• Blowing Rock Mayor Shares Updates on Sunset Drive Revitalization Project

    March 29, 2019 Note: Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie Sellers will be providing the High Country Press with news and updates on projects in Blowing Rock. This week, Mayor Sellers provided us with an update on the construction project that is about to begin on Sunset Drive. Project Inclusions? The project general extends from Valley Boulevard to Main Street, and includes replacement of existing water and sewer lines, minor drainage improvements, replacement of sidewalks and curb/gutter, removal and placing of selected street trees, and new roadway asphalt. Construction Begins? Construction is to begin the week of April 1, 2019 and anticipated to be complete by November 2019. Construction Sequence? The first step will be installation of new sewer lines in the west bound lane from the stream near First Baptist, west to Main Street. The next step will be water line installation along the north shoulder of the road from Valley Boulevard to Ransom Street, then along the east bound lane to Main Street. Drainage work will follow water and sewer work, then curbing and sidewalks will be replaced/installed in sections along the route. Paving will then proceed followed by landscaping. / Read more…



  • Flu Deaths Climb to 165 in North Carolina But Diagnosed Cases Decline as Local Hospitals Lift Visiting Restrictions

    March 29, 2019 North Carolina’s number of flu-related deaths has reached 165, the latest report from the state’s Department of Health and Human Services released on Thursday revealed. That number includes an increase of 30 deaths since last reported by the High Country Press on March 15. Eight died in the week from March 17-23. The agency does not provide details, such as name of the deceased, exact age, gender or county of residence, to protect the privacy of the families affected. Statewide, officials say more than 8,000 people have tested positive for influenza since September 30, 2018. However, they reported that there has been a decline in the number of flu cases the past few weeks. Flu season officially begins on September 30 each year. It peaks in February and March and officially ends on May 18. By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Watauga County High School Seniors Will Graduate on June 14


    March 28, 2019 Graduation for the Watauga High School Class of 2019 has been set for 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 14 at the Holmes Convocation Center on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone. Graduation is open to the public and ASU’s security measures will be in place. Families are encouraged to allow extra time to go through the Holmes Center’s bag checks. Times and dates for several other end-of-year events celebrating the graduating class — the Senior Awards Ceremony, baccalaureate service, and capping ceremony — are also listed below. Watauga County Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott said he is looking forward to graduation and celebrating the Watauga High Class of 2019. / Read more…



  • Sugar Mountain Sets New Record of Most Consecutive Ski Days at the Resort; Live Music and Snow Burning Happening Sunday


    March 28, 2019 This ski season was very user-friendly for the area ski slopes, especially at Sugar Mountain where they will officially wrap up the 2018-19 season on Sunday with live music and the traditional snow burning. “Over in Europe they will burn the snow to welcome in the spring and get rid of winter,” said Kim Jochl, Vice President and Director of Marketing for Sugar Mountain Resort. “We save stuff for most of the season that needs to be burned and then on the last day we burn it.” Broken tree limbs, wood and Christmas trees are some of the other items that get burnt with the snow. Sunday will mark a historic day for Sugar Mountain as it will set a new record for consecutive days of being open for skiing at 141. The previous record was 140. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Watauga County Schools Names Teachers of the Year


    March 28, 2019 Watauga County Schools has named its 2019-20 teachers of the year — one from each school in the district. Chosen by their peers, the group was selected from a group of more than 300 teachers district-wide at all grade levels. This year’s group includes Callie Jarman from Bethel, Sarah Holt from Blowing Rock, Anne Donadio from Cove Creek, Carly Mize from Green Valley, Tammy Whichard from Hardin Park, Gayle Oliver from Mabel, Heather Miller from Parkway, Mitchell Wright from Valle Crucis and Jennifer Williams from Watauga High School. The teachers were surprised in their classrooms over the last several weeks by a groups of their peers, family members and staff who gather in each school’s office to surprise the award winner mid-class.” / Read more…



  • Grandfather Mountain Mourns the Loss of Western Cougar Aspen Who Was 15 Years Old


    March 28, 2019 On Monday, March 25, Grandfather Mountain bid farewell to Aspen, a Western cougar and longtime resident of the park’s wildlife habitats. According to habitat staff, Aspen grew increasingly unresponsive following a weekend tooth-removal surgery, which was also intended to diagnose some other ailments. After his keepers kept him under 24-hour observation, his condition only worsened, and he was humanely euthanized on March 25. Aspen was 15 years old, two years older than the average lifespan of a Western cougar in the wild.” / Read more…



  • A Promise Kept: The Stephanie Greer Story


    March 28, 2019 Can you remember the last time you made a promise? Outside of our marriage vows, most of us do not like to think much about promises because they remind us of our past failed personal attempts to watch less television or to floss with more regularity. Despite our best intentions, if given the option to take the easy road or the hard road in life, we all tend to revert back to the path of least resistance. Stephanie Pate Greer, the Director of Behavioral Health at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS), knows firsthand the danger of complacency. She and her team of nurses, therapists, crisis interventionists and psychiatrists have made a collective and unwavering commitment to always provide high quality behavioral health services in the High Country. For Stephanie, it was a promise made in heartbreak, steeped in love and maintained by her uncompromising resolve. By Josh Jarman / Read more…



  • Weekly Crime Reports: Activity and Arrests in Boone and Watauga County, March 17 – March 24

    March 27, 2019. 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



  • Blue Ridge Parkway Invites Community Members to Open House in Blowing Rock on April 3


    March 27, 2019 With the weather slowly starting to warm up and daylight lasting a little longer each day, visitors and residents will soon be charging out to the Blue Ridge Parkway to enjoy some beautiful spring and summer days. On Wednesday April 3, the Blue Ridge Parkway will be hosting a special open house event at the American Legion Building from 4-6 p.m. in Blowing Rock, located at 333 Wallingford Road. Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee as well as other staff members will be on hand to share information about upcoming parkway projects, special events and other important aspects of the parkway. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Making The Most of Your Microwave


    March 27, 2019. Where would we be without the mighty microwave? Considered by many as a cook’s best friend, I don’t use mine to do a lot of meals from start to finish, but I couldn’t do without it for reheating and whipping up quick snacks. If you’re one who uses your microwave a lot, these tips and recipes may help to make your life even simpler. / Read more…



  • Today’s Email Announcements

    What’s going on in your community? Here’s a brief update on the emails we received today. Check back each day for an updated list of events going on in the area. As always, please feel free to email us about your event or update.

    Read more…
    Compiled by Nathan Ham



  • K9s Dressed to the Nines: Local Realtors, Watauga County Leadership Class, Provide New Vests for Watauga K9s


    March 26, 2019 The long arm of the paw is better prepared for duty now, thanks in part to local Realtors in the High Country area. The High Country Association of Realtors (HCAR) recently worked with members of the 2017 Watauga County Leadership Academy class to buy new uniforms for the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office K9 units. The K9 officers now head to work in armored vests similar to the protective gear of their fellow deputies. “What many citizens don’t know is that law enforcement K9s play a major role in protecting the lives of their handlers and other officers responding to most calls,” said Skip Wood, 2017 president of the HCAR, who helped in the fundraising effort. “Some of those calls could pose a threat to officer safety including building searches, large demonstrations, and drug and explosives detection, to name a few.” / Read more…



  • Appalachian State: Report Shows Administration’s Declining Support for Academics

    March 26, 2019 Appalachian State University has prioritized the funding of administrative positions over academics and faculty salaries, a report released last week shows. Meanwhile, faculty salaries have declined significantly relative to the university’s institutional peers and the cost of living. The report, “A Review of Faculty Salaries and Budget Priorities at Appalachian: Trends in the Allocation of Positions and Funding,” was released last Wednesday by Appalachian State’s Center for Economic Research & Policy Analysis (CERPA). In the weeks ahead, Appalachian’s faculty will continue to ask the administration to prioritize the university’s academic mission, notably at the April 12 University Budget Presentations. / Read more…



  • Together in Collaboration, Lees-McRae College Becomes Academic Partner and Home Site of Faith Community Nurses International

    March 26, 2019 International professional nursing organization, Faith Community Nurses International can now be found on the campus of Lees-McRae College. In a recent partnership between FCNI and the Lees-McRae May School of Nursing and Health Sciences, the two have come together to provide FCNI with an academic partnership and home site. First established in 2013, “(FCNI) represents the interests of faith community nurses by providing nursing education and practice resources—including the quarterly, on-line, peer-reviewed International Journal of Faith Community Nurses (FCN) to promote optimal health outcomes for the individuals and communities they serve,” according to the FCNI website. “Our registered nurse members teach, manage, and practice faith community nursing, and are leaders in nursing education and research in faith community nursing.” / Read more…



  • Weekly Crime Reports: Activity and Arrests in Boone and Watauga County, March 9 – March 17

    March 25, 2019. 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



  • High Country Counties Rank Near the Top of the List for Return on Investment From Property Taxes


    March 25, 2019 Property owners in Watauga, Avery and Ashe counties should all feel pretty good about what they actually get for the taxes that they pay. According to a recent study from SmartAsset, all three of those counties rank in the top 10 in North Carolina for getting the most our of their property tax dollars. The study, which has been done each year for the last five years in North Carolina, compares the amount of money spent on property taxes that go back to each county versus school rankings and crime statistics for the county, since police forces, schools and other public utilities are often times the largest benefactor of tax revenue. Watauga, which has one of the lowest tax rates in the entire state, ranked seventh on the list. Avery County ranked sixth overall and Ashe County was eighth overall. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Hardin Park Sixth-Grader wins Regional Spelling Bee, Now Eligible for National Spelling Bee


    March 25, 2019 Repeat Watauga County Schools Spelling Bee Champion, Hardin Park sixth-grader Sam Nystrom, took his hot spelling streak on the road March 24, securing first place in the regional spelling bee held in Winston-Salem. The contest pitted Sam against third through eighth grade competitors from 17 nearby counties. He bested 27 spellers over 11 rounds, correctly spelling the word “tilth” to secure his victory. Sam is no stranger to the regional spelling bee. He made his first trip to Winston-Salem two years ago as a fourth-grader. It wasn’t until a nine-year-old Sam found himself competing against some the the state’s best spellers that he realized he might have a knack for the craft. / Read more…



  • ‘The Grandfather Challenge’ Hiking Program For At-Risk Youth Opens 2019 Season


    March 25, 2019 The healing power and majesty of Grandfather Mountain cannot be denied by those among us who have experienced its beauty, wonder, and adventure. Although he was struggling with mental illness throughout his mid-teens and young adult life, Jason Matthew Nipper found peace and serenity as he and his parents hiked the challenging trails of this wonderful mountain called Grandfather. Jason passed away in 2014, and his parents James & Cheryl Nipper are pleased to announce the opening of the 2019 Season of their unique and challenging hiking program for at-risk youth taking place at Grandfather Mountain. This program was formed in honor of Jason, and focuses on teenage students who suffer from mental disorders and/or drug addictions, and also serves kids struggling with other personal problems for reasons beyond their control, including instances of parental abuse or neglect, placement in foster homes, and similar obstacles and challenges in their lives. / Read more…



  • Endangered Virginia Big-Eared Bat Habitat Permanently Protected; Short Film Released


    March 25, 2019 A planned highway widening project and an old wildlife mystery set the stage for this short film about discovery and survival. In 2010, the North Carolina Department of Transportation proposed widening NC Highway 105 from Boone to Linville. Under the Endangered Species Act, widening that road required evaluating the project for impacts to threatened or endangered species. “Highway 105 is a narrow corridor bordered by the Watauga River on the downside and mountains on the upside. So how would you go about four-laning that road? You are going to blast, a whole bunch. With dynamite and earth moving, I realized immediately there would be a concern for bats,” said Marella Buncick, a biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. / Read more…



  • Boone Town Council Votes to Delay a Yes or No Decision on Hwy. 105 Superstreet Project


    March 22, 2019 After over an hour of discussion by the Boone Town Council regarding the Hwy. 105 Superstreet project at Thursday night’s meeting, a motion was passed to allow more time for conversations with the DOT and the public before the council would feel comfortable with giving the latest DOT proposed plans a yes or no vote.. By Joe Johnson / Read more…



  • Boone Area Chamber of Commerce to Host Vision Northwest North Carolina, May 22

    March 22, 2019 Seeking an opportunity to spark dialogue regarding economic leadership in 12 Northwest North Carolina Counties, the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce announces the creation of Vision Northwest North Carolina, a one-day summit that will highlight local trends in economic, workforce, and talent development. The event takes place Wednesday, May 22nd, at Leon Levine Hall at Appalachian State University. / Read more…



  • Hospitality House Launches Food Pantry Challenge, Capital Bank Pledges to Match All Donations up to $10,000


    March 22, 2019 Hospitality House, the regional nonprofit housing and hunger relief agency serving Watauga, Ashe, Wilkes, Avery, Alleghany, Mitchell and Yancey counties, recently launched an ambitious campaign to more than double the size of its existing food pantry. Having fed nearly 61,000 people from food boxes and served over 1.1 million meals in the dining room since opening in 2011, the need has long since outgrown the current 126 square foot pantry. “This project has been a goal of ours for several years now,” stated Hospitality House executive director Tina B. Krause. “Each time that Second Harvest Food Bank does a site visit, they are in disbelief at the number of people that we are able to feed out of such a small space.” / Read more…



  • Highlander’s Grill & Tavern Host Avery Chamber Business After Hours on Tuesday


    March 22, 2019 Tuesday evening, Avery County’s Chamber Meeting was hosted at Highlander’s. Melynda Pepple, the executive director of Avery County Chamber of Commerce, led the meeting, beginning by welcoming everyone before introducing Dave and Karen, the owners of Highlander’s, and awarding them a plaque. Other topics discussed were the Leadership Avery class’s work to support Avery High School’s culinary class, an update on progress to reduce the opioid crisis in Avery and upcoming events and meetings. By Hailey Blevins / Read more…



  • Panel Discussion at Lees-McRae College on March 20 Addresses Opioid Misuse in Avery County

    March 22, 2019 Opioid misuse has reached not only alarming, but horrifying levels across many parts of the United States, including in Avery County. Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and many others. Therefore, a program designed for three purposes: to educate, bring awareness and help stop the ongoing opioid misuse as well as stop its misuse in the county was held Wednesday, March 20, in the Evans Auditorium at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk. By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Jim Cottrell Honored with Special Celebration of his Career and Passion in the Ski Community


    March 20, 2019 It was a total surprise for Jim Cottrell on Tuesday afternoon. Friends, family and ski patrol members and ski instructors gathered at Appalachian Ski Mountain for a surprise party to celebrate Jim’s long and distinguished career in the ski community. Cottrell was the original founder of the French-Swiss Ski College at Appalachian Ski Mountain in 1969 along with retired businessman Jack Lester. The college taught its 1,000,000th skier in 2005. “We’re here to enjoy a fun day with our beloved friend, Jim Cottrell, and share some of his passion and enthusiasm for skiing. We’ve got a room full of people that are joined by their love of Jim and love of skiing,” said Brad Moretz, owner of Appalachian Ski Mountain. Walter Jaeger of the Professional Ski Instructors of America presented Cottrell with an award for his longstanding dedication to and enthusiasm for snow sports education in the southern region. He is just the sixth person to ever receive the award from the PSIA Eastern Division Region 7, which extends from Maryland to Florida. The award started in 2005. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Ski Update: Sugar Mountain Hoping to Remain Open Until March 31; Beech Mountain and Appalachian Ski Mtn. Calling it Quits This Weekend


    March 20, 2019 Sugar Mountain Resort will be the last one standing after this weekend. Both Appalachian Ski Mtn. and Beech Mountain will have their final few days of skiing through the end of this weekend before closing for the 2018-19 year. Beech Mountain will officially close for the season on Saturday, March 23 at 5p.m. Tubing and ice skating have already closed for the season. Skiers and snowboarders will receive 25 percent off slope passes, rentals and lessons. Appalachian Ski Mtn. will be closing out the season as they always do with the Meltdown Games. The end of winter celebration will begin on Saturday with the Impossible Box/Rail Contest at 11 a.m., followed by the Cardboard Box Derby at 12:30 p.m., Ski and Snowboard Big Air at 2 p.m. and the Trash Bag Downhill Race at 4 p.m. On Sunday, events pick back up at 11 a.m. with the High Ollie Contest followed by the always-fun Pond Skim and Costume Contest at 1 p.m. and finally the Chinese Downhill at 4 p.m. to cap off the season. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Watauga Commissioners Approve Highway 105 Superstreet Project Changes


    March 20, 2019 At Tuesday’s meeting of the Watauga County Commissioners, the commissioners in attendance unanimously approved a resolution to support the most recent changes of the Highway 105 Superstreet project that were presented on Thursday by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Chairman John Welch, Billy Kennedy, Charlie Wallin and Perry Yates voted to support the project changes. Commissioner Larry Turnbow did not attend the meeting due to feeling a bit under the weather according to Welch. The commissioners that spoke about the road project seemed to be in agreement that something needed to be done to improve the traffic flow and safety of Highway 105. “At the hearing, they (NCDOT) did mention that time is of the essence and we’ve already lost six months with the redesign on this and if we don’t support it, that project will be all the way down at the bottom of the list again, which I’m not going to see it in my lifetime,” said Kennedy. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Sherrie Norris Lovin’ Spoonful Cooking Column: Another Reason to Eat Chocolate!


    March 20, 2019. As if we need a reason to eat chocolate, we are in the midst of National Chocolate Week, always the third week in March. It’s not like millions of dollars weren’t spent recently on chocolate hearts and kisses for Valentine’s Day — or that chocolate Easter bunnies will not have their day in the very near future. But, who’s complaining? Yes, we need one special week devoted to chocolate. Let’s not waste another minute. / Read more…



  • Today’s Email Announcements

    What’s going on in your community? Here’s a brief update on the emails we received today. Check back each day for an updated list of events going on in the area. As always, please feel free to email us about your event or update.

    Read more…
    Compiled by Nathan Ham



  • Wednesday Marks the First Day of Spring and the Final Supermoon of 2019


    March 19, 2019 March 20 is a big day on the calendar for those looking forward to warmer weather, and those that look up to the sky at night. Wednesday is the first day of spring and will be the third and final supermoon of 2019. There was a supermoon in both January and February as well, but this one coming up tomorrow will be the final one of 2019. The next supermoon will not occur until February of 2020. Spring will officially arrive at 5:58 p.m. Wednesday evening. The full moon happens at 9:43 p.m. The supermoon gets its name because it is a full moon that also happens to be right around its nearest distance from Earth. That gives the moon the appearance of looking larger and having a brighter color at night. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Boone Police Forum Happening During Tonight’s Town Council Meeting


    March 19, 2019 The Boone Police Department will be holding a special presentation during the town council meeting on Tuesday night at the Boone Town Council Chambers, located at 1500 Blowing Rock Road. The forum will be from 6-8 p.m. and will give residents a chance to hear about information on numerous topics, including ways to be environmentally friendly, enforcement of drug laws, asset forfeiture and community policing. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Business Owners and Town Council Members Weigh In on Highway 105 Superstreet Debate


    March 19, 2019 The superstreet proposal for Highway 105 in Boone has been a popular item of discussion around the High Country since the original draft was revealed in September of 2018. Last Thursday, North Carolina Department of Transportation officials along with county and town staff and elected officials met to discuss potential changes to the original draft. Some of the changes included additional U-turn bulbs and keeping a left turn lane at the intersection of N.C. Highway 105 and the 105 Bypass so drivers do not have to turn right and then make a U-turn to go back towards Boone. One of the biggest changes was keeping Casa Rustica in its current location. The previous draft would have forced the restaurant out of the spot it has called home for decades. “It meant a lot to myself, my family and my staff to know that people cared enough to write letters and do the things they did to help us,” said Rick Pedroni, the owner of Casa Rustica. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Town Hall Will Explore Increasing Access to Health Insurance Coverage in North Carolina and the Impact of Expanding Medicaid

    March 19, 2019 Appalachian Regional Healthcare System will host a town hall meeting on Thursday, March 21, 2019 from 6:00-7:30pm in the auditorium at Watauga Medical Center to discuss the impact of closing the coverage gap in North Carolina. The event will be moderated by David Jackson, President of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce (www.boonechamber.com) and will feature Erica Palmer Smith from Care4Carolina (care4carolina.com). Care4Carolina is an organization that seeks to strengthen the economic and social wellbeing of our state by increasing access to affordable, quality healthcare for all North Carolinians. Ms. Palmer Smith will highlight who is currently eligible for Medicaid in our community, who might be served by Medicaid expansion and the economic impact of such an expansion. She will also discuss current legislation that seeks to close the coverage gap. / Read more…



  • Daniel Boone Rail Jam a Huge Success with Over 3,000 People Attending the Saturday Event


    March 18, 2019 Some of the best skiers and snowboarders the High Country has to offer made an appearance at the Daniel Boone Rail Jam on Saturday with over 3,000 fans in attendance. Snow piled up at the Daniel Boone Amphitheater as riders prepared for Saturday evening’s event. Combining the rail jam with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade made Boone the happening place to be this past weekend. “I think the rail jam just continues to increase in participation and they keep taking it to the next level every year,” said Pilar Fotta, the Town of Boone’s Director of Cultural Resources. “This year being the fifth year, I think we had an outstanding rail jam. I can’t say enough positive things about what that event is doing for that venue, what it’s doing for our area and what it is doing for us as a complete event destination.” By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • With 60 Floats and Over 4,000 Spectators, Boone’s St. Patrick’s Parade a Huge Success on Saturday


    March 18, 2019 In just its second year of existence, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Boone continues to grow in popularity with over 4,000 spectators lining the streets to see one of the 60 floats go through downtown. Pilar Fotta, the director of cultural resources for the Town of Boone said that everything she has heard so far about the parade has been all good news. “I have heard people say how wonderful and creative the floats were and how talented the dancers and the people playing music on the floats were,” she said. “I have heard how festive the whole town felt and heard from a couple businesses that it was just an extremely busy day for them. All around, I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback.” Floats during the parade were judged by a panel of four judges that included Boone Mayor Rennie Brantz, Appalachian State University Chancellor Sheri Everts, Appalachian State football head coach Eli Drinkwitz and U.S. Olympic snowboarder Louie Vito. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



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