It’s their favorite way to start the new year.
Historic Rural Hill will host its annual First Footin’ walk and “five-miler” as part of their Hogmanay – pronounced “hog-muh-nay,” or Scottish New Year’s – celebration Jan. 1.
Executive director Jeff Fissel said this year will feature a notable new addition as the cultural center will officially open its doors, marking an important milestone for the nonprofit.
“The Heritage Center has been a dream of the organization for a very long time,” he said. “Being a nonprofit, you’re always low on funds, and it’s hard to find that money for a big capital campaign.”
The construction of the cultural center – and the roughly $500,000 price tag that came with it – was made possible by a bequest left by May Davidson, who died in 2011.
“She was the last living person to grow up at Rural Hill when it was still privately owned,” said Fissel. “We’re trying to honor her vision and build what will be an asset to Rural Hill and the local community.”
Rural Hill is a center for Scottish heritage on land occupied by members of the Davidson family from 1760 to 1992 and now by Mecklenburg County.
The 4,000 square-foot building features an event space that can seat at least 120 people at round tables – or close to 200 people in a theater-style set up – kitchen and restroom facilities and a Scottish heritage room. There’s also a covered porch and uncovered patio suitable for cocktail tables or setting up a stage, he said.
“It’s a fun indoor/outdoor venue. We think it’ll enhance our existing events,” said Fissel. “It lends itself to a lot of different uses.”
Fissel said the center will be a long-sought place for school field trips, corporate events and weddings.
“It’s a spot large enough to get large groups of children out of the weather and into a climate-controlled environment,” he said.
While there’s always been interest in holding weddings at Rural Hill, Fissel said, many brides balked when they found there were no indoor restrooms. But with the opening of the cultural center, he said dates are already being reserved.
“It’s really kind of surprising how much interest it’s drawn so far,” he said.
The annual Hogmanay will also feature the “First Footin’” boundary walk, which Fissel described as a recreational walk around the Rural Hill property. Scottish legend describes the annual walk fathers would take with their sons around the family property, to ensure they knew the boundary lines they’d eventually inherit.
“It’s a fun stroll more than anything else. We change the route a little every year,” Fissel said of the nearly 2-mile walk.
Jan. 1 will also be the second annual “First Footin’ Five Miler.” About 60 people turned up for the inaugural race, and Fissel said they were surprised by the interest in the early morning holiday run.
“A lot of people showed up, we didn’t expect a big crowd,” he said. “People seemed to really enjoy it, we’re learning as we go.”
The crowd favorite Stone Soup lunch has drawn between 200 and 400 people in the past and, Fissel said, they’re not sure how many to expect this year. Attendees bring either a fresh or canned vegetable to add to one of four or five huge soup pots, said Fissel. Bread or desserts are also welcome additions to the meal. Fissel said canned food donations will also be collected for local food pantries.
Trenda: 704-358-5089; Twitter: @htrenda
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