Inspired by the Gathering of the Friends of the Mountains-To-Sea Trail, Elkin entities will gather at the Reeves Theater on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. to discuss a new festival, NC Trail Days.
“Jeff Eidson, Bob Hillyer and the staff of Explore Elkin and the town of Elkin have already had some very productive brainstorming sessions,” said Trail Days Chair Denise Lyon.
As founding members of the Elkin Valley Trails Association, which builds and maintains the extensive trail system beyond the boundaries of the town, Lyon and Hillyer were obvious choices to lead local citizens to creating a festival based on the significant attraction.
“We both had experience with Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia,” said Lyon, “Bob as an AT [Appalachian Trail] thru-hiker, and me as a trails enthusiast who had lived for a while in Damascus.”
“Damascus, Virginia with a population of 900 holds the largest Trail Days on the east coast that brings up to 20,000 people into town for a weekend,” said Hillyer. “Finding out that our own Denise Lyon ran the trail days in Damascus several years ago, kind of made it an easy decision [to choose her to lead the group].”
“It is the biggest trail festival on the AT,” said Lyon, who was in charge of that festival in 1999.
Both Lyon and Hillyer have been hoping for a festival to celebrate the trail that not only crosses the entire state of North Carolina, but follows Main Street through the heart of downtown Elkin.
“From the very beginning, we knew that we could help our great team create the energy needed for Elkin to become a recognized Trail Town. That dream started about seven years ago when EVTA was formed and we’ve been waiting for the right time to make it happen,” said Lyon.
After the excitement of hosting the Gathering for the past two springs, this seemed like the best time to start planning the festivities, they said.
“Our saying in EVTA is, ‘we are creating the town we want to live in.’ Trail Days is going to be a big part of that town,” said Lyon. “I want us to be proud of all the hard work and cooperation and enthusiasm that it’s taken for us to get to this place, and NC Trail Days will showcase our town, our trails, our river and the wonderful people who live here.”
Those people are encouraged to be an active part of NC Trail Days, beginning with the planning process on Thursday evening.
“At our meeting on Thursday, we want everyone to come out and share ideas. We’ll give everyone an opportunity to brainstorm ideas for events and to throw their hat in the ring to be a part of creating NC Trail Days,” Lyon said.
Hillyer outlined the plan for the community meeting.
“Since it is a new idea, we are starting with a clean slate. First step is to compile suggestions and ideas from everyone, second is identify those ideas that are doable and lend themselves to a NC Trail Days theme, third is to identify and recruit enthusiastic, responsible people,” said Hillyer, “then we can make it happen.”
People with those attributes are encouraged to attend the planning meeting.
“Everyone is invited to come and to decide how they would like to contribute,” said Lyon.
“You don’t have to be a hiker or a paddler, we just want your enthusiasm and willingness to help in some capacity, big or small. Bring some friends who might want to work on a project with you. We’re going to kick off something great and you can be part of it.”
“We hope to have a wide range of people and ideas at the meeting,” said Hillyer, “so come and be a part of something wonderful for our great town.”
To keep track of NC Trail Days meetings and other local events, go to www.exploreelkin.com.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.