Smokey Bear Turns 75

We all love Smokey Bear. Photo credit: adweek

We all love Smokey Bear. Photo credit: adweek

Smokey Bear Turns 75. This year marks Smokey’s 75th year that he has cautioned Americans about the dangers of wild fires. Smokey Bear’s iconic first poster, depicting a brown bear, clad in jeans and a wide-brimmed forest ranger hat, debuted on Aug. 9, 1944.

It was later that a real life counterpart would “bear” the same name serving both as a living symbol and a cautionary tale.

According the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute,  in the 1950’s a badly burned bear cub was found clinging to a charred tree after a forest fire in New Mexico’s Lincoln National Forest. Nicknamed Smokey by firefighters, the orphaned cub was treated for his injuries and then flown to the Smithsonian National Zoo where he would live and serve as a reminder for wildfire prevention and conservation for 26 years until his death in 1976. When Smokey’s plane touched down at the nation’s capital airport literally hundreds of reporters, photographers and onlookers were on hand to chronicle his arrival and help spread his fame.  Millions of fans visited the famous bear during his lifetime, and sent him thousands of letters, and more than a few jars of honey. Smokey received so much mail that the US Postal Service provided him his own special zipcode-20252.

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Great Smoky Mountain Hot Air Balloon Festival

Smoky Mountain Hot Air Balloon Festival will be fun for the entire family. Photo credit -

Smoky Mountain Hot Air Balloon Festival will be fun for the entire family. Photo credit –

The Great Smoky Mountain Hot Air Balloon Festival will light up the Smokies on Saturday August 17, 2019. Beginning at 3 p.m. and culminating with a spectacular glowing extravaganza, the third annual Great Smoky Mountain Balloon Festival is scheduled at The Townsend Visitors Center at 7006 SE. Lamar Alexander Parkway in Townsend, Tennessee.

Short tethered rides (weather permitting) will be available as well as elevated rides, weather permitting. A short-aside here; hot air balloons cannot fly in rain because the heat from inside the balloon would cause the rain water to boil thus melting the balloon – not an adventure you want to encounter. Rides are scheduled from 6 pm – 8 pm and last approximately 5 -7 minutes rising to a height of about 30 feet. Tickets, for ages 8 and above, are $20 per person. Elevated rides go much higher and are for riders age nine and up. Elevated rides are $125.00 per person.

Visitors will also enjoy an up close look at the colorful and often whimsical balloons, the mechanism involved in launching them, and the huge wicker passenger baskets.

It's all about the glow y'all! Photo credit -

It’s all about the glow y’all! Photo credit –

Be sure and stick around for the balloon glow fun. Balloons will glow for more than an hour, beginning about 8pm and lasting until 9:30pm, will provide a dramatic focal point for Tennessee’s famed sunsets. If inclement weather occurs, balloonist will perform a candlestick glow.

No outside food or beverages are permitted but there will be plenty of food vendors to satisfy every palate. A craft beer tent will offer a variety of regional brews and Nine Lakes Wine Country Wine Tasting is scheduled from 3pm-9pm. Tickets for the wine sampling (which includes a commemorative wine glass and wine tote) are $10. Wines will also be available for purchase by the bottle or case during the event. The wine garden opens at 3 p.m. and closes at 9 p.m.

Additional family friendly activities include live entertainment, arts and craft vendors; face painting; Eurobungy; a rock climbing wall; a trackless train, and a fun-filled water balloon war for the more intrepid.

Bring your camera-take your best shot and enter the GSM Hot Air Balloon Photo contest. Photos can be submitted to and should be accompanied by your name, phone number and a brief description of where it was taken.

Parking passes may be purchased online at for $20 and guarantees a parking spot. Cost to park on the day of the event is $25. There is no handicap parking but shuttles will be provided for anyone needing assistance. The parking lot opens at 2:30 p.m.

This is a rain or shine event and parking passes are non-refundable. Pets are welcomed but must be leashed and poop bags are required. Be warned: inflating balloons is a noisy process and may frighten four-legged friends.

For more information visit Balloon Festival.

Jared Hard Smoky Mountain Music Tour

Jared Hard tours the Smoky Mountain region!

Jared Hard tours the Smoky Mountain region!

Jared Hard Smoky Mountain Music Tour. Jared will be bringing his musical stylings to the HeySmokies region for several months in late summer and early fall of 2019. Jared is an Americana singer/songwriter currently living in Knoxville, TN. His midwestern upbringing instilled in him a strong sense of American story telling which brings honesty and intensity to his performances.  At a young age Jared picked up the guitar and began writing music. Natural sounds of meadows and mountains infuse and influence his music while keeping it grounded in the red dirt of his midwestern childhood home. These elements combined emerge in an easy going, modern Americana folk sound that is pure Jared!

Get Jared Hard in your music library!

Get Jared Hard in your music library!

Jared has been touring and supporting his debut project, “10,000 Hydrogen Bombs” since the release in 2015.  This EP is a perfect laid back introduction to Jared’s signature storytelling style of songwriting.  The EP laid the ground work for a full length album “Boy, Man, Fool” which is in the pre-production stage.  

Boy, Man, Fool” promises to be a walloping-good-time of an album. The tracks will have plenty of foot stomping, toe tapping tunes to go around while featuring moments of thoughtful storytelling that are the signature of Jared Hard music.  

Be a part of music history and join Jared in his musical quest! Jared’s GoFundMeSite is poised to raise thousands of dollars to complete his new albums production and your contribution would be greatly appreciated. Jared’s tour dates can be found on the special events calendar and his Facebook page. Jared will be releasing his album soon so be sure and make room in your music library to get Jared Hard!

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.