While a lot of Ashe County events and activities were curtailed by the global pandemic, there were nonetheless a number of impactful headlines during the year. Here, we take a look back at the year that was through the “lens” of The Ashe Post & Times.

Ashe Chamber and the community give warm welcome to The Vintage Farmhouse General Store

Jan. 1: The rooms of the Vintage Farmhouse General Store were bustling with members of the community on Dec. 20 for its ribbon cutting ceremony.

Lucian and Patricia Jordan of Tri County Paving, Inc., along with their children Kaitlyn and Ethan, are the owners and operators of the store. The family has owned the land and the historic house which the store is housed in, for 10 years.

“We decided Ashe County needed a country store,” Patricia Jordan said.

The Vintage Farmhouse prides itself on having something for everyone and features a “man cave” downstairs in the basement, and clothing for women and children upstairs.

The store’s wide variety of merchandise at affordable prices and large parking lot help to set it apart from other businesses in town. One unique feature of the store is its full-service bakery and coffee shop, which was Kaitlyn’s idea. Not only does it offer visitors with a sweet treat, but also gives the store a fragrant aroma which the family likes to describe as “smelling like grandma’s house at Christmastime”.

The Vintage Farmhouse General Store is located at 424 E. Second Street in West Jeerfferson.

Ashe vanquishes Vikings in OT

Jan. 8: Sometimes, it takes a bit of extra time to grab a win, and the Huskies boys basketball team got the overtime win against the North Wilkes Vikings Friday, Jan. 3 at home.

Ashe put the pedal to the floor early, scoring bucket after bucket to grab an early lead. Seniors Nate Lee and Colby Greer led the Huskies’ scoring for the day, as they rushed out to a 16-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Huskies slowed to a crawl in the second quarter, only managing two points in the second quarter.

After the half, Ashe came out swinging, forcing their way back into contention for the lead. With Greer picking up speed and terrorizing on both sides of the ball, the Huskies managed to keep the Vikings’ lead at six heading into the fourth. While the Huskies struggled with turnovers killing their momentum, they were aggressive enough on defense to offset the lost possessions. With just steal and layup to tie the game at 39. The Vikings responded with a two of their own, but Lee sunk two free throws with 30 seconds left to tie it up at 41 and send the game into overtime.

With the momentum at their back, the Huskies fought against the Vikings for the duration of the three-minute fifth quarter. Lee made the play of the night with a floater for a 47-45 lead with only one second on the clock. The Vikings’ hopes came down to a final inbounds play, but the pass was picked off by Austin Poe, clinching the win.

Ashe High School Vanguard Marching Band celebrates successful season

Jan. 15: The Ashe County High School Vanguard Marching Band received its Turkey Trophy from the Novant Health Thanksgiving Day Parade on Jan. 8 — the band had been announced as the winner of the Battle of the Bands competition on Dec. 9, following a voting period that was opened on Thanksgiving and was available for a week.

Aside from their accomplishment at the parade in Charlotte, the band has had success at other parades, competitions and has gained a great deal of distinction.

Two band members, Jordan Carlton and Joey Vela, were participants in the Macy’s Great American Band at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York.

The band’s director, Paula Carlton, provided insight about the marching season and about her future plans for her students.

The marching band started competition season by sweeping its class and earning the title of Grand Champion at Maiden High School. They continued to place first in their class at other competitions they attended.

The band also earned Superior ratings in all five competitions they participated in.

“We actually ended the season with 32 trophies, which is more than this program has ever accumulated in a season like that. So that was a record,” Carlton said.

Commissioners declare Ashe County a Second Amendment Sanctuary

Jan. 22: Ashe County commissioners voted on Jan. 21 to affirm a resolution declaring Ashe County as a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” The vote was approved 5-0.

Every seat in the courtroom was full and additional members of the community who came to support the resolution were gathered outside.

“It warms my heart to see this room full; I wish it was this full every time we met because this is the way that America works. You can come out, you can say what’s on your mind with no fear,” Chairman Todd McNeill said before the motion was made to adopt the resolution.

Donna Apple, who moved to the area, was the only one to speak in opposition of the resolution presented by the county commissioners. Apple does respect the right of law-abiding citizens to have guns and that she believes that probably 95 percent of the people who own guns in the county are good, responsible gun owners.

Her main argument was that she is bothered by how the discussion about guns has become political.

“I need to ask you as commissioners, by passing this resolution are you saying you agree with there being no gun regulations at all? Are you saying that you believe anyone can have a gun and have whatever kind of gun they choose and can carry that gun wherever,” Apple said to the board.

Carlos Dominguez, who is originally from Cuba, said he always knew what a great country the U.S. was because his father was employed by the American government.

He and his family migrated in 1965 and became American citizens.

“So today, every time I hear people attacking because of the Second Amendment and wanting to take away our guns, I say to myself, ‘Where the heck are we gonna run next,’” Dominguez said.

“There’s no other country like this one. So, we need to protect our Constitution and our Second Amendment, and I stand by 100 percent and I ask you to please go on with this resolution and whatever you have to do to protect our Second Amendment, I’m for it. Thank you and God bless America,” Dominguez said.

Husky swim teams perform well at Conference Championship

Jan. 29: On Jan. 18, the Husky swim teams traveled to the Armfield Civic Center in Pilot Mountain to swim in the Conference Championship. The girls finished in third place overall while the men’s team finished sixth.

“Throughout the season we have really worked hard to get into swim shape,be able to swim multiple events, and be able to make our lineup more flexible. I thought coming into the Championship we were peaking at the right time,” coach David Koontz said.

According to Koontz, their time in this final event made their resume stronger to get into regionals.

“Again I couldn’t be more proud of this team. For many of them, this is the first time they have ever competitively have swam. They made huge strides and are looking forward to next season as I am,” Koontz said.

Ashe commissioners and municipal officials hold luncheon and round-table discussion

Feb. 5: A luncheon and roundtable discussion was held between members of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners and municipal officials on Feb. 3, at The Venue at Ashe County Chamber of Commerce to discuss current and future issues and activities of the towns.

Julie Wiggins, the director of the HCCOG, spoke about what the organization has been working on.

Wiggins shared information about the aging program and workforce development program.

She feels that since Ashe County, as well as the rest of the country has an aging population it is something that needs to be on the area’s radar. She also noted that the aging population and the hospital go hand-in- hand.

N.C. Sen. Deanna Ballard was present at the meeting and mentioned multiple times her support of the arts. Ballard was especially vocal during the discussion of The Lost Province Center for the Cultural Arts project in Lansing.

Ballard requested an update about the project at the Old Lansing School and feels the biggest hurdle will be gaining ownership of the building but once that occurs it will open up the doors to the grant world of possibilities.

“I see a lot of potential and a lot of opportunity in Lansing. I would just encourage everyone to really continue to do what you can to what you can to even foster this neighboring town and really kind of strengthen it,” Ballard said.

N.C. Rep. Ray Russell spoke about the possibilities of incorporating Airbnbs in the area since there are not a large number of hotels in the area. He expressed that this is especially an issue in the Big Horse Creek area since many people travel to the area for hiking and fishing.

He feels that it will benefit Lansing, which will in turn benefit the whole county.

The discussion lasted for two hours and served as a successful tool for bringing the towns and their leaders together.

Area’s healthcare providers closely monitor Novel Coronavirus outbreak

Feb. 12: There has been no record of reported cases of the Novel Coronavirus in North Carolina and Ashe County and the risk to the general public is low, according to the NC Department of Health and Human Services. However, local healthcare providers such as AppHealthCare continue to closely monitor the rapidly evolving situation.

“The 2019 Novel Coronavirus is a virus identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China,” said the Centers for Disease Control in a statement. “At this time, it’s unclear how easily or sustainably this virus is spreading between people.”

Regarding the current travel situation, the CDC released an updated statement which included their recommendation to avoid all nonessential travel to China on Feb. 4.

“In response to an outbreak of respiratory illness, Chinese officials have closed transport within and out of Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province, including buses, subways, trains, and the international airport. Additional restrictions and cancellations of events may occur,” the statement reads.

The US Department of State has also issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory asking people not to travel to China due to the outbreak of the virus and limited access to adequate medical care in the affected areas.

Jennifer Greene, Health Director at AppHealthCare, provided some insight about how the main healthcare provider of the High Country is preparing in the event that the virus affects the area.

“We have a good, connected health care community in Ashe County and one of the things we are really happy about is that we have a good connection with our healthcare partners,” Greene said.

Huskies win first round of MVAC tournament

Feb. 19: In the first round of the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference tournament, the top-seeded Ashe County Huskies girls basketball team hosted the Elkin Elks (3-20) Thursday, Feb. 13. With the 60-52 win, the Huskies (18-5) move on to the second round, keeping their conference title hopes alive.

The two teams had previous met Jan. 10 and Feb. 3, with Ashe winning both games by a combined score of 122-56.

After the game, head coach Brianna Ashley did not have much to say about the win. She noted a win is a win, and her team still has a shot at a title.

Ashe Habitat dedicates home

Feb. 26: The Ashe County Habitat for Humanity held a ceremony Sunday, Feb. 23 on Ridgeside Drive in West Jefferson for Missy Roland and her daughter, Antonia, celebrating their hard work and new home.

The house was not originally on Ridgeside Drive though, in fact it was not even in West Jefferson. It was built, and spent more than 60 years, in Jefferson on the property of Fletcher Memorial Baptist Church. Having no need for the building, the church offered it to Habitat.

After its relocation, the house was renovated top-to-bottom. A roof was placed where the second floor used to be, the floors were re-done, walls removed or moved and all-new appliances were installed.

Someone who helped along the way was Roland herself. Habitat for Humanity uses a “sweat equity” program which rewards people who volunteered on other home builds, worked in the restore and took homeowner classes.

Charles Hamm led the group in the litany of dedication, followed by construction committee chairperson Gerry Tygielski, who presented a hammer to Roland, a symbol of the hours of work she put in to making this a reality.

It was then HFH Vice President Beth Sorrell’s turn, handing Roland the key, the final piece to the dream home’s puzzle. Weaver gave the closing prayer, and Ro- land had a new home.

“I just want to say that I am very thankful and grateful for Habitat and for my dream home,” Roland said. She then thanked everyone from Habitat that helped her fulfill the dream and find her home.

Student success honored at Ashe County Board of Education meeting

March 4: On March 2, students and their families gathered at Ashe County High School for a reception and recognition ceremony to celebrate student success.

The first to be recognized were two members of the ACHS Culinary Team, Jaylen Ferguson and Santanna Cummings.

Mitchell Mash, Ashe County Middle School athletic director, recognized the seventh grade volleyball team. They were coached by Heather Windish and Carrie Blevins and were recognized for being conference tournament champions for the year.

Team members are Alexis Rollins, Hadleigh Windish, Chloe Farmer, Isabella Farmer, Phoebe Wagoner, Kayden Kearley, Ally Greer, Lanie Bowers, Ella Yelton, Maylee Blevins, Zoey Lemly, Hannah Osborne, Kailei Shumate and Addie Shaw

Next, the eighth grade volleyball team was recognized for winning the tournament and only losing one regular season match. Last year as seventh graders, they were undefeated in the regular season and made it to the championships.

They were coached by head coach Misty Miller and Dalton Lewis.

Team members are Jillian Miller, Carrig- an Kearley, Emmi Cheek, Natalie Bloomer, Madison Lee, Paige Overcash, Hana Howard, Zoey Krider, Madison Weaver, Darby Miller, Julia Herman, Brittany Houck and manager Anna Randolph

The eighth grade girl’s basketball team was recognized for their success during their middle school career. They were coached by Kevin Jones, Travis Richardson and Eric Miller.

“This group of basketball players, they had the most successful run in middle school basketball that we’ve had here in Ashe County,” Mash said. “They went undefeated for two years in a row and in eighth grade they won the conference championship.”

Team members are Paige Overcash, Abigail Jones, Emmi Cheek, Macie Miller, Hayden Lewis, Emily Hartsoe, Bailey Richardson, Julia Herman, Katlyn French and scorekeeper Carlee Richardson.

The final students recognized were conference wrestling champions. Luke Osborne, Luke Peterson and Mason Armentrout won their weight class in this year’s conference championship.

“Our team overall finished in second place, but we appreciate the hard work of these young men,” Mash said. “To have three first place finishers, it’s a great victory for us.”

Unofficial primary voting results see Jordan, Sands and Powers through

March 11: The unofficial voting results from Ashe County were tallied Tuesday, March 3, with all 17 precincts, absentee and one stop votes pushing candidates through the 2020 North Carolina primaries.

All 2,670 precincts in N.C. had been reported by 7:37 a.m. Wednesday, March 4. Just under one-third of registered voters in N.C. voted.

At the local level, the six republican candidates who threw their hats into the ring for a spot on the Ashe County Board of Commissioners went through a primary to trim the field to three. Former N.C. House Representative Jonathan Jordan led the field with 1,890 votes, winning 10 of the voting options in Ashe.

“I feel wonderful,” Jordan said. “I was among six people, next-to-last on the ballot. I’m glad people still think well of me and I’ll do them a good job if I get in in November.”

Incumbent William Sands finished second with 1,684 votes, and Jerry Powers finished in the third and final winning spot.

“I was thrilled with it and I very much appreciate all those that supported me,” Sands said. “I will certainly do my best to do the job that i’m supposed to do in operating the county.”

Powers, who previously served as a commissioner from 1990-94, said he was happy to have the received the confidence and support from the people in Ashe County. He added he did not do too much campaigning in the primary, saying he wanted to let whatever happens happen.

On the federal level, Republican Ashe County voters overwhelmingly threw their support behind President Donald Trump, whose 3,322 votes were 94.8 percent of the total. Trump won the state with 93.52 percent of the vote.

Out of the 15 candidates in the running for the Presidential election primary, Joe Biden came out on top with 964 votes. Bernie Sanders was runner-up with 528 votes and Michael Bloomburg followed with 373 votes. Elizabeth Warren finished with a total of 221 votes. Other candidates had a total of 53 collective votes and the remaining 56 fell under the “No Preference” category.

Biden won the state with 42.99 percent of the vote, while Sanders and Bloomberg finished second and third, respectively.

In the race for U.S. Senate, Cal Cunningham took first place with 1,687 votes. Erica Smith came in second place with 395 votes. The other three candidates achieved 164 combined votes.

At the state level, incumbent Ray Russell ran against Turner Doolittle in the race to represent District 93 in the N.C. House of Representatives. Russell was Ashe’s Democratic choice to represent the district, racking up a total of 2,100 votes and receiving 98.1 percent of the overall vote.

Cooper orders statewide school closure; schools offer meal services

March 18: On March 14, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced an executive order closing public schools for students for at least two weeks beginning March 16 in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Ashe County Schools Superintendent Phyllis Yates has been providing updates to students, families as further information has become available. Yates has placed Connect5 calls each evening, beginning March 14, since the executive order was announced and plans to continue doing so as a primary method of communication.

Yates released a letter to the Ashe Post & Times on March 16 with information about the implementation of meal programs to serve students during the closure of schools and their facilities.

“Our dedicated teachers are working diligently at school to prepare learning resources that students can access at home. I will be issuing further guidance about expectations for staff and access to school facilities for students,” Yates said in the release. “Opportunities will be made for students and parents to access the school buildings this Thursday, March 19, to collect personal items and instructional resources.

Skyline/Skybest, according to a news release, is offering 60 days of free broadband to residents in the home of a student in kindergarten through high school, in technical school, in college or in graduate school which currently is without our internet service and that hasn’t had internet service with SkyLine/SkyBest for the past 90 days; and is located where SkyLine/SkyBest would normally provide internet service.

Mountain Aire wins 2020 Small Business of the Year

March 25: The Ashe County Small Business of the Year award was announced by the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce Saturday, March 21, with Mountain Aire Golf Club winning the prestigious prize.

Unlike other years, the award was announced in the form of a video produced by Germain Media, with the event, originally scheduled for March 18, canceled due to concerns over the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic.

“We in Ashe County figure out how to get around those obstacles,” Chamber Board President Andy Guion said in the video.

Also taking part was Tasha Rountree from Blue Ridge Energies, the sponsor of the 2020 award.

Presenting the award was the winner of the 2019 edition, Greg Schuster of Schuster Physical Therapy. Schuster said it was an honor to win the award in 2019, and an honor to present the award in 2020.

Mountain Aire Golf Club was opened by Carl and Pearl Hagel, and has been in the family ever since.

On-hand to accept the award was owners Philip and Laura Shepherd alongside Mark, Lou and Lindsey Hagel.

“This wouldn’t be possible without our employees, they’re part of our family as well,” Philip Shepherd said. “We’re very appreciative of this award, we’d like to thank the community and our golfers that support us through thick and thin, and we’re just humbled and honored to have this award.”

Court rejects Tavern’s claims, Beck to move forward

April 1: The Hon. Michael D. Duncan informed both parties Thursday, March 26, that he has denied the motion for a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit between the owners of The Hotel Tavern and Old Hotel purchaser Mark Beck. The ruling comes more than three months after a hearing on the matter Dec. 18, 2019.

The ruling was originally expected to be released Dec. 23, 2019, and it would have protected the restaurant during the lawsuit. Duncan wrote, “I cannot find or conclude that the Plaintiffs (The Hotel Tavern) are likely to succeed on the merits of this case as to Defendant Bridgetree.”

Tavern co-owner Andy Guion was brief with his reply, simply saying, “(Beck) won and we lost.”

Now, Beck said he will move forward with his plans to restore the Old Hotel into a functioning hotel. The renovations began March 2, with the removal of the patio. This lead to a temporary restraining order from The Hotel Tavern, as a power shutoff on the building’s second floor hampered their ability to conduct business.

However, electrical problems discovered by the Ashe County Building Inspections Department added another dimension. Beck said that now the lawsuit is out of the way, the project can get back on track.

WCC Ashe Campus embarks on 3D printing project, producing over 300 face shields

April 8: With protective masks and face shields in short supply due to the threat of COVID-19, Chris Kearley, an applied engineering instructor at Wilkes Community College’s Ashe Campus is using modern technology to make 3D-printed face shields to help local healthcare providers stay protected.

As of April 6, the WCC Ashe Campus has produced a total of 370 face shields, according to Kearley.

Kearley said as of April 7 they have sent 50 to Ashe Memorial Hospital, 100 to Watauga Medical Center, 15 to Alleghany Memorial Hospital and 15 to Alleghany Center. There have also been 44 face shields produced and used by those delivering meals to Ashe County Schools students on the school buses as part of the Child Nutrition Program.

Kearley was inspired by a story he read on the internet and his own desire to help. He received approval from Chris Robinson, vice president of workforce development and community education and director of the Ashe Campus, to contact the Florida business he read about and see if they were willing to share their design.

Kearley said the Florida business was happy to share its template with him and his team. After acquiring the template and building a prototype, he met with representatives at Ashe Memorial Hospital.

“We are grateful for the support of Wilkes Community College as Ashe Memorial Hospital continues to provide care for our patients and works to assist in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We have received over 30 face shield frames, and the WCC Ashe Campus continues production as needed,” AMH Chief Executive Officer Brian Yates said on the morning of April 6. “These frames support removable face shields and will provide much-needed personal protection to our team members when treating both confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients.”

Kearley did not embark on this journey alone, as his fellow employees at the WCC Ashe Campus have offered their assistance in this effort.

“Betty Eller, custodian/evening coordinator, has donated her time and money to buy elastic bands and has ordered some transparent sheets to complete the shields, Kearley said. “I have had help from Kendra Perkins, director of curriculum and student services, and her son John Fields; Loretta Johnson, office manager; and Chris Bare, maintenance supervisor, in printing and assembling the shields. Also, Mike Rash, Ashe Campus information technology technician, has helped with IT support.”

Earl Pennington, who serves as the director of CTE/Testing and Accountability at Ashe County Schools, brought all 6 printers from the high school and Ashe County Middle School to the WCC Ashe Campus for Kearley and his team to use.

Dr. Jeff Cox, WCC president said, “I’m really proud of Chris Kearley and the others at the Ashe Campus for seeing this need in our community and stepping forward to provide a solution. This is at the heart of what Wilkes Community College does — see a need in the community and step forward to meet it.”

Storm brings heavy rains to Ashe, several roads impassable due to flooding

April 15: An overnight storm, which began during the evening hours of Easter Day, April 12, dumped several inches of rain onto Ashe County. Several residents were left stranded at their homes due to washed out or cracked roads, mudslides and downed trees.

Ashe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill said the county received reports of most low-water bridges underwater, multiple downed trees in roadways and mudslides on Frank Dillard Road and High Drive.

According to Gambill, the fire department secured a propane tank which was floating on New River Bend South Road.

In addition to damaged roads, several Ashe residents lost power due to the storm. Blue Ridge Energy line technicians were still restoring power to several Ashe and Caldwell county residents on April 13.

Ashe County honors the legacy of a shining star

April 15: Oscar Graydon “Grady” Lonon passed away on March 29 at Kindred Hospital in Greensboro. His legacy will continue to live on in Ashe County as he is remembered for his talents as a singer, actor, director and attorney who made a difference in the lives of the community.

Lonon is survived by his wife, Jane Chapman Lonon, and their two sons, James and Matthew Lonon.

“Grady was a sole law practice practitioner working primarily in real estate and estate planning. As an attorney, Grady helped many people, but he also shared his time and skills helping those in need,” Jane said.

He was an active supporter and volunteer with both the Ashe County Arts Council and the Ashe Civic Center; he served as president of the Arts Council Board in the mid-1980s. Lonon was also a past board member of Habitat for Humanity and the Ashe County Community Foundation.

Music played an important role in Lonon’s life. He served as director of the Ashe County Choral Society for many years and served as Chancel Choir Director at Bethany United Methodist Church for 35 years. He also was a member of the Bethany Ding-A-Lings Handbell Choir, which is directed by Jane.

The Rev. Dan Money, pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church, said that although Grady was not ordained, he had a minister’s heart and loved to help people experience God through worship.

“It goes without saying that there is a big hole left in Bethany church and we are all very saddened by this great man’s passing. He has made us better by his presence with us and we will forever be indebted to Grady for the many ways he has ministered to us,” Money said.

Rebecca Williams, who serves as the program director at Ashe County Arts Council, said she was fortunate to work with Grady through the Ashe County Little Theatre.

Williams said as the costumer for his musicals, she was always challenged to be creative and think outside the box, while still honoring the musical theatre tradition because that was “Grady’s way.”

Michael Bell, a local musician who was a good friend of Lonon’s, shared some fond memories from when they worked together in the Ashe County Choral Society and in Little Theatre musicals.

The two shared a wonderful partnership that lasted decades during the time that Lonon directed the Ashe County Choral Society and Bell accompanied it.

“Grady’s strength, humor, integrity and his talents as an attorney, singer, conductor, actor, director and friend will be sorely missed,” Bell said.

Inmate doing his part to stop spread of COVID-19

April 22: From the start of the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic, the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office has made it a priority to avoid an outbreak of the disease in the Ashe County Detention Center. The office has taken precautions such as quarantining new inmates, but there was always the potential for the virus to be carried in by the jail’s employees.

One inmate, who asked to remain anonymous, has been doing his part by making masks for guards with materials they supply him with.

The inmate is part of the Statewide Misdemeanant Confinement Program, which allows smaller jails such as the ACDC to house sentenced inmates instead of state prisons, paying the jail at the same time. The state then encourages participating county jails to allow the inmates to work in some capacity for the county while doing their time. Inmates that are part of the SMCP program who labor as “working inmates” are rewarded with a modest amount of time off of the end of their sentence.

The inmate said that he and others have been viewing the news on television every day, watching the pandemic develop.

“The safest place we could probably be is in here,” he said. “But yet, the guards that come in can bring it in and spread it to us.”

The inmate, who is not from Ashe, spent almost 10 years working various jobs in an upholstery shop where he learned to sew, and has spent a few hours each day at a supervised station making masks. The idea came from jail administrator Captain Linda Carrow, who found a tutorial to make masks online. Having too much on her plate to make enough for everyone, she asked the SMCP inmates if any of them could help, with one volunteering.

However, to accomplish the task, he needed materials and something to sew them with. Officials got in touch with Walmart manager Judith Tzaferis, who donated a $300 sewing machine, and staff picked up the rest of the needed materials.

“I love it because it gets me out of there and then it gets my mind off of the news and gets me productive,” the inmate said. “Whether I accept it or not, I am a part of this community now, because I’m here. I get to come up (to the front office) and the guards, they’re good people.”

Deep Gap man charged with decades-old rape

April 29: A man from Deep Gap has been charged in relation to a decades-old rape and a crime against a child, according to the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office.

Joseph M. Cook Sr., 76, was arrested Wednesday, April 22, by the ACSO and charged with second-degree rape and indecent liberties with a child.

According to the warrants for his arrest, Cook is accused to have committed a rape between Jan. 1, 1978 and Dec. 31, 1981. Cook is also accused of committing a “lewd and lascivious act upon the body” of a victim between 8- and 11-years-old sometime between Jan. 1, 2012 and Dec. 31, 2015.

U.S. 221 still on track, sections A, B and C should be done by end of year

April 29: The widening of U.S. 221 is still on track, even with the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic still ongoing.

According to information from the North Carolina Department of Transporta- tion, recent drops in volume, contributed to the pandemic, has caused a shortfall of at least $300 million for the department’s fiscal year, ending June 30. Due to the budgetary concerns, all but about 50 major projects scheduled to start in the next 12 months have been delayed, the release stated.

Sections A and B — starting from the junction of U.S. 421, continuing past Idlewild Road and across South Fork New River — are clustered into one contract handled since December 2015 by James R. Vannoy & Sons of Jefferson, according to Beaver.

The section is approximately 98 percent complete, according to NCDOT Division 11 Construction Engineer Trent Beaver. Worth $46.4 million on estimated construction costs, the contractor hopes to be placing the final layer of asphalt and installing signs in June, depending on the weather, Beaver said.

Section C — past the bridge over South Fork New River to the N.C. 194 junction at Baldwin Road — is contracted for $53 million to Vecellio and Grogan of Beckley, West Virginia, who began work in February 2017, according to Beaver.

Beaver said the section is approximately 92 percent complete.

Section D — from N.C. 194 to the four-way stop- light in West Jefferson — was completed by Vannoy & Sons between March 2015 and January 2019.

The $21.3 million contract price for Section D went over budget by about $1.3 million, Ashe Post & Times previously reported.

Section E — North of the four-way stoplight in West Jefferson to U.S. 21 Business and N.C. 88 in Jefferson — was let March 17 with construction scheduled to begin July 1. James R. Vannoy & Sons Construction was awarded the contract in the amount of $27.4 million

The contract completion date has been set at Nov. 11, 2024. Beaver noted the construction on Section E should be “very similar” to Section D.

Terrific Teachers: Ashe County Schools announces district’s Teachers of the year

May 6: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many changes to daily routines, including those of both teachers and students as they have adjusted to remote learning for the remainder of the 2020/21 school year.

Teachers everywhere are working tirelessly to tackle the challenges of online learning while experiencing the loss of physical interaction with their students.

Ashe County Schools recently announced and congratulated the five teachers from each school in the district who were selected for Teacher of the Year via their Facebook page.

Kelly Lopp, a science teacher at Ashe County High School, was selected as the school’s TOY for this year.

Lopp said what she enjoys most about her job is daily interactions with her stu- dents and being able to learn more about them as individuals through building relationships with them.

Danny Eldreth, who teaches seventh grade science and math at Ashe County Middle School, was selected as the school’s TOY.

The 2020/21 school year is Eldreth’s 19th year in the classroom and he said he is fortunate to have a job he loves.

When asked about the best part of his job, Eldreth said it is the students.

“It is such a joy to work with kids,” Eldreth said. “They tend to be very forgiving, kind and they bring such energy to one’s day.”

Preston Roberts, a fifth grade teacher at Mountain View Elementary School, was chosen as the school’s TOY.

Roberts said the number one thing he loves about his job is the relationships he gets to build with his students.

“This crazy time has brought on many struggles as a teacher, but the biggest downfall is not being able to be in the classroom with my kids,” Roberts said.

Cara Elliott, a first grade teacher at Westwood Ele- mentary School, was select- ed as the school’s TOY.

Elliott said what she enjoys most about teaching first graders is teaching children to read and it is amazing being able to watch. She said she also enjoys teaching children with special needs in her class, especially autism.

“My daughter has autism and I want to spread awareness about autism every day,” Elliott said. “With awareness comes acceptance.”

Dawn Powers, a first grade teacher at Blue Ridge Elementary School, was selected as the school’s TOY.

“I was absolutely blown away to be chosen as the Teacher of the Year at Blue Ridge among so many wonderful and deserving people,” Powers said.

Powers said these are certainly challenging times for education and the best part of the job, time spent with the children, has been drastically reduced. However, Powers said she has seen amazing things happen during this time, including how people have come together and risen to the occasion.

Huskies women’s basketball wins Scholar Athlete team award

May 13: The North Carolina High School Athletic Association announced Wednesday, May 6, the Ashe County Huskies women’s basketball team had the second-highest team GPA in the state in their sport.

According to the NCHSAA, “For individuals to qualify, they must have a 3.5 weighted GPA or higher during the semester under consideration, and for a team to qualify for recognition they must have a combined unweighted GPA of 3.1 or higher during their semester of competition.”

The Huskies had a 3.833 unweighted GPA, narrowly coming behind Jesse C. Carson High’s 3.857. According to Ashe County High School Athletic Director David Koontz, this was the second consecutive year the team finished in the top-three.

Community shows up support healthcare workers in vehicle parade at Ashe Memorial Hospital

May 13: A parade of vehicles was held at Ashe Memorial Hospital on the morning of May 8 to salute Ashe County’s healthcare workers. The parade began at 10 a.m. at the main entrance, with drivers making their way up the hill toward the back of the hospital to either circle around Margate Health & Rehab or the hospital.

Signs lined the side of the hill leading up to the hospital thanking workers in each of the departments at the hospital.

Drivers were encouraged to thank these essential workers by turning on their hazard lights and blowing their horns.

A lot of planning and work went into planning the event and some of those who helped to make the parade happen were hospital staff members Tena Rhinehart, Michelle Carpenter, Dr. Charles Jones, Patty Calhoun and Greta Horton.

Rhinehart said she wanted to something to brighten the day of healthcare workers and saw something similar which took place in Pennsylvania and it brought tears to her eyes.

Jones made a special trip outside at 11 a.m. to meet the other staff members in front of the AMH sign to release 19 heart-shaped balloons for COVID-19.

Local creamery has best chocolate milk in state according to travel food blogger

May 20: Cheek Farmstead Creamery located in Fleetwood was declared as having the No. 1 best chocolate milk in North Carolina by Perry James, a chocolate milk enthusiast, connoisseur and food reviewer.

James posted a YouTube video entitled the “Top Ten Chocolate Milks in North Carolina” on May 7, which featured Cheek Farmstead Creamery.

C&C Dairy, located at 499 Am Cheek Road in Fleetwood, has been family-owned and operated dairy farm for over 30 years.

Rodney Cheek said his grandparents bought most of the land in 1911 and in the late 1950s his dad and uncle took over the farm.

Cheek said they have enjoyed the publicity they have gotten as a result of the video. The creamery has been operational since August 2016 and Cheek said they have about 40 adult cows.

Local student recognized on Carson-Newman Dean’s List

May 27: Carson-Newman University recently released its Dean’s List for the spring 2020 semester on May 20. The University awards Dean’s List honors to students earning a grade point average of 3.5 or higher while taking 12 or more credit hours in a given semester.

One student earning a spot on the Dean’s List, was Ashe County’s own Lily Calhoun, whose hometown is Warrensville.

Ashe County High School graduates celebrated in parade downtown

June 3: A parade downtown may not have been the celebration seniors at Ashe County High School originally expected on their graduation day, but the sense of pride and love the community has for the Class of 2020 was evident on the evening of May 29.

The rain stopped and the skies cleared as families, friends and the community lined the streets of downtown West Jefferson to cheer for and congratulate seniors as they drove by in their cars in a parade beginning at 6 p.m.

The event was not affiliated with ACHS and was planned via Facebook by parents Susie Baldwin and Susan Lewis.

The purpose of the parade was to recognize the seniors and their hard work and accomplishments, especially because they had missed out on many memorable moments and events, including prom, due to COVID-19.

“Susan and myself just thought it would be a great idea to recognize them on this date because it was their original graduation date,” Baldwin said prior to the date of the parade. “Our hope is that it will put a smile on their face and a memorable moment in their hearts, for them to know how much we love each of them and support them.”

Protesters march in West Jefferson

June 10: Hundreds of people congregated in West Jefferson to protest racism and police brutality on the afternoon of Saturday, June 6.

The protests are in-line with many that have been going on around the nation since the death of George Floyd Jr., who was black, after a white police officer kneeled on his neck May 25 in Minneapolis.

Law enforcement agencies including the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office, West Jefferson Police Department and North Carolina Highway Patrol were on-hand to keep the protest peaceful, and make sure it was not disturbed.

After the march, attendees gathered again on a grass hill after helping themselves to refreshments to learn more about the mission and to hear experiences and accounts of those with personal stakes in the BLM movement.

Speakers included K Hart, Fontrina Wray, Quentin Wellington, Alexis Wray, Olivia Shepherd, Emily Badger and Annsley Roberts.

When addressing the audience, Alexis Wray spoke about how she has lived with both fear and guilt. She said she organized the protest out of fear and that nobody should ever be afraid to exercise their constitutional rights and uphold the First Amendment.

“I want to thank you all for coming out here today, but just remember that it doesn’t stop here, that when you leave from here today — you have to leave here reminding yourself that you put your face, you put your name out there,” Wray said. “I saw your face, we all saw your face, the whole county saw your face. Guess what? You have a responsibility now to be an ally.”

Prior to dismissal, the crowd observed a moment of silence in solidarity for all the black lives that have been taken throughout the nation’s history.

Local nurse celebrates 50-year career with same physician

June 17: Joy Cockerham began her career with Dr. Edward Miller on June 19, 1970 — and is celebrating 50 years as a nurse with the same practice and physician.

Since childhood, Cockerham always knew she wanted to become a nurse. When asked what has been most memorable about her career she said it has been the ability to take care of people throughout their life from childbirth until they have a family of their own.

Cockerham said the biggest change during her career has been the transition to electronic medical records from paper patient charts.

Her advice for anybody going into the medical field is to make sure they have the love and desire to take care of people.

“Joy has been such an inspiring member of our team at Ashe Memorial and Mount Jefferson Family Medicine throughout the years,” said Rita Richardson, practice manager at Mount Jefferson Family Medicine. “She always puts the needs of the patients first and cares deeply about providing excellent patient care. We could not ask for a better coworker and friend.

Miller said Cockerham has been a friend and invaluable teammate of his over the years and everyone at his practice truly admires her dedication.

Ashe native achieves top honors in college journalism

June 17: For the past 60 years, the Hearst Journalism Awards Program has been one of the most prestigious honors in college journalism. This year, Jefferson native Lucas Pruitt found himself with a third-place finish at the state level for multimedia.

Pruitt, who will begin his junior year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall, was surprised and humbled by the honor.

He said a faculty member approached him in February with only days left before the submission deadline, asking if he could turn in something. Not wanting to pass on the opportunity, Pruitt compiled a webpage based around his love of mountain biking and turned it over.

Dubbed “Ride NC,” Pruitt’s submission acts as both a love letter to something he is passionate about, but also an expression for his love of photography and video. Ever since he found his mother’s camera at 8-years-old, Pruitt said he has had a love of film and photography, and wants it to be his career.

With three more opportunities to enter the competition, including one the year after he graduates, Pruitt said he plans on taking advantage of the opportunity and add more to his resume. He said that after college, he wants to work with his passions, either for a company like Red Bull Media with the outdoors adventure market or a faith-based organization such as Samaritan’s Purse.

Newly renovated, but Todd General Store retains its history

June 24: Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Todd General Store has captured the hearts of both locals and visitors of Ashe County for more than a century.

On Saturday, June 20, the public was invited to attend a grand opening ceremony at the store, which is located at 3866 Todd Railroad Grade Road.

The ceremony lasted all day and a ribbon cutting by the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce also took place.

Members of the UNCTV production crew were pres- ent to film interviews and capture the atmosphere of the newly renovated store.

The newest owners of the historic landmark, the Connell family, have been working diligently on extensive renovations to the building and its property.

Matthew and Andréa Connell, along with their two children, Charles and Eleanor, moved to Boone from Richmond, Va., in 2017 after Andréa accepted a job at Appalachian State University teaching ceramics.

The Connells started pursuing the building in December 2018 and bought it in May 2019.

They have been working for the past year to get the building to its current state.

Andréa said that between the age of the building and it sitting vacant since its previous closure in 2016, there was a lot to be done.

As far as the renovations go, Matt said “some things you can see and some things you can’t see.”

He completed a lot of the work himself and said he is glad the store is able to experience this shift from renovation to business.

Yates’ retirement celebrated with drive-through ceremony

July 1: Phyllis Yates has been involved with Ashe County Schools for more than 40 years and is retiring effective July 1. She has served in her current position as superintendent of schools since the 2015-16 school year.

A drive-through celebration sponsored by the Board of Education was held on June 25 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. to allow the community to celebrate with Yates.

Current and previous students, staff, parents and members of the Ashe County community were invited to drive by and honk their horns or bid Yates farewell.

CSS staff, along several members of Yates’ family, were present to partake in this special ceremony and wave at the cars that drove by.

A school bus was parked within view with a large banner made by Callie Lewis, art teacher at Westwood Elementary School that read “Congratulations, Mrs. Yates!”

Yates said the ceremony filled her heart and the school system has been great and has been like family to her over the years.

“I’ve been very blessed and I’m honored to have had this job,” Yates said following the celebration.

ACHS announces new wrestling co-head coaches

July 8: Ashe County High School has announced that brothers Brandon and Danny Dillard have been selected and approved to take over the wrestling program as co-head coaches.

“I am very excited about Brandon and Danny stepping into the role of head coaches for our wrestling program,” Athletic Director David Koontz said. “Their experience and background with the sport made this decision very easy for us. For many years they have assisted with the program and have been very successful assistant coaches. I have confidence in their ability to lead our high school wrestling program at a high level and build upon the success that we have already had.”

Brandon Dillard grew up in Ashe County and attended Ashe Central High School, wrestling all four years and was a multi-year state qualifier and placer.

Danny Dillard has served as assistant coach for more than 20 years. In this program, he has coached multiple regional champions, state placers and seven individual state titles including a two-time state champion.

Warrensville man indicted by grand jury for multiple sex offenses

July 15: A man from Warrensville has been charged with multiple sex offenses, including one involving a minor.

Lonnie L. Price, 43, was arrested Tuesday, July 7, one day after being indicted by a grand jury, and charged with two counts of second-degree forcible sexual offense, two counts of second-degree forcible rape and one count of indecent liberties with a child.

Lost Province Center for Cultural Arts purchases historic Lansing school buildings

July 22: The Lost Province Center for the Cultural Arts, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating Southern Appalachian culture recently announced its ownership of two historic school buildings in Lansing, N.C.

As of July 1, LPCCA now owns the historic Lansing schoolhouse and classroom building, both of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. LPCCA plans to transform the historic landmark into a mixed-use campus, which will serve as a singular showcase in Ashe County for the promotion and preservation of arts and crafts, music and culinary arts.

David Norman, who serves as LPCCA’s Board Chair and CEO, said the idea of creating such a space in Lansing began approximately five years ago. However, the board of directors has been especially active during the past two and a half years.

“It all came together for us on July 1, when we actually did acquire the buildings,” Norman said. ”It was at that time that we say we went from dream to reality.”

Once the building is renovated, the goal is to teach skills pertaining to arts and crafts, music and the culinary aspect.

According to Norman, they plan to teach the culinary service and skills necessary to run a restaurant. In the old schoolhouse itself, they plan to add a gallery and gift store as well as at least 21 studio apartments on the second floor.

Norman said as they attract tourists and artists to the community, they want to be able to provide them with a place to stay. The plan is for the apartments to be short-term rentals primarily for students and educators as well as tourists.

One of the purposes for such spaces to be available is to provide housing for students. This is due to the potential of classes such as metal working, glass blowing and pottery to last for several days.

According to Norman, they estimate the restoration cost to be anywhere from $6-10 million.

The cost will include items such as labor, materials, architects and market research studies. This will be a significant sum of money that will remain local and is anticipated to be a large economic driver for Ashe County.

Ashe County High School seniors honored with drive-through graduation ceremony

July 29: Ashe County High School held its first drive-through graduation ceremony on Saturday, July 25, to honor graduates and celebrate their accomplishments.

The ceremony was held in compliance with current state regulations for gatherings, facial coverings and social distancing, as NC remains in Phase 2.

ACHS faculty, as well as members of the school system and board of education have been working to plan a ceremony to honor the graduates since the cancelation of the traditional graduation ceremony.

“We were excited to see and celebrate our 2020 graduates and their accomplishments on Saturday,” said Ashe County High School Principal Amanda Hipp. “It was a beautiful day, and I am thankful for all our staff, board of education members, Superintendent (Eisa) Cox and retired Superintendent (Phyllis) Yates that came out to support our seniors. I am truly blessed to have been able to talk to each graduate as they came across the stage. I am so proud of these young men and women and what they have accomplished. I know they are going to go out in the world and make a difference.”

More than 300 tested for COVID-19 at AppHealthCare event

Aug. 5: From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, more than 300 people were able to be tested for COVID-19 at Ashe County High School during a testing event from AppHealthCare, with the hope of getting a better understanding of Ashe County’s place in the global pandemic.

According to Ashe County Emergency Management, 370 individuals were tested during the event. AppHealthCare reported 19 tests had come back positive, part of the 46 active cases in Ashe, according to AppHealthCare. AppHealthCare would only be contacting those who tested positive, according to Director of Communication and Compliance Melissa Bracey.

Individuals who could be tested had to be Ashe residents at least 10-years-old, and the free testing required no appointments, people did not even have to get out of their cars.

“From an Emergency Management perspective, the testing was important because it provided an opportunity for people who wanted one but don’t have insurance and can’t afford one to be tested,” ACEM Coordinator Patty Gambill said. “It also provides an opportunity to identify people who have it that may be asymptomatic and are spreading the virus without realizing it.”

5.1 magnitude earthquake occurs near Sparta, largest reported earthquake in area since 1916

Aug. 12: The United States Geological Survey reported 5.1 magnitude earthquake at 8:07 a.m., Aug. 9, approximately 2 1/2 miles southeast of Sparta. According to USGS, this larger quake followed a 2.6 magnitude quake which occurred in the same location, 2 miles from Sparta at 1:57 a.m.

USGS recorded the depth of quake that occurred at shortly after 8 a.m. to be 2 1/3 miles.

According to the USGS, the last 5.1 magnitude earthquake experienced in North Carolina occurred more than 100 years ago, in 1916.

The first earthquake that was recorded near Sparta on the morning of Aug. 9 was considered minor on the Richter magnitude scale while the second was considered moderate.

According to the Associated Press, there were no reports of serious injuries, but some minor structural damage was reported in Sparta, as well as cracks in roads.

Ashe County Emergency Management posted on its Facebook page that they received a few reports of structural damage caused by the earthquake in the Laurel Springs area.

Ashe County students return to school for 2020-21 school year

Aug. 19: It was an unprecedented first day of school on Aug. 17, as Ashe County students returned to school buildings for instruction for the first time since March. Despite additions to the morning routine such as temperature checks and attestation symptoms, students displayed the same eagerness to return to classrooms and see their teachers as they do each year.

The decision for ACS to reopen all seven school buildings in the district for face-to-face instruction was made following Gov. Roy Cooper’s selection of Plan B for the state of North Carolina on July 14.

The Ashe County Board of Education finalized its plans for some students to return to school buildings on Aug. 17 with extensive safety measures in place due to COVID-19.

The decision was made during a special meeting on Aug. 6 to offer both Plan B, which is a hybrid consisting of two days each week of in-person instruction and three days of remote instruction. ACS is also offering a completely virtual option to students called Ashe Online.

Ashe County acquires 41.8 acre tract of land for economic development

Aug. 26: Ashe County has marked a significant economic development milestone, as the County is now the owner of a 41.8-acre tract with the goal of adding jobs and industry.

The land is located off Ray Taylor Road in the West Jefferson extra-territorial jurisdiction, across from GE Aviation. The county plans on developing the tract into as many as six separate lots.

“The prospect of having new jobs, having a new company in the area is important to our county’s future,” said Economic Development Director Cathy Barr.

Dix charged with crimes against children

Sept. 2: A member of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners has been arrested on accusations of committing crimes against children, according to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

Larry C. Dix, 69, of Grassy Creek, was arrested Thursday, Aug. 27, and charged with four counts of indecent liberties with a minor. According to the warrants for his arrest, Dix “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously did take and attempt to take immoral, improper and indecent liberties” with a victim under the age of 16.

On July 3, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation began an investigation at the request of District Attorney Tom Horner, according to a release from the N.C. SBI. The SBI said the alleged offenses occurred between July 1, 2019, and June 19, 2020, adding that the investigation is still ongoing.

Lansing welcomes new clerk in town

Sept. 9: Those visiting town hall in Lansing will be greeted by a new friendly face. Longtime resident Sandy Roten is enjoying her new role as Lansing Town Clerk. Former Town Clerk Marcy Little stepped down from the role in August.

Roten retired from United Chemi-Con after 39 years of service and returned to Wilkes Community College where she completed her accounting and business administration degree.

Prior to applying for the position as Lansing Town Clerk, Roten served as a substitute teacher at Ashe County Middle School for about three years.

Roten said she accepted the opportunity mostly because she has always lived in Lansing and been a part of the community. She attended the Historic Lansing School and graduated from Northwest Ashe High School.

“I felt like it would be a good fit for me and the community,” Roten said. “I could contribute to them and they could help me too.”

Dix resigns from Board of Commissioners

Sept. 16: Larry Dix resigned from his seat on the Ashe County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

Dix was elected to the board in November 2018, with his term set to expire in 2022.

Dix is currently facing charges of crimes against children. Dix was arrested Aug. 27 and charged with four counts of indecent liberties with a minor, according to court documents.

Ashe County holds 9/11 and veteran Memorial Day service

Sept. 16: The Fire Association held an annual Sept. 11 memorial service on Sunday, Sept. 13, at 3 p.m., at Ashe County Courthouse. The Veterans Memorial Day service also took place at the event since it was not held on Memorial Day due to COVID-19.

The 9/11 service has been held in the county for the past 19 years.

Community supports 39th Annual Ashe Shrine Club Golf Tournament fundraiser

Sept. 23: The 39th Annual Ashe Shrine Club Golf Tournament was held Sunday, Sept. 20, at Mountain Aire Golf Course.

The tournament is held on the third weekend of Septem ber each year and is a fundraiser for Ashe Shrine Club. This was an 18 Hole Stroke Play Competition with an entry fee of $60. Players were able to arrange their own Foursomes prior to playing.

Ashe Shrine Club President John Brown said he is wowed by the generosity of Ashe County during fundraising events. Brown said none of it would be possible without the support of the Shepherd and Hagel families, corporate sponsors and players.

Ken Blevins, who is a past fun and taking care of what they need to as Shriners.

Blevins said being a Shriner it is about dedication and a great desire to take care things that need to be taken care of when it comes to children experiencing health challenges.

Blevins spoke about the inclusive nature of the tournament as both men and women, young and old come out to participate.

The number of participants in the tournament also increased, with nearly 160 players registered for the day.

According to Brown, the game of golf has increased in popularity worldwide during the pandemic since it is played outdoors and allows for adequate social distancing.

Ashe Pregnancy Care Center holds 25th annual Walk For Life

Sept. 30: The Ashe Pregnancy Care Center held its 25th annual Walk For Life Saturday, Sept. 26, at Backstreet Park in West Jefferson.

According to APCC Executive Director Sherry Edwards, the event raises awareness for the services provided by the center while raising money for it at the same time.

Before the walk began, Edwards addressed the crowd, thanking them for coming and giving some insight into the APCC.

“I would first like to thank you for your prayers and support for the life of the unborn and the work of the pregnancy center,” Edwards said. “Since I came on-board as the director in May, we have had over 50 client visits and those are expectant mothers, mothers with infants and toddlers and in many cases the fathers as well. We are a friend and a mentor to our clients.”

While the 2019 edition saw the largest crowd ever for the event, this year’s attendance dipped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Edwards said that was expected, but turnout was still good and she was happy with the support.

Lansing installs sculpture made by local high schoolers

Oct. 7: Lansing has a new attraction in the Lansing Creeper Trail Park, the work of local students celebrating the town’s aquatic life.

An 8-foot-tall trout sculpture was built by nine students in Rusty Rogers’ welding class at Ashe County High School, before being installed at the park Monday, Sept. 28.

Rogers said the idea for the sculpture came to him while halfway across the county.

“I just happened to be out in Idaho this sum- mer and stopped by a fly shop that had some thing similar. I thought that it would be a good project that my students would enjoy doing and thought that it would make a nice addition to the Lansing Park if they approved it,” Rogers said. “I sent a picture of it to (Lansing Mayor Mack Powers) and told him my idea, and the rest is history.”

ACHS students J.J. Mannon, Ryan Blevins, Jake Patton, Gabe Bare, Dalton Richardson, Caelon McNeill, Isaiah Blevins, Jeffrey Eldreth and Timothy Peterson all worked on different sections of the trout, with their initials stamped next to their work.

Greenfield Material Girls donated handcrafted pillows, hats and quilts to Ashe Memorial Hospital

Oct. 14: A special luncheon was held at the former Greenfield restaurant at noon for the Greenfield Campground Material Girls to present and donate handcrafted pillows, hats and blankets to representatives from Ashe Memorial Hospital.

This year they donated 100 pillows, 25 quilts and 50 hats to the hospital to be distributed to patients of all ages.

Present at the luncheon was CEO of AMH Brian Yates, CFO of AMH Charles Wright and Vice President of Compliance James Lambert.

“Thank you guys so much for doing this, I know that we appreciate it and our patients appreciate it,” Yates said.

Candlelight vigil for Missing and Exploited Children held at Ashe County Courthouse

Oct. 21: A candlelight vigil was held on the night of Oct. 16 in front of Ashe County Courthouse. The purpose of the vigil was to draw attention to missing and exploited children worldwide and to bring awareness to the ever-increasing human trafficking industry.

West Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department and Warrensville Fire Department set up spotlights as the speakers addressed the crowd.

In addition to the spotlights and the illumination of the candles held by individuals, there were also flameless candles lining the courthouse steps.

Local organizers of the vigil and those who helped make the vigil possible were Allison Shoemake, Crystal Miller, Cameron Lister, Hayley Mash and Heather Smith.

The organizers thanked everyone in attendance for taking the time to show up for something that needs to be addressed more often and said they plan to hold more vigils and events in the future.

Local fire departments to receive donation from ADT Security after house fire response

Oct. 28: After responding to a house fire at the beginning of the month at Higher Ground farm near the Tennessee line, three local volunteer fire departments will each receive a $2,500 check from ADT Security.

On the morning of Oct. 4, Tomme Ann Harless was cooking using her wood burning stove when a fire started. She was able to extinguish her stove but was unable to extinguish the active fire in the chimney.

According to Harless, her ADT alarm system sensor contacted the company’s central station and she received phone calls from both ADT and local dispatch.

Pond Mountain Volunteer Fire Department, Creston Volunteer Fire Department and Warrensville Volunteer Fire Department all responded to the fire that morning.

To further ensure the removal of all of the creosote present in the chimney, the firefighters and Harless completely emptied the stove.

Director of Public Relations for ADT Security, Bob Tucker shared some of the details about the monetary gift.

“We like to recognize first responders for the great work that they do and we do this many times around the country with providing monetary recognition through our ADT Lifesaver Program,” Tucker said.

After the event on Oct. 4, Harless received a phone call from ADT about the upcoming donation, which totals $7,500 and will be divided among the three fire departments.

Harless said the donation is much appreciated, but very unexpected.

When she contacted Pond Mountain Fire Chief Lee Denny, Creston Fire Chief Junior Seatz and Warrensville Fire Chief Brian Ashley to inform them of the news they were all just as surprised as she was.

Harless stressed that there is a lack of funding for volunteers and encouraged those that feel inclined to do so to make donations to local fire departments.

“It is a wonderful thing they do, it is a wonderful service and the community is so much better off with the volunteers,” Harless said.

Election Day hits Ashe County

Nov. 4: The voting spirit has swept through Ashe County like an autumn wind, with citizens continuing to cast their ballots as of presstime.

As of 5 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 11,252 votes had been cast in Ashe County, according to the North Carolina State Board of Elections. Working out to 57.5 percent of registered voters, 9,237 votes were cast at one- stop voting while 2,015 were done by mail.

In the 2016 general election, 13,637 votes were cast in Ashe, coming from 71.62 percent of registered voters.

Ashe County celebrates Veteran’s Day

Nov. 18: Despite the rain on the morning of Nov. 11, veterans and their families, as well as community members, attended the county’s Veteran Day Ceremony at the entrance of Ashe County Courthouse.

Ashe County Public Library librarian Suzanne Moore addressed the crowd to share information about the library’s Veteran History Project.

Since 2018, the library’s Veterans History Project has been preserving the stories of their community’s service members. The project has led to the publication of two volumes of work, with a third volume recently released.

It has been a community effort composed of help from local veterans organizations, community members and the local high school JROTC has seen an overwhelming amount of success with no shortage of stories.

County Commissioner Paula Perry also shared a few words at the ceremony.

“I would just like to thank everybody for coming out on this day and again, thank you for all of the veterans,” Perry said.

As the wife of a veteran and the mother of a son in the service, the day holds a special place in her heart.

She encouraged everybody to always thank veterans and those currently enlisted for all that they do to serve the country.

At the end of the ceremony, Veterans Service Officer Darryl Vaughn addressed the crowd. Vaughn himself served 26 years in the United States National Guard and completed two tours overseas.

“Even though it is a little overcast, it is a wonderful day because it is Veteran’s Day,” Vaughn said. “We salute the ones who have served.”

The event ended with a prayer and guests were then invited to help themselves toa piece of cake while a video saluting the veterans from Ashe County Schools was presented.

“Although the veterans could not go to the schools, the schools came to us,” Vaughn said.

Ashe County Sharing Center continues to make a big difference in county

Nov. 25: The Ashe County Sharing Center has continued to provide for those in need in the county amid the COVID-19 pandemic and has also expanded its services in a variety of ways.

Spearheading efforts at the Sharing Center are Executive Director Michael Sexton, pantry manager Carolyn Greer and Board chair Kelly Vannoy.

Today, the Ashe County Sharing Center provides more food to its community than similar food pantries located in Watauga, Alleghany and Wilkes counties.

“We are grateful that we can and we are grateful that people share what they have,” Vannoy said. “Because everybody cannot come in to the drive through.”

Sexton said starting immediately with their first drive through distribution, they began picking up new families.

“We have given out approximately 22,000 gallons of milk since we bought our new walk-in refrigeration outside,” Sexton said.

According to Sexton, mass distribution has been made possible due to the priority the Sharing Center has placed on infrastructure.

Additions to their facility include an outside shed, a covered area outside, the walk-in refrigerator and an expanded driveway.

Rhodes to retire after more than 20 years of public service

Dec. 2: The Ashe County community is invited to help celebrate Larry Rhodes as he retires after more than 20 years of public service as a Commissioner and active contributor to a variety of local and regional organizations.

First elected to the Board of Commissioners in 1998, Rhodes has “not only been an ambassador for Ashe County, but a dedicated servant to the people of (the) county, along with helping northwest North Carolina to maintain a vital presence in our state,” said former Ashe County Manager Dan McMillan.

A recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in October 2016, Larry Rhodes has served tirelessly as a public servant and advocate for Ashe County, as well as a good friend and neighbor.

Hubbard dies before murder case concludes

Dec. 9: Jessie R. Hubbard died Sunday, Nov. 29, at 2:15 a.m., while in safekeeping in Raleigh, according to Ashe County Sheriff B. Phil Howell.

Hubbard, 62, of Crumpler, was charged with the Aug. 19, 2018, murder of Diane Goss and four counts of possession of a firearm by a felon.

Local nonprofit works to provide Christmas stockings for High Country children

Dec. 16: With Christmas right around the corner, a local nonprofit which serves mothers and children of the High Country has been hard at work to provide those in need with gift-filled stockings.

The Motherboard nonprofit is a community for moms which provides engaging activities and events for those living in the High Country. Members work toward encouraging and empowering each mother by giving them the tools they need to succeed.

President Keshea Roland said this is the first year they have participated in a “Stuff the Stockings” event. According to Roland, they decided to pursue the project after a few board members asked about doing it in October.

After deciding to pursue the project, the board held meetings and Roland created a flier to circulate on Facebook to share their plans with the community.

“Our donations started coming in fast,” Roland said about the response from the community.

The cost to sponsor a child was $20.

Ashe Memorial Hospital receives COVID-19 vaccine, first doses administered to staff

Dec. 24: Ashe Memorial Hospital administered its first doses of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine to its frontline health care workers on Tuesday, Dec. 22.

The hospital received 300 doses of the vaccine, which received an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration on Dec.18.

“As coronavirus rates continue to rise, we have been anxiously waiting to receive the vaccine,” said Brian Yates, chief executive officer for Ashe Memorial Hospital. “I’m ecstatic to see our frontline health care heroes receive their first doses of the vaccine. These team members and our essential workers have gone above and beyond to save lives. This is the first step in protecting our team members and ensuring that we continue to provide great care to keep our community well.”

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