According to a recent study by the Travel Industry Association and Smithsonian magazine‚ North Carolina is one of the top 10 destinations in the country for cultural and heritage tourism travelers. Programs like the 1000/100 Project‚ a statewide cultural tourism initiative‚ and heritage-rich destinations like Randolph County are two reasons why.
“The cultural and heritage tourism business hopes to pick up the slack from the economic downturn in the textile and furniture industries‚” says Philip Shore‚ executive director of the Randolph Arts Guild. Shore and the guild’s program director Chris Brown are participating in the 1000/100 Project‚ the goal of which is to create a network of 1000 trained leaders in heritage and cultural tourism throughout North Carolina’s 100 counties.
“The idea is to stimulate not only existing cultural and historic sites but to create new ones and make chains‚ or tourist trails‚ so people will visit not one but several sites‚” Shore says.
With a wealth of cultural sites and historic features‚ Asheboro is a natural link in such a chain. Existing attractions range from the American Classic Motorcycle Museum to the North Carolina Zoo and the North Carolina Aviation Museum. Plans are also in the works to forge new links by renovating Franklinville Mill‚ a former textile factory and mill village‚ and restoring the former Randolph County Courthouse‚ built in the early 20th century‚ in downtown Asheboro.
“We hope to have a museum in the old courthouse that would reflect various aspects of our history‚ including Quaker and other religious influences and African-American contributions‚” Shore says.
In addition to nurturing cultural tourism‚ the guild promotes the area’s vibrant visual‚ literary and performing arts scene. “Our mission is to provide the means of experiencing the arts for all the citizens of Randolph County‚” Shore says. “We provide meeting space and support materials for a number of groups and also assist in funding.”
Groups affiliated with the guild include the Randolph Chorale‚ Southern Piedmont Children’s Choir‚ RSVP Community Theatre‚ Randolph Jazz Band and Randolph Quilters. The guild also sponsors the annual North Carolina Potters Conference each March that attracts master potters and ceramic educators from around the world. Another guild event is the Asheboro Fall Festival‚ a lively street fair that celebrates the music‚ crafts and art of the area every October.