When the national park opened a few miles from Pigeon Forge, Tenn., in 1934, travelers could get 25 gallons of gasoline for what it costs to buy just one gallon today.
But a number of lucky travelers will find gas even cheaper in summer 2009 — free, in fact — thanks to a Pigeon Forge celebration of the national park’s 75th anniversary. It’s a project called “75 Ways To Celebrate, from the Parkway to the Park.”
“Pigeon Forge has 10 million visitors each year, and the national park is a large part of why today’s Pigeon Forge is here,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “Our 'Parkway to the Park' idea makes the connection between the attraction-filled parkway that goes through the middle of town and the treasure that is Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”
The program will award 75 families each:
- a $75 fuel card, a $75 parkway attractions pass
- a list of 75 fun activities in Pigeon Forge
- Dolly Parton’s tribute CD to the Smokies called "Sha-Kon-O-Hey!"
- two tickets to the Dollywood theme park
The giveaways are designed help travelers recognize the significance of the 75th anniversary.
Registration for the "Parkway to the Park”"packages is online at www.PF75.com. Registration ends July 15.
The "Parkway to the Park" project is just one way Pigeon Forge is celebrating the anniversary. Six Pigeon Forge-sponsored special events are on the official 75th anniversary calendar. The next is StringTime in the Smokies, a traditional music festival Aug. 14 to 15.
“We really are the ‘Gateway to the Smokies.’ We’re home base when guests come to visit the park,” Downey said. “This is a way to make it more affordable for some lucky visitors to enjoy the crown jewel of the region.”
One of only a handful of free national parks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited of all (nine million visitors in 2008). The park, by design, is a major economic engine for the region, and many of its visitors land for a while in Pigeon Forge.
The park is one of the most biologically diverse spots in the world, with some 100 species of native trees, more than 200 species of birds, 66 mammals (including lungless salamanders), 50 native fish species, 39 varieties of reptiles and 43 species of amphibians.
Almost 95 percent of the park is forested, and about 25 percent of that area is old-growth forest – one of the largest blocks of deciduous, temperate, old-growth forest remaining in North America. More than 1,500 additional flowering plant species have been identified in the park.
Pigeon Forge is one of the country’s top tourism destinations, drawing more than 10 million visitors each year. The town offers more than 40 family-friendly attractions along its five-mile parkway. The destination city is located within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the U.S. population east of the Mississippi River.
“Parkway to the Park” registration and complete information about Pigeon Forge travel itineraries and attractions are available at www.PF75.com.