By Darryl Payne
Posted on April 6, 2016
Nature lovers know that spring in the Smokies is one of the most wonderful times of the year. This year it's even better, with Wilderness Wildlife Week taking place May 18 to 27 in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. This popular annual event offers educational and entertaining programs for all ages and interests, and - best of all - it's free. You may remember that Wilderness Wildlife Week used to be in January. Happily, organizers decided to move the festival to May to take advantage of better weather for outdoor activities. That means this year's event has an expanded roster of outdoor programs and hikes.
Special Events for the Kids
Kids will enjoy special events geared just to them, such as Fred and Ted the Fish, an entertaining presentation that follows two fish on their journey through local waters. Young historians will also like a special demonstration on pioneer and historical toys, where children 10 and up can learn how to make toys similar to those that the pioneers played with. And if you have a budding gardener in the family, be sure to sign up for the hands-on session on worm composting (now, don't say "Eww!" - worms are really cool).
Grown-Up and Family Programs
There are so many fascinating programs for adults (and the whole family) that you may have trouble deciding how to spend your time. You won't want to miss Buried Alive: A Little Girl's Narrow Escape and an Herb Doctor's Cure. This is the true story of how an enterprising doctor saved a little girl everyone else had given up for dead. Also of note is The Midwives' Quilt: A Tale of Conflict and Intrigue in the Smoky Mountains. In this presentation, Dr. Gale Palmer tells the story of four mountain healers, complete with love, tragedy, intrigue, and a traditional mountain quilt.
Be sure to register early for the keynote presentation, A Fireside Chat With Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Celebrating a Century of the National Park Service and Reflections of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For a crafty interactive presentation, sign up for A Turn Thru Time, where you can watch and listen as artist Tommy Bullen creates a one-of-a-kind sculpture in front of your eyes while telling you the story of how Pigeon Forge has evolved over time.
From Hikers to History Buffs
Hikers will learn from Leave No Trace - Principles of Outdoor Ethics and Hiking and Backpacking: Getting Started With the Right Gear. There's also a new presentation for hikers called Exceptional Hikes of East Tennessee State Parks. Birders won't want to miss On Top of Old Smoky: Birds of the High Country and From Cows to Cormorants: Learn How a Dairy Farm Became a World-Class Birding Destination.
Artists have a wonderful range of programs to choose from, including photography, painting, woodcarving, sewing, quilting and more. For hands-on instruction, join artist Dick Ensing as he shows you tips and tricks specific to painting landscapes in the Smokies. Textile enthusiasts can join instructor Mary Warner as she teaches advanced needlepoint stitches, and carpenters of all ages can join Steve Garr as he shows you how to build a woodpecker feeder.
History buffs will be enthralled by Mike Maples' talk entitled The Communities of Old Settlers Trail. Mark Davidson discusses Family, Faith and Freedom on the Frontier: The Scots-Irish in the Southern Appalachians, and - a not-to-be-missed presentation based on title alone - Mountain Gossip: Did Great-Great Grandpa Really Poison His Wife, Kill the High Sheriff and Take Up With a Younger Woman? There are so many more fascinating topics on the roster at this year's Wilderness Wildlife Week that you'll want to peruse the catalog for yourself.
Where & What to Expect
Classes, demonstrations, and seminars take place all over Pigeon Forge. The Farmers' Market and sign-up for most lectures, discussions, video presentations, workshops, and outdoor excursions take place at the LeConte Center, a high-tech auditorium with comfortable staggered seating and 80-inch video monitors placed so everyone has a straight-on view regardless of where they are seated. If there's an excursion or event you really want to attend, be sure to sign up early because class sizes are limited.
This state-of-the-art venue is just one block away from the Parkway. Visitors will appreciate free parking, free Wi-Fi, and free tram pickup from the parking lot. In addition to Wilderness Wildlife Week events, you'll have plenty of other things to do around the LeConte Center. The entry to the venue borders the Little Pigeon River and Riverwalk areas, with pedestrian access from the Old Mill Historic District, and The Island, an entertainment, restaurant, and shopping district.
Venturing outside the LeConte Center, you can attend the festival's first Appalachian Homecoming event complete with storytelling, traditional music, an antique tractor show, hayrides, and a picnic fundraiser. This event begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at Patriot Park.
Wilderness Wildlife Week will be a fantastic time to immerse yourself in nature in the Great Smoky Mountains. Grab your hiking shoes, binoculars, notebooks, and field guides and we'll see you there.
About Darryl Payne
Darryl Payne is a native of East Tennessee in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. He is a web developer with a passion for building great websites. As a local, he can offer a unique perspective on where to stay and things to do while on vacation in the Smokies. To read his latest recommendations, please click the Google+ follow button.