Chapel Hill: Sports

Dixie Rock 27 goes Hawaiian this weekend

In this Chapel Hill News file photo, Kelly Weinel warms up on the wall at Chapel Hill Community Center before the start of Dixie Rock 25. Climbers have the option of practicing at the center before the official competition begins.
In this Chapel Hill News file photo, Kelly Weinel warms up on the wall at Chapel Hill Community Center before the start of Dixie Rock 25. Climbers have the option of practicing at the center before the official competition begins. CHN FILE PHOTO - Randy Young

In the months leading up to Elvis Presley’s 27th birthday, he was putting the final touches on his 1961 film, “Blue Hawaii,” which would introduce the world to such songs as the catchy “Rockahula,” “Hawaiian Wedding Song,” an abbreviated version of the traditional classic “Aloha Oe,” and the classic ballad “I Can’t Help Falling In Love.”

In planning for this year’s 27th annual Dixie Rock Climbing competition scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, March 18 and 19 at the Chapel Hill Community Center, organizers similarly “went Hawaiian.”

With a theme of “Aloha Hawaii,” competition participants and volunteers are being encouraged to don their grass skirts, Hawaiian shirts and leis, to try activities ranging from hula hooping to hula dancing, and to test their Hawaiian knowledge with “Volcanic Trivia.”

Considered to be the longest running indoor climbing competition in the United States, the Dixie Rock 27 promises to be a fun, top-rope climbing event (non-circuit) for all ages and abilities.

The event will offer climbing on the same course in three divisions: recreation, intermediate, and open, as well as separate competitions for kids and 50+ “stonemasters.”

Prizes will be awarded for winners in each category and there will be an early end-time for the younger climbers, according to the Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation’s event website at

This Friday, March 18, the event will feature registration, packet pick-up and a competitors’ meeting, followed by some preliminary climbing. On Saturday, the event kicks into full gear with preliminary climbing at 10 a.m., ending by 2 p.m. Finals begin about 7 p.m., right after youth prizes are awarded.

Event director Sarah Wolfe stressed that registration ($35 for Orange County residents and $42 for all others) is available at the event itself.

“People can register at the last minute, even when they arrive on Friday night,” Wolfe said.

Sadly, Wolfe, who has planned and organized the Dixie Rock for the past three years, is relocating this week to Oregon, and will not see the fruits of her recent labors. Still, her vision and hard work has helped to maintain and build on the event’s popularity through imaginative and fun themes and partnerships with sponsors and vendors.

“The competition layout remains pretty much the same (from year to year), so we’ve tried to change the theme every year,” Wolfe said. “On the 25th anniversary, it was a 1980s theme, because the competition began in the 1980s. Last year, it was a team spirit theme, and we had teams with mascots. One team was all super heroes, and another team had a cowboy theme.

“This year it’s a Hawaiian theme with hula hoops and grass skirts. We’ll have Volcanic Trivia with lots of prizes. We’ll also have Kona Ice – that’s Hawaiian shaved ice from a truck out there (at the Community Center).”

Wolfe was also proud of the fostering relationships between the host Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation and Triangle Rock Club, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Progression Climbing, Five Ten, Earthbound Sports, LLC, Evolv, Mad Rock, Maxim Ropes, and Cholla Climbing.

“We’ll have several partners at the event, including Duke Adaptive Climbing,” Wolfe said. “It’s a new program that’s been running for a year or two at Duke University offering special climbing for kids and with any kinds of disabilities. We’re hoping they’ll be even more involved next year.”

In addition to Duke Adaptive Climbing, Wolfe said booths at the event will be manned by partners like the American Alpine Club, and the Carolina Climbers Coalition.

“A number of non-profit sponsors will also be there,” she said. “Another is the YMCA’s Camp Hanes in the Sauratown Mountains, and they’ll have a kids’ summer camp near Hanging Rock.”

For more information, Wolfe said to visit or the Facebook event page by searching on Facebook for “Aloha Hawai’i!” Also, those interested can call Chapel Hill Park and recreation’s Bernard Leach at 919-968-2734 or email

As for Sarah Wolfe, the climbing community wishes her well as she will have “left the auditorium,” and headed for that other coast and time zone. As for the Dixie Rock, Wolfe assured locals that the cupboard’s hardly bare.

“I’m leaving, but it’s in good hands of two people who are also heading up this last week of event operation and who have participated for several years,” she said. “That’s Don Raleigh and Diane Joseph: they’ll be taking it on next year.”

But if 27 years have taught us anything, it’s that local climbing is still on the rise, and local climbers still “can’t help falling in love” with the Dixie Rock all over again year after year. And to Sarah Wolfe, the climbing community says: “Thank you. Thank you very much.”

Dixie Rock 27

At the Chapel Hill Community Center

Friday, March 18: registration and packet pick-up, followed by some preliminary climbing at 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, March 19: climbing continues at 10 a.m. Saturday. The finals begin at 7.

Registration: $35 for Orange County residents and $42 for others.