• 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…



  • 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…



  • 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…



  • 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…



  • Avery School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Brigman Declares Public School Opening Positive

    August 19, 2020 Fear of reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic is sparking controversial conversations across the nation. As more districts switch to remote learning, the Avery County public school system has reopened with two learning options available for students. And a sense of normalcy is coming together in the school system for students, parents, teachers, administrators and other staff members, according to Dr. Daniel Brigman, Avery Schools Superintendent.  By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • App State, Marshall Schedule Game for September 19th in Huntington, W.Va.


    August 18, 2020  Longtime football rivals App State and Marshall announced Monday that they have agreed to add two more games to their upcoming series with the first matchup now scheduled for Sept. 19, 2020 in Huntington, W.Va., and an additional game in Boone on Sept. 8, 2029. The two schools announced in 2015 a home-and-home series that includes a 2021 game in Boone (Sept. 25) and a 2022 game in Huntington (Sept. 17). After previously losing ­­all four of their originally scheduled 2020 nonconference opponents – Morgan State, Wisconsin, Wake Forest and Massachusetts – the Mountaineers recently added a Sept. 12 home game against Charlotte and a Sept. 26 home game against Campbell. / Read more…



  • Roy Krege’s Story: Life-Saving Heart Care for a Servant’s Heart from Watauga Medical Center


    August 18, 2020  Roughly the size of a fist and weighing less than a pound, the human heart affects every part of the body. While its host is totally unaware, this vital organ stays busy pumping 2,000 gallons of blood and beating 115,000 times every day. It’s something no one ever thinks about until it stops working like it should. When this happens – and it happens every 40 seconds in America – every second is crucial. Having a local healthcare team that is experienced in cardiovascular care is not just a convenience; it is imperative. And having a local healthcare team that is nationally ranked for Coronary Intervention is not just impressive; it is the standard of care for the Heart & Vascular Service Line at Watauga Medical Center. / Read more…



  • Coronavirus Cases Reach Total of 412 In Toe River Health District of Avery, Mitchell and Yancey Counties: Fourth Confirmed Death in Mitchell

    August 18, 2020 As of Tuesday morning (August 18), health departments that comprise the Toe River, NC Health District–Avery, Mitchell and Yancey– have had a combined 412 public health cases of Coronavirus (COVID-19) since totals of the disease started being tabulated and publicly released in March 2020. Avery County had 7 new positive cases Monday, increasing its total to139. 99 afflicted have recovered from the disease and 40 are active cases. Of the seven new positive cases, four of those confirmed with the disease had been tested in other counties.  By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Boone Town Council to Hear Updates on New River Conservancy Project, Consideration for a Police Committee and Historic Marker Updates

    August 17, 2020 The Boone Town Council will be in session for two meetings this week, first on Tuesday, August 18, and again on Thursday, August 20. The first item of importance on Tuesday’s agenda will be George Santucci with the New River Conservancy providing updates on Phase 2 of the South Fork Restoration Project, the Winkler Creek Restoration Planning Project, and the Peacock Lot/Boone Creek Daylighting Project. Other items on Tuesday’s agenda include the engineer selection for replacement of the water tank on Deck Hill Road and consideration of the creation of a “police committee” that was originally approved unanimously at its June 18 meeting following protests that exploded nationwide following the killing of George Floyd. The committee will be made up of council members, the mayor, and six residents of Boone to discuss police practices in Boone.  By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Classes Begin Online for Watauga County K-12 Students and In-Person for Appalachian State University Students

    August 17, 2020 Monday marked a back-to-school moment that many students and parents will never forget. Watauga County Schools returned with virtual classes to open the fall semester while Appalachian State started its fall semester with a mix of in-person and online classes. Freshmen and returning students crowded the roadways last week to move into campus residence halls and off-campus rental properties in preparation for the school year. Students and staff at App State are required to wear face coverings while in classrooms and all other locations where social distancing is not possible. For the public school system, Watauga had initially planned on a “2×3 Flex Schedule” where students would go to class for in-person instruction two days a week and online instruction three days a week. However, as COVID-19 positive infections continued to increase in the county, the school board returned to entirely online instruction.  By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Five Rivers Street Ale House Employees Test Positive for COVID-19; Customers to be Notified

    August 16, 2020 AppHealthCare is working closely with the Rivers Street Ale House to investigate five confirmed COVID-19 cases among employees. The employees are in isolation at home and are recovering. As part of the investigation to identify additional exposures and notify customers, if you were at the Rivers Street Ale House between August 4th and August 13th, we encourage you to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms and be tested. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, please call your healthcare provider or AppHealthCare to discuss testing and isolate from others. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.  / Read more…



  • COVID-19 Update: Largest Positive Case Increase in Watauga County Found in College-Aged Individuals

    August 14, 2020 With public K-12 schools, colleges, and universities starting up all over the country with in-person learning, it should be no surprise that the number of positive cases is going to increase once again. In Watauga County, according to information provided by AppHealthCare, the 18-24 age group has had the highest increase of positive cases in the previous week. “We are concerned about increased community transmission with more cases reported. This virus is highly contagious and sometimes people can spread the virus without realizing it because they have mild or no symptoms at all. By practicing the 3Ws and avoiding large gatherings of people, we can slow the spread together,” said Jennifer Greene, the Health Director at AppHealthCare. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Blowing Rock Holds Annual State of the Town Event Virtually to Highlight Project Updates in the Village

    August 14, 2020 Despite some tough times for towns during this COVID-19 pandemic, the Town of Blowing Rock found plenty of positive project updates and town news to share. Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Charles Hardin shared data that showed people are still interested in Blowing Rock and wanting to see what all is going on in the High Country. In 2019, there were approximately 47,000 visitors came to the numerous events the town has to offer. There were also 47 new members that joined the Blowing Rock Chamber, bringing the total to 543. There were 461,000 unique visitors to blowingrock.com and a total of 15,111 followers on social media. In addition to the data, Hardin pointed out some of the things that the chamber has played a role in developing over the last year. Continued advocacy for the Blue Ridge Parkway and its importance to the community finally paid off with Congress passing the Great American Outdoors Act that will provide $500 million for the Blue Ridge Parkway to address deferred maintenance issues. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Watauga County Schools Implements Extra Health and Safety Precautions


    August 14, 2020  As teachers and other employees returned to work in school buildings on August 11, Watauga County Schools staff had its first chance to fully employ the district’s stringent health, safety, and screening procedures for its facilities. As teachers and staff prepare to start the school year Aug. 17, anyone entering a school facility — employee or visitor —  must pass a temperature screening at the door. They are also required to answer a series of questions that assess their potential exposure to COVID-19. All staff inside school buildings are required to wear masks at all times except when teachers are alone in their classrooms conducting virtual lessons. Alongside the involved screening measures at school entrances, the district has also implemented a number of enhanced cleaning and safety procedures around school facilities as a whole.  / Read more…



  • App State to Require Students, Faculty and Staff to Complete Online Daily Health Check for Access to Campus

    August 14, 2020 As part of classes resuming and students returning to campus for the fall semester, Appalachian State University will be requiring students, faculty, and staff members to administer daily health checks on their mobile devices or computers to receive a “passport” to be on campus for that day. According to the university, each person will fill out a simple questionnaire about how they are feeling and if they have any COVID-19 symptoms. If the individual is not sick, they will receive a passport for that date that will last through midnight of that day to have access to places on campus. If the person answers that they may have COVID-19 symptoms, they will not be cleared to access campus and will be asked to stay home or seek medical attention. Students may be asked to show their passports to their instructor to get into class and all faculty and staff members may be asked to show their passports to their supervisors when entering a classroom, workplace, or campus facility. The passport can be viewed on a smartphone or tablet or printed off to be carried at all times for that day. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



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