Catawba Conservancy Festival | CLT Blog

Catawba Conservancy Festival

Posted on 1 Jun 2009 by Rhi Bowman

Saturday, Haywood Rankin invited the community to his 750-acre farm on Redlair Lane, about 30 minutes west of Uptown, near Gastonia. His family connection to the land dates to the early 1800s.

In the 1940s, his father, Forney “Red” Rankin began to re-piece together his ancestor’s estate. The Catawba Land Conservancy, a local group focused on permanently preserving North Carolnia lands for future generations, emerged from Red’s land-gathering.

Saturday’s free festival, complete with bouncy castle obstacle course and Bruster’s Ice Cream, attracted dozens of young families.


Charlotte Parent Magazine sponsored an art contest: A Greener City — A Greener World. Craft tables were set up throughout a large field for youngsters to express their love for the environment and local artisans sold items like homemade soap and quilts.

Environmental groups also set up displays to educate festival goers on topics like clean air, poisonous snakes and the Carolina Thread Trail, an organization with close ties to the Conservancy.

Rankin, himself, lead groups on hikes and Boy Scout Troop No. 49 provided lunch, for a small charge.

It was a gorgeous day for a festival and a peaceful place to celebrate North Carolina’s majesty.

Check out some photos and see for yourself:

Read more about the Rankin family and the history of the Conservancy at the Observer.


  1. Avatar of Justin Ruckman
    Justin Ruckman 1 Jun 2009 at 9:35 AM

    Haywood Rankin’s daughters, Johanna & Susanna, were friends of mine throughout high school. Their house, at the main entrance to Redlair, is minutes from my parents’ place — a fair bit shorter distance than Redlair is wide. I remember discovering some months into hanging out there just how big the land was, and some time later, seeing firsthand how much time and energy Haywood puts into tending it.

    I don’t think he ever much liked me; I was a pretty awkward young dude to be hanging around his daughters all the time. I might have earned myself some points one night discussing Richard Stolzman’s performance of the Corigliano clarinet concerto when he came to Charlotte, but beyond that I can see why he would have been suspicious. :-)

    That’s, of course, not to speak badly about him or his family at all. They are some of the friendliest, hospitable, and fair-minded people I have ever known, and spending time with them on their farm is one of my favorite “childhood” memories.

  2. Avatar of Rhi Bowman
    Rhi Bowman 1 Jun 2009 at 10:16 AM

    I once interviewed another Rankin, Richard, who also includes his land in the conservancy. They’re an amazing family with a long, rich history — all tied to this chunk of earth. Richard, Gaston Day’s headmaster and a doctor of history, has donated stacks of family documents to UNC Charlotte. You can find them on the top floor. The collection includes everything from correspondence with Sen. Jesse Helms and Ronald Regan to original deeds.

    Justin — any chance you know the metal artist who lives at the end of the street? Is that Haywood, too? There are some fantastic metal sculptures lining Redlair Lane. I’d love to know what their inspiration is and how they do what they do. (Future story?)

    Thanks for the comment.

    For what it’s worth, I’d love to talk band-geek with you sometime. I play the flute and (used to play) piccolo.

  3. Avatar of Justin Ruckman
    Justin Ruckman 1 Jun 2009 at 11:11 AM

    The sculptures are done by the husband of Haywood’s sister, who lives in the house near Hickory Grove Rd right at the entrance. At least if I understand correctly.