GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Visitors are already packing into Gatlinburg ahead of the 4th of July weekend as businesses and city officials prepare for the festivities.
The city of Gatlinburg is hosting its annual 4th of July celebrations, which include the midnight parade, the River Raft Regatta, a patriotic concert with the 100th Army Band from Fort Knox, Kentucky and a fireworks show from the Space Needle.
The city is going big after everything but the fireworks were canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Visitors are coming in from all over the country; from Ohio and Pennsylvania, to Mississippi and other parts of Tennessee–all to enjoy a good time with family and friends in the mountains.
By Friday afternoon, it was easy to notice how crowded the Parkway was.
“Walking up and down the sidewalk it’s been a lot, like, you bump into somebody every step you take,” Kemi Ward, a visitor from Mississippi, said.
“Yeah it’s packed. It was dead this morning when we drove by, but it’s definitely packed now and the heat is crazy,” Sarah Pitrovich, a visitor from Pennsylvania, said.
Despite the crowds, visitors were able to enjoy activities around town.
“We did white water rafting, zip lining, off-roading four wheeling,” Dale Wurm, from Ohio, said.
“We uh got some whiskey and some wine yesterday, we were feeling pretty good. We stumbled up to Bubba Gumps and then had some dinner. So yeah, it’s been really great. Gatlinburg’s a lot of fun,” Pitrovich said.
Charles Morgan, assistant general manager of Crawdaddy’s, said although business hasn’t really slowed down since May of 2020, he said his restaurant is prepared for the influx of visitors for the holiday weekend.
“I would say we’re going to have twice as many this year come for it. You know, a lot of people are surprised. They come here just for a normal vacation and find out that we have the first 4th of July parade. They’ll go out and get their lounge chairs and start setting up,” Morgan said.
Morgan said his restaurant is finally ready for the busy summer season. They were able to hire enough employees after dealing with a shortage much like many businesses in East Tennessee.
Crawdaddy’s usually closes around midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, but Morgan said they plan to stay open late for the midnight parade. Patrons can watch the parade from his restaurant’s balcony.
“We’re like I said, a hot spot, you know. Not going to make them get up because we’re ready to close up shop and head to the house. So, we’ll sit out here with them and keep them entertained,” Morgan said.
Most visitors already know their plans for the fireworks show, whether that be watching them from their cabin or hotel, or from the Parkway.
“I love fireworks and it’s the 4th of July so you have to see some fireworks,” Pitrovich said.
Visitors already started blocking off their spots along the main stretch of downtown Gatlinburg for the festivities, but officials said at least the fireworks can be seen from anywhere along the Parkway.