Townsend Days: Record crowds fill grounds at Visitors Center

Carl Melton does some pickin' on his homemade instrument at the Townsend Visitors Center for the Townsend Fall Festival.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Carl Melton does some pickin' on his homemade instrument at the Townsend Visitors Center for the Townsend Fall Festival.

When you throw a party, and the weather cooperates, good things happen.

Townsend Days, which encompasses the Townsend Fall Festival, the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center Blue Ribbon Fair, Railroad Days at the Little River Railroad and the Nawger Nob Arts and Crafts Fair, saw record crowds and was a great boon for area businesses.

The line of cars on Highway 321 leading to the Townsend Fall Festival, a project of the Blount Partnership, at the Smoky Mountains Visitor’s Center was long as the facility saw a record-crowd of 8,777 attend the two-day event of music, food and crafts, Sept. 23-24. But once inside, excitement and fun was had by all.

“The weather was awesome and as a result, we saw a huge outpouring of visitors and vendors who really made the Fall Festival the best it’s ever been, “said Bryan Daniels, President/CEO of the Blount Partnership. “We had great support from our volunteers who made the event run smoothly and with the results of our survey, we plan on making it better in years to come.”

As part of an ongoing effort to enhance the event, a survey was conducted with the visitors in regards to where they came from, where lodging and the number of nights.

The results were astounding as more than 40 percent of the respondents stayed in Blount County at a hotel, cabin or campground with more than 75 percent staying at least three nights. Most of the visitors to the Festival hailed from Tennessee, with 38 percent coming from out of state.

Not only were accommodations busy, Townsend and other area attractions saw their traffic increase as well.

“Townsend was as busy as I’ve ever seen it, and we experienced heavy traffic in Trillium Cove,” said Chad Rochelle, owner of Dogwood Cabins. “It’s great exposure for our area, any way you look at it.”

Rochelle, who has followed the growth of the Festival for the past 15 years, also noted that he direct markets to his former guests about the dates and special events associated with both the Spring and Fall Festivals.

The effects of those record numbers at the event were felt by local businesses as well.

“These events certainly helped us be successful our first year and will help us survive the winter,” said Don Curry, first year owner of Mountaineer Campground. “I am grateful to the Blount Partnership for their work and encourage continuation of these activities.”

Townsend Visitors Center events coordinator Jeanie Hilten said the volunteers make the event possible. “We appreciate the volunteers and the volunteer fire department that set up and ran the parking,” she said.

Hilten said she is looking forward to the Winter Heritage Festival in February and winter classes in January, February and March. “There’s just a whole lot going on, and we want to support all the other organizations and programs going on that highlight the mountains, mountain culture and the Smokies.”

In addition to the September events, there is the Winter Heritage Festival in February, the Fiber Arts Festival in March, the Townsend Spring Festival in May and the Pottery Festival in June.

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