Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pigeon Forge Aims to Take Back the Family Vacation

Do you have a friend you’d like to help with $100 in gas money? How about utilities for a year? Or 12 car payments? Or perhaps a year of mortgage payments?

The vacation destination of Pigeon Forge, Tenn., can help you accomplish exactly that.

The method is Pigeon Forge’s “Taking Back Vacation” campaign, which continues through July, when one family will win $15,000 for mortgage or rent payments.

Pigeon Forge, a major family vacation destination and a gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is conducting the campaign in reaction to the nation’s economic troubles of the past two years.

“We believe in the family vacation, and we feel family vacationers are our guests. Our whole community feels this way, and ‘Taking Back Vacation’ is our way to demonstrate that. It’s unusual for a whole destination to do this, but its our way to support a lot of families,” said Leon Downey, executive director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism.

All winners – and the people who nominate them – also will receive three-day vacations in Pigeon Forge.

The nomination process requires two clicks at Pigeon Forge’s Web site,, and composition of a 100-word essay. Visitors to the Web site will choose the winners from the posted essays.

“Too many people have had to curtail family time recently, and we want to draw attention to how important family vacations are. Those times together are vital, and places such as Pigeon Forge can be the glue that binds families,” Downey said.

The “Taking Back Vacation” campaign grows from April through July.

In May, 10 families will win $2,100 for utility payments.
In June, five families will win $6,600 for car payments.
In July, one family will win $15,000 for mortgage or rent payments.

Pigeon Forge made a similar outreach in 2006, a year of unexpected jumps in gasoline prices, by giving away a tanker truckload of gas.

“Our ‘Great Gas Giveaway’ was load of fun,” Downey recalled, “and we want the ‘Taking Back Vacation’ idea to be the same. Our goal in Pigeon Forge is making people happy and creating good memories.”

Pigeon Forge has a resident population of about 5,800, but it attracts more than 10 million visitors a year. It is home to Tennessee’s most visited tourist attraction, Dollywood, as well as more than a dozen theaters, scores of family attractions and more than 250 outlet, craft and specialty stores.

Its next-door neighbor, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is the most visited national park in the U.S.

“We’re in a great location and have tons of fun to offer. We hope parents will see us as a destination for family fun – before their kids outgrow childhood,” Downey said.

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