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Town of Boone Begins Planning for Next Year’s 150th Birthday Celebration

By Sherrie Norris

Anyone familiar with planning large events realizes much preparation is required for great success. Such is the case currently with Mark Freed, Cultural Resources Director for the Town of Boone, who is already rallying the troops for a year-long celebration to honor Boone’s 150th — sesquicentennial — birthday.

The official birthday falls on January 23, 2022, but it is the hope of Freed, his staff and associates to see the celebration continue throughout the entire year, with a special commemoration around the July 4, 2022 holiday. 

Earlier this year, Freed began working on the project with a core group of community volunteers and enthusiasts, including representatives of various town and county agencies and organizations. Having met online initially, everyone came together to get the ball rolling with much energy and excitement on Monday, June 28, during two live meetings, one at 12 noon and the other at 5:30 p.m.

However, Freed stressed on Monday, he welcomes others to join the growing number of participants as the planning evolves.

“We have a good group of people who are already involved,  who have expressed interest, or have been recommended by others to join us in helping plan the Boone 150, but we’re just in the beginning stages,” said Freed. “Boone’s 150th is your community’s birthday, and we want you to celebrate in the best way that you, your neighbors, your organizations and your businesses see fit.  We at the Town of Boone’s Cultural Resources Department will do the best we can to help support your efforts and connect people and projects under the Boone 150 umbrella.”

A list of projects that have been proposed for the celebration includes the following, Freed shared, but added that these are just ideas and he welcomes other suggestions for consideration:

  • Media documentation through photos, film, special print editions, social media, dedicated website, etc., archived information, as well as anything someone may have that is pertinent to the history of Boone and its changing landscape/streetscape through the years.
  • Local school field trips and tours with an emphasis on Boone history and celebrating the Boone 150.  
  • Public Art Project  to possibly include a series of panels that tell Boone’s story, special sculptures for the DBDA public art program, and possibly a mural project with the Watauga County Arts Council.
  • Re-enactment Events in which actors would play characters of some of the famous — and infamous — people in the town’s history. This project would involve script-writing, working with local theater groups and actors, planning and promoting the event(s), and producing the event
  • Guided Tours and Historical Walks focused on the history of downtown, the Junaluska community, the university, cemeteries, gardens and plants. 
  • Sacred History/Showcase of Choirs: Wouldn’t it be great to have choirs or church bands representing the breadth of Boone-area sacred sounds and styles all performing (perhaps in the Horn in the West Amphitheater) at the same event? 
  • Time Capsule Project – In addition to telling the stories of Boone’s 150 years, perhaps a good way to help tell future generations what Boone is/was in the 2020s. 
  • Music History Podcast Series. Boone has a rich musical history – from Al Hopkins and His Hill Billies to Lulu Belle and Scotty Wiseman to Doc Watson and more. (Did you know that Derek Trucks has his GED from Watauga?  Did you know that Boone was the starting place for bands Rainbow Kitten Surprise and The Nude Party?  And that Old Crow Medicine Show was “discovered” by Doc and Nancy Watson on King Street?  Did you know we used to have a fiddlers convention on the front steps of the old courthouse? This might be your chance to learn more and help create a podcast to tell others about it. 
  • Wagon Train: This was once a big part of the area’s colorful history, with reenactments gathering lots of interest and participation in the earlier years. While an actual lengthy trail ride might not be possible, a short ride and a local circling-up of equine enthusiasts, maybe even in period costumes/clothing, might be a great way to bring this piece of history back to Boone for a day, at least. 
  • Display or other presentation documenting Boone’s early medical history: Who knew that the Dan’l Boone Inn was once the town’s first hospital? Or that in 1938, Watauga Hospital was founded by B. B. Dougherty on the campus of the Appalachian State Teachers College, later known as Appalachian State University? That’s just one of many interesting facts this project could uncover.

Here’s your chance to get involved and help bring history to life again

The Boone 150 Celebration will require a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment  — and will give every resident a chance to be involved in something they enjoy. 

An immediate goal is to formulate working groups to take on the projects and report back to periodic larger Boone 150 meetings, the next of which will be in August (date, place and time to be decided).

If you, your group/organization/business would like to be involved with any of these projects, or have other ideas you would like added to the list, please contact Mark Freed, at mark.freed@townofboone.net or by calling 828-268-6282.