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Despite Gatlinburg wildfires, Winterfest will go on as scheduled

'The worst thing we can do is not go,' says director of 'little youth rally' that draws thousands.

Each year, 12,000 teens and sponsors gather to praise God at Winterfest — a so-called “little youth rally” in the Smoky Mountains resort town of Gatlinburg, Tenn.

That won’t change this February, even after the recent wildfires that claimed 14 lives and damaged about 2,500 buildings.

Winterfest will go on as planned at the Gatlinburg Convention Center, although church groups should check the status of their cabins and hotels, director Dudley Chancey said.

Related: ‘Little youth rally’ draws 12,000

“The worst thing we can do is not go,” Chancey said, touting a desire to help Gatlinburg’s tourist industry recover. His message for those signed up to attend: “God needs you in Gatlinburg.”

Organizers are looking into the possibility of a special service project or activity related to Gatlinburg’s rebuilding effort, he said.

Meanwhile, the Challenge Youth Conference — a separate event that also draws 12,000 or more teens — will continue as scheduled in the nearby resort town of Pigeon Forge, Tenn. CYC previously was held at the Gatlinburg Convention Center but moved to a new venue in 2015.

“Pigeon Forge is virtually unaffected by the fires that devastated Gatlinburg,” director Larry Davenport said. “The LeConte Center, area attractions and area hotels are all OK.”

Filed under: National Winterfest

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