Kicking it off with a Cookoff

Chili Cookoff and Veterans Day Kickoff Winterfest

The annual Winterfest in the Smoky Mountains, with events in both Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, is the celebration of the holiday season. It is the culmination of all things Christmas and winter with more than 3 million holiday lights, decorated storefronts, kids’ activities, holiday events, and more. Smoky Mountain Winterfest is a big deal, and such a big event calls for an equally impressive kickoff! That’s where the annual Winter Magic Kickoff & Chili Cookoff comes in. Each year, Winterfest gets started with a fun downtown Gatlinburg event focused on a favorite winter comfort food – chili. This year, the Winter Magic Kickoff & Chili Cookoff lands on November 11, perfectly lined up with Veterans Day. To celebrate, Gatlinburg will be blending the annual Veterans Day celebration with the kickoff and cookoff.

Starting at 11 a.m., the annual Veterans Day Celebration will be held in the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies Plaza. The salute to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedom will feature entertainment by Ladies for Liberty, a talented group of women who embody the spirit of the 1940s with period-appropriate music and the style of the WWII-era Andrews Sisters. They’ve performed all across the United States in order to “honor America – the greatest nation on Earth!” They’ll provide the entertainment for the Winter Magic Kickoff & Chili Cookoff, so it’s sure to be a good time. Honor our veterans and feel transported back in time at this unique Veterans Day celebration in the heart of Gatlinburg – all while kicking off Winterfest in the Smokies!

Winterfest does more than just entertain visitors. It has also been a big boost to the Sevier County economy. Since its start in 1989, the unemployment rate in the county dropped from 14% to 4.5% during Winterfest months, and occupancy for lodging increased from 20% to 65%. The huge holiday event has done so much for the community, and in turn, the community has continued to make the celebration even better every year. That includes the change from incandescent to LED lighting for the Gatlinburg Winter Magic displays throughout the city, along with the addition of new and unique displays over the years. The change saved the city almost 95% in energy costs. It now costs the same to light the displays for 120 days as it once cost for just 3 days! It’s a beautiful display that’s also gone green – a perfect mix!

Winter Magic Kickoff & Chili Cookoff
At the Winter Magic Kickoff & Chili Cookoff, you’ll find a huge selection of chili from area businesses and groups. For just $10, you’ll get an all-access pass to taste chili samples from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. on the Parkway in downtown Gatlinburg. Or you can just come browse for free. Participants in the chili cookoff will be vying for the People’s Choice Award (favorite chili voted on by you), along with Best Presentation and Best Apron. What a way to celebrate Veterans Day and get winter started!

This family-friendly event is perfect for everyone, featuring great food, music, and the surrounding beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. And what better way to end a cool day of tasting hot chili than by relaxing in a cozy cabin in the Smokies? Find the perfect Pigeon Forge cabin for your stay by browsing our range of options. Need a romantic escape just for two? We have charming 1-2 bedroom cabins that feature hot tubs, indoor jetted tubs, king-size beds, and inviting fireplaces. Want a spacious place for your whole family or big group? Be sure to check out our large group cabins that boast everything from mountain views and Wi-Fi to private indoor pools and home theaters! We also have pet-friendly cabins, luxury properties, and cabins that feature washers and dryers, big screen TVs, game tables, fully equipped kitchens, and so much more!

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