Appreciation for flourishing businesses and plans for the upcoming Old Fort’s N.C. Gold Festival were among topics discussed in Monday’s Board of Aldermen meeting.

Old Fort Mayor Rick Hensley asked for several businesses that have opened in the last two years to be in attendance as he and the aldermen offered their appreciation.

“It was brought up in conversation that the town has not really shown our appreciation enough, and I feel like we have,” said Hensley. “This presentation is to reward you for your hard work in coming here and starting a new business. I know how hard it is to start a new business. I have one of my own. It’s not easy, especially with the economy the way it is. And this is nothing to take away from our old business. They’re doing well and hope they continue to do well. I hope these new businesses will do even better.”

The following businesses were thanked and offered Certificates of Appreciation during the meeting:

• ERA Mountain View Property

• Glampin Campin

• K&R Antiques

• Mr. Bob’s Donuts

• Nebo Rental

• Old Fort Barber Shop

• Old Fort Food Court

• Old Fort Restaurant Equipment

• Pass the Buck

• Street Seats

• Subway

• Children Learning Center

• Top Fuel Grill

When accepting on behalf of Top Fuel Grill, owner Jeff Plemmons thanked the aldermen, saying, “It’s definitely not easy starting a new business, especially coming from manufacturing and working in a plant for 30 years of my life. My wife (Donita) had breast cancer and we took a couple years off for her, and I told her, ‘I’m ready to do something different.’ We’re giving it a whirl, doing our best, so thank you for the support.”

Following the presentation, Don Markum of the N.C. Gold Foundation appeared before the aldermen in public comments to offer ideas, suggestions and requests to aid in the advancement of the Old Fort Gold Festival’s tourism and attraction, with the upcoming festival slated for June 3 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Mountain Gateway Museum.

“On June 10, 2016, former governor Pat McCrory designated the Old Fort Gold Fest as the official state gold festival in North Carolina,” said Markum, citing this year’s festival as the first to carry the official state-designated moniker. “We are requesting a partnership with the aldermen and the Town of Old Fort to build upon the festival.”

Reading through a list of suggestions for subsequent festivals that the Gold Foundation would like to see within the next five years, including food trucks and live entertainment, Markum read statistics from Dahlonega, Ga., in which an average of 250,000 citizens attend the Gold Rush Days Festival.

“They are in their 61st year. We are in our 14th. Within time, I think we can reach that,” said Markum.

As part of the requests to advance the Gold Festival’s expansion on the state level, Markum requested that the Town of Old Fort appoint a “civic minded person” to serve as event manager.

“The event manager would coordinate with the Mountain Gateway Museum, the tourism department and the N.C. Gold Foundation for all the activities, historical displays, inanimate artifacts, interior staff, recruit vendors and entertainment groups, enlists businesses and organizations for sponsorship, media outlets and pageants for maybe three hours a week,” said Markum.

Among the more lucrative ideas Markum brought to the table was a program to set up specialized N.C. Mining license plate tags to be offered to tag agencies throughout the state, with only 200 participants needed for manufacturing.

“This would put the N.C. Gold Festival in every tag agency in the state of North Carolina and establish a financial income opportunity for funding the expenses of the festival and other gold-related projects,” said Markum. “The opportunity came by the actions of former representative Mitch Gillespie, who pushed it through the state legislature for the opportunity of the Gold Festival to have their own automobile license plate.”

The plate, displayed by Markum along with an application, costs an annual $20 fee for regular plates and a $50 annual fee for personalized plates, in addition to the regular license fee. Applications and other info on the Gold Festival can be found at

• In other public comments, real estate developer Gary Jones, who met with the aldermen last month to discuss adding a tiny home community in area, told the aldermen he’s seeking a surveyor’s opinion on accurate flood plan maps and would like to defer updates until the next meeting. Alderman Andrew Carlton informed Jones that, after speaking to municipality services in Boone, Jones would most likely qualify for USDAloans for individual taps.

• Top Fuel Grill is offering a Hometown Throwdown at the Old Fort Depot on the afternoon of Sunday, May 28. The event is offering $12 for wood-fired steak plates, $9 for chicken plates with fixings and drinks. More information can be found on the Top Fuel Grill Facebook page or by calling (828) 668-1300.

• The Old Fort Depot will hold an appreciation dinner for Old Fort first responders from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The next meeting for the aldermen will be June 19.

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