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Gatlinburg offers vast array of fall colors, variety of activitiescomment (0)

July 12, 2007

As the morning fog rises to showcase the Great Smoky Mountains, the sun reveals autumn’s fiery explosion of foliage. Jutting from the hillsides are log cabins and chalets with decks from which to view nature showing off its colors. Below, a tiny town about 2 miles long and 5 miles wide plays host to the annual influx of leaf peepers. Here, you will find children patiently watching candymakers pull taffy or slice mounds of mouth-watering fudge.
This is a place that awakens all your senses — Gatlinburg, Tenn.

Paying tribute to the first inhabitants of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg shopkeepers display Cherokee headdresses, baskets and American Indian artwork.

Arts and crafts
Cobblestone nooks reveal shops stocked with items such as freshly dipped candles and Appalachian crafts, while some displays make you wonder if Christmas is next week. Crowds gather on sidewalks anticipating the sounds of the region. Music groups — accompanied by banjos and fiddles — sing melodies from the past. Come morning, restaurants draw large crowds for a taste of pancakes dripping in maple syrup. Can you smell it?

This popular destination maintains the perfect mix of mountain charm and modern attractions.
Founded in 1807 as White Oak Flats, Gatlinburg was a sleepy little mountain town with little to recommend to tourists.

It was named Gatlinburg when the U.S. Postal Service approved the name and established a post office in Radford Gatlin’s store. But with the opening of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1934, the gateway community began enticing visitors with hotels, restaurants and mountain crafts.

First Baptist Church, Gatlinburg, has been a constant leader in ministering to those tourists, as well as residents, said Pastor Larry Burcham. He noted that First, Gatlinburg, which began as White Oak Flats Baptist Church in 1837, is the oldest church in the city. The congregation is currently in its fifth building, where you will find a memorial quilt displayed that features each sanctuary the church has occupied. The stone and oak in the current sanctuary were part of the previous building, which was in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg.

The church is now located on U.S. Highway 321, east of downtown Gatlinburg. “Tourists are an integral part of the ministry of our congregation,” Burcham said. “We advertise ourselves as ‘ministering to the community around us and the world which comes to our door.’”

He explained that the church regularly hosts about 30 tourists every Sunday, but that number easily exceeds 200 during certain seasons of the year. “Many visit us at the same time every year, referring to us as their church home away from home,” Burcham said.

North American Mission Board missionaries Bill and Cindy Black are members of First, Gatlinburg. They serve as co-directors of Smoky Mountain Resort Ministries. “Our mission is to reveal the presence of God to those who live, work and play in the resort settings of Sevier County and the Smoky Mountains,” Bill Black said.
They do this by conducting mountaintop church services and Sunday worship services in 14 campgrounds. They also conduct resort employee devotionals in the area and do other evangelistic outreach to tourists.

The area has many attractions to keep visitors busy, from outdoor adventures (see story, page 6) to the historic sites of downtown Gatlinburg, including Ogle’s Cabin, named for William Ogle.

He cut the trees for the cabin and then went to South Carolina to bring his wife and children back.
Although Ogle died before he could return to “the land of paradise,” his family continued the journey and became the area’s first settlers. They found the logs he had cut and built the cabin in his memory.
Arts and crafts have long been associated with the southern Appalachian Mountains, and Gatlinburg is often considered the center of this legacy. “Nowhere else in the South will you find such a rich heritage of fine craftsmanship than Gatlinburg,” said Walter Yeldell, tourism and public relations manager for the Gatlinburg Department of Tourism & Convention Center.

The city’s arts and crafts were rejuvenated by the 1912 establishment of the public Pi Beta Phi Settlement School by the national women’s fraternity Pi Beta Phi. It provided an academic curriculum and contributed to the cottage craft industry movement in Gatlinburg.

In 1945, the school expanded and eventually became the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.
Hand-loom weaving

The Arrowmont school began near the Ogle cabin as a summer program of craft workshops. The art of weaving on hand looms was revived here, and this tradition and others continue today through workshops at the school for all levels of expertise in a variety of craft-art media. The school’s art galleries are open for tours of select collections throughout the year, including the National Basketry Organization Exhibition that will be featured Sept. 28–Nov. 10.

Independent artisans have also found a home in the Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, an 8-mile loop composed of the largest group of independent artists and crafts people in North America, Yeldell noted. You can drive the loop or take the city’s yellow trolley route June through October.

Many of the artists work in their shops, giving visitors a unique peek into the arts and crafts world.
Former students at the University of Alabama at Birmingham may find a familiar face in the shop of potter David Howard. Howard, who makes functional stoneware pottery, is a former Baptist campus minister at the school. His hands may be even more well known, as they were featured on a poster for national Woman’s Missionary Union.

As a member of First, Gatlinburg, Howard recently made a goblet for the church’s new Christians to use as they take their first Communion after being baptized.

You will also want to visit Art for God, where Christian portrait artist Stephen S. Sawyer displays more than 300 prints. Sawyer has been featured on the cover of The New York Times.

In autumn, enjoy the Smoky Mountain Harvest Festival Sept. 14–Oct. 31. You will find whimsical storefront decorations, entertainment and special activities, including old-fashioned hayrides. You will also want to visit the 32nd annual Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair Oct. 11–28. There will be about 200 booths featuring works by artisans, plus daily performances by country, bluegrass and gospel music groups in the Gatlinburg Convention Center.

Variety of galleries
Other must-see crafts are located at the Cliff Dwellers Gallery, where weavers, quilters and basket makers are among the artists who, during scheduled demonstrations, are ready to answer your questions while showing off their crafts.

At the Rose Pedaler, scented, hand-formed rose-bead jewelry is made by store employees from the store’s rose petals or your petals from a special occasion. They are cooked, dried and turned into wearable keepsakes.
Be sure to visit the Jim Gray Gallery located in the historic former Glades Lebanon Baptist Church, where Gray’s art is featured. And for candles of many colors, stop by the Highland Craft Gallery.
For more Gatlinburg information, call 1-800-568-4748 or visit www.gatlinburg.com.
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