Townsend's new festival is winner

Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau receives recognition from East Tennessee Historical Society

The Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau (SMCVB) has been selected to receive the East Tennessee Historical Society (ETHS) Award of Distinction for outstanding work and coordinating the "Winter Heritage Festival." The award will be presented at the ETHS’ annual meeting on June 5.

The Award of Distinction recognizes a special project, such as publications, building preservation, or special programming, including a conference, heritage event, or lecture series.

This is the second Award of Distinction the SMCVB has received from the ETHS for its dedication to the heritage of East Tennessee, the preservation of Appalachian culture and its leadership in Blount County to create a tourist destination that is based on sustainable tourism and developed properly.

The "Winter Heritage Festival" was held in February, and it was a weekend of educational programs, exhibits and entertainment designed to give locals and visitors an in-depth look into the rich heritage of the Great Smoky Mountains and Cades Cove community and celebrate the evolution, culture, history and heritage of the area. The festival provided a unique opportunity for people to step into the lives of the residents that settled the area through personal tours, presentations and memories.

"This was the first time we held the ‘Winter Heritage Festival,’ and it was tremendous success. We had around 1,000 people attend the various events," said Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the SMCVB. "This festival could not have been possible without the support, cooperation and involvement of numerous Blount County organizations, and we are proud to share this award with them."

Organizations involved with the festival included the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont, Great Smoky Mountain Association, Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, Cades Cove Preservation Association and Little River Railroad Museum.

"We’re already working on the 2008 ‘Winter Heritage Festival,’ and we plan to create an event that will encourage longer stays in the area and continue to attract both locals and visitors," said Handly. "This event adds to the many heritage events we already hold in our community, and it is helping us to establish a sustainable tourism base in which we can continue to grow our tourism base while at the same time preserving and celebrating our rich heritage and culture. It’s the best of both worlds."

Blount County’s number-two industry, tourism, provides $229 million annually to the area, generating $8 million in local taxes and $66 million in payroll.

Established in 1834, the East Tennessee Historical Society has 2,000 members across the United States. The Society collects artifacts, records events and attempts to hold on to the history of the area. The historical society pursues its educational mission through publications, lectures, conferences, school programs, exhibits, and heritage programs.

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