Keeping their powder dry
By Hugh Fisher
GOLD HILL ó It rained and rained, but they didn’t go away.
And when the drizzle stopped around midday, more people came out to the Founders Day celebration at Gold Hill Park, ready for food and fun.
A respectable crowd gathered for the parade, which went on as promised at 10 a.m.
“The turnout was excellent despite the weather,” said Founders Day organizer Vivian Hopkins.
Four of the scheduled musical acts went on after a slight delay due to the damp.
“And I’d say 95 percent of our vendors showed up,” Hopkins said.
From homemade bread, jellies, honey, peanuts and produce to barbecue and burgers, the food offerings were much in demand as the rain moved out and the sky began to lighten.
That was a good thing, as many local groups depend on the day for fundraising.
Firefighters and family members of Gold Hill Fire Department laughed and joked while waiting for customers to buy hamburgers.
“It could’ve been better,” said Eddie Hatley. “But the people who are here are really eating the food.”
Because of the gray skies and cool rain, the firefighters added coffee and hot chocolate to their usual fare.
But Hatley and fire department president Jesse Penley said they thought the weather wasn’t the only thing keeping people away. Gas shortages also played a role.
“I think that put a damper on it, more than the weather,” Penley said.
The event still drew crowds for its historical features. About 250 gathered to watch a Civil War re-enactment in Gold Hill Park, the first to happen in the town for several years.
About 20 men and women from the 63rd Regiment North Carolina Troops, dressed in Union and Confederate garb, recreated a typical “skirmish” action that resembled a scene from “Gone With The Wind.”
The scenario: As seemingly-helpless Southern women were accosted by Yankee stragglers, their defenders in gray coats and homespun clothes sprung to their defense.
Musket shots echoed off the pines and smoke drifted over the onlookers pressed against a fence.
In character as Robert E. Lee, re-enactor Andrew Shores of Ramseur walked among the crowd, yelling for them to “talk it up.”
Even though there were no actual Civil War battles in the town, Rocky Edmiston of the 63rd Regiment said he was glad to help Hopkins and the people of Gold Hill celebrate their history.
“It’s important, especially in Rowan County since so many people from the area have ancestors who fought for the Confederacy,” Edmiston said.
“Chances are, if your family has been here for a hundred years, you had an ancestor who fought in the War Between the States.”
The town’s biggest historical attraction, gold mining, was also well-represented.
“I just live about an eighth of a mile up the road,” said Josh Gay. Wearing Carhartt overalls and walking his German shorthaired pointer, Boomer, he was interested in learning about the town’s mining history.
“It was neat to learn where the mines were,” Gay said.
Not far away, modern-day prospector Dan Machovina manned a booth where a mining sluice was on display, along with historic gold and silver coins and vials of gold flakes and nuggets for sale.
“Some of this came out of public land in the Uwharrie,” Machovina said.
“There’s still plenty of gold around here. I call it the great chase because you never know what you’re going to find.”
With gas supplies and overcast skies keeping many out-of-towners away, this year’s Founders Day felt more like a family affair.
Friends and neighbors greeted each other along the paths as many people stood under the trees to catch up and swap stories.
“We’ve had a good crowd,” said Phillip Martin, youth pastor at Gold Hill Wesleyan Church, as church members and their friends talked near their tent.
Martin and members of the church’s Ignite Student Ministry served hot dogs and other refreshments from their sheltered spot near the park entrance.
“We’ve had a good time fellowshipping together and spending time together,” Martin said. “It’s a good community opportunity.”