Ever since the Detroit Lions played the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving Day in 1934, football has been forever linked with the holiday. Here in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains, we have our very own Turkey Day tradition: the Gatlinburg Thanksgiving Bowl. Established in 1972, this annual tournament is a hugely popular event with locals and visitors alike. Formerly held at Gatlinburg Pittman High School and later Mills Park, the Thanksgiving Bowl has been hosted by Rocky Top Sports World since 2014. Read on to learn everything you need to know about one of our favorite autumn tournaments.
Please note that this article is about the 2016 Thanksgiving Bowl. For information on the 2018 tournament, click here.
The 2016 Thanksgiving Bowl: When and Where
The Thanksgiving Bowl will begin with weigh-ins on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 with tournament play starting on Thanksgiving Day and running through Saturday, November 26. All of the fun will take place at Rocky Top Sports World, located at 1870 Sports World Blvd in Gatlinburg, TN.
The Gatlinburg Thanksgiving Bowl is open to teams made up of players ages 6 – 13. There are separate divisions for each age group and weight class. In years past, the tournament has included nearly 40 different teams! Each team is guaranteed a two game minimum, and the tournament directors will do their best to have everyone play at least three games. At the end of the Bowl, the winning team will be awarded the National Championship trophy.
The Thanksgiving Bowl is open to youth football teams from anywhere in the United States. Previous tournaments have included teams from Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Virginia, Illinois, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania. The Bowl has even featured players who have gone on to play in the NFL! Those players are:
- Mike Alstott (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
- Rob Ninkovich (New England Patriots)
- Eric Steinbach (Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns)
- Steve Breaston (Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs)
- Lousaka Polite (Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Atlanta Falcons)
- Shawntae Spencer (San Francisco 49ers)
(See Also: 5 Advantages of Playing Youth Football)
All teams must submit a registration form, team waiver, team roster, and entry fee by November 1, 2016. Teams who register before October 15, 2016 may qualify for a discount of up to $175 per team. You can find the registration links on Rocky Top Sports World’s page for the Gatlinburg Thanksgiving Bowl.
About Gatlinburg and Rocky Top Sports World
Gatlinburg, TN is the perfect place to spend your Thanksgiving weekend! Located at the doorstep of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this charming city is one of the nation’s top vacation destinations. The area is filled with a number of excellent restaurants that offer delicious Thanksgiving dinners with all of the trimmings. Visit our Sponsors page to see some of the wonderful local restaurants we partner with and learn how you and your family can save big!
The Rocky Top Sports World Food and Beverage Department also allows teams to pre-order meals for the tournament. These convenient meals let families and teams eat together on-site right at our complex. You can even reserve a space to dine at The Rock, our 86,000 square foot indoor facility.
Rocky Top Sports World is just a 15 minute drive from the heart of Gatlinburg. Our 80 acre sports campus has everything you need for an incredible tournament, including 7 beautifully maintained fields, bleacher seating, and an onsite grill. For more information about our complex, check out the Rocky Top Sports World Facilities page.