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This Year’s White House Christmas Tree is Coming from Peak Farms in Ashe County


October 21, 2021. For the third time, Ashe County tree farmers Rusty and Beau Estes will be providing the Christmas Tree that will be displayed in The Blue Room of the White House this year. The 18.5-foot-tall Fraser fir tree was chosen by White House Grounds Superintendent Dale Haney on Wednesday morning at Peak Farms, owned by the Estes family. Rusty and his son Beau provided the Christmas tree for President George W. Bush in 2008 and President Barack Obama in 2012. Peak Farms also supplied the tree for Vice President Mike Pence in 2018. This is the 56th year that the National Christmas Tree Association has presented the official White House Christmas tree. Each year, growers enter a contest where growers, experts and consumers vote on who will provide the official tree. Rusty and Beau advanced through the competition by competing among other North Carolina Christmas tree growers. In August, they competed in the national contest with growers from all across the country and they were chosen as Grand Champion.    By Nathan Ham

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High Country Breast Cancer Foundation Celebrates 5 Years of Service, Prepares for Virtual 5K Event on October 30

October 21, 2021. The High Country Breast Cancer Foundation (HCBCF) was founded in April of 2017 with a unique mission and promise to the community — 100% of the funds they raise go to providing for the needs of breast cancer patients, survivors and their families in the North Carolina High Country. All the members of their organization are volunteers, and this year, they are celebrating their five year anniversary. “We couldn’t have done what we’ve done without the community support,” said Irene Sawyer, who is the founder of HCBCF. “Just from day one, everybody in the High Country has just embraced the Foundation. They’ve contributed; they’ve supported us; they’ve shown up for us, which is really awesome. We have raised so much money that we have helped so many people in so many different ways that it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.” By Harley Nefe

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Former Boone Golfer Proving Why She’s One of the Top High School Golfers in the Country


October 21, 2021. Macy Pate is no stranger to the High Country. The former Boone resident was once a participant in the national Drive, Chip and Putt competition at the age of 10. Founded in 2013 through the Master’s Tournament, United States Golf Association and The PGA of America, the Drive, Chip and Putt competition is a nationwide junior golf development event aimed at growing the game by focusing on the three fundamental skills of golf. Now at Reagan High School in Pfafftown, which is roughly nine miles from Winston-Salem, Pate is still finding plenty of success on the course. Recently, the sophomore fired a 57 at the Central Piedmont 4A Conference Championship at Bermuda Run Country Club to lead Reagan High School to a 13th straight conference championship. Her 14-under score of 57 also broke a North Carolina High School Athletic Association record for women’s golf. The previous record was a 61, held by Gina Kim (2016, Chapel Hill High School) and Jennifer Chang (2017, Athens Drive High School).   By Nathan Ham

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Grandfather Mountain Fall Color Update Oct. 21

October 21, 2021. Grandfather Mountain spans the horizon with accompanying fall color, as seen from nearby Beacon Heights (milepost 305.2) on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Meanwhile, fall color works its way down Lost Cove Cliffs, as seen from the eponymous parkway overlook (milepost 310). Experts anticipate color to continue developing at lower elevations this week. “By (this) weekend, there should be excellent color along the Parkway in most places,” said Dr. Howie Neufeld, professor of biology at Appalachian State University and the WNC High Country’s official Fall Color Guy. “However, even if higher elevation sites are past peak, lower elevation sites will be coming into their best color over the next two weeks.” And lofty locations like Grandfather Mountain offer spectators a perfect point from which to see them! For more fall color photos, visit www.grandfather.com/fallcolor. Photos by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

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Appalachian State Upsets 14th Ranked Coastal Carolina on Last-Second Field Goal, 30-27

October 21, 2021. Chandler Staton kicked a 24-yard field goal as time expired to give Appalachian State a 30-27 upset victory over its Sun Belt Conference rival and 14th ranked Coastal Carolina Wednesday night. The game was played before 31,061 at Kidd Brewer Stadium and a ESPN 2 national television audience. It marked Appalachian State’s second win against a ranked team in program history. The first came in one of the most famous upsets in college football history when Appalachian State — then a second-tier Football Championship Subdivision team — beat Michigan 34-32 in 2007 after blocking a game-winning field goal attempt.  By Tim Gardner

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Watauga Arts Council Partners with Watauga County Farmers’ Market to Host Annual Community Pumpkin Carving Contest


October 20, 2021. The Watauga Arts Council is partnering with the Watauga County Farmers’ Market to host their annual Community Pumpkin Carving Contest! They invite creators of all ages and abilities to try their hand at carving or decorating a locally grown pumpkin. The Watauga County Farmers’ Market is providing pumpkins from local farms to all contest participants. So, come to the Watauga County Farmers’ Market, located at 591 Horn in the West Dr. in Boone, to pick up your free pumpkin and register for the pumpkin carving contest. You do not have to use a Farmers’ Market pumpkin to enter, but it is encouraged! Representatives from Watauga Arts Council will be at the Farmers’ Market handing out pumpkins on October 23, from 9 a.m. until noon. Board member, Leila Jackson, will demonstrate her pumpkin carving skills and offer tips to registrants. Paints and paint pens will be available for any kids (or adults) who want to decorate and submit their pumpkin at the Farmers’ Market that day.

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Mother and Son Killed in Head-On Collision in Ashe County on Monday Evening

October 20, 2021. On Monday, October 18, at approximately 7:15 p.m., the NC State Highway Patrol responded to and investigated a fatal collision in Ashe County on US 221 near Shatley Road in Jefferson.  A 2005 Honda CRV was traveling south on US 221, drove left of center, and collided head-on with a northbound 1988 Ford Mustang.  The initial investigation indicates the driver of the Ford swerved to the left in an attempt to avoid the Honda. The driver of the Honda, William Calhoun, 65, of Laurel Springs, was seriously injured and transported to the hospital by medical helicopter. The driver of the Ford, Hunter Luther, 23, of Jefferson, was not injured.  The front seat passenger, Harley Marie Taylor, 22, of Jefferson, succumbed to her injuries at the scene.  The rear seat passenger, Bentley Taylor, 3, was transported to Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem with critical injuries but died early Tuesday morning.  Bentley was the child of Harley Taylor, and he was properly restrained in a car seat. Neither Luther nor Taylor were restrained by a seatbelt.

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Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Halloween Already? It’s Knocking on the Door


October 20, 2021. It was just summer, then fall. And now, we’re just a few days from Halloween. And it’s all coming so fast we hardly have time to transition. But, of course, in the big box stores, Christmas promotions began several weeks ago. Let’s slow down, please. We’re under enough stress without having to bow down to these unnecessary pressures. One day at a time. One holiday at a time. Take a deep breath and enjoy each one as it comes. Let’s not give in to the media hype that there won’t be enough candy to hand out for the trick-or-treaters. Or worse yet, that turkeys will be in short supply come Thanksgiving. Or that Christmas gifts are on dozens of stranded crates off the west coast, and store shelves will be sparse as the season approaches. Guess what? We can celebrate anyway — and maybe even better than ever before. We might just get back to the basics and remember what it’s all about, at least for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Imagine that! But, for now, let’s scare up a few goodies for Halloween, a day in itself that can be fun for the kids without turning it into something evil and sinister. We all know that history associates it with the dark side, and some of the rhetoric may be true, but let’s try a little harder to find the good in every situation and learn to relax and enjoy the moment.  By Sherrie Norris

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Neighborhood Yoga Celebrates its “Sweet Sixteen” with a Free Weekend of Classes October 22 and a Membership Drive

October 20, 2021. Neighborhood Yoga, a local woman-owned business, is celebrating its “Sweet 16” anniversary the weekend of October 22. In that time, they have offered over 20,000 yoga classes to the community and trained over 200 teachers. Their mantra is “Come Exactly As You Are, Awaken To Your Essence.” husband, Ed, designed and built the 600 square foot studio themselves. For 10 years, Neighborhood Yoga held classes in this space, slowly growing their base of yoga practitioners.

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Watauga County Arts Council Art Instrumental Auction Underway; Ends on October 29th


October 20, 2021. The Watauga County Arts Council (WAC) invites one and all to participate in their first Public Arts Silent Auction fundraiser, happening now. The silent auction features retired instruments that have been refurbished into new works of art by local artists. “Art Instrumental Scavenger Hunt” is a collaborative project organized by Amber Bateman, the Director of WAC, Mark Freed director of the Jones House Cultural and Community Center, and Lane Moody coordinator for the Downtown Boone Development Association (DBDA). The group came up with this idea to activate community engagement with local artists while also providing a fun summer activity for residents and visitors. In addition, this project offered the Jones House a chance to honorably offload retired instruments while still celebrating Boone’s rich history with music.

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Grandfather Mountain Fall Color Update Oct. 19

October 19, 2021. Grandfather Mountain’s color-dappled peaks rise beyond MacRae Meadows, site of the annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. Although fall color is peaking at the area’s higher elevations, many trees in lower elevations have yet to turn, making Grandfather Mountain the ideal location from which to watch the season unfold. For more fall color photos, visit www.grandfather.com/fallcolor. Photos by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

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Appalachian State Hosting Coastal Carolina in Wednesday Night Showdown at The Rock

October 19, 2021. Appalachian State still has a shot at winning the Sun Belt Conference Championship even after last week’s dismantling at the hands of Louisiana. The Mountaineers (4-2, 1-1 SBC) will host #14 Coastal Carolina (6-0, 2-0 SBC) in a game that could determine who wins the Sun Belt East Division. App State will look to bounce from last Tuesday’s 41-13 loss to the Ragin’ Cajuns. The Mountaineer offense struggled throughout the night. Quarterback Chase Brice completed just 15 passes in 26 attempts for 133 yards and two interceptions. App State averaged just 2.7 yards per carry and finished with only 78 rushing yards as a team. Nate Noel had 44 yards on 17 carries. Camerun Peoples did not play as he continues to recover from an injury. Coastal Carolina, currently ranked 14th in the country, has won all but one of its games this season by at least four touchdowns. The only close game they played was a non-conference game at Buffalo where the Chanticleers escaped with a 28-25 win. Coastal Carolina has scored at least 50 points in four of the team’s six games.  By Nathan Ham

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Blowing Rock Civic Association Creates Video Interviewing Candidates for the Blowing Rock Town Council

October 19, 2021. The Blowing Rock Civic Association put together a video with three of the four Blowing Rock Town Council candidates seeking to be elected on November 2. Pete Gherini, Doug Matheson and Melissa Pickett took part in the interview. Candidate Nancy Collins did not participate due to a prior commitment. “We felt unsure about whether to have our traditional in-person forum because of the uncertainty around COVID,” said Tim Gupton, President of the Blowing Rock Civic Association. “It struck us that this would be a really effective way to do a better, in-depth job of asking specific questions and getting the candidates on the record. We think that helped because the questions were important to us as a homeowner group. I think we got some good responses.” Gupton said that the questions were sent to the candidates in advance so that they could better prepare their thoughts. He added that the video interview format may be what they move to going forward with future candidate forums.  By Nathan Ham

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Watauga County Schools Nets High Marks in State Bus Safety Inspections

October 19, 2021. Watauga County Schools has received a high rating on the annual North Carolina bus safety inspections conducted by the Department of Public Instruction. Each year, officials from the state visit every school district in North Carolina to assess the condition and upkeep of their buses. The inspections are scored on a demerit system in which a lower score indicates a better performance. Last year, the state average inspection score was 32 — Watauga County Schools scored 21.75 on this year’s test. The annual inspection tests school districts on several criteria regarding the upkeep and maintenance of its bus fleet. Transportation Departments are judged on the overall condition of the fleet, their quality of their monthly in-house inspections, their paper and electronic records, parts inventory, and office procedures. Watauga County Schools Maintenance Director Jeff Lyons said the positive inspection report was the direct result of the dedication and skill of his team of mechanics.

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Sweet Treats: Cupcrazed Cakery Opens Second Location in Boone, Offers Variety of Desserts

October 19, 2021. Another sweet spot has landed in Boone that offers sugary goodies of all types to those around. Cupcrazed Cakery, which is owned by Wendy Shanahan, is an unique bakery that has been featured on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars and Rewrapped and has won both TV show competitions. With the original bakery located in Ft. Mill, South Carolina, now the award-winning baked goods are available through a second location located on Blowing Rock Road under The Standard at Boone.“We were looking to expand,” Shanahan said. “I’ve had a house in the area for five years, and I have always loved Boone. It’s a place a lot of people come to. We thought this would be a perfect spot to be able to make a place that could be part of the community where people can come to celebrate, come when they’re sad, treat themselves, treat their kids, have a place for parties and classes, have a place where you can meet up with friends or sit and study or have a business meeting — to be able to have a space that you can have events.” By Harley Nefe

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Skyline/Skybest Donation Jumpstarts WCS Middle School Golf Team

October 19, 2021. A donation from Skyline/Skybest has been used to jumpstart the inaugural season of play for Watauga County Schools’ new middle school golf team. Made up of 32 golfers from seven different schools, the team is set to finish its season next week after completing six matches. Skyline/Skybest donated $3,707 that was used to purchase each golfer on the team a shirt and hat as well as golf balls, tees and other equipment. The WCS team has hosted two matches this year at Sugar Mountain and Lenoir Golf, the team was able to provide meals at those matches thanks to the funding. The WCS team has hosted two matches this year at Sugar Mountain and Lenoir Golf, the team was able to provide meals at those matches thanks to the funding. Edward Hinson, Chief Marketing and Sales Officer for Skyline/Skybest, said supporting local schools was an important part of the co-op’s work in their community. “An essential component of our cooperative is to help support and meet the needs throughout the communities we serve,” Hinson said. “On behalf of SkyLine, our board of directors, our executive team and our entire membership it is our honor to support your athletic endeavors. We applaud the efforts of Watauga County Schools including the student engagement and education on and off of the field.”

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‘The Grandfather Challenge’ Hiking Program For At-Risk Youth Opens 2021 Season

October 19, 2021. The healing power and majesty of Grandfather Mountain cannot be denied by those among us who have experienced its beauty, wonder, and adventure. Although he was struggling with mental illness throughout his mid-teens and young adult life, Jason Matthew Nipper found peace and serenity as he and his parents hiked the challenging trails of this wonderful mountain called Grandfather. Jason passed away in 2014, and his parents James & Cheryl Nipper are pleased to announce the opening of the 2021 Season of their unique and challenging hiking program for at-risk youth taking place at Grandfather Mountain. This program was formed in honor of Jason, and focuses on teenage students who suffer from mental disorders and/or drug addictions, and also serves kids struggling with other personal problems for reasons beyond their control, including instances of parental abuse or neglect, placement in foster homes, and similar obstacles and challenges in their lives. After being unable to host this program for nearly two years because of covid related restrictions, Jason’s parents are thrilled to be able to resume their program this Fall.

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Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and Blue Ridge Conservancy Unveil Camp Catawba Sign

October 19, 2021. On Friday in Blowing Rock, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and Blue Ridge Conservancy unveiled a sign commemorating Camp Catawba and the work of Dr. Vera Lachmann. Installed near the trailhead of the Middle Fork Greenway in front of the Tanger Outlets, the sign outlines the history of the boys’ summer camp, which operated on a farm in Blowing Rock from 1944 to 1970. This one-of-a-kind sign was fabricated by local metalsmith Aaron Bishop of Snake Mountain Iron Works. “We’re so honored to bring the stories of Dr. Lachmann and the young campers to a larger audience through this project,” said Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation CEO Carolyn Ward. “Though Camp Catawba is now part of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the impact and importance of this formative place reaches far beyond the park’s borders.”

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COVID-19 Update: Watauga Medical Center Currently Has 13 Hospitalized Patients, 11 of them are Unvaccinated

October 18, 2021. Positive case numbers in Watauga County have dropped in over the last three weeks, however, hospitalizations have remained steady at Watauga Medical Center, particularly among unvaccinated patients. According to Rob Hudspeth with Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, there are currently 13 patients hospitalized from COVID-19 complications and 11 of the 13 are unvaccinated. The number was at 20 roughly two weeks ago and dropped to 15 at the end of last week, however, two patients died from COVID-19 complications on Sunday. Hudspeth said since last August, 70 people at Watauga Medical Center have died from COVID-19 and 64 of them were unvaccinated. “We are continuing to see COVID-19 cases. The workforce here is stressed. Over the last year, out of our 1,500 employees, 500 of them have turned over so we have replaced 500 positions in the last year. The healthcare workforce here locally is fatigued,” Hudspeth said. By Nathan Ham

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The Woolly Worm Festival; From a Rainy Start on Saturday to a Beautiful Finish on Sunday

October 18, 2021. Big crowds gathered in Banner Elk for the return of the Woolly Worm Festival after last year’s cancelation due to the coronavirus pandemic. Not even some dreary weather on Saturday slowed down people from making their way out to the 44th year of the historic event. “I was so excited, some of the vendors made the most money that they ever had at the festival. All of the vendors were excited, even though it rained on Saturday, it did not stop people from coming out and we had great attendance on Saturday and Sunday,” said Anne Winkelman, Executive Director of the Avery County Chamber of Commerce. The Weather Channel even featured the event at 7:40 and 9:40 on Sunday morning, showing off the crowds that were around on a beautiful day. “It was fun and very busy, but I thoroughly enjoyed it,” Winkelman said.  By Nathan Ham

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High Country Turkey Trot 5K Stays Virtual for 2021; Fundraising Contest Offering $500 Mast General Store Shopping Spree as First Prize

October 18, 2021. Organizers of the High Country Turkey Trot 5K, the largest 5K in the High Country with an average attendance around 1,200, have decided to keep the event virtual again this year. The annual Thanksgiving Day race, benefitting Hospitality House of Northwest N.C., has been taking place on the Boone Greenway Trail since 2011. This year, its eleventh anniversary, the High Country Turkey Trot will once again take place virtually, from wherever the racers, runners and walkers are. “This was not an easy decision,” states Hospitality House chief development director Todd Carter. “We were really hoping for a big ten-plus-one anniversary celebration. However, with uncertainty surrounding booster shots and availability of vaccines for children under twelve; to say nothing of our current, ongoing COVID cluster at our congregant living facility, we had to choose health and safety above everything else.” 

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October/November Issue of High Country Magazine is Available Now!

October 18, 2021. The October/November issue of the High Country Magazine is on the streets in numerous locations across the High Country! In this edition, we featured several stories of individuals who are making a mark in Watauga and Avery counties. This issue features stories on Banner Elk resident Jim Swinkola, Boone veterinarian Dr. David Linzey and Pedalin’ Pig owner Ethan Anderson. There is also a story on 81-year-old artisan Leniavell Trivette and a story on local volunteer Judy Clarke. The final story in this edition of High Country Magazine is one that highlights the 75-year history of the Blowing Rock Rotary Club.

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