One fall Saturday in 1989, even as the area was recovering from the effects of Hurricane Hugo, a group of people gathered at the Gold Hill Fire Department to share photos, stories and artifacts from Gold Hill, the 19th century town straddling Rowan and Cabarrus counties.
Gold was discovered there in 1824, and the boom town of Gold Hill was established in 1843.
Today the village of Gold Hill is part of Gold Hill Mines Historic Park, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving its history and culture.
That 1989 event at the fire department was a huge success, drawing record numbers of people to Gold Hill, so Founders’ Day was created, an annual celebration on the fourth Sunday in September.
Sept. 27 will be the 25th time people have flocked to Gold Hill to remember its history, learn about the past, eat well and have a good time.
Vivian Hopkins, director of education and vice president of the Historic Gold Hill and Mines Foundation, outlined some of the events happening on Founders’ Day.
Bring your lawn chair and get ready for the Founders’ Day parade that begins at 10 a.m. Hopkins said almost every fire department in Rowan County and many from Cabarrus County will be there, along with tractors, horses, beauty queens and all the good stuff you expect from a parade.
After the parade, the entertainment will begin at the park’s amphitheater. Performers include Clog Carolina from Mooresville; Strings of Victory, a bluegrass gospel group; former RCA recording artist Joe Blythe and Convicted Country; and musicians who gather in Gold Hill’s Montgomery Store for Friday night jam sessions.
The musical headliner is Phil Hatfield and his band, Under Surveillance, playing original 1980s-style rock. Along with playing and writing music, Hatfield is also a nationally known author and historian, has a doctorate in psychology and is a former resident of Rowan County. He and his band, who have a following throughout the Southeast and Midwest, will take the stage from 3 to 5 p.m.
All day, there will be plenty to see and do. Craft vendors and demonstrators will display their talents and wares. You can pan for gold or take a historic hayride to sites in the park and learn about their significance. You’ll see heritage living exhibits, hit-and-miss engines and Civil War re-enactors.
And what’s most important, there will be food. Betsy Culp, the committee member in charge of making sure we have plenty to eat, said homemade ice cream, steak on a stick, barbecue, Brunswick stew, hamburgers, hot dogs, pinto beans and cornbread all will be available to purchase. Proceeds support the Historic Gold Hill and Mines Foundation, which maintains the park and its history.
Everybody loves Founders’ Day, Hopkins and Culp said. They seem even to enjoy all the planning involved.
“It’s kind of like a machine,” Culp said.
“It’s a well-oiled machine,” Hopkins added, “and it just flows. It is an awesome day.”