Maggie Valley to hold first Winterfest

In an effort to bring in more tourism dollars during the cold winter months, the first WinterFest Smoky Style will be held Feb. 28 and March 1 at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds.

The festival will feature dog sledding events, canine demonstrations, vendors and special guests from the reality TV show “Hillbilly Blood.” Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children. 

Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen approved the special event during a Jan. 12 meeting after hearing the proposal from Mayor Ron DeSimone at a work session.

DeSimone told board members he has wanted to start a winter event in Maggie since he was elected and finally it has come together. He said the WinterFest would not cost the town any money because a nonprofit would act as the promoter for the event. 

DeSimone said Dr. Kristen Hammett was the lead organizer of the new organization that has the mission of raising money for a new animal shelter in Haywood County. 

The dog sleds being used will be on tires similar to bike tires so the sleds can race around the perimeter of the festivals grounds with or without snow. However, if there is a lot of rain, DeSimone said the sleds couldn’t race in the mud because it would damage the grounds. 

“While dogs seem to be the showcase in the beginning, it will probably evolve past that to be much more,” he said. 

The long-range plan is to grow the festival into a ten-day event. The idea for a WinterFest began developing when Hugh Neff, a well-known dog musher, visited Maggie Valley to give a motivational speech to students at Jonathan Valley Elementary School. 

Neff discussed racing in the Iditarod, taking care of his mushing dogs and many of his personal challenges in dog sled racing. He also spoke at a meet and greet to county tourism groups about the benefit of holding a winter festival in Maggie Valley.

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