High Country Press

Published Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm
  • Back 2 School Festival Announces Plans for Drive-Thru Event for Two Days – Aug. 7th and 8th


    July 24, 2020  Due to ongoing issues from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Back 2 School Festival has announced that this year’s event will be drive-thru only. The 2020 Back 2 School Festival will be held at Watauga High School over two days; Friday, August 7, and Saturday, August 8, with each school being assigned a specific time for their families to come pick up supplies. For the safety of children, families, and volunteers, the school building will not be open, and families will pick up their supplies in a drive-thru fashion. Students are not required to attend the festival with their parent/guardian; representatives from each Watauga County school will be present at their school’s assigned time to check-in and register attendees. In order to serve everyone in a timely and efficient manner, the festival will only able to serve families at their school’s designated time, and requests that attendees do not arrive before their scheduled time slot, as they will not be able to join the line until that time. / Read more…



  • Avery Schools to Approve Governor Roy Cooper’s Plan B for Schools to Begin the 2020-2021 Academic Year; Lees-McRae College to start In-Person Instruction on Aug. 17; and Avery High Renovations and Construction Project Continues with Expected Slight Finish Delay

    July 24, 2020 Avery County Schools Superintendent Dr. Daniel Brigman told the High Country Press Friday morning that the school system will use Plan B of North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s three mandated plans to reopen schools as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Like many of the state’s public schools, Avery County Schools are set to start classes on August 17.  / Read more…



  • Avery County Doctor Charlie Baker Creates Video PSA to Encourage More People to Wear Masks in the High Country


    July 24, 2020  Anyone that has ever spent a lot of time in Avery County probably knows who Dr. Charlie Baker is. He spent four decades in the county serving as a family doctor in a community that is now suddenly dealing with a large increase in COVID-19 cases. “As of three weeks ago, we only had about 20 COVID cases in Avery County. Now it’s over 60 this week and some people are really sick,” said Dr. Baker. “We saw this coming, I predicted it back in the spring that we would have a delay in Avery County until the summer population started to grow.” While Dr. Baker may have retired from his private practice, he is still active in the healthcare community as a board member of Appalachian Regional Healthcare Systems and a part-time faculty member teaching and training resident doctors in Boone. He was approached by ARHS about recording a video message on the importance of wearing face coverings and the 3 w’s. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Announces 2020 4 Under 40 Award Winners

    July 24, 2020 Four emerging leaders and a career educator were honored during the 4th annual Boone Area Chamber of Commerce 4 Under 40 Awards ceremony. The virtual event was broadcast Thursday from The Harvest House in Boone and was presented by Appalachian Commercial Real Estate. Over 70 nominations were submitted by local community members and 16 finalists were recognized during the event. Nominees were sought in the categories of business owner, education professional, non-profit business professional, and rising star. / Read more…



  • Hospitality House ‘Hope Survives’ Luncheon Going Virtual on August 20


    July 24, 2020  Executive Director Tina B. Krause, along with the Hospitality House of Northwest North Carolina Board of Directors will be broadcasting its annual Hope Luncheon on Thursday, August 20 at 7:00 p.m. via Facebook Live and YouTube Live. “The Hope Luncheon is our signature fundraising event,” states Hospitality House director of development Todd Carter. “While current conditions prevent us from staging the mid-day gala so many look forward to, it was imperative to find a way to continue this tradition, even during a global pandemic.” This year’s theme, “Hope Survives,” speaks directly to the challenges and obstacles facing the homeless, hungry, and impoverished individuals and families that rely on the programs and services of Hospitality House. The program will feature staff and volunteer highlights, COVID-19 response updates; as well as, the client testimonials of resilience and renewal that the luncheon has become known for. / Read more…



  • Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Applauds North Carolina’s Congressional Members for Supporting the Great American Outdoors Act

    July 23, 2020 The U.S. House of Representatives logged a historic vote on Wednesday when it approved the Great American Outdoors Act, a bill that will invest in priority repairs at National Park Service (NPS) sites in North Carolina and across the country. From the Blue Ridge Parkway to Cape Hatteras National Seashore, needed repairs in North Carolina’s NPS sites total $543 million, just part of the multi-billion maintenance backlog threatening park resources and local economies. ”  / Read more…



  • $729 Million Raised in Fiscal 2020 Through Lottery – A New Record − For Education in N.C.

    July 23, 2020 The N.C. Education Lottery raised $729.8 million to support education programs in North Carolina in fiscal year 2020. The amount of money raised sets a new record, topping last year’s amount by $20.6 million, or almost 3 percent. On average, the lottery generated almost $2 million a day for education in fiscal year 2020, according to unaudited year-end results. “It’s more important than ever that our education programs get as much help as they can to achieve their mission,” said Mark Michalko, executive director of the Education Lottery. “Our state was depending on the lottery for these education dollars. The money raised will do a lot of good. Thanks to all the North Carolinians who enjoy lottery games.”  / Read more…



  • Todd Bush Still on Watch for Comet NEOWISE Pictures Comes Across a Few Lightning Shots


    July 23, 2020  It’s still worth looking for Comet NEOWISE through July as it is now quite high in the Northwest night sky between dark and 11pm-ish. It’s below and to the left of the Big Dipper.  / Read more…



  • Ensemble Stage to present “Appalachian Jack” at Historic Banner Elk School Courtyard July 25 at 11 a.m.


    July 22, 2020  As part of their Summer Saturday Theatre for Kids Series, Ensemble Stage’s “Appalachian Jack” will premiere this Saturday, July 25 in the courtyard of the Historic Banner Elk School at 11 a.m. with free admission.
    “Everybody has been having to make compromises, and everybody has been having to make sacrifices, and so this is what we can do to support the community and doing what we do on a regular basis and what we do best,” said Gary Smith, Ensemble Stage Artistic Director. “We want people to be able to come and enjoy the show and not have to worry about paying.” This performance acts as a little taste of live theater in the High Country that is kid oriented and family friendly. “Theater is about connection and is a living, breathing organism, and you’ve got two main components to that living, breathing organism, and that’s the audience and that’s the actors on stage,” Smith said. “And when you don’t have that, something is lost when it comes to theater, and it basically becomes television, and I think people have had enough of watching TV.” By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • Eagle Scout Project Restores Bethel School Bell That Has Been at the School Since the 1930s


    July 22, 2020  When rising Watauga High School Senior Logan Sturgill set out to find an Eagle Scout Project, he was immediately drawn toward work that could have a positive impact on Watauga County Schools — the system where he’s attended since pre-Kindergarten at Mabel School. Sturgill contacted WCS Superintendent Scott Elliott to express interest in doing a project which would also benefit one of the schools in some way. Elliott solicited ideas from the school system’s principals, and then put Sturgill in touch with Bethel Principal Brian Bettis. Bethel School is home to a very large but long-neglected school bell that was placed at Bethel School when the building was first constructed by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. Over the years since its original construction, remodeling at Bethel School saw the bell removed from its perch atop the building and stored in the school courtyard, where it has been largely unprotected from the elements for years. / Read more…



  • Weekly Crime Reports: Activity and Arrests in Boone and Watauga County, July 13 – July 19

    July 22, 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 Chamber Hosts First After Hours Event of the Season at Green Park Inn


    July 22, 2020  The Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce was able to put together its first Business After Hours event of 2020 at the Green Park Inn, dividing things up into two different sessions to be able to meet all social distancing and group gathering protocols. “Business After Hours at the Green Park Inn was a very nice event. We had less than 25 guests in each of our sessions,” said Suzy Barker, the Event and Communication Specialist for the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce. “Typically we see anywhere from 60 to 100 people to attend a business after-hours event, but this was a much smaller, intimate gathering of people and I think we enjoyed the ability to talk to everyone there. It was nice to connect.” The first session took place from 5-6 p.m. and then the second session happened from 6-7 p.m. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Lightning Strike Near Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster in Banner Elk Sends Several Visitors to the Hospital

    July 22, 2020 At least six people were hospitalized on Tuesday after a lightning strike hit a tree on the property of the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster in Banner Elk. According to a Facebook post from the Wilderness Run Alpine Coaster, several park guests were sitting under the tree and across from the tree when lightning struck. WBTV reported that at least six people were hospitalized. The post continued, saying that the coaster was not operating at the time that the incident occurred. “We closely monitor weather and shut operations down till storms pass through,” the post said. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce Postpones Symphony by the Lake Until Next Year


    July 22, 2020  It is with great sadness that the Board of Directors of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce has announced that the Chamber will not host Symphony by the Lake this year. The event typically held in July was moved to August 22nd in late spring. The Chamber was optimistic that the outdoor event capacity and social distancing guidelines currently in place would be relaxed by now, but with case counts continuing to increase at an alarming rate in North Carolina, this was clearly not going to happen. Symphony by the Lake at Chetola will return on Friday, July 23rd, 2021. / Read more…



  • Local Second Harvest Food Bank Partner Agencies to Require Face Coverings for Drive-Thru Food Pantries Starting July 27

    July 22, 2020 Beginning Monday July 27, local Second Harvest Food Bank agency partners Hunger and Health Coalition, Casting Bread Ministries, Greenway Baptist and Hospitality House of Northwest North Carolina will begin requiring clients accessing their respective drive-thru food pantries to wear a face covering. Hunger and Health Coalition executive director Elizabeth Young explains, “We are continuing to make adjustments and pivot to best ensure the safety of our community as we look to accomplish our mission of providing nutritious foods to our neighbors most affected by this crisis. Effective measures to decrease physical contact within our community are essential to decreasing the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).” The four Watauga County hunger relief agencies have continued operating throughout the COVID- 19 pandemic, albeit with significant changes to the way that food is delivered to their clients. Each food pantry operates as “client choice,” meaning that in normal times, clients come inside and shop for their groceries, picking out the produce, dairy and shelf-stable items that best suit the needs and tastes of their household.  / Read more…



  • The 2020 Avery A&H Fair Scheduled for September 2nd through 5th Has Been Cancelled


    July 22, 2020  It is with profound sadness and disappointment that the Avery Agricultural and Horticultural Fair Board announce that the 2020 Avery A&H Fair scheduled for September 2nd through 5th, 2020 will be cancelled. Due to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Avery County Agricultural and Horticultural Fair announces the cancellation of the 2020 Avery A&H Fair. Officials made the difficult decision in consultation with public health and emergency management officials. The Avery A&H Fair has been in place since 1993 and has not missed any year. / Read more…



  • Back 2 School Festival to be held at Watauga High School Aug. 7-8; event needs to raise $40,000


    July 21, 2020  The 2020 Back 2 School Festival will be held on two dates this year — Friday, Aug. 7 and Saturday, Aug. 8 at Watauga High School. This is to allow the Back 2 School Festival to create a socially distanced environment. “While we are still uncertain about how the children will learn, the Back 2 School Festival remains committed to making sure every Watauga County student returns for the 2020/2021 school year confident and prepared with the tools they need to succeed,” stated Back 2 School organizers in a press release. The Back 2 School Festival is an annual event that aims to help any Watauga County families struggling to afford the high costs of sending their children back to school, according to its website. By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • An Appalachian Summer Festival Online Hits the Home Stretch, July 21 – Aug. 1


    July 21, 2020  Entering its final stretch, the all-virtual monthlong incarnation of Appalachian State University’s annual summer arts event, An Appalachian Summer Festival, presents visual artist showcases, award-winning films, classic theatre with a modern spin, a popular sculpture walk, and a variety of livestreamed music ranging from orchestral and classical to standards and bluegrass. All events are free. The all-virtual festival runs daily through July 31. Take your seat at appsummeronline.org. / Read more…



  • Watauga, Avery Obituaries – July 21, 2020

    July 21, 2020. The following are recent obituary notices from Austin and Barnes and Hampton funeral homes in Boone and Reins-Sturdivant in Newland. / Read more…



  • Over 500 Watauga County Residents Received a COVID-19 Test at Saturday’s Free Testing Event at Watauga High School; Preliminary Results Show 16 Positive Tests

    July 20, 2020 A total of 533 residents came to Watauga High School on Saturday to receive a free test for COVID-19, according to data shared by AppHealthCare. Preliminary results from Mako Medical Laboratories, who were responsible for setting up the event, administering the test and breaking everything down after testing was complete, showed that 16 individuals (3 percent) tested positive. “We are very pleased with how the event turned out and it was successful because of strong community partnerships with Watauga County, Watauga County Schools, Watauga Emergency Management, and Boone Police Department,” said Melissa Bracey, the Director of Communications and Compliance for AppHealthCare. Bracey said that cars were lined up an hour before the start of the event. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • New Turf Installation Nearing Completion at Kidd Brewer Stadium; Student Housing and North End Zone Projects Continuing on Schedule


    July 20, 2020  The brand new turf at Kidd Brewer Stadium is almost entirely in place in preparation for the upcoming football season at Appalachian State. The new synthetic turf had to be approximately 20 percent larger than the previous turf that was removed because of the removal of the track that used to surround the field. The track is being installed at the App 105 property. Other field enhancements include grading on the bank beneath the scoreboard to make it less steep, as well as improved drainage areas and new access points for emergency vehicles. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Mountain Electric Cooperative’s Sugar Mountain Transmission Line Provides Tremendous Benefits to Electricity Users in That Region


    July 20, 2020  While the new transmission line constructed to connect the electrical substations between Sugar Mountain and Banner Elk in Northern Avery County didn’t meet its anticipated completion timeline of summer or early fall of 2019, it has been operating since November last year. And it has been a godsend of electrical sorts to those using electricity in its service area. According to Mountain Electric Cooperative General Manager Joseph (Joe) Thacker III, the Sugar Mountain transmission line and substation provides long-term benefits to electric consumers in its region who are served by Mountain Electric. By Tim Gardner / Read more…



  • Blowing Rock and Avery County Chambers Held Their First Outdoor Arts & Crafts Festivals


    July 20, 2020  It was a good feeling for both the staff at the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce and the Avery County Chamber of Commerce being able to see a pair of events find success this summer despite COVID-19. The Blowing Rock Chamber held its first Art in the Park of 2020 while the Avery County Chamber was able to host the Fine Art and Master Crafts Festival on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Both events took place with face-covering and social distancing requirements for guests, vendors, and artists. “Following the COVID-19 measures, we had no opposition whatsoever. It was a great weekend with great weather,” said Avery County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melynda Pepple. “We sat out some tables for people to eat and we never saw any group come in that was not being safe. We had large tables and sanitation dispensers on each table so they got used regularly.” By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Weekend Photos from Todd Bush Shows View of Comet NEOWISE from Elk River


    July 20, 2020  Local photographer Todd Bush staked out a spot in Elk River at a friend’s house over the weekend and was able to get two more terrific shots of Comet NEOWISE as it remains visible in the High Country for a few more days. The first photo called “Chasing the Sun” was taken at dusk on Saturday evening. In the photo, it appears that NEOWISE is following in the same direction as the sun heading behind the mountains. The second photo below is an excellent shot of NEOWISE and the International Space Station (ISS) appearing to cross paths high in the sky. The comet should remain visible in our area through the end of July.  By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Hundreds Attend Back the Blue Rally at Bibleway Baptist Church Saturday Afternoon


    July 20, 2020  A Back the Blue rally was held in Boone at the Bibleway Baptist Church, located at 964 George Wilson Road, on July 18, which began around 1:30 p.m. Back the Blue is an activism campaign focused on building community support for local police officers. Hundreds of people showed up to the event and could be seen standing in a field next to the church or sitting underneath a tent or trees nearby. The church parking lot quickly filled up, and organizers of the event had to utilize another parking area further down the road and shuttle attendees in a van over to the rally. Attendees included current and retired law enforcement personnel along with families and friends and local community members showing their support and appreciation. By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • Toe River Health District COVID-19 Statistics Updated – Cases Surge and Mitchell County Has Second Fatality

    July 20, 2020 The Toe River Health District, which encompasses Avery, Mitchell and Yancey, NC Counties, have identified additional Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases to update its totals as of this morning (July 20) as follows: *Avery County-58 positive cases. 10 of those afflicted with the disease have recovered and 48 of those cases remain active. *Mitchell County-76 positive cases. 59 patients have recovered, 16 remain afflicted and 2 fatalities have occurred. *Yancey County-88 positive cases. 67 have recovered and 21 are active.  / Read more…



  • Federal Jury Convicts 60 Year Old Boone Man of Child Pornography

    July 20, 2020 A federal jury in Charlotte has convicted William Jon Patric Ebert, 60, of Boone, N.C. of child pornography charges, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. U.S. District Judge Frank D. Whitney presided over the trial. The jury returned the guilty verdict on Friday, July 17, 2020, following a two-day trial. According to filed court documents and evidence presented at trial, Ebert sexually abused a minor for more than six years. The sexual abuse took place in Ohio and in North Carolina. Evidence presented at trial established that Ebert also used the minor to produce child pornography photographs of the minor, and that he stored those photographs on his computer and other devices he owned.  / Read more…



  • School Reopening Plans Continue to Come Together with First Day of School a Month Away

    July 17, 2020 Schools in Watauga County and every other part of the state are finalizing their plans on how they will proceed to reopen once schools start next month. The first day for Watauga County students will be Monday, August 17 and the current plan is to reopen schools with a “2×3 Schedule.” The 2×3 Schedule is designed to allow half of the students to attend school on Monday and Tuesday while the other half will attend on Thursday and Friday. Wednesday will be a remote learning day for all students. “In total, all students have three days of remote learning at home each week,” said Garrett Price, the Director of Communications for Watauga County Schools. Remote learning options will be available for all students where parents will have a choice of sending their students to school on a part-time basis or keeping them at home for full-time remote learning, according to Watauga County Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott. Elliott shared that information in an interview with Boone Chamber of Commerce CEO/President David Jackson on Tuesday. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • ARHS Partners with Local Law Enforcement to Provide Face Masks for the Community


    July 17, 2020 On Friday, June 26, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper’s executive order went into effect requiring face masks to be worn in public spaces where physical distancing of six feet is not possible. To help the community adhere to this requirement, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) donated 800 washable, reusable cloth face masks for local law enforcement officers to distribute as needed. Face masks will soon be donated to Avery County law enforcement officers as well. The donated face masks will enable law enforcement officers to use a problem-solving approach to the enforcement of the order, offering a face mask to those without one. Hopefully, these additional mask resources can turn a potential confrontation into an opportunity to help keep the community safe. “We realize that we have a role to play in supporting our law enforcement officers who are responsible for enforcing the mask requirement,” said Chuck Mantooth, President and CEO of ARHS. / Read more…



  • Todd Bush Thursday Night Photos of Comet


    July 17, 2020 With lots of clouds around the horizon last night, it was seeming as-if Comet NEOWISE would not make it’s expected appearance over Rocky Knob from atop Pigeon Roost of Banner Elk. But briefly around 10pm, thankfully it did before clouds covered-up and tucked in the dual tailed visitor for the night. This link has info on why the two tails. The close-up photo was a 30 second exposure using a tracking platform, compensating for earth’s rotation. / Read more…



  • COVID-19 Update: Watauga County Positive Cases Increase by 54 Percent from Last Week, Active Cases Increase by 31 Percent

    July 17, 2020 Watauga County experienced a sizeable increase in total positive cases from last week to this week, according to the most recent data provided by AppHealthCare. Last week, Watauga County reported 103 positive cases. This week, the reported case total is up to 159. Active cases jumped from 61 to 89. There are also 147 people in the county being actively monitored. Ashe County reported 69 positive cases with 16 of those active and 40 people being monitored for the virus. Alleghany County reported 46 positive cases with 15 of those active and 47 people being actively monitored. Hospitalizations increased from seven last week to 13 this week in the three counties covered by AppHealthCare. In total throughout the district, the positive case total went from 198 to 274 and the active case total went from 80 to 120 in the last week.By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Valle Crucis Community Park to Charge Weekend Parking Fee Effective July 24 Through October


    July 17, 2020  The Valle Crucis Community Park will be implementing a new parking fee of $5 per car on most Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. The change will be implemented beginning July 24 and will run through October 2020. 100% of fees collected will go directly back to park improvement projects. According to the Valle Crucis Community Park’s website, the park was established in 1983. It now operates with the mission of providing a safe and peaceful recreation resource and gathering space for the community, preserving open space and educating visitors about natural resources and the importance of protecting them for future generations. By Harley Nefe / Read more…



  • Question Marks Surround Appalachian State’s 2020 Football Schedule With Season Opener Canceled


    July 17, 2020  The App State Mountaineers has already lost two non-conference games from its 2020 football schedule and with the chance to lose at least one more game. The Big 10 Conference recently announced that their conference programs would only be playing conference games this season with consideration given to playing local teams to fill out schedules. This meant that App State’s trip to Madison on September 19 would not be happening after all. On Thursday, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) announced that the conference would be canceling all of its fall sports for 2020. This decision also affected App State’s football schedule as the Mountaineers were scheduled to open the season on September 5 at home against Morgan State, one of 11 teams in the MEAC. Questions also surround the Mountaineers scheduled game on September 11 at Wake Forest. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • NC Courthouses Require Everyone to Wear Face Coverings; Jury Trials to be Delayed Through September

    July 17, 2020 Chief Justice Cheri Beasley announced on Thursday that anyone inside county courthouses throughout North Carolina must wear a face covering. “I have issued several emergency directives calculated to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in North Carolina’s communities,” said Chief Justice Beasley. “Consistent with the Governor’s recommendations and the clear guidance of public health experts, requiring face coverings in courthouses is necessary to keep our courts open while protecting court personnel and the public.” In addition to the face-covering decision, Beasley said that all jury trials will be delayed at least through September. The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts has started crafting a detailed plan on all of the specifics that must be in place before jury trials can resume. By Nathan Ham / Read more…



  • Federal Judge Sentences Boone Man to 20 Years for Transporting and Possessing Child Pornography


    July 17, 2020 On Thursday, July 17, U. S. District Judge Kenneth D. Bell sentenced Thomas Arthur Rittenhouse, 76, of Boone, N.C. to 20 years in prison on child pornography charges, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. In addition to the prison term imposed, Rittenhouse was ordered to a lifetime of supervised release and to register as a sex offender. In December 2019, a federal jury convicted Rittenhouse of two counts of transportation of child pornography, and one count of possession of child pornography. / Read more…



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