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Democratic women to get taste of Cleveland County at convention

SHELBY Larger cities usually land the annual state convention of the Democratic Women of North Carolina, but this year it’s going to the small town of Shelby.

The three-day event, which opens Friday, will be held in the new state-of-the-art LeGrand Center on the campus of Cleveland Community College. It’ll be a chance to taste local foods like barbecue and livermush and also sample a homegrown musical tradition with songs penned by Cleveland County natives Earl Scruggs and Don Gibson.

About 200 women from across the state will also hear political leaders strategize ahead of the 2014 general elections. Speakers are scheduled to include Shelby native U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC.), N.C. State Treasurer Janet Cowell and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall.

The Democratic Women of Cleveland County organization is host for the 53rd annual convention.

Betsy Wells of Grover, who chairs the state convention, said Shelby was selected because of Cleveland County’s rich political history and the high quality of the LeGrand Center, which opened in 2012 as a collaboration among county commissioners, the school board and community college foundation.

At Friday’s “Celebrate Cleveland County” reception, local attorney O. Max Gardner III will speak about the “Shelby Dynasty” which included his grandfather, O. Max Gardner, and Clyde Hoey, both North Carolina governors during the Great Depression.

Wells said the two governor’s wives also made important contributions to the state. Fay Webb Gardner was an officer in the state Democratic women organization and also served in the national level. Wells said President Harry Truman had a special dinner honoring Gardner for her work. As the governor’s wife, Bess Hoey started a statewide beautification program.

During the convention schedules will be tight, but Wells hopes attendees will have a chance to visit Washington Street in downtown Shelby “where our future’s emerging in the Don Gibson Theatre and the Scruggs Center on the square.”

“Our club is very excited to be hosting this group,” Wells said. “I heard that when it was announced the convention would be in Shelby some said ‘Where’s that?’ We hope that when they leave they’ll know where Shelby and Cleveland County are.”

In a release, state Democratic women President Joan Dressler of Greensboro said: “We’ve seen over the summer that North Carolina woman are politically motivated and energized as never before.”

She said the convention, with its theme of “marching together united and strong,” will launch work by Democratic women county chapters across the state to sustain the momentum.

The convention will begin with registration on Friday followed by a reception that evening. Main convention sessions will take place Saturday, with a banquet that evening and conclude Sunday morning.

Although only Democratic women organization members may vote in business sessions, other can attend convention events by registering and paying convention fees.

More information and a registration form is available at www.clevelanddems.com.

DePriest: 704-868-7745
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