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  • Explore Elkin

Explore Elkin: A Movement Inspired by Community


Chatham Manufacturing - Elkin, NC

Elkin, North Carolina has long been a small town, sustained by the pride and commitment of the members of the community. Like many North Carolina towns, Elkin started as a mill town; Chatham Manufacturing employed nearly 3,000 of the 4,000 people who claimed Elkin as their home, fostering a common bond and palpable pride. But like many mill towns, the impact of manufacturing moving overseas and technological advancement was heavily felt, and by the early 2000s the once bustling historic downtown fell quiet. 



On a mission to breathe life back into Main Street, Sam Bishop enlisted several community leaders to come together and form a committee to pursue the vision of creating a cultural arts hub along Main Street and making Elkin a go-to weekend destination. Jeff Edison, long-time resident, G&B Energy owner, and figure head of Elkin, took up the helm. Dan Butner, Director of the Foothills Arts Council, suggested the name Explore Elkin, and the spark was ignited. 


The name Explore Elkin inspired the group for its dual meaning, an invitation to visitors to come and explore all Elkin has to offer, but also an ask of the committee members to look inward, at Elkin’s strengths, weaknesses, and what the idea of community meant to them.


“When I was growing up, I believed whole-heartedly in the message on our license plate – ‘Elkin: Best Little Town in North Carolina’ – I’ve come to understand that my early belief in our town was grounded in our strong sense of community.” 


So call on the community Jeff did. 


Jeff Eidson, Explore Elkin

Knowing the love and pride many of his fellow Elkin-ites had for their small town, he created a program called “Elkin Explorers” and asked friends, family, business leaders, and key voices of the community to join by contributing a small annual donation of only $100.


He also wanted to give the community ways to contribute to the vision of Elkin that wasn’t monetary, and so organized the first inaugural Community Gathering, with the intention of consensus building, inviting the community to join the conversation, and discussing ideas around a shared vision for the future of Elkin. 


On March 30, 2017 over 300 people showed up to the Liberty to show their support, share their ideas, and reinvigorate the sense of what’s possible when we come together as a community. 


The event raised over $25,000 and over 400 people have since joined the Elkin Explorers program, contributing over $55,000 to the Explore Elkin efforts through individual, small donations.

Explore Elkin Community

By believing in the power of his community, Jeff was able to bring energy back into Elkin.  People are once again invested in and connected as a community. His determination and dedication started a movement back to a strong sense of community, a movement carried on by the growing team and efforts of Explore Elkin.  


The mission of Explore Elkin is simple; share the best little town in North Carolina. With the funds the annual Community Gathering and Elkin Explorers provides, we host annual events such as Big Elkin Brrrfest, St. Paddy’s Day Pub Crawl, Food Truck Fridays, Earth to Elkin, CommUNITY Picnic, NC Trail Days, Freedomfest, Explorer Appreciation Dinner, and Friday Night Live. These events help foster community and give visitors a taste of what Elkin has to offer. 


Today, Explore Elkin is led by Natalie Edison, Alexandra Kakouras, Brittany Rogers, and of course, still Jeff, with many more community members contributing time, resources, and energy to the multitude of events, marketing, and behind-the-scenes efforts to fulfill their mission to make Elkin the number one weekend getaway destination in North Carolina. A special thanks to folks such as Brittany Russell (formerly Cavu Marketing), the Town of Elkin Staff, Hugh Chatham Health Employees, and many many more community members who have contributed in ways large and small that have surmounted to the Explore Elkin efforts and presence you know today. 


Since the first inaugural Community Gathering in 2017, Explore Elkin has continued the tradition, bringing the community together to celebrate the successes of our community and propel a shared vision for the future of our town forward. This year’s is Thursday, March 28 and will be held at Coley Hall from 5pm -8pm. Any and all are welcome to celebrate Elkin and join in on the magic of our small town’s community. 



Interested in becoming an event sponsor for one of these events, becoming a discount card participant or having your upcoming event included in our newsletter? Email natalie@exploreelkin.com. We are always looking for more businesses to join us and there are perks for you too! Are you a resident of Elkin ready to show your community pride? Join as an Elkin Explorer or simply be an ambassador for our small town, inviting friends and family to events, spreading the word about Elkin, and staying active in the community with your presence, participation, and purchases.


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