By Catharin Shepard • Editor • While there was controversy, crime and the lingering effects of COVID-19, the year 2023 also had its brighter sides. Here are a few of the good things that happened in Hoke, large and small, to end the year on a positive note – and in 2024, don’t forget to look on the bright side.

New business booms

A number of new businesses opened their doors in 2023. Barbecue restaurant Stewart’s Tavern moved into the former Downtown restaurant space and has seen booming business. The Barn House moved into the former Jess’s Place restaurant on 401 Business, offering classic breakfast and dinner fare with homestyle cooking. The creatively-focused Southern Roots Creations launched its paint and sip business, bringing fun activities for youth and adults alike. The bakery Kimmy’s Treats opened its doors on Prospect Avenue, joining the options for local sweets seekers. Many others started up in just about every area of business possible throughout Hoke.

To see more of local businesses, check out the Raeford-Hoke Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page, which posts about its members and what they have going on.

Students prospering

Hoke County students prospered in many ways through the hard-working efforts of Hoke County Schools teachers and staff. Hoke County High earned a B letter grade on its state report card, seeing improvement over previous years in test results. The Career and Technical Education (CTE) program offered youth opportunities in drone piloting, nursing, agriculture and animal science fields, automotive and many other programs – and saw those students obtain certifications, internships and experience to help them into their futures.

White Oak School scholarship

After a decade of efforts to raise money for the White Oak School scholarship, thanks to the donations of generous supporters, the scholarship is now held in perpetuity through the North Carolina Community Foundation. The scholarship will give away $1,000 to two Hoke youth for college each year. Former Hoke Commissioner Ellen McNeill had worked on the project for many years, and finally got to see it come to fruition.

Wagon Train hits 60

The Hoke County Wagon Train celebrated its 60th event this past June with a ride through town, followed by music, horseback games for adults and kids and the traditional weekend campout on Alex Baker Road. Frankie Wilson has organized the Wagon Train for many years.

Emus and cows and rams, oh my

While it might not be good to see an emu, cow, ram or potbellied pig lost from their home, a number of good-hearted people who care about animals came together to spread the word about the lost livestock and help get them back home. It started with Shim the emu, who got out of his pen and was spotted by Brandon Herron. After posting about the emu on Facebook and seeing a strong response from people interested in the big bird’s well-being, Herron started a Facebook page specifically to help get him back home. Not only did the group manage to reunite Shim with his owner, they went on to focus on a cow, ram and potbellied pigs that were also on the loose.

Skydiving and airport report

The P.K. Airpark runway got a fresh repaving for the first time in decades earlier this year, making it a smoother ride for landings and takeoffs for the planes at Skydive Paraclete XP and other aircraft that fly into and out of the county. The venture hosted its July 4 fireworks and many events throughout the year, including Operation Toy Drop earlier this month.

The biggest event was the parachuting championships, held throughout September which drew the best of the best to Hoke County to compete for a chance to represent the United States in international competition.

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