In Any Event 

Planners find (more) resources at Visit Knoxville

5548_1054In part two of our chat with Visit Knoxville, Michelle Henry found out how the organization helps out-of-town planners. From bullets to bacon, Visit Knoxville will get it done.


What do bullets, blue clay, bleachers and bacon have in common? The folks at Visit Knoxville can answer that question.

“Our job is to promote Knoxville as a destination for meetings and conventions,” said Kim Bumpas, president of Visit Knoxville. “Part of that promotion means making our visitors happy. When out-of-town convention planners make a request, our job is to fulfill that request if at all possible.”

For the team at Visit Knoxville, “if at all possible” generally means “yes,” even when the request is challenging or unusual – or both.

Take these examples, for instance:


outdoor writersThe Outdoor Writers Association of America, headquartered in Montana, is holding its annual conference in Knoxville on June 26-28 at the Knoxville Convention Center.

During the three-day gathering, members of the outdoor media will, among other things, test state-of-the-art equipment at “Demo Day” and “Shooting Day.”

It stands to reason that a shooting day requires bullets and traveling by plane with said bullets is not an option.

“I got a call from the Outdoor Writers Association asking what would be the best way to ship ammunition for their event,” said Kelli Gibson, director of convention services.

“That was the first time I was asked that question, but I was able to find an answer.”

Now, that tidbit of information is stored in the “encyclopedia of knowledge” referenced in our prior blog post about Visit Knoxville.

Blue Clay

In 2012, Knoxville was host to the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association World Championships. Along with a host of serious-minded horseshoe competitors, the event brought with it two strange requests.

horseshoe“The horseshoe competition is serious stuff,” Bumpas said. “Not just any kind of clay will do for the horseshoe pits. They needed Kentucky blue clay.

“When they asked us to get it for them, we agreed. Turns out they needed 32 tons of the stuff, and preparing it for use required a mortar mixer and lots of labor. Our team was worn out and a complete mess by the time we got everything ready.”

Another unusual request for the competition, which was held at the Convention Center, involved a tractor-trailer. The association needed someone to bring the fully loaded trailer from Monroe, Louisiana – the site of the 2011 event – to Knoxville.

Not only that, the trailer needed to be stored for the entire year between competitions.


“We hired a company to bring their rig to Monroe, drive the trailer to Knoxville and then drop it to be stored,” Gibson said.

The trailer was packed with all of the equipment needed for the event, including fencing, mats, tarps, boxes for clay, shovels, and brooms.

Bumpas added, “Storing the trailer was a situation that proves how valuable Visit Knoxville’s relationships are. Because of our relationship with the Knoxville Police Department, they graciously allowed us to park the trailer in their lot for the year, providing convenient and safe storage.”


In 2007, Knoxville was host to the Honda Hoot, Junior Olympic Games and Harley Owners Group (H.O.G) National Rally. The Junior Olympic Games was a mammoth event that included 29 different venues and an abundance of requests, one of which was bleachers to accommodate up to 4,000 people.

Kim Bumpas, Kelli Gibson of Visit Knoxville
Kim Bumpas and Kelli Gibson of Visit Knoxville are experts at finding a way.

“Bleachers that will hold 4,000 people are substantial, but we found a company that could come in and build them,” Bumpas said. “After we used the bleachers for the Junior Olympics, we were able to have them moved from Tom Black Track at the University of Tennessee to Chilhowee Park so they could be used for the H.O.G. Rally.”

Bumpas added that the Harley-Davidson event was a “big deal” and included about 15,000 guests, one of whom was a Davidson of Harley-Davidson renown.


When the Professional Outdoor Media Association held its 2014 Business Conference in Knoxville at the Convention Center, the activities included a cooking competition that used local food products. The association turned to Visit Knoxville to stock the pantry.

Erin Donovan, left,  the Biscuit Queen, with Shanna Browning at the 2015 International Biscuit Festival (Photo courtesy of the Blue Streak)
Erin Donovan, left, the Biscuit Queen, with Shanna Browning at the 2015 International Biscuit Festival. (Photo courtesy of the Blue Streak)

“We needed to provide a stock of local food products, including everything from game to honey,” Gibson said. “Sweetwater Valley Farm cheese and Benton’s bacon were quite popular.”

Add biscuits, bikes and books to the list. In addition to handling odd requests, the team at Visit Knoxville also works behind the scenes to make sure all local events fit together and don’t logistically create conflicts.

On a May weekend, for example, Knoxville was host to the Challenge Triathlon, International Biscuit Festival and Children’s Festival of Reading.

“All three events were in or near downtown,” Bumpas said.

“We had to coordinate things so that all event participants had plenty of room for their activities and didn’t feel crowded out by coinciding events.”

As another example of Visit Knoxville’s broad-ranging support, Communications Director Erin Donovan is the longtime reigning “Biscuit Queen” of the Biscuit Festival.

Gibson has been known to spend an entire day driving a pickup in support of the Southeast Regional Series, which will return to Knoxville on July 11-12, 2015.

“We had to provide pickup trucks to serve as ‘wheel trucks’ for the road race course,” Gibson said.

“Basically, the cyclists put their extra wheels in the back of this truck. The driver followed behind the pack during the entire race. If someone had an accident, blew a tire, etcetera, the driver would stop and either let the cyclist repair their bike or pick up the cyclist and their bike, depending on the damage.”

Suffice it to say, the folks at Visit Knoxville aim to please and seem to be hitting the mark.

Michelle Henry is a recovering event planner who now serves in a part-time role at Moxley Carmichael with a focus on writing. When not at the keyboard and with the return of warm weather, you’ll likely find her at the pool or somewhere reading a book. Or both.

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