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AppHealthCare Releases Community Health Report for Watauga County

January 28, 2022 AppHealthCare announced on Wednesday that through a collaboration with numerous agencies as well as surveys and data collection, a community health report was put together for each of the three counties (Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany) in the AppHealthCare district. The report for each county is put together every three years. The Watauga County report was compiled through partnerships with Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, the Watauga Compassionate Community Initiative, Appalachian District Board of Health and AppHealthCare. As part of the community health report, multiple factors are included in determining what the greatest needs and concerns are for the county. Several of those data points include household income, poverty level, food insecurity, unemployment data, community safety, affordable housing and mental/behavioral health. According to the report for Watauga County, the three biggest areas to focus community resources on are mental health, housing and family/social support systems.   By Nathan Ham

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Movie Review: ‘Redeeming Love’ is a Mushy Romance that is Poorly Paced and Unpleasant

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January 27, 2022 “Redeeming Love” is a cross between a Christian movie, a mushy romance, and a demented exploitation film. This might sound like an intriguing combination, but the genres do not go well together, nor do they result in an entertaining trainwreck. On top of my many, many complaints about this movie, it cannot be forgotten that it is a poorly-paced slog that has no business taking up 134 minutes of your time. Really, it has no business taking up one minute of your time, let alone 134. Set in the California Gold Rush of the mid-19th century, the film follows “Angel” (Abigail Cowan) as she is saved from a life of prostitution by humble farmer Michael (Tom Lewis). I’ll start with him. This is a character that can only exist as a protagonist in a work of fiction. To be sure, there are many men in the real world that are kind, compassionate, respectful, generous, patient, and refuse to take advantage of women even though they have ample opportunity to do so. But this is a guy that pays a prostitute double just to flirt. “Angel” runs away from him at least three times during the movie, and the official reason is that she thinks he’s too good to be true or she isn’t worthy of him, but I suspect that on an unofficial level she sees that he’s perfect and perfect is boring.   By Bob Garver

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Mountaineers Host Arkansas State in Battle for First Place in the Sun Belt Conference

January 27, 2022 Appalachian State and Arkansas State will each put their winning streaks on the line tonight at the Holmes Convocation Center in Boone. The Mountaineers, winners of four straight Sun Belt Conference games, will take on first-place Arkansas State, who has won three straight SBC contests. App State (12-9 overall, 6-2 SBC) are coming off of a 70-62 road win over Georgia Southern on Saturday afternoon. Arkansas State (13-4 overall, 4-1 SBC) will enter play coming off of a 67-60 win over Texas State on Saturday. The winner of tonight’s game will hold down first place in the Sun Belt. App State senior guard Justin Forrest will most likely join the 2,000-point club tonight as he needs just three points to reach that career milestone. He will be just the third player to ever score 2,000 points in a Mountaineer uniform, joining Ronshad Shabazz (2,067 points from 2015-19) and the program’s all-time leading scorer Donald Sims (2,185 points from 2007-11).   By Nathan Ham

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Barter Theatre Announces Its 2022 Season

January 27, 2022 Barter Theatre announced its 2022 Season today featuring a full year of shows. This season marks the return to both Barter stages, with shows being produced at Gilliam Stage and Smith Theatre. Barter’s 2022 theme is ‘Common Ground’, and Artistic Director Katy Brown had this to say: “In each show this season, you will see people who have deep differences finding their strength in one another. Barter is a place to come together to celebrate what unifies us, and this season reminds us that it’s often the jagged edges between us that make us into the puzzle pieces that will finally fit together.” Tickets for Barter’s spring season will be available for purchase online at bartertheatre.com and via the box office starting February 8th. Tickets for subsequent seasons will become available over the upcoming months.

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Chetola Resort Cancels 2022 Polar Bear Plunge; Other WinterFest Events Still On

January 27, 2022 Concerns over COVID-19 safety and extreme weather forecasted for Saturday, January 29 have led to the cancellation of the 2022 Polar Bear Plunge at Chetola Resort. As the centerpiece of the annual Blowing Rock WinterFest, the Polar Bear Plunge has often taken place in very cold temperatures, but potential for some blizzard-like conditions and extra impacts from COVID-19 have tipped the scales. In a Wednesday night email to the Chamber of Commerce, owner of Chetola Resort, Kent Tarbutton, expressed frustration over the necessary measures. “The 9:00 am temperature will clock in with a wind chill factor of -8. We found little choice when considering the additional COVID spread factor, the frostbite potential, and our attempt to keep people protected.”

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Blowing Rock’s 2022 WinterFest Kicks Off January 27 and Goes Through January 30 Offering Cool Lineup of Activities

January 26, 2022 Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce’s 24th annual WinterFest will begin Thursday, January 27 and go through Sunday, January 30, offering opportunities for residents and visitors alike to celebrate the fun side of the chilly winter season. “We have a cool lineup of activities, food specials and events going on all weekend,” said Suzy Barker, Events and Communications Specialist and WinterFest Coordinator for the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce. Interested participants are encouraged to check out WinterFest’s website that has been remodeled since previous years. The site now organizes events based on categories such as “Outdoor Fun,” “Food & Drink,” “Kids & Family,” “Arts & Entertainment,” “After Dark” and “All Events.” The full schedule of events for the weekend is still available as well. By Harley Nefe

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Town of Boone Offers Affordable Traditional Music Lessons; Registration Now Open

January 26, 2022
Registration is now open for spring music lessons through the Boone Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program, which commences its spring semester beginning the week of February 15 and 17. Classes are made up of 3 to 5 students and are held weekly on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at the Jones House. Instruction is available for beginner to beginner-plus levels in banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and ukulele.

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Judges Uphold North Carolina’s New Congressional Map as Drawn by Republicans

January 26, 2022 A North Carolina judicial panel has refused to throw out redistricting maps drawn by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. The ruling rejects claims from Democratic voters and advocacy groups that the redrawn district lines illegally favor Republicans and would ensure that their candidates will win a majority of the state’s 14 congressional districts, even in elections in which more Democratic voters cast ballots. The unanimous decision by three Superior Court trial judges, followed a quick trial. Lawyers for the Democratic voters and the advocacy groups— some backed by a national Democratic group — who challenged the new congressional and legislative lines in court, have declared that this panel of judges ruling will be appealed. By Tim Gardner

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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column:‘Tis the Month After Christmas — How About Those Resolutions?


January 26, 2022. Most everyone with whom I’ve talked “resolutions” during the last couple of weeks have agreed that “it ain’t easy” to stick to those especially related to exercising, dieting, cutting out the sugar, the carbs, etc. Whew. It’s been anything but easy for this old gal who loves to cook —and eat — and mostly when there’s snow falling and all the chores are done. On a cold winter’s day, nothing beats a pot of chicken and dumplings, or a pot of spaghetti with garlic bread, or chili or soup with a grilled cheese with two kinds of gourmet cheese, mayonnaise on the inside and butter slathered all over the outside. How about all those sweets that are still laying around on the counter, even when you froze most of them, but decided to get out a few at a time, so you wouldn’t be too tempted all at once? Yeah, I know. And then, there’s all those ingredients in the pantry from the baking you didn’t get around to doing. Just how long will those peanut butter morsels last? What about that cream cheese pound cake recipe you saw in the latest magazine that keeps knocking on your mind’s revolving door? Yeah, the struggle is real, folks. And I bet I’m not the only one who knows all about it. I ran across a poem, years ago, that pretty well sums up how I see it. I think a few of you might identify, as well: By Sherrie Norris

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Community Music School Announces Spring Programs and New Director

January 26, 2022 The Community Music School (CMS) at Appalachian State University is beginning another semester of exciting music programs in Boone and Hudson this Spring under the leadership of the new Director, Lisl Doughton. Activities are available for a variety of ages and experience levels. Registration is open now at music.appstate.edu/cms. Most programs begin the week of January 31. CMS offers “Pay What You Can” options for group classes.

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Race Results and Team Standings from the Third Week of SMARL’s 2022 Season

January 25, 2022 Racers have officially crossed the half-way point of the 2022 Sugar Mountain Adult Racing League season after the third week of competition wrapped up on Monday. After last week’s snow and wind that made racing difficult, it was a nice change of scenery for the competitors this week. “The snow was great, the course was fast and it was much different than the week before,” said Matt Leonard of Ski Country Sports in Banner Elk. This week racers hung around after the event and enjoyed drinks and food provided by the Banner Elk Cafe. In addition to the food service providers, the race course crew once again kept the course on Oma’s Meadow well-groomed for each pass down the slope. By Nathan Ham

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Coronavirus Cases Decrease in Two of Three Counties in the Toe River Health District During Past Week

January 25, 2022 The Toe River Health District, which governs health departments in the North Carolina High Country counties of Avery, Mitchell and Yancey, has released its updated coronavirus (COVID-19) numbers for the week of January 17-24, 2022. And there’s good news to report as the number of persons infected with the potentially fatal virus in the three-county region dropped in two-Avery and Mitchell. During the time period, Avery County had 239 new positive cases compared to 242 the week (seven days) before. That’s three few cases during the past week. Avery County includes the townships and communities of Newland, Banner Elk, Elk Park, Beech Mountain, Linville, Invershield, Pineola, Crossnore, Ingalls, Pyatte, Hughes, Minneapolis, Roaring Creek, Spear, Plumtree and Cranberry. Mitchell County reported 210 new positive cases during the time period and 300 the week before-a whopping decrease of 90 fewer cases the past seven days. Mitchell County includes the townships and communities of Spruce Pine, Bakersville, Penland, Minpro, Estatoe, Ledger, Red Hill, Poplar, Pigeon Roost, Loafers Glory and Buladean. By Tim Gardner

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Ashe County Man Charged with Trafficking Fentanyl and Marijuana


January 25, 2022. Hunter Joel Radford, 22, of Crumpler was arrested and charged with three counts of trafficking opium or heroin and felony possession of marijuana, according to Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell. On Wednesday, January 19, Ashe County Deputies along with the North Carolina Highway Patrol initiated a stop on a vehicle in Glendale Springs. Officers identified Radford as one of the passengers and during the traffic stop, officers located 40 grams of Fentanyl. Detectives with the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office, North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Boone Police Department, Watauga County Sheriff’s Office, Alexander County Sheriff’s Office, Mooresville Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security were conducting an investigation on Radford.

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Free Tax Assistance for 2021 Filing Season Including Online Options

January 25, 2022 The (VITA) Volunteer for Income Tax Assistance program provides free income tax preparation and electronic filing for eligible low to moderate-income residents who had a gross income of $57,000 or less in 2021. The programs below operate in partnership with the Internal Revenue Service. The Watauga and Ashe County Public Library both receive financial support from their Friends groups. All locations receive support from the IRS. All volunteers are trained to be certified tax preparers through the IRS. Covid safety protocols will be in place. Residents are encouraged to file a tax return to claim the tax benefits they earned with the Earned Income Credit and the Child Tax Credit. Millions of workers could overlook and miss out on up to $6,728 extra in their federal income tax refunds through the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC and as much as $3,600 per qualifying child for the Child Tax Credit or CTC. ASU students and their parents may be eligible for education credits. The tax preparers will alert you as to whether you are eligible for any of these credits! 

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2022 Singing on the Mountain Ends Long-Time Tradition With Farewell Reunion Sunday, June 26

January 24, 2022 For nearly a century on the fourth Sunday of every June — with very few exceptions — MacRae Meadows of Grandfather Mountain in Linville has welcomed thousands of visitors to Singing on the Mountain. It is with great sadness that the event’s board of directors has announced that Sunday, June 26, will mark not only the 96th year of the Singing, but also the end of the gathering. Known as the longest-held event of its kind in the area, and possibly in the state and nation, Singing on the Mountain was founded by Joseph Larkin Hartley in 1924. Attracting such noted personalities as Billy Graham, Bob Hope, Johnny Cash and countless others through the years, the gathering was known far and wide, Hartley’s family shared, as “a great time of gospel singing, good food and fellowship . . . always held in a spirit of faith and community where all were welcomed.”  By Sherrie Norris

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Feeding Avery Families: Top 21 of 2021

January 24, 2022 While 2021 was certainly a challenging year for all, Feeding Avery Families had many successes to celebrate. This non-profit organization fights hunger in Avery County, North Carolina, by providing food at no charge to those who need a helping hand. Click here for the Feeding Avery Families’ top 21 accomplishments of 2021: 

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Waddell Wilson-NASCAR Legend with NC High Country Ties to be Honored on January 31


January 24, 2022. A North Carolina High Country legend who lived in two of its counties during his ‘growing up’ years is being honored by the county where he first lived. In 2020, the Mitchell County Board of Commissioners designated January 31 each year as “Waddell Wilson Day” in that county to honor Wilson, who was enshrined into the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) Hall of Fame on the same day in 2020. Wilson is a former resident of Crossnore School & Children’s Home in Avery County and a native of Bakersville (Mitchell County). He was a NASCAR engine builder and crew chief. By Tim Gardner

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MerleFest Announces Additions of Trampled By Turtles, Colin Hay, The Steel Wheels And Late Night Jam Hosts and Hogslop String Band to This Year’s Lineup

January 24, 2022 MerleFest, presented by Window World, is proud to announce the next round of artist additions for MerleFest 2022, which will be held April 28-May 1, 2022. Trampled By Turtles, Colin Hay, and The Steel Wheels will join an already outstanding lineup which includes performances by Emmylou Harris, Greensky Bluegrass, Rissi Palmer, Old Crow Medicine Show, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Steep Canyon Rangers, Allison Russell, We Banjo 3, and more. MerleFest is the annual homecoming of musicians and music fans held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Hogslop String Band will be hosting this year’s late night jam. Jam guest artists will be announced in the coming weeks. Additional fan favorites announced today include Barbaro, Big Daddy Love, The Contenders, Damn Tall Buildings, David Childers and The Serpents, Desure, Eli Yacinthe, Jake Blount, Kaia Kater, Nat Myers, Shannon McNally, Shay Martin Lovette, Sister Sadie, Tenille Townes, Time Sawyer, and Tray Wellington.

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COVID-19 Update: Two Additional Covid Clusters Reported in Watauga County and Over 600 Active Cases Reported in the Last Five Days

January 24, 2022 Over the last five days, AppHealthCare has reported 639 new COVID-19 cases in Watauga County as well as three new clusters, bringing the total to four active clusters or outbreaks within the county. According to the latest data provided by AppHealthCare, there have been 1,032 new cases within the last five days in the three-county region of Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties. In addition to the 639 cases in Watauga, there were 301 new cases in Ashe County and 92 new cases in Alleghany County. In last week’s update from AppHealthCare, there were COVID-19 clusters or outbreaks reported at the Hospitality House, the Foley Center and Glenbridge Health and Rehabilitation. This week there were two additional clusters reported, one within the women’s basketball program at Appalachian State and the other within the wrestling program at Appalachian State. There were 11 cases reported among App State wrestlers and six cases reported among women’s basketball players. Currently, there are two active cases at Glenbridge, bringing the total there to six cases. There are no active cases at the Hospitality House, leaving their current total at 13 cases.   By Nathan Ham

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Danny Phillips Nominated to Serve as Avery County’s Interim Sheriff

January 24, 2022 Former Avery County Deputy and Chief Detective Danny Phillips has been nominated and approved by a vote to serve as the county’s new Interim Sheriff by the Avery County GOP (Republican) Executive Committee, along with GOP representatives of the 19 county precincts. The need for an Interim Sheriff became necessary when long-time Sheriff Kevin Frye announced his resignation from the post, effective January 31, 2022.   By Tim Gardner

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High Country Weekly Weather Forecast: Cold Temperatures Remain With a Slight Chance of Snowfall Expected This Week

January 24, 2022 The High Country will get a break from wintry precipitation for most of this week as it appears temperatures will remain cold but it will be dry until a chance of snow showers on Friday. According to the weather forecast for Boone from Ray’s Weather Center, the week begins with a mix of sun and clouds today with a high temperature of 42 and an overnight low of 29 degrees. Tuesday looks like the warmest day of the week with a high predicted to reach 45 degrees. There is a slow chance of some snow flurries overnight as the temperature sharply drops into the teens. Wednesday looks like the coldest day of the week as it will be sunny but the high will be just 33 degrees and the low is expected to drop down to 14 degrees. It warms up just a bit on Thursday with a high of 38 degrees and a low of 25 degrees. A chance of snow showers returns to the forecast on Friday with highs in the mid-30s and lows in the teens. By Nathan Ham

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2021 Winner of Prestigious Patricia Dobler Poetry Award Announced

January 21, 2022 Elizabeth Wilson, a poet from Sugar Grove, NC, has been named the winner of the 2021 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award, an accolade sponsored by Carlow University’s storied and esteemed Madwomen in the Attic program. Named for the late poet and Carlow professor Patricia Dobler, former director of the Women’s Center for Creative Writing and the Madwomen in the Attic workshops, this annual contest is open to women writers over 40 who have not published a full-length book of poetry, fiction or nonfiction. In total, 426 entries vied for this year’s top prize.

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