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Watauga gallops past Ashe County, 55-21

September 17, 2022 BOONE, N.C. — Watauga High School Principal Chris Blanton speculated after the Sept. 16 “Homecoming” football game that it was probably the largest crowd at least in the Pioneer grandstands in quite some time. And, by the way, they had a lot to cheer about with Boone’s favorite sons running away with a 55-21 win over regional rival, Ashe County. By David Rogers for HighCountrySports.net

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Blue Ridge Conservancy Receives Important Funding in New State Budget for Ashe Parks

July 13, 2022 On Monday, Governor Cooper signed into law the new state budget. The budget contains exceptional news for the North Carolina Land and Water Fund (NCLWF) and the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF). Both will now receive $24.2 million annually, essentially doubling their annual appropriation. Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) will receive a $950,000 appropriation for the Middle Fork Greenway (MFG) to develop the Boone Gorge Park, and
$100,000 for the development of Paddy Mountain Park in Ashe County, a cooperative project of BRC, the Town of West Jefferson, and Ashe County.

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Clint Roberts to Perform at the Ashe Civic Center in West Jefferson on Saturday, July 9

July 6, 2022 West Jefferson’s Ashe Civic Center will come to life when singer, songwriter, and musician Clint Roberts takes the stage on Saturday, July 9. Roberts hails from Asheville, and his combination of Folk, Americana, and Roots-rock music will have something for everyone to enjoy. Roberts was born and raised in Brevard and went to school at App State for an extensive time before moving to Asheville. “This is my first show coming back to the App State area. I know it’s Ashe County, but it’s my first time coming back to West Jefferson, and it’s great to come back,” Roberts said. “It’s been a long time since I have come to the High Country of Western North Carolina. I wanted to come back because there’s a sense of home with it being my college town. I spent some time in West Jefferson myself, and I think it’s really beautiful there. I figured it’s about that time to start going back to where a lot of my musical roots came from.” By Harley Nefe

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Ashe Habitat for Humanity Receives $25,000 Donation from Blue Ridge Relay Runner

May 20, 2022. Ashe County Habitat for Humanity received a $25,000 donation from a runner in the Blue Ridge  Relay, which is an annual event that passes through Ashe County every fall. After running parts  of the Relay through the county and meeting Habitat volunteers helping with the race over the  past few years, he began to feel a connection with Ashe County. The donor runner, who wishes to remain anonymous, was impressed with the work of the mostly volunteer-run affiliate and  knows his money will help increase the organization’s impact on the affordable housing  shortage in the county. His donation will help break ground and lay the foundations for the next  two homes in the Hickory Hill community, speeding up Habitat’s ability to build decent,  affordable homes in partnership with hard-working Ashe County families.

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Blue Ridge Conservancy Adds 217 Acres to Pond Mountain Game Land

March 3, 2022 Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) recently transferred 217 acres to Pond Mountain Game Land in Ashe County managed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC). The property will create a new public access to the game land bringing the total access points to four. Located on the southern slopes of Pond Mountain with elevations reaching 4,200 feet, this property protects the headwaters of Big Laurel Creek, classified as “Outstanding Resource Waters” and “Trout Waters” by the NC Division of Water Resources. It is located in the Pond Mountain Natural Heritage Area protecting significant natural communities and wildlife habitat.

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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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High Country Food Hub Adding Order Pickup Location in West Jefferson


January 4, 2022. High Country residents outside of Boone now have another location where they can pick up food orders placed through the High Country Food Hub. Starting on Wednesday, January 5, residents in Ashe County will be able to get their high-quality, locally-sourced food orders at the Ashe County Public Library in downtown West Jefferson. “Over the last several years, we’ve recognized that more people would love to access fresh, healthy local food, but that it’s just not convenient. The pandemic shed new light on this situation,” said Katie Cavert Ferrell, the Satellite Coordinator for the High Country Food Hub. Ferrell said that orders increased by as much as seven times the normal volume from February through May of 2020. “However, when stay-at-home orders ended, many customers found it hard to make it to the Food Hub’s downtown Boone location. We had significant interest in having more pickup locations outside of Boone, and so the idea of satellite locations hatched,” Ferrell said. “That’s when the Food Hub found support from the Golden LEAF Foundation and the Conservation Fund to purchase a delivery vehicle, hire additional staff and build out an additional walk-in cooler. Ashe County is a natural place for us to expand our delivery operations and will be our fourth satellite location to open since August 2021.”  By Nathan Ham

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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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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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New River Blues Festival Returns for its 19th Year in Ashe County on September 5

August 17, 2021. Music fans from all across the region are invited to the small community of Grassy Creek in Ashe County during Labor Day weekend to enjoy the North Carolina Mountain’s only celebration of authentic Blues hits from legendary artists with the return of the New River Blues Festival. Claimed as “one of the top 10 ways to spend Labor Day” by Our State Magazine, the annual New River Blues Festival will be celebrating its 19th year on Sunday, September 5 at the River House Inn, which is just a short, scenic ride away from nearby Jefferson and West Jefferson. “It’s a relaxing drive and an adventure to get there, and that’s what we like about it,” said Rob Baskerville, who is a member of the band The King Bees and is happy to be back again this year presenting the New River Blues Festival. By Harley Nefe

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Suspect Arrested Following Shooting that Left One Man Dead in Ashe County Saturday Evening


January 4, 2021 Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell announces the arrest of a Reginald Steve Elledge for the shooting death of Leonicio Ramos Guerrero in the Fleetwood area. At approximately 7:40 P.M. on Saturday, January 2, Ashe County 911 Dispatch received a call advising that an adult male had just shot another adult male at a home in the 400 block of Little Gap Road. The caller advised telecommunicators that the suspect shot the victim and fled the scene in a white Ford Explorer Sport Trac. Law enforcement officers were given a description of the suspect’s vehicle. West Jefferson Police Officer Mike Miller observed a vehicle matching the description pull into the parking lot of Lowe’s hardware in West Jefferson where Miller was able to stop the vehicle and take Elledge into custody without incident.

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Avery County Chamber of Commerce Announces Golf Classic 2020 for Oct. 16


August 27, 2020. The Avery County Chamber of Commerce announced its Avery Chamber Golf Classic, which is a fall golf tournament to benefit the Avery County Chamber of Commerce. The morning event will be hosted by the Mountain Glen Golf Club on Friday, Oct. 16 in Newland. The price of registration is $140 per player and $560 per four-player team. The cost to be a hole sponsor is $100. The format of the play is scramble, in which everyone plays and moves to the best ball played. The 2020 Avery Chamber Gold Classic is sponsored by SkyLine SkyBest & Carolina West Wireless. The team player gifts are sponsored by The Lodges at Eagles Nest. The breakfast goodies and box lunches are sponsored by Stonewalls & Crossnore School & Children’s Home. The on-course activities are sponsored by Friendship Honda of Boone. By Harley Nefe

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Two Arrests Made Following Brief Manhunt in Ashe County Tuesday Morning


May 6, 2020 Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell announced the successful end to an early morning multi-agency manhunt in the Baldwin area which eventually netted the arrest of two suspects on narcotics charges and outstanding warrants. At approximately 5:30 A.M. on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 detectives from the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office initiated a traffic stop in the 400 block of NC Hwy 194 South in the Baldwin community of Ashe County. Detectives immediately, and without incident, arrested the female passenger of the vehicle but the male driver of the vehicle fled the traffic stop on foot, sparking a manhunt. Law enforcement officers from the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office, the West Jefferson Police Department and the Jefferson Police Department immediately responded to the scene and set up in strategic locations in an attempt to contain the suspect in the area.

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New Details Released in Ashe County Shooting Following a Standoff with Area Law Enforcement Officers


January 22, 2020. Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell has revealed new details about the officer-involved shooting that took place near West Jefferson last Wednesday. According to the sheriff’s office, at 5:59 p.m. on January 15, Ashe County’s 911 center received information related to a welfare check in the Fleetwood area. As officers arrived on the scene, Landwell Vance McCall, a 50-year-old male from Caldwell County shot at Ashe County Deputies. Multiple shots were fired by the suspect during their initial approach to the camper, pinning the officers in place for a short time. At approximately 7:00 p.m., law enforcement agencies from surrounding counties were requested to bring resources that may be needed throughout the night. “As teams began entering our command post, we prepared evacuations of surrounding homes. Using armored vehicles from neighboring counties, we were able to safely evacuate the homes who surrounded the active shooter,” Howell said. 

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Suspect Dies Following Eight Hour Standoff with Police in Ashe County


January 16, 2020. A standoff between a suspect and numerous local law enforcement agencies ended during the early hours of Thursday morning with the death of the unnamed suspect. “At approximately 6:00 pm on January 15, our 911 center received information related to a welfare check in the Fleetwood area. Just before arriving on scene, Ashe County Deputies were shot at multiple times. Phone calls and communication from the suspect indicated he wanted to cause harm to any law enforcement individual,” said Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell in a statement. After approximately eight hours the situation ended with a deceased male suspect located at the scene. All officers, first responders and support personnel were unharmed even though law enforcement was fired upon multiple times during the incident.

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Blue Ridge Conservancy Protects 1,000 Acres on Three Top Mountain


December 18, 2019. As 2019 draws to a close, Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) wrapped up a series of land protection projects resulting in the conservation of over 1,000 contiguous acres on Three Top Mountain. Three Top Mountain’s rugged terrain of rocky peaks and steep cliff faces may sometimes lead you to believe you’re no longer in the North Carolina Mountains. Local flora and fauna thrive within these rich natural communities which support a remarkable diversity of plant and animal life. Three Top Mountain is named for its three impressive rock outcroppings and is part of the Amphibolite Mountain chain. Located in Ashe and Watauga Counties, the Amphibolites include Howard Knob, Elk Knob, Snake Mountain, Big Phoenix, Paddy Mountain, and Mount Jefferson. The soil composition is rich with calcium and harbors many rare species of plants—quite a few not found anywhere else on Earth.

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Motorcycle Chase in Ashe County Leads to Late Night Felony Arrests


October 8, 2019. Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell reports the arrests of two individuals related to a motorcycle chase and crash that occurred just before 5 pm on October 7. Trooper Denny Parunak, of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, observed a motorcyclist traveling at a high rate of speed and the motorcycle did not have a registration plate displayed. Capt. Josh Hodges of the West Jefferson Police Dept. observed the motorcyclist go through the intersection of US Hwy 221/163 and attempted a traffic stop and a vehicle chase ensued. The motorcyclist led law enforcement on a short chase and crashed near the intersection of Ira Miller Drive and Mulatto Mountain Road. The motorcycle’s operator, later identified as Derek Wesley Scism, 28, of Blowing Rock then fled on foot. After a search, officers were unable to locate the suspect.

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Blue Ridge Conservancy Continues Pursuit of Land Protection on Paddy Mountain with 71-Acre Purchase


September 26, 2019 The High Country is under ever-increasing pressure: Housing and commercial development are rapidly consuming land, and the effects of a changing climate threaten our landscape and our economy. Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) is a nonprofit land trust that partners with landowners and the local community to protect land and natural resources in northwestern North Carolina. Paddy Mountain is a familiar and recognizable mountain northwest of West Jefferson in Ashe County. The eastern slope is known to many as the “backdrop of downtown.” Recently, BRC purchased 71 acres on the western slope of Paddy Mountain and transferred its ownership to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Plant Conservation Program. The land will be managed by the Plant Conservation Program as part of the greater Paddy Mountain Preserve, which includes 355 acres of conserved lands.

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New River Blues Festival Returns for a 17th Year in Ashe County This Sunday


August 27, 2019. Music fans from all across the region will find their way to the small community of Grassy Creek near the Virginia state line this Labor Day weekend for a day full of Blues hits from another great list of artists. The 17th Annual New River Blues Festival will be happening on Sunday, September 1 at The River House in Grassy Creek in Ashe County. The River House is just a short, scenic ride away from nearby Jefferson and West Jefferson. Gates open at noon and music will begin at 1 p.m. “People will experience great music, dancing in a mountain meadow next to a beautiful, sparkling river. It’s a full day of music; we start with traditional acoustic and move to more rocking stuff throughout the day,” said King Bees frontman Rob Baskerville, who first organized the event and has been playing music himself along with “Queen Bee” Penny Zamagni for 32 years. By Nathan Ham

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Avery and Ashe Public Airports Receive $3,391,680 in Infrastructure Projects Grant Funding

August 5, 2019. The North Carolina Board of Transportation has approved state and federal grants for various infrastructure improvement projects at a dozen North Carolina airports–including those in Avery and Ashe counties. Almost $7 million in state and federal funding has been awarded for projects that will improve runway lighting, establish new fueling areas, expand taxiways and otherwise help these airports grow and generally expand their services. An overall total of $6,944,476 was awarded. Avery’s public airport at Morrison Field, located in the far southern section of the county in the Ingalls Community, received the state’s highest grant amount and almost half of the total funds, with $3 million awarded. The money will be used to construct a new partial-length parallel taxiway and to finish the expansion of the aircraft parking apron. By Tim Gardner

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Mt. Jefferson Downhill Skateboard Racing Set For This Weekend in West Jefferson


July 23, 2019. In what has become a heart-pounding tradition on the steep slopes of Mt. Jefferson, skateboarders from across the nation and other parts of the world visit the High Country July 27-28 to take on the high-speed thrills of racing down the mountain. This is the fifth year that the race has taken place at the Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area and it continues to grow in popularity each year. The race has become one of the most popular and well attended in the southeast. The race started with 66 riders in the first year and jumped to 89 in the second year. Each of the last two years, there has been over 100 riders register for the event and easily over 1,000 spectators through the two-day event. The downhill race is approximately 1.6 miles from start to finish with the elevation drop reaching nearly 700 feet from the starting line to the finish line. The average grade of the course is 8 percent with some areas reaching a 10-percent grade. By Nathan Ham

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Ashe County’s Bluegrass and Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention Celebrates 50 Years This Weekend


July 23, 2019. For half a century, Ashe County residents and visitors to the area have enjoyed a weekend full of traditional bluegrass tunes and dancing in Jefferson. This year will mark the 50th year of the Ashe County Bluegrass & Old Time Fiddlers Convention, sponsored by the Ashe County Arts Council. The fiddlers’ convention began in 1971 and was originally sponsored by the Rotary Club of The Jeffersons. The Rotarians decided to take a step back in recent years and the Ashe County Arts Council stepped up to help organize the annual event. All funds raised at the fiddlers’ convention will go to support the Ashe County Arts Council’s Junior Appalachian Musicians Program. Convention-goers interested in camping for the weekend can enter the campground area at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Events will get underway on Thursday with the Bluegrass Jamming Camp with Gilbert Nelson from 3-7 p.m. and again on Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Registration is required to jam. You can register by calling 336-846-2787. By Nathan Ham

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Countdown to Retirement: Jane Lonon Reflects on 38 Years of Dedication to the Ashe County Arts Council


June 25, 2019. June 30 will definitely be a bittersweet day for Ashe County Arts Council Executive Director Jane Lonon. Lonon will retire from her position at the end of this week after serving as executive director since 1988. “It’s just been the best job in the whole world. I’ve been privileged to be a part of an organization that cares so much about the community that it serves and works so hard to use the arts to affect change, from downtown beautification and revitalization to quality programming that we’re able to pass on to the next generation,” Lonon said. “It’s just been a busy, active, positive effort by lots of people and I have been fortunate enough to get to be a part of it.” Lonon moved to Ashe County in 1981 and initially began serving the Ashe County Arts Council as a volunteer and a board member before accepting the executive director position in 1988. All in all, Jane has dedicated 38 years of her life to promoting arts in the community with the Ashe County Arts Council. By Nathan Ham

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Music Lineup Announced for Christmas In July Festival in West Jefferson


June 17, 2019. The music lineup for the 2019 Christmas in July Festival in downtown West Jefferson has been confirmed with many favorites once again returning to perform at the annual event, as well as some new performers making their festival debut this year. The festival has once again lined up a great variety of local and regional musical acts featuring a great mix ranging from traditional bluegrass to “newgrass,” country to classic rock hits, and a few other surprises sprinkled in which will surely entertain people of all ages. Live music is scheduled to begin during the afternoon of Friday, July 5 at 3 p.m. until 10 p.m. during the festival kick-off event of music, food vendors, farmers market & street dance. Music will continue all day on Saturday.  

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39th Annual New River Canoe Race Happening This Saturday in Jefferson


May 30, 2019. The 39th Annual New River Canoe Race and FAMILY FLOAT will be held Saturday, June 1, in Jefferson, NC on the banks of the New River. This Ashe County tradition, originally a local 4H event, is now sponsored by Friends of High Country State Parks with proceeds supporting the Friends of High Country State Parks. Entry Fee is $15 per adult, children under 12, $5. A $5 fee will be attached to any additional race. The first 200 registrants will receive a FREE T-Shirt. In addition, registration includes an opportunity to enter one’s name for one of many fabulous door prizes that will be given at the 3 pm awards ceremony (you must be present to win a door prize).Gates open at 8:30 am at Zaloo’s Canoes in Jefferson (336 246 3066) where you START. Boats enter the water from 9am-1: 30 pm except for boats with children which must be launched by 1 pm. There is NO shotgun start. Paddlers will end the course at New River State Park, Wagoner Access. The awards ceremony will be held at 3 pm.

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