Located 55 miles east of Raleigh, North Carolina, Rocky Mount is located on the state's coastal plains and is home to more than 60,000 people. The city was incorporated in 1867, covers approximately 35 square miles, and has a number of historic structures with Colonial, Greek Revival, and Craftsman architectural styles, among others. Though the municipality enjoys a relatively low cost of living index, nearly 20 percent of the population lives at or below the poverty level, and the city has a crime rate almost double the U.S. average. Rocky Mount is home to a small but growing arts community, a number of highly popular regional events, and two institutions of higher education.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
In Rocky Mount, educational services and health care each employ nearly 20 percent of the population, with hotel and food services accounting for another 15 percent of the workforce. The city is home to two primary hospitals and medical centers, Lifecare Hospitals of North Carolina and Nash General Hospital. A large portion of the population works in blue-collar positions, with the median household income below that of the state.
Some of Rocky Mount's largest employers include:
- Abbott Laboratories
- RBC Centura Bank
- Meadowbrook Meat Co.
- Rocky Mount Arts Center: Near the city's children's museum, the Rocky Mount Arts Center is located in the buildings of an old tobacco factory and an old library. The center produces a variety of theatrical and musical performances throughout the year and also hosts exhibits, classes, events, and other local community programs.
- Rocky Mount Children's Museum & Science Center: Established in 1952, the Rocky Mount Children's Museum and Science Center draws thousands of visitors every year. The museum features more than 35 interactive science, mathematics, and technology exhibits, as well as a variety of educational programs and activities, a live animal gallery, and a planetarium.
- Rocky Mount Mills: The second cotton mill in the state, the Rocky Mount Mills was built in 1818 and rebuilt after being burned down during the Civil War. The mill processed as much as 700 pounds of cotton daily during the 1800s and continued in operation until the 1990s, when the plant was closed and became part of a local historic district.
- Rocky Mount Veterans Memorial at Jack Laughery Park: Opened in 2007, the Veterans Memorial features a series of five stone columns, in honor of the armed forces, and a number of benches and flagpoles, as well as customized landscaping with a blend of flowers and trees. The brick walkways are made up of personally customized bricks that commemorate individual service men and women.
- A Ball at the Mall: A family-friendly New Year's Eve event, A Ball at the Mall is held at the city's Tarrytown Mall and includes entertainment, games, activities, and food, as well as a wide variety of celebratory hats, noisemakers, balloons, and other party supplies with which to welcome the New Year.
- Chase of Champions: Every spring, more than 700 athletes participate in one of the region's most popular road races, the Chase of Champions, with runners coming from a number of surrounding states as well as throughout the Carolinas. The race has both a 5K and 10K run for adults and shorter races for children.
- Down East Festival of the Arts: One of the city's most popular events, the Down East Festival of the Arts is a one-day street festival that attracts nearly 80,000 people every October. Craftspeople, artisans, and performers come from across the region, displaying a wide variety of arts and crafts. The event also features live music by nationally known musicians, such as Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Spinners, Chubby Checker, and Bo Diddley.
- Rocky Mount Fair: The Rocky Mount Fair draws more than 50,000 people from across the region to the nearly week-and-a-half-long event. The fair features traditional livestock and craft exhibits, carnival rides and games, professional shows by musicians and other performers, and concerts by local high school bands.
- Spring Hope Pumpkin Festival: For more than 20 years, the Spring Hope Pumpkin Festival has drawn thousands of visitors to Rocky Mount, with a variety of contests, parades, entertainment, crafts, and food. Averaging 40,000 visitors a year, the festival lasts for two days and also features living history performances and molasses-making exhibits.
- Supper with Santa: A local fundraiser hosted by the Rocky Mount YWCA, Supper with Santa has become a popular local festival during the holiday season. The event features an elves playhouse, where children can make various arts and crafts, a silent auction and raffles, seasonal decorations and refreshments, and pictures with Santa Claus.
Rocky Mount is home to North Carolina Wesleyan College, a private, liberal arts college that offers bachelor's degrees and enrolls more than 2,000 students annually. Nash Community College, which offers associate's degrees and enrolls more than 1,000 annually, is also located in Rocky Mount.
The Rocky Mount community is served by the local daily The Rocky Mountain Telegram. The city also has eight local broadcast radio stations and three local broadcast television stations, and it receives stations from a number of neighboring markets, including Raleigh and Greenville.