By Jessica Isaacs
What better way to kick off the summer than with a great glass of wine (or two) and a tour of the High Country’s hidden gems? The Avery County Chamber of Commerce continues its annual Trolley Tour tradition on Thursday, and there’s still time for you to reserve your seat.
In years past, the tours have taken participants on all-day trips to a variety of wine tasting opportunities throughout the area. This season, the chamber has added some extra stops that will give guests a chance to learn more about what’s going on in the community. The first of four tours this summer will take place on Thursday, and there are still a few seats available.
Thursday’s tour will begin with an 11:30 a.m. wine and cheese tasting at Erick’s Cheese and Wine, located at 4004 N.C. Highway 105 S. in Banner Elk in the Grandfather Center. The festivities will hit the road starting at noon when the trolley leaves from the parking lot at the Shoppes at Tynecastle (due to limited parking at Erick’s).
The first tour of the season will make several stops on the campus of the Crossnore School — a residential foster care group home and sanctuary of hope for children in need that also serves as an alternative charter school for the community.
Chamber Executive Director Melinda Martin Pepple will lead the tours this summer, and her own unique experience with the Crossnore School will give participants a one-of-a-kind look at the campus and the historic district of Crossnore.
“I worked at the Crossnore School for 12 years. My father used to be the director there and I lived on campus for 10 years — it’s just in my heart,” Pepple said. “I used to work at the Grandfather Home for children, too, and I love what these schools are doing and how they’re helping children. We need people to know that we have these two very unique children’s homes in the community that have been in existence for more than 100 years.”
The tour will include a boxed lunch provided by Miracle Grounds Coffee Shop, which is located on the Crossnore School’s campus. Guests will tour the campus and make stops at the Crossnore Fine Arts Gallery, Crossnore Weavers (which is listed on the National Register of Historic places) and the fresco “Suffer the Little Children” in the E.H. Sloop Chapel that was painted by world-renowned artist Ben F. Long IV.
Other tour stops will include the Anvil Arts Studio/Bill Brown Sculptures, Linville Falls Winery and the Snowy Mountain Christmas Shop, where home baked goods will be provided).
Each $55 ticket includes the trolley ride and lunch.
Other tours this summer will be led on July 23, Aug. 27 and Sept. 17.
“The goal of these tours is to let people know about the rich history of this beautiful area and to lift up our local wineries, breweries and art galleries,” Pepple said. “We have a lot of unique places to visit that people need to know about.”
Call 828-898-5605 or visit the Avery County Chamber of Commerce online for more information about the trolley tours and other ongoing events.