I pulled onto the parkway and joined the line of cars; it looked like we were all headed in the same direction – The LeConte Center. Fortunately, Pigeon Forge is built for tourism and we didn’t sit very long at the light. As I sat and observed my surroundings I couldn’t help but think that the traffic wasn’t really that bad. For all the speculation I’ve been hearing the past year about “oh the traffic in Pigeon Forge!” and such, it wasn’t anything like I expected. I sat in a double lane waiting for the left turn signal. To my right, the parkway itself wasn’t congested at all and this was around 3:30-4:00 PM (prime time to be getting to the convention center). Traffic in the oncoming lane was a little thicker but like our lane, it kept moving.
The LeConte parking lot was full by this time and we were directed to overflow parking. This was at the top of the hill on Teaster Lane at a strip mall. Once we parked we made our way to the line where people were waiting for a trolley, which just happened to be the sidewalk! Since it was only Tuesday, NQC was still working some kinks out concerning transportation and all, so we did wait about 10-15 minutes before a bus returned. Our main problem was that we were in the middle of the line and the first two modes of transportation couldn’t fit everyone. When an old yellow school bus pulled up, we knew this was our ride. As I was getting ready to step on I could hear the driver greeting everyone, asking how they were. “Good. How are you?” I asked, when he came to me. “Living my dream,” he replied with a genuine smile.
The bus took us down to the circle in front of the LeConte Center and dropped us off. Yep, delivered right to the front door! There were many other buses, trolleys and golf carts also dropping folks off so there was quite a crowd pouring through the front doors. My sister and I decided to try a side door (which wasn’t as congested with people) and as we walked in we noticed the river walk for the first time. Candi asked me, “Did you know that was out here?” I shook my head no… We were above on the walkway that surrounded the center, but where the doors were to enter the building there were also steps leading down to the river walk. This area overlooked the Little Pigeon River (if I’m not mistaken) and was like walking into the National Park, just steps away from your favorite music, beautiful and serene.
At 5:30 PM folks began buzzing into the auditorium for the evening performance on Main Stage. Every year Tim Lovelace goes out in the crowd with his “Fan Cam” segment and ultimately entertains us all, but after that, he came on stage to introduce what the program book called, the “Showcase Performers.” One of the groups to come up was Gilead Quartet, an all-male quartet from Brazil. According to Tim, these guys did not speak English and were going to sing to us in Portuguese! (They had a translator with them to help communicate with fans and artists off stage.) They sang an old quartet song called Go Jonah (which has the same melody as Elvira…therefore, I mistakenly named my Socialcam video Elvira. Oops!) Anyway, these guys could sing! Even if I couldn’t understand a word of it, they were awesome! You can watch a short clip of their song at the end of this post…
Immediately following that our attention was drawn to the big screens where the SGMA began playing a video in tribute to one of this year’s inductees, Cat Freeman. Most will remember Cat from his days singing tenor with the Statesmen, Oak Ridge Quartet, Revelaires Quartet, Melody Masters Quartet and Jubilee Quartet. Cat was Vestal Goodman’s brother and because he is no longer with us, Rick Goodman (Howard and Vestal’s son) accepted the award for him and gave a very touching word contributing to the legacy of those who pioneered Gospel Music.
The rest of the evening was mix of popular and up-and-coming groups; a wonderful combination of musical styles and talent. When the evening was coming to a close we slipped out to find a way back to overflow parking. Outside the Leconte Center stood numerous staff and signs lettings us know where we needed to go to get back to our car. Everyone was very helpful – you couldn’t possibly get on the wrong tram. In addition, it was very refreshing to see so many staff members smiling and pleasant after what must have been a very long day for them. I think they did a great job! Furthermore, we did not have to wait long to be returned to overflow parking. The buses were running very fast and transported us back to our car in no time!