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Arts & Culture

Summer's Drought Has Rural Hill Seeking Donations


It is December, but the effects of this summer’s drought in Mecklenburg County are still taking a toll on a local nonprofit. 

Rural Hill, a historic site in Huntersville that includes a farm, a nature preserve, and educational programs is known for its events, and it depends heavily on the funds generated from them.

Usually relying on those events, many of which are outdoors, works well. But this year was different.

"It was kind of one of those things if weather could go wrong for us this year, it kind of did," said Jeff Fissel the executive director of Rural Hill.

First it was this summer’s drought that created a domino effect into the organization’s top earning event known as the Amazing Maize Maze—a corn maze. They couldn’t get the corn to grow tall enough.

That event typically makes about 35 percent of the organization’s budget. Last year it grossed about $260,000. This year, a mere $55,000.

Then in the fall Hurricane Joaquin moved up the coast…and there was too much rain. This led to the cancelation of the Fall Food Truck Rally and resulted in low turnout for the Sheepdog trials—another big earner.

So, they’re doing something they’ve never had to do before Fissel says: serious fundraising.

"With the complete lack of revenue from events this year, it’s definitely new territory for us and something we’re trying out simply out of necessity."

Rural Hill has a go-fund-me account and they’re trying to raise $100,000. He hopes to get close to that goal by the end of this year.

And if they don’t meet that goal he says, there are cuts ahead—some of which could include cuts to programs and a reduction in staff.

Fissel points out, if everyone who planned to come out and enjoy the maze donated what they would have spent on a ticket, the budget gap would quickly close.