Posts Tagged ‘LeConte Center’

George W. Bush Honors America, Veterans at Celebrators Conference in Pigeon Forge

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (Oct. 24, 2018)—George W. Bush and Phil Waldrep Ministries shared the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge stage this evening as they honored America and its veterans at Celebrators Conference.

“Every time I come to a patriotic event, it is unbelievably inspiring,” said Bush.

Tonight was the former president’s fourth time at Celebrators, having previously spoken at the conference in 2009, 2011 and 2013.

“This evening we are gathered to express our gratitude to God for allowing us to live in the United States of America and to show our appreciation and support to the men and women who have worn or who presently wear the uniform of the United States military,” said Waldrep.

Waldrep spent approximately 45 minutes interviewing Bush by asking questions ranging from his family and hobby of painting, which he said was, “one of the greatest learning experiences of all time,” to 9/11 and his work with veterans.

“It is a unique opportunity anytime an organization gets to host a president, especially when a former president is joining you to honor those who served our nation,” said conference founder Phil Waldrep.

When asked about a typical day as president, Bush said for him, a typical day started with reading the Bible.

“Serving God is important in life,” said Bush.

The former president also spoke about how the late evangelist Billy Graham influenced his life, got him back on “the walk” and helped him quit drinking more than 30 years ago.

“You know what is good about our country,” said Bush. The cumulative acts of compassion that make our country unique and people’s willingness to love their neighbor.

There were approximately 8,000 people in attendance at tonight’s event.

The evening of thanks began with the presentation of the United States flag by the Pigeon Forge police and fire departments.

Classical-crossover quintet, Veritas, performed the “Star-Spangled Banner,” which included an appearance by Challenger, the bald eagle used at presidential inaugurations, major sporting events and other historical moments.

Pigeon Forge Boy Scouts assisted in presenting medals to veterans in attendance at the conference.

The night also included a salute to each of the armed forces and a moment of silence honoring those who have lost their lives in service.

“We are an awesome nation to produce people who are willing to serve, said Bush.”

Charles Billingsley, Christian worship leader and song writer, led the crowd in “God Bless the USA” and a choir accompanied by an orchestra sang “God Bless America” to conclude the evening.

Celebrators Conference began in 1997 and is specially planned for today’s active, mature adults to experience spiritual fulfillment, Bible teaching, fellowship and fun.

Phil Waldrep Ministries, based in Decatur, Alabama, seeks to make a difference in the lives of people. This is accomplished through conferences such as Women of Joy, Gridiron, and Celebrators, as well as speaking engagements, online devotionals, and Pastor’s Encouragement Retreats.


Mackenzie Borden, Public Relations
Phil Waldrep Ministries

250 Free Seminars, Concerts, Outdoor Excursions Highlight Wilderness Wildlife Week in Pigeon Forge May 8-12

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (April 24, 2018)—Featuring more than 250 free sessions and activities spanning five days, Pigeon Forge’s award-winning Wilderness Wildlife Week is set for May 8-12. The event is headquartered at the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge.

In its 28th year, Wilderness Wildlife Week offers a variety of workshops, lectures, seminars, concerts, hikes and other activities designed to introduce or reacquaint participants of all ages with the great outdoors.

“Wilderness Wildlife Week showcases a diverse range of speakers and experts who share their vast knowledge of life in the Great Smoky Mountains,” said Pigeon Forge Executive Director of Tourism Leon Downey. “From a fishing tournament for kids to an 11-mile hike to Mt. Cammerer, Wilderness Wildlife Week offers something for everyone.”

The Southeast Tourism Society named Wilderness Wildlife Week one of its Top 20 Events in the Southeast for May 2018. Wilderness Wildlife Week also claimed a Gold Kaleidoscope Award—top honors—in the 2018 Southeast Festival and Events Association’s Best Event Program category.

The event’s headline session includes Ken Jenkins, Judy Felts and Friends in a program entitled Heaven and Nature Sing (May 8 at 7 p.m.). Forensics experts Dr. Bill Bass and Art Bohanan (May 9 at 8:30 p.m.) return to discuss forensic cases throughout the Smoky Mountains region, while several historic Sevier County houses of worship are the focus of two outings led by Kathy Gwinn.

Outdoors enthusiasts, nature lovers or those who simply want to learn more about Great Smoky Mountains National Park can choose from lectures about topics ranging from the area’s rich heritage to conservation. Outdoor demonstrations include back country and Dutch oven cooking while workshops focus on basket weaving, photography, fishing, wildflowers and more.

Among the new sessions this year are My Wild Life: From Bears, Panthers and Pandas to People with Ken Johnson, Frontier Life: Women’s Role in Western Frontier Living in North Carolina with the Overmountain Victory Trail Association, The Ragmen of Appalachia featuring Joseph Williams, Ranger Recollections of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the 1960s with Joe Kelley, The White Caps: The Great Unmasking presented by Don Williams, and a Great Smoky Mountains Association film series.

Hikers of all experience levels can choose from several excursions each day. Highlights include an 11-plus-mile hike to the Mt. Cammerer Fire Tower located less than a mile off the Appalachian Trail (May 11 from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), a six-hour hike highlighting the People and Places of Cades Cove (May 11 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), a nearly five-mile Hen Wallow Falls trek that takes hikers through a hemlock and rhododendron forest (May 11 from 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), and, for the second year in a row, the 2.5-mile Cades Cove Loop Road Night Hike (May 10 from 8-10:30 p.m.).

A special kids’ track is offered for younger outdoors enthusiasts where participants can learn more about topics ranging from composting, snakes, and photography. Jenkins, an acclaimed photographer, leads a first-time session entitled Connecting to Nature in which he examines how to engage wildlife and experience first-hand some of the ways to connect to nature and capture its beauty. A children’s Old-Time Scavenger Hunt (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and Kids’ Trout Tournament (8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for children ages seven to 12) both take place on Saturday, May 12.

More than 50 exhibits and vendors, including the not-for-profit Cades Cove Preservation Association and Onsite Heritage Museum, East Tennessee Historical Society, Keep Sevier Beautiful, and Tennessee Trail of Tears, are open daily during the conference beginning at 10 a.m. in LeConte Hall.

This spring celebration of the great outdoors is free and open to the public. For more information, a complete schedule and registration details, visit

Pigeon Forge Receives Eight Kaleidoscope Awards for Special Events

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (March 2017) – The Pigeon Forge (Tenn.) Department of Tourism claimed eight Kaleidoscope Awards in recognition of the city’s special events during the 14th annual Southeast Festivals and Events Association (SFEA) conference in Lexington, Ky., in February.

Pigeon Forge’s 2016 Saddle Up festival, a celebration of the Western lifestyle, claimed four Silver Awards and one Bronze Award. Saddle Up’s Chuck Wagon Cookoff was recognized with one of the Silver Awards for best event within an event. The outdoor-focused Wilderness Wildlife Week was recognized with one Silver Award and a Bronze Award for best event within an event for Appalachian Homecoming’s Cades Cove Preservation Association Picnic Dinner fundraiser. A Mountain Quiltfest, which features displays and dozens of classes, earned a Bronze Award.

“The quality of submissions continues to increase each year making it more difficult for the judges to select the winners,” noted Brenda Pierce, SFEA executive director.

“Pigeon Forge’s special events are entertaining and educational and give our guests even more reasons to visit,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “We are certainly appreciative of SFEA’s award-winning recognition.”

Pigeon Forge’s 2017 Wilderness Wildlife Week takes place May 9-13. For more information, visit

SFEA is a 501 (c) 6 membership-based organization comprised of festival and event planners, venues, and industry service providers. It was founded in 2009 to strengthen the festival and event industry throughout the southeastern U.S. by hosting educational sessions, networking opportunities, award recognition, and additional events throughout the year; thus, allowing for continued professional growth within the festivals and events industry.


Media Contact:

Trish McGee


Bluegrass Artists Headline Two-Night Concert Feb. 10-11 To Benefit Dollywood Foundation Wildfire Scholarship Fund

PIGEON FORGE, Tennessee (Jan 10, 2017)—A lineup of bluegrass music’s top artists is scheduled to perform Feb. 10-11 in Pigeon Forge with proceeds from ticket sales to benefit the Dollywood Foundation Wildfire Scholarship Fund.

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, the Grascals, Flatt Lonesome, and Volume 5 will take the stage on Friday, Feb. 10. The Lonesome River Band, Barry Bales & Friends, Newtown, Dave Adkins Band, and Jimbo Whaley & Greenbriar perform on Saturday, Feb. 11, during a two-night bluegrass celebration to benefit those affected by recent wildfires in East Tennessee.

“For these stellar artists to step up and donate their time and talents to support Sevier County families is beyond belief,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “This two-night music event will help ensure that Sevier County students receive scholarship funds and that’s an important investment in the students’ future—and ours.”

“As an East Tennessee native, I’ve been especially moved by the mountain tough spirit of my neighbors in the aftermath of this event,” said Lawson. “I am excited and humbled to participate in this two-night bluegrass celebration offering relief and support for some well-deserving folks.” Lawson was born in Kingsport, Tennessee, and resides in Bristol, Tennessee. Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver is a member of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Hall of Fame, seven–time IBMA Vocal Group of the Year Award winner and has four Grammy Award nominations for best bluegrass album.

General admission tickets are $30 per person for each concert, or a two-concert ticket is available for $50 per person (ticketing service and handling fees not included). Tickets go on sale Wednesday, Jan. 18, at or at the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism offices (open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.) located at the LeConte Center (135 Jake Thomas Road). For more information, please visit

Dolly Parton established the Dollywood Foundation Scholarship Fund to provide support for Sevier County students to attend the university of their choice. The scholarship fund includes the Dolly Parton Scholarship, awarded annually to a student at each of Parton’s native Sevier County’s five high schools. In November 2016, the fund presented the One Million Children Scholarship, a special $30,000 scholarship awarded to a two-year-old Imagination Library participant to commemorate the literacy program’s achievement of a monthly enrollment of one million children. The Wildfire Scholarship will provide financial aid to students whose homes were lost to the fires.

Sevier County firefighters and first responders along with families currently participating in the My People Fund distribution will be special guests at the concerts.

Friday’s concert begins at 5 p.m.; Saturday’s show starts at 4 p.m. (doors open an hour prior to each concert).

The concert is sponsored by the City of Pigeon Forge and the LeConte Center at Pigeon Forge with talent provided by Moonstruck Management. Sound and lighting is donated by Blue Ridge Sound; Stellar Visions and Sound is donation staging. Catering is provided by Bullfish Grill. Other sponsors include the Sevier County Economic Development Council. WDVX radio is the official media sponsor.

Media contact:         Trish McGee