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Students from Belmont Middle School Art Club pitched in and painted rain barrels for the Belmont Community Garden. Brianna Beaver (center) is their teacher. Photo by Alan Hodge

Belmont Community Garden on comeback trail

By Alan Hodge

Plans are afoot to rejuvenate the downtown Belmont Community Garden.
The garden is located on N. Main Street behind the row on businesses on the Stowe Park side. The garden dates to 2014 and is on a lot owned by Jonathan Taylor.
The idea for a community garden was hatched when Taylor and some friends were sitting around relaxing.
The concept that was fleshed out involved creating a community garden, then renting 50 square foot raised bed plots in it for $50 a year. The garden flourished for several years, literally and figuratively speaking. However, a variety of challenges arose, not the least of which was water, and the garden shriveled to just a few operational beds.
Enter Ryan Murphy. He’s the director of sustainability and event coordinator at Honeycomb Café’ just up the street from the garden at 31 N. Main. Murphy is also schooled in the ways of growing things. He graduated from Clemson University in 2019 with a BA in Agriculture. In 2021 he earned a MA in Plant and Environmental Science.
The garden drew Murphy like a magnet.
“I have a passion for agriculture,” Murphy said.
Murphy and Taylor connected, and a deal was struck to let Murphy work at getting the garden going again as a 501 c3 non-profit.
“I want to bring back the garden’s energy,” Murphy said.
One of the first things that needed looking after in a garden refurbishment is making sure the remaining beds have enough water. The original large cistern is still in place, but water containers were needed closer to the crops. Murphy arranged for students in the Belmont Middle School Art Club to paint 55-gallon plastic water storage barrels in fanciful and colorful designs. The outcome not only gives the garden a festive look, but it will also water the plants via solar powered pumps and hoses.
“The barrels are the first step in fixing the water issue,” said Murphy.
For now, the garden will not be open to the public, but that could come in the future.
“I am working to get insurance,” Murphy said. “Hopefully by next spring we can offer garden memberships with around twenty rented beds.”
Murphy described other garden goings on.

“I have been tending the garden, but hope to incorporate volunteers in the near future as we continue to build out the community aspect of the garden,” he said. “We planted our summer crop in May and may flip some of the beds for a fall crop in September. For now, the garden is harvesting produce to sell to Heirloom Restaurant to generate monies to expand the garden. Beginning next year, our hope is to be working with a community organization that serves underprivileged members of our community so that 10% of harvest from the Community Garden is donated to those in need.”
Besides the garden, Murphy is also working to establish a farmer’s market in Belmont.
“The focus will be on local produce and natural products,” he said. “I am looking for a possible location.”
According to Murphy, a potential schedule would have the market open on Thursday once a month from 3:30pm-7pm during September, October, and November. There would be twenty to thirty vendors.
“The city is helping and it’s very exciting,” Murphy said.
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Brian Reagan

City of Mount Holly announces Brian Reagan as new Police Chief

By Mary Blomquist

Brian Reagan will officially begin his new role as Police Chief of the City of Mount Holly on August 1. Reagan has served as Deputy Chief of Police for the past eight years.
“We are excited that Brian Reagan is stepping into this role as Chief of Police for our City,” says Mayor Bryan Hough. “He has a significant amount of experience, a passion for service, and a clear vision on how to support his department while also supporting the community.”
As a life-long resident of Belmont and Mount Holly, Chief Brian Reagan has a desire to see the community he was raised in grow and flourish. Chief Reagan has called Mount Holly home for over twenty years, and has a desire for Mount Holly to remain safe while keeping its small-town charm. Chief Reagan was called to serve as a police officer 21 years ago at the Mount Holly Police Department, where he has remained for the entirety of his career.
Over the course of his illustrious career, he has served on the Patrol Division as a Patrol Officer, K-9 handler, and Patrol Sergeant; the Investigations Division, as a Detective; and Administration, as the Deputy Chief of Police.
Chief Reagan has a formal education from Gaston College and Western Carolina University. He has also attended various training courses dealing with multiple facets of law enforcement to earn his Intermediate and Advanced Law Enforcement Certificates from the North Carolina Department of Justice.
City Manager Miles Braswell says, “Brian Reagan’s performance and experience over the past 21 years, as well as his professional and educational background, demonstrates his readiness to take on the position of Police Chief. He is a dedicated law enforcement professional who has earned the respect of his fellow officers. This is an exciting next step for our City.”
“I look forward to strengthening the bonds that already exist between my community and the Mount Holly Police Department, and, as Chief of Police, I will also strive to build new ones,” says Chief Brian Reagan. ”I want to thank everyone for this opportunity, and I look forward to working with you all to keep Mount Holly safe and beautiful.”
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Belmont Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe, project manager Andrew Simonds and Sheba The Wonder Dog are all pleased at how well progress on the new building is coming along. Photo by Alan Hodge

Rapid progress being made on new Belmont Parks and Rec. building

By Alan Hodge

Work on the new Parks and Rec. facility for Belmont is moving forward at a prodigious rate. Last week saw employees from Edifice General Contractors and other companies continue working like beavers at the site on E. Catawba St. in front of the CityWorks building.
The new building will be two stories high and have 45,000 sq. ft. of space. It will feature  basketball courts, a media room for gaming, an exercise studio, a kitchen, a kids play area, and a large lobby. It will also feature a walking track, an exercise room, a catering kitchen, and a lounge. The second floor will have a balcony with sweeping views of the Catawba River and Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park across the road.
A recent visit to the job site showed the building’s structural steel skeleton completed. The section nearest Catawba St. is called “Pad A” and the walls and ceiling are up. Interior walls are being framed in. The larger structure, “Pad B”, nearest CityWorks has the framework done and concrete floor in place.
Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe explained the situation.
“Slab A will have the multipurpose room, lounge, gaming room, offices, event room, and outdoor balcony,” Stowe said. “Slab B will have the basketball courts, indoor soccer area, and walking track.”
According to Stowe, furniture is already being ordered.
“It will be coming from a variety of sources,” he said.
Project superintendent Andrew Simonds is on the job every day and seems pleased with the progress so far.
It’s been going really well,” Simonds said.
A tentative date for opening has been set.
“We are looking at a ribbon cutting on May 4, 2023.” Stowe said.
According to Stowe, Belmont is the only town in our area without its own structure 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.
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.”
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Muddy River Distilleries owner/founder Robbie Delaney and son Marty at the new Mt. Holly location. The wheels once turned machinery in the mill. Photo by Alan Hodge

Belmont’s Muddy River Distillery expanding its operation to Mt. Holly

By Alan Hodge

One of Belmont’s most innovative and interesting small businesses, Muddy River Distillery, has been growing at a prodigious rate and has an exciting move to Mt. Holly in the works.
First, a bit of clarification, contrary to rumor, Muddy River will not be completely leaving Belmont. Repeat, not be completely leaving Belmont.
What’s going to happen is…drum roll… Muddy River founders and owners Robbie and Caroline Delaney have purchased the circa 1875 Mt. Holly Cotton Mill complex located at 250 N. Main St. on the banks of Dutchman’s Creek and are going to turn it into the main hub of the business. The current Muddy River location in Belmont will be kept open, perhaps as a storage and warehouse place.
A bit of background on Muddy River Distillery.
It 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.”
According to Robbie, a 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 in East Belmont.  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 online. Caroline began giving guided tours of the distillery.
Currently, the distillery has hundreds of kegs of rum aging in oak barrels stacked floor to ceiling. Thousands of bottles are in cases ready for shipment. Rum-making supplies are on pallets everywhere including 30,000 lbs. of sugar and a tank with 2,000 gallons of fermenting molasses. Current production is 1,200 bottles of rum per day. The first rum runs of ten years ago made 35 bottles per day.
All that growth 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 wanted to sell an experience like craft breweries do,” said Robbie.
But the Belmont location only has about 6,000 sq. ft.
For months, the Delaneys looked for a larger space in Belmont, but none was available. Then, the Mt. Holly Cotton Mill came up on their radar. After negotiations, the Delaneys purchased the mill and 4.58 acres of surrounding property for $1.3 million from Pat Friedl. The deal was closed on June 28. The Mt. Holly mill has 17,000 sq. ft.
The mill is one of the most important structures in our region. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to “The Architectural Heritage of Gaston County”, the mill was built in 1875 and was the fourth cotton mill built in the county and the oldest one still standing. It was originally water-powered. In 1876 it had 2,800 spindles. The Great Flood of 1916 did considerable damage, but the mill was repaired and in 1918 it was bought by C. E. Hutchinson who renamed it Alsace Mfg. Co. Time went by and several different companies, including A&E, and individuals owned the property. Interestingly, for a while, part of the structure served as offices for the Austrian Consulate. Signage and mementoes of that era are still in evidence.
Robbie gave this reporter a tour of the three-story main building and grounds last week and his energy and enthusiasm for the project was contagious.
“We got a piece of North Carolina that is just irreplaceable,” he says. “We’ve got the building the town of Mount Holly was named after.”
Robbie outlined some of the ideas he has for the place.
“The bottom floor is where the stills will be located,” he said. “We will open a hole in the floor of the second level so people can look down and see the rum being made. There will be plenty of space for special events, a catering kitchen, and a cocktail bar as well. Outside, the lawn can be used for festivals, markets, concerts, and other gatherings.”
A separate barrel house out back will hold the distillery’s aging barrels some of which are already eight years old and will also double as a wedding venue.
At this stage in the project, the next step will be for the Delaney’s to submit their restoration and renovation plans to the proper historic preservation entities. Then, actual work can begin.
“Rehab Engineering out of Winston-Salem will present the plans by the end of this month,” said Robbie. “Once they are approved, Rehab Builders will do the work. We want to keep as much of the historic fabric of the place intact as possible.”
How long will the project take?
The goal is to have the facility fully functional by spring 2024 — though Robbie says it could open in phases. That could mean events and festivals on site as early as this fall, for example.
For more information visit
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Teddi Daniels and Suzie Q.

Book by Belmont author is about kindness

By Alan Hodge

Sometimes it seems that kindness is in short supply these days but a new book by Belmont author Teddi Daniels sets out to prove that being kind to others- even if the other has four legs- is a worthy endeavor.
The book, “Saving Suzie Q”, revolves around the good and bad days of a neglected pup named Suzie Q, how Daniels came into her life, and the uplifting outcome of their relationship.
Daniels described how “Saving Suzie Q” came about.
“I have never written a book before this,” she said. “I had a lot of help from my cousin Rachel Kovacin who has several books published and also writes monthly articles for newspapers / magazines around the US. Rachel is my closest cousin - she grew up in Taylorsville but now is married and lives in Virginia. So, she helped me ‘long distance’ to understand the process, editing, illustrating, and how to publish my book on Amazon. I also worked with an amazing illustrator, Elizabeth Mathis, who is a fellow dog mom. Her illustrations really brought Suzie Q’s story to life.
So, what directed Daniels to create her work?
“The inspiration for “Saving Suzie Q” was to help children understand that animals have a value, and that we need to be their voice when they are in need of help. Even little acts of kindness can make a big difference!
Daniels credits her grandparents with instilling a love of animals.
“I grew up around animals,” she said. “My grandma and grandpa lived on a farm and my absolute best childhood memories are of spending time with them, their animals and gardening. And making cookies with my grandma.”
Daniels hopes her book will inspire a similar empathy for animals in kids.
“This book helps children relate to Suzie Q as someone who was born into a bad situation (the hoarder in Alabama)... but, because others cared, and did things to help her, she now has a great life,” she said. “When we adopted her, she was severely underweight, missing fur and had kennel cough. Without this network of people ‘caring’ and ‘doing,’ she likely would not be alive today. The book also gives specific examples of what children can do, even at their young age, to help animals. This includes bringing food and/or toys to a shelter, going to the shelter and volunteering, and the best thing is ‘adopting’ instead of ‘shopping’ for their next dog or cat.”
As any author will attest, writing takes effort, but the result is worth it- especially in this case.
“Writing ‘Saving Suzie Q’ was a lot of hard work,” said Daniels. “Much, much time and many, many edits. If I were to write another book, it would be the continued story of her life with us. Given all that she went through in the first seven months of her life (the hoarder, two shelters and a foster family), she likely still has a little bit of adjusting to do. She is really doing great though, and definitely knows that we love her and will not hurt her / that we will take care of her.”
“Saving Suzie Q” is available for purchase on both as well as on
Also, the Gaston County library has ordered two copies, one for the main branch and one for our Belmont branch.
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Mount Holly Police Chief Don Roper

Chief Don Roper retires from Mount Holly Police Department after 35 years in law enforcement

Story/photo by Mary Blomquist

Mount Holly Police Chief Don Roper is retiring on July 31, capping 35 years of policing in Gaston County.
Roper was sworn in as a patrol officer for the Gastonia Police Department in 1987 and was appointed chief in Mount Holly in May 2013.
His background speaks volumes: extensive experience in Investigations, Narcotics, and Tactical Team Operations, advanced NC Law Enforcement certification, graduate of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Appalachian State University, to name a few.
Roper was the recipient of the prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award in February 2019 and spearheaded the creation of the MHPD Annual Report that is released each year.
After Officer Tyler Herndon was killed in the line of duty in December 2020, Chief Roper was instrumental in leading his Department and Mount Holly community through their grieving and healing. As a result of this, the MHPD Memorial Plaza was designed and constructed, honoring not only Officer Herndon, but all law enforcement. Chief Roper sat on many Council-appointed committees, and his voice and vision led to the many aspects considered and now incorporated into this Plaza.
“I want to thank Chief Roper for his many years of dedicated service to the City of Mount Holly,” said City Manager Miles Braswell. “The MHPD and the City as a whole have benefited tremendously with Chief in charge. He has worked tirelessly to consider others above himself and has made Mount Holly a safer place. His dedication to the police profession shows in the way he conducts himself, and this is reflective in the professional manner portrayed by the MHPD.”
City officials will announce Roper’s replacement before his retirement on July 31.
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Emily Andress with “Spirit of the River”.

Spirit of the River
unveiled in Mt. Holly

By Alan Hodge

Last Thursday saw the official unveiling at the pollinator garden in Tuckaseegee Park of Mt. Holly’s first public outdoor sculpture commissioned by the city.
The piece was designed by Awaken Gallery owner Emily Andress. It is made of steel and painted with marine grade paint in vibrant colors. Mt. Holly’s MacFab metal company cut the pieces and they were welded together by Scott Griffin. Andress spent many hours at the Arts on the Greenway studio applying the paint.
“The colors are based on those that attract bees,” Andress said. “That includes purples, greens, yellows, and blues.”
The piece is named “Spirit of the River” and features Native American iconography and symbolism. A plaque near the sculpture explains the symbols.
The sculpture is ten feet tall and eight feet wide. It weighs 2,600 lbs. Another feature of the piece is the fact it has a cutout in the shape of a bee near the center that will cast a bee-shaped shadow on the pollinator garden.
The piece was moved last Wednesday with a forklift from Arts on the Greenway to the park. The route chosen was the Greenway path which certainly got some looks from folks strolling it.
Thursday’s official unveiling saw a number of folks express their pleasure at seeing the visual impact the sculpture makes in the center of the pollinator garden’s colorful plantings.
“This is exciting,” said mayor Bryan Hough. “The city wanted to make an impact with public art and this is the result.”
Andress, who has worked with the city to stage the annual Lantern Parade she originated, was appreciative of how the municipality has supported the arts.
“The city has been marvelous to work with,” she said.

Town of Stanley Independence Day

The Town of Stanley celebrated Independence Day with a big jamboree in Harper Park. Pictured above: Former Stanley Town Councilwoman Kerry Hart with Jerry whitlock enjoying the festivities. See more scenes on page 6.                                                      Photo by Bill Ward
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MHPD Officer Tyler Herndon’s killer receives life sentence

By Alan Hodge

On December 11, 2020, Mt. Holly police officer Tyler Herndon lost his life in the line of duty as he responded to a breaking and entering call. Last Tuesday, Herndon’s accused killer, Joshua Tyler Funk, 25, was sentenced by Superior Court Judge David Phillips to life in prison without possibility of parole.
Funk had pleaded guilty to the crime that sent shockwaves throughout Mt. Holly and beyond.
During the sentencing, several members of Herndon’s family, including his father Mark Herndon, addressed the court.
“The pain is unimaginable,” he said.
But out of the tragedy came strength. Tributes to Herndon poured into the MHPD from all over the nation. His name lives on in the beautiful Law Enforcement Memorial at Mt. Holly’s Municipal Complex. His name is engraved at the National Police Memorial in Washington, D.C. A foundation in his name has also been established. In Mt. Holly, folks still have blue bulbs in their porch lights in his memory.
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Linda Wilcox

Linda Wilcox is a McAdenville icon

By Alan Hodge
McAdenville is a tight knit community with a long textile heritage and Linda Wilcox is one of the strongest threads in the weave.
The textile reference is appropriate since Wilcox worked various departments in the local mills for 36 years. She married her late husband Jack when she was sixteen years old, and they had two sons- David who was employed for 30 years at Freightliner and Rick who owns Wilcox Construction and Landscaping.
Wilcox is known as a lady of great faith. She is a long-time member of Lakeview Baptist Church. Most Friday nights sees her attending gospel music shows in Chesnee, S.C. According to friend Sara Haynes, Wilcox brings her own special sweetness to the shows.
“She takes everyone a large banana pudding made from scratch,” Haynes said.
Wilcox also makes and delivers her famous banana puddings to employees at the North Belmont Food Lion grocery store where they are devoured in the break room.
Wilcox is also very active in McAdenville civic affairs. She is a member of the McAdenville Women’s Club and helps sell the popular McAdenville Christmas ornaments, sweatshirts and T-shirts.
In her spare time, Wilcox has enjoyed several jaunts with tour groups led by Ailene Friday of Stanley. Before each trip, Wilcox knits dozens of colorful dish cloths which she gives to fellow travelers. She also carries cloths and gives them to folks when she first meets them.
Like many people with the heart of a servant, Wilcox doesn’t seek but deserves some recognition. As Haynes puts it- “Linda Wilcox is a very prominent lady in McAdenville. She has been overlooked for what she does for her community.”
Good job, Linda. Keep up the good work.
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Your BannerNews editor at an amusement park in Vienna, Austria. Sign in lower right hand corner translates to “Beware of fat schweinhund in blue shirt”. Maybe. See more photos on pages 6 and 7. Photo by Sharon Hodge

Go and Do

See more photos in the Banner-News June 30, 2022 issue

Or... I left my glasses (and heart) in Budapest, Hungary

By Alan Hodge

Sharon and I recently took a vacation- my first “real” one in ten years. We travelled about 10,000 miles overall and flew over eleven nations to and fro and rode in a long, skinny boat 400 miles up the Danube River through Hungary, Austria, and into Bavaria. This is the story..abbreviated and with lots of jumping around, of that journey, divided into appropriate categories.
The Trip... Last year, Sharon decided since she had finally retired after 48 years in banking, that she wanted to take a serious trip, “I am going to go and do and you can go and do or sit at home”.  Somehow, she got the idea of taking a Viking River Cruises excursion in Europe. What? This was a surprise to me, but I decided that sitting home was not the right answer. So, after months of planning and anticipating, we left June 11 and got home June 19 and I am so glad the sitting at home did not happen.
The Airports and Plane Rides... Flying is not glamorous like it was in the old days. It is riding in a bus going 550mph, 35,000 feet up in the air. We flew from Charlotte to London Heathrow on a Boeing 777 and security was tight. We had some peanut butter crackers and mints in our carryon knapsacks and had to throw them in the trash at Heathrow. We sat in that airport for several hours before getting on a smaller jet for Budapest. The pilot was a hot dog and banked it way over at every opportunity and when we got to Budapest airport he did a low-level descending, tight, curving final approach that seemed like the wingtip was going to hit the trees and he bounced it three times when the wheels hit the pave. The ground crew pushed a set of rickety metal steps up the side of the plane and we got off and had to run across the taxiway. The airport in Budapest was a throwback to the Soviet era and made of concrete with two stern women checking passports. When the trip was over, we left from Munch airport and did more security checks there. Sharon had some candy she had bought  near Krems, Austria, in her backpack and she got pulled over and a Brunhilde-like, blonde, German policewoman scanned the candy for drugs and then proceeded to run her big ‘ol hands all over Sharon’s body to such an extent and with such vigor that it after it was over Sharon told me “she should at least have given me a kiss after that pat down.”   So, we got on another 777 and left Munich and after nine long hours hit Charlotte and home. On our next to last day on the boat a waiter with an Austrian accent had told me “Vin you get home it vill be back to reality.” He didn’t lie.
The Boat..  The boat was called the “Jarl”. It was 350 feet long and 35 feet wide. It had to be to get though the numerous river locks we passed through- about nine in total. Our room was about 10x12 feet and had a little balcony with a little table and two little chairs. The top deck had lots of tables and chairs for lounging and awnings that could be raised and lowered depending on how low the bridges were we passed under and several of them were very low. Our room and the rest of the boat was sparkling clean. Everything was modern and nice. It was super quiet. One of the crew told me Jarl had one diesel engine that powered generators that fed electric motors that turned the props. The boat cruised along about 12mph which was a very relaxing pace and gave us plenty of time to take in the spectacular scenery.
The Crew..  The crew was awesome. Everyone from the housekeepers to the waiters to cooks to the social director Jennifer knew what they were doing and did it with pride. The crew ran like a well-oiled machine and made a huge, positive, impact on the entire experience. The crew were an international blend from Serbia, Romania, Hungary, Germany, the Philippines, and England to name a few nations.
The River..  Contrary to the tune “The Blue Danube” the river is not that color but a greenish brown not unlike the Catawba. In places it was only a few hundred yards wide in others like Budapest about two miles wide. It was clean. I only saw one floating soda pop bottle and no trash on its shores.
The Landscape.. The landscape was stunning. It looked a lot like North Carolina with scads of trees and open fields and rolling hills and mountains. Along the shore there were villages that looked like something out of a fairy tale book. A road ran parallel to the river from Vienna to Krems and it had a paved bicycle path and lots of folks could be seen riding on it.  Out in the country, folks were camping along the river. We would wave back and forth to them. There were a lot of wild swans on the river and they made a nice scene too.
The Shore Excursions..  We took bus/walking tours of Budapest and Vienna and Krems and Passau and Regensburg. I lost my glasses in Budapest on the very first day and the next day in Vienna I got separated from the walking tour group and was lost. I walked around somewhat nervously but eventually found them again. Whew. Near Krems, we visited a 900-year-old monastery and cathedral out in the country. The monastery owned 19,000 acres and grew grapes and apricot trees to make wine and cider. The monastery was on top of a small mountain and from its perch you could see about 40 miles of the Wachau Valley in a panorama that was stunning. In Passau and Regensburg in the old parts the streets were narrow and cobblestoned and the churches were hundreds of years old and the artwork inside and the stonework outside were mind boggling.
The Food and Drink..  The wine and beer flowed by the bucketful. We had a lunch in Passau at a beer garden and Sharon got what was called “meatloaf” but it looked like a big piece of fried Spam with potatoes on the side and I ate some sausages and kraut and had a mug or two. We visited another beer garden in Regensburg and gnawed some big pretzels and I swigged a mug of dark Bavarian beerski. On the boat the eats were like those in a five-star restaurant. It had everything from local dishes like goulash to regulars like ribeye steaks to exotic desserts to hamburgers and fries. Wine was free and local and delicious. There was a station in the lobby with pastries and teas and coffee 24/7 that drew me like a magnet.
Observations..   Many things impressed me about the countries we visited. First of all was how clean everything was. Roadside trash was nowhere to be seen. Another thing was transport. Most everyone drove little hatchback or sedan cars. The reason- gas was $8 a gallon. Bicycles were numerous as were scooters. Another thing that struck me was the lack of pickup trucks. I saw one pickup. A guy told me had only seen pictures of them. I told him they were concentrated in Gaston County. Another thing was the fact that very few local folks were overweight- especially in Hungary. Americans were easy to spot- we were the tubs. As we went further north on the Danube the pounds on folks seemed to rise. In Bavaria there were lots of people with a jelly roll around their mid-section. I reckon they had grown up with a beer in one hand a pretzel in the other and a strudel in waiting just like we’uns here  grow up with a fast food burger in one hand and a piece of fried chicken in the other. Oh, we had numerous folks (both European and even some Americans) ask us “Where did you get that… interesting, unusual, quaint, unique…accent?”   Ac-cent? I ain’t got no ac-cent you’uns the ones with an ac-cent.
Would I Do It Again?.. Simple answer- heck yea!
What’s Next..   Well, Sharon has been bitten by the travel bug and is already eyeing Ireland.
My Advice..  I was skeptical about going on this trip. It cost a lot of money. But you can’t take it with you and the sights, tastes, scenes, and experiences of a trip “over yonder” can’t be underestimated. If you can spare the funds, have your health and wits, and want to see how folks in other places live, I  say Go and Do!
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Belmont’s new skatepark
open for business

By Alan Hodge

The new City of Belmont skatepark officially opened last Tuesday with a ribbon cutting event and skateboard enthusiasts wasted little time in checking out its jumps, bowl, ramps, and other features. Last Saturday saw even more action at the park with a grand opening celebration that featured music, food trucks, and swarms of skaters showing off their skills.
The park is located next the CityWorks building on E. Catawba St. on what was formerly a vacant lot. Construction began in March and the work was done by L.A.-based Spohn Ranch. The firm travels across the country building skate parks.
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. Adding to the tragedy was the fact that the Belmont police officer, Byron Carpenter, who was heading for the scene, suffered a fatal heart attack. Further underscoring the need for a safe place that skateboarders in Belmont could do their thing was the 2018 death of Jay Simonds who was killed while he was skateboarding.
Since then, several places that skateboarders could safely enjoy their sport were considered but finding the perfect one was problematic. Now, with most City of Belmont operations being housed at CityWorks at 1401 E. Catawba St. and extra land available being available there, a place for the $300,000 skate park project was carved out along the 13th St. side of the building.
Belmont council member Martha Stowe was instrumental in making the park a reality.
“It is very exciting,” she said of the park. “Word is already out, and people of all ages have been using it.”
Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe was all smiles at the ribbon cutting.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s one of the best around.”
Fact is, the next closest park of its kind is in Lexington, N.C.
One of the park’s first users was Taylor Morgan of Belmont. Her brother, Matt, gave input for the park’s design. He is looking for a retail space in Belmont to open a skateboard store.
“It’s an awesome park,” Taylor said. “It has everything.”
The park is open dawn to dusk, seven days a week.
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Kids at Holly Hills Apartments in Mt. Holly getting set to enjoy their YMCA provided lunch.

YMCA lunch program
delivering great food to great kids

By Alan Hodge

“No kid should ever go hungry.”
That’s the basic philosophy behind the YMCA Summer Feeding Program that delivers nutritious lunches to kids in several area apartment complexes in Mt. Holly and Belmont. Local stops include Holly Hills, Kendrick Square, and Flowers Court. Times are- Holly Hills, 11:45-12:45 on Tuesdays and Thursdays; Kendrick Square Mondays through Thursdays 11:45-12:45; Flowers Court Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:45-12:45.
The lunch program began in 2014 with one lunch site at Catawba Heights Neighborhood Park serving 140 total meals. Each year this donor-funded program has grown to include new locations and volunteers all focused on serving youth meals who rely on free or reduced meals during the school year.
During the COVID closure of 2020 the Y served from March - August expanding to include locations in Mt. Holly, Belmont, Stanley, and Gastonia serving both youth and seniors the Y was able to serve 33,701 meals.
The lunches are prepared by Gaston Schools cafeterias and meets those nutritional standards. Lunch at Holly Hills last Wednesday consisted of an apple, chocolate milk, and a luscious looking fruit parfait.
“We continue to work closely with Gaston County School Nutrition who assist  in identifying areas of need and by providing balanced meals,” said YMCA director of advancement Molly D’Avria.
Kelly Davis is the program administrator. Her car was loaded with lunches when she arrived at Holly Hills last Wednesday where the children waited patiently.
“The program is going great this summer,” Davis said. “We’ve served over 100 lunches so far. One of my favorite parts of the job is seeing the smiling faces on the children.”
Davis estimates that Holly Hills generally sees about a dozen participants each visit, around fifteen at Kendrick Square, and around nine at Flowers Court.
Volunteers are a big part of the program. Volunteer Holly Shue and her daughter Logan, who attends Pinewood Elementary, were on hand at Holly Hills to help with the lunch and after lunch activities.
“I have been praying about the program and feel like it’s good for the community,” said Holly.
Logan agreed.
“It’s good and I wanted to help too,” she said.
The Holly Hills kids seemed to really enjoy the food and appreciate it as well.
When participant “Teanna’ was asked how she felt about the program her reply was short and at the same time eloquent.
“It’s real sweet,” she said.
The program will run until August 16.
Visit for more information.

Belmont’s Juneteenth
event was a big success

By Delta Sanders
There was not a more perfect day than June 18, 2022, for the Belmont Juneteenth Celebration to return to Stowe Park. Lower temperatures, complemented by the shade trees of Stowe, made the day comfortable for celebrating.
The opening ceremony included an interpretive dance to “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” performed by Keeisha Law of Belmont Parks and Recreation, followed by an award presentation to the City of Belmont. Mayor Charlie Martin, City Manager Adrian Miller, and members of Belmont City Council were there to receive the award.
Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, specifically the June 19, 1865 announcement by General Gordon Granger in Galveston, Texas.  Elements of Empowerment, Inc. partners with the City of Belmont to host the annual celebration, Gaston County’s oldest such event.
The festival of music, art, and culture resumed with the fun, family-friendly attractions and activities that have made it a destination event for many attendees. The familiar roar was heard when the Buffalo Soldiers rode their gleaming steel horses into the park, past an array of vendors, and circled the fountain. Faces were painted, T-shirts were tie-dyed, as the smell of roasted turkey legs and the sound of African drums filled the air.  The evening ended with a phenomenal concert by saxophonist supreme Carl Ratliff and Common Ground.
The 2023 Belmont Juneteenth Celebration is scheduled for June 18. Contact Elements of Empowerment, Inc. for information and details at
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This mural “Major William Chronicle and His South Fork Boys” inside Belmont city hall dates to 1940 and is the town’s first and oldest piece of public art. Photo by Alan Hodge

Belmont’s oldest piece of
public art is a treasure

By Alan Hodge

Belmont has been making great strides in the area of public art, but there’s one piece that predates all the others by a wide margin.
Long before Belmont’s City Hall became the center of the town’s municipal government, it was a U.S. Post Office, constructed in 1938. In that building is a reminder of those days when the federal government’s New Deal was in full swing in the form of a mural entitled “Major William Chronicle and His South Fork Boys”.
Many thousands of people over the years have seen the mural, but not that many know about the artist, Peter DeAnna, who painted it, how he went about his work in Belmont in 1940, and the fact that the mural as folks see it today was not his first choice of theme.
DeAnna was one of a small army of artists that the Works Projects Administration (WPA) sent out across the land during the Great Depression to create public art, perform music, and take photos of everything from poor folks to national park vistas. Overall, from 1934 to 1943, over 1,300 murals and 300 sculptures were commissioned by the federal government nationwide. Artwork for post offices was supposed to reflect the heritage or history of the town where it was located. Most of the post office  murals were funded by the Section of Fine Arts under the Treasury Department.
The Belmont Post Office mural was DeAnna’s first paying art job. A native of Uniontown, Penn., DeAnna had grown up in Washington, D.C., and received “formal” art training of sorts at the Washington Boys Club. A natural talent, DeAnna won first prize at a local art show at age sixteen for a work entitled “China Boy.”
According to the book “New Deal Art in N.C.” by Anita Price Davis, DeAnna came to Belmont in June 1940 to start his project when he was just 19 years old. While he was in town, he wrote letters to WPA Art Administrator Edward Rowan describing what he was doing. “This past week I have been working from scaffold,” he penned. “The white lead adhesive has caught hold quite well. Work is slowly nearing completion. I am striving for more quality of paint texture. Also revising drawing in several places as you suggested. I assure you I am giving it the best in me.”
The phrase “revising drawing in several places” is likely a reference to changes DeAnna was told to make to his original idea of having the mural show a Native American encampment with women tanning hides and hauling grain near a hut.
The first plan also featured the Indian men planting corn with one brave holding a bow and standing with his bare backside turned towards the viewer. In the final painting as it appears today, the hut became a tent, and the Indians were transformed into the South Fork Boys lounging around a campfire in October 1780 prior to marching to Kings Mountain to take part in the upcoming battle there. The white horse in the current version is where the bare-backed bowman would have stood.
DeAnna was paid $730 for his labors in Belmont and went on to paint another mural in Maryland. When World War II came, he enlisted and served as a military artist. Later, he went to work for the Smithsonian Institution and painted many of the works seen in the National Air and Space Museum there. He retired in 1979 and died in 1980 at age 59 of cancer.
DeAnna’s painting technique has been characterized as “ simple, calm, a little rough, but daringly old-fashioned. He also can be delicately precise when he wants to.” These words describe the Belmont painting quite well. In 2006, DeAnna’s work was freshened up at a cost of around $6,000- eight times what he was paid to do it in the first place.
More New Deal art in our area:
Gastonia, NC Post Office “Cotton Field and Spinning Mill” – oil on canvas by Francis Speight (1938).
Lincolnton, NC Post Office “Threshing Grain” – oil on canvas by Richard Jansen (1938).
Kings Mountain, NC  “Battle of Kings Mountain” by Veronica Burkhard. This canvas was painted in 1941 with Treasury Section funding for the town’s post office. It was in city hall for a while and is now in the Kings Mountain Museum of History that provided the image.
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Belmont author Jack Morris is seen with a copy of the book he wrote about gold mining near Kershaw, S.C. Photo by Alan Hodge

Gold fever still grips our area

By Alan Hodge

Prior to the California gold rush of 1849, our area was part of the top gold producing region in America. In fact, from 1860 until the Civil War, gold mining was along with farming one of the primary occupations not only in Gaston County, but across the Piedmont in general. So much gold was found in our local area that a branch of the U.S. Mint was set up in Charlotte in 1836 to handle it.
As early as the 1700s there were a number of gold producing mines in Belmont,Mount Holly, Stanley, Cherryville, and that includes one operation that dredged the shores of the Catawba River.
In his book “Early History of Belmont and Gaston County, Robert Lee Stowe, Sr., gave a glimpse at local prospecting.
“There was considerable gold mining going on in this country before the Civil War and some years afterwards,” Stowe wrote in 1951. “The Leeper mine was worked more than a hundred years
ago and was considered a rich mine.
The Wells mine was located just north of Sterling Mill and was worked extensively during the 1870s. Before the Civil War there was a place about two miles south of the Southern Railway bridge where a gold vein crossed the river. The people of the neighborhood would get a flat boat in the summertime and use a long handle and scoop up the sand and gravel from the river bottom and wash it for gold. This was a tedious process but I understand they made good wages. Sometime in the late 1890s a man built a dredge boat and had a steam shovel affair with which he scooped up the sand. He was said to have gotten a considerable amount of gold but could not handle the dredge when there was a
rise in the river which was pretty often. There came a freshet in the river and washed the boat away and the scheme was abandoned.”
In Catawba Heights, a small gold mine was operated on the Smith farm around the turn of the 20th century. The site was located near Fite Creek and was a large depression in the ground with crude machinery for sifting rocks. As the story goes, gold was found, but a cave-in nearly cost one miner his life and the digging was halted. Today, that very area is located behind one of the new River West warehouses on Cason St.
Down the South Point Road near Belmont, a gold mine was operated as early as the American Revolution. The first owner of the mine was Matthew Leeper who later sold the land to C.T. Stowe. It was later passed down to historian and author Minnie Stowe Puett. Miners from as far away as Georgia
worked the digs said to have produced gold in great amounts until it closed at an undetermined date.
In Mount Holly, an Italian named Chevalier Riva de Finola set up gold mines west of Tuckaseege Ford around 1830 and had them worked by several families of Irish Catholic immigrants. These families would eventually establish St. Joseph’s Church, the fourth oldest Catholic house of worship in North
Carolina. The church still stands on NC 273 just outside of town and a NC Highway Historical Marker mentions the miners.
Stanley was a good place to look for gold in days gone by. Author Joyce Handsel wrote a report on early 1800s gold mining in Stanley for the Brevard Station Museum there. She described the conditions for miners and their families as “crude and primitive” with poor to non-existent job training and rough
living conditions. One Stanley area mine named “Duffey’s” was located on the South Fork River close to Spencer Mountain near present-day Lowell. An ad Handsel cited in the Feb. 17, 1847 “Mecklenburg
Jeffersonian” newspaper showed the mine as part of a 175-acre tract for sale and declared “a large quantity of ore had been raised”. The mine was still operating in 1878. Handsel also mentions another Stanley dig called Moore gold mine in her work. This mine was on land southwest of town owned by Alexander Moore. It was first worked by the Moore family, then by a William Folger, then sold in 1832 to Cabarrus Gold Mining Co. of North Carolina.
Other Stanley area gold mines were owned by folks such as Samuel Rankin, Thomas Rhyne, and Peter Smith, whose occupation in the 1850 U.S. Census had him pegged as a “miner”.
Another local author, Jack Morris of Belmont, has penned a gold mining book entitled “The History and Rebirth of the Remarkable Haile Gold Mine”.
Morris’ work examines the past, present, and future of the 1827 Haile Mine near Kershaw, S.C. This mine produced over 360,000 ounces of gold in days gone by and after a long period of inactivity was reopened in 2017.
Using knowledge gained during his career with Newmont Mining Corp., Morris details the technical and geological side of gold production. But that’s not all. His book also delves into the rich relationship that mining and the Kershaw region have in common.
Anyone interested in gold mining in general, and mining in the Piedmont in particular, will get a good read, as well as a ton of knowledge from this book.
These days, gold is still likely lying in the ground and creeks in Gaston County just waiting on modern-day prospectors to root it out.
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Belmont author and historian Jack Page remembers camping near the Hanks monument when it was in the woods long before any houses were built nearby.

Did Lincoln’s mother live in Belmont?

By Alan Hodge

One of American history’s most controversial mysteries- who  the biological father of Abraham Lincoln actually was- has roots in a Belmont neighborhood.
In the early part of the 19th century, Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks, as well as her mother Mandy and sister Lucy, are said to have not only spent time in what would eventually become Belmont, but according to some folks conceive Abe while she was in this part of Gaston County- with someone other than Tom Lincoln, Abe’s “legal” daddy.
As a girl in the early 19th century, Nancy and the other girls supposedly visited her uncle Dicky Hanks who lived on land off what is now South Point Rd. To commemorate that time, there’s a stone and bronze marker on the site where Uncle Dicky’s log cabin is said to have stood.
The monument is at the very end of Hanks Creek Lane off Dorie Drive in the Pinsto development near South Point High School.
The marker was put up in 1923 by descendants of C. T. Stowe, namely Samuel Pinckney Stowe, who at that time owned the land where the cabin was situated and features the bas relief of a cabin and rail fence. Words inscribed on the plaque read, “This stone marks the site of the log cabin home of Dicky Hanks, an uncle of Nancy Hanks, mother of Abraham Lincoln. Nancy spent much of her girlhood with her uncle.”
The rock that forms the base of the monument was supposedly dragged to the spot by mules and, according to author and historian the late Minnie Stowe Puett, was placed where the chimney to Uncle Dicky’s cabin was located.
Hanks Creek runs near the monument and prompted Puett to describe the pastoral scene.
“At the foot of the hill, under the spreading beeches, still bubbles the family spring where Nancy often quenched her thirst,” Puett wrote.
Uncle Dicky was said to often quench his thirst too, but not with water, and is referred to in some texts as a “shiftless sort of fellow.”
The tale of Nancy’s activities in our area is as tangled as the whiskers in her son’s beard and the fate of the cabin likewise.
As far as the cabin goes, in his book “Between Two Rivers”, author Ross Yockey quotes Puett as saying the cabin was bought by a man named Sam Ewing who used the logs to construct a granary. In turn, the granary was torn down and the logs recycled by C.T. Stowe for a cotton shed.
Legette Blythe’s book “Robert Lee Stowe: Pioneer in Textiles” declares that the cabin was moved from its original spot on “Uncle Sammy” Stowe’s to land at another Stowe home where it sat for years before eventually being sheltered by a shed. An undated, black and white photo of what is purported to be the cabin appears in Blythe’s book.
Then there’s Nancy’s Belmont area love life.
As far as Nancy and the possibility that she became pregnant with Abe during her Gaston County days, that tale too has taken on folkloric proportions. One theory is that Adam Springs of McAdenville is the father of Abe. Folks that follow that line of thinking point out that Springs and Abe bear a striking resemblance to one another and that Nancy had often visited Springs to do chores- and whatever else the days might have brought.
Billy Miller’s book “McAdenville, Spun From the Wilderness” declares, “The story goes on that she was forced to leave the area because of her relationship with Adam, and was taken in by Abraham Enloe of Rutherfordton, NC. When it became evident that she would bear a child, the wife of Abraham Enloe insisted she leave.”
Miller’s book contains photos of Adam Springs and Lincoln and readers can draw their own conclusions.
Local author and historian Jack Page, one of the founders of the Belmont Historical Society and co-author of “Images of America: Belmont” is familiar with the Hanks tale.
“I used to camp near the stone monument long before there was a housing development there,” Page said. “I even tried gold panning in Hanks Creek and found a few flakes.”
But Page has done research on the Hanks story and says he believes it is not as iron clad as some folks think.
“My reading uncovered the fact that in the time period that Dicky lived in the cabin that there were about a dozen girls named Nancy Hanks between Gaston and Rutherford counties,” Page said. “I don’t want to offend anyone but there is a lot of evidence to the contrary that the Belmont Nancy Hanks might not have been the one that was Lincoln’s mother.”
Nonetheless, the story of a girl named Nancy Hanks and her Belmont days is an intriguing one. For those interested in digging deeper, and coming to one’s own conclusions, a trip to the Main Gaston County Library’s NC history room will provide plenty of food for thought on the subject, and a trip to actually see the Hanks monument, the icing on the cake.
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Phyllis Whitworth at her desk at Belmont Central Elementary.

Belmont Central Elementary principal Phyllis Whitworth is retiring

By Alan Hodge

Belmont Central Elementary School’s beloved principal Phyllis Whitworth has announced her retirement.
Whitworth’s replacement, Aimee Tolleson, will assume her duties at the school on July 1.
Whitworth has worked for Gaston County Schools for 43 years. She began her career as a student teacher at Pinewood Elementary in Mt. Holly. Following her certification, Whitworth taught grades 5 and 6 at Catawba Heights Elementary for 12 years.
Following that assignment, Whitworth taught grades 4, 5, and 6, for seven years at Woodhill Elementary. She then taught for a year at Brookside Elementary and seven years at Robinson Elementary.
In 2006, Whitworth began her administrative career. She was assistant principal at Forestview High for three years and in 2009 was named principal at Catawba Heights Elementary. She came to Belmont Central as principal in 2014.
Whitworth has received numerous honors. She was twice named Teacher of the Year at her schools. She was also named Principal of the Year for Gaston County Schools.
During her time at Belmont Central, Whitworth has made many friends and influenced many lives. Secretary Teresa Whitesides had this to say about Whitworth.
“She genuinely cares about her staff and students,” said Whitesides. “She is always willing to help, whether it is answering phones or cleaning up after a sick student. She leads by example. One of the things I will miss most is her laugh. It has been a pleasure to work with her for the past eight years.”
So, how does Whitworth feel about her over four decades as an educator and administrator?
“I’ve had the time of my life!” she said. “I hope I have shown love for people and have been able to contribute to society. I have been lucky to fulfill my passion and make a difference in the lives of people and a contribution to society.”
What will Whitworth miss the most about school?
“I will miss greeting the families on the sidewalk as the children come to school,” she said. “I love to see the smiles on their faces and see them wave. I will miss the excitement of seeing children learning. I will also miss the interaction with the staff.”
What does Whitworth play to do in her retirement?
“My husband Orddrell retired last year from Prinston Pharmaceuticals,” Phyllis said, “We plan to visit our son in California and make a road trip out west. I also plan to sit on my porch!”
Well done and well-deserved.
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New American Legion Auten-Stowe Post 144 Commander Patricia “Pat” Chaparro and outgoing Commander Barry Smith at the Memorial Day event in Belmont. Photo by Alan Hodge

American Legion Post 144 names first female Commander

By Alan Hodge
Back in March, American Legion Auten Stowe Post 144 in Belmont made history when it celebrated its 100th birthday. Now, Post 144 has chalked another one up for the record books by naming Patricia “Pat” Chaparro as its first ever female Commander.
Chaparro was voted in unanimously on May 5 by Post 144 leadership. She was installed as Commander on June 2 by a female officer in Department of NC Division 22.
Pat is an Air Force veteran who served at Randolph Field, Texas, in the special communications division as an encoding and decoding technician. She has been an American Legion member, along with her husband Ed, for more than fifteen years.  She has held other positions as Post Adjutant and Club Room bookkeeper.
Pat has been a big part of Post management for many years.  She has been involved in all Post functions, both at the Post and in the community.
Pat’s Post Commander predecessor, Barry Smith, had this to say about her.
“Pat has shown a dedication to the Post and works hard for its growth and place in the community,” said Smith.  “Pat quickly showed competence in her record keeping and financial positions.  I’m sure she will also rise to her new leadership role as Commander.  She has the confidence and support of all membership.  I hope this election further recognizes women veterans in the United States Armed Forces and prompts others to be a part of their local Post.  Commander Patricia Chaparro is another example of how women veterans can rise through the ranks of the American Legion and not just decorate the Hall or prepare the meals or clean-up afterward.”
Chaparro is excited about her new role and is eager to help Post 144 achieve even greater things.
“I am very proud to have been named as Post Commander,” she said. “I will try to get more veterans, especially women, involved in Post activities. The American Legion is a great organization.”
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Good as new.

Fighting Yank statue gets a major refurbishing

By Alan Hodge

The Spirit of the Fighting Yank WWII memorial statue in Stowe Park has received a much needed “facelift” in the form of extensive restoration work done to repair and refresh the 76-year-old sculpture.
The statue was showing signs of wear and weathering. Belmont artist Juan Logan and former council member Ron Foulk contacted city manager Adrian Miller in February to discuss the statue and to determine if the City of Belmont desired to treat the corrosion and defects in the statue. Logan has made small repairs to the statue, and he recommended a complete conservation and repair treatment so that the statue will be restored to its original condition.
The city contacted professional conservators Claudia Chemello and Paul Mardikian of Terra Mare Conservation. The team is based in Charleston. SC and has extensive experience in restoring other sculptures, monuments, and similar structures in places such as Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Parris Island. Mardikian was also a lead conservator on the CSS Hunley Civil War submarine project.
To tackle the work in Belmont, Chemello and Mardikian first drew up a detailed plan of action. After arriving in Belmont in late May, they erected scaffolding all around the Yank. Then, over a period of about a week, they worked in the hot sun to get the statue back in tip top condition.
“It had many cracks which we injected with epoxy,” Chemello said. “We also adjusted the color and gave it a protective, special, outdoor coating of high-performance clear coat with UV protection.”
The team removed the considerable amount of corrosion that had built up on the Yank due to its outdoor “lifestyle”.
“The statue is made of zinc with copper plating,” Chemello said. “There was a lot of corrosion.”
The job should keep the Yank looking good for a considerable amount of time, but it can’t be neglected again.
“The city will have to keep an eye on it,” said Chemello. “It will need ongoing maintenance.”
The History of Belmont’s Fighting Yank
The Spirit of the Fighting Yank statue, one of just five like it in the nation, was first dedicated on the grounds of the former Belmont High School on Central Avenue in 1946.
In 2013, a group of concerned local citizens headed by Art Shoemaker floated the idea of moving the statue to Stowe Park where it would be more visible and secure from vandalism. After discussion with City of Belmont and Gaston County Schools officials, permission to move the statue was given.
The job was a big one, a team from McMillan Crane Service, who volunteered time and equipment, did the moving job. Men from the City of Belmont public works department also showed up as did a small crowd of curious spectators and commentators.
No long after a backhoe began digging around the base of the statue, a glitch popped up in the form of a mass of underground concrete that the Yank’s base was resting on. A jackhammer was pressed into action and the situation resolved. Next, the crane, operated by Hunter McMillan, was moved over the statue and heavy cargo straps attached to the Yank’s torso. He was delicately lifted in the air as everyone held their breath, needlessly as it turned out.
“It was just another job,” McMillan said.
The Yank was gently placed on styrofoam blocks in a trailer and whisked to the public works garage where a minor repair and new mounting pins were fabricated.
At the school, a lowboy trailer arrived and stood by as workers prepared the stone base for lifting. After the base was broken free, it was lifted by straps and placed on the truck for the trip down Myrtle St. to Stowe Park.
The truck, with police escort, pulled up to the spot on S. Main St. at Stowe Park where a new concrete pad had been prepared. The crane backed up in the park. Traffic was halted and curious folks came out of stores to see what all the commotion was about.
With all equipment in place, the Yank’s stone base was again lifted by straps and lowered to its new home in the park. An ingenious method of getting the straps loose took place when bags of ice were placed under it, the base lowered down to rest on them, the straps snatched out, the ice melted and the whole shebang settled into position.
The next step in the Yank’s story involved landscaping and a stone pavilion built around the statue. A grand re-dedication ceremony was held in June 2014 with dignitaries, speeches, and plenty of patriotic music.
These days the Fighting Yank is a fixture in downtown Belmont and a proud patriotic landmark that draws plenty of attention and reminds folks of the sacrifices of our military veterans.
More information on Terra Mare can be found at
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Folks of all ages enjoy Juneteenth. This photo from a previous event showed Maia McElvane (right) with cute Avery Martin.

Belmont Juneteenth Celebration returns to Stowe Park

For the first time since 2019, the Belmont Juneteenth Celebration will return to Stowe Park on Saturday, June 18, 2 PM – 9:30 PM.
Elements of Empowerment, Inc. partners with the City of Belmont for the annual event that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, specifically the June 19, 1865 announcement in Galveston, Texas.
The partners hosted Juneteenth parades in 2020 and 2021.
“We are excited about resuming the live festival of music, art, and culture,” said Delta Sanders, Elements of Empowerment, Inc. Board Chair.
The day will feature familiar, free, family-friendly activities, unique vendors, and exceptional entertainment. The Carl Ratliff Quartet will perform the finale concert.
The celebration prelude will include Belmont Juneteenth Celebration banners and art in downtown Belmont.  “Black Butterfly” by artist Thelathia Singleton will be projected on the
Former Caravan Coffee Building.  Elements of Empowerment will premiere a documentary video about the Belmont Juneteenth Celebration just ahead of the event, before making it widely available through program partners.
Juneteenth Weekend begins with the Bessemer City Juneteenth Festival on Friday, June 17, 6 PM – 9 PM. Elements of Empowerment, Inc. and the City of Bessemer City collaborate for the two days of celebration.
Event information is available at and the Elements of Empowerment, Inc.  Facebook page. For additional information, email
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Madyson Ross

South Point grad
Madyson Ross plans
a career in nursing

By Alan Hodge

People who enter the healthcare field, as South Point grad Madyson Ross plans to do, need compassion, competence, as well as commitment and she has all these qualities in abundance.
Madyson is the daughter of Terronna and Torben Ross. Incidentally, her mom has been a French teacher at South Point for 26 years and her brother Torben is a freshman there.
Madyson’s desire to become a nurse surfaced when she was around seven years old and was influenced by several factors.
“I have two aunts who are nurses,” she said. “They have been role models that still inspire me.”
The other was the death of her grandfather James Ross in 2020 from Covid.
“It was a hard time,” she said. “It made me want to care for others. It showed me not to take life for granted and to help others if they have no one else to go to.”
That caring attitude is central to Madyson’s life.
“I just love putting smiles on people’s faces,” she says.
Gloria C. Caldwell, is the Allied Health Instructor at South Point. Here’s what she had to say about Ross and her nursing aspirations.
“I have had Madyson for several classes here at South Point,” said Caldwell. “I am certain she will make a wonderful nurse. She is very enthusiastic about her studies, especially in Nursing. I never have to worry about Maddy working on her Nursing Skills. She has compassion for taking care of patients. She plans to pursue Nursing at UNCC. These courses have greatly helped to prepare her for college and a career in the nursing field. These courses are so valuable. We always need more good nurses.”
After she gets her degree at UNCC, Madyson has some ideas about what she plans to do with it.
“I am interested in becoming either an OB or ER nurse or perhaps a travel nurse working at hospitals across the U.S.,” she said.
In addition to her nursing studies, Ross is active in many other areas at South Point and beyond.
She is an active member of her church’s youth ministry at Tabernacle Baptist.
“Church is my home away from home and has given me a firm foundation,” she said.
She also participates in the praise team and the liturgical dance team.
“Dancing is a passion of mine,” she said. “I’ve been dancing since I was three years old.”
Madyson is also an active member of the Youth Council and serves as the Vice President of the African American Museum of History and Culture at Loray Mills. Madyson has won multiple scholarships this year including the Las Amigas Scholarship and the Rotary Club 4 Way Test Challenge.
Overall, Ross is proof that hard work and a heart to help others can lead to a very successful life and career. She puts it like this-
“Never settle for less than your best,” she said. “You can do anything you put your mind to.”
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Aaron Hollar

East Gaston’s Aaron Hollar
is a music man

By Alan Hodge

The iconic 1962 film “The Music Man” featured plenty of marching band scenes with musicians wearing dashing outfits playing gleaming instruments and East Gaston High graduate Aaron Hollar would have fit right in any of them.
The son of David and Jodeana Hollar of Stanley, Aaron has since an early age been in his element when he’s dressed in his marching band uniform blowing his horn and entertaining folks at half time during sports events or taking part in parades.
Aaron started down his musical path as a student in sixth grade when he took up the euphonium. What’s a euphonium? It’s a horn slightly smaller than a tuba.
“A tuba was too big for me,” he said. “The band director needed a euphonium player.”
He credits his Stanley Middle School music teacher, the late Kelly Robb who passed away in October, 2020, with urging him onward in his climb up the school band ladder.
“She was a very big influence,” Aaron says. “She gave me my foundation in the love of music.”
Aaron also had a musical environment at home to draw on.  His sister Jordan is a member of the East Gaston chorus. His father is a huge Elvis fan. In fact, Aaron has something in common with “The King”.
“My first name is the same as Elvis’ middle name,” Hollar says.
In addition to feeding his love of music, being in the band also fuels Aaron’s delight in showing folks a good time.
“Half time is our time,” he says. “Music is about entertainment and our group is the star of the show. Parades are fun as well, but the marching can be tiring. My instrument is heavy!”
Aaron’s hard work and talent have brought him much deserved recognition.  He was a 2021 Governor’s School attendee in instrumental music. He was offered scholarships to Lenoir Rhyne, UNC Charlotte, and ECU. Some of his accomplishments include: All-County - 2 years (2020 & 2022) (10th & 12th), All-District - 2 years (2020 & 2022) (10th and 12th), All-State - 1 year (2022) (12th), UNC Charlotte Honors Band - (2021) (12th), Featured Soloist Marching band/Concert band - (2020-2022) (10th-12th), Baritone Section Leader/Brass Captain - (2020-2022) (11th & 12th). Aaron will be attending Lenoir-Rhyne University on a Band Scholarship.
East Gaston band director Brandon Taylor had this to say about one of his favorite students of all time.
“Aaron is one of the funniest, most intelligent, passionate, and talented young musicians I have ever had the pleasure to know,” Taylor says. “This young man has taught me so much about music and work ethic, and he is humble throughout all aspects of his life. It is difficult for me to choose only a few examples of good times or memories of his time spent here at East Gaston. Aaron and his infectious smile and positive attitude have been something that I have just come to expect when I walk through the band room doors; from listening to him scream songs on the back of the band bus on the way back from marching competitions with his friends, to the numerous audition takes (and I mean numerous), to his ability to make a joke about anything. Aaron has the wit of someone far beyond his years. I could not be prouder of this young man and his accomplishments. He is only just graduating and already he has shown me that he is willing to take any challenge head on and with the grace, humor and maturity of someone three times his age.  Aaron, it has been a pleasure to teach you and I wanted to thank you for teaching me as well. I am sad to see him leave but I know great things are ahead.”
As far as his future, Hollar is not sure if he will make a profession of music, but the love of it will be with him forever.
“I have no clue what I want to do for a career,” he said. “But I will always keep music in my life.”
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Cramerton Parks and Rec. director Eric Smallwood (left) and town manager David Pugh look over the soon to be improved parking lot and former Masonic Hall at Centennial Center. Photo by Alan Hodge

Great things coming to downtown Cramerton

By Alan Hodge

Downtown Cramerton, specifically the Centennial Center area, will soon be getting a major makeover that will not only be environmentally friendly, but aesthetically pleasing as well. Work on the improvements will begin right away and should be wrapped up by fall 2022.
Central to the work will be an upgrade to parking. The current lot at the Centennial Center is small and the pavement broken. Once the old pave is removed, a new, larger, lot will be constructed with a total of 48 spaces. The new lot will feature pervious brick pavers that will allow rainwater to soak in the ground rather than simply run off to the street and into the South Fork River.
“We are excited about the pavers,” said Cramerton town manager David Pugh, “We won’t just be dropping pavement on the lot.”
The lot will also have entrance and exit openings on Eighth and Ninth streets.
“The new lot will mean people won’t have to circle town to get in and out of it,” said Eric Smallwood, Cramerton Parks and Rec. director.
Another great feature of the job will be installation of multicolored, fabric “sails” along one side of the lot. The panels, which usually last around ten years, will provide shade as well as a festive look.
“The shaded area will be a great place for vendors to set up when we have events such as craft fairs and the Christmas Village,” said Smallwood.
The area of Centennial Center along Central St. will have major landscaping and paver work done from the Veterans Memorial to the corner of the new lot. It will feature seating areas as well. While the remodeling work is going on, Center St. will remain open for business as usual.
Cost of the upgrades will be around $1 million for everything. Funding came from the Town fund balance.
Folks involved in the project included- Project Engineers: LaBella Associates, Landscape Design: Viz Design, General Contractor: Site Services of the Carolinas, Pervious Brick Paver Sub Contractor: Unit Paving, Inc.
 “The project was a collaborative effort between the firms and town staff members,” Pugh said. “It was a multifaceted effort.”
Another exciting downtown Cramerton development is the project to turn the former Masonic Hall into an eating establishment and special event venue. Remodeling work on the building has already started. Belmont resident Phillip Bryson purchased the structure in August, 2021.
“We hope to be ready late summer, early fall,” Bryson said. “We will be working in tandem with the town’s project. Floyd and Blackies coffee shop and their bakery will be moving to our building once it is complete. This will give both businesses much needed space to expand and better serve our community.  In addition, there will be an approximately 1,200 sq.ft. event space that will be available to rent for parties and other community events, as well as a large covered outdoor seating with views of the river.  As part of the move, Floyd and Blackies also intend to expand their food offerings to include a limited lunch and dinner menu.  I hope it’s going to be a lovely addition to downtown Cramerton.”
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Kerri Massey and Regina Moody

Holy Angels’ Regina Moody leaves a Legacy of Leadership

By Shawn Flynn

Pioneer, visionary, inspirational and leader.
All words used by the staff at Holy Angels to describe Regina Moody, their president and CEO for the past 40 years. At the end of the June, Moody will transition out of her role of CEO, but will remain as president of the nonprofit. Her shift makes way for Kerri Massey, a devoted and faithful member of Holy Angels’ leadership team, to assume the role of CEO beginning in July 1, 2022.
“It’s been my calling and privilege of a lifetime to serve and lead Holy Angels and care for and love our children and adults who are differently able with delicate medical conditions. Holy Angels will continue to be a part of my life and my passion and I look forward to a bright future with our committed staff and the capable leadership of Kerri Massey,” said Moody.
Moody has served as a visionary force, guiding Holy Angels through significant growth and development. She has dedicated herself, entirely, to Holy Angels and its mission. Her professional career has been to create a place of “loving, living and learning for the differently able”.
Moody has led Holy Angels through National Accreditation (CARF-Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities) and significant growth and expansion of programs and services to provide additional opportunities to improve the overall quality of life for the residents.  Before Moody arrived, Holy Angels was just a single building – the Morrow Center. Now, the nonprofit encompasses 17 buildings, including four business enterprises. Moody was instrumental in starting Cherubs Café 25 years ago to allow some residents the opportunity to have meaningful employment. Holy Angels added the Cotton Candy Factory and Bliss Gallery in recent years to downtown Belmont along with Spruced Goose Café in McAdenville. Holy Angels is internationally recognized for some of its innovative programming and services specializing in comprehensive medical and developmental programs including:  medical and educational services, horticulture therapy, music, art, snoezelen rooms and Camp Hope.
“As I reflect on my 40 years at Holy Angels, for me it has always been about service and making a difference.  With the dedication and commitment of compassionate, caring staff, I believe together we have made a difference in the lives of the children, adults and families we serve at Holy Angels; in the organizations and projects I have supported – be it higher education, accessible recreational parks and playgrounds, the business community or encouraging and supporting young leaders,” said Moody.
The list of awards and accomplishments for Moody is long. In 2020, she was given the North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, the highest honor given by the governor to those who have made significant contributions to the state.
“It would take days to detail how much Regina has truly impacted Holy Angels, our differently able residents and the greater community. Her dedication and compassion have exceeded every expectation,” said Holy Angels Board of Directors Chair Hans Lengers.
Moody will maintain an office on campus and serve as the nonprofit’s president in a part time capacity. She will use her experience and expertise in fundraising, marketing, public relations, special projects and Holy Angels business enterprises toward the organization’s continued growth, including a large-scale anticipated campus expansion in 2023.  As a leader in the community, she will continue to have a presence on various boards and committees.
This change in leadership makes way for Kerri Massey, a 24 year member of Holy Angels’ leadership team, to assume the role of CEO beginning July 1.
“I have the utmost faith in Kerri as she takes the reins and responsibilities of CEO. She’s already shown an immense passion for Holy Angels in her decades of service. I know that enthusiasm will carry into her CEO leadership,” said Moody.
For anyone who would like to learn more about Holy Angels or support the nonprofit, please go to
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Belmont mayor Charles Martin addressing the crowd at Sunday’s Memorial Day event in Greenwood Cemetery. Photo by Alan Hodge

Memorial Day remembered in Belmont

By Alan Hodge

Snow white clouds and an azure sky formed the perfect backdrop for the dozens of American flags that fluttered in the breeze Sunday afternoon during Belmont’s annual Memorial Day event at Greenwood Cemetery. The ceremony was organized by Auten-Stowe American Legion Post 144.
A large crowd of folks gathered in the cool shade of a huge oak tree to recall those who served in our nation’s military and especially those who were lost in the line of duty.
Belmont mayor Charles Martin stepped up to the microphone and welcomed everyone.
“It is important to remember our veterans,” Martin, a U.S. Navy veteran, said. “Especially those who didn’t make it.”
The South Point High Naval JROTC smartly presented the colors. Boy Scout Troop 56 Eagle Scout Jesse Whaley led the Pledge of Allegiance. Post 144 member Larry Norwood performed the POW/MIA ceremony as he has done many times in the past.
Post 144’s new commander, Pat Chaparro, the first female commander in Post 144’s 100-year history, spoke to the dozens of event attendees.
“I am very proud to be here today,” she said. “Thanks for remembering our veterans.”
Keynote speaker was Pastor John Ray from Woodlawn Baptist Church in Charlotte. Ray told the story of his uncle who was wounded on D-Day in WWII and how he suffered physical and emotional trauma from the ordeal. Ray also recounted the tragic loss of the 13 American service members during the Afghanistan pullout several months ago.
“They are examples of bravery and sacrifice,” he said. “Our hearts are filled with thanks and admiration. All veterans share a common goal to serve America. It is a privilege to stand here today and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
The event concluded with a 21-gun salute by the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard and Taps played on a bugle by Honor Guard member D. Eaker.
A brief history
of Memorial Day
From- Encyclopedia
Memorial Day, formerly Decoration Day, in the United States, holiday (last Monday in May) is set aside honoring those who have died in the nation’s wars.
It originated during the American Civil War when citizens placed flowers on the graves of those who had been killed in battle. More than a half dozen places have claimed to be the birthplace of the holiday. In October 1864, for instance, three women in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, are said to have decorated the graves of loved ones who died during the Civil War; they then returned in July 1865 accompanied by many of their fellow citizens for a more general commemoration.
A large observance, primarily involving African Americans, took place in May 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina. Columbus, Mississippi, held a formal observance for both Union and Confederate dead in 1866.
By congressional proclamation in 1966, Waterloo, New York, was cited as the birthplace, also in 1866, of the observance. In 1868 John A. Logan, the commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans, promoted a national holiday on May 30 “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.”
After World War I, as the day came to be observed in honor of those who had died in all U.S. wars, its name changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day. Since 1971 Memorial Day has been observed on the last Monday in May. A number of Southern states also observe a separate day to honor the Confederate dead.
Memorial Day is observed with the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, and by religious services, parades, and speeches nationwide. Flags, insignia, and flowers are placed on the graves of veterans in local cemeteries. The day has also come to signal the beginning of summer in the United States.
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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

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

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

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 -
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

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
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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
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
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
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:
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

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
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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

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

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

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

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

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
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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

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
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.