New Year's Event Means Big Business for Gatlinburg

By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief
By: Stephen McLamb, Bureau Chief

Gatlinburg, Sevier County (WVLT) - For thousands of people in East Tennessee, Gatlinburg was the place to ring in the New Year!

And as WVLT Volunteer TV's Stephen McLamb explains, that was great for business.

Despite an early rain, an estimated crowd of more than 60,000 people gathered to watch the ball drop from atop the Space Needle Sunday night.

Officials say the event continues to grow every year and benefits both Gatlinburg and its merchants.

In Gatlinburg, it was another big time welcome to the New Year, 2007.

"It was great. This is the spot it all happened last night, sixty or seventy thousand people," says Special Events Director George Hawkins.

Although it rained throughout most of the day, Mother Nature came through around 9 pm.

"The rain quit and it was a perfectly beautiful night for the fireworks and they designed a new show for this year," Hawkins says.

But hours later after the show you wouldn't have known there were so many people on the streets.

"Sanitation department, like in New Orleans, they clean it up right after it's over to make everybody happy," Hawkins says.

The annual show is also a shot in the arm for a community that used to close after Labor Day.

Blindshot Barnaby's opened six months ago and claims to have the world's largest mirror maze.

"They get lost, but they keep coming back to the same exit and we send them back through. We want them to enjoy it and have a good time," says Steve Sharp, manager at Blindshot Barnaby.

Now at the end of a year, they're able to shore up their bottom line.

"It's been the best week we've had because if the people are here we're busy," Sharp says.

The annual fireworks show has been going on for more than twenty years now and it's making an impact on the community.

"The town draws more people each year. We're building more overnight rentals with the hot tubs," Hawkins says.

And less than 24 hours later, they're already thinking about next year.

"Well, we're critiquing now, you know, what went great and what didn't so good," Hawkins.

The evening wasn't without incident but a little better than last year's 23 arrests.

This year, Gatlinburg Police arrested 18 people for public intoxication, one of those also including a vandalism charge when there was some damage done to a parking booth.


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