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Tynecastle Highway Near Sugar Mountain Closed During the Day and Down to One Lane Overnight for Road Repairs After Last Week’s Rain Storm Washed Out Part of the Road

August 26, 2021. Highway 184 in Sugar Mountain, more commonly known as Tynecastle Highway, will be closed from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. each day while road work is taking place to repair the road where heavy rains from last week’s remnants of Tropical Storm Fred moved through the High Country. While the road is closed during the day, there is one lane of the road open at night with a temporary traffic light from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. The detour from the North Carolina Department of Transportation suggests that drivers should take Highway 194 to avoid the area. However, the detour takes drivers near Banner Elk all the way to Elk Park and Newland, which is certainly out of the way for those that might be trying to get to Linville, Sugar Mountain or Grandfather Mountain.  By Nathan Ham

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Avery County’s Fine Art and Master Crafts Festival Returns August 13-15

August 11, 2021. Avery County’s Fine Art and Master Crafts Festival will return for its second part this weekend, from August 13 through August 15, at Sugar Mountain Resort, where approximately 60 hand-selected artisans will showcase their unique work for sale. The first part was held July 16-18, establishing the 30th year of the festival. The free event will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. After a successful festival last year, this is the second year that the event will be located at Sugar Mountain Resort. Everything will be set up in the parking lot of the resort lodge. After a successful festival last year, this is the second year that the event will be located at Sugar Mountain Resort. Everything will be set up in the parking lot of the resort lodge. By Harley Nefe

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Live-In Caregiver Elizabeth Katherine Carserino Arrested and Charged with Murder In Death of Linville Falls Woman


August 9, 2021. Elizabeth Katherine Carserino of Goose Creek, SC has been arrested and charged with murder of a 70-year-old woman who had been missing for nearly two months and was found entombed in concrete in the basement of her home in the Linville Falls community of Avery County by law enforcement authorities. Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye announced the murder charge in a press release Sunday, in which he wrote that Carserino is currently being held in the Avery County Detention Facility under a secured bond of $1,625,000.00. Carserino, who also had used the name of Elizabeth Freeman, was a live-in caretaker for Lynn Gay Keene. On Friday, July 30th, the Avery County Sheriff’s Department filed a missing person report on Keene. Keene’s family members reported her missing from her home. Reports indicate that Keene’s last contact with her family was on June 14th. By Tim Gardner

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Avery County Commissioners Honor Deputy John Hicks and DARE Program, Discuss Eagles Nest Development

July 19, 2021. Avery Sheriff’s Deputy John Hicks was honored for his work with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program in the county’s schools to highlight the July 12 regular monthly meeting of the Avery County Commissioners. Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye and Chief Deputy Lee Buchanan called Officer Hicks “a friend to all, who shares a Bible verse with others every day.” They recognized Officer Hicks for his service to the county and, most notably, his devoted efforts in the revitalization of the DARE program in the county. Officer Hicks raised funds to re-start DARE and also began teaching the program just as the pandemic began in early spring of 2020 and continued over the Internet Zoom site, Sheriff Frye shared. Hicks, who serves as Student Resources Officer for Riverside and Crossnore elementary schools, noted that the DARE program runs for 10 weeks and its priority is educating the students about the importance of making the right choices in life, as well as how to effectively communicate in tough situations. By Tim Gardner

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Thirty-One Candidates File In Avery County Municipal Elections Races

July 16, 2021. The two-week filing period for November 2, 2021 municipal elections in North Carolina began at 12:00 noon Friday, July 2nd and closed on July 16th at 12:00 noon. A total of 31 candidates filed in Avery County. All eight Avery County townships–Newland, Banner Elk, Elk Park, Crossnore, Village of Sugar Mountain, Beech Mountain, Grandfather Village and Seven Devils will hold elections. Mayor seats will be on the ballot in some and Town Council (Aldermen) seats will be voted on in all of those townships. The complete list of all Avery County Municipal Elections candidates for each township as per the Avery County Board of Elections includes: Town of Banner Elk Town Council- Michael P. Dunn Robert Edgar Tufts By Tim Gardner

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Avery County’s Fine Art & Master Crafts Festival Returns to Sugar Mountain Resort July 16-18

July 15, 2021. Avery County’s Fine Art and Master Crafts Festival will return for its 30th year this weekend, from July 16-18, where approximately 60 hand-selected artisans will showcase their unique work for sale. The free event will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. After a successful festival last year, this is the second year that the event will be located at Sugar Mountain Resort. Everything will be set up in the parking lot of the resort lodge. A spokesperson from the Avery County Chamber of Commerce said the move has been really beneficial to the festival because Sugar Mountain Resort already draws in many people through its summer activities like the scenic lift rides, mountain biking, golfing and dining. In addition to those opportunities, the festival adds another experience for people to explore. By Harley Nefe

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Display And Separate Photograph Honoring Avery County Native, World War II Veteran and Music Legend Oscar “Red” Wilson Donated to Avery County Historical Museum by his daughter

July 12, 2021. A large, framed display and a separate photograph of Oscar “Red” Wilson–one of Avery County’s most well-known natives—was recently donated to the county’s historical museum in Newland by his daughter, Anne Wilson Castro. “Red” is nationally-known in musical circles as a master fiddle player and more importantly, is a World War II hero, who earned the Purple Heart medal. The display features notes by “Red” in his own handwriting about being drafted to serve in World War II, receiving the Purple Heart and his recovery from the wound he took in earning the medal as well as pictures of him and citations he has received, including the Purple Heart. Castro also donated the separate photograph of “Red” to the historical museum with him holding a fiddle wearing his signature music-playing attire–overalls, a long-sleeve shirt and a colonel’s fedora hat. By Tim Gardner

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Avery County Native Qualifies for Powerlifting World Championships with Events Coming Up in August, October and November

July 7, 2021. It has been a busy year of competitive weightlifting for Avery County native and Marion resident Blake Stanley. In February of this year at a competition in Georgia, Stanley set the North Carolina all-time record for 242-pound weightlifters in the squat, bench press, deadlift and total weight. He squatted 255kg (562.17 pounds), bench pressed 175kg (385.8 pounds) and deadlifted 275kg (606.27 pounds). All of those weights combined to reach 705kg (1,554.25 pounds). Stanley, 29, will next compete in the United States Powerlifting Association (USPA) Drug Tested South Carolina State Championship on August 15 in Columbia. Stanley has also qualified for the 365 Strong World Powerlifting Games in Wilkesboro, October 16-17, and the International Powerlifting League (IPL) Drug Tested World Championship set for November 4-7 in Costa Mesa, California. Stanley got into lifting weights in high school but has only been competing for the last three years. He took some time off from weight lifting after spending time in the United States Marine Corps. By Nathan Ham

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Filing Period for Avery County Municipal Elections Underway

July 7, 2021. The two-week filing period for November 2, 2021 municipal elections in North Carolina began at 12:00 noon Friday, July 2nd and will close on July 16th at 12:00 noon. All eight Avery County townships–Newland, Banner Elk, Elk Park, Crossnore, Village of Sugar Mountain, Beech Mountain, Grandfather Village and Seven Devils will hold elections. Mayor seats will be on the ballot in some and Town Council (Aldermen) seats will be voted on in all of those townships. As of the end of the business day on July 6, the following candidates have filed: Town of Beech Mountain Town Council- J. Weidner Abernethy, Erin Gonyea. Village of Grandfather Council- Jill Norman. Town of Seven Devils Town Council- Jeffrey Williams. Village of Sugar Mountain Council- Scott Brown, Dick Casey, Wade Wittman By Tim Gardner

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Avery County Heritage Festival to be Held June 26 on The County/Town of Newland Square

June 3, 2021. The highly-popular Avery County Heritage Festival will be held this year on Saturday, June 26 on the Avery County and Town of Newland Square, located across from the Avery County Court House in downtown Newland. Admission is free to the event, which will start at 9:00 a.m. and end at 3:00 p.m. Those attending can visit booths and vendors while tracing their ancestral roots from the county. “Excitement about the Heritage Festival is extremely high and I hope all who can will attend the celebration as it will offer displays, exhibits and many other interesting and fun things about, and related to Avery County and its heritage and history,” said Virginia “Tense” Banks of the Avery Historical Society. Nationally-renowned genealogists, artisans in a variety of media and traditional mountain musicians will gather on the square to collectively help celebrate Avery County’s rich and storied history, which spans 110 years. By Tim Gardner

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Avery Commissioners Adopt 2021-22 Fiscal Year County Budget

June 11, 2021. On June 7, the Avery Board of Commissioners approved the county’s budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year. The new budget is $31-plus million with an exact amount of $31,463,999. Taxes for Avery County residents will not increase. The county’s General Fund tax rate remains at 48 cents per $100 valuation and the fire tax rate remains at seven cents per $100 valuation. The county’s overall tax rate will remain at 55 cents per $100 valuation for the coming fiscal year. This marks the fifth consecutive fiscal year that there is no tax increase for Avery County taxpayers. A fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30 of the following year. The new budget total is an $1,226,128 increase from the 2020-2021 fiscal budget of $30,237,871. Commissioners (Chairperson) Martha J. Hicks, Vice-Chairman Tim Phillips, Dennis Aldridge and Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr. each voted in favor of approving the 2021-22 budget as presented by County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr. and County Finance Officer Caleb Hogan. Commissioner Blake Vance was absent from the meeting. By Tim Gardner

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Avery County Memorial Day Ceremony Held to Honor and Remember Its Perished Veterans

June 1, 2021 On Monday, May 31, Avery County held its annual Memorial Day celebration to remember and honor its natives who perished while fighting for our nation. The ceremony was held on the Avery County/Newland Town Square which features its veterans’ monument with names of all county natives who served during a military conflict and in which war. The county/town square also highlights Armed Forces flags displays and gardens and the Fallen Officers, Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Ten Commandments monuments. Avery County’s Memorial Day Ceremony is organized and conducted every year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Auxiliary, Pat Ray Post 4286, in Newland. Approximately 150attended this year’s event. By Tim Gardner

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Avery County’s “Dive-In” Swimming Pool to Open Saturday, May 29


April 26, 2021 The sound of splish, splash will soon be heard on Shady Street in Newland. That’s because the Avery County “Dive-In” Swimming Pool will be opening for the season on Saturday, May 29, at 10:00 a.m. This swimming season for the county’s pool will be open 100 percent in compliance with per state Coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations announced recently by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. But because of COVID-19, the Avery County Parks & Recreation Department wants anyone using the swimming pool to understand that the health of all Avery County Citizens is its top priority. Several rules will be in place for those on the swimming pool’s premises. Mask-wearing will be required for anyone while inside the pool building. On the pool deck, loungers will be spaced six-feet apart per COVID-19 guideline unless the group is a family group. No one on the pool deck will be required to wear a mask. Taped lines on the floors at the swimming pool’s check-in area and its restrooms also will indicate proper social distancing of six-feet. By Tim Gardner

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Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier, Jr. Receives First Friends of Education Award


April 22, 2021 If you were looking for the quintessential Avery Countian, Phillip Barrier, Jr. would be a good choice. It would be difficult to find anyone with more passion for his native county nor an individual with more dedication, commitment, skill and innovative ideas while leading its day-to-day government operations as County Manager the past four years. His governmental peers and others across the county and the State of North Carolina are aware of Barrier, Jr.’s expertise in his chosen profession. And he recently added another prestigious accomplishment to his list of accolades as County Manager. At the April Avery County Board of Education meeting, Barrier, Jr. was honored for his leadership throughout the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as the Board of Education presented him with its first-ever Avery Friends of Education award. This honor recognizes those in the county who make significant contributions to the Avery County School System. Board of Education Chairman John Greene presented the award to Barrier, Jr. and Schools Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman expressed his gratitude to Barrier, Jr. for the county’s efforts to vaccinate Avery County Schools staff members to combat Coronavirus (COVID-19). By Tim Gardner

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Avery County Farmers’ Market in Banner Elk Opens Today for the 2021 Season at 4 p.m.


April 22, 2021 Thursday marks the opening day for the Avery County Farmers’ Market at the Old Banner Elk School. The market opens at 4 p.m. and will remain open until 7 p.m. “It’s cold but some of us will be there anyway,” said Bonita Smith of Smith Family Farm, one of the vendors who will be at the farmers’ market. “We never know about April or May weather and sometimes June and July it rains every Thursday, but you can’t control the weather.” Throughout the year, Smith says that vendors will show up in small numbers and continue to increase as the years go on. “We have a good number of vendors, we’ll start out with four or five and then add on vendors according to when their produce or whatever they are selling gets ready,” she said. “The more vendors we have, the more of a crowd we will draw.” By Nathan Ham

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Over 2,400 COVID-19 Vaccines Administered in Avery County; Officials and Community Members Hoping That Number Continues to Increase


February 10, 2021 When Avery County Manager Phillip Barrier spoke to members of the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk last Tuesday, the message was simple when it came to the number of Avery County residents that have held off on getting the vaccine. “It’s a trust issue.” Barrier spoke at the club’s monthly meeting held at Holston Presbytery Camp, both to people in person and a lot of others attending the meeting via Zoom. “It’s an individual choice to get the vaccine,” Barrier said. “It’s the same with masks, you can’t send anyone to jail for not wearing a mask.” Barrier is rightfully proud of his county’s efforts in getting COVID-19 vaccines out to several thousands of county residents. He also is rightfully saddened by the illness and death the virus is causing, and the bitter feelings breaking friends, families and even churches apart because of misinformation about both the virus and the vaccine. “Together we are Avery County,” he said. “Together we are strong!” By Nathan Ham

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Avery County Schools to Have Wide Area Network Internet Access through SkyLine/SkyBest Beginning this School Year

July 8, 2020 SkyLine/SkyBest announced that they have been working with Avery County Schools to provide Wide Area Network (WAN) high-speed internet access to all the schools in the county. “We have partnered with SkyLine/SkyBest for many years to provide network services to portions of Avery County Schools, and we are very happy to be able to expand that partnership to cover our entire district-wide area network,” said Dennis Brown, the Executive Director of Human Resources with Avery County Schools. “The expansion of network services to our schools provides opportunity for both our schools communities to enjoy quality high-speed internet service.” Installation of fiber networks has been ongoing in Avery County and this will allow for the network to be operating as schools begin the 2020-21 year. By Nathan Ham

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One Additional Confirmed Case of COVID-19 in Avery County; Total Now up to 10

June 22, 2020 Avery County has reached double figures in confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The Avery County Health Department, part of Toe River Health District, was notified that this tenth resident of the county tested positive for Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). The announcement about the infected individual was made on June 21. The individual is in isolation and this specific case is not related to any of the county’s other COVID-19 cases, according to TRHD officials. To protect individual privacy, no further information about this case will be released. Of Avery County’s 10 COVID-19 cases, 5 are active, while 5 of the individuals who contracted the disease have recovered, the TRHD noted. By Tim Gardner

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Avery County Sheriff’s Department Featured on WBTV for Delivering Essential Items to the Elderly


March 30, 2020 Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye announced on Wednesday, March 18, that the Sheriff’s Department will assist with delivering groceries, prescriptions and other items in the county during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Their positive effort for the community led to WBTV putting together a story on what Sheriff Frye and his department are doing to help those in need throughout Avery County. In a previous High Country Press story, Sheriff Frye announced that the service began on March 19 and has helped the elderly and those with immune system problems be able to get food and medication without having to get out of the house.

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Visitor Restrictions Remain in Effect at Appalachian Regional Healthcare Facilities Because Of High Increase in Flu Cases; 217 Patients Diagnosed Locally in 21-Day Period

February 21, 2020 As of Friday, Feb. 21, visitor restrictions remain effective in the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System hospitals–Watauga Medical Center in Boone and Cannon Memorial Hospital in Linville –to help limit the spread of the flu as the number of flu cases has dramatically increased in recent weeks. “Flu cases have shown a steady increase as we enter the height of flu season,” said Dr. Danielle Mahaffey, Chief Physician Executive for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System in a press release a few weeks ago. “The flu virus spreads mainly person to person through coughing and sneezing. For the health and safety of our patients, we are asking the community to refrain from visiting to help protect the patients in our facilities.” Community members may visit if they: Are 18 years or older; Are healthy and do not have the flu or influenza-like illness, and do not live with anyone who has been diagnosed with the flu or influenza-like illness. The medical teams at Watauga Medical Center and Cannon Memorial Hospital may make exceptions on a case-by-case basis for siblings of newborn babies and families of hospice or end of life patients.  By Tim Gardner

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Volume of Early Voting in Avery County Has Been High

February 20, 2020 The Avery County Board of Elections is still reminding its residents that 2020 Primary Election Early Voting is underway in the county. And according to election officials, the county has witnessed a large voter turnout so far. Avery County Board of Elections Director Shelia Ollis said that a huge volume have taken advantage of Primary Election Early Voting to cast their ballots, which numbered 344 as of 12:00 Noon on Thursday, February 20.  That’s an average of approximately 63 per day. Primary Election Early Voting in Avery County began Thursday, February 13 and runs through Friday, February 28, excluding Saturdays and Sundays except for Saturday, February 29 when Early Voting will also be open. All Early Voting in the county must be done at the Avery Board of Elections Office, located in the Avery Court House Annex at 200 Montezuma Street in Newland.   By Tim Gardner

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Early Voting in Avery County Open For 13 Days, Starting February 13

February 7, 2020. The Avery County Board of Elections is reminding its residents that the time period for early voting in the county begins on Thursday, February 13 and runs through Friday, February 28, excluding Saturdays and Sundays except for Saturday, February 29 when its Early Voting will also be open. All Early Voting in the county must be done at the Avery Board of Elections Office, located in the Avery Court House Annex at 200 Montezuma Street in Newland. The 2020 Primary Election will be held on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. “We’re expecting a very large voter turnout in Avery County this year, with many voters here taking advantage of Early Voting,” said Caleb Hogan, Assistant Director of the Avery County Board of Elections. Those who missed the regular voter registration deadline may still register and vote in Avery County during the early voting period, February 13-29. At an early voting site, registered voters may update their address, but not their party affiliation. Registered voters who wish to change their party affiliation were required to do so no later than February 7.  By Tim Gardner

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Flu Death Total Climbs to 63 in North Carolina as Appalachian Regional Hospital System Puts Visitor Restrictions in Effect and Ashe County Closes All Schools and Activities Until Feb. 10

February 7, 2020. Nine more North Carolinians have died during the current 2019-2020 flu season, increasing the total to 63, the N.C. Division of Public Health officials said in their weekly flu report Thursday. Five deaths were reported for the week that ended Feb. 1, along with four deaths from previous weeks. Of the additional deaths, six were for individuals ages 65 and older, along with three ages 50 to 64. N.C. Department of Health and Human Services cautions the weekly report count does not represent all flu-associated deaths in the state because many go undiagnosed or unreported. The division does not release a victim’s hometown, county, age or gender for legal privacy reasons. According to the Division of Public Health, of the 63 who have died in this season to date, 37 were 65 or older, 15 were ages 50 to 64, 10 were ages 25 to 49 and one was ages 5 to 17.  By Tim Gardner

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Avery Community Paramedicine Program Receives $290,000 Grant from the Duke Endowment

January 31, 2020. Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital in Linville recently received a three-year grant from The Duke Endowment totaling $290,000. These grant funds will allow Cannon Memorial Hospital and Avery Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to establish a Community Paramedicine Program to serve Avery County. Community Paramedicine is an innovative new healthcare model that seeks to provide underserved patients with improved access to public health and preventative healthcare services. Through the program, specially trained Community Paramedics visit patients in their homes to assess their overall health, living conditions, support structure and other social determinants of health. Avery EMS and Cannon Memorial Hospital will identify potential program participants through primary care referrals and by analyzing the highest utilizers of emergency services. By improving this populations’ health, the program will also reduce unnecessary EMS calls and emergency department visits, freeing up these services for true emergencies. By Tim Gardner

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Avery County is a Gun Sanctuary County

January 30, 2020. Any debate over whether or not Avery County should declare itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” has long been over as its County Commissioners and County Manager have expressed a single resounding opinion: yes, it should. In fact, the Commissioners have adopted a resolution in support of the protection of The Right To Bear Arms. The Avery County Commissioners currently consist of: Chairperson Martha Hicks; Vice-Chairman Tim Phillips; Blake Vance, Dennis Aldridge; and Wood Hall (Woodie) Young, Jr. Avery’s County Manager is Phillip Barrier, Jr. Vance was Vice-Chairman of the County Commission when it adopted the resolution last year (June Board of Commissioners meeting). The resolution cites The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and Article 1, Section 30 of the Constitution of the State of North Carolina, both which state: “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed.” By Tim Gardner

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