Triplett, guest speaker Tuesday at the attraction’s official grand opening, marveled at the ability the displays give each visitor potentially to become an official Guinness World Record title holder — noting he’d himself just gotten “best score of the day” on two different challenges.
“I can tell you the key to doing that is to be the first one of the day doing it,” Triplett added.
With the ice-breaker out of the way, Triplett turned serious as he noted the vast number of community figures — representing various levels of local, state and federal government, along with civic and business leaders such as Food City owner Steve Smith. The group’s makeup, Triplett said, was testimony to the “remarkable” dedication to tourism in the state.
“It is a complete package for this industry,” Triplett said. “In this state, the reason that is so important is that as a non-income-tax state, we operate off other revenue. And a big part of that revenue is sales tax. And a big part of that sales tax is the tourism industry.”
In 2015, Tennessee’s tourism industry drew 100 million visitors, Triplett said, and last year the number reached nearly 110 million, keeping Tennessee among the top 10 tourist destinations in the nation.
“Sevier County and Gatlinburg are huge parts of that,” Triplett said. “In perspective, there are 15 counties in this state with populations bigger than Sevier County. There are only two counties in this state that bring in more tourism dollars than Sevier County. We understand that the top three industries in Sevier County are tourism, tourism and tourism. We get that and we are very proud of that.”
Triplett also commented on the resilience of the area in the wake of devastating wildfires this past November.
“Not once ... has anyone, that I’ve heard, say, ‘We’re licked,’ ” Triplett said. “What I’ve seen is a doubling down of ‘This is not going to get us.’ And we are seeing that ... progress is not as fast as everyone would like, but the fact that there is progress is an indication of what the spirit is in this community, in this city and in this county. And the rebound of what has been going on.”
You don’t have to go far from the main strip to see remnants of the wildfires that swept through the area several months ago, but the heart of Gatlinburg is alive and thriving — its doors open to tourists on a daily basis.
The latest symbol of the town’s continued growth is the completely new version of a longstanding parkway attraction. The new Guinness World Records Adventure officially opened Tuesday, following a “soft opening” in mid April. The attraction, part of the worldwide Ripley Entertainment, Inc., has been a mainstay on the parkway since 1990. But Ripley Entertainment owner the Jim Pattison Company decided it was time to make it an all new attraction, with a focus on interactive displays that allow each and every visitor a chance to become a Guinness World Record holder.
Triplett lauded the commitment of the Pattison family for its commitment to its multiple attractions in Gatlinburg and Sevier County.
“Everything in the building is newly renovated and is an exciting adventure in itself,” said Andy Taylor, operations manager for Guinness World Records Adventure. “You can experience world record interactive challenges, see over 30 Guinness World Records attempts, themed galleries, lots of videos, amazing records and famous memorabilia."
You can also walk on a piece of art that’s now a Guiness World Record in an of itself.
Woods Hippensteal — artist, designer, sculptor and son of famous Gatlinburg artist Vern Hippensteal — learned during Tuesday’s grand opening he succeeded in his attempt to break a Guinness World Record by creating the world’s largest welcome mat. It is on display within the attraction.
“This accomplishment tested me more as a creator than any other I’ve worked to achieve," Hippensteal said. “There are few techniques for creating handmade welcome mats especially that you could park four SUVs on (26 by 16 feet). I am glad to be a part of the new Guinness World Records Adventure. This attraction will attract more visitors to Gatlinburg.”
Some of the new items in Guinness World Records Adventure include the following and more:
• Joe Louis’ championship belt
• Chicago Cubs Wrigley Field seats
• Olympic torch from the 2014 Sochi Olympics
• Largest Pac-Man game
• Peyton Manning wall
Ripley Entertainment, Inc. draws in excess of 14 million people to more than 100 attractions in 11 countries each year. Ripley Entertainment is a Jim Pattison Company, the third-largest privately held company in Canada.
Guinness World Records Adventure is located at 631 Parkway in Gatlinburg. For more information, call (865) 430-7800 or go online to ripleysgatlinburg.com.