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Gatlinburg. Why?

Most of us have just survived another year at the Gatlinburg regional. As I seem to every year, I find myself asking the obvious question: Why? Why is this tournament so popular? Why do so many people flock year after year to a town with no Starbucks but at least half a dozen “Olde Time Photo” shops? Why is the most popular regional tournament an hour away from the nearest airport – into which there are direct flights from only a dozen cities?

Gatlinburg is a cultural wasteland. A sad county-fair of a town with no class but a seemingly endless supply of kitsch. There are no nice hotels and no great restaurants in Gatlinburg. I cannot believe that the thousands of bridge pilgrims come each year for the putt-putt golf, novelty t-shirts, beef jerky, or the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum. It must be the bridge.

The main appeal bridge-wise seems to be the tournament’s size, which means playing in a bracket of your masterpoint peers. I certainly see the appeal of this: a team of 3,000-point players that at a smaller regional usually ends up as fodder for the pros at the bottom of bracket one gets to play in bracket four or five against similarly experienced teams. It’s fun playing against the big boys, but it’s also fun to win now and then.

So if all that Gatlinburg really has to offer is its size, LET’S ALL GO SOMEWHERE ELSE! Surely there must be some other place that could handle a tournament of this size in a less repulsive locale. Preferably somewhere that

  • Is conveniently located – in driving distance for a large population and close to a major airport for the rest of us
  • Has a couple nice hotels (but also plenty of cheaper ones)
  • Has nice weather
  • Has good restaurants in walking distance from the playing site
  • Does not have a store/museum called “Cooter’s Place”

Is this too much to ask? I understand that Gatlinburg has timing and Geography on its side – it is relatively centrally located, and most of the attendees drive (from as far away as Canada, believe it or not). And many snowbirds plan a pit-stop in Gatlinburg into their migration north. But there’s gotta be somewhere that meets these criteria that doesn’t make me want to vomit.

So I’m looking for suggestions. Who knows of a great tournament we should all be going to or a new site that should host a big tournament every year? Please, we need your help – save us from Gatlinburg!

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