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Today’s Email Announcements

1) Tickets On Sale Now for “Taste of Avery” on June 4

The Avery County Chamber of Commerce will host its 2015 Taste of Avery event from 6-8:30 p.m. on June 4 at the Best Western in Banner Elk, 501 Tynecastle Highway. Stop by the chamber, call 828-898-5605 or email chamber@averycounty.com for tickets. $25 in advance or $30 at the door. Visit the Avery County Chamber online for more information.

2) Nature Hike Sunday at Elk Knob State Park

The weather is finally warming up, so let’s get outside and explore as plants spring to life after a long winter. Please dress appropriately for the weather and note that it may be several degrees cooler at Elk Knob than in surrounding areas. Meet at the trailhead parking lot at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 17.

3) Ranger Programs on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The follow ranger-led programs will be hosted on the Blue Ridge Parkway in May. All programs are free and open to the public and are approximately 45 minutes long.

SAT. MAY 23: Misunderstood Marsupial, 7 p.m. at the Julian Price Campground Amphitheater, Milepost 296: What is as old as the dinosaurs, as small as a cat, as quiet as a mouse and calls the Blue Ridge Parkway home? Join the ranger to learn more about this misunderstood animal.

SAT. MAY 23: Mountain Murder Mysteries: Death on the Long Hunt, 7 p.m. at the Linville Falls Campground Amphitheater, Milepost 316: Pushing deep into the wilderness, William Linville and his son would give their lives near the river and the spectacular waterfall that still bears their names today. Join the ranger to learn how they met their tragic end.

SAT. MAY 30: Coyotes, 7 p.m. at the Julian Price Campground Amphitheater, Milepost 296: This newcomer to North Carolina has rapidly spread from the mountains to the coast, and is now found in all 100 counties. Why are they so successful? Are they to be feared? How should we treat this new neighbor? Come and find out.

SAT. MAY 30: Yell Fire, 7 p.m. at the Linville Falls Campground Ampitheater, Milepost 316: As one of the classical elements, fire has been seen as a powerful force within the universe. Learn about fire’s positive and negative effects and how wildlife fire is fought.

SAT. MAY 30: Dinosaurs and the Blue Ridge Mountains, 7 p.m. at Crabtree Falls Campground Amphitheater, Milepost 340: Can you find dinosaur fossils in the mountains around here? This is a frequently asked question by our parkway visitors. Learn the answer and more about dinosaurs, fossils, geology and paleontology of the mountains of western North Carolina at this ranger-led program.

4) Experience Naturalist Weekend at Grandfather Mountain Friday through Sunday

With flowers abloom and wildlife galore, Grandfather Mountain offers unrivaled beauty in spring.

Now, visitors have a sublime opportunity to experience this natural paradise at the annual Naturalist Weekend on May 15-17.

Throughout the three-day event, participants can scan for birds, browse for wildflowers on guided hikes or listen for owls in the night — all free with Grandfather Mountain admission.

The 2015 schedule also includes two special experiences with featured presenter Doug Elliott, a naturalist, storyteller and self-proclaimed “harmonica wizard” whose programs blend education and humor to help people better connect to the natural world.

“May is my favorite month on Grandfather Mountain. Flowers are blooming on a daily basis, trees are starting to leaf out and the temperature is near perfect,” said Chief Naturalist Mickey Shortt. “This upcoming weekend is one of the best times to experience Grandfather, and we’ve complemented the experience with an array of great programs. We’ve worked hard to prepare a lineup that offers something for every age, interest and ability.”

The event begins Friday, May 15, with a daylong spring bird count, followed by a stroll at the Linn Cove Viaduct at 2 p.m. and an evening wildflower walk along the Profile Trail.

Saturday’s schedule moves inside the gates of Grandfather Mountain for a geology-focused walk, a lively concert with Elliott titled “Woodslore and Wildwoods Wisdom,” as well as Junior Ranger programs, guided nature walks, Leave No Trace instruction and a stroll with Elliott focused on medicinal, edible and useful wild plants. The night concludes with an owl prowl to learn about native owl species.

On Sunday, early risers can meet at 7:30 a.m. for a birding expedition on the Profile Trail, followed by a sensory hike for all ages on the same trail. The event concludes with a wildflower walk at the Boone Fork Parking Area on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Participants can attend as many or as few events as they would like, and they’ll also have ample opportunity throughout the weekend to explore the mountain at their leisure.

Just stepping foot in this unique ecosystem — home to 73 species of rare and endangered plants and animals — will allow visitors to appreciate the qualities that led famed newsman Charles Kuralt to declare Grandfather Mountain the nation’s best place to be in May.

“On a clear day, you feel that you can see the whole world from up there,” Kuralt wrote of Grandfather Mountain.

All activities that occur inside Grandfather Mountain are included free with park admission, but some require advance registration due to space limitations. All activities that occur outside the park are free to all.

The event will be led by Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation naturalists with cooperation from the National Park Service, Grandfather Mountain State Park, Mast General Store and the High Country Audubon Society.

5) Watauga Parks to Offer Networks Basketball Camps in Sugar Grove Aug. 10-13

Watauga County Parks and Recreation announced as that Networks Basketball will be conducting two basketball camps in the area. The professional coaches of Networks Basketball have been working with players from around the world for the last 22 years. These coaches work with players on a year-round basis in Raleigh.

Take advantage of this unique opportunity and sign your player up today!

The Networks Basketball Camp will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day from Aug. 10-13 at the Old Cove Creek Gym, 207 Dale Adams Road in Sugar Grove. Early drop off at 8 a.m. and late pick-up until 5:30 p.m. Campers will need to provide their own food and drink each day for two snack breaks and a lunch break. Cost is $75 per student. Register at www.networksbasketball.com.

Additionally, Networks will host a basketball boot camp for middle and high school players between the ages of 12-18 from 6-8 p.m. on Aug. 10-13 following the regular camp in the evenings. Cost is $50 for boot camp participation. Register at www.networksbasketball.com.

For more information, call 919-233-8801 or reach at Networks professional at kevin@networksbasketball.com.