Gastonia's mayor looks to re-brand city's image with help of a hashtag

Movement to change your perspective on Gastonia

GASTONIA, NC (WBTV) - There's a movement to change the way you think about the city of Gastonia.

Some associate the city with negative images of drugs and violent crime, but no city is exempt from those troubles. And, like in those other places, there's a lot of good in the Gastonia community.

Now, city leaders want to highlight what makes Gastonia so wonderful. They're employing two photographers to help rebrand Gastonia, hoping it'll catch your attention.

You may know the city of Gastonia for its nicknames like the "Gashouse," "G town," or worse - "Little Chicago" - due to the city's history of crime.

"I've heard some of the negative things that go on like the crime rate and the violence," said one Gastonia resident.

"Oh, 'the crime this, crime that,'" confirmed another.

"We are the little city outside of Charlotte that nobody comes to," another resident said.

Walter and Heather Burke are looking to change that. The married couple who are used to capturing beautiful moments on camera are now hoping they can help people find the beauty of Gastonia.

"Rebrand the city, make it a better place," said Walter Burks.

This idea all started after Gastonia's mayor asked the couple to help him campaign during this past November election.

"One of the things he said during his campaign was 'Image, image, image,'" Walter Burke said.

Walter and Heather got down to work and created the hashtag #LoveGastonia. The two started posting their creative photos of the city on Instagram, and the trend continues now that there are over 500 photos from people who are embracing the movement.

"Maybe the city of Gastonia isn't so bad if the people who live here love their own city," Walter Burke explained.

Gastonia's Owl and Ivy gift shop has jumped on the love train, too. Owner Jamie Maier now sells window decals of the hashtag to folks who say the city of Gastonia has a special place in their hearts.

"With the hashtag popping up on our Facebook feed and our Instagram feed, it just seemed like a no-brainer," said Maier.

"We're going to keep on doing it and see what it develops into," said Burke.

The Burkes say they know a hashtag won't solve all the city's problems, but it's a start.

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