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McClatchy-Tribune  07/04/2014 6:38 AM ET
The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn., Carly Harrington column [The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn. :: ]

July 04--When news surfaced that pop superstar Katy Perry had spent the day at Dollywood last week, my oldest daughter declared that she wanted to go, too.

It was a natural connection for her -- a fan -- to want to share in the same experience that Katy Perry had -- never mind that my daughter has visited the theme park a number of times before.

Dollywood, of course, has its own star in singer-songwriter Dolly Parton, who draws big crowds when she arrives at the park several times a year, but the exposure that others bring doesn't hurt either.

Such public attention through a celebrity appearance or even a mention in a regional or national publication can give businesses, especially small businesses, a nice a boost.

When Big Fatty's Catering Kitchen in Bearden was referenced in the Southern lifestyle magazine Gun and Garden, owner/chef Lisa Smith said the response was overwhelming.

"I can't tell you how much publicity it brought us. During one of the football games last year, there were folks who literally landed at the airport and came straight here," she said.

Smith is gearing up for another possible bump.

On Monday, a writer and photographer from Southern Living Magazine will be at her restaurant, which will be included in the publication's third edition of "Off the Eaten Path," a cookbook featuring places to eat throughout the South.

Smith said the magazine found her through Facebook and from word-of-mouth. It plans to feature two of her dishes, which is often described as gourmet soul food. Being selected should be good for the more than eight-year-old business. The magazine even sent her a FAQ on how other restaurants have handled the publicity once the book comes out.

While the exposure is good for businesses, it's also good for the city.

"I think people don't realize all that we have here," said Erin Donovan, communications director for Visit Knoxville, who spends a lot of her time showcasing to others what's unique to the city. "There's so much to do and see here."

When a writer working on a dog-friendly column came to town, she took a visit to River Dog Bakery and went on tour of all the PetSafe dog parks.

For a magazine dedicated to barbecue, Donovan took the writer last month to meet the proprietors of DeadEnd BBQ and Sweet P's Barbeque and Soul House as well as the owner and creator of Gunshot Sauce.

"That's one of the most important things we try to do and that's connect them with the people who make our community so great," she said.


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