• Boone Area Lions Club Will Provide Free Eye and Ear Screening on September 5

    August 31, 2020 High Country residents are invited to have their eyes and ears examined for free when the Boone Area Lions Club hosts the NC Lions Mobile Screening Unit. The unit will be in the Walmart parking lot in Boone on Saturday, September 5  from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Masks are required and all virus precautions will be followed.xzcs4 Do not plan to attend if you feel ill.  Lions brooms will also be on sale. Lions are dedicated to combating the leading causes of blindness and assist in preserving vision as well as providing assistance and support to visually and hearing impaired residents of the High Country. The Screening Unit is a statewide project of North Carolina Lions, Inc. and is actually a 60 foot customized van fully equipped to offer free vision and hearing screening. / Read more…



  • App State Football Cancels Practice, Marches Through Downtown Boone Instead


    August 28, 2020  The App State football team led a peaceful protest against racial injustice through downtown Boone and the college campus on Friday evening that began around 5:30 p.m. Members of the team carried a sign at the front of the group that read, “End injustice together.” This is the same message the App State Football Facebook account posted on its page Thursday. The App State football team also posted a video on its Instagram page where App State defensive lineman Elijah Diarrassouba said, “And if we’re going to do it, we got to do it together, and I’m not just speaking about Black athletes, I’m speaking on behalf of the Black community because we are struggling right now.” By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • App State Enrollment Reaches 20,023, Breaks Records for Underrepresented Students


    August 29, 2020 In August 2020, Appalachian State University welcomed 20,023 students, a landmark enrollment for the university. In addition, numbers from the fall 2020 census data and the Office of Admissions as of Aug. 28 also show significant increases in first-year underrepresented students. Appalachian enrolls 5,992 rural students — more than 300 students above the University of North Carolina System strategic plan benchmark for this year — and 6,100 first-generation undergraduate students, which is 34% of the total undergraduate population. A record 18% of the total population is racially/ethnically diverse. Appalachian has increased its total underrepresented student population by 56% since 2014. Of note, the university has seen a 97% increase in first-year underrepresented students since 2014, nearly doubling that enrollment in six years. / Read more…



  • AppHealthCare COVID-19 Situation Update for Watauga County August 28, 2020


    August 26, 2020 Watauga County continues to see an increase in new cases. Even though we are not seeing a large spike in cases, the number of newly identified and active cases remains higher than what we want to see. Our case trends have continued to increase with the largest percentage of cases in the 18-24 old age group. Of the newly identified cases for this week, we are continuing to see the same trend with cases exposed due to close contact with others through living or working closely with others or attending social gatherings. / Read more…



  • Beech Mountain Renames Its Recreation Center for Fred and Margie Pfohl for Their Years of Service


    August 28, 2020  Beech Mountain’s recreation center has a new name honoring two of the town’s most avid supporters. The Buckeye Recreation Center is now known as the Fred and Marjorie Pfohl Buckeye Recreation Center after a surprise event honoring Fred and the memory of his late wife Margie. “It was a great surprise. There are a lot of other people that deserve similar and there are a lot of other people that got me to the point I got to. I’ll accept the honor for all of the folks that have helped make Beech Mountain what it is,” said Fred. “I’ve enjoyed the Buckeye Rec Center, I was around when it was built and I helped initially with a lot of different things. Fred remembers back to when the recreation center was completed, the parking lot doubled as a basketball court and they started adding landscaping and planting to make the area stand out even more. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster Closed by State Until Further Notice


    August 28, 2020  The Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster in Banner Elk has been closed until further notice, according to a social media post by the attraction on Aug. 21. “With heavy hearts as we have taken the measures asked of us to limit the amount of people coming and other COVID precautions, we have to announce we are closed until further notice starting tomorrow, Saturday Aug 22nd, 2020 due to the State of North Carolina shutting us down stating we are an amusement park and outdoor entertainment and cannot operate,” the post stated on Facebook. “We sincerely apologize to our patrons and guests that have registered and had planned to visit our location.” By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • Beech Mountain Celebrates Paving of Buckeye Creek Road with Ribbon Cutting


    August 28, 2020  A newly-paved scenic drive will connect people in Beech Mountain to neighboring Tennessee much quicker and easier than in years past after Thursday’s special ribbon cutting celebrating the paving of Buckeye Creek Road. The 2.7-mile road has 40 curves and takes drivers across the back of Beech Mountain into Tennessee near Watauga Lake. This project has been discussed multiple times in years past, but finally happened this summer. “At one time the DOT wanted to extend N.C. 184 through here and they said they’d pave it, but there were people that didn’t think that was best at the time,” said longtime Beech Mountain resident and business owner, Fred Pfohl. “Now it’s all done and it’s wonderful. We’ve got the town council and especially Bob Pudney (town manager) to thank for all of this. This road got paved in such a short period of time it was amazing.” By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • N.C. State Board of Elections Launches New Website to Serve Voters in Important Election Year

    August 28, 2020 The State Board of Elections has launched a new and improved website to better inform North Carolinians about their options for registering to vote and casting a ballot in 2020 and beyond. The website URL remains the same – NCSBE.gov. “At the State Board, we wanted the best user experience for voters and candidates in North Carolina,” said Karen Brinson Bell, State Board executive director. “We believe the new website is a huge leap forward in keeping voters informed about elections.” The website was designed to be easier to understand and navigate, more mobile friendly, more accessible and more secure than the legacy site. / Read more…



  • Avery County Chamber of Commerce Announces Golf Classic 2020 for Oct. 16


    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 / Read more…



  • Federal Emergency Management Agency Approves $300/Week Unemployment Boost for NC

    August 27, 2020 The state of North Carolina applied Aug. 20 for a federal unemployment boost that should add at least $300 to individual’s weekly unemployment checks. On Aug. 21, the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved the request. However, It is not clear when the funds will be distributed, but it could be as soon as next week. So far, the federal government has approved only enough money to cover three weeks of payments, all of which have already passed. The funds will be paid retroactively, covering the last week of July and the first two weeks of August. By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • Weekly Crime Reports: Activity and Arrests in Boone and Watauga County, August 17 – August 23

    August 26, 2020. Looking to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in your neighborhood? Want to keep an eye on criminal activity in your area? Take a look at these recent incident and arrest reports from the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and the Boone Police Department. Read more…
    Compiled by Nathan Ham



  • Appalachian State Reporting 202 Total COVID-19 Cases; Spring Break Already Canceled in 2021


    August 26, 2020 Appalachian State University is reporting 202 students, employees, and contractors that have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 27. Despite rumors of moving all classes to online instruction, the campus is still continuing with in-person classes as of Wednesday. At this time there were 41 active cases on campus. “The decision to welcome students back to campus was guided not only by our desire to give students the Appalachian Experience they hoped for but also by recommendations from public health officials and the UNC System,” said Appalachian State Chancellor, Dr. Sheri Everts. “Across the nation, the operations of colleges and universities face daily uncertainties. These first few days are critical in ensuring we are able to flatten App State’s curve. We must all be diligent following the 3Ws, and limiting social gatherings to small numbers.” By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • LETTERS / All Communities Outside of Boone Are Short-Changed

    August 26, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY TIM GUPTON / Dear Editor, I am writing to follow-up on an article posted in the Watauga Democrat “Blowing Rock group advocates for ambulance station” published on August 20, 2020. The community of Blowing Rock has been advocating to improve ambulance transport response times for many years and requested the new 24/7 crew be located in the facility provided by the Blowing Rock Fire District.   The County’s response has been to add a 9/5 crew during the weekdays. Representatives of the community and I met with Chairman John Welch on August 21, 2020 to request that the County hold a public hearing to re-evaluate the County Commission’s EMS policies that drive outcomes and safety and seek input from taxpayers throughout the entire County. Read more…



  • Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Ah, Shucks, The Garden’s Nearly Gone


    August 26, 2020. Along with wheat, rice and potatoes, corn ranks as one of the most important crops in the world. As one of the most valuable crops grown in the United States, corn is at a premium this year, with thousands of acres recently destroyed by storms in the country’s heartland. It seems that many High Country gardens have been blessed with plenty of corn this year; however, at our house, we planted corn twice and never saw a single blade rise from the ground. You just can’t predict how your garden will grow. We’ve had plenty of beans, cucumbers and yellow squash, and it appears that our potatoes will be abundant, but other crops have struggled for reasons we can’t explain. We were fortunate to obtain some of the most delicious corn we’ve ever tasted from a local nonprofit organization that grows it every year as a fundraiser, and have been joining others in preserving it for the coming winter months. Let’s enjoy it all while we can. By Sherrie Norris / Read more…



  • Watauga and Avery Obituaries – August 25, 2020

    August 25, 2020. The following are recent obituary notices from Austin and Barnes and Hampton funeral homes in Boone and Reins-Sturdivant in Newland. / Read more…



  • Number of Coronavirus Cases Has Slight Surge During Past Seven Days in Toe River Health District of Avery, Mitchell and Yancey Counties

    August 25, 2020 Although there was only a slight surge in confirmed Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases during the past week in the Northwest North Carolina High Country counties of Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties, there was still an average of more than one a day in Avery and Yancey and almost two per day in Mitchell. The three counties have had 445 total cases as of this morning, (August 12), compared to 412 a week ago. Counts of those afflicted with the disease have been tabulated, updated and publicly released since early March 2020. The Toe River Health District, which governs Avery, Mitchell and Yancey, counties, released the following details of those positive cases counts:  By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • All Wildland Fire Is Not Created Equal


    August 25, 2020  Wildland fire has been part of the forests of eastern North America and western NC for thousands of years. They occur naturally from lightning strikes, and native americans used wildland fire as a tool to reduce severe fire and to maintain productive forests. These fires would generally have been frequent and very low in intensity. Here in western NC, any given area of forest would burn every 0-34 years and a wide array of fire adapted plants and ecological communities once covered much of eastern North America. The frequency of fires drastically changed following European colonization and widespread settlement, resulting in less widespread wildland fire. By Felix Stith / Read more…



  • N.C. State Board of Elections Offers Guidance for Students Voting by Mail

    August 25, 2020 Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, students at colleges and universities who choose to vote by mail should request that their ballot be sent to an address where they know they will receive it. “We want to ensure all eligible voters have the information they need to successfully cast their ballot in this important election during these unique times,” said Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the State Board of Elections. If you are temporarily living away or displaced from the residence where you are registered to vote and you intend to return later, then you are not considered to have lost your place of residence. It can remain your residential address for voting. / Read more…



  • High Country Charitable Foundation Online Auction to Benefit Many in Avery County


    August 24, 2020  The High Country Charitable Foundation’s annual fundraising auction typically happens with a big dinner event, however, due to COVID-19, this year’s fundraiser is online and is still as important as ever. The HCCF provides grants to numerous organizations inside Avery County that benefit the people and animals that call the county home. Dick Larson with Feeding Avery Families says his organization has received so much help thanks to the kind hearts and charitable giving of the HCCF. Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Looking Ahead: Will North Carolina Enter Phase 3 on September 11?

    August 24, 2020 Most people are probably sick and tired of hearing about the phases of reopening by this point. There could be a hint of optimism on the horizon though as North Carolina is now less than three weeks away from the potential beginning of Phase 3 and another step to normalcy. Looking at the COVID-19 data provided by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the number of hospitalizations from the virus has been on a small but steady decline since hitting its peak of 1,236 on July 28. Hospitalizations dropped to below 1,000 on August 15 for the first time in over a month with 964 patients in hospitals across the state. The numbers did briefly jump back above 1,000 from August 17-20, however have been declining each day since then. As of August 22, 898 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19. The number of daily cases of the virus is still higher than health experts would like to see, but still below the highest total of 2,344 cases reported on July 30. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • AppHealthCare Weekly COVID-19 Situation Update for Watauga County August 20, 2020

    August 22, 2020 As cases continue to increase for Watauga County, we are urging everyone in the community to help us slow the spread of this virus. Of the newly identified cases for this week, we are continuing to see the same trend with cases exposed due to close contact with others through living or working closely with others or attending social gatherings. / Read more…



  • Grandfather Home is Not Closing, Plans for Expansion This Fall

    August 21, 2020 Due to COVID-19 and staffing challenges, children living on campus at Grandfather Home are moving to other locations over the next few weeks. After the pandemic crisis is over, Grandfather Home cottages will be lively once again.  Plans for expansion this fall include three new programs coming to Avery and Watauga counties. This fall, Grandfather Home will add mental health counseling services such as family counseling and individual therapy for children, ages 5-21.  Therapy will be provided on the Grandfather Home campus with some home visits if needed. / Read more…



  • COVID-19 Update: Watauga County Surpasses 400 Total Cases with 103 Current Active Cases

    August 21, 2020 The total number of COVID-19 cases in Watauga County jumped 27 percent in two weeks from August 8 to August 21, increasing from 309 to 426 over that time period. The increase in cases on Appalachian State’s campus has been noticeable as well during that time as students moved back for the beginning of fall semester classes. Appalachian State now has 55 active cases on campus (50 students, five employees) and now has had a total of 119 students, 41 subcontractors, and 22 employees test positive with the coronavirus so far in 2020. Watauga County currently has 103 active cases and 126 people being actively monitored. Ashe County has 23 active cases with a total of 179 cases overall and 43 people being actively monitored. Alleghany County has 17 active cases with 185 total cases and 11 people being actively monitored.  By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Rent is Coming Due: Federal Eviction Moratorium Ended Three Weeks Ago but Many Renters Remain Unemployed

    August 21, 2020 As the federal eviction moratorium quietly ended at the end of July, so did the federal unemployment benefits that were keeping food on the table and a roof over many peoples’ heads. While Congress has been slow to act to extend any federal benefits, with rent coming due for many Americans on September 1, many landlords are expected to proceed with eviction notices against renters who cannot pay their bills. Watauga County does not have a local eviction moratorium in place according to Boone Town Manager John Ward, and there have been concerns that even if a local town council did enact an eviction moratorium, it would not stand legal challenges from landlords seeking their rent payments. The Apartment Association of North Carolina (AANC) has been advocating for renters and educating them on their rights as the moratorium came to a close. According to a provision in the CARES Act, the earliest an eviction notice can be filed would be August 25, or 30 days after a notice to vacate was issued. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Town of Boone Amends State of Emergency to Keep Sidewalk Space Open for People Walking Through Downtown

    August 21, 2020 On Friday morning, the Town of Boone included an additional amendment to its State of Emergency that will keep the sidewalks open for people to be able to walk around and still adhere to social distancing protocols. The new amendment went into effect at noon on Friday. The changes specifically reference sidewalk sales and outdoor dining after some concerned citizens believed that there was not enough space on sidewalks to comfortably walk while keeping a proper social distance from people they may meet walking on the sidewalk. During a town council meeting on August 18, the Boone Town Council approved the amendment. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Famous Toastery Makes Highly Anticipated Return to Blowing Rock This Weekend with Charity Event


    August 21, 2020  Many former patrons of the Famous Toastery in Blowing Rock that have been anxiously awaiting the return of the popular diner can rest easy as the doors will officially reopen on Saturday. The restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch, and brunch all day from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., originally opened under franchise owners in Blowing Rock in October of 2018. The restaurant closed in September of 2019 despite having financial success in the town. “It was a franchise location that was doing really well. The franchisee had multiple stores and made an error in closing them,” said Famous Toastery CEO Robert Maynard. “Sometimes things happen and you move on. We’re happy to take over.” The restaurant will now be operated by the corporate founders and had originally planned on opening in the spring. Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Watauga County Board of Elections Accepting Applications for Paid Election Officials during Early Voting or on Election Day

    August 20, 2020 The Watauga County Board of Elections is currently accepting applications from individuals of all age groups who are interested in being paid to be an election official during the Early Voting period or on Election Day. When someone goes to vote, the person helping is an election official and are front-line representatives of the Board of Election office. “These individuals are active voters, serving their community and local government with pride,” the Watauga County Board of Elections stated in a flyer. “It is a long day and a lot of work; but without our volunteers, we could not make democracy work.” In addition, the flyer listed benefits of being an election official, including to make extra money, make a difference, strengthen the community, learn new skills and meet new people. By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • Mail-In Absentee Ballots Requests Surge; Deadline to Request Absentee Ballots is Oct. 27

    August 20, 2020 Through August 18, nearly 300,000 absentee ballot requests have been received by county boards of elections across North Carolina, with 77 days until election. This number is a lot different from 2016, where by Aug. 23, 2016 (77 days until the election), there were 26,906 absentee ballot requests. Watauga County Board of Elections Director Matt Snyder said they are getting between 80-100 absentee requests a day, which is very different from years past. “I’m glad people are thinking ahead of time; they’re being prepared and ready to vote and not waiting until the last second,” Snyder said. “I think that is very wise on everyone’s part.” By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • Watauga and Avery Obituaries – August 20, 2020

    August 20, 2020. The following are recent obituary notices from Austin and Barnes and Hampton funeral homes in Boone and Reins-Sturdivant in Newland. / Read more…



  • Appalachian State Continuing With In-Person Class Instruction For Now; 40 Students Currently Have Active COVID-19 Cases

    August 19, 2020 In a message from Appalachian State Chancellor Dr. Sheri Everts on Monday afternoon, it appears that Appalachian State will continue to offer in-person classes for the time being. UNC-Chapel Hill made the decision to discontinue classroom sessions and return to an entirely online learning format, becoming the first school in the UNC System to made the switch back to online classes only. “The decision to adapt operations applies to UNC-Chapel Hill only because no other UNC System institution has reported information, at this time, that would lead to similar modifications,” said UNC System President, Peter Hans, in a statement. “All students must continue to wear facial coverings and practice social distancing as part of their personal responsibility, particularly in off-campus settings. Taking personal responsibility and enforcing community standards are essential for the success of this semester and for protecting public health. Each campus is different, and I expect situations to evolve differently. In any circumstance, we will be grounded by reliable public health data and prevailing local health conditions. I will continue to stay in close contact with our chancellors and fully support their efforts to fulfill our core educational mission in safe learning environments.” By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Weekly Crime Reports: Activity and Arrests in Boone and Watauga County, August 9 – August 16

    August 19, 2020. Looking to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in your neighborhood? Want to keep an eye on criminal activity in your area? Take a look at these recent incident and arrest reports from the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and the Boone Police Department. Read more…
    Compiled by Nathan Ham



  • App State Announces COVID-19 Cases Associated with Mountaineer Football Team


    August 19, 2020  On Tuesday night, Appalachian State University announced that a cluster of seven students and four staff members associated with the Mountaineer football program had tested positive for COVID-19 and were considered active cases. A cluster is defined by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as “a minimum of five cases with illness onsets or initial positive results within a 14-day period and plausible epidemiologic linkage between cases.” According to the university, AppHealthCare has been in contact with each individual and have identified close contacts to each person. Those contacts have been instructed to quarantine and will have access to COVID-19 testing. Athletic Director Doug Gillin has suspended football practice until further notice. Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Boone Police Launch New Initiative to Streamline Noise Violation Responses

    August 19, 2020 The Boone Police Department has launched a new initiative to address and streamline responses to noise violations in residential areas of the Town. Residents may now visit the Town of Boone Police Department website to register an event they are hosting at their specific address. If a call is received reporting a noise violation, a courtesy call will be placed to the contact persons provided in the event registration. If the hosts feel they can adequately address the complaint and stop the noise violation, uniformed officers will not respond. Uniformed officers will respond if requested to do so by the hosts or if another noise violation complaint is received. / Read more…



  • Banff Film Festival Tentatively Re-Scheduled for Fall In-Person is Canceled; Refunds Available Through September 25

    August 19, 2020 The Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival 44th World Tour event that was originally scheduled for March 2020 and canceled due to COVID-19, was tentatively re-scheduled to be screened in-person this fall. However, organizers of the event have decided to cancel the re-scheduled event that was to take place in September 2020. The Banff Film Festival is an international film competition and annual presentation of short films and documentaries about mountain culture, sports and the environment. “While we explored almost every option including outdoor venues, there is just too much uncertainty with the pandemic,” wrote Rich Campbell, associate director of University Recreation, in an email.  By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • August/September Edition of the High Country Magazine Available Now!


    August 19, 2020  Our second High Country Magazine of the year is officially back from the printers and available in many locations around Watauga and Avery County. This month’s cover story features a celebration of an incredible 174-year history of Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock. Other stories inside for your reading pleasure include an in-depth look at the Blue Ridge Conservancy and its many land conservation and preservation projects that have been accomplished in their 10 years of existence and a feature on Blowing Rock native Steve Sudderth and his new book “Trails Through Time” which describes 500 years of history in Blowing Rock from 1400 to 1900. The final two stories are features of local individuals. / Read more…



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