Thousands of tourists head to Gatlinburg for midnight parade

Thousands of tourists head to Gatlinburg for midnight parade

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The sidewalks are filling up in Gatlinburg for the 39th annual July Fourth midnight parade. The sidewalks are filling up in Gatlinburg for the 39th annual July Fourth midnight parade.
For many of the nearly 100,000 spectators like Nancy and Larry Stillwell it is all about strategy to get the best spot. For many of the nearly 100,000 spectators like Nancy and Larry Stillwell it is all about strategy to get the best spot.
By WHITNEY GOOD
6 News Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) - The sidewalks are filling up in Gatlinburg for the 39th annual July Fourth midnight parade.

City officials say they expect thousands of people to watch the parade.

People have been saving their spots since Wednesday to get the best view of the first Independence Day parade in the country.

"We plan it out the night before. Get up at the crack of dawn," said Nancy Stillwell from Illinois.

For many of the nearly 100,000 spectators like Nancy and Larry Stillwell it is all about strategy to get the best spot.

"When we find it, we stop, I haul out, plop them down and we go back to the hotel," said Nancy Stillwell.

Local shop owners like Jeanette Peterson at Coffee and Company say they grow to expect it but are never really surprised at how early people start showing up. 

"That is just the funniest thing on the planet to me coming from other places and the neat thing is nobody messes with their chairs," she said.

She says the holiday traffic is always good business for the city.

"It's very good for the local businesses. It's very good for the economy. People are having fun. It's a party but it's very family oriented," she said.

The parade puts a spotlight on the armed forces to help celebrate our nations history and the men and women who have fought for it.

"I like the military theme. I was in the army 28 years and I seen this time they're going to honor the women," said Harold Goldsmith from Kentucky.

For many the parade is a tradition they say will last for many years to come.

'This is my 39th year coming here. Even if we go to California or Florida we have to come back here for at least a week or 10 days," said Larry Stillwell.

Retired Army Staff Sargent Heath Calhoun is the Grand Marshal for the parade this year. He competed in the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi.

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