GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) – It’s been four years now since wildfires swept from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and into the City of Gatlinburg.
Fourteen people died, nearly 200 were hurt, and so many more lost homes and businesses.
This anniversary’s story isn’t about loss. Instead, it’s about the strength of recovery.
Gatlinburg has long been regarded as the Gateway to the Smoky Mountains. People travel from all over the world to visit the shops and hike the trails.
Anakeesta is just one of the businesses that calls Gatlinburg home.
It employs over 400 workers and draws in thousands of tourists every year. It’s a big boost to Gatlinburg’s economy, which is now facing a different type of challenge: the coronavirus pandemic.
Caroline Moody, with Anakeesta, says Gatlinburg overcame hardship before, and they’ll do it again.
“The pandemic wasn’t the first thing that devastated this area that they had to regroup and recover from, and so I think people maintaining that positive attitude going forward and knowing that there are still good things still to come, and we can make great things happen. I think that’s a really encouraging message,” Moody said.
The CEO/President of the Gatlinburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, Mark Adams, also shared this statement with us: “Today is a somber reminder of what, and more importantly who, we lost four years ago in the wildfires. The resiliency of our residents and local businesses have paved the way for the steady growth of tourism over the course of the past four years. We have been very fortunate to have loyal visitors that have faithfully returned to Gatlinburg. We are grateful to see new visitors discovering Gatlinburg for the first time in the wake of the pandemic.”