High Country Press

Published Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm
  • Watauga and Avery Obituaries – August 11, 2020

    August 11, 2020. The following are recent obituary notices from Austin and Barnes and Hampton funeral homes in Boone and Reins-Sturdivant in Newland. / Read more…



  • Watauga County Schools Details Neal Distribution During Remote Learning Beginning August 17


    August 11, 2020  Watauga County Schools is set to begin the 2020-21 school year August 17 with a nine week period of remote learning for most students. While students will not attend school in person during this time, meals are set to be distributed at each school to any WCS students. Beginning Aug. 17, Watauga County Schools will offer curbside meal pickup  from Noon to 1:00 p.m. each day for students who are taking part in remote learning. Breakfast and lunch will be served simultaneously at the curbside sites. / Read more…



  • Real Estate Activity in the High Country Hits Record Highs in July; 72% Increase Over Last Year

    August 11, 2020 High Country real estate is in historic demand. Local REALTORS® sold more than 360 homes in July, a 72 percent increase over July 2019, and recorded a 15-year high for listings sold within a month by members of the High Country Association of REALTORS®. Prices were strong, with the region’s median sold price for the month also at a 15-year high. / Read more…



  • ‘Hope Survives’ Online Auction to Benefit Hospitality House of Northwest NC Begins Aug. 14


    August 11, 2020  As previously announced, Hospitality House of Northwest North Carolina is moving forward with its largest annual fundraiser in a virtual way on August 20. However, the online auction portion of the event will begin August 14 at 12 p.m. This theme for this year’s event, “Hope Survives,” speaks directly to the challenges and obstacles facing the homeless, hungry and impoverished individuals and families that rely on the programs and services of Hospitality House.This year, the silent auction transforms to an online auction that will be open for a full week. / Read more…



  • 4 Million North Carolinians Still Need to Respond to the 2020 Census by September 30 Deadline

    August 11, 2020 As of July 31, approximately 4 million North Carolinians still need to respond to the census or North Carolina risks losing out on an estimated $7.4 billion in funding each year. NC’s current Census 2020 response rate is below the national rate and below where our state was in 2010. North Carolina communities that have not responded at high rates are predominantly rural, Black, and Brown, with low internet access. Carolina Demography has prepared a detailed look at the current 2020 Census response in NC. / Read more…



  • Coronavirus Cases Rise in Avery, Mitchell and Yancey Counties With 117 in Avery and 121 Each in Mitchell and Yancey Counties; Mitchell Has Third Death from Disease

    August 11, 2020 The Toe River Health District (TRHD), which governs Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties in the North Carolina High Country has confirmed the following updated totals of coronavirus (COVID-19) as of Tuesday morning, August 11: Avery-117 (81 afflicted have recovered and 36 remain active) Mitchell-121 (113 have recovered, 5 are active and 3 deaths) Yancey-121 (101 recoveries, 19 remain active and 1 death). Avery had eight confirmed cases on Monday, August 10, while Yancey had seven the same day.By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • This Year’s Back 2 School Festival Serves over 1,400 Children Over Two Days


    August 11, 2020  This past weekend, the 2020 Back 2 School Festival provided over 1,400 Watauga County students with all the supplies they need for the new school year. This year marked the first drive-thru event in the festival’s seven-year history, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All participants were required to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing in compliance with directives issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. Local schools were given specific pick-up times on August 7th and 8th in order to spread the crowd out over two eight-hour days. / Read more…



  • AAA Reports that Pump Prices Continue to Push Cheaper Across Carolinas

    August 11, 2020 For the second straight week both North and South Carolina are among the nation’s top 10 least expensive markets with pump prices continuing to push cheaper. “This is usually the time of year when gas prices are on the rise as demand is typically high due to summer travel,”  said Tiffany Wright, spokesperson, AAA – The Auto Club Group in the Carolinas. “With demand drastically down this season and many schools planning for virtual learning across the Carolinas, gas prices could decline even more in the weeks ahead.” On the week, North Carolina’s $1.94 average saw a decrease of two cents – this is 11 cents cheaper than a month ago and 55 cents cheaper than a year ago / Read more…



  • REQUEST FOR BIDS: ARHS Surplus Property Sealed Bid Auction for Henson Farmhouse and Barn


    August 10, 2020  Appalachian Regional Healthcare System is accepting sealed bids to purchase the Henson farmhouse and barn, located at 134 Deerfield Road, Boone, NC 28607. Note: This sealed bid auction is only for the house and barn structures and does not include the land where they exist. Sealed bids should be submitted in-person to Rob Hudspeth, Senior Vice President for System Advancement at 337 Deerfield Road, Boone NC 28607. Sealed bids are due at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, August 21, 2020, and will be publicly opened and read aloud at the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation office located at 337 Deerfield Road, Boone, NC 28607. The winning bidder shall make payment in full, in-person to Appalachian Regional Healthcare System on bid opening day (Friday, August 21, 2020). No partial payments will be accepted. If full payment is not received on bid opening day, the bid will be awarded to the second-highest bidder. / Read more…



  • Earthquake Centered in Alleghany County Felt in the High Country and Across Several States

    August 10, 2020 An earthquake on Sunday morning shook a lot of houses across the High Country and was felt as far away as Kentucky and South Carolina, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Reports of people feeling the earthquake came from North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. The 5.2 magnitude earthquake was centered about 2.5 miles southeast of Sparta in Alleghany County. Numerous reports damage came from Sparta, including several broken items inside a Food Lion, in several homes, and large cracks in the pavement on streets throughout the town. Alleghany County issued a State of Emergency yesterday after the town had to be closed down for multiple reported gas leaks. The USGS Survey reported the depth of the earthquake was at 3.7 kilometers (approximately 2.3 miles). According to the USGS, the earthquake occurred in the interior of the North American plate. Such mid-plate earthquakes are known as intraplate earthquakes and are generally less common than interplate earthquakes that happen near tectonic plate boundaries. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Louisiana Purchase Restaurant Makes Transition to LP on Main; Now Open in Downtown Banner Elk


    August 10, 2020  It took a little longer than expected, but the transition from the Louisiana Purchase to LP on Main in Banner Elk is finally complete for Laurie and Patrick Bagbey. LP on Main combines the storied history of the Louisiana Purchase restaurant and the Bagbey’s initials to create a new dining spot in the High Country. “It’s a spin on who we are and who we have grown to be and who we used to be,” said Laurie. “We have been a fixture in the Banner Elk community for three decades, going on four.” The Bagbeys previously owned Louisiana Purchase for 14 years and made the decision to close the location at the end of 2019 to focus on opening their new spot. LP on Main is located at 171 Main Street East in Banner Elk, which is about a block away from the old Louisiana Purchase location. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Boone Native Ryan Campbell Spends Seasons Fighting Fires and Ski Patrolling, Seeks to Mentor Others with Similar Passions


    August 10, 2020. Growing up in Boone, Ryan Campbell knew he had an interest in a career field surrounded by nature, as he is an outdoorsy person; however, he wasn’t quite sure how to achieve his goals.“I think when I was 18 or 19, that’s when I started thinking that I wanted to get into fire, and I specifically remember driving my car really fast on mountain roads and being like, ‘Man, if I could get this feeling in a job, that would be really cool,’” Campbell said. This yearn for an adrenaline rush and adventure led Campbell into researching about smokejumpers, who are specially trained wildland firefighters who are inserted at the site of a fire by parachutes from planes and provide an initial attack response on remote wildland fires. “I remember looking at their requirements and what it took to be a smokejumper and thinking it was the most insane, impossible task ever,” Campbell said. “But even when I was 18 or 19 years old, which was like 10 or 11 years ago now, I had this kind of dream in my mind, and then I tried to do whatever I could to get closer and closer.” By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • MerleFest Organizers Announce Festival Date Change For 2021 to September 16-19

    August 10, 2020 Festival organizers announced today that MerleFest, presented by Window World, will be moving to the weekend of September 16-19, 2021. MerleFest, dubbed by Rolling Stone as “the gold standard for bluegrass, Americana, and string-music festivals,” is normally held the last weekend of April, but the 2020 festival was canceled due to public safety concerns amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. Officials stressed that this would be a one time only move to the fall and they plan to return to the traditional April weekend in 2022 / Read more…



  • AppHealthCare COVID-19 Situation Update for Watauga County August 6th, 2020

    August 10, 2020 Cases are continuing to increase for Watauga County and we are not yet seeing a downward trend. Of the newly identified cases for this week, we are continuing to see the same trend with cases exposed due to close contact with others through living or working closely with others or attending social gatherings. Also, we are continuing to see community transmission which means exposure is occurring locally and there is not always an identified source of exposure for the cases. / Read more…



  • Appalachian Regional Healthcare Systems Expands Services and Opens New Heart and Vascular Center


    August 7, 2020  Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) is excited to announce the opening of the new Heart & Vascular Center at Watauga Medical Center (WMC) in Boone. Formerly known as The Cardiology Center, the 8,000 square foot facility will open on August 17th in a new heart care wing at the medical center. The Heart & Vascular Center will provide more efficient and convenient access for patients, by integrating outpatient heart care with diagnostic services in the same convenient location. “We are excited to provide a collaborative approach to the treatment of complex heart and vascular conditions,” said Kim Bianca, President of Watauga Medical Center. “Bringing services – diagnostic testing, catheterization lab, etc. – under one roof reduces the wait time for patients and enhances the level of interaction between medical professionals to collaborate and deliver customized care.” / Read more…



  • Appalachian State Students Begin Moving in Next Week with Classes Starting on August 17

    August 7, 2020 A new way of campus life and a mixture of online and in-person classes will await students as they begin moving in on Monday, August 10 in preparation for the fall semester starting on August 17. The other public universities in the UNC System are beginning class on Monday, however, Appalachian State’s semester will begin the following week to make sure the newest student housing projects are completed in time. Freshmen and transfer students will move in on August 10-13 while returning students will move in on August 14-16. “I am proud of the way we have adapted to the challenges of this global pandemic, which has challenged every aspect of daily university life — from how we live and learn, to how we engage and educate,” said App State Chancellor Dr. Sheri Everts in a weekly email update to faculty, students and staff. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • N.C. Board of Elections’ Statement to Voters About Election-Related Mailers, Text Messages and Phone Calls

    August 7, 2020 North Carolina elections officials are responding to many voters’ questions and concerns about mass mailings, text messages, phone calls and home visits by political and advocacy groups. Many ongoing outreach efforts by third parties urge residents to request absentee by-mail ballots or register to vote ahead of the November 3 general election. Some mailings include voter registration applications or absentee ballot request forms. These efforts typically are legal, but they can be confusing or frustrating for voters and erode confidence in elections, especially when they are unsolicited. / Read more…



  • Avery To Receive $340,745 in Additional CARES Act Funding; Ag Building Community Room’s Audio Engineer Resigns

    August 7, 2020 During the regular monthly meeting of the Avery Board of Commissioners August 3, details were released that the county will be receiving a second allotment of CARES Act funding for more than one-third of a million dollars, a resolution regarding the Mayland Community College’s Anspack Advanced Manufacturing School was adopted and Inspections and Planning Director Tommy Burleson gave a report about the Eagles Nest Development in Banner Elk. By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • AppalCART and App State Awarded $1M-Plus Grant for Electric Bus


    August 7, 2020  More than $1 million in grant funds — the result of a collaboration between AppalCART and Appalachian State University — may soon make an electric bus the transit option of choice for the High Country. Two North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) grant programs — the Diesel Bus and Vehicle Program and the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Infrastructure Program — will provide AppalCART with $1,001,500 toward the purchase of an electric bus and charging station. / Read more…



  • NC Public High School Fall Sports to be Delayed Again Beyond Sept. 1 with Governor Roy Cooper’s Coronavirus Phase 2 Extension

    August 6, 2020 The North Carolina High School Athletics Association announced August 6 that the start of its fall sports season will once again be delayed. And it remains uncertain when seasons will start for fall sports teams, which include football. Governor Roy Cooper announced Aug. 5 that North Carolina will stay in Phase 2 of its plan for recovery from the pandemic for another five weeks, pushing the expected end of the phase up to September 11. According to the NCHSAA’s recovery plan from the COVID-19 pandemic, high schools under its governing umbrella must complete three phases before the start of competition. By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Watauga and Avery Obituaries – August 6, 2020

    August 6, 2020. The following are recent obituary notices from Austin and Barnes and Hampton funeral homes in Boone and Reins-Sturdivant in Newland. / Read more…



  • Governor Announces As Students Return to School, North Carolina to Remain Paused in Phase 2

    August 6, 2020 Governor Roy Cooper today announced that North Carolina will remain paused in Safer At Home Phase 2 for another 5 weeks as students and staff return to schools, colleges and universities and the state doubles down on efforts to decrease COVID-19 numbers. “Other states that lifted restrictions quickly have had to go backward as their hospital capacity ran dangerously low and their cases jumped higher. We will not make that mistake in North Carolina,” said Governor Cooper. “In keeping with our dimmer switch approach with schools opening, and in order to push for decreasing numbers which will keep people healthier and boost our economy, North Carolina will remain paused in Safer At Home Phase 2 for 5 weeks.” / Read more…



  • Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Love Your Neighbor: Share The Zucchini


    August 6, 2020. There’s a timeless joke about zucchini and how, by summer’s end, everyone has had their fill, so the only way to get neighbors to accept one more green “gift,” is to take it to their doorstep, ring the doorbell and run. If nothing else grows in a garden, chances are the zucchinis will. I find many uses for it — raw in salads and vegetable platters, cooked, steamed, sautéed, fried, baked or microwaved, chopped and in desserts or frozen and used for later. It’s a versatile little veggie, for sure. Good quality zucchini should be firm, smooth-skinned and not too big. The surface should be shiny and dark green in color. Avoid those that are soft, wrinkled, blemished or dull in appearance. Large squash will be less tender than smaller ones and won’t have the same taste. By Sherrie Norris / Read more…



  • App State and Wake Forest Have Agreed to Postpone Their Sept. 11, 2020 Football Contest

    August 6, 2020 App State and Wake Forest have agreed to postpone their 2020 football contest, which was scheduled for Sept. 11 in Winston-Salem, to a future year. The two schools that are separated by 86 miles have also agreed to add two more games to the series, one in Boone and one in Winston-Salem, for a total of three future matchups. “COVID-19 continues to change many of our plans,” App State Director of Athletics Doug Gillin said. “We are disappointed that this game will not be played in 2020, but we look forward to scheduling future games in the series within this decade. / Read more…



  • Weekly Crime Reports: Activity and Arrests in Boone and Watauga County, July 20 – August 2

    August 5, 2020. Looking to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in your neighborhood? Want to keep an eye on criminal activity in your area? Take a look at these recent incident and arrest reports from the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and the Boone Police Department. Read more…
    Compiled by Nathan Ham



  • App State Football and the Rest of the Sun Belt Conference Teams to Start Play on Labor Day Weekend


    August 5, 2020 Appalachian State University is anticipating starting its 2020 season on the first Saturday in September as the Sun Belt Conference announced on Tuesday that all conference teams would start play over Labor Day weekend. Sun Belt teams will play eight conference games and are allowed to play up to four non-conference games. Right now, Appalachian State is actively searching for two opponents to fill open spots on their schedule, including for the season-opener on September 5. The Mountaineers were originally scheduled to play FCS opponent Morgan State, however, the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC) that Morgan State is a member of has decided to suspend all fall sports due to COVID-19. The other open spot on the schedule, September 19, came open when the Big 10 Conference (B1G) announced that their teams will play 10 conference games and no non-conference games this year, putting a cancelation on the Mountaineers’ trip to Madison to take on the University of Wisconsin. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Blowing Rock State of the Town Happening Virtually on August 13

    August 5, 2020 The Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce’s Community, Government & Education Committee in partnership with the Town of Blowing Rock invite all residents and business owners to attend the annual State of the Town event Thursday, August 13 at 5:30. Due to indoor meeting restrictions, this year’s event will be held virtually. The Town of Blowing Rock will issue a link to anyone who wishes to view the event online. This event will be broadcast live as a YouTube video from the Council Chambers in Town Hall. Join us to learn about exciting current and future projects in the Town of Blowing Rock as well as look at the economic indicators. The Town’s report will be presented by Mayor Sellers and Town Manager, Shane Fox. Charles Hardin will update the audience on the current projects and initiatives of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce and the Village Foundation. / Read more…



  • Ensemble Stage to present “Appalachian Jack” at Historic Banner Elk School Courtyard August 8 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.


    August 5, 2020  As part of their Summer Saturday Theatre for Kids Series, Ensemble Stage’s “Appalachian Jack” will be presented again this Saturday, Aug. 8, in the courtyard of the Historic Banner Elk School at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., with free admission. “Everybody has been having to make compromises, and everybody has been having to make sacrifices, and so this is what we can do to support the community and doing what we do on a regular basis and what we do best,” said Gary Smith, Ensemble Stage Artistic Director. “We want people to be able to come and enjoy the show and not have to worry about paying.” These two showtimes come after a successful performance of the show on July 25. This performance acts as a little taste of live theater in the High Country that is kid oriented and family friendly. “Theater is about connection and is a living, breathing organism, and you’ve got two main components to that living, breathing organism, and that’s the audience and that’s the actors on stage,” Smith said. “And when you don’t have that, something is lost when it comes to theater, and it basically becomes television, and I think people have had enough of watching TV.” By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • Free COVID-19 Drive-Thru Testing Event for Alleghany and Ashe Residents This Saturday, August 8


    August 5, 2020  AppHealthCare is partnering with Mako Medical Laboratories to offer COVID-19 testing for Alleghany and Ashe County residents. Drive-thru testing will be available Saturday, August 8, from 9:30 am until 1:00 pm at Alleghany High School, 404 Trojan Avenue in Sparta. Individuals must be residents of Alleghany or Ashe County and over 10 years of age. There is no cost for testing and is available regardless of insurance status. If you have insurance, please bring a copy of your insurance information. No appointment is needed. Test results should be expected within a few days. “We are grateful for the partnership with Mako Medical Laboratories, support from Alleghany County, Alleghany Emergency Management and Alleghany County Schools allowing parking lot space to provide this drive-through testing event, free of charge, for the Alleghany County community. With the increases in COVID-19 cases locally, we know this is an important step to take to further identify and control the spread of this virus and protect the public’s health,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare.  / Read more…



  • Coronavirus Cases Pass 300 in Toe River Health District; Avery County Nears 100 With or Who Have Been Afflicted with Disease

    August 5, 2020 Updated Coronavirus (COVID-1) numbers from the Toe River Health District (TRHD) as of Tuesday morning, August 4, for the three North Carolina High Country counties that operate under its regional governing body–Avery, Mitchell and Yancey–include: By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Cherry Johnson Retires From Watauga County Arts Council After 28 Years


    August 5, 2020 Executive Director Cherry Johnson of the Watauga County Arts Council officially retired Aug. 1. Johnson has been with the organization since 1992, making her time there exactly 28 years, which is an important number for her. “I was born on the 28th, married on the 28th, and my last child was born on the 28th, so 28 seemed like a good number of years,” Johnson said. During the days leading up to Johnson’s final day, she was working on putting together a photo essay of different pictures from the past years. “Going through that, I was overwhelmed with how awesome it all was, and I was overwhelmed with, ‘Look at how much we did.’ It blew my mind,” Johnson said. “And several of the years, I would look and something would be dated that year and another thing would be dated that year and another thing. And I’m like, ‘How did we do all that?’ But we did!” Johnson said she enjoyed looking through the photos over the years and being taken back to those moments. “And seeing faces I haven’t seen in so many years, it was just fantastic to do that,” Johnson said. “That was the really great part of going back.” Continuing to reminisce, Johnson said she wants to make sure history and all the things the Watauga County Arts Council has done over the years does not get lost, because the staff has worked really hard. By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • A Year in Review: The Appalachian Theatre’s Inaugural Season Draws Audiences From As Far Away As Finland


    August 3, 2020  At the July 22 board meeting of the Appalachian Theatre, trustees received a “state of the theatre” address from outgoing chair John Cooper and executive director Laura Kratt. It was an occasion to pause and reflect over the momentous events of the prior fiscal year, which began with an intensive swirl of activity to complete the eight-year, ten million dollar renovation and construction effort that restored the venerable landmark on King Street to its former glory, and ended in a complete shutdown due to the pandemic. The grand re-opening took place on October 14, 2019, with a standing-room-only concert, the first in a month-long series of events designed to welcome community stakeholders whose combined efforts saved the High County’s Art Deco architectural jewel. Almost 3,500 people joined in the festivities, the first of which was an opening performance with John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the String Wizards with their “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” concert. The concert paid homage to many of the legendary performers that once graced the Appalachian stage in its early years ranging from Bill Monroe to Flatt & Scruggs to Doc Watson. Local talent, Liam Purcell of Cane Mill Road, joined in to make the evening a multi-generation affair. It was the perfect night to announce the dedication of the Doc Watson Stage for Americana Music at the App Theatre. / Read more…



  • AppalCART Welcomes Students With Open Doors and COVID-Free Transit


    August 3, 2020  As the Watauga County community prepares for an exciting fall semester and the return of university students to the area, AppalCART is gearing up with a renewed commitment to the health and safety of passengers. This includes more rigorous preventive measures to protect against the spread of COVID-19. “So many university students and Watauga County residents have come to rely on AppalCART, and our foremost priority is to provide quality transportation services in a way that ensures the safety and health of our passengers and drivers,” said Craig Hughes, AppalCART Director. Hughes emphasized the critical role AppalCART plays in reducing car traffic to the area daily by thousands of cars as the transportation service carries between 13,000 and 14,000 passengers per day throughout the county. He says they have been consulting with other comparable systems to determine a response to COVID while maintaining critical and essential services. / Read more…



  • Board of Directors Announce Cancellation of this Year’s 43rd Annual Woolly Worm Festival


    July 31, 2020  It is with deep sadness that the 2020 Woolly Worm Festival of Banner Elk has been cancelled. This is not a decision the Woolly Worm Board of Directors has taken lightly. Every year, profits from the festival are given back to our community to enhance the lives of children and to promote business and tourism in Avery County. Local businesses and organizations also benefit from festival visitors to our community.  / Read more…



  • Watauga County Habitat for Humanity Announces Future Homeowners and Community Partnerships


    July 31, 2020  “As our community continues to struggle with the public health crisis and economic impact of COVID-19, a safe place to call home is more important than ever”, according to Allison Jennings, Director of Development for Watauga Habitat for Humanity. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we completed construction on homes for Kristina Fickling and David and Amy Barker. Our work continues as more families need access to the opportunities an affordable home can offer.”  / Read more…



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