Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2018 - 20

country roads

Mark Pedro believes in miracles, divine intervention-
and even the second coming of Jesus Christ in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
On some level, that's what's happened in the shadow
of the Great Smoky Mountains, where Pedro has worked
for a quarter-century in a building that has boasted a religious attraction for over 50 years.
First, there was Christus Gardens, which opened in
1960 next to the Gatlinburg Sky Lift. Pedro, 57, came to
work for Christus Gardens in the 1990s, cleaning and
painting scenes.
"I've always done Bible-related things since I was a
little kid," says this California native. "I always prayed
that I could combine all three of those."
Christus Gardens closed after the 2007 season. The
exhibits were sold, and all appeared to end-with the
property slated to become a condominium development. But the recession set in. "And the building sat
empty," Pedro says.
Like a miracle.
That's because, in about a year, talk turned to recreating Christus Gardens as "Christ in the Smokies."
In 2009, a new organization moved into the old
building and opened the newly-christened museum on
Sept. 11.
Like an act of God.
"I believe so," Pedro says. "We put it together very
rapidly. It was all the right people coming together at
the right time."
For new exhibits, Pedro secured wax figures once
at the Hollywood Wax Museum. Pedro, as an artist,
worked on scenes of Christ's life, like the Last Supper.
A near-replica of the concave sculpture of Jesus is
also a big attraction.
Still, little more than seven years after opening, it ap-

Joe Tennis

Christ in the
Smokies: Heavenly
Intervention?

Mark Pedro's work was
spared in the Gatlinburg fires.

peared Christ in the
Smokies was about
to go up in smoke
during the deadly
wildfires of Gatlinburg in November,
2016.
That's
when
flames scorched the
Gatlinburg Sky Lift just
above the museum. "And the
Joe Tennis
hotel on one side burned down,"
Pedro says. "Then the apartment building next to us
burned."
Fortunately, the flames stopped-just 12 feet from
the edge of the museum.
Like a miracle.
"We did have smoke problems but nothing like anyone else," says Pedro, who lives at nearby Jones Cove,
Tennessee.
Smiling, Pedro adds, "We have both earthly and
heavenly intervention."
Christ in the Smokies, 510 River Rd., Gatlinburg, Tennessee. 865-436-5155/christinthesmokies.com -Joe Tennis

25 Years Ago in Blue Ridge Country

Conditions surrounding the 1920 Matewan Massacre in Mingo County, West Virginia
had been brewing for some time. The mines, courtrooms and even the miners' companyowned houses had been scenes for the fight between miners and regional coal operators
over the status of the union, the United Mine Workers of America.
The stakes were high. Competition in the national energy market was stiff, especially for
southern West Virginia's coal operators. Although their coal was high-quality, the state's
relative isolation-along with its hilly terrain-made the valuable fuel expensive to transport. To overcome this financial burden, operators were forced to contain their production
costs: the miners' pay.
-Topper Sherwood, in his January/February 1993 piece, "The Matewan Massacre."

20 BlueRidgeCountry.com


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Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2018 - Cover3
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