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Destination: Saxapahaw

April 1, 2012 9:39 AM

By Chris Lavender / Times-News

SAXAPAHAW — It’s been 18 years since Dixie Yarns closed the former textile mill in Saxapahaw, which paved the way for the town’s renewal.

The site along the Haw River has been the center of economic activity for more than 150 years. The textile mill still stands. Buildings that once housed spinning yarn now house residential and commercial businesses.

Both the upper and lower mill sites have been developed to attract new residents who call Saxapahaw their home and who have a vested interest in seeing the town’s growth succeed. Jordan Properties Chairman John Jordan has lived in Saxapahaw for all of his life. Jordan, 76, has seen the former mill village transformed into a viable place again for new residents to enjoy.

“It’s a safe place to live,” Jordan said.

Jordan’s family purchased the abandoned textile mill in 1927. His father, B. Everett Jordan, became the mill’s general manager. The family later sold the textile mill in 1978 to Dixie Yarns. There were 66 mill village houses still at the site when Dixie Yarns made its purchase.

John Jordan purchased and developed the remaining mill village houses and converted them into rental property units since Dixie Yarns had no use for the houses.

Most of the residents who had worked at the former textile mill were from Gastonia, east Tennessee and from the local area, according to Jordan. Today, many residents in Saxapahaw are originally from Chapel Hill and Orange County.

Jordan said 1980 marked a time when most of the mill workers had moved away from the community and new residents began moving in. The lower mill space was slowly transformed into residential and commercial space and the area promoted living in a clean environment.

“We had to sell what others didn’t have and that was the river,” Jordan said. “We created a good community for people to want to come and live.”

Forty-three cottages near the mill and 75 apartments developed in the lower mill space are filled. Jordan said there was a waiting list to rent these properties.

“Now people live here and go some other place to work,” Jordan said.

Saxapahaw is more than just the brick and mortar used to build the former textile mill and surrounding buildings. Local business entrepreneurs Jeff Barney, Claire Haslam, Doug Williams, Mac Jordan, Heather LaGarde and Tom LaGarde are among those who have helped Saxapahaw write its next chapter. Together, they have helped develop much of the upper mill space.

Barney came to Saxapahaw in 2008 and converted the town’s lone gas station into a community center and multi-food business. With help from Cameron Ratliff, The Saxapahaw General Store has continued to thrive and become more than just a tourist attraction. Barney said a full-time general manger was recently hired to run the store. The store will also expand its catering services beginning this year.

A community garden was planted nearby that will provide the store with fresh produce for its customers. Barney said all of the general store’s food waste is sent to Cozi Farms, where it is used to feed the farm’s animals and create compost piles.

Barney said he recently applied for a Rural Advancement for Farmers Institute grant to buy new equipment for his general store. Barney said the grant will allow him to buy a new freezer and produce cooler for the store’s use.

A part of Barney’s catering business will include providing food to The Eddy Pub in Saxapahaw. The pub opened in December 2010 and is run by Claire Haslam.

“We had about 175 people on the first night and have been busy ever since,” Haslam said.

The Eddy Pub is located in the upper mill above the Cup 22 Coffee House. Both businesses allow local residents and visitors a place to unwind and relax.

There’s also an outdoor amphitheater just outside Cup 22 where live music will be featured this year.

“It’s a community spot for people from Greensboro to Raleigh to visit,” Haslam said.

Williams has overseen the development of the upper mill site since about 2008. Williams said last week that the development has been a collaboration among several businesses.

“The people who move here develop their own culture and build friendships,” Williams said. “It’s a special part of what is happening here. It’s all community based.”

Twenty-nine new condominiums developed at the upper mill site will go on sale in 30 days, Williams said. Mac Jordan was an integral part of the condominiums development project. Jordan said the units include one-, two-, and three-bedroom units.

“We tried to use as much original material as we could,” Jordan said.

Jordan said the new units included rain water harvesting systems and solar energy technology. There’s still room in the upper mill to develop. Williams said two significant spaces remain and a new bakery could be developed at one of the available spaces.

The Haw River Ballroom developed at the upper mill site continues to draw large crowds. Heather and Tom LaGarde run and operate the ball room. Heather LaGarde said the ballroom was an extension of Saxapahaw’s summer music concert series which begins in May and runs through August.

“It took years and years of planning to make the ballroom possible,” Heather LaGarde said. “It opened last summer.”

LaGarde said she hoped Saxapahaw would become a retreat area for artists who endure extended tour schedules. The Haw River Ballroom is a music hall that provides a variety of entertainment.

Parking for events in Saxapahaw has become an issue in recent years. LaGarde said she believed most of the town’s parking issues were solved when parking was no longer allowed on the sides of streets and a new field was opened for additional parking.

Balancing growth in Saxapahaw will continue to be a challenge. LaGarde said she believed the town was able to balance growth during the past 10 years since it was gradual.

“We want to make sure everyone is engaged,” LaGarde said.

Williams said Saxapahaw purchased a bio-diesel bus for public transportation last year. Community leaders hope to form or attract a non-profit group to help run the bus for public transportation in Saxapahaw. Williams said the bus could be running as early as May for the town.

On April 20, the Haw River Ballroom will serve as host to Switchpoint, which will include a concert and conference retreat for global thinkers to share ideas on how to make communities stronger. A group of Saxapahaw business leaders will also travel on May 15 to Grand Rapids, Mich., to participate in the 10th annual Business Alliance For Local Living Economies business conference.

Barney said BALLE had requested Saxapahaw leaders to attend the four-day conference to share their success stories with other communities attending the conference.

Current Saxapahaw businesses include Roxy Farms Antiques, The HawBridge School, Haw River Canoe and Kayak, Cozi Farms, Sandy’s Antiques, The Aya Fiber Studio, Benjamin Vineyards, Bourbon, Dogs and Art Studio, The Bridge at Rivermill, Cup 22 Coffee House, The Eddy Pub, The Haw River Ballroom, The Inn at Bingham School, Jordan Properties, Out of the Fire, Paperhand Puppet, River Landing Inn, The Saxapahaw General Store, Saxapahaw Farmer’s Market and Music, Saxapahaw Rivermill Offices, Victory Calls Stables, Brand New Day Consulting, and Metaform Movement and Massage.

Several of these business owners said last week they had decided to relocate or open their new businesses in Saxapahaw because of its location near the Haw River and central location between the Triad and Triangle.

Below is a list of websites for items of interest in the Saxapahaw community. A simple Internet search may yield many more points of interest.


National racing series to make rare visit to Ace Speedway

March 29, 2012 9:03 AM

Adam Smith / Times-News

ALTAMAHAW — Could the next Jeff Gordon or the next Tony Stewart or the next Kasey Kahne or the next Ryan Newman be pulling into Ace Speedway this weekend?

It’s entirely possible.

Those elite level NASCAR drivers cut their racing teeth in the United States Auto Club, which arrives at the race track in northwestern Alamance County for back-to-back nights of competition on Friday and Saturday.

“This series is where they came from,” Ace general manager Brad Allen said Wednesday. “This series, these cars, prepared them for what they do now. If you’re a race fan, you’re aware of the heritage that’s coming here.”

The USAC Mopar National Midgets and USAC Midwest / Eastern Ford Focuses, ultra-quick machines that resemble go-karts on steroids, are scheduled to practice this afternoon at Ace.

The visit marks something of a milestone for Ace, long a preferred landing spot for regionalized touring circuits — such as Hooters ProCup or various Southern Modifieds series — but rarely a stop for a national racing series.

“These guys are professional race car drivers. This is what they do for a living,” Allen said. “The fact we’re on the national stage here at Ace Speedway is a pretty big honor that we’re just realizing the scope of now. It’s something we haven’t seen here before.”

For example, Bryan Clauson will try to secure his third consecutive USAC Mopar National Midget championship this year. He also hopes to make his Indianapolis 500 debut, too.

From racing at Ace in March to the Brickyard in May, that would form an unheard of progression.

Other drivers to watch this weekend include Darren Hagen, who won a USAC event in February at Ocala, Fla., and has claimed Midget titles on pavement the last two years.

Levi Jones, Bobby Santos III and Mario Clouser also figure to be in the mix at Ace.

“They’ll be names that people know sooner rather than later,” Allen said.

And with NASCAR’s Sprint Cup circuit touching down nearby in Martinsville, Va., this weekend, maybe — just maybe — a Gordon or a Stewart or a Kahne might swing by Ace to remember their USAC roots.

“We’re right inMartinsville’s backyard,” Allen said. “You never know the odds of one of them showing up on Friday night.”



Sweet Tea Classic in Burlington Features Dogs From 7 States

March 26, 2012 10:42 AM

Burlington, NC — More than 250 dogs from seven states faced off  in the fast, fun sport of flyball over the weekend.

Fifty teams competed in the “Sweet Tea Classic” tournament.

Flyball is a sport that involves teams of four dogs who compete in a relay race.  Dogs must clear four hurdles to reach a box where they trigger the release of a ball and then carry that ball back over the four hurdles.  Then, their next teammate completes the cycle.  The fastest team wins.

The Fun Fur flyball club in Mebane sponsored the tournament.

WFMY News 2
Kimberly Page


Music Reunites Old Friends

March 8, 2012 3:00 AM

By Charity Apple / Times-News

SAXAPAHAW — Ketch Secor was enjoying “a very spring-like day in Nashville” last Thursday afternoon.

The award-winning musician reminisced about living in Greensboro and playing music with Heather Sullivan of Elon in the band The Grown-Ups. He was fresh out of high school at the time.

On March 16, Secor and his lifelong friend, Critter Fuqua, will perform at the Haw River Ballroom, 1711 Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Road, for the first time. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the concert is at 8 p.m. It is a reunion of sorts, considering that the band is not only celebrating its 20th anniversary; rather, Fuqua hasn’t been an active member of the band for a few years, but the two friends have stayed in touch.

The two met in seventh grade and “we became fast friends,” Secor said in a phone interview. “We egged each other on musically. He would learn blues guitar and I would learn harmonica.”

Their kinship grew and the duo created an act similar to the great duos of the 1920s; they played southern roots music, fed by the tradition of players in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where they lived.

The two friends went on to form Old Crow Medicine Show in New York in 1998 but later settled in Boone. The band would play music in front of a local pharmacy there; that’s where they were discovered by Doc Watson, who asked them to play for MerleFest.

Secor, who at the time described himself as “a Mohawk-sporting renegade fiddler,” recalled working in tobacco during the summer, something he called “a dying art,” and playing on the street corner to passersby.

Not long after that, the Old Crow Medicine Show relocated to Nashville and began performing on the Grand Ole Opry, toured with Merle Haggard and made regular appearances on NPR’s “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Even though the Old Crow Medicine Show has earned numerous accolades and awards, including gold records, Secor said he still likes to take to the street to perform.

“It’s good to be there,” he said. “It’s my favorite stage. It’s great for performers whether you’re starting out or not. If you can’t play there, you have no business playing on a stage elsewhere. It teaches you discipline and how to keep an audience. With all of the distractions of traffic, car alarms and restaurants beckoning you, if you can get a crowd and attract an audience to the point that they stop what they’re doing, well, that’s the power of music.”

The late African-American fiddler Joe Thompson was one of his mentors and inspiration for old-time fiddle playing. Upon learning of Thompson’s recent death, Secor said “there’s just nobody else like him. When it comes to old-time music, you need an eyewitness. The music speaks to events in history.”

Secor was 18 years old when he first went to Thompson’s house in Mebane to play.

“A hog was hanging in the smokehouse next door. It was salty and smoky smelling. Joe’s lovely wife served us potato chips and cold drinks. And we played — songs like ‘Dona Got A Ramblin’ Mind.’ I’m sad to hear about his death. What a treasure he was and what a treasure of great recordings he left behind. He was part of a dying breed of mankind, not just a dying breed of musicians,” he said.

During the Haw River Ballroom concert, Secor said they’ll be sure to play some Thompson’s tunes, in tribute to him, along with original songs such as “Wagon Wheel,” “Take ’Em Away” and “James River Blues.”

Tickets are $18 to $20 and can be purchased at For more details, call (336) 675-2440 or visit


Burlington City Council OKs downtown farmers market

March 6, 2012 10:25 AM

Molly McGowan/Times-News

Come April, people will be able to purchase fresh produce Saturday mornings at a farmers market in downtown Burlington.

The City Council on Tuesday night approved Burlington Downtown Farmers Market, Inc.’s request to use the city parking lot behind Company Shops Market, bordering Webb Avenue, every Saturday morning from April through October for a farmer-owned-and-operated market.

Eric Henry, on the co-op’s board of directors, told the council he and the rest of the board have been encouraged by the city’s support of Company Shops Market, and, “We want to take it to the next step.” He said, “There’s not a Saturday morning farmers market in Alamance County,” and behind the co-op is the perfect location.

In a news release Henry handed out at the meeting, Chris Bartlett, general manager of the co-op, expressed his support of the farmers market location and said the two would foster a symbiotic relationship.

“Company Shops Market has many products that will enhance the purchases made at the Farmers Market, while enjoying the atmosphere of community spirit,” Bartlett said in the release.

“I think they kind of see it as a win-win situation for their Saturday morning business,” added Anne Morris, executive director of the Burlington Downtown Corporation. Henry made it clear the farmers market will be owned and run by the farmers themselves.

“It will be an independent organization, separate from the (Burlington) Downtown Corporation and Company Shops,” he said.

Thus far, the five “founding farmers” of the Burlington Downtown Farmers Market are Ray Christopher, of Timberwood Organic Farm near Efland, Buck Cochran, of Peacehaven Community Farm in Whitsett, Chris and Jamie Brie Murray, of Sunset Farms, and Charlie Sydnor, of Braeburn Farm, both in Snow Camp.

The market’s initial funding was supplied by Healthy Alamance and Alamance Regional Medical Center.

“Healthy Alamance continues to support efforts that connect communities to healthy opportunities, such as increasing access to fresh foods,” said Director of Healthy Alamance April Durr in the news release. “Research shows that a neighborhood farmers market can have a significant impact on our obesity rates.”

At the meeting, Henry told the council, “We’re all ready to go … we need an OK from you.” He said the farmers have completed the legal process of making the farmers market incorporated, have registered with the state and have liability insurance, since the Saturday market would be held on city property.

Peggy Reece, Burlington’s director of finance and risk management, said staff did not yet have proof of insurance in hand. Therefore, the City Council approved the Burlington Downtown Farmers Market’s request to use the city parking lot on Saturdays, contigent on showing proof of insurance.

The exact dates and hours of the market will be determined by the farmers, but projected times are 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturdays from April through October.

Farmers interested in participating in the Burlington Downtown Farmers Market should call Christiana Kernodle at 336-213-2631.


Burlington City Park Amusement Rides Open for the Spring Season

February 10, 2012 11:40 AM

The Burlington City Park amusement rides will open weekends for the spring season on March 3rd, weather permitting. Bring your family out to City Park and start a tradition today! Rides include the Historic Dentzel Carousel, train, planes, boats, and cars. For more information, please call (336) 222-5030 or visit


New Website Launch

December 1, 2011 1:48 PM

Visit our new website…be a part of Alamance County!


Tourism Grant Applications

November 14, 2011 1:46 PM

Tourism Grant Applications were mailed August 10th, 2011. If you would like to receive one and didn’t get one in the mail or would like an electronic copy please contact Robert Cox at 336-570-1444 or via email at Please allow a day or two for mailed copies to be received.