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Stanley Crawdads slugger Carson Hawkins gets ready to hit with a bit of coaching from big brother Riley Hawkins who plays baseball for East Gaston High. Photo by Alan Hodge

Carson Hawkins is the Home Run King of Stanley

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


When Carson Hawkins, 12, takes to the baseball diamond at Harper Park in Stanley he smiles, his Crawdad teammates smile, his coach smiles, his parents smile, heck, everybody there smiles.
The reason for all the good will is the fact that even though Carson has physical challenges in the form of quadriplegic cerebral palsy, his passionate love of baseball and the desire to be the best he can be at it is an inspiration to all.
Carson is known far and wide for his home run hitting. According to Stanley Parks and Rec. director Tug Deason, Carson has about 40 homers to his credit. Carson grins broadly when his homer skills are mentioned.
“I want to keep playing ball as long as I can so I can keep hitting them,” he said.
Carson is a seasoned player. He started with Dallas Parks and Rec. then came to Stanley last season. He is a left fielder for the Dixie Youth Crawdads.
Carson’s coach, David Stone had this to say.
“He is a blessing to all of us,” Stone said. “His smile lights up the whole place. He showed me how much passion he has for baseball.”
Deason says Carson is a favorite of his as well.
“We are so glad, excited, and proud to have him take part,” he said.
Carson’s dad Adam is rightly proud of his son.
“As long as he wants to play baseball we will let him,” he said.
Mother Erin says seeing him on the field is a joy.
“Being on the team is great because it gives him the opportunity to be around other kids,” she said.
Carson is carrying on the Hawkins family athletic tradition. He has two older brothers, Riley who plays baseball for East Gaston High, and Zack who plays tennis there. Riley gives Carson a bit of a hand on the baseball field at the plate and in left field.
“I love seeing him out there playing with the other kids,” said Riley.
Carson is looking forward to growing in his athletic abilities.
“His goal is to run the bases on foot,” his mom said.
Meanwhile, Carson is looking to rack up even more homers. He says he knows about legend Babe Ruth and his 60-home run season and when asked if he thought he could top it, here’s what he said with his characteristic enthusiasm and energy.
“Yes, I can!”
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Aimee Tolleson, Steven Loudon, Kristin Kiser and Angela Calamia.

Gaston County Schools
honors outstanding educators

Gaston Schools story/photos
Four employees captured the most prestigious awards presented by Gaston County Schools during the 2022 Evening of Excellence ceremony.  The program sponsored by Truist was held Thursday, May 5 at the Gaston Country Club.
Steven Loudon of W.C. Friday Middle School was named the Gaston County Teacher of the Year, and Kristin Kiser of Lowell Elementary School earned the Gaston County Principal of the Year recognition.  They will represent Gaston County Schools in the regional competitions for 2022-2023.
Additionally, Aimee Tolleson of South Point High School received the Assistant Principal of the Year distinction, and Angela Calamia, director of school nutrition, was named the Central Office Administrator of the Year.
As sponsor of the recognition ceremony, Truist presented to the Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year a handcrafted Truist Educator Apple and $1,250 to use for professional advancement.  Each Principal of the Year and Teacher of the Year finalist received $250 to use for professional advancement.
The Evening of Excellence ceremony coincided with the celebration of National Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2-6) in Gaston County Schools.  The program paid tribute to the school system’s most outstanding teachers, administrators, and certified support staff for their exceptional leadership and many contributions.  The award nominees, finalists, and recipients are considered to be among the top public school employees in the state.
Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker said, “The Evening of Excellence program gives us an opportunity to bring attention to the exemplary efforts of our teachers, administrators, and others, who go above and beyond expectations to inspire success and a lifetime of learning.  We congratulate the award recipients and applaud all educators in Gaston County Schools for what they do every day to support children and encourage them to learn, achieve, and thrive.”
Dr. Booker added, “We would like to thank Truist for sponsoring this important employee recognition program.  Truist is a significant community partner for Gaston County Schools, and we sincerely appreciate the bank’s support of the Evening of Excellence ceremony so we can honor our outstanding educators in a very special way.”
The Evening of Excellence ceremony returned to its traditional dinner and awards program format this year at the Gaston Country Club after being held virtually in 2020 and outdoors at CaroMont Health Park in 2021 because of the pandemic.
The awards ceremony will air on Spectrum Cable Channel 21 (the Education Station for Gaston County Schools) the week of May 23-29 at 9:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 7:00 p.m. each day.  The ceremony will air on television at other times throughout the summer, and the video will be available on the Gaston County Schools website and YouTube channel.

Gaston County
Teacher of the Year
The 2022-2023 Gaston County Teacher of the Year is Steven Loudon from W.C. Friday Middle School.  The award is presented by Truist.
Loudon teaches seventh grade math at W.C. Friday and has 15 years of experience in education.  A graduate of Emmaus Bible College with a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies and youth ministry, he earned master’s degrees in elementary education and school administration from UNC-Charlotte.  Loudon previously taught fifth grade at Pinewood Elementary for seven years and served as an assistant principal at Woodhill Elementary as well as a middle school math curriculum facilitator.
Gaston County
Principal of the Year
The 2022-2023 Gaston County Principal of the Year is Kristin Kiser from Lowell Elementary School.  The award is presented by Truist.
A graduate of Western Carolina University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, Kiser earned a master’s degree in remediation/elementary education from Francis Marion University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Winthrop University.  She began her teaching career in Waynesville, N.C. and taught in South Carolina before coming to Gaston County in 2002.  She previously served as principal at Bessemer City Primary, Pinewood Elementary, and Rankin Elementary.
Assistant Principal of the Year
The 2022-2023 Gaston County Schools Assistant Principal of the Year is Aimee Tolleson from South Point High School.
Tolleson joined Gaston County Schools in 2018.  She started her career in education as an English teacher in Columbia, S.C. and later taught for the Granbury Independent School District in Texas where she also served as a reading and math intervention instructional specialist and dean of instruction.  Tolleson earned a bachelor’s degree in middle grades education from the University of South Carolina and obtained a master’s degree in educational administration from Tarleton State University.

Central Office
Administrator of the Year
The 2022-2023 Gaston County Schools Central Office Administrator of the Year is Angela Calamia, director of school nutrition.
Calamia joined Gaston County Schools in 2018 after serving as a nutritionist and director of school nutrition operations for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.  She holds an associate degree in food processing technology and a bachelor’s degree in clinical and general management dietetics from the State University of New York as well as a master’s degree in clinical dietetics from the New York Institute of Technology.  Prior to moving to North Carolina, she worked as the director of nutritional services at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in New York.
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U.S. Marines Lt. Col. Jeffrey “Stimdaddy” Stimpson

Stanley to hold
Memorial Day event


The second annual Stanley Cemetery Ancestry Fund Memorial Day Celebration will take place in Stanley on May 30th, 2022.  It will be held in the parking lot in the middle of the cemetery, 203 S. Main Street, Stanley.  The ceremony begins at 11:30 a.m.  No reservations are needed but come early to enjoy the patriotic music and find a good seating location.
This location was selected because it is the resting place of 141 veterans.  These veterans are representatives of every war our country has been engaged in.
The audience will be entertained by a host of great speakers providing important information, patriotic music, and inspiring keynote speaker U.S. Marines Lt. Col. Jeffrey “Stimdaddy” Stimpson whose current billet is 2D MAW Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff G-2. His current unit is 2D Marine Aircraft Wing, Cherry Point, NC, Stimpson also served as the 2D MAW (Forward) G-2 through March 16, 2012.
The Gaston County Color Guard will be present to help
in honoring all veterans.  Each family attending will receive a Program Guide that helpful information.
The celebration is organized by the Stanley Cemetery Ancestry Fund, a non-profit that is building a perpetual care fund for the long-term care of the lawn in the Stanley Cemetery.  For anyone who would like to support the work of the Fund, donations can be sent to Stanley Cemetery Ancestry Fund, c/o T. Deese, Treasurer, P.O. Box 772, Stanley, NC 28164.
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Tracie and Joy Rankin from Stanley with help from members of their church are making lapghans and sending them to Ukrainian refugees in Germany.

Stanley women spearhead effort to help Ukrainian refugees

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


As the crow flies it’s about 5,000 miles from Stanley to the Ukraine but the concern Tracie and Joy Rankin from the former have for refugees from the war-torn latter prompted them to pitch in with their respective talents and try to help those beleaguered folks in some way.
Tracie, Senior Master Sergeant 145th AW Education and Training Superintendent NC Air National Guard, picked up on the plight of some Ukrainian refugees that had landed in Germany and used her connections and experience in getting things moved to good advantage.
“It all came about when my friend Erin Wilber and her family moved to Germany,” she said. “Erin retired from the Guard and her husband Mick still serves. Mick applied for a tour in Germany for 3-4 years, and they took their two children and moved to Germany. The Wilbers and another couple from the base, Gary and Lisa Dodge (similar tour circumstances), are also in Germany. When the war began between Russia and Ukraine both families were asked if they would be willing to have Ukrainian refugees live with them, both families said yes. The community where they live has other American military families and they have taken in about 20 total Ukrainians in their community.”
The community is not far from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
Most Ukrainians who relocated to Erin and Lisa’s community took with them what they could carry and don’t know if they will ever go back home if they have a home to return to.
Tracie turned to Joy, who also happens to be her mother-in-law, and together they came up with the idea of having Joy hand knit beach towel sized blankets called lapghans for shipment to the Ramstein area Ukrainian refugees. They also got their church, Salvation Church in Gastonia, involved. Joy’s son, BannerNews columnist Trent Rankin, is pastor there.
“It’s hard to sit on the sidelines and feel helpless to do anything,” Tracie said. “When I saw where two of my friends were directly involved with assisting Ukrainian families fleeing their homes, I reached out to see if our church could send something. After a few back-and-forth conversations with Erin, and Joy being up for the challenge of knitting 20 blankets, we decided to press forward with the initiative, truly a team effort between Erin, Joy, and our church ladies group and the church congregation. To be able to help in anyway is what our church is all about, outreach and showing love!”
Joy, whose knitting skills are prodigious and productive, had this to say about the project.
“I enjoyed making each one of these lapghans,” she said.  “They (the refugees) have been through so much, I just wanted to be a part of giving them a little happiness. I hope they will enjoy them and remember that we are praying for them each time they put them on their laps.”
The lapghans will soon be heading to Germany.
“I’ll be sending them by post office to Erin for distribution,” Tracie said. “I am mailing the first ten blankets on Tuesday of this week. Joy is working on making the other ten and in a few weeks, they will be mailed as well. Salvation Church wanted to show the Ukrainian families love, support and hope like we receive from Jesus. Much like our church motto ‘Fed People-Feed People’ passing on the love we receive to others.”
Trent Rankin expressed his support of the project and thanks for what everyone has done to make it happen and why.
“We’re so blessed to be able to take part in this project, making blankets for people of the Ukraine, and to show them the love of Jesus.”
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Awaken Gallery owner and artist Emily Andress will be creating a new piece of public art for Tuckaseegee Park. Photo by Alan Hodge

Public art set to pop in Mt. Holly

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


This summer the public arts scene in Mt. Holly is set to pop like a string of Black Cat firecrackers.
The big kaboom will be the unveiling sometime in late June or early July of a fantastic outdoor sculpture in Tuckaseegee Park. The piece, named “Spirit of the River” will strongly feature Native American iconography and symbolism. A plaque near the sculpture will explain the symbols.
The sculpture will be ten feet tall and eight feet wide. It will be constructed of metal with Mt. Holly-based MacFab doing the cutting and welding.
Awaken Gallery owner Emily Andress got the nod from the city to design the piece which will be erected in the pollinator garden area at Tuckaseegee Park.
“The colors will be based on those that attract bees,” Andress said. “That includes purples, greens, yellows, and blues.”
Another feature of the piece is the fact it will have a cutout in the shape of a bee near the center that will cast a bee-shaped shadow on the pollinator garden.
Arts on the Greenway will loan a space where the final assembly and painting of the sculpture will be done.
Downtown Mt. Holly will also be getting two new murals this summer to join the Coca-Cola one done by Boyce McKinney a couple of years ago. Work on the murals will begin soon.
One of the murals will be painted by Australian artist Treazy Treaz. That piece will be 75-feet wide by 14-feet high and will go on the side of the Queen Bee Bakery building. The other mural will be done by Charlotte artist Sydney Duarte. It will measure 50-feet wide by 14-feet high and will be done on the side of the Arts on the Greenway building beside the Municipal Center.
In addition, Gastonia artist Jan Craft has been given the go-ahead to build a creatively designed bike rack for downtown.
Of course money will be involved in these projects. At its April 5th meeting the Mt. Holly city council approved $62,700 for the work.
Of that sum, Andress will get $16,300 for design, fabrication, and installation, Treaz will get $23,000 including lift rental, and Duarte will get $17,400 including lift rental. Craft will receive $5,000. Oh, Ashley Jenkins Painting will get $1,000 to prep the Arts on the Greenway building because the paint on it now is flaking off.
Andress expressed her deep appreciation for all that the city has done and continues to do to support the Mt. Holly arts scene.
“Mt. Holly has been at the forefront of artistic innovation and support,” she said. “I am so excited at the new works that will be created here. They will be beautiful.”
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Mt. Holly PD deputy chief Brian Teagan and officer Seth Dunn with the Harley that will be patrolling the streets of town.

Mt. Holly PD chooses officers who will ride new Harley


By Alan Hodge - alan@cfmedia.info
Last October the Mt. Holly Police Dept. received a $35,000, fully equipped, Harley-Davidson police motorcycle from the Spokane, Washington-based Beyond the Call of Duty- End of Watch Ride to Remember group. It’s a rolling memorial to MHPD Officer Tyler Herndon who was killed in the line of duty Dec. 11, 2020.    
The organization visited MHPD last July when they were touring the nation visiting police departments who had lost officers during 2020- a total of 339 men and women in uniform.
Afterwards, the group, led by Jagrut Shah, accepted letters from the police departments that had lost officers. The letters were applications for the bike. Nationwide, over 70 departments responded. MHPD deputy chief Brian Reagan and Sgt. Terry penned the Mt. Holly letter. After the letters were read and considered by a panel of five judges from various law enforcement agencies, Mt. Holly was chosen the winner.
“We were honored to have been chosen,” Reagan said. “It was a blessing to have something else to carry on Tyler’s memory.”
Since it was given to MHPD the bike has been put on display at a couple of functions, but the day when it will finally be put to use is on the horizon.
With that goal in mind, two officers- Seth Dunn and Travis McManus- have been chosen for training in the art of being a motorcycle policeman.
“They will be attending the intense, week-long, course that the NC Highway Patrol conducts,” Reagan says. “The training is rigorous. They won’t just be riding around.”
The next course will be held in August or September. After completion, the officers will be ready to take the Harley on the road.
Dunn, currently a traffic patrol officer, is excited about taking the course and learning a new skill.
“I’ve ridden dirt bikes before, but not a street bike,” he said.  “I am a quick learner. The bike will be a great asset.”
According to Reagan, the bike will be used for a variety of jobs.
“It will be equipped with handheld radar,” he said. “It will also be useful in congested traffic areas since it can maneuver better than a patrol car.”
But wait. There’s the possibility that another bike could be coming to MHPD.
“Jagrut Shah has asked if we would be interested in receiving another one,” said Reagan. “He is in the final stages of getting us a nice, used bike. It will be similar to the one we have now.”
Reagan praised the Call of Duty group.
“They have been so good to us,” he said. “They stay in touch to see how we are doing.”
But wait again. The MHPD has just received a new $20k golfcart. The money for it was donated by Freightliner.
The cart is fully equipped with blue lights and a siren. It is electric powered and quiet as a mouse in operation. It can carry up to six folks.
“It will be great for downtown events,” Reagan said. “It will also be used on the greenways.”
The golf cart got a workout last Tuesday when it shuttled dignitaries to and from the groundbreaking for new wastewater pump station near Tuck Park.
Getting back to the subject of two wheels, and the fact that folks are getting their own motorcycles out now that warm weather has arrived, Reagan offered these words of advice for drivers of other vehicles.
“People need to be aware of motorcycles on the road and avoid distracted driving,” he said. “Look twice, save a life.”                 
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Dignitaries from Mt. Holly and Charlotte turn the gravel at the new Charlotte Water Stowe Regional Water Resource Facility being built near Tuckaseegee Park.

Ground broken for Stowe Regional Water Resource
Recovery Facility

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


The English have a saying “slowly, slowly catch a monkey”. That means some things take time, but the end result is worth it.
That adage well applies to the Stowe Regional Water Resource Recovery Facility, a project has been talked about, plotted, and planned since 2006. When the first phase of the job is done in early 2024, it will eventually transfer up to 15 million gallons of wastewater (that’s enough to fill 25 Olympic swimming pools) each and every day from Mt. Holly to Charlotte.
Last week, ground was officially broken for the endeavor. A large number of Mt. Holly and Charlotte officials as well as water resource professionals and other folks got together near Tuckaseegee Park where the Mt. Holly end of things will be located for speeches and a look at just what has been done so far on the site.
Angela Charles, director of Charlotte Water declared- “This project will be transformational for our region.”
Mt. Holly mayor Bryan Hough added- “We are here today to celebrate a regional partnership.”
Corey Basinger, Division of Water Resources regional supervisor called the project a- “Model of collaboration.”
The mechanics and the logistics of the project are fascinating. Two force main pipes will be installed in a 3,000 ft-long shaft drilled through bedrock 65 feet under the Catawba River from Mt. Holly to the Long Creek Pump Station in Mecklenburg County. The shaft hole will be bored from both ends and meet in the middle of the river. The technique is called HDD..Horizontal Directional Drilling.
“We will start to bore the holes in a couple of weeks,” said project manager Josh Lefevre. “It will take sixteen weeks to complete that job.”
(Look for a story on that part of the project in a future BannerNews.)
The individual pipes that will be used are 50-feet long, with an outside diameter of 26-inches and an inside diameter of 21-inches. They are made of high-density polyethylene. The pipe sections are joined together with a machine that uses heat to fuse the ends together. Once the tunnel is bored, the pipes will be pulled through it. Currently at the Mt. Holly end of things, pieces of pipe have been stockpiled and some sections are already joined and mounted on large rollers that will ease their installation.
When the pipes are in place, in Mt. Holly they will connect to a series of valves at a new pump station near the current one, which is 56-years-old, which will be decommissioned. The new one will feature an electronic monitoring station and a standby electric generator.
To help pay for the project, Mt. Holly received a Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) loan from the Division of Water Infrastructure for up to $18.85 million.
Eventually, Belmont will get in on the wastewater action. Plans are being formulated to run pipes under the Catawba from a pump station on the South Point peninsula to one in Paw Creek in Mecklenburg.
In the end, the project will be a wastewater win-win for everyone. It will meet future wastewater needs by increasing wastewater treatment capacity, consolidate two wastewater treatment plants into one state-of-the art facility, minimize wastewater pumping by reducing the distance it must be pumped for treatment, enhance environmental practices by operating in a more energy efficient manner, and be an investment in the community overall.
For more information visit http://stoweregionalwrrf.com/.
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South Point High School Athletic Director, Kent Hyde,
receives state award

By Charlotte Sautner

At the April 4th meeting of the NC Athletic Directors Association held in Wilmington, NC, South Point High School’s athletic director, Kent Hyde, was give the Athletic Director of Excellence Award.  He was one of only eight recognized in the state.  To be eligible for this award you must have at least 5 years’ experience as an athletic director, be a CAA (Certified Athletic Administrator) through the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrator Association, be nominated by someone in the state, and be selected by the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Athletic Directors Association.
Coach Hyde has been athletic director at South Point since 2015. In that time South Point High School received the Wells Fargo Conference Cup Champion Award in 2017-18, 2019-2020, and 2020-2021.  They were second in 2018-19 by .5. This award recognizes schools with the best overall interscholastic athletic performances within individual conferences.
Since his term as athletic director began South Point has had at least 62 NCHSAA Scholar Athlete teams.
Coach Hyde said, “This is a school award.  We’ve got great coaches, teachers, staff, a great booster club and a community that supports our student athletes and our school.”
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Belmont’s Garibaldifest brought swarms of folks to Stowe Park and the downtown area in general. Calli and Keelyn Coleman and Cash the Wonderdog had a great time at the event. See pages 7 & 16.

Outdoor festivities return to Belmont


By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info
Frolic and friendship returned to downtown Belmont last weekend and that drew large numbers of folks who were happy to be able to get out and enjoy all the amusement that was offered.
The weekend kicked off with the first Friday Night musical concert. The featured band was The Breakfast Club. The Atlanta-based group was formed in 1993 and is said to be the longest running 1980s tribute band in America. It also claims the title “America’s Favorite 1980s Tribute Band”. At any rate, the combo put on a great show that had folks on their feet dancing a variety of gigues.
Saturday saw the return of Garibaldifest. Stowe Park was full of people enjoying the many attractions and features that were on offer including Belmont’s now-famous kudzu eating goats. Food trucks were offering tasty vittles and other vendors had their wares on sale as well.
Up the road on E. Catawba St. The Belmont Historical Society Museum held its first Living History Day in quite a while. Not only was the museum open for people to peruse its many fascinating artifacts, but the grounds outside had numerous interesting living history displays and demonstrations. The Keep Belmont Beautiful group was there as well, holding its annual plant sale and brightening up the scene with bountiful bouquets of colorful flowers.
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Who’s Bad, The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience will take the stage May 7th.

Live music at Kings Mountain’s Patriots Park

The City of Kings Mountain welcomes Who’s Bad, The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience LIVE at Patriots Park, Saturday, May 7, 2022.
Covering the King of Pop’s catalog of hits, Who’s Bad, The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience’s stage show celebrates the life of one of the greatest entertainers in music history.
Named #7 tribute band in the country, Who’s Bad is sure to be a show you will not forget.
The Party Prophets with Gene Pharr and Cindy Floyd will open the show at 6:00 pm followed by Who’s Bad at 8:30 pm. Look for DJs Tony Cutlass, Eric Bowman, and Johnny B too.
Don’t forget our Cruise-In. It begins at 5:00 pm. All makes and models are welcome. Great food, inflatables for the kids and much more!
Best of all, the concert and cruise-in are FREE.
Patriots Park is located at 220 South Railroad Avenue, Kings Mountain.
For more information on the Concert Series or Cruise-In, contact the City of Kings Mountain’s Special Events Department at 704-730-2101, or visit their website at www.KingsMountainEvents.Com. You may also visit their Facebook page at @cityofkmspecialevents. Get your motor running!
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Nate Wells and Car No. 1. The hope is it will be ready for public display later this summer.

Belmont trolleys will blend old and new technology

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info
The final restoration and eventual deployment of the three early 20th century trolley cars by Belmont Trolley, Inc. will be an interesting blend of vintage and up to date technology.
The three cars are currently housed in the garage area at the CityWorks building in East Belmont where finishing touches such as fresh paint and mechanicals are being tended to. When completed, the cars will look like new (or near-new) and will give future passengers a real sense of what trolley transportation was like nearly a century ago.
The cars were originally propelled by electric motors energized by overhead wires. Needless to say, restringing a network of wires these days won’t be happening. So, what’s the answer? 21st century battery packs from Nissan Leaf automobiles.
A group of engineering students from UNC-Charlotte has been working on creating the new trolley propulsion system. Last week saw three students- Andy Mongelluzzo, Colin Davis, and Carson Lafferty, at CityWorks preparing the cart that will hold the batteries.
“We are using our creativity on this continually expanding and changing exercise,” said Davis.
What he referred to is taking a rail hand car frame that came from a museum in Savannah, Georgia, and configuring it to hold two 300-volt  batteries of the type used to power Nissan Leaf cars. The batteries are about ten inches thick, three feet wide, and four feet long. They weigh 450 pounds each. The assembled battery pack cart will then be hooked up to a trolley and the electricity will “fuel” the trolley electric motors.
According to Belmont Trolley official Nate Wells, the final design appearance of the power carts is still be mulled.
“We will probably use a more modern look compared to a vintage one,” he said.
The power cart will be recharged at a special station.
“Eventually we would like to use a remote-control phone app to monitor the location and charge of the cart,” said Wells. “There could also be electronics in the trolleys that could communicate with the cart.”
Meanwhile, paint work on the trolleys continued last week. The 1913 Brill trolley, the one that first came to Belmont six years ago, is getting its final coat of color.
“PME in Gastonia is doing the painting,” said Wells.  “The colors will be posh red, classic teal, and cream/white like Belmont’s new city logo.”
Trolleys No. 1 and No. 85 that came from Charlotte back in January, are at CityWorks as well. Their paint was already good, and they are rarin’ to go once the battery cart is done.
“We hope to have No. 1 on display sometime this summer,” said Wells.
The dream of a trolley barn near downtown Belmont is still very much a part of the plan.
“What’s the big picture for 2022?” said Wells.  “We will spend the bulk of this year trying to complete our capital campaign for the restoration of our car and to provide funding to build a car barn.  Ideally, we would like to begin construction on the car barn by the fall of 2022 with construction completed by the spring of 2023.  It will be a fairly large capital campaign, but we believe with the arrival of the two Charlotte cars and the progress we are making on the restoration of our own car and the battery cart to supply power to each car, it’ll help energize our campaign significantly.  That affectively summarizes our plans for 2022. Our vision looking out three, five, ten years, etc:  We’ll start to refine that vision as the capital campaign takes off and we look towards implementation of the project sometime hopefully in the spring of 2023.”

See more photos on page 8
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City of Belmont employee Jack Wall (left) and goat owners Cassie Rice and Jacob Porter escort the critters across E. Catawba St.

They’re bbbaaaccckkk… goats clearing kudzu in East Belmont that is
 

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info
Folks driving down E. Catawba St. near Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park have been giving second looks at what’s on the roadside there- no, it’s not a squashed woodchuck- it’s a herd of goats.
The cloven-hoofed creatures are temporary City of Belmont employees. They’ve been “hired” from Neeses, S.C.-based Green Goat Land Management to chomp their way through an 18-acre patch of underbrush and kudzu. The plot is part of the proposed Abbey Creek Greenway but as a gateway to the city needed cleaning up anyway.
Cost to hire the goats is $58,000. The upside is goats cost half as much to clear an area as heavy equipment. They also eat ten percent of their body weight every day and eat twenty-two hours a day. They are quiet and don’t bother a soul so don’t bother them.
The Belmont goats are kept from wandering to the river or any of the local ale houses by an electric fence. The plan is to keep them on the job until fall. It’s possible the goats could also be used munch some weeds near the water treatment plant.
The goats have been doing a great job. After just a few days they have eaten a large patch of browse. The only downside is the mass of drink bottles, beer cans, old tires, and other debris that was lurking beneath it.
Contrary to popular legend, goats don’t eat cans.
The city has a request- “PLEASE do NOT stop or park on the side of E. Catawba Street to go see the goats. This can be dangerous for you and others.”
 The goats are also behind an electric fence, so you don’t want your encounter with them to be a shocking one.
The goats are quickly becoming celebrities. If you would like to meet and pet the goats, they will be in downtown Belmont for Garibaldi Festival Goes Green on Saturday, April 30.
To learn more about the benefits and process of goatscaping, visit: https://greengoatlandmgt.com
This is not the first time that Belmont has brought goats in to clean up underbrush. Back round 2014 when Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park was in the embryonic stage, a group of goats was hired to eat “stuff” on the park side of E. Catawba, which they did with vigor.
Other local towns have used goats for similar purposes. Mt. Holly had a herd clear out a ravine near Hwy. 273 and Hwy 27 several years ago. Cramerton also employed a gaggle of goats from Horseshoe NC-based Wells Farm in 2017 to clear out overgrowth at Central Park to great effect.
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Signs like this are popping up all over Belmont. The new Planning and Zoning 2021 Year End Report explains why.

Belmont Planning and Zoning report details growth and development

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


There’s no doubt that residential and commercial development in Belmont is exploding and a statistical report recently prepared by the City of Belmont Planning and Zoning Dept. illustrates the extent of that kaboom. The report is titled “Planning and Zoning 2021 Year End Report”.
The report covers a wide variety of topics ranging from property valuation to where the growth is happening geographically and what new developments are on the horizon.
According to the report, Belmont issued 482 residential zoning permits with a value of $64,332,972 in 2021. Fifty two percent of the permits were for single family homes.
Active subdivisions built out 100 percent include Laurel Walk, Morgans branch, and McLean. Projects still being built include Belle Meade, South Shore Phase 1, Belmont Town Square, Amberley, Overlake Phase 1 and 2, and Reflection Pointe.
Other developments currently in the works include- Dixon Village: 28 home mixed-income single family residential subdivision, Smith Farm: 76 mixed residential community consisting of both single family residential homes and townhomes, Prince Street Subdivision: conditional zoning conditional zoning special use permit, Amendment Of River West: conditional zoning amendment, Del Webb Community: conditional zoning, Imperial Lofts: Mixed-use development with 9 residential condominium units and 7 commercial spaces.
Last year the number of non-residential permits tallied in at 85 with a value of $268,444,696.
Currently there are five major projects underway in Belmont. These include the new Caromont Hospital, Chronicle Mill, Riverwest Business Park, The Morris, and the new City of Belmont Parks and Rec. building.
The City of Belmont’s Planning Department reviews various types of plan review projects. In 2021, the department received 67 total plan review applications. Types of applications received included Plat 29, Site Plan 14, Sketch Plan 17, Special Use Permit 3, Zoning Map Amendment 4.
There are plenty of new developments coming up this year as well. For 2022 these include: Lakeview Farms, Henry’s Chapel, Imperial Mills, Crescent Mixed Use, Central Park South, GC Fiber Innovation Center, Park Street Place, Belmont Abbey Dorms, Culver’s restaurant, TKC Double Oaks, and The Oaks at Belmont.
Compiling and organizing the report took a lot of work by a dedicated team of professionals in the Planning Dept. Staff includes- Shelley Dehart, Planning Director; Alex Robinson, Senior Planner;  Tiffany Faro, Senior/Transportation Planner; Peyton Ratchford, Associate Planner; Melissa Lockamy, City Planner; Jaime Lisi, Planning Technician;
For a more detailed look at the Planning and Zoning 2021 Year End Report go to https://storage.googleapis.com/proudcity/belmontnc/uploads/2022/03/2021-PZ-Year-End-Report-7.pdf.
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This group of Belmont Fire Dept. staff as well as City of Belmont personnel director Debra Brown (center), and intrepid BannerNews editor (in full gear), took part in training last week that involved entering a burning building at the Gaston College Regional Emergency Services Training Center. (See more photos on pages 6 & 7 in this week's issue, April 21, 2022) Photo by Matthew Hodge

Belmont FD keeps skills sharp with realistic training

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


Proper training, and a dedication to the job, are vital to success in any profession and the Belmont Fire Dept. is rich in both regards.
Last Monday saw a dozen Belmont firefighters, along with guests that included City of Belmont human resources director Debra Brown and this writer, travel to the Gaston College Regional Emergency Services Training Center for a morning of smoke and fire.
The main exercise of the day involved loading a room at one of the “burn buildings”, with bales of straw and pallets, lighting the mix ablaze, then when things got toasty, going in with hoses to extinguish the conflagration. The exercise was designed to simulate a house fire.
But before the first match is struck, the firefighters have to suit up. The jackets and pants are stifling hot and heavy. The oxygen mask grips your face like a clammy hand. The air tank weighs you down. The boots are clumsy, and the fire hat presses on your head. The equipment weights about 50 pounds.
But that’s just the start. Once suited up, you must unload heavy coils of hose and drag them to the fire. Then you knock down a door to get  inside. Once that’s done, you enter what looks like the gates of Hades.
Going into the practice burn house hallway, it’s smoky and dark. The fire in another room glows eerily. You get down on hands and knees to stay below the smoke which rises to the ceiling. The burning straw and pallets give off an acrid stench and the heat soaks into your protective gear. Being in the scene gives a perfect idea of why people and animals run away from fire- while firefighters run in.
Brown says putting on the gear and entering the inferno gave her a greater appreciation of the job that the Belmont Fire Dept.- which has 25 full time and 21 part time employees- does every day.
“I wanted to see what firefighters do,” Brown said. “When I went into the fire and got to put it out with the hose it was exhilarating. It was awesome. I got to see firsthand what it was like. Now, I appreciate our firefighters even more.”
Last Monday’s training exercise was just the tip of the iceberg regarding what the Belmont Fire Dept. does to stay on their “A” game.
BFD public information officer Matthew Hodge explained.
“We train in some manner every day at the station, but here at Gaston College we can practice with live fire. We try to come here at least three times a year.”
Hodge praised the Gaston College layout which offers firefighters several different training scenarios.
“Fire departments from all over come here for training,” he said. “It’s awesome to have this level of facility so close by to us.”
Division captain Craig Austin, who has 35 years in the fire service under his belt, also talked about the training day.
“This type of training helps us save lives and property,” he said. “It also helps keep us out of danger.”
So, the next time you see a firefighter from Belmont or anywhere else for that matter, be sure to thank them for the hard work they do. It’s thanks well deserved.
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Local students among those selected for NC Governor’s School program


Seventeen students from Gaston County Schools have been selected to attend the 2022 session of the prestigious North Carolina Governor’s School. Students from South Point, East Gaston, and Stuart Cramer make up twelve of those picked.
Held annually at two sites, Governor’s School East is at Meredith College in Raleigh and Governor’s School West is at Winston-Salem State University.  The program runs June 19 through July 16.
Governor’s School is a summer enrichment program for 820 students from across the state.  It is the oldest statewide summer residential program for academically and/or intellectually gifted high school students in the nation.  The experience provides an opportunity for outstanding students to explore the latest developments, problems, and theories in the various fields of the arts and sciences.
Nominations for Governor’s School are made by each local high school, reviewed by a local committee, and submitted to a state committee for final selection.  The process is extremely competitive.  Students are chosen based on academic standing or the ability to perform in an area of concentration such as dance, art, music, and drama.
Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker stated:  “We would like to congratulate our students who were chosen to attend Governor’s School 2022.  Being selected is one of the most significant accomplishments a high school student can achieve.  The students are to be commended for their outstanding achievement and for being among the brightest and most talented students in our state.”
A distinguished faculty chosen from public and private schools, colleges and universities, and private businesses and organizations serve as teachers in the program.  Nationally-recognized consultants also provide instruction.
The following students from Gaston County Schools were chosen to attend Governor’s School this summer.  The list includes their high school and area of study. Local students are pictured.

Governor’s School - East
Sherry Ramos Martinez, Ashbrook High School - Math
Abby Michael, Stuart W. Cramer High School - Dance
Mattie Branham, East Gaston High School - Instrumental Music, Tuba
Hayden Dillard, East Gaston High School - Instrumental Music, Trumpet
Kathryn Meranto, East Gaston High School - Choral Music, Soprano 2
Olivia Metts, East Gaston High School - English
Samuel Cook, Highland School of Technology - Social Science
Nicole Allen, South Point High School - Math
Avery Boyd, South Point High School - Math
Jordan Coffey, South Point High School - Choral Music, Soprano 2
James Crawford, South Point High School - Instrumental Music, Percussion
Abigail Miss, South Point High School - English

Governor’s School - West
Marley Prato, Stuart W. Cramer High School - Theater
Kaitlyn Russell, East Gaston High School - Social Science
A’ja Adams, Forestview High School - Social Science
Sarah Younan, Forestview High School - Social Science
Abigail Osborne, Highland School of Technology - Natural Science
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This group of Belmont High School Class of 1961 got together at The Captain’s Cap restaurant last week for some fried fish and friendship. The former Red Raiders enjoyed recollecting their days at the school and swapping stories. (See more photos on page 5 of this week's issue (April 21, 2022)

Belmont High Class of 1961 members shared a wealth of memories

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

Folks are in their senior year in high school but once. For some it’s a time they had rather forget. For others, it’s a time the memories of which they hold dear to their heart forever.
The latter opinion is the case for a group of about a dozen members of the Belmont High School class of 1961 who recently gathered at The Captain’s Cap restaurant for some seafood and socializing.
Folks who showed up included Ronnie Robinson (who shared his BHS memories in a special column in the March 31 BannerNews), Kitty Helms, Bobby Finchum, Lamar Jackson, Judy Anderson, Burt Willis, Wayne Ray, Glenda Garrett, Howard Wooten, Charles Hicks, and Sherry Alexander.
The classmates greeted each other warmly, then wasted little time bantering back and forth as they turned the clock back over six decades.
The memories they shared had a heaping helping of humor and several related episodes that could best be described as “good, clean, fun”.
“I was a letter girl,” said Kitty Helms. “I was the ‘B’. The thing I enjoyed most was marching in the parades. It was great!”
Judy Helms recalled her teenage job and claimed to be one of the ‘quiet ones’ even though her sparkling personality seemed to contradict that description.
“I worked at Catawba Pharmacy,” she said. “I was also very shy.”
Burt Willis was a musician.
“I played clarinet and saxophone in the band,” he said.
He also recalled the band teacher.
“His name was Mr. Widenhouse,” Willis recalled. “He was there a long time.”
Lamar Jackson was a member of the football team.
“We played our games at Davis Park and the ground there was really hard,” Jackson said. “I broke my leg and missed part of the season.”
Moving around the table, Wayne Ray also recalled his sports days as a Red Raider- and how that legacy is continuing today.
“I played football and basketball,” he said. “My grandson Cooper Ray goes to South Point and plays baseball.”
Ray also recalled one of those ‘good, clean, fun’ episodes.
“For the initiation into the Monogram Club you had to stand on the ground beside the school building while boys cracked eggs on the upper floor and dropped the yolks to try and hit the ones on the ground in the mouth.”
Romance struck Glenda Garrett at BHS.
“I met my future husband Buddy Garrett there,” she said. “He sold me a Red Raiders license tag. We’ve been together ever since.”
Howard Wooten’s wry sense of humor emerged in his memory of BHS.
“I wondered if I would ever get out that place,” he said. “Everybody was smarter than me!”
The time that Charles Hicks spent at BHS was a precursor to military service.
“There were a bunch of good people at that school,” he said. “After I graduated, I joined the Navy.”
Sherry Alexander recalled learning to drive.
“I remember my driver’s ed.ucation class,” she said. “I only cut class once, but the principal Mr. Cortner found out and called my daddy.”
Speaking of driving, several of the Class of 61 lunch buddies remembered the time that a foreign car made a scene at school. The make of car sparked a bit of debate.
“One time some boys put a little car on the sidewalk at the entrance of the school,” said Buddy Finchum. “I think it was a VW.”
Other classmates exchanged opinions on the make and owner. One person said it was a girl named Joy Miller. Another said Nancy Ramsey. Another said the episode was documented with a photo in the Class of 61 yearbook “The Clarion”.
Intrigued, this writer went to the Belmont Historical Society museum where Red Raider yearbooks going back decades are kept, and grabbed the 1961 version. There the mystery was solved- a photo showing Finchum and Ramsey in a Fiat 600 car in front of the school doors.
One thing all members of the Class of 61 who meet last week agreed on- leave the Red Raiders mascot alone. The idea of changing it was not popular. Finchum summed it up- “It sucks” he said.
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Gastonia-based Compleat KiDZ has purchased the former Belmont Middle School for $3.1 million.

Former Belmont Middle School
will be base for eclectic
blend of businesses

 

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


At its March 26 meeting, the Gaston County Board of Commissioners approved the sale of the former Belmont Middle School building to Gastonia based Compleat KiDZ for $3.1 million, and last Monday the Gaston County Board of Education also approved the sale, but those are just the first steps that will need to be taken to transform the 100,000 sq. ft. structure into what the company envisions for its future.
The next step will have the City of Belmont get involved. That will mean city council and planning and zoning meetings and approval for the project and its potential uses.
In the meantime, numerous ideas for what the building could house are already being formulated. Compleat KiDZ marketing director Bob Fremgen talked about options.
“We will use the center rear of the building for our clinic and the upstairs of that space as our offices,” he said. “The second floor could be an artist incubator and space for tech companies. There will be retail. The cafeteria and gym could be a brewery and food court. The auditorium could be a music and performance venue.”
Other ideas include four condos on the third floor in the main building and
two on the fourth floor of the back building with a penthouse on the fourth floor of the main building.
Special consideration will be given to the autistic children that Compleat KiDZ serves.
“The whole space will be autism and sensory friendly,” he said. “This building will house one of Compleat Kidz’s most updated and best equipped clinics - professionals, technology, methodologies and physical space.”
To handle parking, it’s possible a deck could be built on the piece of land behind the school. However, that property is part of Stowe Park and owned by the City of Belmont so that’s an issue that will need to be ironed out. The idea is to provide around 500 spaces.
Fremgen says after the clinic opens in perhaps a year, and that when the project is completed, which could take several years, vendors will be asked to donate one percent of their income to an autism charity.
Fremgen stressed that Compleat KiDZ understands what the building means to Belmont.
“We consider ourselves caretakers of this facility, on its journey forward, as it transitions from kids who passed through here in Belmont Middle to kids who are reaching their potential at Compleat Kidz,” he said.
More about the building
The building has a history going back over 80 years. It was built in 1938 by local contractor Will Hand. The school was state of the art for its time. It had a spacious auditorium, a superb gym, science rooms, music rooms, a library, and textile vocational classes. When South Point High was built in 1964, the building became Belmont Middle School. Last year, when the new Belmont Middle School on South Point Rd. was opened, the building was closed and its furniture and other equipment auctioned off.
The overall impression of the building is one of space. It has over 105,000 sq. ft. That’s enough to equal 100 hotel rooms. The auditorium can seat 840 people. The gym has 7,800 sq. ft. of space. The cafeteria has 4,000 sq. ft. There are 65 parking spots right now. The school sits on 4.5 acres of prime real estate
The school is just a couple of miles from US74 and I85. It’s about 15 minutes from Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.
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Piedmont Lithium Inc. and Habitat for Humanity Gaston County representatives at the check presentation event. From left- Keith Phillips, president and CEO of Piedmont Lithium, Inc., Malissa Gordon, government and community relations manager, Piedmont Lithium, Inc., Steve Whitesell, Habitat for Humanity Gaston County board chair, Kay Peninger, Habitat for Humanity Gaston County executive director.

Piedmont Lithium partners with Habitat for Humanity of Gaston County to build Dixon Village home

Edited by Alan Hodge
Piedmont Lithium Inc., a leading, diversified developer of lithium resources to help power the U.S. electric vehicle supply chain, has announced its “Full Home Partnership” with Habitat for Humanity of Gaston County.
The $150,000 financial commitment, along with volunteer hours donated by members of the Piedmont family, along with others from the community, are dedicated to building a new home in Dixon Village on Lee Road in North Belmont.
Dixon Village is a 7.5-acre development that will contain 28 single-family homes. Approximately one-third of these homes will be for Habitat homeowners, making it one of the few developments in the nation that is setting a new precedent for mixed-income living.
Currently, the site has been graded off and ready for lots to be laid out. Water and culvert pipes are stockpiled and ready for installation. Landscaping has begun.
Dixon Village is a neighborhood that will provide much needed residences for Habitat families and entry-level buyers in a community built around an innovative approach to providing affordable housing. Dixon Village is specifically designed to encourage interaction in a diverse, closely-knit community, creating what research shows are economic, social, and educational benefits for the Gaston County region, and especially for those who have the opportunity to live in a neighborhood like Dixon Village.
“As a company focused on making a product that will positively impact the quality of life of people across the county by addressing climate change and creating high-tech manufacturing jobs in the region, doing something that enhances the quality of life of others in our community in a different way is in complete alignment with our purpose and core values,” said Piedmont Lithium CEO Keith Phillips. “Our team is excited to give their time and resources to help others, and serve the community we work and live in. We try to keep in mind, we make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,” added Phillips.
At the check presentation event, Phillips expressed his excitement by telling event attendees- “Give me a hammer and I will come help.”
New research shows that communities like Dixon Village make a positive contribution to the area in a number of different ways, including a significant impact on success later in life for low-income children who grow up in a mixed income neighborhood.
Kay Peninger, Habitat for Humanity of Gaston County Executive Director, stated, “We are grateful to Piedmont Lithium for their leadership gift to help Habitat families purchase a home they can afford on their wages.  Housing is not just about shelter.  It’s about homeownership and it represents a gateway and an opportunity to building a better future.  With the strength, stability and self-reliance that owning an affordable home brings, Habitat families can focus on their lives, their health, their children, their dreams, and their path to a brighter future!”
Peninger also addressed the aesthetic aspect of Dixon Village.
“This will be a charming and attractive community,” she said.

Pharr’s renovation projects signal McAdenville’s shift to becoming a year-round destination

By Hallie Dean at Luquire
with input from Pharr and Town of McAdenville 
Best known for its spectacular holiday lights, McAdenville is preparing to welcome new retailers, food and beverage providers, office users and recreation enthusiasts.
In a careful blend of preserving rich, important history and capitalizing on exciting economic opportunities, Pharr, a local company with deep roots in the quiet town of McAdenville, is unveiling a series of renovation and renewal projects to foster continued growth in the historic community.
A quintessential small town situated along the South Fork River, McAdenville was named in 1883 for McAden Mills, the textile company that was started there by R.Y. McAden. Acquired in 1939 by visionary William J. Pharr and family members, Pharr remains a family-owned company that for generations has been a positive force in the town, and is now reimagining its riverfront property and spaces that once housed yarn manufacturing, repurposing them for new businesses and year-round visitors with much to offer the community.
McAdenville is perhaps best known today as “Christmas Town U.S.A.®” for its annual Christmas lights tradition that attracts visitors from miles away. But the town is now ready and more than prepared to show people what it’s all about beyond the holiday display, striving to be viewed as a year-round destination. “Today we’re thrilled to announce the beginning of a series of projects to invest in McAdenville’s future while honoring its rich history,” said Pharr CEO Bill Carstarphen, the family’s third-generation company leader. “By putting our efforts and energy behind carefully selected, sound investments, we hope to invite and attract new businesses, customers, families and outdoor enthusiasts, while keeping our close-knit-community feel.”
The former 1940s Pharr Yarns mill adjacent to Pharr’s corporate office in downtown McAdenville is being converted to class A office space, to be known as the Dynamo 31 Building. The name symbolizes the hydroelectric generator built and installed in 1884 by the Edison Electric Illuminating Co. to light McAden Mills No. 1 and No. 2, believed by many historians to have been the first electrically lit textile mills in the world. The repurposed building’s first tenant, The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, will move in by mid-May, with more tenants expected to follow shortly after.
Renovations are also under way on the historic Mill No. 2 building, including replacing the turret roofs with new copper, repointing the brickwork and adding new windows. Brick surfaces will also be treated to restore their original appearance, while newly installed uplighting will provide a dramatic nighttime presence.
The historic mill building at the center of town, opened in 1907 and originally known as McAden Mill No. 3, is being transformed into space that will likely house commercial uses such as food and beverage, retail and/or entertainment space. The open-air gathering space will be designed with customers in mind, embracing the riverfront with outdoor seating and entertainment. The initial renovations are focused on the building’s exterior and flooring, and are expected to be completed within the next few months.
 Elsewhere in downtown McAdenville, 115 Craft, a new taproom and retailer for wine and craft beer, will soon join the list of local establishments that include recent addition Revolver Records, a retailer of vinyl records and related merchandise.
Also seeking to add recreational opportunities for McAdenville’s residents and visitors, Pharr is constructing an extension of the Carolina Thread Trail, a 10-foot-wide paved walking trail along the South Fork River with views of the falls at the McAdenville dam, connecting an existing trailhead near the I-85 bridge to the picturesque J.M. Carstarphen bridge overlooking the falls.
This new trail in McAdenville will be an important segment of a 26-mile trail along the river that will eventually extend from Spencer Mountain to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, connecting the cities of Lowell, McAdenville, Cramerton and Belmont.
Additionally, the picturesque lake in the heart of downtown is being dredged, and a newly landscaped perimeter will be added, to offer better access and views for the community while improving the health of the lake for fish and other wildlife.
 “Our beloved town is known for its quaint, kind offerings and for our Christmas Town USA spectacle, but we are so much more than that,” said Jim Robinette, mayor of McAdenville. “These renovations will bring economic growth and provide new places to gather for fun and fellowship but most importantly, they will tell the stories of this town and shed a light on its rich history and resilient, good people.” Details around construction, timing and tenants are subject to change, and additional announcements will follow as plans are finalized.
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Auten-Stowe American Legion Post 144 commander Barry Smith, Dept. of NC Auxiliary president Jill Puett, and NC commander Jim Quinlan.

Belmont’s Auten-Stowe American Legion Post 144 celebrates 100 years

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

Patriotism was the password last Saturday when Belmont’s American Legion Auten-Stowe Post 144 celebrated its centennial.
A large crowd of Post 144 members, local and state officials, and interested citizenry attended the event which was held at the headquarters in Belmont.
Post 144 commander Barry Smith had this to say about the centennial.
“It’s quite an accomplishment since very few organizations reach one hundred years,” he said. “We want to recall this day and remember those who went before and the good that Post 144 has done in the community. We look forward to many more years.”
American Legion NC commander Jim Quinlan visited Belmont for the event and made remarks. Quinlan recounted the history of the American Legion on a national level, and complimented Post 144 in particular.
“I am honored to be here,” Quinlan said. “You all have done a great job with Post 144.”
Other speakers included Belmont mayor Charles Martin, Post 144 past commander Dan Cloninger, and Post 144 vice commander Bill Blackett..
Connie Atkins and Courtney Bowne sang patriotic songs. Rev. Joe Lawing delivered a heartfelt invocation.
Following the speeches, everyone attacked the two 100th anniversary cakes, washed them down with plenty of soda pop, and enjoyed a beautiful spring morning with plenty of Belmont-style “liberté, égalité, fraternité” (that’s liberty, equality, fraternity” in French).
A Brief History of Post 144
Post 144 got its start on March 20, 1921 when a group of WWI Belmont veterans decided to form an American Legion Post. It was decided to name it after two Belmont lads who had been killed in the war-  William Auten and Charles Stowe. A year later, March 29, 1922, Post 144 received its charter.
For many years, Post 144 members met at a building called the “Community Center”. In 1952, the headquarters were located to its current location on Park Dr. near Davis Park.
Over the decades, Post 144 has been active in many civic affairs. In 1922, it organized the first volunteer fire dept. in Belmont. The group was instrumental in seeing that a memorial was built in Greenwood Cemetery honoring local WWI soldiers who had been killed in action.  This monument was dedicated on August 15, 1922. Post 144 has also made it possible each year since the 1960s for local students to attend the one-week Boys and Girls State seminar held at Catawba College. This program allows the students to study politics and government during their stay.
Post 144 was also active in the campaign that saw the Spirit of the Fighting Yank WWII memorial statue moved from its former location at Belmont Middle School to front and center at Stowe Park. Seeing the statue in its current location is a highlight of any visit to downtown Belmont.
Each Memorial Day, Post 144 places American flags on veteran graves in Greenwood Cemetery and other locations. It also organizes Memorial Day and Veterans Day events.
Baseball has been a big part of Post 144’s legacy. It has sponsored team since the 1930s and is still active in baseball to this day.
Each year Post 144 holds a gala Christmas celebration. Traditionally, an outstanding local citizen receives the Community Service Award at the event.
Currently, Post 144 has over 200 members who share a strong bond of comradeship and camaraderie.
Also, here’s a list of upcoming Post 144 events
Memorial Day Weekend - put out flags and breakfast.
Gun Raffle tickets begin sales in June - Drawing TBD.
August 27 - 100th year of Post 144 receiving charter from National American Legion,
September 17th - Fish Fry.
October 8th - SAL Golf Tournament (this date is tentative).
November 11th - Veterans Day.
December 10th - Army/Navy football game.
Also remember that regular meetings are the first Thursday of each month at 7:00 PM, but do not meet in July or December.
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Belmont Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe (right) and Spohn Ranch skate park project boss Justin Ricks at the job site.

Work underway on Belmont skatepark

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

After many years of talking, planning, and searching for the right location, a skate park is finally being built in Belmont.
The idea for a skate park goes all the way back to 2005 after 13-year-old Trevor Gray was hit by a vehicle while he was skateboarding in East Belmont. Gray died following the accident.
Since then, several places that skateboarders could safely enjoy their sport have been considered, but finding the perfect one has been problematic. Now, with most City of Belmont operations being housed at CityWorks at 1401  E. Catawba St. and extra land available there, a place for the $200,000 skate park project is being carved out along the 13th St. side of the building.
Work on the project began last week. A crew from LA-based Spohn Ranch, who designed the park, have already moved considerable dirt.
Project supervisor Justin Ricks, who has built skate parks across the country, watched as his men did their job.
“It’s always exciting to build a new park,” he said. “Kids have already been stopping buy wanting to know when it will be finished.”
According to Rick, the answer to that question is (drum roll)…about two months.
Belmont Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe is excited about the park too.
“Since the skate park in Charlotte at Eastland closed, I expect our park will see a lot of use,” Stowe said.
The park will have the usual jumps, whoops, and bowls, but there will also be a section with a milder configuration for beginners.
“The beginner’s section will be about 1,300 sq. ft.,” Stowe said.
Also on the CityWorks grounds, work continues on the new parks and rec. center. Last week, crews were building the large retaining wall that will nestle the building in the slope in front of CityWorks. Work on the building’s foundation is getting underway as well.
Across Catawba St. from those two projects, the final touches are being put on the new playground area at Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park by workers from Carolina Parks and Play. The assorted, brightly colored, equipment is in place and work has started on a large awning that will cover much of it making rain or shine play possible. The new playground will feature rubber-based matting that will keep mud and dust down as well as providing a cushion in case of stumbles.
When the playground is done in a couple of weeks, Stowe sees Loftin Park returning to large attendance numbers.
“We will have a lot of families coming here again,” he says. “I believe we will probably need some more picnic shelters.”
Stowe says that rental of the picnic shelters helps pay for park maintenance, but sponsorships are welcome too.
Interested in sponsoring a new picnic shelter? Call Stowe at 704-913-2910.
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George Kitchen

Belmont’s George Kitchen
is a coaching legend

By Ray Hardee
George Kitchen is a Belmont legend- born, raised, and stayed. A local Belmont High School (1953-1957) graduate, George has invested his life in the local community. Literally hundreds of student-athletes received their tutelage under the wise influence of George Kitchen.
George began his coaching career in Belmont Little League Baseball in 1973. Over a thirteen-year coaching career, he did it all- individual team coaching, all-star coaching, and league executive leadership as Vice-President of Little League Baseball. Quick to share the credit, Kitchen points out that he was part of a great executive team including President Ed Horne as well as Joe Steele, the Secretary and Treasurer.
George helped the little guys not only in baseball, but also football. He served as a Pop Warner football coach for three years.
His dedication to children and youth deepened as time passed. His commitment extended to South Point High School where he started coaching women’s softball in 1984 and continued to the present day. He has been a part of nineteen playoff appearances and no less than seven conference championships.
Not one to limit his influence, George has also been coaching at Belmont Middle School. Believe it or not, he also has been simultaneously coaching on this level as an assistant coach since 2016 while serving as an assistant softball coach at South Point. Along the way, Belmont Middle has made six playoff appearances.
Just in case you think George takes other sports seasons off, think again. He ran clock for the junior varsity and varsity girls and boys basketball teams at South Point from 1985 until 2007. Along the way he ran the junior varsity football, varsity baseball, and varsity softball clocks as well.
Always serving behind the scenes, George Kitchen helps the athletes shine out front. He would have it no other way. At his heart, he is a servant-leader and a model leader for others to follow.
The Belmont Sports Hall of Fame banquet will be held on April 19, 2022 at Park Street United Methodist Church in Belmont, NC. Tickets can be purchased for $20 from Phil Champion State Farm Insurance and the Belmont Drug Store.
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Keep Belmont Beautiful Plant Sale is April 9th

The Keep Belmont Beautiful annual fundraiser spring plant sale is coming soon.
KBB is now accepting your preorders. Just remember that the cutoff date is April 9th. Checks payable to KBB, 1401 East Catawba Street, Belmont, NC 28012.
Pick up your plants on Saturday, April 30th from 10 AM - 1 PM on the front lawn of the Belmont Historical Society (rain or shine). Then go enjoy BHS’s Living History Day.
Contact: Elizabeth at 704/813-2648 or boborliz@bellsouth.net.
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These ladies spent last Saturday morning volunteering at the Mt. Holly Community Garden. From left Madelyn Sanders, Addison Shuler, Harper Allen. Photo by Alan Hodge

Spring has sprung at the Mt. Holly Community Garden

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


Spring is in the air at the Mt. Holly Community Garden.
Last Saturday saw a diverse group of folks converge on the Mt. Holly Community Garden site next to First United Methodist Church and begin getting it ready for planting season.
Workers pulled old growth, topped up the beds with fresh soil, and in general tidied the place up. Even though a chilly wind swirled, the warm feeling of folks working together on the garden’s 52 raised beds prevailed. The garden’s official replanting day will be April 23.
Emily Nishiyama and her family were on hand tending their garden plot.
“The garden is a great way to get involved in the community,” she said. “This is our first run at gardening, and we are going to grow tomatoes and herbs. It’s a new adventure.”
A group of six volunteers at the garden were from the National Civilian Community Corps (Americorp). These folks had come to Mt. Holly from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan, Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Colorado. They were staying at Kings Mtn. State Park where another group of their colleagues were volunteering. The group’s outreach person had found out about the Mt. Holly Community Garden online and contacted garden president Erin Denison to arrange the workday.
Denison says everyone is looking forward to the garden’s eighth season- and a return to pre-Covid operations.
“We are excited to get our programming back,” she said. “This season we will be featuring yoga in the garden, cooking classes, and other educational classes.”
Other happenings with the garden include the continued sale of engraved memorial bricks, being part of the Community Run for the Money event, and sharing some of the garden’s produce with the Mt. Holly Community Relief Organization. Denison also says that there are a couple of plots still available. More information on these subjects and others can be found at the garden’s website https://www.mounthollycommunitygarden.com/.
Overall, warmer weather will once again have the garden blooming and providing not only a bounty of fresh vegetables and flowers, but also a place where everyone is welcome to come sit a spell and enjoy a place of peace and beauty.
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Here’s a shot taken last week of the River West building that’s nearing external completion.

North Belmont business park project moving along

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


The River West business park project in North Belmont is well underway. The project is located at the intersection of Woodlawn Rd., Cason St, and Acme Rd.
McMillan Pazdan Smith is providing design services to Tribek Properties for the project. Also collaborating on the job are Seamon Whiteside, and McVeigh & Mangum Engineering.
The two huge warehouse and office structures being built will have a total area of around 600,000 sq. ft. One building is about half done and concrete panel walls for the other are currently being put in place. Building West features a double-loaded dock with access from both sides, enabling multi-tenant access, and Building East is a single-loaded dock.
When completed later this summer, it is estimated the project could generate 250 to 350 new jobs.
The project has necessitated road improvements one of which will eliminate the blind intersection at Acme Rd. and Woodlawn and the other has already seen a reconfiguration of Cason St.
The 60-acre site where the development is being built has a long and interesting history going back to the 19th century when it was part of a 650-acre plot Robert Smith purchased from Catawba Indians in 1830 for $1,000. At one time around 1900, a gold mine was located along the banks of Fite Creek on the property.
Later, the land was the site of Acme Spinning Mill. That textile facility opened around 1920 and operated not one, but two mills. It also had a village of company houses as well as a baseball field for workers and their families. In 1986, “the Acme” as it was known, was sold to Parkdale Mills who kept it going until 2002. In 2005 the mill and many of its houses were torn down.
 
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Migjen Bakalli

Migjen Bakalli was a basketball standout

By Ray Hardee

Migjen is a legendary South Point High School athlete. This six-foot, six-inch guard lit up the nets as a high school standout and then as a Division 1 athlete at N.C. State.
His achievements on the hardwoods as he lit up the nets has earned him induction to the Belmont Sports Hall of Fame.
 Migjen is quick to give credit where credit is due-to his family, his community, and his coaches. He says, “My parents, Fejzullah and Virginia served as the foundation to all my basketball, athletic, and academic successes.” In addition to paying homage to his parents, he intones the value of his community when he says, “The basketball courts at Lakewood neighborhood in Cramerton are where I honed my skills as a child against my dad and his buddies.”
 As a 1990 graduate of South Point, Migjen had already earned All-Conference Honors on three occasions including his senior year. After his superlative senior season, he was named to the All-State Team.  He shares the credit with his high school coach, Bill Hannon (a Belmont Hall of Famer himself). Migjen writes, “Coach Hannon did a great job of teaching the game and always pushing me to get better. He would always take the time to open gyms during the summer at South Point where lots of the former athletic greats would show up and give you the business. Those runs during the summer were a great learning experience.”
 Migjen is the all-time South Point High School leader in career scoring with 1606 points as well as the single-season record holder with 658 points scored. Each of these records have stretched the scoring parameters and will not (if ever) be easily broken. During his senior season, he averaged 25.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 6.4 assists while leading South Point to their first sectional title game.
 Following his outstanding high school career, he was signed by none other than Jim Valvano, the legendary coach of N.C. State. During his four-year career at State, he averaged 6.7 points per game over a 72-game career span.  Selected as captain for his senior year, he also earned the distinction as a stellar three-point scorer over the entire span of his career scoring exactly 100 3-point goals for his career.
 Indeed, Bakalli still holds the N.C. State record for eight straight 3-point goals in a single game with a win over the University of Maryland. In addition, he hit six out of six field goal attempts in an NCAA tournament win over the University of Southern Mississippi that is still a Southeast NCAA Tournament Regional record.  His 47.7 percent three-point field goal completion percentage still ranks as seventh best all-time at N.C. State.
 Migjen Bakalli is a shining example of athletic excellence and a candidate who has certainly earned his place in the Belmont Sports Hall of Fame. The Belmont Sports Hall of Fame banquet will be held on April 19, 2022 at Park Street United Methodist Church in Belmont, NC. Tickets can be purchased for $20 from Phil Champion State Farm Insurance in Belmont and the Belmont Drug Store.
 
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Father Paul Buchanan chats with Judy Bell before the St. Joseph’s Day Mass event. Photo by Alan Hodge

179-year-old St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Mt. Holly welcomed folks last Saturday

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


March is Irish American Heritage Month and last Saturday a Mt. Holly landmark gave people a chance to step back in time at a place with strong connections to Ireland.
The event was a Catholic Mass held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church- the oldest still standing original Catholic church in North Carolina and the fourth oldest Catholic house of worship built in the state- to honor St. Joseph’s Day.
Last year’s service was called off due to Covid concerns, but the sun shined brightly this year and folks showed up masked and unmasked alike.
St. Joseph’s caretaker Bill Bridgeman from Mt. Holly was an attendee.
“It’s great that everyone can get out,” Bridgeman said.
Belmont resident Janet Rhyne also attended.
“It’s a beautiful day,” she said. “I’ve been coming here for the St. Joseph’s Day service for years.”
Real estate agent Judy Bell came from Cornelius to attend.
“I discovered this little church while showing a home in the area,” she said. “I became fascinated by it. What a piece of history.”
Father Paul Buchanan from Queen of Apostles Catholic Church in Belmont performed the Mass.
“It’s great to be back in person,” he said. “This church is a beautiful part of our history.”
The 179-year-old church was originally constructed in 1843 to serve local Irish Catholic miners and their families. The church is located on NC273 just past the Freightliner factory.
Nearly everything about St. Joseph’s except the roof, shutters, and a few other things date from its original construction. Even though the 1841 St. Paul’s Catholic Church in New Bern was the first church Catholic church built in North Carolina, a fire destroyed much of the original building in 1947. The fact that St. Joseph’s is nearly all the same as it was in 1843 lets it claim the title as the oldest original Catholic church in the state.
St. Joseph’s was built to serve the Irish miners who were in Gaston County looking for gold. They had come here to work for an Italian gent named Chevalier Riva de Finola and prior to the church’s construction had used his home as a place of worship. After de Finola met with financial setbacks, he moved out of the Gaston County and the miners were without a place to worship. Thus was born the need for a Catholic church near what would eventually be Mt. Holly.
A driving force behind the building of St. Joseph’s was Father T.J. Cronin who started a fundraising effort for the church’s cost which was estimated at $400.
Father Cronin had come to Gaston County from Charleston, S.C. A “circuit preacher”, he traveled a wide area, including Gaston County, depending on the hospitality of others as he spread the gospel.
Around 1841, one of the Irish miners, William Lornegan, donated six acres of land that would be the site for St. Joseph’s. The church was finished, debt free, in 1843. Unfortunately, Father Cronin had passed away in 1842 in Salisbury before he could see St. Joseph’s built. His body was later brought to the Lornegan plot and he was the first
person interred in what would be the St. Joseph’s church cemetery.
Next on the St. Joseph’s scene was another missionary, Father J.J. O’Connell, who conducted the first Mass there soon after the building was completed. Though he still continued his circuit riding duties, Father O’Connell would still swing by St. Joseph’s as often as possible to hold services.
In 1844, Father John Griffin came to St. Joseph’s. He would later become the bishop of Chicago. Other priests that served St. Joseph’s in the 19th century included Father L.P. Connell (1861-1865), and Father A.J. McNeil (1865-1870). Father O’Connell returned to St. Joseph’s from 1870-1877.
These days, St. Joseph’s is a mission of Queen of the Apostle’s Church in Belmont.
Before its restoration, St. Joseph’s went through decades of neglect and was even used at one time as a hay barn. In 1965, Father James Keenan of Queen of the Apostles raised money and had the roof repaired and a paint job done on the church.
After that repair, St. Joseph’s went through another decade sans maintenance. In 1974 Francis Galligan of Gastonia led an effort to set things right once and for all. With $15,000 raised from donations by the Knights of Columbus, Belmont Abbey College, Sacred Heart College, the Boy Scouts, and many individuals, St. Joseph’s was restored inside and out.
In addition to the church building itself, one of the most important parts of the site is the statue of St. Joseph himself that overlooks the cemetery. The statue stood for 75 years at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Asheville and arrived in Mount Holly in 2001. It weighs 1,600 lbs.
On Nov. 2, 1975, St. Joseph’s was rededicated by Rev. Michael Begley, bishop of Charlotte, and the Rev. Abbot Jude Cleary, of Belmont Abbey. More than 250 people attended the ceremony. In 1979, St. Joseph’s was named a National Historic Site by the US Dept. of the Interior and that same year a NC Highway Historical marker was erected in front of the church and cemetery.
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The Mt. Holly Farmers Market is opening April 2 and will be celebrating its 17th anniversary this year.

Mt. Holly Farmers Market getting set for another great season

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

The long-awaited spring 2022 opening of the Mt. Holly Farmers Market is coming up.  The market will have a soft opening at 8 am-12 noon, Saturday, April 2. The market will stay open until October.
The market is located at 226 S. Main St. in downtown Mt. Holly. Look for the large open-air trellis. This year marks the market’s 17th anniversary.
There will be two Entry/Exit points into the market for customers- one on Main St. and the other at the market rear parking lot. A pickup area will be provided if needed.
Now, for even better, long awaited, news.
“We are going back to our normal, pre-Covid, operating procedures,” said market manager Scott Griffin. “We are excited. We are pumped.”
The market will be offering the usual bounty of fresh vegetables, meat, baked goods, flowers, and more. Last year, a record-setting 34 vendors were on hand.
“We are hoping for even more vendors this year,” said Griffin.
In addition, there will be music starting from the very first day, and food trucks too.
“People can eat breakfast or lunch,” Griffin said.
Wait, there’s more.
“We will have a chef on hand every other week for cooking demonstrations using market products,” said Griffin.
As usual, credit and debit cards will be accepted at the market, as will EBT/SNAP transactions.
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is the nation’s most important anti-hunger program. SNAP provides benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families via an Electronic Benefits Transfer card. This card can be used like a debit card to purchase eligible food in authorized retail food stores.
To be eligible for SNAP, most households must meet certain bank balance limits. A household with an elderly (over 60) or disabled household member may have a higher bank balance limit. More details at https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program.
The way it works is folks can present their SNAP card at a booth for that purpose at the market. The card account values are used to obtain wooden tokens which are in turn used to purchase food. Precooked hot food and art and craft items cannot be bought with the tokens, but things such as fruit and vegetables can. Anyone, not just SNAP clients, can purchase the wooden tokens instead of using a bank card or writing a check for their purchases. Venmo electronic pay will also be available at some vendors.
Overall, this year’s Mt. Holly Farmers Market will once again be an oasis of healthy food for its customers and a place where folks can meet and mingle- closer than six feet if they take a notion.
For more information visit https://www.homegrownmountholly.com.
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MARK YOUNG

Mark Young- A life in sports

By Ray Hardee

He started playing competitive sports when he was still in the single digits- he was nine. Over the years, he played every sport to which he was introduced. In his family, it was a matter of survival. As part of a family of seven, they shared common characteristics- competitive and focused.  Mark says, “I often remember playing sports and truly enjoyed the experience of competing against my older brothers. It was always fun trying to get one up on them. The joys of childhood and the age of innocence with no responsibilities was a great thing in our house.”
 Mark got his start playing football for the “tiny” Optimist football team in Dallas, N.C. The next year, he took a step up with the Optimist Pop Warner. Moving to Belmont and living right on the line between Belmont and McAdenville- a haven for the vaunted McAdenville Dolphins. In a long line of excellence and tradition, he joined his team as they made the annual trek to Florida to play bowl teams there from the Sunshine State.
 In Junior High (then the name for what we call today “middle school”), Mark began playing at Belmont Junior High. He earned the tight to play the quarterback position, enjoyed it immensely, and found his niche. Previously, he had played the running back position almost exclusively.  Now, taking the helm behind the center, he discovered his true calling, hitting his stride with his now well-developed athletic talents and skills. The laboratory of athletic development for Mark was exactly what he needed to go to the next level.
Having climbed the ladder of success in the junior ranks, he entered Belmont’s South Point High School. Mark says, “It was there that I felt like I entered the arena to compete with older, better football players. I knew that I had to bide my time, compete, and make the most out of my opportunity. During my freshman year, I was the second-string quarterback I knew that I had to be persistent and knowledgeable with learning the high school system and playbook. This was challenging to say the least, but I knew from all the time, effort, energy, and determination that my efforts would eventually pay off.”
 And “pay off” they did as he ascended quickly during his freshman year to the starting position during the fourth game of the year against North Gaston when the starting quarterback was injured.  Since Mark had made the effort to hone his skills, talents, and maturity, he took led the offense with expertise and “never looked back” always determined to be the best player that he could be.  The team started winning more regularly and making progress each and every week finishing the season with a winning record.
 By his senior year, South Point was 10-0 and had a good feeling going into the state playoffs. Unfortunately, they lost in the first round.  But Mark’s exploits gave him the opportunity to sign a full scholarship to play college football at Wake Forest University on the Division I level. Mark says, “I was red-shirted my first year and it turned out to be a great thing, because it gave me more time to focus on my studies and to grow athletically and physically.”
 Fortunately, when he finally took the field, he was successful.
“I was runner-up for ACC Player of The Year to Ray Agnew from NC State University,” he said.  “The very next year, I was on the All-ACC First Team as a running back.  The college experience has shaped and molded me to be the person that I am and have always been grateful and humbled for the opportunities that I have had to be a student-athlete.”
 A perennial MVP in baseball and football, Mark was All-State in high school football, All-ACC player in football, and selected as an East-West High School All-Star as well. But his achievements were not confined to athletic fields. He was selected as a regular Member of the Student Council and in his Senior Year (1985), chosen to be President of His Senior Class, Member of the United Nations Club, and selected as one of the Who’s Who Among American High School Students.
 Mark Young has certainly earned his place in the Belmont Sports Hall of Fame. The Belmont Sports Hall of Fame banquet will be held on April 19, 2022 at Park Street United Methodist Church in Belmont, NC. Tickets can be purchased for $20 from Phil Champion State Farm Insurance in Belmont and the Belmont Drug Store.

Easter meal kit offered

The members of Queen of the Apostles Church, 503 N. Main St in Belmont, will provide a meal kit to those needing to prepare an Easter meal at their homes. The meal kit will feed 4 people and will include a $15 gift card that can be used towards the purchase of a turkey or ham.
We can deliver a meal kit to your home on Saturday, April 9, or you can pick up a meal kit at the church on the same day between 10am and 11am. To place your order, you have 2 options:
1.  Call the church office to place your order. The  phone number is (704) 825-9600.  Give us your name, address, phone number, an email address if you have one, and the number of meal kits you need (maximum of 2).  The deadline to place your order is Monday, April 4.
2. Go to the church’s web site, www.queenoftheapostles.org, look for the “Easter Meal Kit Order” slide and click there.  That will take you to the on-line order form. Be sure to indicate on the order form if you want your meal kit delivered to your home or if you will pick it up.
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KBB Chairperson Susan Wall and KBB founder Judy Closson pitching in.

Keep Belmont Beautiful group lives up to its name

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

There are many unsung heroes in our area and the volunteers with Keep Belmont Beautiful (KBB) are among them.
On Thursday, February 24th Keep Belmont Beautiful recognized three volunteers for their service to the city of Belmont.
The first recipient, Terece Miller, has walked and run the streets of Belmont many times, but about three years ago she started volunteering with KBB picking and bagging trash as she walks. Anytime of the year, on a nice day, you may catch her walking along the corridor of South Main Street and Lower Armstrong Road. She’ll tell you it’s her therapy and laughingly refer to it as her obsession but, at the heart of it, is her disappointment in folks throwing litter along the roadside and trashing the very place that we call home.
The second recipients are community activists Elizabeth and Bob Atterberry. Liz and Bob have supported and worked tirelessly for KBB over 16-years. Liz retired as vice chairperson of the KBB Board in 2021.  She has worn many hats including chairing our litter abatement program, co-chairing our spring 2021 plant sale, and two supporting roles that KBB won first place for in Gaston County: Return the Warmth Grant and a program that recycled phone books.  Her husband Bob, a native of Belmont, has been there every step of the way – helping with litter surveys, our Christmas Parade float, and loading and unloading phone books from Belmont as well as plastic bottles from local schools. All this was done while volunteering for the Belmont Historical Society, the Montcross Area Chamber, Queen of Apostles Church, and other worthy causes.
KBB is dedicated to doing what its name says. On any day you might see volunteers on their hands and knees pulling weeds at the flowerbed at
See KBB, Page 3
 
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Cynthia Hibberts

Cynthia Leonard Hibberts covered the Belmont High court

By Ray Hardee
She did it all as a student at Belmont High School.
She covered the entire court. Back in the day when three players were assigned to each side of the court, Cynthia Hibberts was a guard on an offense that required her to cover the whole court. She took care of all the court during a time that most people only took care of half the court. Her parents and coaches always said, “Give it 100% and keep learning.” That proved to be prophetic in the way that Cynthia Hibberts has lived her life. Her constant commitment to excellence is being rewarded with induction into the Belmont Sports Hall of Fame.
 Cynthia always showed up. She was a four-year starter in basketball, track, and as a cheerleader. In her sophomore, junior, and senior years, she was the Gold Medal State Champion in track and field for her event of choice- the 100-yard low hurdles. She was co-captain of the basketball team and the cheerleading squad during her senior year. She was the Kiwanis Club Outstanding Athlete of The Year.
 Her exploits on the court and around the track were matched by her off the field accomplishments as well. Vice-President of what was then called Minute Maids and now Candy Stripers, she also excelled in the Drama Club while serving as the Junior Class Treasurer, Senior Class Secretary and on the Student Council for three years (serving as Vice-President he Senior Year. She was Chairman of the Junior Heart Board. She headed up the Sponsors Club for four years. Not content to just play on the field and in the classroom, she also served the school’s journalistic endeavors on the Clarion Staff as a Junior and Senior and Sport Editor during her Senior Year. Did you know that she was also the Homecoming Queen and the Most Popular Student as a Senior Superlative? She graduated Belmont High Class of 1966.
 There is a common theme that runs through Cynthia’s life in high school and beyond- excellent, devoted service to others rather than self. Over a forty-five-year professional career, she mastered Nursing through the Cabarrus Hospital School of Nursing as well as earning a Master’s Degree in Education. She served hospitals and secondary schools.  She was a Master Lamaze Class Instructor teaching for Western Carolina University. She began teaching Health Sciences during their first-year inception and continued for over three decades serving North Gaston and East Gaston in Gaston County and the Green Hope School of Technology in Cary, NC.  She created four programs in these high schools. She was named Teacher of The Year at North Gaston, East Gaston, and Green Hope School of Technology. For good measure, not wanting to leave dear old Belmont out of her resume, she coached Girls Tennis at South Point and also taught there as a teacher.
 While serving the secondary schools of our state, she of course stayed busy after school with athletic teams. While at North Gaston, she coached the Girls Swim Team in its inaugural year and continued for four years there. She coached the Cheerleaders and Girls Tennis Team there for five years and ended as the SWC Coach of the Year. Oh, for fun she also coached girls track for two years at North Gaston. She did not stop there. In addition to teaching thirty-three years in North Carolina schools, she also worked for the Gaston County Health Department, opened Covenant Village Retirement Center, and retired there as Director of Nursing along with stints at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine and the Presbyterian Hospital Cardiac Unit.
 She did whatever it took for things to be successful wherever she happened to be serving. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Success is doing the best you can with what you have where you are.” Cynthia Leonard Hibberts has lived that mantra well.
 The Belmont Sports Hall of Fame banquet will be held on April 19, 2022 at Park Street United Methodist Church in Belmont, NC. Tickets can be purchased for $20 from Phil Champion State Farm Insurance in Belmont and the Belmont Drug Store.
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Curtis Gaston found this rare first edition of the Belmont Banner when he was looking through some things belonging to his late parents Harley Jr. and Kitty Gaston. Photo by Alan Hodge

Belmont Banner-News
86th anniversary coming up

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


The birthday of the BannerNews (formerly Belmont Banner) is coming up and a rare treasure donated to the paper several years ago by Curtis Gaston tells an important part of the story.
Dated March 18, 1936, the yellowed and fragile artifact, an actual copy of the very first Belmont Banner ever published, is not just a window on life in Belmont back then, but also of the philosophy and hopes of the publication that is now in its 86th year.
The logo of the paper summed it up, calling the Banner “A New And Modern Weekly Newspaper Published In The Interest Of All the People Of The Thriving City Of Belmont. This Issue Will Be Read  In Every Home Within the Community”.
The Banner’s publishers, Arp Lowrance, Clyde Moody, and Bomar Lowrance,  topped the front page of the inaugural edition with an open letter to the readership that stated- “For the people of Belmont and the surrounding community we present this as the first issue of the Belmont Banner in the hope that it will be accepted by all as Belmont’s own. The cooperation of the merchants and business men in making this a fine issue has been unexcelled in our experience and we could hardly expect a better approval from the readers and the homes of this thriving city.…..For some time the publishers have planned the publishing of a newspaper here and it appears the time is ripe for beginning such an enterprise. As we begin there is more confidence that this healthy baby newspaper will soon grow into one of the leading newspapers of the Piedmont section.”
Stories in that very first edition of the Banner kicked off with a profile of Belmont by Curtis Gaston’s grandfather Harley Gaston Sr. who described the town as “one of the Carolinas’ most prosperous cities”. Another front page article looked at the growth of local schools and declared the city started out with three teachers and ninety students in 1900 and had grown to the 1936 tally of 59 teachers and 2,204 kids.
Inside, the first Belmont Banner focused on good things that folks were doing in the community. One article profiled upcoming Boy Scout events and activities. Another piece announced plans by the local PTA to boost membership. On the cultural scene, the Banner covered a Belmont High School glee club and piano concert. The program included tunes such as “Dancing Fairies”, “Spinning Song”, and “My Curly Headed Baby”.
In sports, the Banner ran a story by James Dixon laying out plans for a local softball league. Players from local mills such as Imperial, Aberfoyle, and Eagle were hopping on board the league.
Dubbed “Local and Personal” the society page of the first Banner gave the lowdown on what area ladies and gents were up to. Tidbits included news that J. Ross Gilbert was coming home to Belmont after having had an appendix operation in Statesville, that Grady Bowen of Newport News, Va. was spending time with his parents in Belmont, and that Miss Estelle Hall was in a fashion show in Gastonia.
Advertisements in the first edition of the Belmont Banner shined a light on local businesses. The Hollywood Theater in East Belmont announced several flicks including “Waterfront Lady”, “The Invisible Ray”, and “Sweet Surrender”. The Leader department store had a big ad proclaiming “smart, spring dresses” for $2.98 each. Belk-Matthews on Main St. offered men’s socks for 10 cents a pair, denim overalls for 97 cents, and men’s shorts for 19 cents a pair,
Just a few of the other advertisers in the first Banner included W.H. and D.P. Stowe Company, Warren’s Grocery Store where eggs were 25 cent a dozen, and Ostwalt’s cafe.
Overall, the first edition of the Belmont Banner shows that community news was a vital part of the local landscape back in 1936 and is still relevant- and being printed- today.
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GAMTRA president Jeff Hovis with just one of his antique tractors- a 1949 John Deere. Photo by Alan Hodge

Jeff Hovis of Mt. Holly loves vintage farm machines

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


You might say Jeff Hovis of Mt. Holly has antique farm tractoring in his blood. A walk around his backyard on Oakwood Dr. and the sight of the numerous vintage machines there confirms this. A walk around the backyard of his mom’s house two doors down where more machines reside clinches the deal.
All together, Hovis has nine antique farm tractors. Brands include Farmall, John Deere, Case, and Alis Chalmers. Several are fully restored and shine. A few have a ‘patina’ of grease, oil, and red dirt. One is undergoing cosmetic surgery.   All have a story.
Hovis got the tractor bug from his dad, the late Larry Hovis.
“He told me stories about using tractors working on a dairy farm in Hardin,” Jeff said. “The interest grew from there.”
But Hovis does more than tinker with, show, and ride his tractors up and down the road. He is passionate about sharing the story of agriculture in our area and one way he does that is with the group he’s president of – GAMTRA.
What’s GAMTRA? That’s the acronym for Gaston Agricultural Mechanical Textile Restoration Association.
The group meets once a month and besides swapping tractor tales and tips, they work hard to plan the biggest event in Gaston County which is the Heritage and Harvest festival held in October in Dallas Park. It was formerly known as Cotton Ginning Days.
“The group was started in 1987 and in 1988 began displaying antique farm equipment such as hit or miss engines,” said Hovis. “In 1989 Gaston County Parks and Rec. partnered with us. My father took the first tractor there in 2002.”
The centerpiece of the event is the full scale, operating, cotton gin and its barn at the park’s festival grounds.
“Some members found the gin in Georgia,” Hovis said. “They took it apart and brought it to Dallas where it was reassembled. The gin is a link to our area’s textile industry history as well.”
GAMTRA members come from a wide geographical area and eclectic backgrounds- all bound by their common love of vintage farm machines.
“We have members from Gaston, Cleveland, Lincoln, York, and Mecklenburg counties,” Hovis said. “A lot of them are retired but their professions include business owners, famers, educators, engineers, and machinists.”
Like many groups that are enamored of old stuff, GAMTRA is in search of “young blood” to join its ranks. Jeff’s son John is 24-years-old, inherited the tractor bug, and is a member, but more youngsters are needed.
“You don’t have to own a vintage machine to join,” Hovis said. “You just have to have an interest in our agricultural heritage.”
Sound interesting? The next meeting of GAMTRA will be April 7 at 6:30pm at Jacksons Cafeteria in Gastonia.
Want to find out more about GAMTRA and/or joining? Contact Hovis at jhovis@eastgaston VFD.com. Happy tractoring.
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Coach Mike Houston

Belmont Sports Hall
of Fame Banquet set

By Ray Hardee
The Belmont Sports Hall of Fame gathers again this year to honor a fresh class of excellent athletes who have made their mark beginning in Belmont and outward to the world at large.
The Belmont Hall of Fame event is April 19th at 7:00pm at Park Street United Methodist Church in Belmont, N.C. Tickets can be purchased at Phil Champion State Farm Insurance and the Belmont Drug Store.
Coach Mike Houston, Head Coach of East Carolina University, will be the headlining motivational speaker for the event. Houston is as well-known for his candor as he is for his athletic success. When asked, “How are you doing coach?” at a post-game press conference, he is likely to respond in kind with a “How are you doing?” to the reporter with questions.
After a win, Houston shines praise on his coaches and athletes. When a player makes a great play away from the ball, he is likely to say, “The old adage is to be a better player without the ball than you are with the ball.” After a tough loss, he will likely compliment his players and their opponents while noting “the electric atmosphere” of the stadium. When he discusses ECU fans, he regales them with pride and effusive praise in statements like this- “It’s one of the reasons so many of them came here to East Carolina is because of Pirate Nation, Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium and the way it is on game day. I think it’s something that should be a great home field advantage and something for them to feed off of.”
Clearly, Houston is a coach’s coach who loves football. In 1994, he left Mars Hill College, where he starred at tight end and earned a biology degree, and went immediately into the coaching ranks. He climbed the ladder of success while dissecting offenses with his clever defensive mind, examining teams as a biologist would a cell, and bringing out the best in his players at all levels.
Houston ascended to the pinnacle of intercollegiate football success when he won the NCAA Division 1 championship with James Madison University in 2016 leading JMU over Youngstown State with a score of 28-14.
Houston says, “True servant-leadership is when you lead by example and bring somebody else with you.”
Join attendees at the Belmont Sports Hall of Fame Banquet on April 19th at 7:00. Tickets are on sale at Phil Champion State Farm Insurance and Belmont Drug Store.
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Juan Logan and his sculpture Pillar of Enlightenment.

Sculpture by Belmont artist Juan Logan moves to Gaston County Museum

A beautiful sculpture by  internationally-known Belmont resident and artist Juan Logan will be getting a new home at the Gaston County Museum in Dallas.
“Public art requires a level of care that Pillar of Enlightenment has not seen in recent decades,” said Museum Assistant Director, Ali Pizza. “Museum staff are keenly aware of the need to preserve this important work by Juan Logan of Belmont and look forward to making it accessible to the public in its prominent new location,”
Pillar of Enlightenment was commissioned by the Gaston County Library at the request of the Margaret McConnell Holt Estate to highlight a significant regional artist with the intent that it would be accessible for the public to appreciate and enjoy for generations to come. The museum has placed the sculpture in an equally visible location at the entry to the museum so that staff can interpret it’s meaning for visitors and allow them to explore the sculpture themselves. Pillar of Enlightenment will undergo conservation treatment in its new home at the museum.
Library Director, Susan McDonald, said of the donation of Pillar of Enlightenment- “The Library has been extremely appreciative and honored to be the display venue for Juan Logan’s work, as well as the works of many other artists. However, the Library is now facing a time of change in order to serve our patrons most effectively. We are restructuring our floor layouts and optimizing our space to meet the needs of diverse audiences. Having an opportunity to collaborate with the Museum, and to know that these works of art will be professionally cared for, interpreted, and made available for public viewing is the best choice for the artwork and in keeping with the gracious intention of the donors who gave them to the library.”
The donation of the Logan sculpture comes at a time when Gaston County Leadership is striving for better collaboration between departments. Museum Director, Jason Luker, says “it has been very rewarding to work with the library on bringing artwork such as Pillar of Enlightenment into our care. It is our shared goal to preserve the art and history of this county and have it available for future generations to enjoy and study.” For more information, contact Alexandrea Pizza, Assistant Director, 704-922-7681 ext. 105 or Alexandrea.pizza@gastongov.com.
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Edifice General Contractors site superintendent Andrew Simonds, Sheba the wonder dog, and Belmont Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe checking out progress on the new building. Photo by Alan Hodge

Work on new Belmont Parks and Recreation facility well underway

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


Take an inquisitive scientific mind, a love of horses, blend in a desire to do good deeds for others, and you have the formula that inspired East Gaston High senior Hannah Mullis to come up with a prize winning way to further the cause of hippotherapy at Shining Hope Farms near Stanley- and beyond.
Never heard of hippotherapy? The term hippotherapy refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement as a therapy tool to engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems to promote functional outcomes.
Mullis has been visiting Shining Hope Farms for about five years riding horses and learning more about the therapeutic work that goes on there.
“I started volunteering at Shining Hope because I loved horses,” she said. “Then I realized how much I enjoyed being a part of therapy and I now want to be a therapist after college.”
A couple of years ago it occurred to Mullis that it would make an interesting research project to investigate just exactly what the horses experience as they carry hippotherapy patients around the riding rink.
With the exception of Mr. Ed, horses can’t talk, so Mullis came up with the idea of Recent bad weather had an effect on the work, but Simonds says his crews took it in stride.
“The weekend of rain and snow cost us some time but we are sticking to the schedule,” he said.
According to Simonds, the next phase will see a large retaining wall built between the new building and CityWorks.
“The wall will be the first piece of vertical construction,” he said. “It will be formed in place.”
Simonds praise the cooperation he has been getting from the city staff.
“They have been fantastic to work with,” he said.
Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe was beaming as he looked over the construction scene.
“They are moving fast,” he said. “We are set for our opening date next March.”
Belmont is the only town in our area without its own building where things like basketball games can be held. What currently serves the city as a parks and rec. place is the decades old J. Paul Ford Center on Woodrow Ave., but the city’s needs have far outgrown that one medium sized building.
The new building will be two stories high and have 45,000 sq. ft. of space. The first floor will feature three basketball courts, a media room for gaming, an exercise studio, a kitchen, a kids play area, and a large lobby. The second floor will feature a walking track, an exercise room, a catering kitchen, a lounge, and more play space. The second floor will also feature a balcony with sweeping views of the Catawba River and Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park.
Just a few of the activities the new center can host includes pickle ball, gymnastics, cheerleading, karate, movies, ping pong, dance, badminton, classes of various types and many, many more. Folks will be able to rent space in the building for meetings, weddings, birthday parties, and that sort of thing.
Stowe sees the new center not only as a boon to the local activities scene, but as an economic driver as well.
“The center will be a place where we can hold events such as basketball tournaments and invite as many as fifty teams,” he said. ‘This will bring people to Belmont who will shop, stay in local hotels, and eat in local restaurants. It will be a big boost economically.”
Meanwhile, across Catawba St. at Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park, the playground area is still closed for replacement of the wooden climbing structures, but that will be settled soon.
“The new equipment will be arriving any day now,” said Stowe. Some of the current playground equipment that’s made of plastic and metal was saved and moved to another park.
“The rock wall and boardwalk will also be reused,” Stowe said.
In other Belmont Parks and Rec. updates, work on the long awaited skate park will also begin soon.
“The materials are on the way,” Stowe said.
A new addition to the original plan will be a dedicated area for beginners.
“We got a grant for the beginner’s area,” said Stowe.
The park will be located on a strip of land beside CityWorks.

Work on Belmont Parks and Recreation facility

Photos by Alan Hodge
Renderings provided
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East Gaston senior Hannah Mullis loves horses and helping others. She’s seen at Shining Hope Farms with one of her favorite steeds named Duncan. Photo by Alan Hodge

East Gaston senior
Hannah Mullis is helping horses help people

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

Take an inquisitive scientific mind, a love of horses, blend in a desire to do good deeds for others, and you have the formula that inspired East Gaston High senior Hannah Mullis to come up with a prize winning way to further the cause of hippotherapy at Shining Hope Farms near Stanley- and beyond.
Never heard of hippotherapy? The term hippotherapy refers to how occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech-language pathology professionals use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement as a therapy tool to engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems to promote functional outcomes.
Mullis has been visiting Shining Hope Farms for about five years riding horses and learning more about the therapeutic work that goes on there.
“I started volunteering at Shining Hope because I loved horses,” she said. “Then I realized how much I enjoyed being a part of therapy and I now want to be a therapist after college.”
A couple of years ago it occurred to Mullis that it would make an interesting research project to investigate just exactly what the horses experience as they carry hippotherapy patients around the riding rink.
With the exception of Mr. Ed, horses can’t talk, so Mullis came up with the idea of measuring the horse’s heartbeat with a stethoscope as she played music from her phone.
“I played a variety of music from pop to classical,” Mullis said. “I found out that the faster the music, the faster the horse’s heart would beat.”
In a follow up project, Mullis also measured the heartbeat of horses as they had a person mount up, as they walked across a little footbridge, or as a rider stretched out to place a ring on a pole. She used both an experienced rider and a therapy client in the tests.
“The horses reacted differently to the level of rider experience,” said Mullis.
The purpose of the projects was to examine ways that the horses could go about their work in an efficient manner that put the least amount of stress on them.
“Hannah’s work can have implications for the hippotherapy industry as a whole,” said Shining Hope Farms founder Milinda Kirkpatrick. “It will allow us to make tweaks in our day to day operations and activities.”
Mullis hopes her work will build equestrian equilibrium and inner peace.
“I hope it helps horses be even happier than they are now,” she said.
During her project, Mullis had help from her East Gaston biology teacher Brian Johnson.
“He is a very supportive and awesome teacher,” she said.
Johnson had these to say about Mullis.
”She is a very driven, remarkable student and very advanced for her grade level,” said Johnson. “The project was her own idea and she did it on her own time.”
The inventive, detailed work that Mullis did and documented has brought her well-deserved recognition. Her project won first place at the Gaston County Science Fair. At the virtual UNC-Charlotte Science Fair she took Best in Fair Grand Prize. That honor qualified her for the International Science and Engineering Fair that will be held in Atlanta May 7-13. She is the first East Gaston student to go to that event and the first from Gaston County in ten years.
So, what’s the future hold for Mullis?
After graduation in June she will be attending Appalachian State and majoring in Exercise Science or Communication Science. No matter what her career path, there’s bound to be a horse not far away.
“I believe there will always be a horse in my future,” she said.  “As well as some form of work with children who have special needs.”
For more information about Shining Hope Farms visit https://shininghopefarms.org.
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Speakers at Cramerton Historical Society’s celebration of Black History Month were (from left) Dot Guthrie, Fred Glenn, Cramerton Historical Museum Chairman Richard Atkinson, Minerva Hardy and Gastonia Mayor Walker E. Reid, III.

Cramerton celebrates Black History Month

Cramerton residents observed Black History Month with a program featuring three speakers at the Cramerton Historical Society Museum on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.
Cramerton natives Minerva Hardy and Fred Glenn were joined on the program by Dot Guthrie, founder and curator of the African-American Museum of History and Culture in Gastonia and member of the Gaston County Board of Education. Gastonia Mayor Walker E. Reid, III introduced the speakers.
Town of Cramerton Mayor Nelson Wills and Historical Society President Jeff Ramsey welcomed guests. Cramerton Historical Museum Chairman Richard Atkinson also made  comments.
Dot Guthrie opened the program by displaying a quilt depicting 175 years of African-American history, which is on exhibit at the African-American Museum of History and Culture at the Loray Mill in Gastonia. Mrs. Guthrie is a life-long educator, serving more than 40 years as a teacher, school librarian, media specialist, central office staff member and member of the Gaston County Board of Education. She also is an author and is associate pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Gastonia. Among her many awards is the prestigious Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Minerva Hardy has been an outstanding citizen of Cramerton for many years, and she received Cramerton’s Lifetime Citizen Award in 2021. She served on the town’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for six years and as chief judge for the Gaston County Board of Election’s Cramerton Precinct for four years. She is active in encouraging residents to register to vote and instructing new voters in how to get involved in local issues. In 1982, she was recognized by the Gaston County NAACP and Gaston County Concerned Citizens for successfully working to obtain home mail delivery in the Baltimore community.
United States Army and Vietnam War veteran Fred Glenn was born in Cramerton and graduated from Reid High School in Belmont. He attended NCA&T State University before enlisting in the army. After serving in Vietnam as a door gunner with the 118th Assault Helicopter Unit, and later as a drill sergeant at Fort Bragg, NC, he attended
Gaston College to pursue becoming a tool and die maker and later owned and operated his own machine shop. He retired from Phillip Morris after 20 years as a technician.
The Cramerton Historical Society was formed in 2015, and the Museum opened in 2021. Members receive invitations to special events, discounts in the museum store and discounts on rentals. For more information, visit Cramertonhistoricalsociety.org, see the Cramerton Historical Society on Facebook, or call Richard Atkinson at 704.906.5339.
 
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Belmont’s Moonlight on Main event recently raked in a plethora of awards. Seen with the plaques are Community Event Coordinator Morgan Abernathy, Downtown Director Phil Boggan, and Community Development Coordinator Cassidy Lackey.

Downtown Belmont events
are a labor of love

 

By Alan Hodge and Jamie Campbell
alan@cfmedia.info


When folks stream into downtown Belmont for special events like the award winning Moonlight on Main, or Red, White, and Belmont, or Garibaldifest, or Boofest, or the Friday night concert series it’s a safe bet few if any of them wonder just what goes on behind the scenes to make those things happen.
Read on to find out.
“It all starts with an idea.”
That’s what Belmont’s downtown director Phil Boggan says is the spark that kicks the logistical wheels in motion to make the events become a reality of light, color, sound, fun, and financial boon for downtown businesses.
Once the idea for an event is seized upon, Boggan, along with his co-workers Cassidy Lackey and Morgan Abernathy, spring into action.
“We think through things such as how much it will cost to have the event as well as how many volunteers it will take to make it happen,” Boggan said.
But that’s just the start.
“We work with the police and public works to close the streets where the event will be taking place,” he said. “We also contact the ABC commission if alcohol will be served.”
The planning for an event has a long lead time.
“We do it well in advance so the ball does not gets dropped,” said Boggan. “Ideally, planning begins a year in advance.”
Music is a big part of many downtown Belmont happenings.
“We also book bands a year ahead,” said Boggan. “You have to do that if   you want the best ones. We contact booking agents to find out what the hottest bands are.”
Other event attractions such as carnival rides and carriage rides need to be booked well ahead too.
“There are not many companies left that do those so we need to make sure we have them lined up,” he said.
Boggan says he and his staff strive to use local talent but go where they need to get the job done.
Funding for events is important too.
“Among other things, we write grants for funding,” said Boggan. “We research the grants and staff and volunteers write for them. It’s not always easy to get money. I lay awake at night thinking about money.”
Downtown businesses always get a heads up before events.
“We notify them so the crowd impact will be positive rather than negative,” Boggan said.
Boggan, Lackey, and Abernathy are deeply dedicated to their mission of putting on the very best events that folks will find anywhere.
“It’s not an eight to five job,” Boggan said. “Sometimes we work sixty or more hours a week making sure everything is ready.”
In a sense, Boggan is like a musical conductor or military general in charge of seeing the event goes off smoothly.
“I connect the dots,” he said.
For her part, Abernathy spends countless hours reading emails, keeping an electronic calendar, taking and reviewing vendor applications, and communicating with potential participants. Lackey runs the Main St. program and works with volunteers and businesses.
Besides fun, the events fulfill another goal.
“It’s not just about amusement,” Boggan said. “It’s about people eating, shopping, and supporting our downtown businesses.”
So, what drives Boggan, Lackey, and Abernathy to give their all for downtown Belmont?
“We do it for the community,” Boggan said. “At the end of the day we may be burned out but we get to enjoy the validation seeing the big crowds brings.”
All the work that the trio does for the city recently brought them well deserved recognition.
On January 31, 2022 the City of Belmont Main Street staff attended North Carolina Association of Festivals and Events 2022 ShowFest, an event innovators conference in Charlotte where they were presented with four awards associated with the Moonlight on Main event held in Downtown Belmont in fall 2021.
The conference concludes each year with an Excellence Awards Program, where the City of Belmont Main Street staff was presented with four awards for the Moonlight on Main festival held in late 2021. The event won: Best Brochure for the GOBO Art Walk Brochure, Best Event Photo, Best Event Associated with an Event for the GOBO Projection Art Gallery, and Event of the Year for Moonlight on Main.
 Moonlight on Main was a three-week arts and culture experience in Downtown Belmont where downtown was turned into a lunar-inspired, outdoor art gallery with GOBO artwork projected onto buildings around downtown.  The event centered around an international touring artwork by UK artist Luke Jerram, an exhibit of an internally lit replica of the moon measuring 23 meters in diameter and features detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface. The event also featured art installations in downtown and throughout Stowe Park from local students and other groups.  The original GOBO artworks were sold in various downtown galleries and businesses throughout the event.
 The ShowFest Awards are part of the industry’s reward and recognition programs. The ShowFest Excellence Awards are a long-standing tradition of highlighting the best and brightest of festivals, events and associates across the Carolinas. Their membership is dedicated to identifying the professionals that raise the bar and providing outstanding examples. They also use this program to set new goals and standards for the event planning profession. The annual conference and awards are a way industry professionals can learn from each other and give a hardy round of applause to those who distinguish themselves with great work.
Boggan expressed an immense “thank you” to the Main Street and Downtown Belmont Development Association boards, committees, volunteers, community partners, artists, participating local businesses, and those who simply came out to enjoy the event for helping to make this recognition possible.
“We were honored to take home these awards on behalf of everyone that made this three-week festival such a huge success,” he said.
 When asked about the awards recognition, Mayor Charlie Martin stated, “We couldn’t be prouder of our staff, board members, volunteers, and community organizations for putting on such an unforgettable three-week festival in Downtown Belmont.  This festival brought people to Belmont from not only cities in our region, but from all over America.  This is a perfect example of how our staff and community work together to make Belmont such a special community to be a part of.”
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Cutter Foulk has firefighting in his genes.

Cutter Foulk named Cramerton Firefighter of the Year

​​​​​​​​​​By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


Cutter Foulk comes from a long line of firemen and has been named Cramerton’s Firefighter of the Year.
Cutter’s father is John Foulk, captain at the Belmont Fire Dept., and his uncle is Lance Foulk, chief at the Cramerton Fire Dept. They were both excited at Cutter’s achievement at the tender age of 19 years.
“I am proud of Cutter for receiving this award,” Lance said.  “He has a bright future  in the fire service and the Cramerton Fire Dept. is lucky to have him.”
 As an aside, his grandfather is former Belmont city councilman Ron Foulk.
Cutter knew from the time of childhood that he wanted to enter the fire service.
“I remember sitting at the dinner table and dad would have to get up and go respond to a call,” he said. “I’ve just always been around it.”
Cutter jumped into the world of firefighting at an early age.
“I started volunteering at Cramerton when I was sixteen,” he said. “I realized right away how much I enjoyed the camaraderie. It’s like a brotherhood”
After graduating from Stuart Cramer High in 2020, he went to Gaston College and got his Firefighter I and II certifications as well as being certified as an EMT.
Cutter stays busy. Currently, he’s full time at the Belmont Fire Dept. and part time at Cramerton. He also helps out with his father’s landscape business.
“I don’t have a lot of down time,” he said.
All that activity has its rewards.
“My favorite part of being a firefighter is the variety,” he said. “We do something different every day. You never know what the next challenge will be.”
In fact, the morning of this interview saw him on duty at a car fire in Belmont.
Cutter also feels being a firefighter has helped him mature.
“Being a member of the fire department has helped me grow personally and professionally,” he said. “I try to improve every day.”
He’s looking forward to many years as a firefighter and helping others.
“This will be my career for the rest of my life,” he said. “I love my job.”
 

Six young women to represent region in this
summer’s Miss North Carolina competition 

Gaston pageant winners
are crowned for 2022

By Todd Hagans
Six young women have been crowned to represent the Gaston region in the 2022 Miss North Carolina and Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen competitions.
The Miss Gastonia/Miss Gaston County/Miss Mount Holly competition was held on January 8 at Stuart W. Cramer High School.  At the end of the program, six young women emerged from a field of 15 contestants as winners.  They are:
Miss Gastonia 2022 is Sharidan Costner.  She is the 19-year-old daughter of Sheldon and Sharon Costner of Gastonia.  A graduate of Forestview High School, she is a student at Winston-Salem State University where she is pursuing a degree in exercise science.  For the talent competition, she performed a tap dance routine.  Her community service project focuses on offering support and bringing Miss Gastonia’s Outstanding Teen 2022 is Lorelei Elberson.  She is the 15-year-old daughter of Scotty and Kristen Elberson of Denton.  A student at South Davidson High School, her college plans include attending Columbia University to obtain a degree in pre-medicine; she wants to become an anesthesiologist.  For the talent competition, she presented a speed painting demonstration.  Her community service project focuses on the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Miss Gaston County 2022 is Bailey Beam.  She is the 24-year-old daughter of Scott and Sherri Beam of Lincolnton.  She is a graduate of Lincolnton High School and Lenoir-Rhyne University where she earned a degree in vocal performance/sacred music; she currently works as a children’s ministry director.  For the talent competition, she performed a vocal selection.  Her community service project focuses on the importance of organ donation.
Miss Gaston County’s Outstanding Teen 2022 is Morgan Wuest.  She is the 17-year-old daughter of Frank and KK Wuest of Hickory.  A homeschooled student, her college plans include attending Catawba Valley Community College and Appalachian State University to pursue a degree in chemistry.  For the talent competition, she performed a selection on the viola.  Her community service project focuses on the importance of involving youth in community-based activities.
Miss Mount Holly 2022 is Andersen Raines.  She is the 22-year-old daughter of Brannon and LeeAnn Raines of Midland.  A senior at Appalachian State University, she is majoring in hospitality and tourism management and currently pursuing employment opportunities in Charlotte.  For the talent competition, she presented a character monologue.  Her community service project focuses on Career and Technical Education programs in schools.
Miss Mount Holly’s Outstanding Teen 2022 is Zoe Gambino.  She is the 15-year-old daughter of James and Randi Wilde of Mount Holly.  A student at East Gaston High School, her college plans include attending Western Carolina University to participate in the university’s music program and pursue a degree in sports medicine; she eventually wants to become an athletic trainer for the NFL.  For the talent competition, she performed a selection on the clarinet.  Her community service project focuses on domestic violence prevention.
As Gaston County’s titleholders for 2022, the six young women will make public appearances, promote their community service project, and compete for the Miss North Carolina and Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen titles in June.  The state competition is set for June 23-25 at the High Point Theater.
In the Miss division, the list of contestants included Deoveune Chappell, Bailey Clayton, Olivia Taggart, Rebecca DeMar (runner-up), and Deanna Glenn (congeniality winner).  The Outstanding Teen contestants included Morgan Kimrey, Natalie Dail (runner-up), Hailey McClellan, and Savannah Royals.
The Miss division is open to young women ages 19-26 who live, work, or attend school in Gaston and nine surrounding counties.  The Outstanding Teen division is for young women ages 13-18 who are North Carolina residents; the teen contestants do not have to live in a particular county to enter.
The Miss Gastonia Scholarship Association sponsored the pageant.  The contestants competed for $218,700 in cash and in-kind scholarships.  Toyota of Gastonia, Hagans Real Estate of Kings Mountain, and the City of Mount Holly presented the $1,000 scholarships for Miss Gastonia, Miss Gaston County, and Miss Mount Holly.  Belmont Abbey College, Gardner-Webb University, Gaston College, and Paul Mitchell – The School in Gastonia provided in-kind-scholarships.
The pageant featured outgoing 2020-2021 titleholders Julia DeSerio, Miss Gastonia; Keelie Jones, Miss Gastonia’s Outstanding Teen; Mariana Linares, Miss Gaston County; Lexi Foy, Miss Gaston County’s Outstanding Teen; and Anne Marie Hagerty, Miss Mount Holly.  Todd Hagans was the emcee, Delores Cox directed the pageant, and Cathy Layton-Aupied served as the producer/choreographer.
A highlight of the program was the presentation of the Key to the City to Miss Mount Holly by city councilman David Moore.  During his presentation, Moore complimented Hagerty on her time of service and for finishing as the first runner-up to Miss North Carolina 2021.
For more information and to keep up with the 2022 titleholders, visit www.missgastoniapageant.com or find the “Miss Gastonia Organization” on Facebook.
 
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The Southern Piedmont Chapter of the Compassionate Friends leader Candace Hulsey at the Children’s Memorial Garden at Robin Johnson Hospice House near Dallas. Photo by Alan Hodge

Robin Johnson Hospice House getting a beautiful garden

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


“Our children will be remembered here.”
That’s what Southern Piedmont Chapter of the Compassionate Friends leader Candace Hulsey has to say about the new garden that group is having built on the grounds of CaroMont Health’s Robin Johnson Hospice House, 5005 Shepherds Way, near Dallas.
The idea behind the garden is for it to be a quiet, reflective place of natural beauty that folks can visit when they need to take a deep breath and think about things. Its official name is the “Southern Piedmont Chapter of the Compassionate Fiends Children’s Memorial Garden”.
“The garden will provide a place where our children, grandchildren, and siblings can be remembered,” Hulsey said. “It will also be a place of solitude and beauty for the patients and their families along with the staff at Robin Johnson Hospice House.”
Construction of the garden is well under way and plans are for it to be done by April. The general layout is a winding path of large flagstones flanked by flower gardens and other plantings. Three large arbors arch over the walkway. Small boulders offer places to sit and reflect. A focal point is a wild cherry tree whose moss covered trunk dips low, then twists and turns back skyward.
Other features the garden will have includes memorial pavers, a small amphitheater, benches, sculptures of children at play, and a small natural meadow.
The garden was laid out by Tiz Johnston of Garden Design. QLM (Quality Landscape Materials) provided the ingredients.
According to Hulsey, the garden has been in the dreaming and planning stages for six years. Compassionate Friends is footing the bill.

“The money came from fundraisers, the Community Foundation, and grants,” Hulsey said.
When it’s done, the garden will be gifted to CaroMont and Robin Johnson Hospice House.
Hulsey has a personal interest in the garden. She lost her son Steven on July 24, 2004 at age 33 in an auto accident.
“When you lose a child the fear is they will be forgotten,” Hulsey said. “Steven may not be here but the garden will be long after I am gone. I feel so blessed to be a part of this garden. It is a wonderful thing.”
During this interview, Hulsey stood by the twisted cherry tree and looked at it thoughtfully.
“This tree said to me, I am broken but I still live,” she said. “That is us.”
More about The Compassionate Friends 
The Compassionate Friends was founded over 50 years ago when a chaplain at the Warwickshire Hospital in England brought together two sets of grieving parents and realized that the support they gave each other was better than anything he, as a chaplain, could ever say or provide. Meeting around a kitchen table, the Lawleys and the Hendersons were joined by a bereaved mother and the chaplain, Simon Stephens, and The Society of the Compassionate Friends was born. The Compassionate Friends jumped across the ocean and was established in the United States and incorporated in 1978 in Illinois.
Each chapter, along with the supporting National Office, is committed to helping every bereaved parent, sibling, or grandparent who may walk through our doors or contact us.
Today TCF has over 600 chapters serving all 50 states plus Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam, that offer friendship, understanding, and hope to bereaved parents, siblings, grandparents, and other family members during the natural grieving process after a child has died. Around the world more than 30 countries have a Compassionate Friends presence, encircling the globe with support so desperately needed when the worst has happened.
The Southern Piedmont Chapter was started by John and Rose Stanley who lost their daughter Susan in a single car accident on May 29, 1984. The chapter was chartered in 1986 and meets monthly at First Presbyterian Church Gastonia.
Interested in learning more about how to join or contribute? Contact Hulsey at 704-678-6537 or email cdhulsey@gmail.com.
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Rev. Charles Wesley Reid

Rev. Charles Reid
remembered as a man who made a big impact on Belmont

Third in a series of Black History Month stories recognizing prominent Afrtcan-American people and places in our area.

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

Even though Rev. Charles Wesley Reid passed away on Nov. 9, 2020  at age 68, his legacy in Belmont and beyond will continue on.
Reid’s motto and life philosophy was the acronym “B.E.L.I.E.V. E.” That stands for Brother, Exceptional, Loving, Inspirational, Energizing, Visionary, and Enthusiastic. He not only embraced those ideals, he lived them each and every day.
Reid had several siblings. They included brothers Oscar, Abriel, Forrest, and sisters Broncher and Vera.
Vera characterized Charles with these reflections.
“Charles was well known in Belmont as someone who stood up for what was right,” she said. “It did not matter what your skin complexion. He was there for everyone.”
Reid was founder of the Belmont Mass Choir.
“He wanted every race to be part of the choir, Vera said.
Reid was a familiar sight sitting on the porch of his grandparent’s home on Sacco St.
“On any nice and sunny day you would find him in one of the rocking chairs,” said Vera. “He loved for people to stop by and sit on the porch and rock with him. On Sundays after church you could find the front porch and yard full of family and friends.”
Even the pandemic failed to dampen Reid’s hospitable spirit.
“Charles would say we had to practice social distancing,” Vera said. “He always kept bottled water, sodas, and chips for the guests to enjoy. Whenever the family or someone in the community needed some advice Charles would always try to give them words of encouragement or even offer to pray with them.”
Oscar Reid remembered Charles in the form of another acronym..L.O.V.E. That one stands for Leadership, Obedience, Virtue, and Empathy.
“He showed love for all,” Oscar said. “He showed leadership to everybody in his community, ministry, and love of music. He showed obedience in showing his practical acceptance of the authority and will of God. He showed virtue in his daily life by honoring God and being willing to help out people. He showed empathy in his compassion for his family, community, and all mankind.”
Reid valued education.  He graduated from Belmont High School in 1969. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Hampton University, a master’s in education from UNC Charlotte, and a master’s in divinity from Hood Theological Seminary.
Reid’s faith was also a driving force in his life starting with Hood Memorial AME Zion Church in Belmont. He went on to become a pastor at several AME Zion churches including Big Pineville, Steele Creek, and Clinton Chapel in Charlotte, as well as Mount Zion in Gastonia.
Reid also had a successful career as a counselor at Family Housing Services of Charlotte. He was also a personnel analyst for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and director of Student Support Services at Johnson C. Smith University. He worked as a career development specialist for Goodwill Industries in Charlotte where he retired in 2019.
 
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A group of educators from Colorado visited Gaston County to gain a better understanding of how three local elementary schools – W.A. Bess, Pinewood, and Rankin – are linking the fine arts to positive academic outcomes.

Educators from Colorado visit Gaston County Schools

By Sean Corcoran
Gaston County Schools


What’s going on in classrooms at three elementary schools in Gaston County has captured the attention of educators from Colorado.
W.A. Bess Elementary, Pinewood Elementary, and Rankin Elementary earned the prestigious North Carolina A+ School distinction, which is presented by the N.C. Arts Council.  W.A. Bess joined the program in 2019, and Pinewood and Rankin followed in 2020.  As an A+ School, Bess, Pinewood, and Rankin have added the arts across the curriculum.
Word spread, and a group of 24 educators from the Colorado Springs School District visited Gaston County Schools to learn more about our North Carolina A+ Schools.  What they saw were creative and inspiring ways that teachers are incorporating aspects of art, music, dance, and theater into their daily lessons and activities.
“It is great for them to see the amazing work being done in Gaston County Schools and find out more about the benefits of A+ learning and how children are engaged in this type of unique school environment,” said Michelle Burrows, the North Carolina A+ Schools director who arranged the visit.
The Colorado educators had the opportunity to observe teachers and students using the arts to focus on critical thinking skills.  For example, in Taylor Helms’ third grade class at Pinewood, students were asked to draw a city using arrays, which is the arrangement of objects, pictures, or numbers in rows and columns.
“The purpose of an array city is to inspire students to use creativity to make the buildings,” explained Helms.  “They cut out squares as windows, put them in rows and columns, and then wrote matching multiplication equations for each building.”
By integrating art into the assignment, children gain a better understanding of their multiplication skills, said Helms.  “They love the hands-on approach to learning.”
In Amanda Humphries’ classroom, third graders performed a skit using “The Tortoise and the Hare” story to demonstrate their reading comprehension skills.
“After reading a variety of folktales and discussing character traits, motives, and moral lessons in the stories, students had the opportunity to showcase a folktale through dramatization,” explained Humphries. “In groups, one student was the narrator of a fable while the other students did a pantomime, acting out key vocabulary words for actions and feelings of the characters.”
The hallways at W.A. Bess Elementary are lined with colorful and creative art projects with written explanations.  First grade teacher Ashley McGinnis used jack-o-lanterns for her students to learn about two dimensional shapes.
“Some students used triangles and rectangles for teeth, and others used different shapes such as ovals and circles to represent the pumpkin,” said McGinnis. “It’s one of the many ways our children are using their imagination to learn the curriculum.”
 This is what an A+ North Carolina School looks like on a typical day – integrating the arts into the curriculum and viewing the arts as a foundation for teaching and learning.
Research indicates that students who are engaged in the arts achieve at a higher level and also develop an understanding of and appreciation for the arts.  Through their visit to Gaston County, the Colorado educators were able to see how the arts are linked to positive academic outcomes and learn strategies and techniques to use in their own classrooms.
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On Monday, Habitat for Humanity Gaston County executive director Kay Peninger (fourth from left) and other dignitaries held an official groundbreaking event for the Dixon Village housing project on Lee Rd. in North Belmont. Photo by Alan Hodge

Dixon Village
construction begins

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

Site work has started on the Habitat for Humanity of Gaston County Dixon Village project on Lee Rd. off Hickory Grove Rd. in North Belmont. The development will contain 28 homes and will occupy 7.5 acres.
Crews have started working clearing the property of trees and underbrush and an official groundbreaking took place last Monday.
Habitat Gaston completed its Phase One fundraising by meeting a goal of $1.5 million dedicated to the neighborhood’s infrastructure.  The start of Phase Two fundraising also began following Monday’s groundbreaking. The $1.2 million goal will go directly toward the construction of the Habitat homes. Each Habitat residence will cost an estimated $150,000.
“We are elated to get this innovative project off the ground and build beautiful homes where families can thrive,” said Kay Peninger, executive director of Habitat Gaston. “Dixon Village will provide more than just a house; this neighborhood will offer a community, a sturdy foundation and a homeownership dream fulfilled for many Gaston families.”
Plans are for the site work to be done by late April.
“We have contracted with Site Works to perform the horizontal work for the Dixon Village project,” Penninger said.  “They began working December 6, 2021 and are targeting April 25, 2022 for completion.  We do hope that we can begin pouring pads for two to four homes before
then.  It is very exciting to see this starting to take shape and form!”
According to Peninger, Habitat has updated the ratios of homeowners.  One-third will be Habitat homes. One-third will go to “hometown heroes” – police officers, firefighters, health care workers, teachers, veterans, etc. One-third will be market-rate entry-level buyers.
The housing will be a mix of single story 3-bedroom houses and two story 4-bedroom houses.  The architectural design of the houses will be in the style of a Craftsman bungalow.  Design elements such as shingles and material accents will be used to add variation, visual interest, and color to the exteriors.  The neighborhood will feature community building amenities such as front porches, sidewalks, and a park-like green space with a playground, picnic tables, and a walking path.
 “Homeownership is the foundation of healthy families and communities,” Peninger said.  “We are excited to be able to provide affordable housing – housing that families can afford based on their income – in Belmont.  When families have a safe and stable home it provides many benefits such as a stable home life, their children do better in school, and they have improved health.  Homeownership also contributes to breaking the cycle of poverty as families have the opportunity to build equity in their home. Habitat for Humanity of Gaston County is committed to accomplishing this project and serving more families.  We have a strong project team in place that will result in a charming and attractive neighborhood.”
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Muddy River Distillery founder/owner Robbie Delaney seen with rum aging in oak barrels. This is just a fraction of the product they have on hand. Photos by Alan Hodge

Belmont’s Muddy River Distillery growing by leaps
and bounds

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info


One of Belmont’s most innovative and interesting small businesses, as well as a tourism destination, Muddy River Distillery, is growing at a prodigious rate. But it may not be in town much longer.
Muddy River was started back in 2011 by husband and wife team Robbie and Caroline Delaney.
The idea to start a rum distillery- the first in North Carolina- came to Robbie when he spotted a magazine article on the subject while flying back to Charlotte from a construction job in Texas. Work in the construction industry was drying up and he was casting about, looking for another career. Not only that, but the constant travel was making spending time with Caroline logistically problematic.
“I got excited when I read the magazine article,” Robbie said. “I started doing research on what it would take to build a still and to begin distilling.”
chat with friend Scott Huff, a rum connoisseur, led to the decision to make rum rather than bourbon or some other type of libation. Once the decision to distill legal rum was made, the Delaney’s found a space at the former Piedmont Processing plant.  Robbie used his construction skills to build his first still. The basis of the still was a stainless steel milk tank he got from his father’s farm in Greensboro. Muddy River became the first modern era rum distillery in North Carolina.
From the very beginning, the Delaney’s worked night and day at the distillery. They often slept in the building on a tent in sleeping bags on the concrete floor. The rum began to flow and sales rose.
By 2013 the distillery had two large stills operating. The rum was being sold at ABC stores across North Carolina. In 2017, a 450 gallon still named “Independence” came on line. Caroline began giving guided tours of the distillery.
Just when things were taking off, Covid came around. Bars and restaurant sales of rum slowed to a trickle. The Delaney’s shifted gears and began making alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It was an instant hit and the sales helped carry them through the worst of the pandemic lockdown.
Now that things are getting back to normal, rum sales are soaring and tour group visitors are lining  up again with folks eager to see Muddy River’s inner workings, taste rum samples, and buy bottles of the distillery’s award winning product.
Currently, the distillery has racks of rum aging in oak barrels. Thousands of bottles are in cases ready for shipment. Rum-making supplies are stacked on pallets everywhere including 30,000 lbs. of sugar and a tank with 2,000 gallons of fermenting molasses.
“We have to shuffle stuff around to get to the shipping dock door,” said Robbie.
Current production is 1,200 bottles of rum per day. The first rum runs of ten years ago made 35 bottles per day.
“Bottle sales grew 30 percent last year,” said Robbie.
The Delaneys have also hired two full time employees.
All that growth had led to a need for more room not just for rum making, but also to have a nice space where folks can come in and linger while they enjoy a rum cocktail or sip shots.
“We want to sell an experience like craft breweries do,” said Robbie.
Future plans for Muddy River include marketing to a multi-state area and becoming a rum distiller on the national level.
But Robbie is frustrated.
“We’ve been looking for a larger space for over a year,” he said. “We need at least 20,000 sq. ft. of room.”
Right now, the distillery has only about 6,000 sq. ft.
Thoughts of staying in Belmont are currently somewhat dim.
“Belmont is geared more towards residential development and real estate,” Robbie said.
However, the Delaneys have several irons in the fire.
“We are looking at a place in Mt. Holly that used to be a textile mill,” Robbie said.
The structure he referred to is the circa 1875 mill located at Alsace Avenue and N. Main. The building served as the Austrian Consulate for several years.
Another possibility Robbie mentioned is the Top Golf building on I-485 near Charlotte.
“We are also interested in the area of Gastonia near the new ball park,” said Robbie.
The bottom line?
“We are growing and we will move where we have to,” Robbie says. “We are probably going to leaving Belmont.”
For more information visit muddyriverdistillery.com.
 
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This marker is also at the Hunter gravesite at Hawthorne and Catawba St. in Mt. Holly.

Former slave
Ransom Hunter was an
entrepreneurial pioneer

One in a series of  Black History Month stories remembering prominent African-American people and places in our area.

By Alan Hodge
alan@cfmedia.info

Ransom Hunter rose from the bonds of slavery to become one of Mt. Holly’s leading businessmen and citizens and though he died a century ago, his name is still remembered to this day.
Hunter was born a slave on a plantation near Charleston circa 1825. As a boy he was sold to the Hoyle family who owned a large farm near Dallas and Stanley in Gaston County.
Just before the Civil War broke out in 1861, Hunter’s owner set him free and gave him a plot of land near the Catawba River that Hunter named “Freedom”. It is believed that Hunter was the first free black in Gaston to own property.
Though the land was rugged, Hunter pitched in and through his sweat and sinew created a prosperous farm.
During Reconstruction following the war, Hunter’s hard work enabled him to purchase additional land in what is today’s appropriately named Freedom neighborhood in Mt. Holly. He operated a livery stable on Main St. and ran a general store for the local African-American populace making him one of the first black business owners in the area. He also helped recently freed slaves find jobs and housing.
 Hunter was a strong believer in education. He learned to read, write, and do math. He also learned carpentry and blacksmithing. He served on the Public School Committee of District No. 12, which at the time was called the “colored” school district, and deeded land to what became Rollins School in 1887.
Hunter also had strong faith. He was the founder of two Mount Holly churches still in existence today: Rock Grove Methodist Church, which became Burge Memorial United Methodist Church, and Mt. Sinai Baptist Church.
Hunter sold land to Abel Peterson Rhyne and Daniel Efird Rhyne to build the area’s first cotton mill in 1875. The Mount Holly Manufacturing Mill was constructed on the land which Hunter purchased in 1874 from R.C.G. Love. It was the fourth mill to be built in Gaston County and is the oldest surviving cotton mill today. The name of the mill was derived from the famed yarn mill in Mount Holly, New Jersey, in hopes of taking after their success. The mill’s success and the prosperity of the area led local residents to petition the North Carolina General Assembly for the incorporation of Mount Holly in 1879.
 In 1913, Hunter sold the Mayes Manufacturing Company a stretch of land near the South Fork Catawba River and the Southern Railroad, where they built a cotton textile mill.[8]
Hunter died in 1918 at the age of 93 in Mt. Holly. He’s buried near a large oak in the cemetery at the corner of Hawthorne and West Catawba  Ave. in Mt. Holly.
Hunter is still remembered for his many contributions to Mt. Holly.
In July 2014, his descendants held a family reunion and a new headstone was placed under the big tree near his grave.  In 2017, Hunter was named as the very first Mt. Holly Historic Person of the Year by the Mt. Holly Historical Society.
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2022 Gaston Together MLK Unity Awards honored Burks, Martin, and Meeks

The Gaston Clergy & Citizens Coalition (GC3), an initiative of Gaston Together, presented the 2022 Gaston County MLK Unity Awards to Mr. R. Dwayne Burks, Rev. Dr. Joan C. Martin, and Mr. Michael Meeks, Sr. on Monday, January 17th at 10:30 am. Out of an abundance of caution due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the event this year was live-streamed through the Facebook page of Mt. Zion Restoration Church.
The Gaston County MLK Unity Award was established in 2004 by the GC3. The MLK Unity Award recognizes Gaston County citizens who have performed exemplary community service to help build bridges of unity across lines of class, race, gender, faith, and municipalities within Gaston County.
R. Dwayne Burks is being honored for his work in the community, including his teaching of cultural competency education sessions for the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police and founding Gateway Gaston, which serves residents of Gaston County by connecting them to resources in times of need. Mr. Burks also hosted two Legacy of Freedom trips for local clergy from multiple denominations and participated in an outreach ministry serving meals to those in need. A resident of Gaston County since 1988, Mr. Burks continues to serve residents throughout the County.
Rev. Dr. Joan C. Martin has served residents of Gaston County since 2004 in many capacities. She has served as a facilitator of the Interfaith Trialogue, a leader and facilitator for the Clergy Women of Gaston County, and a member and past chair of the Gaston Together Clergy and Citizen’s Coalition. Rev. Martin currently serves as the Chaplin of Covenant Village and continues her work with non-profit organizations throughout Gaston County.
Mr. Michael Meeks, Sr., was born and raised in Bessemer City, NC. He served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War and continued his service in the Army Reserve. After a career with Wyndham Worldwide Hotels, he returned to Bessemer City and began volunteering on many community projects and committees. He currently serves as the President of the Bessemer City Crisis Center, serves on the Gaston County Collaborative Board, and delivers Meals on Wheels to area residents. An active member of the Gaston County Honor Guard and Chairman of the Gaston County Veterans Day Parade, Mr. Meeks was honored in 2018 with the Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service and continues to serve the Greater Gaston community through his volunteer efforts.00
The awards are part of an annual event designed by the GC3 to recognize the dream of Dr. King to promote a culture that protects and nourishes every community and every person, a dream very much alive in Gaston County.