• Appalachian Regional Healthcare Systems Expands Services and Opens New Heart and Vascular Center


    August 7, 2020  Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) is excited to announce the opening of the new Heart & Vascular Center at Watauga Medical Center (WMC) in Boone. Formerly known as The Cardiology Center, the 8,000 square foot facility will open on August 17th in a new heart care wing at the medical center. The Heart & Vascular Center will provide more efficient and convenient access for patients, by integrating outpatient heart care with diagnostic services in the same convenient location. “We are excited to provide a collaborative approach to the treatment of complex heart and vascular conditions,” said Kim Bianca, President of Watauga Medical Center. “Bringing services – diagnostic testing, catheterization lab, etc. – under one roof reduces the wait time for patients and enhances the level of interaction between medical professionals to collaborate and deliver customized care.” / Read more…



  • Appalachian State Students Begin Moving in Next Week with Classes Starting on August 17

    August 7, 2020 A new way of campus life and a mixture of online and in-person classes will await students as they begin moving in on Monday, August 10 in preparation for the fall semester starting on August 17. The other public universities in the UNC System are beginning class on Monday, however, Appalachian State’s semester will begin the following week to make sure the newest student housing projects are completed in time. Freshmen and transfer students will move in on August 10-13 while returning students will move in on August 14-16. “I am proud of the way we have adapted to the challenges of this global pandemic, which has challenged every aspect of daily university life — from how we live and learn, to how we engage and educate,” said App State Chancellor Dr. Sheri Everts in a weekly email update to faculty, students and staff. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • N.C. Board of Elections’ Statement to Voters About Election-Related Mailers, Text Messages and Phone Calls

    August 7, 2020 North Carolina elections officials are responding to many voters’ questions and concerns about mass mailings, text messages, phone calls and home visits by political and advocacy groups. Many ongoing outreach efforts by third parties urge residents to request absentee by-mail ballots or register to vote ahead of the November 3 general election. Some mailings include voter registration applications or absentee ballot request forms. These efforts typically are legal, but they can be confusing or frustrating for voters and erode confidence in elections, especially when they are unsolicited. / Read more…



  • Avery To Receive $340,745 in Additional CARES Act Funding; Ag Building Community Room’s Audio Engineer Resigns

    August 7, 2020 During the regular monthly meeting of the Avery Board of Commissioners August 3, details were released that the county will be receiving a second allotment of CARES Act funding for more than one-third of a million dollars, a resolution regarding the Mayland Community College’s Anspack Advanced Manufacturing School was adopted and Inspections and Planning Director Tommy Burleson gave a report about the Eagles Nest Development in Banner Elk. By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • AppalCART and App State Awarded $1M-Plus Grant for Electric Bus


    August 7, 2020  More than $1 million in grant funds — the result of a collaboration between AppalCART and Appalachian State University — may soon make an electric bus the transit option of choice for the High Country. Two North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) grant programs — the Diesel Bus and Vehicle Program and the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Infrastructure Program — will provide AppalCART with $1,001,500 toward the purchase of an electric bus and charging station. / Read more…



  • NC Public High School Fall Sports to be Delayed Again Beyond Sept. 1 with Governor Roy Cooper’s Coronavirus Phase 2 Extension

    August 6, 2020 The North Carolina High School Athletics Association announced August 6 that the start of its fall sports season will once again be delayed. And it remains uncertain when seasons will start for fall sports teams, which include football. Governor Roy Cooper announced Aug. 5 that North Carolina will stay in Phase 2 of its plan for recovery from the pandemic for another five weeks, pushing the expected end of the phase up to September 11. According to the NCHSAA’s recovery plan from the COVID-19 pandemic, high schools under its governing umbrella must complete three phases before the start of competition. By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Governor Announces As Students Return to School, North Carolina to Remain Paused in Phase 2

    August 6, 2020 Governor Roy Cooper today announced that North Carolina will remain paused in Safer At Home Phase 2 for another 5 weeks as students and staff return to schools, colleges and universities and the state doubles down on efforts to decrease COVID-19 numbers. “Other states that lifted restrictions quickly have had to go backward as their hospital capacity ran dangerously low and their cases jumped higher. We will not make that mistake in North Carolina,” said Governor Cooper. “In keeping with our dimmer switch approach with schools opening, and in order to push for decreasing numbers which will keep people healthier and boost our economy, North Carolina will remain paused in Safer At Home Phase 2 for 5 weeks.” / Read more…



  • Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Love Your Neighbor: Share The Zucchini


    August 6, 2020. There’s a timeless joke about zucchini and how, by summer’s end, everyone has had their fill, so the only way to get neighbors to accept one more green “gift,” is to take it to their doorstep, ring the doorbell and run. If nothing else grows in a garden, chances are the zucchinis will. I find many uses for it — raw in salads and vegetable platters, cooked, steamed, sautéed, fried, baked or microwaved, chopped and in desserts or frozen and used for later. It’s a versatile little veggie, for sure. Good quality zucchini should be firm, smooth-skinned and not too big. The surface should be shiny and dark green in color. Avoid those that are soft, wrinkled, blemished or dull in appearance. Large squash will be less tender than smaller ones and won’t have the same taste. By Sherrie Norris / Read more…



  • App State and Wake Forest Have Agreed to Postpone Their Sept. 11, 2020 Football Contest

    August 6, 2020 App State and Wake Forest have agreed to postpone their 2020 football contest, which was scheduled for Sept. 11 in Winston-Salem, to a future year. The two schools that are separated by 86 miles have also agreed to add two more games to the series, one in Boone and one in Winston-Salem, for a total of three future matchups. “COVID-19 continues to change many of our plans,” App State Director of Athletics Doug Gillin said. “We are disappointed that this game will not be played in 2020, but we look forward to scheduling future games in the series within this decade. / Read more…



  • Weekly Crime Reports: Activity and Arrests in Boone and Watauga County, July 20 – August 2

    August 5, 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



  • Blowing Rock State of the Town Happening Virtually on August 13

    August 5, 2020 The Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce’s Community, Government & Education Committee in partnership with the Town of Blowing Rock invite all residents and business owners to attend the annual State of the Town event Thursday, August 13 at 5:30. Due to indoor meeting restrictions, this year’s event will be held virtually. The Town of Blowing Rock will issue a link to anyone who wishes to view the event online. This event will be broadcast live as a YouTube video from the Council Chambers in Town Hall. Join us to learn about exciting current and future projects in the Town of Blowing Rock as well as look at the economic indicators. The Town’s report will be presented by Mayor Sellers and Town Manager, Shane Fox. Charles Hardin will update the audience on the current projects and initiatives of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce and the Village Foundation. / Read more…



  • Free COVID-19 Drive-Thru Testing Event for Alleghany and Ashe Residents This Saturday, August 8


    August 5, 2020  AppHealthCare is partnering with Mako Medical Laboratories to offer COVID-19 testing for Alleghany and Ashe County residents. Drive-thru testing will be available Saturday, August 8, from 9:30 am until 1:00 pm at Alleghany High School, 404 Trojan Avenue in Sparta. Individuals must be residents of Alleghany or Ashe County and over 10 years of age. There is no cost for testing and is available regardless of insurance status. If you have insurance, please bring a copy of your insurance information. No appointment is needed. Test results should be expected within a few days. “We are grateful for the partnership with Mako Medical Laboratories, support from Alleghany County, Alleghany Emergency Management and Alleghany County Schools allowing parking lot space to provide this drive-through testing event, free of charge, for the Alleghany County community. With the increases in COVID-19 cases locally, we know this is an important step to take to further identify and control the spread of this virus and protect the public’s health,” stated Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare.  / Read more…



  • Coronavirus Cases Pass 300 in Toe River Health District; Avery County Nears 100 With or Who Have Been Afflicted with Disease

    August 5, 2020 Updated Coronavirus (COVID-1) numbers from the Toe River Health District (TRHD) as of Tuesday morning, August 4, for the three North Carolina High Country counties that operate under its regional governing body–Avery, Mitchell and Yancey–include: By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Cherry Johnson Retires From Watauga County Arts Council After 28 Years


    August 5, 2020 Executive Director Cherry Johnson of the Watauga County Arts Council officially retired Aug. 1. Johnson has been with the organization since 1992, making her time there exactly 28 years, which is an important number for her. “I was born on the 28th, married on the 28th, and my last child was born on the 28th, so 28 seemed like a good number of years,” Johnson said. During the days leading up to Johnson’s final day, she was working on putting together a photo essay of different pictures from the past years. “Going through that, I was overwhelmed with how awesome it all was, and I was overwhelmed with, ‘Look at how much we did.’ It blew my mind,” Johnson said. “And several of the years, I would look and something would be dated that year and another thing would be dated that year and another thing. And I’m like, ‘How did we do all that?’ But we did!” Johnson said she enjoyed looking through the photos over the years and being taken back to those moments. “And seeing faces I haven’t seen in so many years, it was just fantastic to do that,” Johnson said. “That was the really great part of going back.” Continuing to reminisce, Johnson said she wants to make sure history and all the things the Watauga County Arts Council has done over the years does not get lost, because the staff has worked really hard. By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • A Year in Review: The Appalachian Theatre’s Inaugural Season Draws Audiences From As Far Away As Finland


    August 3, 2020  At the July 22 board meeting of the Appalachian Theatre, trustees received a “state of the theatre” address from outgoing chair John Cooper and executive director Laura Kratt. It was an occasion to pause and reflect over the momentous events of the prior fiscal year, which began with an intensive swirl of activity to complete the eight-year, ten million dollar renovation and construction effort that restored the venerable landmark on King Street to its former glory, and ended in a complete shutdown due to the pandemic. The grand re-opening took place on October 14, 2019, with a standing-room-only concert, the first in a month-long series of events designed to welcome community stakeholders whose combined efforts saved the High County’s Art Deco architectural jewel. Almost 3,500 people joined in the festivities, the first of which was an opening performance with John McEuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the String Wizards with their “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” concert. The concert paid homage to many of the legendary performers that once graced the Appalachian stage in its early years ranging from Bill Monroe to Flatt & Scruggs to Doc Watson. Local talent, Liam Purcell of Cane Mill Road, joined in to make the evening a multi-generation affair. It was the perfect night to announce the dedication of the Doc Watson Stage for Americana Music at the App Theatre. / Read more…



  • AppalCART Welcomes Students With Open Doors and COVID-Free Transit


    August 3, 2020  As the Watauga County community prepares for an exciting fall semester and the return of university students to the area, AppalCART is gearing up with a renewed commitment to the health and safety of passengers. This includes more rigorous preventive measures to protect against the spread of COVID-19. “So many university students and Watauga County residents have come to rely on AppalCART, and our foremost priority is to provide quality transportation services in a way that ensures the safety and health of our passengers and drivers,” said Craig Hughes, AppalCART Director. Hughes emphasized the critical role AppalCART plays in reducing car traffic to the area daily by thousands of cars as the transportation service carries between 13,000 and 14,000 passengers per day throughout the county. He says they have been consulting with other comparable systems to determine a response to COVID while maintaining critical and essential services. / Read more…



  • Board of Directors Announce Cancellation of this Year’s 43rd Annual Woolly Worm Festival


    July 31, 2020  It is with deep sadness that the 2020 Woolly Worm Festival of Banner Elk has been cancelled. This is not a decision the Woolly Worm Board of Directors has taken lightly. Every year, profits from the festival are given back to our community to enhance the lives of children and to promote business and tourism in Avery County. Local businesses and organizations also benefit from festival visitors to our community.  / Read more…



  • Watauga County Habitat for Humanity Announces Future Homeowners and Community Partnerships


    July 31, 2020  “As our community continues to struggle with the public health crisis and economic impact of COVID-19, a safe place to call home is more important than ever”, according to Allison Jennings, Director of Development for Watauga Habitat for Humanity. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we completed construction on homes for Kristina Fickling and David and Amy Barker. Our work continues as more families need access to the opportunities an affordable home can offer.”  / Read more…



  • High Country United Way Awards $100,000 to 24 Local Non-Profits for Annual Grant Competition

    July 31, 2020 High Country United Way is announcing the award of $100,000 in grant funding to support 24 non-profit programs operating in Watauga, Avery, and Mitchell Counties. High Country United Way provides grants for organizations making an impact in the areas of health, education, financial stability, and basic needs. Grants are awarded through a competitive grant application process overseen by the High Country Board of Directors and community volunteers. / Read more…



  • COVID-19 Situation Update for Watauga July 30th

    July 30, 2020 Cases are continuing to increase for Watauga County. We are seeing our total case count increase steadily each week, and we would like to see that level off more than it has. The number of active cases (individuals in isolation) has also increased in recent weeks. The active case count data gives a picture of the active virus in our community. It is important to note that this only accounts for confirmed cases among people who have been tested. We are continuing to see community transmission occurring and when we can determine how exposure occurred, most cases were from people traveling, attending social gatherings or living or working in close proximity to others. This has remained the case through recent weeks. / Read more…



  • Number of COVID-19 Cases Continuing to Grow in Watauga County Among Young Population

    July 29, 2020 Concerns are growing throughout Watauga County after the latest test numbers reveal that active cases are climbing and teenagers, as well as people in their 20s and 30s, are making up the bulk of those positive tests, this according to Jennifer Greene, the Health Director at AppHealthCare. Greene spoke during Tuesday’s emergency Watauga County Board of Education meeting. “We have been watching the trend numbers, I think we did pretty well for a while, but over the last month, I have grown increasingly concerned because we have had an upward line. The majority of our cases prior to this week have been 18 to 24-year-olds with the next age groups being 25 to 49-year-olds,” said Greene. A total of 37 percent of the positive tests have been from people ages 18-24 and another 37 percent for people ages 25-49. As Appalachian State University continues to finalize its plans for reopening for the fall semester, a big jump in the younger population with roughly 20,000 students returning to Boone is going to lead to more community spread, according to Greene. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Watauga County Schools Hires Tech Director and Cove Creek Principal


    July 29, 2020  At its July meeting, the Watauga County Board of Education approved the hire of two leadership positions within Watauga County Schools, appointing a Dr. Alison Schleede Director of Technology and Scott Carter as principal of Cove Creek School. Schleede takes the helm of Watauga County Schools’ technology department after the retirement of Nancy Zeiss while Carter is set to take over from Mary Smalling, who has filled as principal of Cove Creek School since earlier this year. Schleede comes to Watauga County Schools from Knightdale High School where she taught American History. She has served in various capacities across the state as a technology facilitator, teacher, principal, and assistant principal. Schleede earned her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of New York College at Brockport. She went on to earn a Master’s in instructional technology education from East Carolina University and an Ed. D. in education leadership from Wingate University.  / Read more…



  • Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Summertime Blues!


    July 29, 2020. Yum-yums, cobblers, muffins and jam — it’s blueberry season and happy I am. Not only are these summer delicacies delicious and in local abundance this year, but they are also among nature’s most nutritional gifts to us. Of course, they lose some of their “value” when tossed into a bowl of sugar and flour and made into those desserts that we all love this time of year. But, because there are so many ways to enjoy blueberries, we can’t possibly get bored with these delicious treats of the season. Nutrition experts tell us that the pigment that gives blueberries their deep unique blue color is an effective antioxidant and is a significant source of Vitamin C and dietary fiber. They have also been used to treat urinary infections, stones and diabetes. You can’t go wrong by eating them — just off the bushes or from the carton, so enjoy them while you can. By Sherrie Norris / Read more…



  • WCS to Open School Year with 9 Weeks of Remote Learning After a Vote at Tuesday Night Meeting

    July 28, 2020 Based on guidance from local health officials, the Watauga County Board of Education voted Tuesday to begin the 2020-21 school year with 9 weeks of remote instruction for students. School officials announced what Superintendent Scott Elliott called a “modified Plan B that helps us phase our students and staff back into school while also doing everything possible to protect the health and safety of our community.” Previously, school officials announced that students will return under a 2×3 Flex plan where students attend school in person for two days and work remotely for three days / Read more…



  • Who is Caring for our Children? The Children’s Council of Watauga Has Knowledge, Expertise, Information and Materials to Help

    July 28, 2020 “There was already a shortage of child care in Watauga County pre-COVID,” said Elisha Childers, Executive Director of the Children’s Council. “The pandemic made us more aware of the importance of good, quality care for children while parents work. Parents across our nation have been figuring out how to balance the demands of caring for their children with their own need to work. Suddenly we understand what good, quality child care means to our workforce and our economy. Now that schools have announced their plans, parents are faced with choices about care for young children and school-aged children alike.” / Read more…



  • Free COVID-19 Drive-Thru Testing Event at Ashe High School, Saturday, August 1st 9-2:00pm

    July 28, 2020 AppHealthCare is partnering with Mako Medical Laboratories to offer COVID-19 testing for Ashe County residents. Drive-thru testing will be available Saturday, August 1st 9:00am-2:00pm at Ashe High School, 184 Campus Drive, West Jefferson. Individuals must be residents of Ashe County and over 10 years of age. There is no cost for testing and no appointment is needed. Testing is available regardless of insurance status. If you have insurance, please bring a copy of your insurance information. Participants should be notified by Monday, August 3rd of their test results. / Read more…



  • Governor Cooper Signs Executive Order Limiting the Sale of Alcoholic Beverages After 11 pm

    July 28, 2020 With actions to slow the spread of COVID-19 beginning to have impact, Governor Roy Cooper is doubling down on prevention measures with Executive Order 153 stopping the sale of alcoholic drinks in restaurants, breweries, wineries, and distilleries at 11 pm. North Carolina bars that are currently closed will remain closed. This order will take effect Friday, July 31. “Slowing the spread of this virus requires targeted strategies that help lower the risk of transmission,” said Governor Cooper. “This will be particularly important as colleges and universities are scheduled to start, bringing people all over the country to our state. We have seen case numbers increase among younger people, and prevention is critical to slowing the spread of the virus.” / Read more…



  • Blue Ridge Energy Expands Help As Executive Order is Expected to End Wednesday

    July 28, 2020 Blue Ridge Energy has announced plans to continue and expand helping electric members struggling to pay utility bills as the state’s suspension of utility disconnections and late fees ends Wednesday after Executive Order 124, which went into effect in March and was extended to July 29 by Executive Order 142, expires. Blue Ridge Energy began suspending disconnections and late fees even before EO 124 went into effect in March. The cooperative’s In This Together Relief fund has awarded over $115,000 in crisis energy bill assistance to its electric members and propane and fuels customers during this time. / Read more…



  • Toe River Health District’s Updated COVID-19 Counts; Avery County Up to 78 Total Cases


    July 28, 2020  Updated Coronavirus (COVID-1) numbers from the Toe River Health District as of Tuesday morning, July 28, for the three North Carolina High Country counties that operate under its regional governing umbrella–Avery, Mitchell and Yancey– are as follows: Avery-78 positive cases (63 inflicted with the disease have recovered and 15 cases remain active) Mitchell-106 positive cases (68 inflicted with the disease have recovered and 36 are active cases). Mitchell has also had two fatalities from COVID-19. Yancey-94 positive cases (87 recoveries and 7 active cases). COVID-19 graphs displaying its progression and updated information in Avery, Mitchell, Yancey and the over-all TRHD are included with this story. Public health staff officials continue to work to complete investigations into all these COVID-19 cases and they are contacting close contacts of those afflicted with the disease to contain its spread. By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Todd Bush Traveled to the Top of Grandfather Mountain on Sunday Night For Comet Show


    July 28, 2020  Comet NEOWISE photos from Todd Bush on Sunday night continued to show a great view of the comet. Bush recommends a telescope or binoculars to see NEOWISE late at night. Bush also wanted to remind readers that thanks to his time-lapse camera settings, the comet will look a lot brighter in his photos than it will if you are looking through binoculars. The time-lapse photos also make the moonlight appear to brighten up the entire landscape to the point where it looks like the photos were taken around dusk when in reality, the photos were taken at almost midnight. Comet NEOWISE made its closest pass by Earth on July 23 when it was approximately 64 million miles from the planet.   By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Donated Funds Allow for New Trees Planted Around Wildcat Lake in Banner Elk


    July 27, 2020  Wildcat Lake in Banner Elk will have an even more picturesque surrounding now after the addition of 10 new October Glory maple trees planted at the lake. “We were fortunate enough to apply and get $5,000 from the Kiwanis Club of banner Elk and $5,000 from the High Country Charitable Foundation to plant the trees we have here,” said Kiwanis club member and Avery County resident Jim Swinkola, “Unfortunately right now the lake is closed, but the lake is going to be here for a long time, for many many centuries, and I’m sure these trees will be here for a long time.” By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Watauga County School Board Hosting Emergency Meeting on Tuesday Evening

    July 27, 2020 The Watauga County Board of Education will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday, July 28 at 5 p.m. The meeting will be held in person with appropriate precautions taken for the health and safety of the public. The purpose of the meeting is for the board to hear an update on school reopening planning and to consider taking action on an updated recommendation for the return to in-person instruction. The public may offer comments to the board either in person or via email to Superintendent Scott Elliott at [email protected] The deadline for submitting comments is 4:30 PM on July 28, 2020. / Read more…



  • From the Mayor’s Desk: Updates on Mandatory Face Coverings and Memorial Park Playground Completion


    July 27, 2020 I want to thank all of our citizens for adhering to the Governor’s mandate for wearing face coverings while in public areas. This being said, I have noticed some visitors to our community not wearing face coverings while in public areas and many of our merchants have been kind enough to offer face coverings. I have spoken with some of our visitors and they have stated how kind the merchants and citizens have been during their visits. We must keep in mind that we have visitors from all over the country and they may not be aware of the guidelines so it is detailed below for those people that might not be aware of his mandate. Governor Cooper’s mandate issued June 26 requiring protective mask be worn by employees and visitors in private and public buildings in the State of North Carolina and any area outdoors that six-foot social distancing can not be maintained. The people exempt would be those with health conditions that wearing a mask could affect their health in a negative manner, families walking together outdoors (must social distance from non-family members), and children under the age of 11.  / Read more…



  • Rep. Ray Russell’s July 27th Newsletter on Coronavirus Updates, Announcements and Info

    July 27, 2020 DHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen announced recently the launch of a website that will assist those in need of things like help navigating the unemployment landscape, food assistance, or housing and shelter, among other things. The NCCARE360.org website is now interactive for all 100 counties. A test program was created in 2019 for four NC counties, and it was thought it would take until December 2020 for the program to go live for the whole state, but teams rollled up their sleeves and worked overtime to make it available during this critical time for the state. / Read more…



  • COVID-19 Update: Positive Cases in Watauga Jump Another 35 Percent From Last Week

    July 24, 2020 In the most recent data update from AppHealthCare, Watauga County now has recorded a total of 214 positive cases, a jump from 159 last week. This adds up to a 35 percent increase from last Friday. Active cases increased from 89 to 99 in Watauga County with 142 people being actively monitored, a drop from 147 recorded last week. In the rest of AppHealthCare’s district, Ashe County’s positive case count went from 69 last week to 86 this week with an increase in active cases from 16 to 26. In Alleghany County, their positive count jumped from 46 to 56 with 15 cases being active, the same amount as last week. Ashe has 47 people being actively monitored while Alleghany has 34 people being actively monitored. Hospitalizations from across the district increased by one from 13 to 14 over this past week. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



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