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Walk in the Park Exhibit

In September of 2000 the Historical Society staged its first Walk in the Park. This fundraiser evolved into a very popular annual event until 2011, where community actors and actresses portrayed historic Highlands characters near their graves in Memorial Park.

Over eleven years Walk in the Park featured such well-known historic figures as golf-legend , who opened Highlands' first major golf course the year before his grand slam in 1930, here portrayed by Tony Potts; and medical pioneer , who established one of North Carolina's first TB sanatoria (known in Highlands as "Bug Hill") in 1908, here portrayed by Becky Schilling.
Highlands' first mayor's wife Celia Edwards Hill was recently played by Elaine Whitehurst; horticulturist and historical writer Silas McDowell, who originated the concept of a temperate "thermal belt" and gave the town its name, by Rick Siegel; pioneer settler Mary Ann Gibson, caretaker with husband Huey of the Highlands plateau before the town was founded, by Ginny Harris; and rustic log cabin craftsman Joe Webb, by Thomas Craig.

Glenda Bell portrayed Helen Wright Wilson, founder of Helen's Barn, where buck dancing, square dancing, and mountain clogging thrived in Highlands for 50 years, amalgamating summer and winter residents alike into a single class of foot-stomping revelers; and Derek Taylor played renowned photographer George Masa, who photographed almost 100 scenes of Highlands and its surroundings in 1929.

Stell Huie played Native storyteller Herman Wilson, who charmed his listeners for years with fascinating tales of early Highlanders who survived hard times because they grew and made what they needed; and Brian McClellan was Dr. Alexander Anderson, who discovered the method for producing what became known through the Quaker Oats Company as "Puffed Wheat" and "Puffed Rice.

Other historic characters portrayed in Walk in the Park have been midwife Ida Henry (Jane McNairy), eponymous founder of the Highlands library Ella Hudson (Becky Schilling on the left), police chief Ed "Bennie" Rogers (Charles Edwards on the right), Biological Station director and scientist Thelma "Doc" Howell (Bonnie Powell), educator and botanist Prof. Thomas G. Harbison (Ted Shaffner), town mayor during the Moccasin War H. M. Bascom (Wiley Sloan), town founders Samuel Kelsey and C. C. Hutchinson, corundum miner Charlie Jenks (Thomas Craig), and many, many more.

Ida Webb Henry was the fifth child of pioneer settlers Billy and Lucretia Gibson Webb. As a midwife, she delivered some 400 babies around Highlands during the early 20th century. Photo ca. 1950.

Harlan Page "Bop" Kelsey (1872-1958) was one of town-founder Samuel Kelsey's twin sons, who at 12 was the "youngest nurseryman in America" and was a driving force in the creation of the Appalachian Trail and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo ca. 1950.

Alfred Hawkins came to Highlands from Hudson, Ohio, in 1883 and settled at Rock House, south of Horse Cove near the Glade Mountain Road. As a self-made scholar, he practiced homeopathic medicine, which is why folks called him Dr. Hawkins.

Silas McDowell (1795-1879) was a self-educated Renaissance sage, who lived near Franklin and promoted Highlands for 30 years before Kelsey and Hutchinson founded the town. He was famous for his discovery of the no-frost "thermal belt" in the Southern Appalachians. Photo ca. 1960.

Hugh & Mary Ann Gibson lived as William Dobson's caretakers of the land where Highlands currently today. Their one-room cabin was located near today's Trillium Place on East Main. For the 1876 lithograph of the Gibsons, see Richard Harding Davis, "Harper's New Monthly Magazine," Sept. 1880, vol. 61, p. 543, and pp. 541-44 for the section relating to Highlands.