Gold Hill goes all out despite rain on Founders Day
By Hugh Fisher
GOLD HILL ó Word has it that the Founders Day celebration has only been hampered by rain three times in 20 years.
“That’s not bad,” said organizer Vivian Hopkins.
And turnout beat expectations for a gray and drizzly day.
Hundreds came out for the annual parade, craft fair and historical demonstrations in the restored 19th-century mining village.
Chief among attractions was the inaugural run of a restored Chilean ore mill, which was operated again for the first time on Friday before being shown to spectators Saturday.
A relic of Gold Hill’s mining heyday, and possibly the only one of its kind still operating in the United States, the mill uses two massive 6,000-pound stones and a gear and pulley system to pulverize ore for sifting.
Originally powered by steam, a restored 1935 Witte diesel engine owned by Tony Leonard of Rockwell ran the mill for Founders Day.
Perry Hammill, owner of the former Union Gold & Copper mining property, provided ore for crushing. Visitors panned the dust and a few tiny flecks of gold were found.
“I’m not quitting my day job,” Hammill said.
Hopkins said the newly restored mill had been the focal point of the town’s mining heritage celebration.
And the men who helped restore it ó Gary Russell, Glen Grubb and Ralph Earnhardt ó were pleased to see their hard work in action.
“It feels good,” Earnhardt said. “You’ve got something that no one else has.”
The first Little Miss and Mister Gold Hill pageant drew a large crowd, Hopkins said. There were 17 young competitors in all.
Lauren Gibson, 4, won the girls’ up to age 5 group, while Kylie Houchins, 2, was second.
First prize in the girls’ 6-to-10 age group went to Callie Trexler, 6. Lindsey Edwards, 10, was second.
Matthew Papin Jr., 3, won the boys’ up to age 5 group. Wyatt Trexler, 3, was second.
In the boys’ 6-to-10 age group, first prize went to Maximillian Krpejs, 9, and second was Bradley Krpejs, 6.
Elsewhere, the 63rd Regiment North Carolina Troops, a group of Civil War re-enactors, once more drew a crowd with their encampment and display of musketry.
“Considering the rain, it was pretty good,” said Rock Edmiston, the unit’s first sergeant, after the skirmish.
“We had 200-plus at the camp after the re-enactment.”
This is the group’s fourth consecutive year at Founders Day, but they had performed re-enactments in previous years.
“The response is always good. There’s so much history here,” Edmiston said.
Vendors did good business despite the dripping-wet weather.
Stacie Jade, whose old-time photos at the E.H. Montgomery General Store are a new feature in the restored mining village, said she had lots of interest.
And Jolene Falcone, who with her daughter ran a booth selling scented candles, said her first year selling at Founder’s Day went well.
“I used to bring the kids here when they were younger,” Falcone said.
The decision to come back as a seller had gone well even though the weather wasn’t perfect.
Hopkins said the Gold Hill Historic Society sold out of barbecue and Brunswick stew.
And Jennifer Wilson of Salisbury said her small business, Dips and Nuts, did well selling treats at the festival despite the gray day.
“People out here are just so nice,” she said. “It felt like a whole family out here.”