Editor’s note: This article features news and photos from past editions of the Ashe Post and Times (previously the Ashe Mountain Times).
Nov. 22, 2012
A champion Christmas tree isn’t the only thing from Ashe County that will be displayed in the White House this holiday season — 35 handmade ornaments created by Blue Ridge Elementary students will make the 370-mile journey north to be displayed in the White House State Dining room.
The project, conceived by BRES first grade teacher Amanda Estes, was an attempt to allow every BRES student the opportunity to take part in something they can be proud of that will be displayed in the White House.
“The White House tree has been a big deal for my own family,” said Estes, whose husband Beau, along with father Rusty, were selected as the farm that would provide this year’s White House Blue Room Tree. “But I also wanted to try to incorporate something that each of these kids could be a part of, too.”
Estes said she contacted White House staff to see if ornaments created by BRES students could be used to decorate the Blue Room Tree.
“Unfortunately, they told me that wouldn’t be possible,” said Estes. Traditionally, the First Lady chooses the theme and decorations displayed on the official White House Christmas tree.
In 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama chose ornaments with medals and patches from military units throughout the military and in 2010, Mrs. Obama used images and ribbons from county fairs from across the country.
“So we knew we wouldn’t get to decorate the Blue Room tree, but they contacted me and said we could decorate the tree in the State Room,” said Estes.
The State Dining Room is the larger of two dining rooms on the State Floor of the White House and is used for receptions, luncheons, and larger formal dinners.
“We’re just happy to have the opportunity to create these ornaments,” said Estes. After coordinating with White House staff on colors and themes, Blue Ridge Art Teacher Lindsey Postlethwait chose a three-dimensional paper ornament with covered in brightly colored messages from BRES students.
“I’ve really always enjoyed this design,” said Postlethwait. “Plus with35 of them, and the cutting, shaping and gluing — all the kids in school will have worked on this in some manner or another.”
And for Estes, the fact that all 550 BRES students will have a chance to work on something displayed in the home of the world’s most powerful leader is a plus.
“I think this is something that most all of them will remember forever,” said Estes. “It’s been great to share this experience with them.”
Nov. 27, 2014
A woman originally from the Nathan’s Creek area in Ashe County is set to posthumously receive the inaugural Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.
The recipient of this award is Anne Bledsoe France, who still has family ties in Ashe County. Anne France, paired with her husband, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., would create what today is one of the largest and most popular sports in the world.
“It’s a big honor for her, and for our family, too,” said Carlyle Bledsoe, a nephew of Anne France.
According to Bledsoe, Bill organized and promoted races, while Anne took care of the financial end of the business.
Anne France first served as secretary and treasurer of NASCAR, and when Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959, she served in the same roles for the International Speedway Corporation. She also managed the speedway’s ticket office. She remained active in family and business life until she died in 1992.
The five nominees for the inaugural Landmark Award were H. Clay Earles, Anne Bledsoe France, Raymond Parks, Ralph Seagraves and Ken Squier.
Despite all the success, the story of Anne Bledsoe France is somewhat tragic. According to Bledsoe, Anne, along with her siblings, lost both her mother and father within a month.
Anne’s oldest brother, William Bledsoe, who was 17 years old at the time, educated Anne and her sisters.
Later in life, Anne met her future husband, a race car driver, while working in Washington, D.C. The two relocated to Daytona Beach, Fla., where they began sponsoring racing events.
“They started sponsoring races and ended up creating NASCAR,” Bledsoe said, about his aunt.
Anne Bledsoe France will be honored with the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR during NASCAR’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Friday, Jan. 30. The event will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network from Charlotte.
The 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame class will include Bill Elliott, Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly, Rex White and Fred Lorenzen.
The next top vote-getters were Jerry Cook, Robert Yates and Benny Parsons.
Results for the NASCAR.com Fan Vote, in order of votes received, were Wendell Scott, Bill Elliott, Benny Parsons, Rex White and Terry Labonte.
The five inductees came from a group of 20 nominees that included Buddy Baker, Red Byron, Richard Childress, Jerry Cook, Bill Elliott, Ray Fox, Rick Hendrick, Bobby Isaac,Terry Labonte, Fred Lorenzen, Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons, Larry Phillips, Wendell Scott, O. Bruton Smith, Mike Stefanik, Curtis Turner, Joe Weatherly, Rex White and RobertYates.
According to information from nascarhall.com, next year’s class was determined by votes cast by a voting panel, which included representatives from NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, track owners from major facilities and historic short tracks, media members, manufacturer representatives, retired competitors (drivers, owners, crew chiefs), recognized industry leaders and a nationwide fan-vote conducted through NASCAR.com, which counted for the 54th and final vote.
In all, 54 votes were cast, with two additional voting panel members recused from voting as potential nominees for induction (Jerry Cook and Robert Yates). The accounting firm of Ernst & Young presided during the tabulation of the votes.
Nov. 24, 2016
Local firefighters continue to battle a large wildfire off of Paul Goodman Road, between West Jefferson and Fleetwood, that started on Nov. 20.
According to an email from Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill on Nov. 21, 120 acres were on fire as of Sunday night, Nov. 20. The N.C. Forest Service, 12 local volunteer fire departments, the Ashe County Rescue Squad, emergency management and law enforcement agencies are currently working to contain the fire.
“As I understand it, the plan is to do burnouts down to natural barriers over the next few days to contain the fire which will result in approximately 439 acres burned upon containment. This plan hinges on the winds not picking up,” Gambill said in the email.
Currently, the fire, which is 40 percent contained, is primarily located in a containment area that encompasses a 400-500 acre wooded area between Mile High Lake Road, Sierra Road and US Highway 221.
According to a release from Gambill, 14 houses and nine other structures are nearby. The N.C. Forest Service has not initiated any evacuations at this time.
“We ask that residents monitor the local radio stations, local newspaper sites and the Ashe County Emergency Management Facebook page for updates. Please do not call the 911 communications center with questions about the fire or school operations as this takes them away from emergency calls. We will attempt to keep updates posted periodically on the fire,” Gambill said in the release. “We appreciate all the donations and assistance from the community. It has been a tremendous help.”
According to Gambill, the fire actually began as a structure fire at 240 Hidden Pasture Lane on Sunday morning.
“From my understanding, it’s from an outdoor wood stove sitting near a deck,” said Ashe County Manager Sam Yearick. “He had one of those outdoor heaters, and sometimes if it blows real hard, it will actually suck the flames up out of the stove pipe, and this thing was sitting close to his deck, and the deck caught on fire.”
The high winds and dry conditions helped the fire spread quickly throughout the nearby brush.
Authorities blocked off Paul Goodman Road from civilians on Nov. 20 while fire departments were fighting the fire.
According to Yearick, N.C. Forest Service Ranger Tim Lewis called in additional support from the N.C. Forest Service.
According to Yearick, there has not been a burning ban issued in Ashe County as of Monday morning, Nov. 21, and the county does not have the authority to announce one itself. However, due to the conditions, Yearick said he cautions against burning right now.
High winds whipped through the High Country this weekend amid an ongoing drought. The National Weather Service issued a special weather statement warning of increased fire danger on Monday, with winds 10 to 15 mph, gusts of 20 to 30 mph and humidity dropping to 30 to 45 percent.
“Outdoor burning is discouraged (Monday) ... any fires could quickly grow out of control,” the NWS said.
According to Gambill’s email, Emergency Management was requested to provide fuel for the fire apparatus, and contacted the school bus garage to borrow a fuel truck.
During a meeting of the Ashe County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 21, the board briefly discussed reimbursement for fuel used to fight the fire.
Also, Jessica Vogler from the Ashe County Communications Center posted a message on Facebook on Nov. 20 reminding motorists to stay out of the way of responders who are fighting the fire:
“I work for Ashe 911 center and with permission of the sheriff I am posting this: We are getting numerous reports of the roadways being blocked from emergency personnel passing easily near the brush fires in Fleetwood. This is partly due to people wanting to see what is going on. Please help us by staying clear of this area if possible, our guys are working tirelessly to put this fire out, thank you in advance.”
With the fire raging on, local responders have received an outpouring of support from the community, with many finding different ways to pitch in.
For example, local man James Payne, who lives on Big Flatts Church Road in Fleetwood, provided footage from his drone to the N.C. Forest Service to help confirm zoning plans.
“I think an interesting thing about this is how much support there has been from the community,” Yearick said. “I was talking to Tim (Lewis) earlier, and he goes ‘We just can’t believe the outpouring from the community.’ He said that a ton of restaurants have sent food, people from the community are coming in to cook, he said it was overwhelming.’”
The Fleetwood Volunteer Fire Department has been turned into a checkpoint for donations while the fire continues.
According to Brittany Phillips, wife of Fleetwood VFD Chief Justin Phillips, the best donations are water, Gatorade, and snack foods such as jerky or crackers.
According to Yearick, the Fleetwood Volunteer Fire Department looks like a Sam’s Club, thanks to all of the donations.