Tourism officials in Pigeon Forge, the vacation destination
in eastern Tennessee and home to the Dollywood theme park, are encouraging
tourists to visit and support the region in the wake of wildfires that ignited
in the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Monday night.
News media reported that thousands had to flee the resort
towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge this week as wildfires tore through the
Great Smoky Mountains, scorching hundreds of buildings and leaving 13 people
But as of Thursday, the area's many attractions, theatres,
restaurants and accommodations are operating as usual, according to officials.
"If you really want to do something for Gatlinburg,
come back and visit us," Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner said in a statement.
Gatlinburg is considered a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
"Many of our city's 6,000 residents, as well as those
of our friends and family in Gatlinburg, are dependent on the tourism industry
for jobs to care for themselves and their families," said Leon Downey,
Pigeon Forge's executive director of tourism.
Pigeon Forge's Winterfest festival is continuing as
scheduled, including several Christmas shows at various theaters.
The Dollywood theme park suspended operations on Nov. 30 and
Dec. 1, but is resuming normal operations on Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. In the wake of
the fires, resort staff evacuated families in 50 rooms staying at Dollywood's
DreamMore Resort and families staying in 19 cabins at Dollywood's Smoky
Country singer Dolly Parton this week announced that a fund
to assist the families affected by the Smoky Mountain wildfires was being
established by the Dollywood Company and the Dollywood Foundation, and will
provide $1,000 each month for six months to Sevier County families who lost