LOWGAP — Many know they have arrived in Lowgap when traveling on N.C. 89, as soon as the forest opens up, and the mountains loom over the land.
This is the location of Palomino Mtn. Ranch, owned by Sally Roberts. Her property is on the right side of N.C. 89, first recognizable by the horse statues over the driveway and then by a large pond and gazebo just down the road.
Palomino Mtn. Ranch has been host to multiple rodeos over the years, and that may continue, but Roberts has new ideas and is not afraid to dream big. After hosting several successful retreats and weddings, she realized her property had the potential to become a destination for corporate and church retreats, weddings, family reunions, banquets and more.
Roberts is a visionary, and her passion and dedication to her ranch is apparent as she looks out on her property from the front porch of her home, her eyes filled with memories of days past but also with anticipation and a desire to share the beauty of the ranch with others.
The 165-acre property is close to her heart. She purchased it in 1996 and built her home in 2000. Most of the material came from white cedar and wormy maple harvested from and milled on the property.
She built a large room to use as part of a therapeutic horse riding program, but after the plans fell through, she realized the huge space had great potential as an event venue. Roberts said the space will hold at least 150 people.
After Roberts was approached by friends and family asking if they could have parties and reunions in the banquet hall, she realized the potential was there to create a new business, especially after those who attended shared their photos using social media and began calling Roberts, inquiring about hosting their own events at Palomino Mtn. Ranch.
She has since hosted several weddings and special events such as church, civic and school retreats, using the banquet hall and surrounding pastures, ponds and the mountain stream.
The natural elements of the property make the perfect backdrop for wedding photos, or other photography sessions, and Roberts said she would be willing to work something out with local photographers who want to use the property for senior photos or something similar.
The driveway leading down to the banquet hall and future wedding chapel leads past a pond with a gazebo and through a covered bridge over a rushing trout stream. The property lies at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and offers some of the best views of the mountains.
A barn on the property is in the beginning stages of renovations, and Roberts has plans to transform the interior space into a rustic wedding chapel, with both ends screened in so they can be open to the beauty of the property outside. The future wedding chapel is close enough to the trout spring that guests will be able to hear the water flowing as they enter the chapel.
Roberts has plans to adorn the interior of the rustic barn with soft lighting, and she received donated church pews for guest seating.
She also has a horse and carriage available, which has been used in a wedding on the property. She also offered hayrides to a church group who recently had a weekend retreat at the ranch.
A small bunkhouse adjacent to the trout spring, with a large porch overlooking the waters, also will be renovated.
The banquet hall features a large, open, indoor space with an efficiency kitchen and rustic elements like exposed wood for the stage or presentation area. Weddings held there in the past used the stage area for the ceremony. A fire pit outside offers the chance for barbecues and marshmallow roasts on cool evenings, with the stream flowing past on the other side.
Roberts said “the sky is the limit” when it comes to the multiple possible uses of the ranch, not only for weddings, retreats and reunions, but also as a destination for field trips, a concert venue, music festivals, quinceneras, fundraisers, car shows, tractor shows, meetings, and more. Roberts said she once hosted a lawnmower race.
She also made her home available as a vacation rental, and said she has rented it during festival times in the past.
With a new membership with the Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, Roberts hopes to build her business in order to save her farm. She has multiple sclerosis and said she is not getting any younger, and even though she has the will and the desire, it is often difficult to take care of such a huge property.
Future plans include not only the renovation of the rustic barn for use as a wedding chapel, but also the addition of a picnic shelter and covered decks, a bunkhouse renovation, as well as the addition of replicas western-style shops with a jail, saloon, general store, and blacksmith.
Roberts said she does have help on occasion from generous members of her church and her family, but she hopes her new plans will boost the business and make the ranch a place she will stay at for a long time, while sharing the beauty of the property with others who rent it for use as a special destination for multiple activities and events.
A lifetime love of horses and the outdoors
Almost every little girl’s dream is to have a pony, and Roberts was lucky enough to receive one, when she was 9 years old. Roberts said she was “horse-crazy” from a young age. “I could barely talk, but when we would pass a pasture, I would whinny like a horse.”
Roberts remembered fighting with her mother before church, because she didn’t want to wear a dress. She described hiding jeans in the car to change into, along with Hop-a-long Cassidy and Zorro costumes.
She began riding in horse shows and competitions when she was 13 years old, and she said she loved barrel racing, goat tying, and hanging out with the rodeo crowd. She once won more than 100 trophies and ribbons in the course of a year.
Roberts lived out west for a while, and went to a lot of rodeos in the Wyoming and Colorado area. The love of horses and rodeo runs in the family, and her son Jason Roberts owns a rodeo company and provides the stock. He also has won awards with top bulls in professional bucking bull associations.
Roberts’ former ranch in Davidson County, Twin Rocks Ranch, was a gathering place for youth who loved rodeos and cowboys, and professional bullrider J.B. Mauney spent time there when he was young, as well as bullrider Jerome Davis.
The rodeos Roberts held in the past at Palomino Mtn. Ranch were quite successful, and she said it was a family operation, with her sisters and mother helping with concessions, her daughter did the grand entries with flag pageantries and also competed, her daughter-in-law helped with the flags and her son-in-law is a bull rider, along with stock from her son’s business.
After the economy collapsed, Roberts said the rodeos became more difficult but hopes to still have rodeos again in the future.
For now, she is focused on offering “the best of both worlds” to those who would like to rent the property and facilities for special events. “I think I’ve got something here that other people would want to be a part of. It’s a country atmosphere, perfect for a rustic, farm, or cowboy wedding, but the best part is it could be good for all types of weddings and other events. The sky’s the limit.
“It really is a restful, peaceful place. Everyone who comes up here doesn’t want to leave. You have such a peaceful feeling with the creeks, ponds and the mountain views. It’s breathtaking and I feel blessed I can live here — it’s God’s country on full display. Everyone needs a place to get away, and I’m lucky enough to live here.”
For more information about Palomino Mtn. Ranch, visit the Facebook page by searching for “Palomino Mtn. Ranch” and/or call Sally Roberts at 352-4335 or 704-608-0689.
Contact Jessica Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1933.