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Cottages of Boone Wastewater Tank Overflows Due to Mechanical Error

September 20, 2021. The Cottages of Boone, located at 615 Fallview Lane in Boone, North Carolina, experienced a discharge of untreated domestic wastewater. The housing development operates an on-site wastewater treatment system that is permitted through the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources and serves 894 bedrooms and ancillary facilities. The Cottage of Boone WWTP facility’s equalization tank overflowed as the result of an emergent mechanical error that occurred at the treatment facility. The discharge is believed to have started late Monday, September 13, and ended at approximately 8:00 p.m. It is estimated that approximately 4,725 gallons of untreated wastewater were discharged to Laurel Fork stream within the Watauga River Basin during the event. A local sludge hauling company arrived on-site and pumped 12,000 gallons of raw wastewater from the equalization tank, stopping the overflow.

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COVID-19 Update: Town of Boone Modifies Mask Ordinance for Businesses that Offer Indoor Fitness and Exercising

September 17, 2021. The Town of Boone issued a modification to its mask ordinance on September 17 that allows for people inside local gyms, fitness centers and the recreation complex to not have to wear a mask while working out. The amendment to the town’s ordinance states that individuals do not have to wear a mask if they are maintaining 10 feet of social distance from all participants at all times or can provide proof of vaccination and maintain six feet of social distance from all other participants. Face coverings will still be required in areas such as lobbies, hallways and any areas where people are not actively engaged in athletic or physical activities. Active COVID-19 cases continue to climb in the High Country. As of Friday morning, there were 129 active cases in Watauga County with 120 people in quarantine. Ashe County reported 85 active cases with 133 people in quarantine and Alleghany County reported 75 active cases with 77 people in quarantine.  By Nathan Ham

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Grandfather Mountain Staff Expects Uptick in Hikers this Fall, Shares Hiking Tips

September 16, 2021. The call of the wild has been loud and clear during the pandemic with many people looking for a way to escape, get outdoors and connect more with their loved ones and nature. That trend is evident with Grandfather Mountain experiencing record attendance the last two years. With more people visiting, the park has also observed a substantial increase in hikers. In 2019, the Linville, N.C., nature preserve recorded 11,889 hikers between January and August. In 2021, 15,110 hikers hit the trails during that same period, a 27-percent increase. “Having more people on the trails means that people are getting back to nature and specifically seeing the wonders of Grandfather Mountain in a unique way,” said H Patton III, natural resource management specialist for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the park. “Hiking our trails offers one of the most difficult and exciting experiences that our guests can have. The rugged connection to the mountain is one that they will never forget.”

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Payne Branch Park Open and Flourishing Thanks to Middle Fork Greenway Task Force

September 16, 2021. 15 years ago, members of the Middle Fork Greenway task force obtained grants to secure land for three parks along the Middle Fork of the New River: Payne Branch Park, Goldmine Branch Park, and Sterling Creek Park. After removal of the South Fork dam and extensive stream bank restoration, Payne Branch Park is now open to the public. Sterling Creek Park opened in 2014, and Goldmine Branch Park is currently under construction, slated to be finished by the end of the year. Funding for Payne Branch Park was provided by AppHealthCare, ZAP Endurance, Watauga County Tourism Development Authority, and Blue Ridge Conservancy. The South Fork dam, used to produce power for Boone from 1924-1972, was removed in 2020 in a partnership between Resource Institute, Appalachian State University, New River Light & Power (NRLP). Now that the water is flowing freely, fish and other aquatic organisms can migrate up and down the river corridor, and native trees, shrubs and flowers provide wildlife and riverbank protection.  The Middle Fork Greenway task force, a committee of volunteers, is keeping the park clean, pruned, and ready for visitors. 

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Ahoy! App Theatre Launches Cinema Classics Series on September 19; Celebrate “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” with a Highly-Treasured Film

September 15, 2021. In the cinematic tradition of the historic movie house, the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country (ATHC) premieres a new collection of programming following the heightened success of their inaugural BOONE DOCS documentary film series. “Cinema Classics Series” offers live and in-person beloved, family-friendly flicks throughout the fall of 2021. Their debut screening on September 19? Well, dead men tell no tales, but you may want to brush up on your seadog lingo as the first screening is held in conjunction with “International Talk Like a Pirate Day!” By Laura Voytko

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Zan Thompson is the Final Artist in Residency This Week at Edgewood Cottage Through September 19

September 14, 2021. Watercolor artist Zan Thompson will be spending this week at the Edgewood Cottage in Blowing Rock through September 19 as part of their Artists in Residency program. This is the final week of the program for 2021. Watercolor artist, teacher and observer of place, Zan grew up playing and experimenting with art in his parents’ Atlanta studios. Of all the mediums, he was most attracted to watercolor but found it more difficult than other medium. It was this love for watercolor that would bring him back again and again until he found the joy and excitement he had always expected. Today, Zan paints strictly in watercolor, is a signature member of Watercolor Society of North Carolina and teaches classes in watercolor. Zan’s themes include landscapes, seascapes/fishing, botanical, still lives, and abstract art. Come meet Zan from September 13th through September 19th at Edgewood Cottage in Blowing Rock. Zan’s residency concludes this summer’s Artist-in-Residence program.

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Lees-McRae Ranked Among Top Regional Colleges in South for Undergraduate Teaching by U.S. News & World Report

September 13, 2021. U.S. News & World Report ranked Lees-McRae College 28th among regional colleges in the South in its 2022 Best Colleges guide. The institution is in the number 8 spot on a list recognizing the best regional colleges in the South for undergraduate teaching and for the second year in a row appears on the list for top performers on social mobility. “While rankings do not tell the whole story of a college, they can point to some key strengths, which in our case includes teaching excellence,” said Provost Alyson Gill. “Our faculty are deeply committed to bringing their disciplines to life in the classroom and connecting with our students. In a place that is In the Mountains, Of the Mountains, and For the Mountains, our faculty build experiences that extend beyond the classroom walls with a shared recognition that an essential part of student learning happens outside the classroom.”

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Tweetsie Railroad Begins Ticket Sales for Award-Winning Ghost Train

September 9, 2021. Tweetsie Railroad is preparing for the spookiest time of the year at the park and tickets are on sale today for Ghost Train®! The annual event, which started in 1990, will return on Friday and Saturday nights from Sept. 24 to Oct. 30. Each year, visitors travel from all over the Southeast to see North Carolina’s first theme park transform into a delightfully frightful destination and take in the spectacular fall leaf season in the Blue Ridge Mountains. From 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Tweetsie Railroad will switch from its daytime, Wild West theme to a haunted park complete with Halloween thrills and chills for everyone. Daytime park visitors can still enjoy all of Tweetsie Railroad’s Wild West adventures, rides, shows and attractions. Yet, when darkness sets in, the ghouls will come out to play and unexpected surprises will wait around every corner. The highlight of each evening is a ride on Tweetsie Railroad’s star Halloween attraction: the spooky Ghost Train. It departs into the night every 30 minutes.  

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Linda Elksnin, Lisa Pepper and Bob Meier are the Artists in Residency This Week at Edgewood Cottage Through September 12

September 7, 2021. Artists Linda Elksnin, Lisa Pepper and Bob Meier will be spending this week at the Edgewood Cottage in Blowing Rock through September 12 as part of their Artists in Residency program. Linda’s colorful, whimsical paintings are inspired by eclectic sources such as textiles, self-taught and outsider artists, and mainstream artists such as Mark Rothko, Romare Bearden and Marc Chagall. She incorporates symbols, shapes, and subject matter from a variety of cultures, including those of the American South, Appalachia, and Haiti, as well as the aboriginal people of Panama and Australia. Linda uses a variety of media (acrylic, watercolor, gouache, color pencil, pastel) to work on paper, canvas, and wood. Whether abstract or loosely based on reality, the common thread of all her work is color and graphically pleasing design. Her work is often described as whimsical and happy. Want to see art to make you smile? Come meet Linda from September 6 through September 12 at Edgewood Cottage in Blowing Rock.

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Troy’s 105 Diner Featured in New Music Video for Luke Combs’s Song ‘Cold As You’

September 3, 2021. While many country music fans are being brought to Boone this weekend for Luke Combs’s concert Saturday, Sept. 4, there’s an interesting fact floating around the town revolving around the country music star. The latest music video for Luke Combs’s song “Cold As You” includes scenes featuring a local-favorite restaurant. The video, which premiered on August 24, opens with three trucks in the parking lot of Troy’s 105 Diner and then continues inside the dining hotspot with a man sitting at the counter. Justin “J.B” Byrum, who is the co-owner of Troy’s Diner, remembers how this opportunity came about. “It was a Friday night, and one of our staff members got a phone call from the production team asking if we would be willing to let them shoot part of the video here,” Byrum recalled. “I don’t think anybody actually believed it was true, but it got around to me, and when I talked to them on the phone, they said the restaurant was the perfect place.” By Harley Nefe

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Speakers at COVID-19 Care Vigil at Watauga Medical Center Thursday Morning Encourage Everyone to Get Vaccinated

September 2, 2021. Hospital doctors, nurses and staff members gathered outside of Watauga Medical Center on Thursday morning to speak to community members about the dire conditions that exist for COVID-19 patients and encourage everyone to get vaccinated to fight this terrible virus. The care vigil was also live-streamed on Facebook for those that could not be there or want to watch at a later time. Speakers at the event included Dr. Lisa Kaufmann (Inpatient Physician Group), Dr. Kevin Wolfe (Pulmonologist), Dr. Beverly Womack (AppFamily Medicine), Dr. Jennifer Nelson (Emergency Department), Jimmy Phillips (Respiratory Therapist), Amy Hempfling (Nurse Leader) and Melanie Childers (Spiritual Care). Speakers talked about not only the struggles that patients go through dealing with the illness but also how hard it is on them personally to witness people having such a hard time battling COVID-19.   By Nathan Ham

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Students Put Their Trust in App State During Pandemic: Landmark Enrollment of 20,641 Students, Record-High Number of Underrepresented Students

August 30, 2021. Appalachian State University announces a landmark enrollment of 20,641 students in fall 2021 — the largest enrollment to date — which includes historic numbers of first-year and underrepresented students. The 3.1% increase in overall enrollment supports the university’s continued slow and steady growth since 2014. “The data speak directly to the dedication of our faculty and staff in supporting and encouraging future generations of Mountaineers,” said App State Chancellor Sheri Everts. “Our steady increases in the enrollment of underrepresented and transfer students reflect our university’s commitment to making higher education accessible for all students.” She continued, “These enrollment successes are particularly meaningful since they were accomplished amid the immense challenges presented by a global pandemic.” App State has a total of 4,099 first-year students, marking the first time the university has enrolled more than 4,000 first-year students. Of note, underrepresented students compose 19.1% of the total first-year population, or 784 students, an increase of 5.7% since 2020.

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Fredrick Craig Franz is the Artist in Residency This Week at Edgewood Cottage Through September 5

August 30, 2021. Artist Fredrick Craig Franz will be spending this week at the Edgewood Cottage in Blowing Rock through August 29 as part of their Artists in Residency program. A 42-year resident of Western North Carolina’s High Country, Frederick ‘Craig’ Franz’s home in Avery County is a landscape artist’s dream. His home is at the foot of rugged Grandfather Mountain and on the northern border of the Pisgah National Forest. Four true seasons visit the High Country each year and provide Craig with unlimited inspiration from which to paint. Working in soft pastels and oils, his award-winning paintings are created both plein air and in the studio.

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COVID-19 Update: Active Cases in Watauga County Surpass 130; Additional Death Reported in Ashe County

August 27, 2021. Watauga County now has 134 active cases, a number that has continued to rise steadily since the beginning of July. 49 others are in quarantine. In Ashe County, another death was reported from COVID-19 complications, bringing the total to 51, the highest in the three-county district served by AppHealthCare. Ashe is currently reporting 88 active cases with 109 people in quarantine Alleghany County has 34 active cases with 34 people in quarantine. Since the pandemic started, a total of 9,093 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the three-county area.  By Nathan Ham

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Hi-Lo Adventure Trail Connects Beech Mountain Visitors to Other Parts of Avery and Watauga Counties and Eastern Tennessee

August 27, 2021. The eagerly-anticipated Hi-Lo Adventure Trail in Beech Mountain will add lots of new stops and destinations to the list of things for tourists to do when they come to town. The town officially introduced the driving trail at a merchant expo at the Buckeye Recreation Center on Thursday. The trail features three different driving loops, the 100-mile Mountain 2 Mountain Loop, the 105-mile Lakeside Loop and the 85-mile Tasters Loop. Each driving trail gives visitors a full day’s itinerary of places to stop all while getting to enjoy a beautiful drive through the High Country. The trails will include stops in Watauga County and Avery County as well as Carter County and Johnson County in Tennessee. “Last year we were able to pave Buckeye Creek Road on the backside of Beech Mountain. It also opened an economic corridor to Tennesse on the other side of the mountain. It makes a great partnership and should improve the area for all of us,” said Beech Mountain Mayor Barry Kaufman. By Nathan Ham

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New Pedestrian and Cycling Safety Improvements Now Fully Functional at Hardin Park Elementary

August 27, 2021. Harmony Lanes is grateful to announce that thanks to advocacy on our part and collaboration with the Town of Boone, Hardin Park Elementary, NCDOT, and several private landowners, there are now fully functioning sidewalks and a very safe HAWK (High intensity Activated crossWalK) crosswalk on NC194 at Hardin Park Elementary. HAWK crosswalks are signalized crosswalks that stop vehicle traffic in both directions when activated by the pedestrian.  This is a big advance in safety for the hundreds of students and their families who can now more easily access the school without needing to come in a car or bus. front entrance of the school.  Cars and trucks routinely blow past at 45mph and higher in what should be a 25 mph school zone.  We’ve witnessed many uncomfortably close calls at this intersection and there has been at least one adult pedestrian death on NC 194.

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Tynecastle Highway Near Sugar Mountain Closed During the Day and Down to One Lane Overnight for Road Repairs After Last Week’s Rain Storm Washed Out Part of the Road

August 26, 2021. Highway 184 in Sugar Mountain, more commonly known as Tynecastle Highway, will be closed from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. each day while road work is taking place to repair the road where heavy rains from last week’s remnants of Tropical Storm Fred moved through the High Country. While the road is closed during the day, there is one lane of the road open at night with a temporary traffic light from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. The detour from the North Carolina Department of Transportation suggests that drivers should take Highway 194 to avoid the area. However, the detour takes drivers near Banner Elk all the way to Elk Park and Newland, which is certainly out of the way for those that might be trying to get to Linville, Sugar Mountain or Grandfather Mountain.  By Nathan Ham

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Hunger and Health Coalition Receives $30,000 Grant to Fight Impact of Health Disparities, COVID-19 on State’s Most Vulnerable

August 26, 2021. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Watauga County, underserved populations are facing the brunt of the impact. In order to improve the overall health of the state’s underserved communities and those hit hardest by the pandemic, the North Carolina Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NCAFCC) and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) have awarded nearly $230,000 in grants to five clinics to support initiatives that will reduce health disparities by addressing drivers of health, such as access to healthy foods, safe housing and transportation, and cultural and language barriers. The Hunger and Health Coalition, which serves Watauga, Avery, Burke and Surry counties, was among those five recipients and was awarded $30,000.

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Jones House Resumes In-Person Fall Music Lessons for Boone Junior Appalachian Musicians Program Beginning September 7

August 25, 2021. The Jones House will resume in-person fall music lessons as part of the Boone Junior Appalachian  Musicians (JAM) program, a 14-week semester beginning on September 7 and 9. This program offers  music lessons for children and adults in traditional styles of music rooted in the Appalachian region.  Lessons are available for fiddle, banjo, guitar, ukulele, and mandolin. Boone JAM is an affiliate of the broader Junior Appalachian Musicians program, with members  extending across the Southern Appalachian region in North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, and South  Carolina. The overarching goal of the JAM program is to expose individuals to the traditional music styles  of the region through active, hands-on engagement.

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Town of Blowing Rock Brings Back Indoor Mask Mandate Starting on Friday, August 27 at 5 p.m.

August 25, 2021. In an emergency Blowing Rock Town Council meeting on Tuesday evening, the council voted unanimously to reinstitute a mask mandate for all indoor areas in Blowing Rock, beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday, August 27. There will be a two-week grace period before anyone will be written any citations. That grace period will end on Friday, September 10 at 5 p.m. This is the second local municipality to bring back required face coverings inside public buildings. Boone instituted a similar mask mandate on August 10. In addition to town mandates, a board of education mandate requires all Watauga County students to wear masks indoors.  By Nathan Ham

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Virtual Town Hall on Building Healthier Rural Communities to Feature ARHS President/CEO Chuck Mantooth

August 25, 2021. A special virtual town hall on Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m. will include Chuck Mantooth, the President and CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. The topic of discussion will be what it takes to build healthier rural communities. Featured guests alongside Mantooth will be Dr. Jonathan Snyder, the Chief Medical Officer at Chatham Memorial Hospital in Elkin, Dr. Roxie Wells, President of Cape Fear Valley Hoke Healthcare, and Brandy Bynum Dawson, Senior Director of Policy & Advocacy at the NC Rural Center. The town hall will be moderated by Dr. Nisha Mehta, a physician, speaker and writer from Charlotte. The town hall, hosted by the North Carolina Healthcare Association, will allow listeners to learn about some of the challenges rural hospitals face and the opportunities ahead to continue improving rural healthcare.  By Nathan Ham

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Blue Ridge Conservancy Adds 65 Acres of High Elevation Forest to Elk Knob State Park

August 25, 2021. After a three-year process, Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) recently added 65 acres to Elk Knob State Park.This steep tract, with elevations from 4,100 to 5,200 feet, includes the prominent south ridge of Elk Knob and is identified as one of the most important areas for biodiversity conservation in the state by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program. Funding for the project came from Fred and Alice Stanback and from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF). “Adding this land to Elk Knob State Park is a long-awaited conservation win for North Carolina,” says Eric Hiegl, BRC’s Director of Land Protection and Stewardship. “Surveys indicated that the area is rich in pristine natural habitat, and its proximity to Elk Knob State Park made it a natural choice for protection. We are grateful to the Stanbacks and PARTF for recognizing its conservation value.” 

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