Field Trip: The Brushy Mountain Peach Festival – Wilkesboro, NC

Every year on the last Saturday of July, the Brushy Mountain Peach Festival takes place in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. That’s about two hours and some change to the southwest of Martinsville. I’ve had so many things going on closer to home since then that this post kept getting put off and pre-empted but I finally have time to say what a treat it was to be invited along with some fine friends and to discover the Wilkesboro area.

North Carolina has been hit hard by the tropical storm known as Fred. I had already planned on going back at some point for reasons I’ll explain at the end of this post but they are really going to need us, all of their neighbors, to help them through the damages of the recent floods.

The Wilkes Heritage Museum

This particular festival is huge. It completely surrounds the Wilkesboro Heritage Museum with tents and food and music and artisans. And peaches.

Trying on Hats in Aunt B’s Attic

We had a fantastic time. We went in all the shops along the road and then took in the festival itself.

We stopped by Cook’s Outfitters to see if they might be able to set us up with a tube ride a little later in the summer. Cook’s does kayaks and bikes but no tubes. I may look into going back for a kayak trip.

Rent Kayaks and Bikes at Cook’s Outfitters

Tents packed the area next to the museum. There were some good crowds but it didn’t feel too crowded.

Checking Out the Booths

This is a good fair for hand-crafted and locally sourced items. One of my favorites is pottery. Not only was there a lot of pottery for sale but there was a woman spinning a bowl as we watched.

Hand-crafted bowl taking shape

Call Family Distillers had a display out to promote their apple pie sour mash moonshine labelled Willie Clay Call’s The Uncatchable. Displays like this are ubiquitous not only at fairs but at the numerous classic car shows you’ll find around but I’m always a sucker for it.

An Advertisement for The Call Family Distillers Moonshine

There were also a lot of skilled wood workers. I normally do a good job of grabbing cards and linking back to the artisans but too much time has gone by this time.

I bought one of the small wooden pieces that fits on top of a bottle of wine and holds two glasses. You can see one in the picture below, sitting on the top of the half-barrel wine bar. I thought the wine bar was pretty cute too.

A Wine Barrel Bar

Several people, including myself, just loved this quilt cabinet. The artist’s wife is a quilter and this cabinet allows the quilts to still be shown off a little while they are being stored.

A Quilt Cabinet

There were easily dozens of tents plus an almost equally large concession area. A band played on a sound stage that opened out onto a grassy lawn filled with chairs.

There was live music on the soundstage.

There was an exhibit that we didn’t get to (it sounded hot) but check out the log cabin. According to the Wilkesboro Town website, this is was the home of a gentleman farmer named Robert Cleveland. The home was built in the 1770’s in western Wilkes County and housed Mr. Cleveland and his 17 children.

The Robert Cleveland Log Cabin

There is a lot of history here.

This would be a great area to tour in the fall and take it all in.

We eventually had seen everything except the log cabin and it had gotten just incredibly hot so we wrapped up our day with lunch and drove up to the Wilkesboro downtown area (the festival is held in North Wilkesboro) to plunder all the shops there and there were quite a few. It’s a very good shopping area with clothing boutiques, home decor shops, and even a Hallmark store.

Plundering the shops in Wilkesboro

North Wilkesboro has a few other claims to fame that you don’t have to wait for the festival to enjoy.

For one thing, they have their own local craft brewery, Two Boros Brewery.

Local Craft Brewer Two Boros Brewery

Right next door to the Heritage Museum and across the street from the brewery is Dooley’s Grill and Tavern, where we stopped for lunch. I suppose the name should have tipped me off, but it didn’t.

Sidewalk Seating at Dooley’s Tavern

It was the menu that did that. The first selection on the menu is “Executioner’s Choice”.

Perhaps the selection below it is ringing a bell, “Laura Foster’s French Dip”?

Menu at Dooley’s Tavern

As it turns out, this is where the story that would be immortalized in the folk song Tom Dooley played out.

Long story short, and there may be different versions, Tom Dooley (actually Tom Dula) was a local man who had become involved with two women (cousins). My understanding is that one of the women became pregnant and he agreed to elope. She then disappeared and was found murdered some time later. Tom was tried and convicted of the murder but there are some that think that Laura was actually killed by the other woman, her cousin, Anne.

The Kingston Trio was a bit before my time but they were a favorite of mine when I went through a folk music phase. I had no idea that there was really any possibility of truth to the story.

Talking about Tom Dooley, one of my lunch mates said that there were still bullet holes in the courthouse steps. I have no idea what she was talking about and the stream of conversation moved away from the subject so I left no better informed. But I’ve made a mental note.

I’d like to go back and learn more about this community. And Tom Dooley.

And why are there bullet holes in the courthouse steps?

I think the North Wilkesboro may just be like that. It’s always going to leave you asking about something.

Another Story for Another Day

If your curiosity can’t stand it, check out Save the Speedway.

A Rainy Morning in Downtown Madison, NC

This post is really about pictures.

Downtown Madison

I was at the 2021 Dan River Boat Race wearing a cardigan over shorts and a sleeveless top (it was supposed to be 80 degrees) when I got to thinking about the fru-fru coffees they sell at The Mad Bean in downtown Madison.

Beverage Menu at The Mad Bean

They also offer hot breakfasts or you can get a premade croissant or apple fritter.

Wrapped Pastries

Down by the train tracks, they have a beautiful building with a commemorative clock. I love the bricked up arches. I assume that those were windows back in the day. I have no idea what this building was.

The Madison Town Clock

The plaque reads:

The Madison Town Clock

1919

A memorial to the men who served and died in World War I

Jim Vaughn, The American Legion and local citizens contributed to the purchase of the clock. The purpose of the clock was to serve as a local war memorial for those who served in the Great War. The clock is a rare number two striking clock with still operates by winding.

The Commemorative Plaque

The clock rang as I was standing there.

The Clock Face

Right next door to the Madison Town Clock is the American Legion. I think that this is an anti-aircraft gun.

An Anti-Aircraft Gun?

There is a beautiful old depot just across the street. Just as old rail trails are being turned into hiking/biking trails, old depots are being fixed up in some small towns and turned into tourist attractions. (We have one up in Bassett but I haven’t seen it open).

Historic Depot

But this historic depot is not empty. It is home to the GIA Distillery. Open on Fridays and Saturdays in the afternoons and early evenings. I’m not a huge fan of whiskey but it wouldn’t kill me to stop in and see what they offer.


GIA Distillery

My husband and I used to be very good about getting down to Madison to see new businesses. We loved Southern Spirits, an old fashioned downhome restaurant with fun specialty drinks to go with dinner. If there is such a thing as an American pub, Southern Spirits is it.

Southern Spirits

And now there’s another new place … Wine Nox. Check out their Facebook Page. It looks like they have a wonderful sitting area in the back and live music?

Wine Nox

Madison is just a pretty place. Even the local recycler’s building is beautiful on a rainy morning in August.

Just a Pretty Building

The Dan River Boat Race at The Weirs

The day of the boat race came and it rained. It wasn’t a hard rain, just persistent. The racers lined up their kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards by the launch. Thirty-two were registered.

The Rescue Squad was down by the weirs ready to handle whatever came at them. They would man the weirs when the first boat was spotted.

A spotter stood on the first weir and watched. And it rained.

Right around ten o’clock, the first of the “open” boats came through. The races leaving from here would only be racing two miles (I think) but there was an “open” category that was put in further upstream for a 6 mile course.

This, by the way, is a racing kayak.

I was not previously aware of racing kayaks. The second boat through was a local river expert riding an Epic.

Like the first boat, he had no trouble coming through the weirs.

It looks like he might have gotten some water on the last weir but it could have been the angle of the shot. I didn’t notice this until I got home and he had continued on with no issues.

Meanwhile, the other racers had moved their boats onto the launch.

And they began setting off in two minute increments.

I never did figure out where they came out of the water. It was a little cold and a little damp and I was distracted by getting a coffee and a warm apple fritter in downtown Madison at the Mad Bean.

Maybe next year I can actually run the race. Not in a racing kayak. Too rich for my blood. But there were people in canoes and regular kayaks too.

I did finally figure out how you get on the water here though. I was looking up the park but I should have been looking up MadTown Tubing.

Instructions for how to get on the water with MadTown Tubing:

Call (336) 548-2789 to make a reservation for a tube or a sit-on-top kayak.

Go to MadTown Tubing in Downtown Madison at 102 North Water Street. You can park directly across from the Tubing headquarters or you can park in the public parking lot a few blocks up the road in the heart of the shopping district. You will probably want to wrap up there anyway eating in one of the restaurants or having a recreational beverage (there is a coffee house, and craft brewery, and a distillery?).

Have a fun, safe time on the river.

Support a local merchant.

Leave some love on the MadTown Facebook Page.

One word of caution: Do not call the Town of Madison’s number that is posted on the Madison River Park Facebook page. They will tell you that the town owns the park but has nothing to do with getting people out on the river. They didn’t seem super happy about the influx of calls they’ve been getting lately. MadTown Tubing is run by the town’s Parks and Rec Department.