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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
April 2, 2019 The herd of goats at The Abandoned Dog in Lansing, NC is now Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World(AGW). A Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW source farm for goats, The Abandoned Dog is approved to raise and sell goats to other AGW-certified farms. This certification and food label lets consumers know these animals are raised outdoors on pasture or range in accordance with the highest animal welfare standards in the U.S. and Canada, using sustainable agriculture methods on an independent farm. Consumer Reports has rated Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW as a “highly meaningful” label for farm animal welfare, outdoor access and sustainability–and the only animal welfare certification in which they have confidence. Like other Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW farmers across the country, Jeff and Nona Cullen recognize the growing consumer interest in how animals are raised on farms. Managing animals outdoors on pasture or range has known benefits for animals, consumers and the environment.
March 7, 2019 Gardeners from all across the High Country are invited to the High Country Seed Swap at Family Central in Ashe County on Saturday, March 16. The annual event allows growers to exchange seeds and take part in a pair of workshops featuring organic pest control and apple tree grafting. The seed swap begins at 8:30 a.m. Seeds will be set up at each table with gardeners sharing the seeds from crops that they have had success growing. The seed swap will continue through the afternoon. The event continues to be important for High Country gardeners as they can bring in not only seeds but also bulbs, cuttings and plants. Growers traditionally grow crops from seeds they get at the seed swap and then return the following year with seeds from their crops and share them. By Nathan Ham
February 28, 2019 The Ashe County Arts Council and the Ashe Chamber Music Society will sponsor a Cello and Piano Recital on Sunday, March 3 at the Ashe Arts Center at 2:00 pm. Bair Shagdaron and Ellie Wee will perform. The duo is on the faculty at the Hayes School of Music at Appalachian State University. The program includes at Sonata for Cello and Piano by Back, Chopin’s Piano Sonata No.3 in B minor, Sonata No.2 in F Major by Brahms and Sonata for Cello and Piano OP.3 Introduction and Polonaise Brillante by Chopin. In the fall of 2000, Dr. Bair Shagdaron joined the faculty of Appalachian State University and is now the Professor of Piano at the Hayes School of Music. Dr. Shagdaron continues to actively participate in the music world of today, including the world premiere of Edward Bullock’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. He has been guest artist for An Appalachian Summer Festival, and soloist with the Western Piedmont Symphony performing the Second Piano Concerto by Shostakovich.
February 13, 2019 Schools are always a breeding ground for the flu, colds and stomach viruses, however one area county seems to have been hit extremely hard. Ashe County Superintendent Phyllis Yates made the decision to close all public schools this past Friday following increases in cases of the flu, strep throat and a stomach virus. “All intense cleanings were completed over the weekend, so I plan to have school on a regular schedule barring any inclement weather. The flu virus only lives 24 hours so I feel good about our process. We continue to encourage those who do not feel well to please stay home,” Yates said in a statement. Over 450 students and 30 teachers across the county’s five public schools were out of school last week due to illness. With that many teachers sick as well, it was a frantic search to find substitute teachers to fill in, another reason for the decision to close school on Friday. By Nathan Ham
February 12, 2019 Each year since 1972, the Ashe County Little Theatre has been a staple of the arts community in the county. The theatre presents three to four plays each year, and this year, the group is expecting to present four productions for your enjoyment. “It’s a wonderful line up with some really diverse offerings,” said Jane Lonon, Executive Director of the Ashe County Arts Council. All shows will be presented at the Ashe Civic Center in West Jefferson. The season will begin with the production of “Is He Dead” from March 29-31. Next up will be the summer performance of the Braodway musical “Gypsy” from June 20-24. The third show of the year is set for August 22-25 and will be the production of “Calendar Girls.” The final show of the 2019 Ashe County Little Theatre season will be “Who’s On First” presented October 13-15. By Nathan Ham
September 17, 2018. Things could have certainly been much worse in the High Country. Some precipitation forecasts had parts of the mountain counties receiving upwards of 10-15 inches of rain. Thankfully for a lot of low-lying areas and people living near rivers and streams, rainfall measurements fell well short of that overall. However, flooding was still a problem, particularly in Ashe County where every low water bridge in the county was still underwater Monday morning, that according to Ashe County Emergency Management. The NCDOT will be in charge of reopening those bridges when possible. “We will inspect them for damage and reopen as soon as we can after the water recedes,” said Charles C. Reinhardt, the Division 11 Maintenance Engineer. Late Sunday night, Ashe County Emergency Management issued a statement about a potential dam breach at the Headwaters Dam in the Creston community. By Nathan Ham
September 17, 2018. An area of U.S. Highway 221 between West Jefferson and Deep Gap is currently closed after large chunks of asphalt broke apart after the remnants of Hurricane Florence rolled through the area Sunday night. “It is looking like it will take until Wednesday before repairs are complete,” said Charles C. Reinhardt, Division 11 Maintenance Engineer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The portion of road that is closed is near the intersection of Mulatto Mountain Road and is roughly seven miles from downtown West Jefferson. By Nathan Ham
September 10, 2018. On the Same Page, Ashe County’s popular literary festival is returning for an 11th year with events starting Monday evening and continuing through Saturday, September 15. According to Jane Lonon, the Executive Director of the Ashe County Arts Council, all featured writers are scheduled to be in attendance and all events are still going on as scheduled at this time despite Hurricane Florence possibly targeting North Carolina with landfall later this week. The festival, sponsored by the Ashe County Arts Council, will have the honor of United States Poet Laureate Tracy Smith as a distinguished guest at the event. She will be here for three days of the festival. Some of the other writers that will be in West Jefferson are Darnell Arnoult, Bryn Chancellor, Abigail DeWitt, Georgann Eubanks, Phillips Lewis, Jim Minick, Tommy Tomlinson and Frank X. Walker. By Nathan Ham
August 22, 2018 On August 25-26, skateboarders from across the country will gather in West Jefferson to compete in the state’s third annual sanctioned downhill skateboard race. The event will be held at the picturesque location of Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area. Designed and organized by North Carolina Downhill (NCDH), in collaboration with North Carolina State Parks, Appalachian State University’s Human Powered Transportation Club, and the Ian Tilmann Foundation, the race course features two miles of pristine pavement with three hairpins, connected by blazing fast sweepers, smooth asphalt, with plenty of passing and drafting opportunities at speeds over 50 MPH, with all necessary steps taken to close the road.