As the Executive Director here at the Kernersville Museum, I get asked lots of questions. Sometimes I am surprised by the those questions, but mostly I just take them in stride. Recently, I was asked by a visitor if I was from Kernersville. Now, anyone who has met me KNOWS I’m not from Kernersville just by talking to me. I am originally from the foothills of Western North Carolina, and those of us who hail from those parts of the great state of North Carolina sound a little different from those of you born and raised in the Piedmont area of our beautiful State. For a long time I was a little embarrassed by my accent (A professor in college once made a point to call attention to it in a lecture hall). Our family has moved around a little bit over the years. We briefly lived in Kansas where folks seemed confused when I spoke. Later, when we moved to Ohio, a dear friend there described my accent as a “warm hug” (that is my favorite description). But, eventually, I made peace with this accent. It’s part of what makes me who I am. I could have tried to change it, make it less pronounced, but that wouldn’t really be me.
Kernersville is a lot like that. I think that is one of the reasons I love Kernersville so much. It is unapologetically Kernersville, and unlikely to change the essence of who it is. One of the most endearing qualities of Kernersville is its hospitality towards new people. When our family moved here 3 years ago, we were pleased to find a very welcoming town. Through much research into the history of Kernersville, I realized that Kernersville has always had a history of welcoming new people. Take for example, Martin H. Holt, who was the principal of Oak Ridge Institute in the 1880’s. Holt was educated at Kernersville Academy and arrived in town as a student in 1872. He described Kernersville as having, “an exuberance of social life, and such an unbounded, unstinted hospitality”. Holt went on to praise the “large-hearted sociality and hospitality which characterized the town”. What is even more interesting about Holt’s description of life in Kernersville in 1872 is that, at the time, there were only 147 people living in our town.
Kernersville continues to welcome new residents and visitors, alike. Each spring the town shuts down Main Street and welcomes folks to the Spring Folly for 3 days of fun and merriment. We usually get between 25,000 - 30,000 visitors over that weekend. But, even as far back as 1938, Kernersville welcomed more than 25,000 people to the July 4th parade! That is a lot of people, even by today’s standards. Obviously, Kernersville had something special that attracted people.
That’s the beauty of Kernersville. We are who we are. The same town that welcomed a young boy back in 1872 with warmth and hospitality is the same town that welcomed my family in 2015, and although a lot has changed, the spirit of this town remains the same. There will always be those folks who live among us who don’t recognize the “uniqueness” of Kernersville. Those are the same folks who usually can’t see the forest for the trees. But for me, I will continue to enjoy coming to work each day and discovering something new about the town I have a fallen in love. Maybe all that moving around helps me to appreciate all that Kernersville has to offer. I like to think it’s because I know a good thing when I see it.