Spirit: Staying involved: Vivian Hopkins serves as ambassador for Gold Hill, bluegrass
By Mark Wineka
GOLD HILL — Coming from the park, Kimberly Corl led her friend Kim Martin across St. Stephens Church Road toward the 1840 E.H. Montgomery General Store.
Corl was looking, of course, for Vivian Hopkins, the go-to person in Gold Hill. Hopkins was talking to other visitors and taking advantage of some late winter sun on the planked sidewalk.
Just inside the front door of the store, one of several shops in the historic village of Gold Hill, Hopkins and her husband, Glenn “Hoppy” Hopkins, have on display books, brochures and maps about Gold Hill and mining — many works that Vivian herself has authored.
The store serves as the unofficial Gold Hill visitors center, and Hopkins gives impromptu history lessons on Gold Hill’s glory days as a mining town, how the present-day Gold Hill Historic Village and its shops came to be and information on how you go about reserving the park amphitheater or its handsome Russell-Rufty Veterans Memorial shelter.
“This place, I just want to push as much as I can and keep people aware of it,” Hopkins says. “… I’ve just been involved for so long.”
Not far from the pot-bellied stove in the middle of store, musicians gather every Friday night for a bluegrass jam session, with Vivian serving as the emcee. She makes introductions, announcements, and sometimes will grab her big bass fiddle and join in.
Add it all up, and Vivian Hopkins remains constantly on the move.
She serves as president of the N.C. Bluegrass Association. She is a Road Scholar with the N.C. Humanities Council, giving talks on Gold Hill’s mining history.
Hopkins also is vice president of the Historic Gold Hill and Mines Foundation, which oversees the impressive park adjacent to the village.
She emcees and promotes various fiddlers conventions and bluegrass festivals throughout the region. She has been a booking agent, radio show host and music store owner.
With noted musicians Mark and Maggie O’Connor, Hopkins builds teacher support for O’Connors’ summer strings camp in Charlotte.
Thanks to the foresight of Bill Russell, Hayden Moose and Glenn Isenhour and their preservation of old photographs, Hopkins is compiling a pictorial history of more than 200 images of Gold Hill.
And Hopkins continues putting together an album that will be a collection of her father’s music. She already has composed the liner notes for each of the late Ralph Penninger’s songs.
In short, Hopkins is an ambassador for Gold Hill and an ambassador for bluegrass.
“I enjoy both,” she says. “My heart’s in the music because it’s how I grew up, and I want to carry on my daddy’s legacy.”
A native of North Wilkesboro, Hopkins grew up around the music scene with her father, who also was a luthier. When her family moved to the Gold Hill area in 1969 during her high school years, Hopkins took an interest she already had in earth sciences, geology and history and did extensive research on Gold Hill’s past.
Marriage to Hoppy and various pursuits intervened for many years. It wasn’t until 1989 that people in Gold Hill wanted to have a community day (today’s Gold Hill Founders Day), and they asked Vivian to arrange for her dad’s bluegrass band to perform, as well as the clogging class she was teaching.
As a member of the event planning committee, Hopkins suggested the formation of the historic foundation and served on the original board.
Today, she continues as chief promoter of the village, the park, the trails and Gold Hill as a destination spot. She talks enthusiastically of bringing tour groups to see what Gold Hill has to offer and the need for younger blood to keep the Gold Hill story going.
“The shops are just awesome,” she says. “The merchants — every one of them — are talented at what they do, and we have all the shops filled now.”
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.