take a hay ride, a cow train, play in the giant sandbox filled with corn, ride a giant tube slides, and so much more! The maze will open September 7th and remain open each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through October 28th. The maze will open from 4-9 on Fridays, 10-9 on Saturdays, and 11-8 on Sundays. Contact Nora Scheff at 828.254.5356 x 303 or via email at nscheff@eliada.org.

Knoxville Zombie Walk

At the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, Knoxville, Tennessee, had a zombie problem on October 22nd.  That problem raised public awareness and was a good time for all of the zombified attendees as the undead walked the streets.  Well, they are not really undead more like the living portraying the undead.  The Knoxville Zombie Walk is a themed event that gains attention and food donations for Knoxville Area Rescue Ministries (KARM).  People come to the event dressed in their zombie best, bring canned food as a donation to KARM and strut their stuff throughout the downtown area of Knoxville.

This is the second year of the event and it is getting bigger each year.  Before the walk they gave out awards for Best Make-Up, Best Zombie and Best Zombie Couple.  The pre-walk part of this event was as interesting as the event itself.  The staging area was Market Square in downtown Knoxville.  As the time for the walk approached zombies began to trickle in.  And though they were dressed up, very few of them were in character yet.  They stood around, chatting with friends and hanging out… dressed as zombies.  The amazing thing was the number of families that had turned out together to support this event and KARM.  There were groups of friends, whose zombie outfits were coordinated, there were people dressed as zombies and zombie hunters from the movies and there were families that had all the kids dressed up n their zombie best.  Even children too young to walk the event and instead were confined to their strollers were in on the action.

Most of the costumes were homemade.  But being homemade does not mean that they lacked in quality or imagination.  Simple makeup and a good zombie walk was all that some people needed to look the part.  Others had donned special-effects appliances to make them stand out from the crowd.  Every manner of dress was taken into account as well:  from wedding dresses and tuxes, to suits and cheerleaders, black tie was in effect for a lot of the participants.  Of course you had the more flamboyant as well, one person took a page from the comic books and arrived as Zombie-Spiderman.

Closer to the actual start of the walk, more than 300 people gathered around the stage and waited for the word to start the 2011 Zombie Walk.  One of the organizers made sure that everyone knew to place their food next to the hearse that had been brought in to transport the donations to KARM.  The zombies also got their rules before the walk started to make sure that innocent bystanders were not harassed, traffic laws were obeyed and most importantly there was no vandalism.  As the walk started and the shambling horde of bloodthirsty zombies started their walk toward the Old City, there was a pile of canned goods left to be taken to KARM.  The people that had been hanging out at the Farmers Market and the regulars at Market Square got a good show as 300 zombies started to amble through downtown and more importantly a worthy charity and food ministry got some well deserved publicity.