Iredell County, north of Charlotte, has many personalities. It's lush pastures and open countryside, lake living and luxury homes, small-town atmosphere and big business. Iredell was formed from Rowan County in 1788 and was named for James Iredell, the attorney general during the Revolutionary War who later became a Supreme Court justice. Iredell has long been known as an agricultural county. It's home to more cows and more eggs than any other N.C. county. In fact, some 60,000 head of cattle can be found in the rolling countryside north of Statesville. The county is the leading producer of breeder chicks in the world. Tobacco, grains and cotton are important economic crops as well.
But there's plenty more to Iredell County than farming. Take, for example, Mooresville, on the southern edge near Mecklenburg. Mooresville has two nicknames - the Port City, in honor of its location on Lake Norman, and Race City U.S.A., its official logo since it's home to many auto racing teams and the N.C. Auto Hall of Fame. The town's strategic location between NASCAR tracks put Mooresville on the racing map, with teams, suppliers and drivers setting up homes and shops here. Dozens of teams - including those of drivers Rusty Wallace and Ricky Rudd - have shops in this racing mecca.
Tourists and visitors from around the world, drawn here by the racing magnet, help to grease the local economy. Each year, 100,000 to 150,000 people flock to Mooresville to retail shops, antique stores, the new 22,000-square-foot Citizens Center and the Depot Visual Arts Center. Carrigan Farms, outside of town, is a popular stop for families and schoolchildren who want to see farm animals, pick summer produce or select the perfect pumpkin for that Halloween jack-o-lantern.
As the Charlotte suburbs continue to expand, they're creeping north along I-77 through Mooresville into Troutman and even toward Statesville. Statesville was historically known as the Fourth Creek Community because it was the fourth creek west of Salisbury. The soil was fertile, the climate plentiful and the rivers plentiful in this area, so early settlers made their homes in this rich area. Today, Statesville is the county seat and a busy business center, thanks in part to its advantageous location at the intersection of I-77 and I-40.
The town's economy has diversified to meet the 21st century. Textile plants have given way to U.S. and international companies involved in machine manufacturing, motor manufacturing, filmmaking and plastics recycling. But you can still see Statesville's past as a hub for area farmers in the many farmers markets that pop up during the summer. Every September, Iredell's skies are filled with beautiful, ethereal hot-air balloons huffing and puffing their way from launch to landing. The National Balloon Rally draws a huge crowd every year to the Iredell County Fairgrounds in Troutman.
Lake Norman, the state's largest inland body of water, has long been a favorite weekend getaway for work-weary Charlotteans. It's still a recreational draw, although today many people think of Lake Norman more as an upscale neighborhood than an outdoor playground. If you want lake living, you'll have plenty of choices. Some communities include golf courses and boat slips.
For folks who don't live on the lake but want to play there, Lake NormanState Park, near Troutman, is a favorite destination. Here you can enjoy fishing, camping, hiking, swimming and boating. Other public access areas in Iredell County include Hager Creek Access at Exit 33, McCrary Creek Access, Pinnacle Access and Stumpy Creek Access, off N.C. 150.
There's fun of the nonsporting variety too. One popular spot is Love Valley, a replica of a Wild West town where horses outnumber cars. The community, located off N.C. 115 in northwest Iredell, even hosts a rodeo. Families living in Iredell County will find excellent educational options. The Mooresville Graded School District, one of only a few districts statewide that remain independent of the county school district, is a huge draw for homeowners because of its academically strong performance.
Iredell-Statesville Schools, which serves the rest of the county, is growing to handle the students moving into the area. The systemopened Lakeshore Elementaryfor the 2000-2001 school year and opened a second high school, Lake Norman High, in 2002.
Health-care choices, too, are plentiful and strong. Lake Norman Regional Medical Center moved into its elegant new home at I-77 Exit 33 recently. The medical center is becoming a magnet for physician groups and other health-care providers who want to serve the area's growing population. Statesville is served by two hospitals, Davis Medical Center and Iredell Memorial Hospital.