Although not as large the more attentive crowd gathered for the Second Annual Community Gathering hosted by Explore Elkin Thursday evening.
Opening the Easter holiday weekend with top local musicians and tasty treats courtesy of Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital’s director of food and nutrition services Warren Bates and his team may not have been quite enough to entice everyone who has been excited about Explore Elkin.
According to Explore Elkin President Jeff Eidson there have been nearly 200 individuals and couples who have made the financial commitment to Explore Elkin through the Explorers program raising over $36,000 to help fund the events and activities.
“We started off a year ago and I bet we have not lost much momentum,” stated Eidson, “and we’re going to keep that going.”
There was evidence of the continued momentum in the comfortably large crowd in Coley Hall at The Liberty although there seemed to be missing many of the multitude of Explorers named.
“What’s wonderful is there’s a lot of new faces in the room,” observed Eidson who acknowledged the importance of the individuals and businesses behind the movement including the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce and Creative Economic Development Consulting who assisted with the strategic plan presented later in the evening.
Also credited for making the events and activities possible were All-Star Rentals, Chick-fil-et and Cavu Marketing as well as a variety of other local companies who assist with the Explorer program.
“Without your enthusiasm, support and participation in Explore Elkin events and activities this movement would have never gotten off the ground,” thanked Eidson.
“Over the past year we’ve given birth to a movement. We started out with a conversation around a shared vision for our community. We’ve sparked a sense of enthusiasm in community evangelism and brought people together with a sense of community. “
Explore Elkin has used technology to enhance the unified environment through several methods including social media, a new website, a comprehensive calendar of community events and the expansion of fiber optic high-speed internet service with help from Sandy Blackley.
“We’ve built an emailed newsletter which reaches over 1000 people each week. Think about what that means to a restaurant,” encouraged Eidson.
“It used to be [a business] would have an event and 10 people might know about it. Now 1000 people know about it. One of our goals is enhancing commerce and that’s one of the things that we’re talking about.”
Marketing the area is important to the Explore Elkin movement.
“We developed a comprehensive marketing campaign including social media, radio, the newspaper and magazine advertisements featuring a rotating monthly ad in the destination section of Our State magazine,” explained Eidson.
Thanks to the efforts of the Explore Elkin team Elkin has received more notice from the magazine from inclusion in their events calendar to attendance at the Yadkin Valley Wine Festival this May.
“It reaches a huge cross section of people in the state and across the nation and they’re going to be here,” claimed Eidson who promised even more cooperation with the magazine.
“We will organize and sponsor day trips to our community with Our State Magazine to provide tremendous exposure to all our community has to offer.”
Many of those offerings have been initiated by Explore Elkin itself.
“The number one priority for Explore Elkin for our community is to continue our events,” stated Eidson.
“This last year we hosted 10 Live At Five Events, six Food Truck Fridays, four round table discussions, two Comedy On Main shows, two Elkin Explorer hikes, two community gatherings, two free music shows at the Reeves, one Explorer appreciation dinner [at the Liberty] and an Explore Elkin Family Flotilla and a Shamrock Block Party just two weeks ago. That’s over 30 events in our first 12 months.”
Some of those events didn’t turn out as well as anticipated.
“If you came to our first Comedy on Main you know it was a flop,” acknowledged Eidson siting service issues and inappropriate humor.
“If you came back to the second one though you could see we worked out the bugs.”
These growing pains have led to some adjustments in this year’s summer program including the creation of Music at the Market which will extend the Farmers Market and adjusted times on Food Truck Fridays.
“In the coming year we will host six Food Truck Fridays, five Music in the Market events, five downtown summer block parties, two Elkin Explorer hikes, two Comedy On Main shows, one Family Flotilla on the Yadkin, a community gathering and an Explorer appreciation event,” stated Eidson.
Other special events are also being planned including outdoor movie nights in conjunction with the Foothills Arts Council and parks and a kid’s fun day at Elkin Municipal Park with the help of recreation director Adam McComb.
Recently inspired by the Gathering of the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Explore Elkin is also planning for the 2019 summer season.
“We will organize and host Trails Day in 2019,” declared Eidson explaining the impact local trails can have on a community.
“Damascus, [Virginia] attracts 20,000 people a year to their trails day event. [The Elkin Valley Trails Association has] already come up with an outline but we can put on a magical event here sort of what they put on in Damascus.”
The town is known for Appalachian Trail Days, a multi-day festival which includes classes and conveniences for hikers as well as music and food with the local library holding several activities.
“Bob Hillyer and Denise Lyon have a vision that’s sure to turn Elkin into the, not a, but the North Carolina trails town and we’re going to make that happen,“ claimed Eidson.
“This summer we’ll be working on that. We’ve been meeting with a lot of people and we’ve been talking to them about that but we need a lot of imagination and visionary ideas and that’s really what we want you to sign up for.”
Although the North Carolina Trail Days event already has the support of 19 Rotarians as well as the Yadkin Valley Rotary Club itself after a recent presentation it is the continued support of the individuals of the community made up of Elkin and Jonesville that will make it a success.
“I want people to discover Jonesville not just explore Elkin,” stated Eidson. “One is only half a community without the other one.”
Eidson invited both sides of the Yadkin to join in the discussion about the Trail Days event.
“The EVTA and Explore Elkin is going to host an exploratory visioning meeting to talk about what it’s going to look like. Come to it, share your ideas and let’s talk about them and create something special for our community,” invited Eidson encouraging people to volunteer for all the activities from planning stages to completion.
“It’s not going to be a lot of work for folks but we do need some more people to come to the table. The volunteers last year were working long hours at a lot of different events and we want to ease the burden and spread it around and make it not be a burden.”
“As we talk about volunteer opportunities please sign up,” encouraged Eidson.
“It doesn’t pay much but you’ll find it’s very rewarding and you’ll have a lot of fun.”
More important than having fun is continuing the atmosphere of a cooperative community which enhances the finances and lifestyle of current residents as well as attracting new citizens and tourists as outlined in the strategic plan.
“Please be on the lookout and be engaged in those efforts,” requested Eidson.
“It’s really important for our community. We need you to be a part of what we’re doing at Explore Elkin.”
To receive the Explore Elkin newsletter send an email to email@example.com or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ExploreElkin/.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.