The weekend was full of more than just hikers as the town of Elkin hosted the Gathering of the Friends of the Mountains-To-Sea Trail 40th Anniversary by holding events and activities highlighting local history, talents and venues.
An informative Guided Downtown Stroll lead by Laura Gaylord not only introduced some of the visitors to the town, it educated locals as well. Participants were treated to the story of The Lucky Break and how it impacted entertainment in Elkin and the relationship between Cicely McCulloch, the owner of The Liberty and the location of the FMST meetings, and a previous owner of the same building as well as other information not readily available elsewhere.
During the stroll, Gaylord praised local businesses and recommended nearby eateries enticing everyone to make the most of their visit by spending money in town as well as time often pointing out the architecture that is the reason for the Historical Downtown Elkin. “There are strict rules,” Gaylord explained.
As the Elkin Main Street and community manager, Gaylord is personally invested in the community of Elkin and can often be found nurturing both buildings and businesses.
One very special building on the tour was the Gwyn Museum located next to the Foothills Arts Council. Open by appointment only in spite of the posted hours, Gaylord made special arrangements with the by Jonathan Hunt Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution for the museum to be open for several hours both Friday and Saturday. “There’s a lot in there for such a small building,” marveled Jamie Belew. “It makes a lot of the people I’ve heard about seem more real. It’s very interesting to see how manufacturing really gave this town life.”
The Downtown Stroll combined several walking tours and hikes including a Mural Hike featuring the work of North Carolina artist Michael Brown. These self-guided adventures can be found in the updated version of the Historic Elkin Walking Tours brochure located at the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce and other places around town.
The brochure also contains an Art Hike for those interested in visiting one of the several local galleries displaying painting, pottery, textiles and other imaginative creations. During the Gathering on Saturday afternoon, visitors to downtown were treated to the first of the Summer Art Hike Series. To be held on the second Saturday of each month throughout the summer, the series opened early just for the FMST.
Local musicians were paired with a Yadkin Valley winery or brewery during the Art Hike where they welcomed travelers to stop at one of the several galleries in town. Although local Order of the Long Leaf Pine recipient Bill Blackley seemed to be holding court at the Foothills Arts Council, businesses that had nothing to do with art also hosted gatherers and guests.
Living Waters was not officially open, though the new downtown business was busy during the Art Hike. “We thought it would be a great opportunity for people to come learn what we are about,” asserted owner Keith Money, who was enthusiastic about what the Art Hike was doing for young people in the community.
For Living Waters, creating a safe environment for kids to explore musically may be one of the side effects of participating in the Art Hike. “Our vision is to feed kids,” claimed Money, who was thrilled to look toward a future feeding them in spirit as well as body.
The minds of local children and adults also were fed during the gathering by the Overmountain Victory Trail Revolutionary War Days. Presented by the North Carolina Historical Reenactment Society Revolutionary War Unit 6th NC Regiment of the Continental Line (the Sixth), the Yadkin Valley Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution and the Surry-Wilkes Chapter of the Overmountain Victory Trails Association as well as the FMST and Elkin Valley Trails Association, this encampment near the Elkin Public Library was one of the most talked about activities outside the gala.
In addition to several classes of Elkin students visiting the site on Friday, the Sixth and company were visited by two classes from Surry Central. According to Mary Bohlen, many children returned later with their parents after learning about the battles of Guilford Courthouse and King’s Mountain as well as weaving, quill pen writing, colonial coins and cooking, though it was the munitions and mock battle that was most favored.
Georgia Madison explained that her 8-year-old son Gabriel had been reading about the Revolutionary War and was interested in knowing more. “It was pretty good,” Gabriel said of the battle, who also thought, “the coins were cool,” though he favored the muskets and rifles.
“It’s great to have families come out,” stated Mary Hendrickson, who came from Blacksburg, Virginia, to show visitors how to weave. “Taylor [Osborne] did a great job putting this together.”
It is important to Osborne that local history is preserved. “I think they have a better understanding of what the Revolutionary War was like and how the soldiers really lived,” stated Osborne, who estimated 500 individuals visited the encampment on land adjacent to the OVT owned by the Roth family.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.