By Jesse Wood
High Country attractions reported record attendance for the Memorial Day weekend, and local businesses saw a steady stream of patrons from Friday through Monday.
“We sold the most Dutch Creek Ice Cream than we have ever sold on Memorial Day weekend,” said Oliva King, manager of The Mast General Store Annex in Valle Crucis. “They ran us out.”
The “ridiculously nice” weather, as RaysWeather.com noted in its recap of the holiday weekend, of course, contributed to the long lines at the ice cream shop and elsewhere.
Kellen Short, director of marketing and communications for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, said that more than 8,200 people visited Grandfather Mountain between Friday and Monday.
This represented at least a 26 percent increase from the mountain’s previous record for this particular holiday weekend.
“The stars definitely aligned to have perfect weather every day of the holiday weekend, so we don’t think we’ll be breaking these records anytime soon,” Short said.
Short also noted that Grandfather Mountain launched its prepaid ticket system, where people who order tickets online in advance are able to enter the mountain through special access in MacRae Meadows on busy weekends like Memorial Day weekend.
“The system worked very smoothly, and guests responded really positively to having that option. It certainly helped to keep wait times manageable for everyone entering the gate,” Short said.
Two other attractions in the High Country reported record or near-record attendance.
Charlie Sellers, owner of The Blowing Rock, said the oldest travel attraction in North Carolina welcomed more than 2,000 people over the course of the weekend.
“We had a record weekend … A lot of daytrippers, a lot of weekenders, numerous people from overseas, Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Raleigh and even Wilmington,” Sellers said.
Just down U.S. 321 in between Boone and Blowing Rock, Chris Robbins, president of Tweetsie Railroad, said that the theme park had near-record attendance and “certainly the best [attendance and business] in some time.”
“I’ll take it,” Robbins said.
Downtown Boone also saw an influx of visitors.
Brandon Langdon, owner of Shoppes at Farmer’s Hardware, said his store and downtown Boone in general were “very busy.”
“Just an overall good holiday weekend,” Langdon said.
A block away on King Street, Bob Meier, owner of Doe Ridge Pottery, said there was lots of people in town throughout the weekend and that people didn’t mind feeding the meter because the parking spaces were full.
“Business here was pretty good,” Meier said. “But, of course, it could always be better.”