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Visitors: welcome to our rural NC

I accidentally stumbled across an opinion column from The News & Observer earlier this week. “Help NC’s rural communities by visiting them” was the title of the short piece penned by Colin Campbell.

The word “rural” caught my eye and so I clicked on it, particularly because the N&O doesn’t usually spend a lot of time talking about the non-urban parts of our state. I was curious what he had to say.

In a nutshell, Campbell simply encouraged the people of North Carolina’s cities and their surrounding areas to get out and visit the lesser known parts of the state, like small communities with fun names such as Whynot, Toast, Boogertown, and Bat Cave. His argument is that these rural places have plenty of interesting things to offer too. You just have to get out there to see them. The visits will help boost those little economies, and in turn, the visitors will have a good time too.

I quite like that idea.

Our little portion of North Carolina, the seemingly forgotten northeastern corner, sometimes feels like a hidden gem. When I was attending college about three hours away in Burlington, I’d often have to tell people I was from “near Roanoke Rapids” because, of course, no one knew where Seaboard was. Even then, the name “Roanoke Rapids” was often met with blank stares. Sometimes I’d just settle with a quick “I’m from the middle of nowhere” with a chuckle to hide my exasperated sigh.

And these were conversations with people actually FROM North Carolina.

The Roanoke-Chowan area has plenty to offer even if it’s not full of the exciting thrills of the city. If you disagree with me, get out of your house and look around. Learn to appreciate what we do have. Imagine you’re seeing everything from the perspective of an out-of-towner for the first time. Something that might be mundane and ordinary to us might be cool and interesting to a visitor. We’ve got a lot of history here, we’ve got a lot of natural beauty, we’ve got a lot of quirky things you’ll find nowhere else.

Realistically, of course, we’re not going to see a sudden uptick in visitors. If someone reading that column actually felt compelled to venture out to different parts of the state, they’d probably go to the mountains or the beach first. But we do, however, have a few major highways crisscrossing through the counties of the Roanoke-Chowan area. People pass through all the time. Sometimes they even stop for a bit!

You know, I always tease my mom about cleaning up for visitors so intensely that it looks like we don’t even live in our house anymore. But still, it really is a good thing to clean up and look presentable. Maybe we should extend that to the area we live in as well. Several small towns around here already have beautification committees, and I commend their hard work. Let’s keep it going. Let’s help out whenever and wherever we can.

We should welcome anyone who wants to come explore our history, eat in our restaurants, shop in our stores, or simply get to know us people who live here. Isn’t Southern hospitality one of the things North Carolina is known for, after all?

I’ve always been proud of where I’m from, and I’ve always thought of it as a hidden gem just waiting to be polished and put on display. I hope anyone who happens to visit will feel the same.

 

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or by phone at 252-332-7206.