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    Donna Campbell, one of the founders of Lake Norman Magazine.
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    The first issue of Lake Norman Magazine, published February 1983.
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    Cindy Campbell, one of the founders of Lake Norman Magazine.

Celebrating 30 Years On The Lake

By Sam Boykin

Posted: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013

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Riding high on the economic boon following World War II and the growing demand for electric power, Charlotte-based Duke Energy built Cowans Ford Hydro Station in Huntersville along the Catawba River in 1963. This created the state’s largest manmade body of fresh water, which was named Lake Norman after former Duke Power president Norman Cocke.

Development came slow to the 32,510-acre lake. Lacking basic infrastructure, most people used the lake as a weekend camping retreat, including Charlotte resident John Campbell, who bought a couple of lakefront lots on Brawley School Road in Mooresville. Campbell and his family—including daughters Cindy and Donna—had a ball playing on the lake during summer weekends.

In the summer of 1964, Campbell decided to relocate to the lake full time and moved his family into a cabin at the end of Brawley School Road. “We were the only permanent residents,” Donna Campbell remembers. “There were no telephone lines and no police service.”

For years the Campbells practically had the entire lake to themselves during the fall and winter. But that slowly started to change in the late ‘70s with the completion of Interstate 77 as more people began moving to the area, drawn by lake’s 520 miles of pristine, scenic shoreline.

Recognizing a promising business opportunity, Donna and Cindy Campbell, along with graphic designer Cindy Jacobs, began throwing around the idea of starting a magazine.

“When we first organized Lake Norman Magazine, the community was nothing like it is today,” says Donna. “Most people were still part-time residents.”

In December 1982 they invited friends, neighbors and local business owners to a meeting at the Mallard Head Country Club. “We had a roaring fire and some food and wine and showed slides of Lake Norman and talked about whether a publication would work,” Donna says. “We sold three ads that night!”

Working out of a small office on Brawley School Road, formerly the Mad Dog Lounge, they launched Lake Norman Magazine in February 1983. Their budget: $250.

They recruited friends and family to deliver 7,500 copies. Over the course of a cold, wintry weekend they drove up and down the shoreline, dropping off magazines at stores, churches, restaurants, gas stations, driveways and mailboxes.

“On Monday morning our phones started ringing,” Donna says. “People actually called to say they loved the magazine and wanted to support it. They believed in what we were doing.”

The women grew the publication from 20 pages to nearly 90 in just three years. It didn’t take long for the magazine to catch the attention of Knight Publishing Co., the publisher of The Charlotte Observer, which purchased the magazine in July 1986. Donna Campbell remained as editor and publisher until 1988.

“All in all, it was a brief episode in my life but such a heady one,” Donna she says. “It is hard to think that it has been 30 years since then.”

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