Gatlinburg will kickoff the 27th year of Smoky Mountain Winterfest with the annual Gatlinburg Chili Cookoff and Winter Magic Kickoff on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016 from 5–8 p.m. on the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg. City dignitaries will signify the start of Gatlinburg Winter Magic with a ceremonial lighting of more than 3 million lights throughout the city while visitors sample chili from more than 20 area restaurants and businesses.
This year’s event features great musical acts throughout the night performing on multiple stages. Headline entertainer Tara Thompson will perform on the Bush’s Best Stage at traffic light number 6. The rising country music singer is a featured act in many of Nashville’s premier honky-tonks and has recently been the opening act in front of thousands for her cousin, the Queen of Country Music, Loretta Lynn. Tara recently released her EP “Someone to Take Your Place” and is expected to release her full-length album later this year.
Thompson will go on at 6:15 p.m. on the Bush’s Best Stage at traffic light number 6. The Grassabillies will open at 5:15 p.m. The Greenbrier Band will perform 3 times throughout the night beginning at 5 p.m. on the south entrance of the Cookoff near The Historic Gatlinburg Inn.
All Sauced Up Hot Chili Eating Contests are at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. across from Reagan Terrace Mall, and Winter Magic Kickoff lighting starts at 6 p.m. on the Bush’s Best Stage.
Smoky Mountain Winterfest has had significant economic impact on holiday tourism in Sevier County. Since its debut in 1989 through 2013, the unemployment rate dropped from 14% to 4.5% for the months during Winterfest. Lodging occupancy increased from 20% to 65% in that same time frame across the county.
“We are so happy to celebrate 27 years of Winterfest in Sevier County with Gatlinburg’s Chili Cookoff,” said Mark Adams, CEO and president of Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. “In the nearly 30 years since its inception, Winterfest has proven to be extremely popular for the residents of Sevier County while also providing one of the best holiday experiences in the South for the visitors who visit our area during the winter months.”
Participants in Chili Cookoff will be competing for the coveted People’s Choice Award, Best Booth Presentation and Best Apron. While the street event is free, tickets for chili sampling are $10. There is also a special edition t-shirt available for purchase the night of the event.
Food vendors serving are Collier Convention and Catering, Courtyard by Marriott Gatlinburg, Crawdaddy’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar, Delauder’s Smoky Mountain BBQ, Dick’s Last Resort, Drafts Sports Bar & Grill, Gatlinburg Fire Department, Gatlinburg Police Department, Great Smoky Mountain Catering Co., Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud, Hilton Garden Inn, The Inn at Christmas Place, IX Nubes Vape Lounge, Lil Black Bear Café, Loco Burro Fresh Mex Cantina, Margaritaville Island Hotel, Ole Smoky Moonshine, Ober Gatlinburg, Paula Deen Store, Puckers Sports Grill, Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Sensible Concrete Works, Sugarlands Distilling Co., The Melting Pot, and The Popcorn Emporium. Sponsors of Gatlinburg Chili Cookoff are Bush Brothers and Co., All Sauced Up, Food City, and Smoky Mountain Living.