Remember When, Lost Smoky Mountain Attractions – Porpoise Island

Vintage Poirpose Island Attraction, Pigeon Forge, TN.

Vintage Poirpose Island Attraction, Pigeon Forge, TN.

Remember When, Lost Smoky Mountain Attractions – Porpoise Island. Pigeon Forge, TN is widely known as a national vacation destination offering something for everyone from theaters and attractions to amusements parks and shopping with world-renowned views of the Smokies in the background. There have been some very memorable attractions come and go over the years. This is one of them in our series Remember When, Lost Smoky Mountain Attractions.

The porpoises are calling you!”

But did you think they would be calling from the Great Smoky Mountains?

Most people didn’t. Opening in the summer of 1972, a new Polynesian – style

Porpoise Island duck slide in Pigeon Forge, TN.

Porpoise Island duck slide in Pigeon Forge, TN.

attraction called Porpoise Island stuck a toe in the ever-expanding pool of growing tourism choices in Pigeon Forge, TN.  It was certainly a novel idea – mixing the tropical feeling of the Hawaiian Islands with the earthy down home goodness of the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. No one really knew if it would work although one of the principle investors did have similar attractions in Hawaii itself, Bermuda, England and other locations. However, tourism in the Smokies isn’t always like tourism in other places. A last-century investment of $500,000 was a pretty substantial one equaling over $3,000,000 in today’s dollars. Sea-swimming creatures and Polynesian grass-skirt style in the Great Smoky Mountains did offer an interesting contrast to be sure.

The 20-acre attraction was located at the north end of Pigeon Forge (on highway 441) on what is now called “The Island.” It is so-named because it is a natural land section in the middle of the Little Pigeon River which runs parallel to the Pigeon Forge parkway. It’s not the Pacific but it can get pretty cranky after spring rains.

Porpoise Island Polynesian hula dancers in Pigeon Forge.

Porpoise Island Polynesian hula dancers in Pigeon Forge.

Porpoise Island included hula dancers in grass skirts (of course!), laurel head wreaths, a sea lion show, a bird show called the “Island Whiz Kids,” a deer ranch and live Hawaiian stage show but the main stars were of course the porpoises. Overall, there were 20 different performances a day. The porpoises performed in a 100’ x 36’ salt water facility. Guests were also allowed to pet the porpoises. Visitors were greeted at the main building with a warm hula dance comprised of male and female dancers in traditional Polynesian wear and with instruments. Hawaiian culture is known for their friendliness and hospitality so maybe Porpoise Island was a perfect fit to the cordial nature of the Smokies and its people.

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Grainger County Tomato Festival

Grainger County tomato fesiival will twang your buds!

Grainger County tomato fesiival will twang your buds!

Grainger County Tomato Festival is scheduled for July 26th, 27th and 28th 2019. This delicious annual special event is fun for the entire family. This Smoky Mountain event was organized in 1992 to promote world famous Grainger County Tomatoes. By far the most delicious tomato’s in America! The mission is to promote all Grainger County agricultural products, specifically the Grainger County Tomato, and to promote local artists, authors, talent, and craftsmen.

Many special events have been added this year making the festival one of the largest free festivals in East Tennessee.  Parade magazine named the Tomato Festival one of the top ten festivals in the USA. This family friendly event is alcohol, tobacco and vaping free and attendees are expected to use good southern manners. The annual event is the last weekend in July in Rutledge,Tennessee.

Pets are welcome at the Tomato Fest but remember it occurs in late July and it will be HOT. There will be watering stations and misting tents on the festival grounds to help you and your furry friend keep cool.  Remember to pick up after your pets and deposit their love in the nearest garbage can.

The annual art contest will get your creative juices flowing. If you wish to enter the contest bring your entries to the elementary school on Friday July 27th by 3:30 ready to hang unless it is 3D. There are several categories to enter for both children and adults. Please limit three per artist. Be sure to fill out the provided tags to identify your piece when dropping it off. Judging will be at the end of the day and the winners will be displayed Saturday.

The infamous Tomato War is a must for every festival attendee! Choose sides, grab a bushel and get it on! This crowd pleaser is bound to satisfy your hankerin’ for maters. The wars will begin Saturday July 27th at 10:00 a.m and Sunday July 28th, at 2:00 p.m. Applications for your team to enter combat may be obtained at Tomato Wars.

Free Smoky Mountain Ranger Events

Find all the free Smoky Mountain Ranger events on the HeySmokies.com daily events calendar!

Find all the free Smoky Mountain Ranger events on the HeySmokies.com daily events calendar!

Free Smoky Mountain Ranger Events occur each day all summer long. 2019 is the perfect year to enjoy some quality time with a ranger in Great Smoky Mountains National Park! All the free events can be found on our HeySmokies.com daily events and special events calendars year round! Your favorite places in the Smoky Mountain like Sugarlands, Cades Cove, Elkmont, Oconaluftee and Cataloochee all offer fun and informative ranger events that the entire family will enjoy.

Bring out the Junior ranger in yourself and your kids with a fun program like Stream Splashers. This is your chance to get wet and wild with a ranger.
You won’t have to guess what all those crazy critters are that you find in our cool, clear mountain streams. Tadpoles, salamanders and more slimy things than you can shake a stick at are waiting to be discovered.

Got a hankerin’ to do some hammerin’? Regular blacksmithing demonstrations will introduce you to the ways of the anvil. Cades Cove blacksmith shop will be stoking the fires and creating useful tools and decorative works of art. Once the blacksmith was an integral part of every community forging everything from nails to build homes to horseshoes to keep the farms and mountain commerce moving. Discover the mysterious art of working metal.

Ranger campfire talks are your chance to discover secrets of the Smoky Mountains. Topics discussed are bear safety, what kind of snakes and reptiles inhabit the park, what is an elk rut and much more! Kick back and relax under the stars with a cozy fire burning bright and let your imagination run wild through the hills!

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Cades Cove Loop Lope 2019

Cades Cove Loop Lope is your chance to experience the beauty of Cades Cove in an all new way!

Cades Cove Loop Lope is your chance to experience the beauty of Cades Cove in an all new way!

Cades Cove Loop Lope is a Great Smoky Mountain Special Event! The Cades Cove Foot Race (AKA – the Cades Cove Loop Lope) hosted by Friends of the Smokies and the Knoxville Track Club is scheduled for Sunday, November 3, 2019. This exciting race was originally billed as a one time event at it’s inauguration in 2010. Since then it has grown in popularity. Participation is limited to 750 total runners and all participants will be awarded a t-shirt and finishers medallion.

We are very excited to bring this race back to such a beautiful part of our national park,” said, Friends of the Smokies spokesperson. “This is a unique way to experience the splendor of the Cove and raise money to protect it for future generations at the same time.

Friends of the Smokies will provide more than $90,000 for historic preservation and wildlife management programs in Cades Cove and a total of $1.4 million for other critical park projects.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash remarked the race marks an opportunity to connect with the next generation of public lands stewards who are active in our national parks.

We are pleased to work with the Friends to offer this opportunity that supports the park and encourages people to use the park for fitness,” said Superintendent Cash. “The park provides an incredible setting for people to improve mind, body, and spirit.”

Registration begins July 16, 2019 at RunSignup.com. Participants can choose between the 3.1 mile (5K) or the 10-mile loop routes. Each race is $75.00 to enter.

Carpooling is essential to maximize participation in this race. Only 100 vehicle passes will be available for purchase for an additional $35 fee when registration opens. Registrants who do not purchase a vehicle pass must either carpool with a passholder they know or utilize the group transportation option which will be provided by Friends of the Smokies.

A virtual race can be run (or walked!) anytime, anywhere, even indoors or on a treadmill. Virtual runners will receive a race t-shirt and undated finisher’s medallion via mail, however, they will not be eligible for awards. ***ONLY runners registered for the virtual race will receive t-shirt and medallion via mail. There is no packet mailing for this race.

Ginseng Harvesting

Smoky Mountain Ginseng, miracle plant, facto or fiction?

Smoky Mountain Ginseng, miracle plant, facto or fiction?

Ginseng Harvesting. Ginseng; miracle plant? Fact or fiction? There are many uses for this fascinating native plant that grows wild and randomly from forests in Mississippi, across the eastern mountains of the United States to the remote areas of China. Ginseng refers to 11 different varieties of a short, slow-growing plant with fleshy roots. One of the most enduring of the herbal remedies, it is believed by many to restore and enhance well being.

American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius, L. ) is easily overlooked blending in readily with other plants, such as poison oak. It begins as a single stem in spring and then adds a flush of leaves that are later adorned by lipstick red berries that appear and last just a week in mid-summer. Below ground the root (actually a rhizome) grows at a snail’s pace, adding wrinkles much like a tree adds rings.  It is the root, and it’s monetary value, that has lured people for decades to search for the elusive tuber. The location of many “secret” Ginseng spots is often passed from generation to generation, but that could soon be a thing of the past as ginseng is at risk due to over harvesting and loss of habitat.

Famed botanist William Bartram.

Famed botanist William Bartram.

 

The Cherokees speak of the plant as a sentient being….able tomake itself invisible to those unworthy to gather it.-William Bartram, naturalist, Philadelphia, 1781.

 

 

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