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Spring events draw visitors, bringing money to Blount County

Spring festivals returned in East Tennessee, which increased tourism alongside numbers from the Smokies.

BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — Sounds of music will soon echo through the Great Smoky Mountains because spring events are almost back.

Keith Austin, the vice president of the Smoky Mountains Scottish Festival and Games, said the Scottish festival draws huge crowds. It's a celebration of culture that everyone can be a part of.

They have about 60 clients that come and set up their tents so people can find out their heritage. They bring in around ten pop and drum bands, they have athletic competitions, whiskey seminars and much more.

"We're seeing about 15 states in our footprint," Austin said. "They come from all over. A lot of folks come to these festivals across the country. But really, the bulk of our audience is the backyard is right here."

The festival started in Gatlinburg about 42 years ago, and then about a decade ago, it moved to Maryville College. Last year, the festival came to Townsend. That was the time when Austin said they saw about 10,000 people visit it.

While the fun is there, it takes a village to prepare for something so big.

"I've never worked with anything that has this many moving parts with all the different parts of the festival that we do have," Austing said. "We really start more than a year in advance, getting everything planned." 

For the community, this festival alongside the Smokies brings big bucks for local businesses — especially when a festival runs for several days.

Houston Oldham, the Director of Operations for Oldham Hospitality, said people keep coming back because the fun is spread throughout the week.

"We love the festivals that are multiple days because it just brings people to town over and over again," Oldham said. "And it's great because you've got some people that can come on Thursday, some that can come on Sunday, and we really capture as much business as possible when the festivals are spread out multiple days in a row."

The Blount Partnership said when tourism increases, the area gets to keep tax money in its pockets. The community will welcome a few festivals, like the Scottish one, this year. The Bronco Super Celebration and Big Foot Festival also tend to draw big crowds as well. 

Austin from the Scottish Festival said the focus is for the community to come together and have a lot of fun. After all, he said happiness can be found in the everyday simple pleasures of life. 

"I think it gives someone the ability to come out and just have a good time, enjoy good food, good music," Austin said.

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