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Archive for the 'Attractions' Category

Tempers Flare in Bryson City Jury Room

Can a room full of angry jurors ever reach a verdict? You’ll find out when you attend the Smoky Mountain Community Theatre’s current production of “Twelve Angry Jurors,” a play by Reginald Rose. Remaining performances are July 23, 24, 25, 26 at 7:30 pm.

Tickets are $8 for adults, and $5 for students ages 6 to 18. Children under six are admitted free. For information or reservations, contact Director Toby Allman at 828-488-8103 or 828-508-6645.

The Smoky Mountain Community Theatre is just one of the entertainment options available when you visit Bryson City and the North Carolina Smokies this Summer. There’s Saturday evening music at the Depot and Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center; as well as programs at the Swain County Center for the Arts and the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in nearby Franklin. You’ll find a complete schedule here.

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The Lone Ranger Rides Again …in a Wagon Parade

The legendary masked man returned to Bryson City last week …on a mission to protect Great Smoky Mountains Railroad passengers from marauding train robbers. The railroad was so grateful that they threw a parade for our hero and his faithful sidekick Tonto.

The Lone Ranger will continue protecting the Special Tuckasegee Excursion for the next few weeks…

Thru July 22, Tuesday through Sunday departs 1:00 pm
July 28, Wednesday departs 1:00 pm
August 3 – 14, Tuesday through Sunday departs 1:00 pm

There’s more information here.

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The Little Tennessee River, Briefly Interrupted

When it was completed in 1944, Fontana Dam was the fourth tallest dam in the world. And at 480 feet, the Tennessee Valley Authority dam is still the tallest in the Eastern United States, and a must-see for visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s the first of five hydroelectric dams along the Little Tennessee River.

Constructed to provide additional electrical power for the war effort, the dam and the resulting 11,700-acre Fontana Lake required the purchase of 68,292 acres of land, 5125 acres of which was forested and had to be cleared. 1,311 families and 1,047 graves had to be relocated, and four Western North Carolina towns — Fontana, Bushnell, Forney, and Judson — were completely inundated.

As the four towns disappeared, a new village was created to house the project’s 5,000 construction workers. Many of those structures remain today as part of the Fontana Village Resort.

The story of the dam’s origin is portrayed at the Fontana Dam Visitor Center (Open May to November, 9 am – 7 pm, daily), and in Lance Holland’s book, “Fontana – A Pocket History of Appalachia.”

Photo by J.R. vanLienden

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Cherokee’s Island of Christmas Lights


Each day at dusk, the streets of Cherokee, NC come alive with holiday lights. The Tribe’s annual “Festival of the Lights” features lighted, animated scenes and holiday characters throughout town. And the centerpiece of the display is Island Park, where the foot bridges are festooned with lighted garlands and the lights are reflected off the Oconaluftee River. The Festival of the Lights can be seen nightly through January 11.

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All together now… “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way”


Christmas music is a big part of the Polar Express Train Ride experience with everyone joining in. And while one might assume that the conductor would direct the singing, it’s actually the singing chefs that lead the passengers in singing familiar Christmas carols.

Departing from the Bryson City train depot, the Polar Express train ride continues through Wednesday, December 23. A great holiday tradition with caroling, hot cocoa, a treat and chance to talk to Santa.  More info and schedules.

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October’s Fruit of the Month — the Pumpkin


Nothing says “October” quite like the pumpkin. And yes, it is technically a fruit because it has seeds. And even if you carve your pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern, you can still enjoy those seeds as a tasty and nutritious snack. The shells are edible and a good source of fiber. Recipe below.

Locally-grown pumpkins are available at markets and fruit stands throughout the Smokies. But for children, there’s an exciting way to get a pumpkin in the Smokies. They can ride a train, visit a pumpkin patch, meet Charlie Brown, Lucy and Snoopy and bring home their own pumpkin on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s annual Halloween-themed excursion. “Peanuts — The Great Pumpkin Patch Express” continues weekends through October 25. Trains depart the Bryson City depot.

Oven-Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds
Cooking spray, olive oil, or butter
Optional: Salt, garlic powder, onion powder, seasoned salt, or other seasoning of choice

Rinse pumpkin seeds. Use your fingers to remove all the pulp. Drain pumpkin seeds and discard pulp. Spread out on a cookie sheet to dry overnight.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with non-stick foil.

Toss pumpkin seeds in olive oil, butter, or spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, onion powder, seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, or your choice of seasonings. Toss to coat.

Bake about 1 hour, tossing every 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Cool pumpkin seeds before eating. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to three months or refrigerate up to a year.

If you like your toasted pumpkin seeds extra-salty, soak overnight in a solution of 1/4 cup salt to 2 cups of water. Dry an additional day, then proceed as above.

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Move Over Tom Hanks, I’m in Charge Here!


It’s a long-standing tradition — children ride the Polar Express train in their pajamas. But not Nate Hundley. When he rode the train last year, he was the only child dressed as a conductor. According to his mom, Nate had so much fun that he now begs his parents to quit their jobs and move to Bryson City.

The Polar Express train ride returns to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad for the fifth year on November 6 and continues through December 23. Schedules and information (PDF).

Photo by Kelly Hundley

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100 Years Ago, Getting Syrup for Your Pancakes Was No Easy Task


There was no running to the corner market for a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth. You had to grow and harvest the sugar cane, grind the stalks in a horse-powered cane mill, and boil the pulp in a wood-fired cooker …all before pouring the syrup over your pancakes.

gsm75_verticalThis 19th century sorghum syrup-making process will be the centerpiece of the Mountain Life Festival on September 19 at the Mountain Farm Museum, on the banks of the Oconaluftee river near Cherokee. For more than 35 years, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park’s Fall Festival has provided visitors with a glimpse into the past as they make soap, apple cider, sorghum molasses, hominy, traditional toys, music and more. The syrup making demonstration is provided by students, staff, and volunteers from Swain County High School through a cooperative agreement with Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains Association.

As part of the GSMNP’s 75th Anniversary, this year’s festival will include a special showcase of Appalachian folkways. Tools, farm implements and historic photographs from the Park’s archives and artifact collection will be on display to help pay tribute to the former residents who lived where the Park now stands.  Music will be provided by Marshall Crowe and the Bluegrass Singers.

The purpose of the Mountain Life Festival is to share with park visitors some of the traditional fall activities that were an important part of rural life in the southern mountains. The spirit of cooperation that existed among families and neighbors is reflected in this event. You can view a preview in this video from the sponsoring Great Smoky Mountains Association.

Mountain Life Festival (free)
Saturday, September 19
10 am – 4 pm
Mountain Farm Museum
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Oconaluftee Visitors Center
Cherokee, NC

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We’ll Have a Cuban Sandwich and a Bag of Oats, Ma’am


The Lone Ranger and Silver were recently photographed ordering take-out from Helene Tetrault of The Filling Station Deli and Sub Shop in downtown Bryson City. The masked man is currently enjoying his second visit to the Great Smokies this year as a guest of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. After his last appearance this weekend — August 29 and 30 — he’ll most likely ride off into the sunset, with a cloud of dust and a hearty “Hi-Yo Silver, away.”

Photo by Paul Crawley of Soda Pops Ice Cream Parlor

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Bryson City Theatre Group Attempts to Hide Murder


Ever try to throw a party an hour after the host has been murdered? That’s the dilemma facing the Wings Publishing Company in the mystery-comedy “It’s Murder in the Wings” now on stage at the Smoky Mountain Community Theatre in Bryson City. Remaining performance dates are Friday, July 24; Saturday, July 25; Sunday, July 26; and Monday, July 27.  All shows start at 7:30 PM.  Ticket prices are: $8.00 for adults, $5.00 for students ages 6 to 18, and free for children under six.

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Old-fashioned Flowers in an Antique Garden


The Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Mountain Farm Museum is a re-creation of the many household gardens that were once common throughout the Smoky Mountains. Located near the Cherokee entrance to the Park, the living museum accurately demonstrates the farming methods and crops of the nineteenth century, including the hollyhocks that were often grown along the split-rail fence lines. Photo by Jennifer Wilson.

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Is This Jetboat Lost?

Smoky Mountain Jetboat Rides are a popular attraction on the 400 foot-deep Fontana Lake. Riders are thrilled to experience the boat’s trademark Hamilton spins – a flat spin within the boat’s own length. Yet the biggest surprise may come when the 11-passenger craft ventures up the relatively shallow Nantahala River to the base of Wesser Falls. How is this possible? Drawing just four inches of draft, the New Zealand-style jet boat rides like a ski on the surface of the water, enabling it to go where no other speed boat would dare go.

In addition to providing safe and thrilling rides, Smoky Mountain Jetboats also manufactures the boats in their Bryson City plant.

Photo by J.R. vanLienden

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Who Will Challenge The Log-Sawing Champs?


For years, the father-son team of Philip and Ronnie Lindsay have won the Swain County log-sawing championship, hands down. No one else has even come close.

Will this be the year that someone comes forward to challenge them? To find out, be at the Swain County Heritage Festival, Memorial Day weekend May 23, at the Riverfront Park in Bryson City.

The tension mounts!

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Mingus Mill Opens For 75th Anniversary Season


gsm75_verticalThroughout 2009, extra attention will be focused on The Great Smoky Mountains National Park as the nation’s most visited national park celebrates its 75th Anniversary year. In the North Carolina Smokies, the anniversary season gets underway next weekend with the seasonal opening of the historic Mingus Mill. Built in 1886, the historic water-powered grist mill is just a half-mile from the Oconaluftee visitor center in Cherokee.

A complete schedule of 75th anniversary events in Bryson City and surrounding North Carolina communities can be found on the Bryson City website. In addition to the official anniversary events, there’s a wealth of information on things to to in the North Carolina Smokies. Information on all 2009 events is available on the Park’s official 75th anniversary web site. Photo by J.R. vanLienden.

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Native American Hoop Dancer Preserves Cherokee Traditions


Former World Champion Hoop Dancer Eddie Swimmer performs at the annual Swain County Heritage Festival in Bryson City, NC. Held each year on the Memorial Day weekend, the festival celebrates the rich Appalachian heritage of the Great Smoky Mountains, including the area’s original inhabitants, the Cherokee Nation.

Eddie uses between 36 and 42 hoops in his dance (see video), creating different arrangements of the hoops to make symbols including the eagle, turtle and butterfly. “Past generations felt it was necessary to drop the culture and heritage in order to move forward and make a living,” says Swimmer. “Now, generations want it all back. We are proud and want to bring the tradition back. Teaching people outside the culture is one way I can do that.” Read more about Eddie Swimmer on his website.

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The Christmas Lights of Tiny Whittier

As the destination of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad’s Polar Express train ride, the town of Whittier doubles as Santa’s North Pole throughout November and December. The lights not only delight the train’s passengers, they’re a must-see for residents and visitors alike.

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The Polar Express Train Ride Departs From Bryson City, NC

Santa rides the Polar Express train from Bryson City, NC

Want to ride the Polar Express train to the North Pole? Each year, throughout November and December, the train departs from the Bryson City, NC train depot on its magical journey to the North Pole. Children are encouraged to wear pajamas to hear the story, meet Santa, enjoy caroling, hot cocoa and games. Above, Santa gives those children who “believe” a shiny bell as a momento of their train ride to the North Pole.

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Down by the Old Mill Race

Mill Race at the historic Mingus Mill

One of the most fascinating attractions in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is Mingus Mill, the historic grist mill near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center just north of Cherokee. Built in 1886 and still producing stone-ground cornmeal, the mill uses a water-powered turbine rather than a water wheel to power its machinery. Visitors are treated to demonstrations of the corn-grinding process and may even purchase a bag of cornmeal. Open 9 to 5 daily from mid-March through mid-November. Also open Thanksgiving weekend. Photo by Jennifer Wilson.

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Catch a Train to the Peanuts Great Pumpkin Patch

Carry home a pumpkin from the Peanuts Great Pumpkin Patch, Bryson City, NC

Jeanna Davis of Waynesville, NC carries home the pumpkin she picked from the Peanuts Great Pumpkin Patch last Saturday. She and her parents rode the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad’s annual “Pumpkin Patch Express” from the Bryson City depot.

Aboard the excursion train, children hear the story “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” At The Great Pumpkin Patch, they meet Charlie Brown, Lucy and Snoopy, enjoy campfire marshmallows, a coloring station, temporary tattoos, trick or treating, petting zoo, bouncy train, giant hay bale maze, hay rides, bobbing for apples, apple cider or apple juice, and treats.

The Peanuts Great Pumpkin Patch Express continues over the next two weekends — October 17–19 and October 24-26. For information, call 800-872-4681 or visit www.gsmr.com. You’ll find lodging information at GreatSmokies.com.

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The Bluegrass is Free on Saturday Evenings

Reel Tyme performs at Bryson City\'s train depot

Mountain music is very much a part of the Smoky Mountains experience, and it’s yours to enjoy every Saturday night through October at the Bryson City train depot. “Music in the Mountains”, the town’s free Bluegrass concert, features regional talent including the popular group Reel Tyme (above). The two-hour show begins at 6:30, courtesy of the Swain County Tourism Development Authority.

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