High Country Press

Published Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm
  • COVID-19 Situation Update for Watauga County for July 9, 2020 from AppHealth Care

    July 10, 2020 This document is intended to provide a regular update on the local response to COVID-19 in our communities and timely, trended data related to COVID-19. This report will be published on Thursdays each week for the Monday through Sunday of the prior week. Situation Update for June 29 through July 5, 2020. We continue to see an increase in new cases for Watauga County. Over half (53%) of the confirmed Watauga County cases have occurred within the past two weeks. Among newly confirmed cases, there is not a single event or location to be the cause of the increase. There have been multiple incidences of exposure identified by people traveling, attending social gatherings or living or working in close proximity to others. However, community transmission is occurring locally which means there is not always an identified source of exposure for the cases.eople working on contact tracing statewide. Remember, if you get a call from a contact tracer, it’s important to work with them to protect your health, your family’s health and your community. / Read more…



  • Married Couple Found Dead in Deep Gap Home; Incident Still Under Investigation

    July 10, 2020 Two individuals were found dead in their Deep Gap home from apparent gunshot wounds on Wednesday night, according to the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office. The individuals were later identified as Douglass Allen Watson, 57, and his wife, Elizabeth Case Watson, 57. According to the sheriff’s office, the incident is believed to be “domestic in nature” however the sheriff’s office is still investigating. The 911 call was placed around 10 p.m. on Wednesday night from a caller at 172 Born Again Drive in Deep Gap. The caller stated that his brother and sister-in-law were dead. Additional details are not available at this time. According to Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman, chief deputy Kelly Redmon is preparing a press release with additional details.  / Read more…



  • App State Football Players Going Through Voluntary Conditioning Workouts; Mandatory Workouts Begin on Monday


    July 10, 2020 College football is facing an uncertain future for this fall, but most teams are still working out and preparing as if there will be a season. Appalachian State is one of those teams. Head coach Shawn Clark spoke with multiple media outlets on Thursday, highlighting what the Mountaineers are doing in preparation for the season. So far, players have been participating in voluntary workouts without interaction from coaches. Monday, July 13, marks the beginning of mandatory workouts where players can interact with coaches for eight hours a week with six of those in the weight room and two hours of film study. Things ratchet up on July 27 when the 20-hour rule comes into play, meaning on-field walkthroughs and individual position meetings with members of the coaching staff. Right now, athletes are only able to meet in groups of 10. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Blowing Rock Hosting First Art in the Park and Concert Event of the Summer on July 18-19


    July 10, 2020 Previous Art in the Park events have had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the one scheduled for next Saturday, July 18, will go on as scheduled with some changes to how the event operates. “We are in the 58th season of Art in the Park,” said Suzy Barker, the event and communication specialist for the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce. “This show has a limited number of artists, so we will have about half of the artists we typically do, meaning about 40 artists will be here.” Barker says that booths will be spaced out 10 feet apart and masks will be required by artists and visitors. Masks will be available for those that do not have one when they arrive. “I encourage folks to expect something a little different than what we are used to, but we have some really high-quality artists coming and we’re really excited to have a sense of normalcy in Blowing Rock right now. We are ready to do events again,” said Barker. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Avery Fine Art and Master Crafts Festival is Still Happening July 17-19 and August 14-16


    July 10, 2020 With special safety measures in place, the nearly 30-year tradition of the Avery Fine Arts and Master Crafts Festival will proceed as planned on the weekends of July 17-19 and August 14-16. The event, sponsored by Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria, will be happening at Sugar Mountain Resort and will feature some wonderful works of arts and crafts from local artists and crafters as well as other artists from all across the country. Sugar Mountain Resort is a new location for the festival. Everything will be set up in the parking lot below the resort lodge. Melynda Pepple, the Executive Director of the Avery County Chamber of Commerce, says that the festival will begin at 1 p.m. on Friday, July 17. Sugar Mountain Resort will also be open during this time with golfing, mountain bike activities, the chair lift ride, and dining throughout the weekend. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Law Enforcement Officers to be Honored in Boone with a Ceremony on Saturday July 18th

    July 10, 2020 A Back the Blue Protest which includes a Blessing of the Law Enforcement Officers will be held for the first time in the High Country on Saturday, July 18 th at the Peacock Parking Lot of Appalachian State University in Boone. The ceremony will begin at 1:30 PM on the Main Stage. The organizer of the ceremony is Pastor Michael Greene who serves as the Pastor for Bible Way Baptist Church in Boone. According to Greene, the event has been extremely well-received throughout the community. “Every Church in the High Country, local elected officials and all residents of the High Country and their guests are all invited to a special time to honor those who put these lives on the line for us every day.” / Read more…



  • Governor Cooper Increases North Carolina’s No-CostTesting Sites and Adds 400 Contact Tracers

    July 10, 2020 This week, NC DHHS announced that up to 300 no-cost testing sites would be deployed to underserved communities that currently have limited testing options. These free sites will increase capacity in roughly 100 zip codes across the state with a focus on historically marginalized populations, including Black, Hispanic and Native American communities. In addition, more than 480 contact tracers, half of whom are bilingual with a focus on Spanish speakers, have been added statewide. With these additions, there are more than 1,500 people working on contact tracing statewide. Remember, if you get a call from a contact tracer, it’s important to work with them to protect your health, your family’s health and your community. / Read more…



  • Avery County Up to 42 Coronavirus Cases

    July 10, 2020 Avery County Public Health received notice on July 9 of seven new cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19). This brings the number of cases recorded in Avery County to 42. The individuals are in isolation at home.At press-time, eight cases of COVID-19 in Avery County are categorized as recovered. The other 34 remain active, according to Toe River Health District officials. / Read more…



  • Gov. Cooper to Announce Plans for Phase 3 and Reopening Schools in the Fall

    July 10, 2020 Next week, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper will make the much-anticipated announcement on how public K-12 schools in the state will operate once the 2020-21 school year begins. Gov. Cooper postponed a previous announcement to give the state’s coronavirus task force more time to study data and see if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was going to issue any further guidelines for reopening schools. “We want our children back in school safely and we’ll have an official announcement next week,” Cooper said during a briefing on Thursday. “This is a tough call. How to open up schools is something that every single state, every single governor, is struggling with.” By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Inspire EdVentures Announces Virtual Summer Camp; Inspiring Adventure and Discovery in Your Own Backyard for 3rd to 5th Graders

    July 10, 2020 It’s the height of summer, but with summer camps canceled across the United States, kids and parents alike are looking for something to do with the long summer vacation. This is why Inspire EdVentures, in partnership with WAMY Community Action Center, has established an exciting new program for the summer: Virtual Summer Camp, a program created for 3rd to 5th graders (but open to all ages) to find adventure, joy, and discovery in the natural wonder of their own backyards! / Read more…



  • Avery Commissioners Approve Funds for Crossnore Elementary School Roof and Receive Notice of Forthcoming Federal COVID-19 Funding

    July 10, 2020 The Avery Commissioners approved the use of lottery funds for the Crossnore Elementary School roof renovation project and received notice that the county will receive Federal funding due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at their monthly meeting on Monday, July 6. Avery Commissioners are Martha Hicks (Chairperson); Tim Phillips (Vice-Chairman); Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr.; Blake Vance; and Dennis Aldridge. Other leading county officials include County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr.; Interim Finance Officer Ashley Cole Ingwersen; Assistant County Manager and Clerk to the Board Cindy Turbyfill; and County Attorney Michaelle Poore. The commissioners unanimously approved authorizing the release of lottery funds in the amount of $350,000 to move forward with the roof renovation project at Crossnore Elementary. By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • High Country Senior Softball League Adjusts Schedule for Remainder of 2020 Season

    July 10, 2020 The High Country Senior Softball League recently resumed play and will continue to gather on the softball diamond through October every Monday and Friday. The league, which is open to all seniors ages 60 and over, will play in Boone at the Watauga County Parks and Recreation fields off of State Farm Road each Monday at 9:30 a.m. and will play in Newland at Avery County Parks and Recreation’s ROCK field each Friday at 9:30 a.m. This is the fourth year of the league after first being organized in 2017. With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, a lot of things have changed for the softball league this year. According to Bert Valery, who helps organize the local teams, he said they went from having seven teams playing on 10 different fields down to just two teams playing at two locations. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Where to Find Our July Edition of the High Country Magazine


    July 10, 2020 Our first High Country Magazine edition of the year is now available for pickup at your favorite spots across Watauga and Avery counties. Due to COVID-19, we were unable to produce a magazine until now. Of course, with all of the things going on around us, it was only fitting that we did our best to present the full picture of COVID-19 and its effect on the High Country since it first arrived in March. As you read through our July magazine, you may remember some of the headlines that were on our High Country Press news website. Through it all so far, we published nearly 500 stories online related to the coronavirus pandemic since our first story appeared online on February 28. This magazine also touches on the many traditional events that had to be canceled due to the virus, as well as how schools and small businesses had to operate in such a time of uncertainty.  / Read more…



  • Blowing Rock Town Council Regular Meeting Happening Remotely on July 14

    July 10, 2020 In order to maintain the safety of Blowing Rock residents, the regularly scheduled Town of Blowing Rock Town Council Meeting scheduled for 6:00 pm on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, will be conducted with the Council and Manager present at Town Hall, and all other participants joining electronically, utilizing Zoom. The Council Packet, including the agenda, will be available on the Town’s website Friday, July 10 at: http://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/residents/meeting-agendas/town-council-agenda. The public may access this meeting by video by accessing the Town’s YouTube Channel, no active participation during the meeting will be allowed other than those scheduled to participate via the agenda. Access the meeting via this link: http://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/meetings. The Town is making every effort to ensure that the public is able to, not only view the meeting but also to participate in the public comments portion. You may submit public comment by email to: [email protected] / Read more…



  • Sen. Jeff Jackson: Here’s the COVID Situation in NC (and Some Cautionary Tales to Avoid)

    July 9, 2020 t’s becoming clear that one of the biggest COVID concerns for North Carolina isn’t just what’s happening in our state – it’s the cautionary tales we’re seeing in other states. In our state, the situation is not good, but it’s not out of control. Cases are up.. To make sense of both of those metrics and see the overall situation, we look at the percentage of tests that are coming back positive. That controls for the fact that we’ve increased testing. And that number has remained flat at about 9%: / Read more…



  • LETTERS / Request for 24/7 EMS Coverage in Blowing Rock

    July 9, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY TIM GUPTON / Dear Chairman Welch, County Commissioners & County Manager, I am writing on behalf of the Blowing Rock Civic Association to request that the Commission  vote to approve locating the new 24/7 EMS team at the Blowing Rock station. Our observations and recommendations are based on our research,  data provided by the County Manager, and consultation with EMS experts. As you know, the leaders of Blowing Rock have asked the County for 24/7 coverage for a number of years and were told that Blowing Rock would be the next location after the new facility was built and staff in Vilas in 2017.  We are now in 2021 with an opportunity to fulfill that commitment and expectation. Read more…



  • Watauga County Surpasses 100 Positive COVID-19 Cases; AppHealthCare to Release New Data Weekly

    July 8, 2020 Positive COVID-19 tests in Watauga County reached triple figures with 103 positive cases as of Wednesday afternoon. Currently, 61 active cases are in Watauga County while Ashe County has 14 active cases and Alleghany has five active cases. As a district, AppHealthCare is reporting 198 positive tests and 80 active cases with seven people currently hospitalized. AppHealthCare also announced on Tuesday that they will be handling data updates a little differently. Beginning this Thursday, COVID-19 data will be released weekly for Alleghany, Ashe, and Watauga counties. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Weekly Crime Reports: Activity and Arrests in Boone and Watauga County, June 29 – July 6

    July 8, 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



  • Avery County Schools to Have Wide Area Network Internet Access through SkyLine/SkyBest Beginning this School Year

    July 8, 2020 SkyLine/SkyBest announced that they have been working with Avery County Schools to provide Wide Area Network (WAN) high-speed internet access to all the schools in the county. “We have partnered with SkyLine/SkyBest for many years to provide network services to portions of Avery County Schools, and we are very happy to be able to expand that partnership to cover our entire district-wide area network,” said Dennis Brown, the Executive Director of Human Resources with Avery County Schools. “The expansion of network services to our schools provides opportunity for both our schools communities to enjoy quality high-speed internet service.” Installation of fiber networks has been ongoing in Avery County and this will allow for the network to be operating as schools begin the 2020-21 year. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Reminder: Deadline to File Your 2019 Taxes or File for an Extension is July 15

    July 8, 2020 For those of you that have not filed your 2019 taxes yet, the time is ticking for you to get that done without requesting an extension or facing a penalty from the Internal Revenue Service. With COVID-19 causing so many problems across the country, the deadline to file taxes was pushed back from its usual April 15 date to Wednesday, July 15. For those who can’t file by the July 15 deadline, the IRS reminds individual taxpayers that everyone is eligible to request an extension to file their return. Penalties and interest will begin to accrue on any remaining unpaid balances as of July 16, 2020. You will automatically avoid interest and penalties on the taxes paid by July 15. Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 15 deadline can request a filing extension by filing Form 4868 through their tax professional, tax software, or using the Free File link on IRS.gov. Businesses who need additional time must file Form 7004. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • An Appalachian Summer Festival Update: Canadian Brass Performance on Sunday Wraps Up This Week’s Series of Virtual Events


    July 8, 2020 This week continues another busy round of virtual shows and performances for An Appalachian Summer Festival 2020, concluding with a performance by Canadian Brass on Sunday Afternoon. The online festival features numerous live-streamed and specially pre-recorded concerts, live chats with artists, film screenings, and virtual tours. All events are free and will be streamed via the website as well as the festival’s YouTube and Facebook channels. Film screenings require pre-registration, as registration capacity is limited. Some events will be archived for later viewing; others are only available for the scheduled date and time. Full descriptions about each event and how to access them are available at www.appsummeronline.org. / Read more…



  • Photographer Todd Bush Captures Early Morning Photos of Comet NEOWISE Streaking Through the Sky


    July 8, 2020 Capturing a visual of Comet NEOWISE was not exactly planned, according to local photographer Todd Bush. “The comet surprised comet watchers and kind of came out of nowhere unexpectedly,” said Bush. “Some are saying that it could be another Hale-Bopp (comet) in terms of visually easy for people to see in our neck of the woods.” People looking into the night sky had been tracking two other known comets as they passed by Earth. However, this third one was a bit of an unknown. Comet NEOWISE was discovered on March 27 and passed closest to the sun on July 3. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • The New Aho Road Bridge Under Construction Will Accommodate the Middle Folk Greenway Project


    July 8, 2020 In a collaborative community effort, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) will create public access to the future Middle Fork Greenway as part of the bridge replacement project on Aho Road between Blowing Rock and Boone. The Middle Fork Greenway is a developing pedestrian and cyclist friendly trail that will connect the towns of Blowing Rock and Boone, naturally. The Middle Fork Greenway will ultimately create expanded recreational opportunities while promoting physical activity and improving the health of residents and visitors. It will also support the local economy by connecting users with the many nearby attractions and local businesses. / Read more…



  • Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: ‘Tis the Season for Peaches


    July 8, 2020. Several years ago, I was given a couple of great peach recipes (very similar) from good friends, Eula Vines and J.B. Jones, both of whom are now deceased. I have held on to these treasures, just as I continue to remember these two special people, and each year about this same time, I dig into my recipe files to honor these friends and delight others with their contributions. Since peaches are cropping up everywhere, especially at local roadside stands in the High Country, I want to honor the memory of both Eula and J.B. by featuring their recipes in this week’s column. Peaches are among summer’s golden delights, best when fairly firm without a speck of green; it is better to choose a peach with a yellow, velvety covering for the ultimate taste. With the bounty of the seasonal fruit now coming up the mountain from South Carolina and Georgia, we need to enjoy them while we can. There are so many ways to use peaches, whether in jellies and jams, combined with other fruit for a cool, refreshing salad or thrown together in a quick cobbler. Any way you peel it, a peach will bring you pleasure! By Sherrie Norris / Read more…



  • Watauga, Avery Obituaries – July 7, 2020

    July 7, 2020. The following are recent obituary notices from Austin and Barnes and Hampton funeral homes in Boone and Reins-Sturdivant in Newland. / Read more…



  • Rep. Ray Russell’s July 6th Newsletter on Coronavirus Updates, Announcements and Info

    July 7, 2020 I started writing this newsletter 10 days ago after a marathon session that lasted until 3 AM Friday, June 26. Except for September 11, 2019, when Legislative Leadership stooped to unprecedented levels of deception to steal the House budget vote, June 26 was the most disturbing day of this biennium. Ramming through dozens of bills in 10 hours with hundreds of pages legislation previously seen previously by only a handful of people is no way to conduct the people’s business. And not surprisingly, many bad bills were passed. I postponed publishing the newsletter awaiting more clarity regarding how the events would play out. / Read more…



  • Interim Chief of Police Andy LeBeau Promoted to Position of Chief of Police for the Town of Boone

    July 7, 2020 Boone Town Manager, John Ward, has announced that effective July 4, 2020 he has promoted Interim Chief of Police Andy LeBeau to the position of Chief of Police for the Town of Boone. “Chief LeBeau has served the Town of Boone well for 18 years as he has risen through the ranks, taking on more and more responsibility. As Interim Chief, he has successfully led the Boone Police Department through times that have greatly impacted our town, our state and our nation. It was clearly evident during the nation-wide selection process that Chief Le Beau is a standout in the law enforcement community and is clearly the best fit to lead the Boone Police Department into 2020 and beyond.” / Read more…



  • Banner Elk Area Sees Increase in Traffic and Interest in Events Despite Cancellations

    July 7, 2020 From the Fourth of July parade to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, Singing on the Mountain music festival, Concerts in the Park and Art on the Greene, many of Banner Elk area’s popular summer events have been canceled due to COVID-19. “The Town of Banner Elk made the decision after talking to the health department,” Town of Banner Elk Tourism Development Authority Director Nancy Owen said. “The health and safety of the community, residents and visitors is first, which is why they decided to cancel.” By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • Carolinas See Lowest Independence Day Pump Prices in 16 Years; Average at $2.04 per Gallon

    July 7, 2020 Despite both North and South Carolina experiencing a significant increase at the pump last week, motorists still found the lowest holiday gas prices since 2004. “Although gasoline demand has been high lately, prices at the pump were still 50 cents cheaper than this time last year,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA spokesperson. “Gas prices are still treading low due to the effects of COVID-19 on supply and demand.” North Carolina’s average sits at $2.04, seeing a two cent decrease on the week. This is 20 cents more than a month ago but 51 cents cheaper than a year ago. / Read more…



  • Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Announces 2020-21 Executive Committee & Additions to Board of Directors


    July 7, 2020 The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce its 2020-21 Executive Committee, along with two new members to the organization’s Board of Directors. Dr. Scott Elliott assumes the role as Chair of the Board of Directors. A member of the Chamber Board since 2016, Elliott has served as Superintendent of Watauga County Schools since July of 2014. Since arriving in Boone, he has worked to improve and develop new relationships between Watauga County Schools and the local business community. Dr. Elliott has volunteered time to various Chamber committees, including the Watauga Leadership Institute, Government Relations, and CUE committees. / Read more…



  • Avery High Continues Sports Workouts and Related Activities Amid COVID-19 Limitations

    July 7, 2020 The COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone to make changes to their daily lives in order to do their part in flattening the curve. This is no different for Avery County High School sports teams. With the recent declaration by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association that high school athletics may resume closely monitored workouts and related activities, Avery County High School student-athletes returned to their respective courts and fields on June 15. By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Toe River Health District Announces First Confirmed Coronavirus Death in Mitchell Counnty

    July 7, 2020 The Toe River Health District, which encompasses Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties in the North Carolina High Country, has announced that the Mitchell County Health Department was notified today of its first Coronavirus (CoOID-19) associated death in that county and in the Toe River District. The individual, in his or her 80’s, was hospitalized and on a ventilator. To protect the family’s privacy no further information about the patient will be released. Mitchell County includes the townships and communities of Spruce Pine, Bakersville, Penland, Ledger, Red Hill, Poplar, Pigeon Roost, Loafers Glory and Buladean. By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Local Businesses Invited to Take Part in Count On Me NC Initiative to Take Extra Safety Precautions Dealing with COVID-19


    July 6, 2020 North Carolina has rolled out a program titled Count On Me NC as a way to encourage businesses to go that extra mile in cleaning, promoting face coverings, and encouraging a lot of hand washing and hand sanitizing. “It’s a quick little survey for businesses and it helps the public know that those businesses are taking that extra step to be safe and that they are following all safety measures,” said Melynda Pepple, Avery County Chamber of Commerce’s Executive Director. The Count On Me NC initiative is not just for restaurants, but for any business that wants to let their customers know that they are doing their very best to limit the spread of COVID-19. “We encourage all businesses to do the surveys because it makes visitors feel that little extra step of safety while they are in a business,” said Pepple. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Beech Mountain’s Annual Hog Roasting Tradition Continued in Drive-Thru Style


    July 6, 2020 The coronavirus wasn’t about to end a near half-century tradition in Beech Mountain. The 49th Annual Roasting of the Hog happened without a hitch on Saturday with over 600 barbecue meals being sold to drive-thru customers. “Everybody thought it was important to continue our tradition that we have been doing all these years. In spite of the odds we faced, we figured out a way to do it. Everybody came together and it was an amazing group effort on behalf of a lot of people to pull it off,” said Beech Mountain resident and Fred’s General Mercantile owner Fred Pfohl. Up until last year, the event had been traditionally called the 47th Annual Hog Roasting, however, once the event actually surpassed 47 years, the number had to change to keep up with the growing years of hog roasting. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Watauga Medical Center Named Among America’s 100 Best in Orthopedic Surgery


    July 6, 2020 ​Watauga Medical Center is recognized among America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Orthopedic Surgery™ in 2020, according to a national study by Healthgrades, the leading online resource for information about physicians and hospitals. This achievement is part of findings released in the Healthgrades 2020 Report to the Nation. This report demonstrates the importance of hospital quality to both hospital leaders and consumers, and recognizes Watauga Medical Center’s commitment to quality patient outcomes with multiple Orthopedics Awards and Achievements. “I am extremely proud our orthopedic service has been recognized in this way. These awards represent the culmination of vision, cooperation, passion, and hard work by every member of our orthopedic team. We have all worked tirelessly to provide the best care possible to those patients who place their trust in us for their orthopedic care, said Dr. Steven Anderson, orthopedic surgeon for AppOrtho. / Read more…



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