Roughly an hour drive north of Charlotte, you’ll find the scenic and friendly community of Hiddenite and the Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area. The community is a part of the The Unifour or the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton Metropolitan Statistical Area. The history of Hiddenite reaches back to the 1870’s when the town's namesake, William Earl Hidden, was dispatched to the area by Thomas Edison to search for precious minerals and metals. He discovered a mineral that ended up being called Hiddenite, as well as a bevy of other precious gemstones.
The history of Hiddenite is also linked to the history of Rocky Face Mountain. From the 1920’s through the 1940’s, the site where the recreation area now resides was a quarry. Over the years, the land was used for agriculture and even a temporary prison camp. In 2003, the area was put on the North Carolina Registry of Natural Heritage Areas, which made the area eligible for development into a recreation area thanks to a grant from the state. After generous donations of money and land, the Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area opened to the public in 2012.
The surrounding area has some great activities to enjoy. You’ll find a vast wilderness here that is just perfect for exploration, nature watching, hiking, mountain biking, photography and more. You can head to the Emerald Hollow Mine to experience gemstone harvesting first hand and learn about how the gemstones shaped the history of the area. Historic sites like the Lucas Mansion will give you a hands-on look at the area's storied past. Hiddenite and surrounding communities host some great events and festivals, such as the annual RockyFest.
Heading into its fourth year, RockyFest has already made a big impact on its attendees and the community. This event is ideal for anyone who loves the outdoors and having a great time. There is a little something for everyone here from trail races to vendors selling arts and crafts. You’ll find a good selection of food and refreshment options, and you will be treated to live music throughout the event. Kids will enjoy the variety of games and activities catered just to them. Take your next spring excursion to a new level and head to RockyFest for an experience you won't soon forget. We got the opportunity to interview Alisha Stamey, Park Ranger at Rocky Face Mountain Recreational Area, to talk about this unique event.
RAL: Tell me about the event.
AS: This is the fourth annual event and since we are such a new festival, it’s hard to say how many attendees we may have. It seems to be more every year. We have music, vendors, kids activities, along with some recreational activities. What really makes the festival unique is that there is a little something for everyone.
RAL: What can attendees expect during a typical day at the event.
AS: Beginning at 8:00 am we have 5K/10K/20K trail races. Live music will run from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Featured musicians include: David Kerley, The Sugarloaf Ramblers (their 50th year anniversary), The Alexander Junior Appalachian Musicians, The Neighbors, Cane Mill Road, Strictly Strings, ShadowGrass, and The Ya Ya’s. There will also be a “picking tent” near the picnic shelter, where “unplugged” musicians are encouraged to gather and play. Four bands will be performing music at the tent, including Second Hand Still, Crystal River, Hard Tymes Band, and the Catawba Bluegrass Band.
We have free rock climbing and rappelling sessions from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Rock Dimensions Climbing Guides of Boone will provide all the necessary equipment and instruction. Those interested in rock climbing must register online at Eventbrite.com.
A wide selection of vendors will fill the parking lot. Food vendors will be selling hot dogs, BBQ, cheeseburgers, funnel cakes, and other tasty treats. You’ll also find many handmade items including home décor, jewelry, soap, and more. Vendor applications are still being accepted. Fees are: non-profit -$0, arts and crafts - $25, commercial - $35, food - $50.
Children’s activities, including inflatables, face painting, crafts, etc., will be available from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Three inflatables will be on-site at no-cost.
Members from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee will be doing Cherokee stone carvings, stories, basket and mat weaving, and other educational activities. In addition, the Piedmont Amateur Astronomy Club will have solar telescopes available for public viewing.
RAL: Are there any lodging specials set up for the event?
AS: While there aren’t special lodging accommodations currently set up specifically for the event. Here is a list of local lodging in the area:
RAL: What does this event mean to the community?
AS: This event is a celebration of the community and the park. The mountain was listed as a significant natural area in 2003 by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Foundation because of the unique plants and animals found here. It became open to the public in May of 2012, and can now be enjoyed by everyone as well as generations to come. All proceeds go directly to the park.
RAL: Why should people come?
AS: If you are looking for a relaxed atmosphere with great music, food, kids activities, and even some recreational opportunities, then you will enjoy RockyFest. Remember to bring a chair!
For more information about RockyFest, please visit their website.