Spruce Pine NC “Gem Mining Country”

 


Town of Spruce Pine North Carolina
Spruce Pine is a small town in the North Carolina mountains, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The town is well known for the variety of minerals, downtown festivals, and excellent Christmas tree farms. Spruce Pine has a more concentrated area of feldspar than any other area on earth and accounts for 60% of the United States production of the mineral. Feldspar is used in bathroom fixtures, ceramic tile, paint, dinnerware, electrical wiring devices, art ware (pottery and ceramics), fiberglass insulation, and glass containers from mayonnaise jars to Coke bottles. Though you probably don’t realize it, if you live east of the Mississippi River, your home almost certainly contains a bit of Spruce Pine! If you have ever lifted a drink bottle to your lips, you’ve touched a product of Spruce Pine. About 100% of the United States and the world supply of ultra-pure quartz, which is used in the manufacture of fused quartz apparatus used in the production of semi-conductors, come from the Spruce Pine area. If you have a computer you may rest assured the computer chips were manufactured from Spruce Pine quartz. Spruce Pine offers the uniqueness of having not one but two main streets, Upper Street (Oak Avenue) and Lower Street (Locust Avenue). The nicknames are appropriate given the respective altitudes. The town offers many shops, stores, and dinning establishments. The Town of Spruce Pine has 164 business licenses issued for businesses, from video rentals to investment brokers, inside the town’s corporate limits.

 

 


History of Spruce Pine NC
Spruce Pine was founded in 1907 when the Clinchfield Railroad made its way down the North Toe River from Erwin, Tennessee. The town was originally centered around a tavern operated by Isaac English, located on an old roadway that ran from Cranberry, North Carolina down to Marion, NC. The Old English Inn still stands at its original location near the center of town. The railroad, combined with a rapidly expanding mining industry (the town is the namesake of the famous Spruce Pine Mining District) made Spruce Pine the largest town in the Toe River Valley, as it became the hub of commerce and culture for the area. Spruce Pine was the home of The Feldspar Company and Spruce Pine Mica, and other major mining interests had operations in and around the town. With the decline in use of railroads to ship goods, along with increasing automation in the mining industry, the town has recently seen its fortunes dwindle and has undertaken a major effort to reinvent itself. Tourism has become a major economic force in the region, and the town’s proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway, combined with its location near the edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment has helped make Spruce Pine a travel destination for many.


 


Downtown Spruce Pine

The Spruce Pine Main Street Corporation was re-established in January 2000 to promote economic programs designed to strengthen and expand the income potential of all businesses within the trade area: promote programs of civic, social and cultural nature which are designed to increase the functional and aesthetic values of the community. It also promotes the historic preservation, which happened in 2003 when Spruce Pine was designated a Historic Town by the National Register. Spruce Pine Main Street strives to make our downtown highly visible to the public by promoting and advertising a positive image which attracts consumers and investors and instills community pride. They work to enhance the visual quality of buildings, signs, window displays, and public areas. We strive to show a tangible commitment to revitalization. Through the efforts of Spruce Pine Main Street and the Town of Spruce Pine, beautiful art work is displayed in our town for the pleasure of all to enjoy. Riverside Park, located on the banks of the Toe River has been developed, groomed for walking and enjoyed by ballplayers alike. Beautiful artwork is standing on the walking path for your delight. Each July the Toe River Storytelling Festival is held in the park for the enjoyment of the young and old. Join everyone downtown in October for the Mineral City Heritage Festival (formerly the Hillbilly Heritage Festival). Crafters bring their wares to sale; you’ll see apple butter being made; enjoy those homemade fried apple pies; listen to the music and tap your toe to live music while you enjoy good food and fun. And make sure to join us in April for the second annual Fire On The Mountain Festival!


 


Gem Mining in Spruce Pine
Gem Mining in Spruce Pine is one of Western North Carolina’s favorite attractions in the area. The Learning Channel’s (TLC) popular show Find Cash & Treasure visited some local Spruce Pine Gem Mines, which increased the popularity of Gemstone Hunting in North Carolina Mountains. There is an annual Mineral and Gem Festival and Mineral Heritage Festival in Spruce Pine NC that attracts thousands of visitors from around the region. Spruce Pine North Carolina is recognized internationally as the Gem and Mineral Capital of North America. If you and the family are looking for an adventure filled day then hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway and check out Gem Mining in Spruce Pine. Spruce Pine North Carolina was established as a mining town filled with abundant minerals and stones. Find your own treasures at one of the gemstone mines where visitors can mine their own stones, discover their own rubies, emeralds and other rare precious stones. The raw mining ore and minerals are brought from the mines to the flumes. Then all the action takes place under the covered gem stone flumes where your mission is to discover and identify beautiful and valued gem stones.  First just place a scoop of rough material on the screen and use the flume water to sift out the dirt, sand, and rock to reveal precious gem stones.  There is even a chart next to you to refer to and help you identify what gemstones to look for. Now that you have identified all your gemstones bring them back into our store where certified gemologists will sort through your treasure collection of gem stones and help you in deciding what pieces could be cut and made into beautiful jewelry that will last a lifetime.  Experienced gem cutters will take your rough stone and shape the gem stone into whatever cut you would like to be placed into a ring, bracelet, or pendant. If gem mining becomes a passion or you are a novice rock hound stop by the Museum of North Carolina Minerals, another popular mining attraction in Western NC.


 

Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree
One of Spruce Pine’s most famous natives is children’s author Gloria Houston, who was born and raised nearby in the Green Valley community northeast of town. Her Appalachian children’s books, set in the region around Spruce Pine, are famous for the quality of their writing and the subjects that they cover. Houston and the Mitchell County Development Foundation have recently undertaken promoting Spruce Pine as being the “Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree,” taken from Houston’s work “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree.” During the Christmas season of 2003, author Gloria Houston gave a gift to the small town of Spruce Pine, North Carolina. She gave the rights to her award-winning children’s book, The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. Over the preceding months, Spruce Pine and Mitchell County had suffered serious economic challenges, losing thousands of textile, furniture and other manufacturing sector jobs to outsourcing. From that original idea, the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree project was born. With entrepreneurial development as a primary focus, the project has created nearly 100 individual small businesses that have produced quality, handmade products as part of the Home of the Perfect Christmas Tree collection. The project also serves as a scholarship tool, with a portion of royalties received from product sales used to fund a scholarship program is to combat the alarmingly low student retention rate at Mitchell High School, the only high school in the county.
Shop or Donate: www.homeoftheperfectchristmastree.org


 


North Carolina Mineral and Gem Festival

Since the early 1950’s Spruce Pine, North Carolina has been the host of the Festival and welcomed visitors from around the world to shop for beautiful jewelry, gemstones, minerals, beads, crystals, fossils and more!  Even celebrities have been spotted at the Festival selecting their jewelry, gemstones and gifts!  The Festival features gem, jewelry and mineral dealers from across the country showcasing their merchandise to fit every budget.  Whether you are shopping for an engagement ring, a special stone for your own setting, a custom designed piece of jewelry or a special crystal display for your home, you can’t miss the NC Mineral and Gem Festival.The NC Mineral, Gem and Jewelry Festival is directed by the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce and supported by nearly 100 community volunteers.  The Festival is an indoor festival so weather is never a problem! Set in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Spruce Pine, NC, Festival goers not only enjoy shopping during the four day Festival, but they also enjoy all that there is to do in our beautiful area.


 


Mineral City Heritage Festival

The Mineral City Heritage Festival in October of each year in downtown Spruce Pine thrives on sharing the old traditional mountain traditions. People can watch an old-fashioned engine chugging and making apple cider, watch the pot boil with apples peeled, and the making of apple butter. Weaving on an old spinning wheel can be viewed in a window or the caning of a chair being done by hand. Many varieties of food are available to feast upon as you listen to the “picking and singing.” Games abound for children, which gives the down home family feel to Spruce Pine. Take a drive off the Blue Ridge Parkway by about five miles and venture into a vision of excitement from the days of old Spruce Pine.Our mountain heritage lingers from generation to generation. The Mineral City Heritage Festival in October of each year in downtown Spruce Pine thrives on sharing the old traditional mountain traits. Folks can watch an old-fashioned engine chugging and making apple cider, watch the pot boil with apples peeled, and the making of apple butter.  Weaving on an old spinning wheel can be viewed in a window or the caning of a chair being done by hand. Many varieties of food are available to feast upon as you listen to the “picking and singing.” Games abound for children, which gives the down home family feel to Spruce Pine. Take a drive off the Blue Ridge Parkway by about five miles and venture into a vision of excitement from the days of old. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


 


North Carolina Mineral Museum-Blue Ridge Parkway

Recently renovated, the Museum of North Carolina Minerals introduces the treasures found in the Spruce Pine Mining District through interactive displays on the wide variety of minerals and gems found in the region. Located at milepost 331 on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Gillespie Gap, the Museum provides an introduction to the importance of mining in the region and the mineral and gem wealth found here. Work is continuing on new interactive displays that will take you deep inside a mountain to see how gems and minerals are formed. The Museum also hosts a visitor center for the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce, where you can pick up information on local businesses, attractions, lodging, food and more. A gift shop featuring souvenirs and books on Western North Carolina is also located in the museum.

The Museum is located at Gillespie Gap, an important stop for Revolutionary War fighters on their way to the Battle of Kings Mountain, and each September it hosts an encampment each September of re enactors of the Over the Mountain Men, who distinguished themselves during the Battle of Kings Mountain. The Museum also has information on that famous battle, which many historians mark as the turn of the tide in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War.


 

Toe Rivert Arts Council
The Toe River Arts Council (TRAC) is a non-profit organization founded in 1976 to promote the arts in Mitchell and Yancey Counties. Our numerous community programs involve many of the over 33,000 citizens of Mitchell and Yancey Counties, as well as promote the area for our tourist trade. Support for local groups, artists, and students is provided by grants and stipends generated by our staff at Toe River Arts Council. Toe River Arts Council is governed by a bi-county board with offices above the Burnsville Gallery, a gift shop and exhibition space. The Spruce Pine Gallery offers a gift shop and large exhibition/reception space. Our exhibitions are educational, entertaining, are of the highest quality and represent local and outside artists and craftspersons including traditional and contemporary work.Toe River Arts Council sponsors the Toe River Studio Tour twice a year on the second weekend in June, the first weekend in December. Over 100 studios and galleries are represented in this free, self-guided tour. Paint Out, held one day in the spring, brings together 2-dimensional artist who participate in a day of painting in and around Burnsville. Toe River Arts Council sponsors the Toe River Chamber Ensemble, a group of 20-25 volunteer musicians, who meet weekly to rehearse, then perform concerts throughout the year in schools and local churches. The second Friday of the month is reserved for Java Jam, an evening of music and dancing at the Burnsville Town Center. Musicians are invited, home-baked desserts provided and coffee donated by the local coffee shop. Music in the Mountains Folk Festival, dedicated to the “preservation of mountain music and culture” happens in the fall with old time string bands, ballad singers, clogging, storytelling and blue grass. Foremost in Toe River Arts Council’s focus is education and communication in the arts.


 


Fire on the Mountain Blacksmith Festival

The Fire on the Mountain Blacksmith Festival will be held in Downtown Spruce Pine Saturday April 25th from 10am-4pm and will feature vendors, live demonstrations, hands-on tent with rotating teachers and visiting blacksmiths from around the region and country. Iron and metal artists from the local area and guests from across the southeast will exhibit. Celebrate forging techniques and ferrous materials .Blacksmithing has deep roots in this area and this festival will both honor and celebrate its history and broaden awareness of quality contemporary iron work. The Toe River Arts Council will sponsor an exhibition featuring work by festival participants at the TRAC Gallery on Oak Street, downtown Spruce Pine. Festival will feature live demonstrations, hands-on activities for the public, and booths where blacksmiths can display and sell their work. A pig roast dinner, hosted by Penland School, and closing celebration for festival participants will be held at the Carolina Theatre following the festival.


 

Toe River Storeytelling Festival
The Toe River Storytelling Festival takes place by the Toe River in Spruce Pine’s Riverside Park. The storytellers and listeners gather each year on the third Saturday of July for the “spinning of tales.” Travelers from far and wide travel by the Blue Ridge Parkway or under the Parkway to listen the stories of history, folklore, and the ever-entertaining “Jack Tales” of long ago. Each year at least five tellers, the likes of David Holt, share their stories and the laughter can be heard across the river into downtown Spruce Pine. Young and old alike gather together with their ears attuned to great yarns and the music provided by only the best storytellers. The festival is located just five miles from Milepost 331 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


 

Troutacular Trout Festival in Spruice Pine
It’s a tale of two cities, well actually two towns.  Two Mitchell County towns are joining together to host a trout festival simultaneously in both towns on the same day. Spruce Pine and Bakersville, the two largest towns in Mitchell County will host Troutacular! a Mountain Heritage Trout Cities festival on Saturday, June 6, 2009 .Troutacular will feature events in both towns beginning the morning of June 6th with fishing tournaments .  Spruce Pine’s fishing tournament will focus on kids.  “With opening day being June 6th, we knew that only kids could fish until noon, and thought it would be a great idea to focus our attention on kids fishing with their families and teaching kids about river conservation and responsible fishing,” said Joe Street, Spruce Pine’s Troutacular chairperson and owner of River’s Edge Outfitters in Spruce Pine. Other Spruce Pine events will include kids crafts coordinated by Penland School of Craft community liaison Stacey Lane.  Kids will also be invited to have a ‘river of fun’ while they paint (chalk) the Riverside Walking Path into a river full of fish.  There will be a free hotdog lunch and t-shirts for kids, face painting and more. The fishing tournament, as well as booths from NC Fish and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited’s Outdoor Classroom and more will also be taking place at Riverside Park.  Winners of the fishing tournament will receive a Lifetime Fishing License from the NC Fish and Wildlife.  Artists are invited to participate in a “Water Colors” patterned after Paint Outs in other communities, where they can station themselves down the riverbanks or throughout downtown to paint.  Prizes will be awarded at the end of the Festival.  The Paint Out is being organized by the Toe River Arts Council.


 

Spruce Pine POW WOW
Annual Spruce Pine Pow Wow in Spruce Pine, held from Friday to Sunday, September 10to 12 Bring your lawn chairs and stay all day. This is an educational event, so there will be interesting sights and events going on all day, such as dancing, drumming, singing, storytelling, flint knapping, gourd carving, handmade craft vendors, a tee pee, flute and contemporary music. Friday is Kids Day and participation by many schools is expected. Kids will be asked to dance with the head man and head lady. The boys will learn the “stealth of the warrior” and the girls will learn the “grace and dignity” of a traditional lady dancer. Dances such as the Crow Hop, Buffalo Dance and Snake Dance will take place, and even the teachers are asked to dance. When the emcee says “Intertribal,” that includes everyone in attendance. Native American Music Award Nominee Dave Trezak is the emcee, and he and Miss Vicky Hutto will perform each day. He plays Native American flute and guitar, and both he and Miss Vicky sing native and contemporary music. The Spruce Pine Pow Wow will be held just south of Spruce Pine on Highway 226 South, behind Music, Jewelry and Loan, located at 12513 Highway 226 South. It is two miles south of Highway 19 East and two miles north of Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 331.

Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children. On Friday, children with the schools attend for only $1, and activities will start as soon as the children arrive. Pow wow hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. The Blue Ridge Intertribal Pow Wow Association is a nonprofit organization. People are welcome to volunteer to pass out fliers before the event as well as volunteer to help at the pow wow. For more information or to volunteer, call Mabel at 813-765-3073. Date: Friday to Sunday, September 10 to 12 Time: 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday/9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday
Location: just south of Spruce Pine
Cost: $5 adults/$2 kids/$1 kids with schools on Friday.

 

 


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