The new Iredell County Public Library building is going up fast though not fast enough for many of our staff and patrons. Most of them can’t wait to see the doors open.
Building a library is at heart a community project. The new library can trace its beginnings back to January 16th, 2000 when Arlene Foster with the Women’s Junior Service League led citizens with petitions before the county commissioners requesting that a new library be built.
The result of that effort was a campaign by the Iredell County Friends of the Library who began work to bring about the new library building that is now being erected on Tradd St. There are many ongoing fundraising projects currently being conducted by the Friends group on behalf of the library.
Iredell County has seen several fundraising events held for the local library in the past. In 1903 the first annual “Everybody’s Day” was celebrated in Statesville for the benefit of the towns first free public library.
On August 25, 1903 the Semi-Weekly announced that “Everybody’s Day” would be held the following Saturday. The paper read “Everybody’ is talking about it and “Everybody” is expected to be here as “Everybody” is eligible for the contests.
The event was advertised as a benefit for the Reading Room Library which had been started by Mrs. D.M. Ausley in on West Broad St. The library was in rooms given free of rent by Dr. J.J. Mott. On September 1, 1903 the Semi-Weekly Landmark reported that “Everybody’s Day” was a success in both attendance and in raising $85.15 for the library fund.
The event was held on a Saturday and was attended by a crowd of between 2500 and 3000. Contests included a fat man’s race, a bicycle race, a wheel borrow race, a bag race, a parade, a contest for the best decorated vehicles, a contest for the family attending with the most children, and a prize given to the oldest person attending. A May pole dance was held with music by the Hiddenite band and featured young people in colonial costumes serving refreshments.
A wedding was held in the show window of the Statesville Housefurnishing Company store with an admission fee of ten cents. The ceremony was performed by Squire W. C. Mills who married Mr. Louis Franklin Christopher and Miss Bettie Grant. The couple received a bedstead as a prize. The library cleared a profit of $4.80 after $7.65 was realized and marriage expenses paid.
Other contests included a watermelon eating contest, a fiddle contest (old style) and a greasy poll climbing contest. People were encouraged to stick their heads through a cardboard display of a raccoon and baby so people could pay to throw at their heads. Hitting the coon’s head and knocking down the babies were big money makers. The day before the event Mr. J.S. Fry had challenged policeman Mr. J.N. Morgan to put his head through the coon head saying he could hit him from a certain distance with a rock. Morgan was game, but Fry missed and hit a ten-year-old boy standing about ten steps from his target. Mr. Fry gave the boy ten cents to keep a lid on it, but was disqualified from competition the next day due to his previous practice.
Over one hundred years later the current Friends of the Library are raising money through children’s self portrait tiles and memorial bricks. The tiles which are drawn by the children themselves will have a permanent place on the wall in the children’s area. The memorial bricks will pave the way to the entrance of the new library.
Note. The Iredell County Public Library is now open at its new location on North Tradd Street where both the tiles and bricks can be seen.
. Joel Reese, Local History Librarian
Iredell County Public Library
This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “Library fund-raisers have changed through the years” on May 5, 2004