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Ashe County High School Husky Vanguard Marching Band celebrates successful season

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.

The band’s drum majors, Julia Bassett and Katie Matheson, shared some insight about how winning first place in the Battle of the Bands really enhanced the band’s season.

“The parade was a lot of fun, we go down there every year and we came kind of close last year, but then we were beat by a Charlotte band. So, it was really exciting this year to get it, especially after such a successful season,” Bassett said.

The winner of the parade’s Battle of the Bands competition is determined by the number of votes each band that performs during the parade receives on a page located on the parade’s official website at https://www.wbtv.com/parade/.

“I feel like band is something that’s kind of overlooked at the high school, it’s always sports and so to have the community support, it just really meant a lot,” Bassett said.

Matheson said that the band grew as their skill set improved, and overall the season was successful. She said how much the band boosters and parents helped contribute to their success.

Both Bassett and Matheson found the experience of receiving the trophy to be a lot of fun and both made remarks about the large size of the trophy. The news crew was energetic and danced along to the music the band played.

“They were cool people, it was exciting. It was an exciting experience,” Matheson said.

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.

Carlton and Vela were accepted to perform with the band after auditioning by video.

They shared a bit about their experience and how they enjoyed meeting other band members from around the United States.

Carlton described participating in the parade in New York as being the opposite of what most people would imagine. From her perspective, it felt like being in a normal parade.

“It really wasn’t that scary, it wasn’t a lot of pressure because I was with all these other people, on street-level view. And we were on TV for like a minute, which is cool, but I think it was more cool than scary. It was a really good experience though,” Carlton said.

Vela described the experience as intense, but a lot of fun.

“It was like a full school day, but just practicing. It was super fast-paced, just doing drill all day,” Vela said.

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.

Carlton described the parade in Charlotte as being special to both herself and her band because it is a tradition for them to attend every year and it also offers students with scholarship opportunities.

The parade gives out four scholarships in total and the Ashe County band received three of the four offered.

Recipients of the scholarships were Miguel Gaspar, Jordan Carlton and Tyler Domangue.

As far as upcoming events for the band, they plan to reinstate the Husky Vanguard Invitational Competition.

The band hasn’t hosted this competition in a few years and the decision was made to build it back up this year. Paula Carlton shared that many bands want to come to Ashe County to participate and they plan on starting up again on Oct. 10.

This semester focuses primarily on symphonic band, jazz ensemble and steel drum band. The three bands will be having numerous concerts and performing at a few festivals.

The marching band will be traveling to New Orleans in April and is scheduled to perform in the French Quarter.

Four students made the all-district band and will perform at Appalachian State University next month, while eight students were accepted into the East Tennessee University Honor Band which will take place next weekend.

Carlton expressed her passion for her job and how much she loves it. She also spoke about her vision for the band program and its future.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll end up retiring, but you know, I want to leave it strong. So that it’s built up and ready to go for the next band director because Scott Turnmyre, he’s pretty special to me and he and I started this thing. So I just want to leave it the way we started it, even better if we can which I think we’re on the way,” Carlton said.

Annual NC Downhill Race at Mount Jefferson to be Official World Cup Event

WEST JEFFERSON — This year’s North Carolina Downhill Race at Mount Jefferson State Natural Area will be an official World Cup Event, which will make the park one of only six venues in the world to host such an event.

Park Superintendent Joseph Shimel made the announcement on Jan. 11.

“We are excited to be hosting this event yet again at Mount Jefferson State Natural Area and are thrilled it is a World Cup event,” Shimel said.

The scheduled dates for the race are Aug. 15 and 16.

Mount Jefferson has hosted this event for the past five years. In 2018, the World Cup qualifying race was held and its purpose was to help racers qualify to be entered in the downhill cup races.

The only other venues worldwide to offer such a race at the World Cup level are Goldendale, Wash.; Vulcan, Romania; Kosakov, Czech Republic; Cavite, Phillippines; and Bathurst, Australia.

Chief Ranger Jeff Matheson spoke about the logistics of the race and the groups who serve a sponsors.

According to Matheson, Saturday will be a practice day for riders and Sunday will be the day of the timed race.

As in years past, a shuttle will provide rides from the old Lowes Food parking lot for the public up to the mountain to watch the race. There will be no vehicle traffic in or out of the park that weekend to ensure the safety of the riders.

Mount Jefferson will be in charge of the logistics and getting the spectators to and from the two main spectator spots, which are the first and second overlook.

The two main groups who assist Mount Jefferson in putting on this event are the North Carolina Downhill Federation and the Human Powered Transportation Club at Appalachian State University. Both groups help with logistics such as practice days, having the correct number of marshalls on the course and putting out protective straw bales for rider safety.

The biggest difference between this race and those held in previous years is that since it is a World Cup Event there will be an increase in the number of in international riders who attend the event.

“This should draw more national attention,” Matheson said.

Mount Jefferson staff plan to begin meeting soon with the NCDH and the HPT club to discuss more about food vendors and spectator areas.

NCDH will post any additional information on their website at www.ncdownhill.com and on their Facebook page. The group will also be in charge of registration for the race.

Yates announces retirement at Board of Education Meeting

JEFFERSON — Ashe County Schools Superintendent Phyllis Yates announced her upcoming retirement, effective July 1, at the Ashe County Board of Education meeting on Jan. 13.

Yates made the announcement during the comments from the superintendent portion of the meeting.

It was an emotional and reflective time for not only Yates, but for her fellow board members as well.

“I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything in the world. I love my job and my work family,” Yates said, following the announcement.

Yates said she feels it is time for her to retire after her 44 years of service, to spend time with her family and to plan a trip out West with her husband, as they have always wanted to do.

She has served in her current role as superintendent of schools since the 2015-16 school year when she replaced Todd Holden after he accepted a position in another county.

Her recent news of retirement came as a surprise to many of the school system employees.

Yates described her coworkers as her other family and she couldn’t have been more blessed than she has been in her career.

Fellow board member Polly Jones said she has known Yates for more than 20 years and spoke highly of her. Jones commended her strong work ethic, noting that many times she would drive by the board of education building about midnight and Yates would be there working. She also listed some of the programs and ideas that Yates helped contribute to that she feels are necessary for the board to continue, such as the “Leader in Me” program and “Thinking Maps.”

Board chairman C.B. Jones Jr. said he appreciates everything Yates has done the past 44 years. He also complimented her on her persistence and how she had to start at the bottom and work her way up to where she is now.

“I think you’re going to be very hard to replace,” he added.

Vice chairman Dr. Lee Beckworth gave a moving sentiment about her great dedication and how it will be difficult to match.

“I don’t have many people who I consider a close friend, but Phyllis Yates is one of them,” Beckworth said.

Dianne Eldreth closed out the board comments by also commending Yates on her strong work ethic, stating that the children of Ashe County need hard working people to serve as their role models.

“I’m only as good as the people around me, and the people around me are the best,” Yates said in response to all of the touching comments made regarding her announcement.

As far as the search for her replacement, Yates said she anticipates the board will begin discussing the issue soon.

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Update on County Glendale Springs Asphalt Plant Case

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and Protect Our Fresh Air recently joined Ashe County’s legal challenge of an asphalt plant permit in Glendale Springs.

On Jan. 2, the citizen groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief, known as an amicus curiae, in the Supreme Court of North Carolina. The organizations’ legal arguments will be considered by the high court alongside the appeal filed by the Ashe County Board of Commissioners, which also calls for denial of the county polluting industries permit.

Commissioners have challenged the decision by the planning board to issue a permit since 2016. Subsequent appeals have now placed the issue before the state’s highest court.

Ashe County Manager Adam Stumb offered a statement about where the county stands in terms of the case.

According to Stumb, both filings by the parties are supportive of the county’s ongoing case at the Supreme Court, which is yet to be scheduled.

”When the cases are heard, the court will be reviewing the record of the previous Superior Court and Court of Appeals cases. Hearing these two additional opinions from the NCACC and BREDL, the court will make a decision as to whether there were any errors in the previous decisions,” Stumb said.

No further updates have been available from the commissioners or the county, officials said, because everything is in the hands of the attorney.

“At this time, I have not had a chance to review the full brief or discuss with the county attorney,” Stumb said. “This is the second of two amicus briefs filed in this Supreme Court case, the first being from the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners, and this from the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League being the second, both of which were filed on Jan. 2. We will await word as to how these two arguments will be heard by the court.”

Under the Ashe County Polluting Industries Development Ordinance, adopted in 1999, the county can protect its residents from industries which “by their very nature produce objectionable levels of noise, odors, vibrations, fumes, light, or smoke.”

Such industries cannot be located “within 1,000 feet, in any direction, of a residential dwelling unit or commercial building.”

Lou Zeller, executive director of BREDL, clarified the organization’s position and was able to describe where they stand at this point in their case.

Zeller shared that they filed their recent brief following proper procedures and expect to hear back from the court at their discretion. He did not provide any further updates at this time aside from the fact that the BREDL has filed its side and is awaiting an update from the court.

“The planning board dropped the ball on the question of what constitutes a commercial building, rejecting recommendations from its own staff.” Zeller said. “The planning board said that a barn cannot be a commercial building because it’s not taxed. This is not true. Barns and their values are listed in Ashe County’s property tax base. A barn lies within the 1,000-foot zone.”

Other issues are placed before the Supreme Court in the Jan. 2 brief, which stated, “Due to the procedural errors and the errors on the face of the record after the planning director made his decision denying the PIDO permit, and the creation by the Court of Appeals thereafter of a new, highly unworkable and unwieldy review and permitting system for local governments, applicants and other interested parties, amicus curiae herein has filed a motion to allow this brief in support of petitioners before this honorable court.”

The organizations asked the Supreme Court to “vacate the Court of Appeals’ Opinion and order the planning board to deny the PIDO permit at issue, or, in the alternative, vacate the planning board decision and re-establish the planning director’s denial of the PIDO Permit.”