The Influence Of Appalachian Culture In Gatlinburg




The Influence Of Appalachian Culture In Gatlinburg


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Gatlinburg, nestled in the heart of the scenic Smoky Mountains, is a vibrant destination that boasts not only stunning natural beauty but also a rich cultural heritage. The Appalachian culture, deeply rooted in the traditions of the mountain region, has played a significant role in shaping the charming town of Gatlinburg. From its distinctive arts and crafts to its mouth-watering cuisine and lively music scene, the influence of Appalachian culture can be felt at every corner, creating an enchanting blend of old-world charm and modern-day allure. So join us as we embark on a journey to explore the captivating influence of Appalachian culture in Gatlinburg and discover the unique experiences that await you in this mesmerizing town.

The Influence of Appalachian Culture in Gatlinburg

History – The Influence Of Appalachian Culture In Gatlinburg

Origins of the Appalachian Culture

The Appalachian culture has deep roots in the rugged and picturesque mountains of the eastern United States. It traces back to the early settlers who migrated from Scotland, Ireland, and England in the 18th and 19th centuries. These settlers brought with them their customs, traditions, and skills, which eventually blended with the indigenous Native American culture already present in the area. This unique fusion gave birth to the rich Appalachian culture that we see today.

Migration to Gatlinburg

One of the key destinations for the migration of Appalachian culture was Gatlinburg, located in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. In the late 18th century, William Ogle settled in the Gatlinburg area with his family, becoming the first permanent European settler. Over the years, more families followed suit, seeking the beauty and solitude of the mountains. These resilient settlers built their homes, farms, and communities, creating the foundation of the vibrant Appalachian culture that still thrives in Gatlinburg today.

Preservation of Appalachian Traditions

Gatlinburg has played a vital role in preserving the rich traditions and heritage of the Appalachian culture. The locals understand the value of their customs and take great pride in passing them down from one generation to the next. Through community events, educational programs, and the preservation of historical sites, Gatlinburg ensures that the Appalachian traditions remain alive and well. This dedication to preserving cultural heritage has contributed to the charm and authenticity that attracts visitors from all over the world.

Music and Dance

Traditional Instruments

Music is an integral part of the Appalachian culture, and traditional instruments play a significant role in shaping its unique sound. Instruments such as the banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and dulcimer can be heard resonating through the hills and valleys of Gatlinburg. These instruments were originally brought over by the early settlers and have since become synonymous with Appalachian music. They add a distinct flavor to the music and bring the stories and emotions of the culture to life.

Bluegrass Music

One of the most recognizable genres of music associated with the Appalachian culture is bluegrass. Named after the Bluegrass State of Kentucky, where it originated, bluegrass music combines elements of country, folk, and blues. With its fast-paced melodies and intricate instrumental solos, bluegrass captivates listeners with its infectious energy and toe-tapping rhythms. Gatlinburg hosts various bluegrass festivals throughout the year, attracting both seasoned musicians and avid bluegrass enthusiasts.

Clogging and Square Dancing

Dance forms such as clogging and square dancing are deeply rooted in the Appalachian culture. Clogging, characterized by rhythmic footwork and lively movements, dates back to the early settlers who used dance as a form of socializing and entertainment. Square dancing, on the other hand, brings together a group of dancers in a square formation, following a set of choreographed steps. Both these dance styles not only showcase the energetic spirit of the Appalachian people but also bring communities together in joyful celebrations.

The Influence Of Appalachian Culture In Gatlinburg

Arts and Crafts


Quilting is a beloved craft that has been passed down through generations in the Appalachian region. The art of quilting involves stitching together layers of fabric to create beautiful and functional pieces. Quilts often feature intricate patterns, reflecting the creativity and skill of the artisans. In Gatlinburg, you can find numerous quilting shops and exhibitions that showcase the craftsmanship and artistry of the local quilters. These quilts not only serve as cozy blankets but also as cherished heirlooms that encapsulate the spirit of the Appalachian culture.

Woodworking and Carving

Woodworking and carving are integral parts of Appalachian craftsmanship. From intricate carvings on furniture to handcrafted wooden toys, the artisans in Gatlinburg showcase their talent and creativity through their work. The use of local woods, such as cherry and oak, adds a distinct touch to these wooden creations. Visitors to Gatlinburg have the opportunity to witness the craftsmanship firsthand by visiting the many woodworking shops and studios that dot the town, where you can even try your hand at carving under the guidance of skilled artisans.

Basket Weaving

Basket weaving has long been practiced by the Appalachian people as a functional art form. The natural resources found in the mountains, such as twigs, vines, and reeds, serve as the basis for this traditional craft. The artisans weave these materials together, creating beautifully crafted baskets that can be used for various purposes, from holding fruits and vegetables to storing household items. The art of basket weaving is still cherished in Gatlinburg, with local artisans passing on their knowledge and skills to the younger generation, ensuring the preservation of this unique craft.


Southern Comfort Food

Appalachian cuisine, heavily influenced by the southern region of the United States, is known for its hearty and comforting flavors. Gatlinburg offers a taste of this delectable cuisine through its numerous restaurants and eateries. From fried chicken and country ham to collard greens and black-eyed peas, the dishes are rooted in the Appalachian tradition of using local ingredients and simple cooking techniques. Enjoying a hearty meal of southern comfort food in Gatlinburg is an experience that immerses you in the Appalachian culture and leaves you longing for more.


Moonshine holds a special place in Appalachian culture and history. Historically, the remote mountains provided the perfect cover for moonshiners to produce homemade whiskey during times of alcohol prohibition. Today, Gatlinburg embraces this part of its heritage by offering visitors a taste of legal, handcrafted moonshine. Visitors can tour local distilleries, learn about the distillation process, and sample an array of moonshine flavors, ranging from traditional corn whiskey to creative fruit-infused concoctions. Moonshine not only adds to the culinary adventure in Gatlinburg but also serves as a reminder of the resourcefulness and resilience of the Appalachian people.

Cornbread and Biscuits

Cornbread and biscuits are staples of Appalachian cuisine, dating back to the days when settlers relied on locally grown ingredients for their meals. Cornbread, made from cornmeal, is often served as a side dish or as a base for dishes like cornbread stuffing. Biscuits, on the other hand, are made with flour, butter or lard, and buttermilk, resulting in a fluffy and buttery delight. These iconic breads can be found in almost every restaurant and home in Gatlinburg, carrying on the tradition of simple and wholesome cooking that is central to the Appalachian culture.

The Influence Of Appalachian Culture In Gatlinburg

Festivals and Celebrations

Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair

Ranked as one of the top craft shows in the nation, the Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair is a celebration of Appalachian craftsmanship and creativity. Held annually in July and October, this fair brings together artisans from all across the Appalachian region to showcase their talents. Visitors can explore the aisles filled with handcrafted goods, ranging from pottery and jewelry to paintings and woodwork. Live demonstrations allow you to witness the skill and artistry of the craftsmen, while live music and traditional Appalachian dance performances provide a vibrant backdrop to the festivities.

Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival

The Smoky Mountains Songwriters Festival pays homage to the deep musical heritage of the Appalachian region. Held in August, this festival brings together songwriters from various genres to perform their original compositions, share stories, and collaborate with fellow artists. The beautiful backdrop of the Great Smoky Mountains adds to the enchanting atmosphere, providing the perfect setting to discover new music and connect with the soul of the Appalachian culture. Whether you are a music lover or aspiring songwriter, this festival offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the creativity and talent that abounds in Gatlinburg.

Dollywood’s Harvest Festival

Dollywood, a theme park owned by country music legend Dolly Parton, plays a significant role in promoting and celebrating the Appalachian culture. The Harvest Festival, held from September to October, offers a magical experience where the spirit of fall and the traditions of the mountains come together. Visitors can enjoy live music performances, craft demonstrations, and delicious food, all while being surrounded by the stunning autumn colors of the Great Smoky Mountains. The Harvest Festival allows you to embrace the sights, sounds, and flavors of the Appalachian culture, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Local Traditions and Customs


Storytelling has been an integral part of the Appalachian culture for centuries. Passed down from one generation to another, these stories encapsulate the history, beliefs, and values of the community. In Gatlinburg, storytelling takes center stage in various events and gatherings. Visitors have the opportunity to listen to captivating tales as skilled storytellers weave their magic, transporting listeners to a different time and place. Whether it’s a haunting ghost story or a lighthearted folk tale, storytelling in Gatlinburg allows you to connect with the rich oral tradition and sense of community that defines Appalachian culture.

The Great Smoky Mountains

The Great Smoky Mountains, with their majestic peaks and lush greenery, are more than just a scenic backdrop in Gatlinburg. They hold a deep spiritual and cultural significance for the Appalachian people. The mountains have long been revered as a place of solace, inspiration, and connection with nature. Today, visitors can explore the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, hiking its trails, admiring the breathtaking vistas, and understanding the deep bond between the local community and their majestic surroundings. The mountains serve as a reminder of the resilience and deep-rooted connection to the land that characterizes the Appalachian culture.


Hospitality is a cherished value in the Appalachian culture, and Gatlinburg is no exception. The warm and welcoming nature of the locals makes visitors feel like part of the community. From the friendly greetings to the genuine conversations, the hospitality in Gatlinburg creates a sense of belonging and fosters lasting connections. Whether you are exploring the local shops, dining in a restaurant, or attending a festival, you can expect to be greeted with a smile and treated like family. The Appalachian culture of hospitality is an essential part of the Gatlinburg experience and ensures that visitors leave with cherished memories and a desire to return.

The Influence Of Appalachian Culture In Gatlinburg

Language and Dialect

Appalachian English

The Appalachian region is known for its distinct dialect of the English language. Appalachian English, also known as Appalachian dialect or Mountain Talk, has its own unique phonological, grammatical, and vocabulary characteristics. It developed from a combination of Scottish, Irish, and English accents brought by the early settlers, as well as from influences from the African American and Native American communities. Today, Appalachian English can still be heard in the speech of the older generation in Gatlinburg, adding to the cultural tapestry and preserving the linguistic heritage of the Appalachian people.

Distinctive Vocabulary

Appalachian English is known for its distinctive vocabulary, with many words and expressions that are unique to the region. These words often reflect the cultural and natural surroundings of the Appalachian mountains. For example, “holler” is used to describe a small valley between mountains, “britches” refers to pants or trousers, and “poke” is used to mean a bag or sack. Hearing these words in conversation adds a charming and authentic touch to the Gatlinburg experience, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the local culture and language.

Expressions and Pronunciations

Along with its unique vocabulary, Appalachian English is also characterized by distinct expressions and pronunciations. These linguistic features add color and flair to the language spoken in Gatlinburg. For example, instead of saying “do you want to go?” you might hear “you wanna go?”. There are also certain nuances in pronunciation, such as “fer” instead of “for” and “y’all” instead of “you all”. These expressions and pronunciations not only demonstrate the Appalachian dialect but also reflect the friendly and down-to-earth nature of the local community.

Outdoor Activities

Hiking and Camping

With its location in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventures. Hiking and camping are popular activities that allow you to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Appalachian region. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park boasts numerous trails of varying difficulty, catering to both beginners and experienced hikers. From leisurely strolls along scenic paths to challenging treks that lead to breathtaking vistas, there is a hike for every kind of outdoor enthusiast. Camping in the mountains also provides a unique experience, allowing you to sleep under the stars and wake up to the sounds of nature.


Surrounded by crystal-clear streams and rivers, Gatlinburg is a paradise for fishing enthusiasts. The Appalachian region is known for its abundant trout population, offering excellent opportunities for fly fishing. Whether you are a seasoned angler or a beginner looking to cast your first line, Gatlinburg provides ample fishing spots and guide services to ensure a memorable fishing experience. There is something incredibly peaceful and rewarding about spending a day by the water, surrounded by the tranquility of the mountains, and reeling in a prized catch.

White Water Rafting

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, white water rafting is a thrilling outdoor activity available in Gatlinburg. The fast-flowing rivers of the Appalachian region provide the perfect playground for rafting enthusiasts. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced rafter, there are options for all skill levels, with varying degrees of rapids to conquer. Guided rafting trips offer an exhilarating way to experience the power of the river while enjoying the stunning scenery of the Great Smoky Mountains. White water rafting in Gatlinburg allows you to embrace the adventurous spirit that is deeply ingrained in the Appalachian culture.

Religion and Spirituality

Faith and Worship

Religion plays a vital role in the Appalachian culture, with a strong emphasis on faith and worship. Gatlinburg is home to numerous churches, representing various denominations, where locals and visitors alike gather to worship and find spiritual solace. The churches in Gatlinburg serve as centers of community and foster a sense of togetherness. Attending a church service provides a unique glimpse into the religious beliefs and practices that have shaped the Appalachian culture for centuries. It is a way to immerse yourself in the traditions and values that are deeply woven into the fabric of the community.

Baptist Influence

Baptist influence has been particularly significant in the Appalachian region, shaping the religious landscape and cultural identity of Gatlinburg. The Baptist church, with its emphasis on personal conversion and individual relationship with God, resonated with the independent spirit of the Appalachian people. Churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention are prevalent in Gatlinburg, providing opportunities for worship, fellowship, and community outreach. The Baptist influence in Gatlinburg reflects the deep-rooted spiritual beliefs and values that continue to be an integral part of the Appalachian culture.

Revival Meetings

Revival meetings are a cherished tradition in the Appalachian culture, and Gatlinburg keeps this tradition alive. Revival meetings are religious gatherings that aim to renew and invigorate the faith of attendees. The meetings often feature passionate preaching, heartfelt worship, and soul-stirring music. Gatlinburg hosts various revival meetings throughout the year, bringing together people from different backgrounds to come together in a spirit of spiritual renewal and worship. Attending a revival meeting allows you to witness firsthand the deep devotion and dedication to faith that is at the core of the Appalachian culture.

Tourism and Economic Impact

Attractions and Theme Parks

Tourism is a major contributor to the economy of Gatlinburg, attracting millions of visitors each year. The town offers a wide range of attractions and theme parks that cater to diverse interests. From interactive museums and wildlife encounters to thrilling amusement rides and entertainment shows, there is something for everyone. Popular attractions include Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, Ober Gatlinburg, and the Gatlinburg SkyLift Park. These attractions showcase the unique natural beauty and cultural heritage of Gatlinburg, while also providing employment opportunities and economic growth for the local community.

Retail and Craft Industry

The retail and craft industry plays a significant role in the economy of Gatlinburg, thanks to the Appalachian culture’s emphasis on craftsmanship and creativity. Gatlinburg is home to numerous shops and galleries that offer a wide variety of handcrafted goods, ranging from pottery and jewelry to woodwork and textiles. The local artisans showcase their talents and skills through their creations, attracting visitors who value the authenticity and uniqueness of handmade products. The retail and craft industry not only gives a boost to the local economy but also supports the continuation of traditional Appalachian crafts and ensures the preservation of cultural heritage.

Historical and Cultural Preservation

Gatlinburg’s commitment to historical and cultural preservation is evident in its efforts to protect and showcase the Appalachian culture. The town has established museums, historical sites, and heritage centers that educate visitors about the rich history and traditions of the Appalachian people. Places like the Gatlinburg Heritage Museum and the Little Pigeon River Overlook offer insights into the early settlers’ lives and their connection to the land. By showcasing the cultural artifacts, stories, and traditions, Gatlinburg ensures that the Appalachian culture is celebrated and cherished for generations to come. The preservation of historical and cultural heritage not only enriches the experience of visitors but also contributes to the town’s economy and community pride.

In conclusion, the influence of the Appalachian culture in Gatlinburg is undeniable. From its rich history and preservation of traditions to its vibrant music, arts, and crafts, Gatlinburg embraces the spirit of the Appalachian people with open arms. The friendly nature of the locals, the warmth of their hospitality, and the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains all blend together to create an immersive experience that transports you into the heart of the Appalachian culture. Whether you are exploring the local traditions, indulging in the flavors of Appalachian cuisine, or embarking on outdoor adventures, Gatlinburg offers a comprehensive and authentic encounter with the beauty and diversity of the Appalachian culture.


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