High Country Press

Published Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm
  • COVID-19 Testing Update: AppHealthCare Conducts 137 Tests in Watauga County on Friday

    May 29, 2020 On Friday, May 29, AppHealthCare’s latest COVID-19 testing update revealed that 137 individuals were tested for the virus. That is the largest single-day total so far since testing began in the High Country. Currently, there are 16 active cases in Ashe County, six active cases in Watauga County and four active cases in Alleghany County. Ashe has had a total of 34 positive tests while Watauga has had 15 and Alleghany has had 14. The highest number of people being actively monitored for COVID-19 is currently in Watauga County with 18 individuals. Ashe has 12 individuals being actively monitored and Alleghany has four. As of today, there are four people being hospitalized that have tested positive for the virus in Ashe, Watauga and Alleghany counties.   / Read more…



  • NC Treasurer Dale Folwell Discusses COVID-19 Economic Recovery and Personal Experience with the Illness


    May 29, 2020 Dale Folwell has learned a lot about how the COVID-19 coronavirus affects the health and economy of people in North Carolina through his own personal experience. Folwell tested positive for COVID-19 on March 23 and was hospitalized in Winston-Salem. At first, he said he was one of those asymptomatic folks with no headache, no fever, but suddenly, he was in a battle for his life. A trip to the doctor showed dropping oxygen levels after he developed a cough. Folwell went to the emergency room at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center where he was admitted for five days before becoming well enough to return home. It was a serious ordeal for the North Carolina Treasurer. “It made me realize how serious this is. As you are going through it, you quickly realize the difference between being religious and being spiritual,” said Folwell as he credited his recovery to a lot of prayer and just focusing on breathing to stay alive. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Avery County High School Holds Drive-Thru Graduation Ceremony at MacRae Meadows


    May 29, 2020 Avery County High School held a drive-thru graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 off campus on May 29, which began at 11 a.m. at MacRae Meadows near Grandfather Mountain. This setting is a first for the school’s history of 51 years due to the safety measures and North Carolina’s social distancing guidelines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are 112 graduating seniors of Avery County High School, and each student was allowed to bring two normal passenger vehicles of guests including friends and family.. By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • Watauga County Schools Meal Program Hopes to Continue Through July


    May 29, 2020 Through the dedicated hard work of school faculty, cafeteria workers, and volunteers, the meal program put together by Watauga County Schools has been able to have an extremely positive impact on families across the county. According to Garrett Price, the director of communications for Watauga County Schools, the school system hopes to continue the program through the end of July. “We plan to move to a Monday through Thursday meal program starting June 1 at all of our current sites,” said Price. “Starting June 15, we will reduce kitchen operations and curbside service to five sites but we will continue all bus deliveries. These changes are intended to ensure that we have the staff to continue this hard work through the summer. We will make sure that any child who needs food still has access to it.” Since schools were first closed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, Watauga’s meal program has served over 186,000 meals, which averages out to about 4,500 meals a day at the seven different meal distribution sites operated across the county. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Dr. Bill Tate Retirement Celebration Planned for May 31st is Cancelled Following His Death on May 28th After a Long Illness


    May 29, 2020 The Retirement Celebration for Dr. Bill Tate scheduled for Sunday, May 31, is canceled at this time. It is with a heavy heart that we acknowledge that Dr. Tate passed away yesterday following a long illness. “Dr. Tate was a third-generation physician serving Avery county. Even as his body failed him, he continued to find fulfillment in serving others by providing medical care to the community and asking nothing in return. I’ll always remember Dr. Tate for his quick wit, love for life and his family,” remembers Chuck Mantooth, President and CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System / Read more…



  • Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster Up and Running in Banner Elk


    May 29, 2020 High Country visitors and residents have another way to experience the Blue Ridge Mountains with the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster. Located at 3265 Tynecastle Highway near the Sugar Mountain Resort in Banner Elk, the coaster opened May 9 under Gov. Roy Cooper’s phase one reopening. The anticipated opening of the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster was originally scheduled for early January, but was pushed back. By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • Masterclasses for the High Country: WAMY Begins Fundraiser Workshops on June 9th


    May 29, 2020 Chances are that by now you have seen an advertisement for Masterclass, or have heard someone else talk about it. WAMY Community Action, a local non-profit committed to helping break the cycle of poverty in Watauga, Avery, Mitchell, and Yancey Counties, is bringing masterclasses to the High Country with the help of local masters through their WAMY Workshop Plus series. The WAMY Workshop Series consists of four core classes beginning the second Tuesday of June at 7 pm every week throughout the month, with a bonus kick-off workshop on the first Tuesday of June.  / Read more…



  • Beech Mountain Resort Offering Free Scenic Lift Rides for Watauga and Avery Residents During the Month of June


    May 28, 2020 Beech Mountain Resort opens for the summer season on Friday, June 5. Popular round-trip scenic lift rides to Beech Mountain Resort’s mountaintop will be available for all guests for $12 per person. As a special thanks to locals, Watauga and Avery County residents can enjoy free scenic lift rides for the month of June. / Read more…



  • N.C. Senate Passes Bill to Allow Safe Outdoor Seating for Bars/Restaurants by 42-5 Margin

    May 28, 2020 The North Carolina Senate today passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Rick Gunn (R-Alamance) to allow restaurants and bars to expand outdoor seating equal to 50 percent of total occupancy. The measure passed by a 42-5 margin. Gov. Roy Cooper has not said whether he supports or opposes the measure, which would amend current policy from his executive orders. Right now, Gov. Cooper permits restaurants to operate indoors or outdoors at 50 percent capacity, but prohibits bars from operating under the same rules. Sen. Gunn’s bill would treat bars and restaurants the same, and allow them to operate outdoors at 50 percent of total capacity.  / Read more…



  • Locally Shot Movie ‘The Mountain Minor’ to Premiere on National Television on June 6th


    May 28, 2020 Almost three years after filming began in Ashe County, North Carolina, the award-winning movie “The Mountain Minor” will make its national television debut on The Heartland Network on Saturday, June 6, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. The film will also stream that night at 8:00 p.m. on Heartland’s free Roku channel and www.watchheartlandtv.com. Loosely based on the true story of writer-director Dale Farmer’s ancestors, “The Mountain Minor” follows five generations of an Appalachian family as they migrate from Eastern Kentucky to Ohio, dramatizing the spread of mountain music throughout the United States. Much of the filming was done at the Willett Ponds Pioneer Homestead in Todd. “This film is about people leaving their homes and bringing their music and culture with them,” said Farmer, who lives in Southern Ohio. “They deserve so much credit for the music that eventually became country and bluegrass.” / Read more…



  • Watauga County to Distribute Portion of CARES Act Money to Local Municipalities

    May 27, 2020 Four towns within Watauga County as well as Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, AppHealthCare, and Watauga County Schools will all receive a portion of the $1,164,018 that the county received in relief funds as part of the CARES Act. The county has recommended that the bulk of the money go to AppHealthCare with $639,018 earmarked for them. ARHS is next on the list with $200,000 being recommended to go to them while the school system has a recommended total of $125,000 going towards education in the county. Watauga County is expected to keep $100,000 and distribute the remaining funds to the towns of Boone ($38,382), Blowing Rock ($21,153), Beech Mountain ($20,290) and Seven Devils ($20,175). Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie Sellers was hoping to see the town governments get more money than they are currently expected to receive.  By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • COVID-19 Testing Numbers Today for Alleghany, Ashe and Watauga Counties; 23 in Watauga Today

    May 27, 2020 Below are testing numbers for Wednesday, May 27, 2020. The number of COVID-19 tests collected today by AppHealthCare for Watauga County is 23.  / Read more…



  • AppHealthCare Has Confirmed Three New Cases of COVID-19 Among Subcontractors Working on App State Campus

    May 27, 2020 AppHealthCare has confirmed three cases of COVID-19 among subcontractors working on Appalachian State University’s campus. Two individuals are Watauga County residents whose last days on campus were May 16 and May 22, respectively. The other individual, whose last day on campus was May 20, is not a resident of Watauga County.  / Read more…



  • Weekly Crime Reports: Activity and Arrests in Boone and Watauga County, May 18 – May 25

    May 27, 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



  • Boone Town Council Changes Course and Votes Against Amendment Banning Visitors from Indoor Establishments

    May 27, 2020 Tuesday’s special meeting of the Boone Town Council resulted in the decision to strike the emergency provision that would have prevented visitors and seasonal homeowners from entering indoor establishments in Boone without first quarantining for 14 days. The state of emergency amendments initially passed by a 3-1 vote last Thursday night after nearly five hours of discussion and public comment. On Friday, attorney Nathan Miller filed a restraining order on behalf of Anne-Marie Yates, Mountain Resort Management LLC, Hospitality Group of Hickory, and Smokey Mountain Hospitality LLC. Superior Court Judge Gregory Horne issued a temporary restraining order on Friday against the town’s emergency declaration. This led to an emergency town council meeting happening on Saturday morning and a special meeting was called on Tuesday to tackle the topic once again. This time around, the vote was 4-1 in favor of removing the quarantine requirement from the state of emergency declaration.  By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Rhubarb: A Spring Tradition


    May 27, 2020. The bright red stalks of rhubarb serve as a messenger of spring as much as the first crocus. From a culinary point of view, many enjoy this stout, coarse perennial with large leaves and small clusters of flowers and look forward to its arrival each year. We read that as early as 1778, rhubarb made its way to America, migrating from older and colder countries by way of Italy. Early pioneers learned that while the stalk is versatile, the leaves are poisonous. It is best to select crisp, plump, medium-size stalks which are fresh looking. Wrap a damp paper towel and place in an airtight container, store in refrigerator where it will stay fresh up to two weeks. Rhubarb grows so abundantly that if you have your own, you may be forced to drop a bunch on your neighbor’s porch, almost like you do zucchini later in the season! But, there are ways to keep it for winter’s enjoyment, so don’t think you have to get rid of it all at once. You can freeze rhubarb, whole or sliced, by packing in a moisture-proof, freezer-proof container or bag, leaving about ½-inch headspace. Then, even in the middle of winter, you can enjoy its springtime taste in cakes, pies, muffins, etc. In all recipes, frozen rhubarb can be substituted for the fresh; just be sure to drain on a paper towel before using. By Sherrie Norris / Read more…



  • ARHS Expands COVID-19 Screening Options in Watauga and Avery Counties

    May 27, 2020 Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) is an official testing site for COVID-19, and has expanded the options by which patients can get a referral for testing. Most people who get COVID-19 recover without needing medical care, but it is still important to test for the virus in order to protect friends, family and community members whose immune systems are at risk.  / Read more…



  • Poverty, Hunger, Loss of Health Coverage are Growing Threats for Children in Watauga County

    May 27, 2020 Fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic means that many more families are struggling with basic needs. Today, NC Child releases its annual County Data Cards, highlighting key indicators of child well-being that elected officials should track, and respond to, in their communities. In Watauga County, 42% of children lived in families struggling with poverty before the pandemic struck. / Read more…



  • App State Athletics Announces Program Changes; Discontinuing the Varsity Sports of Men’s Soccer, Men’s Tennis and Men’s Indoor Track & Field

    May 27, 2020 In response to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and in an effort to position App State Athletics for future success, Director of Athletics Doug Gillin announced Tuesday that the department is reducing its operating budget and discontinuing the varsity sports of men’s soccer, men’s tennis and men’s indoor track & field. Effective immediately, the three sports are being discontinued following a detailed review of the university’s sport offerings and the long-term budget implications of supporting the current number of student-athletes. The decision was supported Tuesday by Chancellor Sheri Everts and the Appalachian State University Board of Trustees. / Read more…



  • Chetola Resort Reopens to Guests and Locals


    May 27, 2020 Chetola Resort reopened to locals and guests May 22 after a two-month closure. The 78-acre resort, named after the Cherokee word for “haven of rest,” has long been known for its open spaces, fresh mountain air and endless activities. Enhanced safety measures are in place. Chetola is participating in the Count On Me NC public health initiative for restaurant and lodging businesses, and recently received the 2020 AAA Inspector’s Best of Housekeeping Award. / Read more…



  • AAA: Memorial Day Gas Prices Lowest in 16 Years

    May 27, 2020 For another week the Southeast region remains home to the cheapest state gas price averages as the Carolinas see the lowest Memorial Day pump prices in 16 years. Gas prices have been declining since February due to the decrease in gasoline demand brought on by stay-at-home orders as a result of COVID-19. Since that time, the state average declined a total of 66 cents per gallon for North Carolina and a total of 65 cents for South Carolina. Now, as more Carolinians take to the roads again, pump prices are beginning to bounce back.. / Read more…



  • Toe River Health District Updates COVID-19 Figures for Avery, Mitchell and Yancey Counties

    May 27, 2020 The Toe River Health District (TRHD) released updated Coronavirus (COVID-1) numbers for Tuesday, May 26, for the three North Carolina High Country counties that operate under its regional governing umbrella–Avery, Mitchell and Yancey. By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Watauga, Avery Obituaries – May 26, 2020

    May 19, 2020. The following are recent obituary notices from Austin and Barnes and Hampton funeral homes in Boone and Reins-Sturdivant in Newland. / Read more…



  • AppHealthCare Reports First Death Related to COVID-19 in Ashe County on May 25th

    May 26, 2020 AppHealthCare is reporting the first COVID-19 associated death in Ashe County. The individual died on May 25th from complications associated with the virus. The patient was in their 70s and had underlying medical conditions. To protect the family’s privacy, no further information will be released about this individual. “We extend our deepest condolences, prayers, and sympathies to the family during this difficult time. Each life in our community is so valuable and we share in sadness about this loss,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare. / Read more…



  • The 33rd Annual Symphony by the Lake at Chetola Has Been Postponed to August 22nd


    May 26, 2020 The 33rd Annual Symphony by the Lake at Chetola has been postponed to August 22nd The Symphony by the Lake at Chetola has been postponed from the traditional fourth Friday in July to Saturday, August 22nd, 2020. This year’s program will feature musical selections from previous Symphony by the Lake performances and will be comprised of the “best of the best.” Charles Hardin, President / CEO of the Blowing Rock Chamber says, “After careful consideration of all the factors, we feel that the Symphony would be a great path forward for the community as so many consider this event to be the social centerpiece of Blowing Rock’s summer. While some more vulnerable residents and visitors will not be in attendance, we feel that there will be many who will participate in a socially distanced manner.” / Read more…



  • Brian Bettis From Bethel School Named Watauga County Schools 2020-21 Principal of the Year


    May 26, 2020 Bethel Principal Brian Bettis was named Watauga County Schools Principal of the Year. He is pictured with Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott. Bethel School Principal Brian Bettis has been named Watauga County Schools 2020-21 Principal of the Year. Bettis was presented the award by a delegation of family, peers and Watauga County Schools leadership in a surprise presentation held May 22 at his school. Bettis, who has served as the principal of Bethel School for three years, said he was honored to have been selected by his fellow WCS Principals as principal of the year. / Read more…



  • Busch Drives App State-Branded Car To NASCAR Win at Charlotte Motor Speedway Monday Night


    May 26, 2020 The specially branded NASCAR Xfinity Series car driven by Kyle Busch produced a familiar finishing position for App State: first place. The Black and Gold No. 54 car featuring App State logos as well as a congratulatory message for App State’s graduating seniors in the Class of 2020 made a dramatic last-lap pass and crossed the finish line first Monday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, giving Busch a win in the Alsco 300. Holding the checkered flag during his on-track interview with FS1, Busch delivered another message to App State’s recent graduates and even referenced the historic upset of Michigan from 2007. / Read more…



  • Haircut 101 Reopens on Friday With Their First Customer Also Being The Last Customer They Had From Almost Two Months Ago


    May 25, 2020 It was nearly two months to the day from when Haircut 101 had to close at 5 p.m. on March 25 to last Friday, May 22 at 5 p.m. when John Mena, owner of Haircut 101, reopened the salon with a familiar face in his chair. Leslie Kramer was John’s final customer two months ago and his first customer on Friday as salons, barbershops, and other personal care facilities were allowed to reopen under Phase 2 of Governor Roy Cooper’s plan to restart the North Carolina economy. “After two months my hair looks like a cat has been messing with it. I’m super happy to be back here,” she laughed. “Women did what they could from the store shelf, but now we are super happy to be able to go back to our salons.” Mena was just as happy to be back in the comforts of Haircut 101 and see some familiar faces but is still a little nervous about what the future may hold. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Appalachian State Plans to Start Fall Semester on August 17 and End Classes Before Thanksgiving Break


    May 25, 2020 In an update from Appalachian State University Chancellor Sheri Everts, the school has put together a plan that will bring students back to campus for the fall semester and have the final day of classes before Thanksgiving. The first day of school is scheduled for August 17, but the biggest change to the calendar will be eliminating the two-day Fall Break in order to complete classes by November 24. All final exams will be held online and the final exam period remains unchanged, according to Everts. “This plan will allow for the greatest number of our students to remain home for an extended period of time before the spring semester begins in January,” Everts said. “I would like to extend my thanks to the faculty, staff, and students who make up the Academic Calendar Committee for the work they did to recommend this change. As of now, Everts said that the current plans are to hold an in-person graduation ceremony at December Commencement. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Memorial Day Event Held at Downtown Boone Veterans Memorial on Monday By the Military Officers Association of America


    May 25, 2020 A small group of folks gathered at the Veterans Memorial in downtown Boone as the Military Officers Association of America’s High Country chapter placed a wreath at the memorial to honor the brave heroes who have sacrificed everything fighting for this country. The event was not publicized due to social distancing concerns with any crowd that might have shown up. The annual Memorial Day service at Boone Mall had to be canceled due to concerns of COVID-19, but that did not keep fellow service members from honoring fallen soldiers. “We are sorry that we could not do our traditional Memorial Day event out of respect for the health and safety of our community, but the town was very gracious to allow us to have this very informal ceremony today because we felt it was extremely important to honor our fallen heroes,” said Captain (Ret.) Fred Schmidt, United States Coast Guard. “On behalf of a grateful nation and representing veterans, and military organizations in the area as well as the greater High Country community, we present this wreath to honor our fallen heroes and families.” By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Watauga County Superior Court Planning to Resume In-Person Court Sessions on June 1

    May 25, 2020 Some in-person court proceedings will resume on Monday, June 1 as Watauga County Superior Court will be back in session. While no jury trials for criminal or civil court cases will be held in June or July, starting some in-person court sessions is a small step back to normalcy for the court system. In-person proceedings in criminal cases will be limited to pleas, probation violations, and hearings. For civil cases, court motions and bench trials are the only in-person sessions that will be resuming. For those who have an upcoming court date, Watauga County Clerk of Court Diane Cornett Deal says that the most important thing for anyone to do first is to reach out to their attorney and find out the exact time to be at the courthouse. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Boone Town Council Holds Emergency Meeting on Saturday; Special Meeting is Scheduled for this Tuesday

    May 25, 2020 After Superior Court Judge Gregory Horne issued a temporary restraining order on Friday against the town of Boone’s emergency declaration barring out-of-county visitors from entering public establishments without a 14-day quarantine inside the county, the Boone Town Council held an emergency meeting on Saturday morning. The 11 a.m. meeting was mostly held in closed session with town attorney Allison Meade to consult with her on the next steps to be taken. The restraining order, filed Friday afternoon by Anne-Marie Yates, Mountain Resort Management LLC, Hospitality Group of Hickory, and Smokey Mountain Hospitality LLC, will also be the topic of discussion in a special meeting of the Boone Town Council set for 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning, May 26. The public is invited to comment during the remote meeting through WebEx or by phone. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • The Town of Boone Has Announced a Notice of Emergency Meeting on Saturday at 11:00 am

    May 23, 2020 An email was sent out Friday night at 9:24 by Nicole Harmon, the Town Clerk for the Town of Boone announcing that an Emergency Meeting of the Boone Town will be held electronically on Saturday, May 23 at 11:00 am. The email states that the purpose of the meeting is to hold a closed session for the following reason:  / Read more…



  • A Temporary Restraining Order Against Boone’s 14 Day Self Quarantine Section Has Been Granted by Judge Gregory Horne

    May 22, 2020 Boone attorney Nathan Miller filed a complaint on behalf of Anne-Marie Yates for a restraining order against the Boone Town’s Council approval of new restrictions that ban visitors arriving in Boone from entering public establishments (other than medical facilities) unless they have quarantined in Boone for 14 consecutive days. In a 3-1 vote on Thursday evening the Boone Town Council took county and state reopening restrictions a few steps further. The new restrictions were to remain in effect until at least June 16 and are aimed at visitors and tourists making day-trips to Boone as well as seasonable residents arriving at their mountain homes for the summer.  / Read more…



  • Pepper’s Restaurant Looks to Open Dining Room Under New Guidelines Soon


    May 20, 2020 At 5 p.m. on Friday, restaurants in North Carolina are officially able to re-open their dining rooms to the public at a 50 percent capacity. While some restaurants are ready to open the doors and greet their customers, others are being more cautious and waiting to see how things go. “We had been talking for a while that we were going to let the restaurants that wanted to open right away and let them ‘guinea pig’ the situation to see how it goes. If anything was to come up, we could learn from them instead of having any issues tied back to us,” said Josh Pepper, the manager of Pepper’s Restaurant in Boone. Pepper’s just celebrated 45 years of business last week, and while being able to only do take-out and delivery may not be what they expected to be doing celebrating this special occasion, they have been able to stay above water and keep feeding their favorite customers. “The past two months have been a total 180 from what we’re used to. Everyone has pretty much grasped the concept really well,” Pepper said. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



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