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Shelby, North Carolina
Old Cleveland County Courthouse 2009.JPG
Location of Shelby, North Carolina
Location of Shelby, North Carolina
Country United States
State North Carolina
County Cleveland
Named for Isaac Shelby
 • Total 22.35 sq mi (57.87 km2)
 • Land 22.31 sq mi (57.79 km2)
 • Water 0.03 sq mi (0.09 km2)
869 ft (265 m)
 • Total 20,323
 • Estimate 
 • Density 897.54/sq mi (346.54/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area code 704, 980
FIPS code 37-61200
GNIS feature ID 0994631

Shelby is a city in and the county seat of Cleveland County, North Carolina, United States. It lies near the western edge of the Charlotte combined statistical area. The population was 20,323 at the 2010 census.


The Banker's House, Joshua Beam House, Central Shelby Historic District, Cleveland County Courthouse, East Marion-Belvedere Park Historic District, James Heyward Hull House, Masonic Temple Building, Dr. Victor McBrayer House, George Sperling House and Outbuildings, Joseph Suttle House, Webbley, and West Warren Street Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Shelby is located in south-central Cleveland County. U.S. 74, a four-lane highway, runs through the city south of the center, and leads east 21 miles (34 km) to Gastonia and west 27 miles (43 km) to Rutherfordton.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 21.1 square miles (54.7 km2), of which 21.1 square miles (54.6 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km2), or 0.17%, is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 990
1890 1,394 40.8%
1900 1,874 34.4%
1910 3,127 66.9%
1920 3,609 15.4%
1930 10,789 198.9%
1940 14,037 30.1%
1950 15,508 10.5%
1960 17,698 14.1%
1970 16,328 −7.7%
1980 15,310 −6.2%
1990 14,669 −4.2%
2000 19,477 32.8%
2010 20,323 4.3%
2019 (est.) 20,026 −1.5%
U.S. Decennial Census

2020 census

Shelby racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 11,169 50.96%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 8,383 38.25%
Native American 64 0.29%
Asian 228 1.04%
Pacific Islander 5 0.02%
Other/Mixed 947 4.32%
Hispanic or Latino 1,122 5.12%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 21,918 people, 8,013 households, and 4,887 families residing in the city.



Shelby is served by US Highway 74 and its business route. US 74 Business travels through uptown Shelby along Marion St. and Warren St., giving travelers access to Shelby's growing central business district. Currently, a controlled-access highway (signed as US 74) is under construction from Mooresboro to Kings Mountain, which will bypass Shelby to the north. Upon completion of the project, Charlotte and Asheville will be connected by virtually uninterrupted freeway via Interstate 85, US Highway 74, and Interstate 26.

Shelby is also served by four North Carolina State Highways.

  • North Carolina Highway 18
  • North Carolina Highway 150
  • North Carolina Highway 180
  • North Carolina Highway 226


Shelby-Cleveland County Regional Airport serves the city and county. The airport is used mostly for general aviation and is owned by the city of Shelby. Commercial air service is provided within a 2-hour drive at Charlotte (CLT), Asheville (AVL), Concord (USA) and Greenville/Spartanburg (GSP).

Annual events

Cleveland County Fair 2010
The Cleveland County Fair in 2010
  • Cleveland County Fair - Since 1924, the Cleveland County Fair has been home to what has become North Carolina’s largest agricultural fair and a highlight of traditional activities held annually in Cleveland County. Over 165,000 patrons visit each year's Cleveland County Fair. While known primarily for this event, the fairgrounds also host a wide variety of other events throughout the year.
  • The Livermush Expo began in 1987 to celebrate the unique delicacy. In that year the Cleveland County Commissioners and the Shelby City Council passed resolutions proclaiming that "livermush is the most delicious, most economical and most versatile of meats."
  • Alive After Five Outdoor Concerts- Live music on the court square, presented by the Uptown Shelby Association and its community partners. Food and beverage vendors on site, Uptown restaurants open late for dinner.
  • American Legion World Series - Between 2011 and 2019 Shelby will play host to the American Legion World Series with a view to becoming the permanent home of the tournament. Barring any major problems, the National Office of the American Legion has agreed to extend Shelby's contract for two additional five-year terms, making Keeter Stadium and Shelby High School home to the ALWS until 2029. In order to host the event Shelby High School's Hoyt S. Keeter Stadium underwent an extensive renovation and expansion to 5,500-capacity.
  • The Foothill's Merry Go Round Festival is held annually the last weekend of every April at Shelby City Park. The event began in 1998 and features awesome amusement rides, live entertainment, and fireworks.
  • The Shelby Hamfest sponsored by the Shelby Amateur Radio Club. Held annually at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds.


The Don Gibson Theater in Uptown Shelby is named for country musician and Shelby native Don Gibson (see notable people section below). The theater occupies a former movie theater that has been converted to a venue for live music performances

The City of Shelby Parks and Recreation Department has something for all to enjoy and has for over 60 years. City Park spans 150 acres with beautifully kept ball fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, an aquatics center, a nine-hole golf course, miles of paved walking trails, horseshoe pits, and a sitting garden. There is also a Community Center with a 1,500 seat gymnasium with a stage. In addition City Park is home to the Historic Herchell Spillman Carousel and Gift Shop and restored Rotary Miniature Train. Over 800,000 people visit Shelby City Park annually.

The Earl Scruggs Center: Music and Stories from the American South opened on Jan 11, 2014. This high tech museum honors banjo innovator and legend Earl Scruggs.

Newgrass Brewing Company opened on August 8th, 2015. This brewery features hop-forward and Belgian-style beers that are complimented by an in-house kitchen that specializes in southern takes on high-end pub food. It is also a music venue and is dedicated to the progressive bluegrass movement kicked off by Earl Scruggs and his progenitors known as "Newgrass."

In popular culture

The film adaptation of Blood Done Sign My Name was filmed in Shelby, as well as the reaping scene in the film adaptation of The Hunger Games.

A fictionalized version of the city is the setting of HBO comedy show Eastbound & Down. Filmed in Wilmington, North Carolina, it bears little geographic or cultural resemblance to the real place. Actor and writer Danny McBride chose the location as an inspiration because of its size, attitude, and name.

In the 10th episode of the TV show Make It or Break It, Shelby is mentioned as being the location of Lauren Tanner's mother.

On the 41st episode of the TV show Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, the host travels to the annual Livermush festival in Shelby.

Notable people

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Shelby (Carolina del Norte) para niños

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