Banner Elk, with a population of 600 plus 600 Lees-McRae Colleges students, grew from a sleepy mountain village to a popular travel spot. The change began in 1984 with the opening of the Elk River Club. Wealthy members built spectacular homes. Demands for more services increased. Today Banner Elk is a mixture of town, gown, and tourists, along with new restaurants, and a variety of accommodations and shops.