Lake Norman & Mooresville

Getting involved is in his genes

Ed McLean, executive director of Huntersville's Rural Hill farm and Scottish heritage center, is "Scottish on both sides and proud of it."

He's also proud and delighted with the events held at the farm. The pipe band talent represented at Rural Hill's internationally recognized, annual Scottish Festival and Highland Games is impressive.

"We had 22 pipe bands, over 400 people playing at one time," said McLean. "Four hundred people on the same beat on the same note. ... Awesome."

McLean has been executive director since March 2007. His first passion wasn't rural country life, but racing.

"I grew up in a town that manufactured cars," said McLean, 66, originally from Michigan and now a Davidson resident.

And he embraced that culture, working for General Motors for 22 years before starting his own motorsports marketing firm. McLean managed the first induction ceremony for the North Carolina Motorsports Hall of Fame Museum.

Out of his passion for racing, McLean also founded the North Carolina Motorsports Association NCMA to "promote tourism at the racetracks" and to raise money to do an economic impact study.

So, how does a racing aficionado and motorsports marketing guru end up at the helm of a historic, rural farm? "In all honesty, it's carried over," said McLean. "Putting on events like that [the Scottish Festival and Highland Games] and dealing with entertainment was what my business was in my other life.... It's very similar, dealing with sponsors and outdoor events and crowds."

McLean learned of the executive director opening in early 2007 when he was at Rural Hill making a donation. He met the then-executive director on her last day. He decided to apply for the vacant position, interviewing just a few weeks later, and took over the position March 1, 2007. "It's a different kind of excitement, but I enjoy it."

Right now, McLean's focus is positioning Rural Hill "as a staycation," an educational, yet relaxing destination for locals looking for something to do. In fact, he's already getting ready for one Rural Hill's biggest draws, the corn maze, which opens in the fall. McLean will help put the pattern - a Conestoga, or covered, wagon - into the maze July 15-17.

In addition to overseeing the events at Rural Hill, McLean is president of the Charlotte Regional Historic Consortium and on the Board of Directors for Lions Services Inc., which is associated with the Lions Clubs.

Along with those responsibilities, he's a busy husband, parent, grandparent and mixed-breed dog owner. McLean likes to unwind by fly fishing in the mountains, though he hasn't had time to go in about a year and a half.

Still, as busy as he is, McLean wouldn't have it any other way. "I can't help getting involved," said McLean. "I like to see things grow."