The Banner Elk Chamber held its Annual Dinner Wednesday night at The Barn at Cornerstone in Banner Elk for dinner, socializing and the presentation of its Annual Person of the Year Award for 2017. Chamber President Jo-Ann McMurray welcomed chamber members and guests as they enjoyed a buffet dinner provided by Frugal Gourmet Catering Services. The setting was the 1700 square foot barn event facility owned and operated by Ray and Kim Schrader. The facility was decorated beautifully and the food was delicious.
Following dinner Jo-Ann McMurray began her remarks to introduce the 2017 Person of the Year. She started out by saying its always a hard decision because there are so many people that are part of the Banner Elk Community that could deserve the award, but this year it was an easier task to settle on the recipient as they sought to award the person who through their efforts have made Banner Elk a better community and continues to make it the place to BE.
McMurray continued with comments about the changes and improvements at the Historic Banner Elk School in the past year that has allow new tenants to take up residences there. And she continued by saying, “But the most exciting change has been the conversion of the gym into the permanent home of the Ensemble Stage. It has truly giving meaning to the property’s re-branding as the Cultural Arts Center.”
Ensemble Stage moved from its home in Blowing Rock to the gymnasium portion of the old school last year. McMurray said, “If it wasn’t for the vision and courage of Gary Smith in bringing Ensemble Stage to Banner Elk from its former home in Blowing Rock, this school property would not have become the vibrant place it has become.” She related how virtually every performance had sold out last year, which she credits to the Ensemble Stage productions and the desire of the community to promote the arts. She teased the crowd with her focus on the Ensemble Stage but surprised the honoree by ending her remarks by saying, “If not for the continuing self sacrifices and dedication of this year’s honoree none of this would actually have been possible. That is why I am so please to announce the 2017 Banner Elk Chamber Person of the Year to the deserving Alan Bolick.
Alan Bolick has been a town council member since his election in 2011 and also serves on the chamber board. Town Manager Rick Owen said that Bolick has been the driving force behind the fundraising efforts and donations for the old school building since he saw such an interest from the community when the idea of the town acquiring the property were first talked about, and took a lead in making sure the building was preserved.
After the presentation of the award Bolick told the crowd, “I do a lot of things out of love and dedication for the school building. I’ve had a lot people help me – this is not a one-man show by any means and I don’t want anybody to think so. All of those who have worked on the school have worked really hard. We’ve got a great group of people who’ve done a lot of really hard work.” Bolick also pointed out that both the chamber and the town had made a lot things happen with the project and reminded folks to give them credit for what they have done.
The Town of Banner Elk agreed to purchase the Historic Banner Elk School from Avery County in September of 2014 for $1,000,000.00 with owner financing at a zero percent interest over a 12-year term.
The Historic Banner Elk School was built in 1939 as a WPA project during the Great Depression and the stone building served as an elementary school for 71 years prior to being converted into a business incubator site by the Avery County Board of Commissioners. The Avery Commissioners then decided to sell the property to the Town of Banner Elk.