Governor Roy Cooper visited several locations during his first visit to the High Country on Friday, August 4, including the Watauga Campus of Caldwell Community College, F.A.R.M. Café, and the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country, where he made public remarks.
While in front of the theatre’s newly-restored façade and under the historic marquee, Governor Cooper commented, “(The arts) are a reflection of who we are, a reflection of these majestic mountains, the people who live here, a reflection of our music and our culture.
“What you are doing here is going to attract better paying jobs to this area. It is going to attract tourism,” continued Governor Cooper regarding the efforts to revitalize and restore the theatre. “So, I am here today to support this project. It’s going to be great, and I encourage all of you to participate…this is an important community project.”
The Governor also cited a 2015 study of the arts and not-for-profit organizations that indicated these groups contribute more than $2 billion dollars to the North Carolina economy.
Governor Cooper’s comments were prefaced by remarks by John Cooper, chair of the Appalachian Theatre’s board of trustees. Restoration of the venerable The Appalachian Theatre is the latest passion project for Cooper and his wife, Faye. Since making the Valle Crucis and the High Country their home when they purchased the Mast General Store in 1979, the couple has been involved in most every humanitarian, education-related, and community-driven initiative in the area.
The Order of the Long Leaf Pine is North Carolina’s highest civilian honor, and as it was awarded to John and Faye Cooper, the Governor commented, “You can tell when people touch a community; you can tell when other people have a heartfelt mission to do good.”
John and Faye’s commitment to the community started in the rural community of Valle Crucis. As they were working to re-open the store, they asked the community members what they could do to make things better, what they would like to see. From there, their dedication to the community has included helping found North Carolina High Country Host (a chamber of travel and tourism), raising funds to establish a larger facility for the Hospitality House, founding the Appalachian Women’s Fund, and involvement with An Appalachian Summer Festival, the Western Youth Network, and the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, all while raising a family, participating in their church, and running a growing business.
An overwhelmed Faye Cooper remarked, “We were totally surprised and extremely humbled to be recognized in such an incredible way. To receive this award from Governor Cooper made it even more meaningful. John and I want to acknowledge the many wonderful people who joined us in helping to establish and support so many worthwhile projects and deserving organizations. This altruistic spirit and civic pride are what makes the High Country community and its residents so special.”
By receiving the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, an honoree is proclaimed to be an Ambassador Extraordinaire for the Great State of North Carolina. John Cooper said, “It is an honor for us to join the roster of previous recipients of this award, many of whom – including John Blackburn, Jim Deal, Reba and Grady Moretz, Cullie Tarleton, Sue and Wade Wilmoth – are personal friends, who we hold in the highest regard. The choice of our venerable Appalachian Theatre as the site to present the award meant the world to Faye and me and has given a boost to our fundraising efforts to renovate and restore this jewel in our region’s cultural crown to its former grandeur.”
In addition to being in good company amongst the list of members of the Society of the Long Leaf Pine, the Coopers are also given the special privilege of proposing the official toast of North Carolina in select company anywhere in the free world. The toast reads as follows:
Here’s to the land of the long leaf pine,
The summer land where the sun doth shine,
Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great,
Here’s to “down home,” the Old North State.