Smokies reopening: more park visitors, fewer business customers

Smokies reopening means more park visitors, fewer business customers

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The end of the shutdown could not have come at a better time. This is the peak season for fall colors. The end of the shutdown could not have come at a better time. This is the peak season for fall colors.
"Every time you turn another curve, it's just another set of beautiful colors," said Kathie Perkins. "Every time you turn another curve, it's just another set of beautiful colors," said Kathie Perkins.
Park officials say since Wednesday, more than 11,000 people have visited their two main visitor centers.  That number is just a little down from the same time last year. Park officials say since Wednesday, more than 11,000 people have visited their two main visitor centers. That number is just a little down from the same time last year.
Meanwhile, some businesses in Sevier County say they're losing the momentum they gained during the government shutdown because people are heading straight for the Smokies. Meanwhile, some businesses in Sevier County say they're losing the momentum they gained during the government shutdown because people are heading straight for the Smokies.
"It's been kind of interesting because when the park was closed we noticed a lot more people coming into town. It's kind of a double edged sword," said Judith Webb with Earthbound Trading Company. "It's been kind of interesting because when the park was closed we noticed a lot more people coming into town. It's kind of a double edged sword," said Judith Webb with Earthbound Trading Company.

By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) - The end of the government shutdown was a mixed blessing for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its surrounding businesses. Visitors are now flooding the park, but businesses aren't seeing as many customers.

Ever since the shutdown ended, visitors have made it a point to visit the park. 

"We were thrilled when we found out the park reopened on Wednesday," said Kathie Perkins. "Wednesday afternoon, we were in the car and we were in the park." 

The end of the shutdown could not have come at a better time. This is the peak season for fall colors. 

"It's gorgeous on a clear morning. The clouds are beautiful, the mountains, the greenery, the colors," said Michael Perkins. 

"Every time you turn another curve, it's just another set of beautiful colors," said Kathie Perkins.

Park officials say since Wednesday, more than 11,000 people have visited their two main visitor centers. That number is just a little down from the same time last year. 

"That's to be expected," said park spokesperson Dana Soehn. "The word is just getting out that we are open for business." 

Park officials are expecting that number to rise as the weekend continues.  

"I just did a campground check to see what our vacancies were like, at all of our main campgrounds. They are full all weekend," said Soehn.

Meanwhile, some businesses in Sevier County say they're losing the momentum they gained during the government shutdown because people are heading straight for the Smokies.

Gatlinburg businesses cashed in when tourists couldn't get into the national park because many of them decided to spend time there instead.

Now, business owners say ever since the park reopened on Wednesday, business for them has slowed down.

"It's been kind of interesting because when the park was closed we noticed a lot more people coming into town. It's kind of a double edged sword," said Judith Webb with Earthbound Trading Company.

Connie Swain, the owner of The Lollipop Guild, says the park's closure boosted her sales. 

"We actually had a record day on Saturday. We think that was due to the park being closed," she said. 

Even though business was better, both business owners say they know they wouldn't be here without the help of the park. 

"I would say Saturday and Sunday would probably be a normal full day. I think we will be really busy," said Webb.

"We are certainly happy to see the park is open, because if it remained closed, it would had a negative effect," said Swain.

If you're heading to the park this weekend, rangers say all of the main camping sites are full right now through Sunday.

They say there are some available in outlying areas, but you should call first to check availability.

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