Bloomin’ BBQ & Bluegrass Festival

When you think of local spring/summer festivals, the images of mouth-watering food and great music seem to always be prevalent. Nowhere is that more the case than in Sevierville, Tennessee every May when the town closes its downtown streets for two days in anticipation of the oh-so-yummy Bloomin’ BBQ & Bluegrass festival.

Bloomin' BBQ & Bluegress FestivalIts racks upon racks of pork, brisket, and chicken drenched in some of the nation’s premiere barbeque sauces. Bloomin’ BBQ & Bluegrass attracts some of the greatest grillers from around the country to downtown Sevierville, as well as a number of other vendors who follow the barbeque circuit. Take a break between pork sandwiches and watch the mascot parade and dance competition on Friday evening. Kids get their chance to grill as well in the annual Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union Kids’ Que… It’s a new generation of rib racks and sauce!

You’ll also find a variety of new food vendors, funnel cakes, and various deserts for sale to go along with your barbeque, and plenty of great new entertainment on the festival stages. In years past, crowds have listened to the musical stylings of bands from Blue Moon Rising and Jimbo Whaley & Greenbrier to the legendary Sam Bush, and it’s all been absolutely FREE.

On the business end of the grill, barbeque masters such as the Carolina BBQ Company, Carolina Rib King, and Smoky Mountain Smokers – last year’s grand champion, have competed yearly for Bloomin’s top prize. You’ll also come across local establishments like Evelyn’s Ice Cream, The Diner and Tony’s Kettle Korn cooking what they’re best known for – exceptionally great food. In all, these are just a few of the vendors that will be on hand offering some of their best recipes over the weekend.

There will be plenty of hands-on Que’ing going on at the festival’s annual BBQ Boot Camp. This usually occurs in the days leading up to the Bloomin’ Barbeque Festival. Visitors can come and talk barbeque secrets, and pick up a few tips and tricks for backyard BBQing, advanced BBQ smoking and even learn some new summertime dessert recipes! BBQ Boot Camp classes are taught at the Rel Maples Institute for Culinary Arts at Walters State Community College in Sevierville, TN. This new facility offers state-of-the-art kitchen facilities rivaling major cooking schools nationwide

Bloomin’ Barbeque & Bluegrass is a family-oriented festival that celebrates the beauty of the Smoky Mountains, great barbeque and lively bluegrass music. Bloomin’ Barbeque & Bluegrass is a part of Sevierville’s Smoky Mountain Springfest. Bloomin’s Barbeque cook-off is an official barbeque championship of the state of Tennessee and is coordinated by the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce.

Festival of Nations

Dollywood's Festival of NationsFor all the spectacular rides and water adventures offered by Dollywood every year, it’s the theme park’s shows that draw just as many crowds to them as any coaster or slide. If you’re from the area, you know that Dollywood’s Festival of Nations draw some of the biggest.

Dollywood’s Festival of Nations in Pigeon Forge, TN is a great way to discover Dollywood if this is your first time at the park, as well as a great event for those who have been a time or two. Festival of Nations has been an end of March through the beginning of May event in years past featuring international performers highlighting their cultures through dance, song, and culinary delights. It’s one of Dollywood’s most captivating events showcasing a world of entertainment, plus art, dancing, music and food, that’s most won’t see in person over an entire lifetime.

In 2011, Le Grand Cirque and the show Imaginé was back for another run on the Festival of Nations stage. But this is no Americanized “Circus”. This is a mouth-dropping performance weaving the flavor of numerous cultures into one spell binding show. These performances combine aerial acrobats, gymnasts, clowns, jugglers, and high wire artists in fantastic costumes. It’s a dazzling display of amazing feats set to great music. Really a can’t miss for the Festival of Nations.

Dollywood's Festival of NationsOther shows that have wowed the crowds at the Dollywood spectacular include Keona, an act unlike any other from Switzerland.  They perform using an instrument called the hang drum, which produces fascinating rhythms on many different drums. The Equadorian group Atahualpa captures the crowd with traditional South American song and dance. Native instruments as well as modern keyboards and guitars are just a part of their show, resulting in a melting pot of cultures and sounds. Calpulli Danza Mexicana has also put on a lively performance in years past featuring the Mexican variations of music and dance. Ceremonial dances and rich costumes from Mexico play a large part in Calpulli Danza Mexicana’s number.

DRUM!, a Nova Scotian group featuring 20 musicians, puts on quite the musical spectacle with dancers, drummers, and singers performing songs from four principle cultures – Aboriginal, Black, Celtic and Acadian. This 45-minute stage show is an upbeat combination of music, dance, poetry, video, rhythm and song, and is known the world over for its melding of different cultures into one spectacular performance.

Dollywood's Festival of NationsAnother group found to have combined together different cultures, Zambian Vocal Group brought numerous tribes together for their performance last year. Their united performance in a capella – no instruments, brought the crowd to its feet following a show of traditional hymns as well as original pieces to the backdrop of African rhythms, unique vocal percussion, and complex harmonies.

Whatever time of year, it’s always a great time to be at Dollywood, and even more so during the Festival of Nations. For the month of April into early May, you get all the normal attractions, plus everything encompassing the Festival of Nations. For more Festival of Nations information, check out Dollywood’s Festival of Nations web page. You’ll also find anything you need if you’re visiting Dollywood for the first time.

Driving Directions to Dollywood:

  • From Interstate 40, take Exit 407 toward Sevierville/Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg.
  • Follow TN Hwy. 66 South which becomes US 441.
  • At Traffic Light No. 8 in Pigeon Forge, turn left. Dollywood signs are posted along the road till you reach the park.

Using a GPS Navigation System:

Use the address 1198 McCarter Hollow Road, Pigeon Forge, TN 37862 to take you to  Dollywood’s entrance.

Pigeon Forge Winterfest

There is no shortage of fall events in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee this year and it starts with the town’s seasonal extravaganza – Pigeon Forge’s Winterfest. It’s a four month celebration of winter with such events as the Trolley Tour of Lights, Wilderness Wildlife Week, and Saddle Up.

The kickoff event itself is one to behold with the lighting of 5 million Christmas lights following a salute to veterans with a Veterans Parade throughout town. It’s not only a celebration of our heritage past and present, it’s a combination of the things that Southern Appalachians hold so dear. Look no further than Pigeon Forge’s Winterfest for what to do in the Smokies as fall turns into winter!

Winterfest in Pigeon ForgeThis incredible event has garnered numerous honors over the years from various publications and news outlets around the United States with some even proclaiming it a top event nationwide. But you don’t have to read a book or tune in for the national news to see why this is such an incredible event. Pack up your things, drive on down to Pigeon Forge, TN for the weekend, week, or even month, and enjoy everything our little town has to offer this time of year! You’ll see why Pigeon Forge’s Winterfest is the perfect time to book a Smoky Mountain vacation for the holidays.

Holiday lighting displays illuminate Pigeon Forge from one end of town to the other during these few months. We’re talking around 5 million LED lights! This lighting creation was sparked out of an idea in the mid-80′s when two city officials visited a Virginia town that featured holiday light displays that drew in thousands of visitors during the holiday season. Thus, the Winterfest idea grew and was implemented. The goal being that every year the town adds even more lights to the display. Next stop, 6 million lights!

Each year, the lighting displays get bigger, more detailed, and more breath taking. The town has even developed trolley tours in recent years so that people do not have to worry running into the car in front of them and can take in everything. It’s simply an experience you can’t find in most towns, at least around these parts.

As previously mentioned, outside the enormous lighting display, there are also numerous events and festivities taking place in Pigeon Forge throughout the winter. Winterfest officially kicks off this year on November 8 with a salute to Veterans held at Patriot Park. Other events that stretch throughout the winter include Wilderness Wildlife Week, Saddle Up, Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas, Pigeon Forge New Year’s Eve Celebrations, and a number of new yearly events.

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.