Chamber of commerce ready to 'rock' with launch of annual campaign

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News
A collection of rocking chairs from past Little Town That Rocks campaigns are displayed prominently in the Black Mountain-Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce visitor center. The organization is still looking for sponsors and photograph submissions for this year's fundraiser.

No matter how many things there are to do in Black Mountain, there is always time to rock away your cares in a rocking chair while gazing upon the mountains in the distance.

Opportunities to do just that will become increasingly available in the coming weeks as the Black Mountain-Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce launches its annual Little Town That Rocks campaign.

The chamber fundraiser has been an annual event since the town slogan, “the little town that rocks,” was adopted in 2013.

“We were once known as ‘the front porch of Western North Carolina,’”  chamber executive director Bob McMurray said. “A few years back our marketing council started looking for a new campaign and we became 'the little town that rocks.' Rocking chairs have been part of our identity since; the big red rocker in front of our visitor center has to be one of the most photographed spots in town. It's featured in the Christmas parade every year and we have the large rockers in Town Square, which were made by the Howachyns at Black Mountain Iron Works." 

Each year since launching the campaign, the chamber offers local businesses and individuals the opportunity to sponsor a rocking chair featuring art inspired by the Swannanoa Valley. Last year the backs of the chairs, which are placed throughout town to be enjoyed by all, featured paintings by local artists.  

"It's $125 to sponsor a rocker," McMurray said. "That pays for the rocker and to have Precision Graphics print the photo on a board that is then attached to the chair. We give the photographer and sponsor credit on each." 

The chamber is still looking for sponsors and photographers for this year's campaign. 

"Anyone looking to sponsor a rocker needs to contact us by May 17," McMurray said. "We'll be accepting photographs up until May 31." 

The rocking chairs will remain in place around town through through the end of October. 

"There are usually rockers everywhere for people to sit and relax," McMurray said. "The Swannanoa Valley has always been a place for rejuvenation and this campaign ties into that."

A silent auction for up to 25 rockers will be held during a celebration at the visitors center on Nov. 2. 

"Some years we split the proceeds with a local organization," McMurray said. "Last year we partnered with the Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League. This year, all of the money raised will go to support the chamber."

Chamber volunteer Powell Winstead has been a fan of the campaign since moving to town. He bought four rockers for his home in 2017. 

"We were building our house and it had a large front porch," he said. "We didn't have furniture for the porch and we happened to just walk in here one day and see that they were going to auction off these rockers and put a bid in on about six of them."

The chairs Winstead purchased feature photographs and are similar to those being offered this year.

"We still have a lot of people that comment on them when they see them for the first time," he said. "And they've held up well."

His experience with the chamber led Winstead to offer his services as a volunteer at the visitor center, where a collection of the rockers are displayed from years past. 

"A lot of people come inside this visitor center every year and a lot of those people tend to focus on these rockers," McMurray said. "This is a fun campaign that really reflects the a lot of what's great about this community. The rockers offer a place to rest for the people who come to shop in our downtown, they feature local businesses as sponsors and showcase the artistic talents of the people who live here."