Nestled in the foothills of the Brushy Mountains just north of Statesville, NC, Love Valley is a town all its own, away from the hustle of the city life. There, surprisingly you will find the leisurely atmosphere of an old western community. Love Valley’s downtown invites visitors to ride into town on the dirt road, hitch their horses to the hitching rails, stroll along the boardwalk and shop at the country store, tack shop, gift shop, general store, hardware store, or the blacksmith shop. There are also restaurants, saloons, and various other businesses. Parking is available for visitors, by car or motorcycle, as well. Thousands of people frequent Love Valley in the prime season. From Easter to Halloween, the town host events including rodeos, horse and wagon parades, concerts, a chili cook-off, or you may want to take a leisurely horseback ride along one of the winding trails.
Love Valley is an authentic western town situated in the foothills of the Brushy Mountains north of Statesville, North Carolina. Love Valley is a boy’s dream and a man’s reality. Andy Barker always dreamed of living in a western town. So, at the age of 29 Andy left his lucrative general contracting business in Charlotte and moved his family to his new land in April of 1954.
His wife Ellenora, daughter Tonda (age six), and son Jet (age two) moved to a little one-room shack. Andy used his crew from JA Construction Company, owned jointly with his father, to build the town of Love Valley. The first building they constructed was the Love Valley Presbyterian Church. This was followed by the arena and the rest of the town, including its own post office. Originally the town was built around the arena, but in 1963(the year it was incorporated) Andy decided to move the town to its present day location overlooking the arena. The first mayor was Andy’s father, known as JA. But, in 1965 Andy was elected for the first of many terms. In 1970 Love Valley had a rock festival in which the Allman Brothers Band headlined. This brought over a hundred thousand people to the small town–some of whom still remain. In 1976 Andy ran for governor of North Carolina and once again in 1984.
According to the family lore surrounding the construction of Love Valley, as detailed by the Winston Salem Journal, Jeter A. “Andy” Barker first dreamt of the town when he was in the fourth grade!
When prompted by a teacher to decide what he wanted to be when he grew up, according to granddaughter Tori Barker, her grandpa promptly said:
“I want to be a Cowboy!”
“When the teacher told him there were no towns for cowboys anymore, granddaddy said, ‘Then I’ll build a western town,’ ”
He carried that dream forward in his heart through adulthood and when he found what would become Love Valley, he knew there were two things he wanted from his dream-town; to be a Christian community in a town without vehicles.
In 1988 Love Valley’s leather smith Joe Ponder was inducted into the Guinness Book of World Records for having the world’s strongest teeth. Love Valley was promoted even further when Joe was featured in Ripley’s Believe it or not. He appeared on the David Letterman Show and then traveled the world to perform his feats. In 1994 Andy was inducted into the Mayors Hall of Fame. In the late 90’s, the Love Valley Horseman’s Association was formed, followed shortly by the Love Valley Mule Association. Both of the associations are still in existence and are responsible for many of the events that are presently held. The Love Valley experience attracts dignitaries at all levels including NC and US senators, Indian chiefs, governors, generals, and presidents of our country. In addition to musicians and actors featured in local events, some come just to join in the fun, like Rex Allen, Arthur Godfrey, and Fred Kirby.
In August of 2011, The Town of Love Valley suffered a great loss, Andy Barker the founder and mayor of Love Valley passed away at the age of 87. It was his childhood dream that became the reality of what Love Valley is today. Andy was more than just the mayor and founder, he was the heart and soul of Love Valley and his smiles and hugs will be missed by everyone that knew him.
He was truly an outstanding individual full of personality and life. His stories could keep you entertained for hours and leave you wanting more. He will forever be in our hearts and Love Valley will forever be a reminder that dreams do come true. It is with humble hearts that we would like to say thank you Andy for all that you have done; your inspiration, kind words and most of all your dedication.
Located just 16 miles from Statesville and 23 miles SE of Wilkesboro, you can easily make this flashback-to-freedom town your next travel destination.
If you’re thinking of a visit to this small town frozen in the ways of the 1800’s, you should know that some in the community DO, in fact, own vehicles.
They just can’t be driven in most places within the tiny town.
The people who live here are well acquainted with the rules and the reasoning behind them, but tourists might have trouble getting used to the slower way of life.
Visitors should be glad to know that if you’re taking a trip to Love Valley, you can park in the designated area behind the imaginary gates up the road a ways from the businesses.
Better yet, if you plan your visit out, you can rent a horse from town to meet you and ride it into town like a BOSS!