Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Hosts 63rd Annual Awards Meeting at Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock

Published Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 1:05 pm

By Paul T. Choate

(See photo gallery below article)

The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors pictured at Tweetsie. (In alphabetical order) Tom Adams, Gillian Baker, Tim Baxter, Ron Branch, Larry Byerly, Loretta Clawson, Teresa Cody, Fowler Cooper, Charlie Fox, Gene Fowler, Anu Green, Marcia Greene, Marty Hemric, Jamey Hodges, Susan Jones, Brent Keith, Tom Lanier, Sherrie Norris, Robb Olsen, Ryan Postlethwait, Lee Rankin, Ivan Roten, Dwight Simmons, Chad Smith, Wright Tilley, Bill Walker, Don Watson and Bryan Willis. Photo by Ken Ketchie

Aug. 15, 2012. The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce held its 63nd annual meeting on Aug. 14 at a new venue, Tweetsie Railroad in Blowing Rock, and this year’s chamber awards were presented to local individuals as well as the Boone Town Council. 

The annual event has in recent past years been held at the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center on the campus of Appalachian State University, but due to it’s closure on Dec. 31, 2011 due to budget issues, the Chamber of Commerce was forced to find a new venue this year.

“I think everybody enjoyed the change of venue being outdoors and not just sitting in a big ballroom some place,” said Daniel Meyer, president and CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce. “I think it had great advantages and everybody really enjoyed it. It was Chamber of Commerce weather. It was cool-ish and no rain, so we had a great time.”

At Tweetsie, the awards ceremony had a cowboy theme this year, including costumes and a cowboy barbecue buffet. Unlike the formal “dress shirt and slacks” events of the past, the ceremony had a fun vibe to it with everyone in their cowboy attire and all that Tweetsie has to offer. After the buffet, ceremony attendees boarded the famous No. 12 steam engine for the awards.

“Necessity is the mother of invention and creativity so we were pleased to be able to pursue this idea. Cathy [Robbins] and Chris Robbins were gracious hosts at Tweetsie and their staff did a great job. We were delighted we could do it. We had no trouble at all with almost 300 [people] there under the tent and on the train,” said Meyer of being at a new venue, adding that he hopes they will be able to hold the annual event at Tweetsie again in the future.

Meyer was hooked up to the trains PA system announcing award winners during the train ride. In between awards, attendees took in all the attractions Tweetsie has to offer, including the popular cowboys and Indians show. 

Awards were presented to Eric Woolridge, for the Sue Wilmoth Award for the Advancement of Tourism; the Boone Town Council, for the Alfred Adams award for Economic Development; the late Brian Newell (his wife Sallie Newell accepting the award on his behalf), for the Ben Suttle Services Award for Volunteer Leadership; Brian Crutchfield, for the Mast General Store everGREEN Award for Sustainable Development; and Robert Shipley, for the Wad Brown Community Recognition Award.

Daniel Minton (right) speaking after being formally announced as the new Chamber of Commerce chairman, taking the place of Omer Tomlinson (second from right).

Also during the annual event Daniel Minton was formally announced as the new Chamber of Commerce chairman, taking the place of Omer Tomlinson. 

Chamber members and community members nominated people and businesses for the awards, which include volunteerism, community recognition, advancement of tourism, economic development and leadership in sustainability.

There ceremony’s signature sponsor this year was LifeStore, along with Appalachian Brian Estates, Allen Wealth Management, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, Appalachian State University, BB&T, BREMCO/Blue Ridge Energies, Chetola Resort, Deerfield Ridge Assisted Living, Fast Med Urgent Care, First Citizens Bank, Foscoe Companies, Glenbridge Health & Rehabilitation, High Country Bank, High Country Insurance Services, Hound Ears Club, Johnson Price & Sprinkle, Mast General Store, Modern Toyota of Boone, New River Light and Power, Piedmont Federal Bank, Skyline/Skybest, and Wells Fargo Bank.

The following are excerpts from the chamber’s script for the recipients honored.

Sue Wilmoth Award for the Advancement of Tourism – Eric Woolridge

Eric Woolridge receives the Sue Wilmoth Award for the Advancement of Tourism. Photo by Ken Ketchie

Our winner has been involved with tourism development since March of 2009. He was hired to enhance the outdoor recreation infrastructure and to establish the Boone area as one of the premier outdoor recreation destinations in the east by creating an outdoor recreation plan that would serve as a model for tourism infrastructure projects. 

One of his strengths is his outstanding grant writing skills and he has been extremely successful at securing grants to help leverage the tourism development funds on many tourism projects.

Here are just a few of his accomplishments during his three and a half years ‘on the ground:’

  • Helped plan and organize the Outdoor Recreation Summit in March 2010
  • Wrote and developed the Boone Area Outdoor Recreation Plan for the Watauga County TDA, including the creation of many detailed maps.
  • Wrote and secured more than $550,000 in grant funding for Rocky Knob Park (new mountain bike and multi use park on U.S. 421) – hailed In the March VELO magazine as 1 of 9 North American Hot Spots for cycling – the only destination in the Southeast included in the list.
  • Wrote and secured a $75,000 grant for development of Watauga Gorge Park to provide access to the Watauga River for Paddlers and fishing. 
  • Recently wrote and secured a $75,000 grant to develop the access points for canoeing, kayaking and tubing on the New River.
  • Wrote and secured a $75,000 grant for work on the Mountains to Sea Trail
  • Recently helped get a $375,000 project for the Middlefork Greenway placed on the DOT’s TIP list for 2016
  • Helped create a new local non-profit, Boone Area Cyclists, to help promote cycling and mountain biking
  • Helped create Watauga County Pathways and serves on their board.
  • Helped develop the Master Plan for improvements to Daniel Boone Park and the amphitheater used by Horn in the West.
  • Serves on the Planning Board for the Town of Boone

He has successfully developed partnerships within the community to help enhance the outdoor recreation and tourism infrastructure for Boone and Watauga County.

Please say thank you and congratulations to Eric Woolridge of the Watauga/Boone TDA’s for his outstanding advancement of tourism.

Alfred Adams Award for Economic Development – Town Of Boone 

Town Council Member Lynne Mason (left) and Mayor Loretta Clawson (right) receive the Alfred Adams Award for Economic Development on behalf of the Town of Boone. Photo by Ken Ketchie

Ask any planner, economic development specialist or commercial real-estate developer what is need for any project and they will have a common answer – infrastructure.

Infrastructure refers to the technical structures that support a society, such as roads, water supply, sewers, electrical grids, telecommunications, and so forth, and can be defined as “the physical components of interrelated systems providing commodities and services essential to enable, sustain, or enhance societal living conditions.

Probably the most essential ingredient is water – it not only sustains development, but life itself.

One of the most critical needs the Boone Area has is the opportunity to increase the availability of water.

Being located at the headwaters of four rivers and water basins may sound promising; it is also its greatest predicament – where do you go to get more?

Boone’s water supply is not just critical to Boone, but to Blowing Rock and Appalachian State University – as witnessed by their recent interconnect for emergencies and to keep below state levels at periods of high demand.

It has further impact if we ever hope to expand business development into the ETJ and Watauga County. Remember, business expansion means JOBS – the number one need for current residents and our children and grandchildren.

The Town of Boone has taken the initiative to address future needs by pursuing additional water sources. They have spent 7 years of work and over $2 million dollars – meeting all the regulations and requirements demanded by such a project. And the work isn’t complete.

As true with any development project, there are parameters used to guide its course – do the least harm to the environment and create the least impact on people – for the greater good.

The BACC wishes to acknowledge the Town of Boone for its efforts to responsibly expand its water resources to meet current demands and future needs.

Ben Suttle Services Award for Volunteer Leadership – Brian Newell

Sallie Newell (second from left) accepting the the Ben Suttle Services Award for Volunteer Leadership on behalf of her late husband Brian Newell. Photo by Ken Ketchie

The Chamber gives an award every year in Ben Suttle’s name to the person who has also given extraordinarily to this Community. Our honoree came to Boone in the late 70s working in restaurants and in hospitality and eventually in media. He served on the Boone TDA Board since 1998, the Watauga Education Foundation since 1996, served on the Employment Security Commission Job Service Advisory Committee from 1988-93. He was active in the Boone Optimist Club and was a member of Oasis Temple as a Mason. 

He served on the Board of Directors of the Barium Springs Children’s Home, formerly the Rainbow Center and was a volunteer coach with Watauga Parks and Recreation, in baseball, soccer and softball. He was committed to young people and was actively involved with the Boone Optimist in helping Gene Swift make Santa’s Toybox a much anticipated part of Christmas, allowing less fortunate kids to have a decent Christmas with toys donated by the community under their tree.

We lost this fine representative of the Boone Community earlier this year. The last time I was able to spend any significant amount of time with him was at last year’s Chamber Last Chance Golf Tournament. I miss him, my friend and former boss. So tonight The Boone Area Chamber would like to give the Ben Suttle Award for Volunteerism posthumously to the family of the Late Brian Newell. Sallie, Jackie and Brianne, would you please come up here?

everGREEN Award for Sustainability – Brian Crutchfield

Brian Crutchfield receives the everGREEN Award for Sustainability. Photo by Ken Ketchie

He is a ubiquitous participant in all-things green or sustainable – if anything was related to green – he was there!

He person serves as a repository of information regarding local, state and national programs supporting rebates, tax incentives, etc. to help individuals and businesses buy and install energy efficient or reduction technologies and devices.

His absence this evening will create a vacuum at a meeting in which he was a major force in starting and sustaining – Boone Green Drinks.

Our honoree was a highly involved and critical player in the Landfill methane-to-electricity project – a prototype operation which has gained much attention in our region – saving the landfill operation hundreds of dollars and actually selling electricity back to the grid.

He was green before green was hip – he promoted sustainability before many could even spell it. 

His career impacted economic development throughout the High Country during a 30-year career – helping leverage more than $250 million in corporate investments which created thousands of jobs in rural communities. He has been honoured numerous times over the years with awards recognizing his status as one of the top economic development professionals in the state.

He sits on the board of the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, the N.C. Community Foundation and a number of local economic development organizations. He is a graduate of UNC and VPI.

Please join me in recognizing the former director of sustainable development for the Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corp. – Brian Crutchfield. 

I am delighted to present this award to you and also give you these memorable items – a CFL and a CFL tension reliever for you to use during your retirement.

Wade Brown Community Recognition Award  Robert Shipley, Sr.

Robert Shipley, Sr. receives the Wade Brown Community Recognition Award. Photo by Ken Ketchie

In 1933, he received an undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech, and earned an M.S. degree in agriculture from The Ohio State University.

After the war, he accepted a position as vocational agriculture teacher at Cove Creek High School, and taught at Watauga High School until his retirement in 1977.

Many of his students have gone on to make significant contributions in the areas of law, medicine, business and education, in addition to agriculture. At one point, principals at five of the seven county elementary schools were former students of Mr. Shipley. 

Shipley felt that travel was an important contribution to the education of young mountain students, especially those who had little exposure to the outside world. In the 30s and 40s he organized and sponsored many trips with students to Mexico, Canada and throughout the United States.

Bob was active in the Mountaineer Ruritan Club – helped organize it and served as club secretary for about 30 years. He has attended 25 national Ruritan conventions and has received the “Tom Downing Award for Outstanding Contributions.” 

Shipley was a founding member of the Cove Creek Grange.

He organized and managed the Cove Creek Horse Show for 20 years; he operated a sheep dipping business for many years; and, when rural electrification was getting established, he visited farmers to get their permission to have power lines go through their property.

Shipley has been inducted into the Western North Carolina Agriculture Hall of Fame; inducted into the North Carolina Livestock Hall of Fame; and 2 years ago, the North Carolina Extension Services established an educational foundation in the name of Robert and Agnes Shipley.

The interest from monies in the foundation will support agricultural students in Watauga County.

He and Agnes have attended all 50+ Farm-City Banquets in the High Country.

He is the lone remaining charter member of the Boone Rotary club which was chartered in 1948. Bob achieved the highest honor that Rotary can bestow: the Paul Harris Fellow award for his many years of selfless contributions to the greater good of Rotary International and to others.

The Shipley farm has operated for more than 140 years. 

He has been a faithful member of the Henson Chapel United Methodist Church. 

Bob Shipley celebrated his 100th birthday on June 23, 2012. A life well lived… for his family and for our community.

It is a pleasure and honor to present the Wade Brown Community Recognition Award to Robert Shipley – and about time, I might add.

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