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Spring events draw record crowds to Knoxville

Big Ears and Mardi Growl drew more attendees in 2022 than ever before, organizers said. The crowds are helping local businesses thrive.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Visit Knoxville President Kim Bumpas remembers a time when weekends in Knoxville could be slow. That's no longer the case.

"We're not the old Knoxville where you had like one event on one weekend," she said. "We now have five, six, seven events on one weekend."

In 2022, Knoxville is bustling with things to do. Mardi Growl drew record crowds earlier in March. Big Ears is expecting more attendees than ever before.

The Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon is returning to its spring sport for the first time since 2019.

"It's really, really fun if you live here," Bumpas said. "It's really fun if you're visiting."

Soon, the city will draw visitors for the annual Dogwood Arts festival and 40th Anniversary Celebration of the World's Fair.

Bumpas said all these events are bringing more people into the city.

"They're seeing record numbers in hotel/motel collections, which is how we kind of monitor everything," Bumpas said. "They're at all-time highs, so that's really, really great."

RELATED: 10About Town: A used book sale, free Big Ears performances and the Knoxville Marathon

On Thursday, the Big Ears music festival kicked things off for the first time in three years.

"Everyone all around downtown Knoxville is just happy and excited, not only to hear amazing world-class live music but to be back around people," director of development Casey Fox said. 

She said roughly 70% of the registered attendees are from outside of the Knoxville metro area.

"They're not just coming for one night, for one show. They're coming for the whole weekend or staying four to five nights," she said. "They're living downtown, they're eating every meal here. They're going into our bars and our shops and things like that."

In many cases, Visit Knoxville said those visitors come back, especially with so many things to do. 

"It's huge. It is bringing millions of visitors from all over the world to Knoxville, Tennessee," Bumpas said. "We're on the map. We're a premier leisure getaway destination and people are just flocking here to hang out for the weekend."

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