Heritage Center celebrates 5th birthday

Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center will observe its fifth birthday on Friday, Feb. 11. During its first five years, the Center has hosted 150,000 visitors, 35,000 of whom were schoolchildren on guided tours led by the volunteer docents and staff.

“The Center opened on a Saturday in the midst of a mountain snow storm,” Director Bob Patterson said this week. “In spite of the weather, we had an exceptional turnout and saw it as a good sign.” Nearly 1200 attended the opening day.

The Center has grown from two galleries, an indoor auditorium, outdoor amphitheater, and five historic structures to a covered outdoor amphitheater and 12 historic or model structures including the 101 year old Wilders Chapel added just last year.

On Saturday, Feb. 12, free birthday refreshments will be available to visitors at the Center. Regular admission rates will apply for touring the museum without a discount coupon.

Special programming that day includes a 1 p.m. presentation by author/hiker Sue K. Jenkins, followed by a book-signing. Jenkins is author of 2008s “Backpacking Stories of a City Girl Who Apparently Loves Misery in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park” and the recently released “My Feet Hurt & When Can We Hike Again?”

On Tuesday, Feb. 8, the public is invited to attend a Volunteers Open House at the Center. The informational event is designed for individuals interested in volunteering at the Heritage Center and to acquaint them with the Center’s mission and specific volunteer opportunities. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. in the Center’s auditorium. Because refreshments are being served, those planning to attend are asked to RSVP at 865-448-0044.

The Heritage Center is located between the Townsend traffic light and the national park, on Scenic Highway 73.

For more information, call 865-448-0044 or visit www.gsmheritagecenter.org

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