Kingsport Times-News: Ripley's Believe It or Not! completes total 'show' makeover at Gatlinburg attraction
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Ripley's Believe It or Not! completes total 'show' makeover at Gatlinburg attraction

J. H. Osborne • Feb 18, 2019 at 11:47 AM

GATLINBURG — Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, a landmark attraction in downtown Gatlinburg for nearly half a century, has completed one of the biggest renovations in its history. The new “show” (that’s how Ripley’s officials refer to the three-story, multi-gallery presentation of the odd and unusual from all corners of the world) officially opened Feb. 5.

If you think you’ve seen it all before, think again: Of 500 exhibits, 490 are new to the Gatlinburg location. In addition to displays, the new galleries feature many chances for interactive experiences.

“We are back and better and stranger than ever,” said Ryan DeSear, regional manager of Ripley Entertainment. “You will see the weirdest and most remarkable items from around the world that will entertain and fascinate the entire family. The new renovation presents the adventurous spirit of Robert Ripley, who traveled to over 200 countries to search for the odd and unusual. It is totally amazing.”

The renovation also included a new facade. And for the first time ever, one of the galleries is designed to house limited-run exhibits — in other words, the theme of the gallery will change as different exhibits come and go. Officials hinted it could eventually include “the world’s most expensive dress,” purchased by Ripley’s at auction for $4.81 million. It’s the translucent, beaded gown Marilyn Monroe wore when she infamously sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1962 a few months before her death.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! will celebrate its 50th anniversary in Gatlinburg in 2020, as the city itself turns 75. Ripley's as an international brand, which instantly brings to mind the odd and unusual, often portrayed through a cartoon published in newspapers, is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

Some of the things visitors will see in their journey walking through the odditorium include:

• A Harry Potter-inspired dragon made of recycled materials and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry made from 602,000 matchsticks.

• A crystal Mini Cooper.

• A two-trunked African elephant that had two fully developed, useable trunks, a rare albino giraffe and many other unique animals from around the world.

• A tribute gallery to the Great Smoky Mountains featuring exhibits on synchronized fireflies, the tallest underground waterfall and more.

• Ripley’s Warehouse featuring the Megalodon Submarine Robot and an ancient Egyptian mummy from 2000 BC.

• Ripley’s Jungle featuring unusual collections including a shrunken torso owned by Ernest Hemingway, shrunken heads, instruments, a tribal mask collection and amazing interactive opportunities.

• Unusual art made from things such as spices, Tennessee barbeque sauce, shotgun shells, license plates, many recycled materials and more.

• A Faberge egg containing portions of the Bible on microfilm. The microfilm was carried by a U.S. astronaut during his walk on the moon.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is located at traffic light #8 on the Parkway in Gatlinburg and is open 365 days a year. For ticket information, call (865) 436-5096 or visit www.ripleysgatlinburg.com.

More than 14 million people visit Ripley Entertainment’s 100-plus attractions in 11 nations each year. In addition to its 30 Believe It or Not! Odditoriums, the Orlando, Florida-based company has publishing, licensing and broadcast divisions that oversee projects including the syndicated “Believe It or Not!” television show, best-selling books and the popular syndicated cartoon strip, “Ripley's Believe It or Not!,” that still runs daily in countries around the world. Ripley Entertainment is a Jim Pattison Company, the second-largest privately held company in Canada.

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