Over the next several days, several thousand visitors will stream into Scott County for the holiday weekend.
They’ll come from Indiana and Ohio, Georgia and Alabama, and points further north and south. Many of them will be here for Brimstone’s White Knuckle Event, but amid the trucks pulling toy-haulers and headed for the mountains will be trucks pulling campers and headed west on S.R. 297.
While White Knuckle is the weekend’s attention-grabber, Bandy Creek Campground will be at capacity — it’s one of the few weekends all year that the campground will sell out. Sure, the Cumberland Mountains will be more crowded than at any other point this year as visitors hit the trails on their off-road vehicles. But the Big South Fork will also be more crowded than at any other point this year as visitors kick off summer by kayaking, mountain biking and camping.
To sum it up, it’s going to be a busy weekend around here. It can be a bit of a headache at times for those of us who live here and have to put up with the tourists, but once they’re gone on Monday, we can pause to appreciate the fact that they want to spend their hard-earned money to come visit the place that we’re fortunate enough to call home.
The allure of Scott County can sometimes be lost on those of us who spend our lives here. We see our shortcomings, because we’re slapped in the face with them on a daily basis: the prescription drug crisis and the meth scourge, the lack of respectable wage jobs, the limited access to many of the services that our friends in more urban areas enjoy.
Sometimes it takes a certain level of disconnect to realize the true value of a place, which is perhaps why the allure can better be seen from afar. Our visitors realize something that some of us take for granted; something that some of us have forgotten and that some of us never knew in the first place: there’s something magical about the Cumberlands.
A few years ago, the folks who meet in the basement of the Scott County Visitor Center every month to hash out strategies and solve problems related to our area’s tourism efforts — the local Chamber of Commerce’s Tourism Committee — branded Scott County the Adventure Tourism Capital of Tennessee. Privately, there were some at the state level who scoffed at the tagline, even though they had no choice but to honor it since the Chamber of Commerce had the foresight to trademark the phrase. But it’s true. There isn’t much to separate Brimstone’s ATV trails from similar trail systems throughout the Cumberlands, not in and of the trails themselves. And the Big South Fork’s hiking trails will never beat out the Great Smoky Mountains’ hiking trails by anyone’s measure, while the whitewater paddling here can’t equal the paddling opportunities on the Ocoee. But when you combine it all — the hiking, the paddling and the off-roading — with the second-to-none horseback riding opportunities, the world-class mountain biking opportunities, the rock-climbing and all the rest that our area has to offer, you would be hard-pressed to find any community in Tennessee — or even in the entire Southeast — that can match what we have.
Visitors realize that, and that’s why more tourists are coming to Scott County today than ever before. They’re not visiting “Scott County,” of course. Few of them are even aware of the county they’re visiting, just as few of us who are beachgoers in the summertime can name the county our favorite beach is located in. They know they’re going to “Brimstone” or “Big South Fork.” It just so happens that Scott County, Tennessee is home to both. Their tax dollars will go into Scott County’s coffers and their business will support our entrepreneurial friends and neighbors who call Scott County home just like we do.
We get to play host this weekend to a bunch of people who want to be here, some of them perhaps even more than we do, if only for a short while. They see it. And, perhaps, it’s a good reminder for those of us who call this place home, even if it’s by choice or even if it’s because we feel stuck here: there’s something special about Scott County. There are going to be days when the special is buried by the not-so-special, when it isn’t enough to overcome the problems that burden our community. But as long as this place has people who recognize its potential and aren’t afraid of working to implement change, there can be hope — hope, because the things that make our community special provide a strong foundation for a truly vibrant future.