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Fall colors on the horizon for the High Country

HIGH COUNTRY — Peak week for fall colors is just on the horizon for the High Country. As tourists and residents alike wait for the bright fall colors to arrive in the mountains, Appalachian State University professor and renowned fall foliage tracker Dr. Howard Neufeld predicts that mid-October will be the best time to view the colors.

“Mid-October, from the 10th to the 20th, would be (peak colors) for 3,000 to 4,000 feet in elevation,” Neufeld said, the elevation at which most of the High Country sits. He said that when creating a map projecting the peaks for fall foliage, he utilizes both elevation and temperature as indicators for when leaves are going to start turning.

The southeast has the longest fall color season out of anywhere in the country making it the best place to look for fall foliage, Neufeld said. The leaves start changing their fall colors starting from the highest elevations and move downward throughout the season, reaching areas like the coast much later than the High Country.

Even if leaf-peepers miss the peak of color in the High Country, he said they can still go to overlooks and look down 500 to 1,000 or more feet and see foliage changing colors beneath them. Overall, Neufeld said that travelers can see beautiful colors for an entire month of the peak season and can spread out their visits.

The best, brightest colors a visitor can see are in the morning hours, Neufeld said.

According to Neufeld, there are reasons why some trees’ leaves change to yellow or orange while others change to red. The ones that turn yellow, and even orange, are pretty consistent every year and change to these colors due to pigments.

The orange leaves, Neufeld said, turn orange because of the pigment carotene, like what makes carrots orange, while the yellow leaves have xanthophyll. These pigments are always in the leaf all summer but when the chlorophyll, which turns leaves green, breaks down the yellow and orange colors suddenly pop out.

Red, however, is much more exciting. Neufeld said scientists are less sure about why leaves turn red. The pigment is called anthocyanin, and unlike the yellow and orange pigments trees create the red pigment during the color changing season. Neufeld said there are a couple different theories about why leaves turn red.

One theory, Neufeld said, is that the red acts like a sunscreen to protect leaves from the damaging conditions of high light and cold weather. While the tree cannot change the cold, Neufeld said the red coloration may protect the leaf from excess light and help the leaf stay intact longer while the tree draws out nutrients before the leaf falls off and dies. Trees with yellow and orange leaves also draw nutrients out of leaves before dropping them, so Nuefeld said researchers are not sure why trees are creating the red pigment.

A competing theory is that the red pigment may act as a warning signal in an effort to deter any insects or other creatures that may try to eat the leaf or lay eggs on it.

Some trees are unique and have leaves which turn multiple colors. Nuefeld said the sassafras and sweetgum trees, both of which can be seen in the High Country, can turn multiple colors at the same time.

“When we were getting into the low 50s and high 40s in the mornings, and it was very sunny in the afternoon, those are the perfect conditions to elicit good colors,” Neufeld said. If the weather continues like it has, he said the High Country is in good shape for a beautiful fall foliage season.

Neufeld works alongside students and other researchers on a variety of projects, but specifically highlighted his work with two Western Carolina Professors, Kathy Matthews and Jim Costa, who also is the director of the Highlands Biological Station. Together, they update weekly the leaf changing at several locations throughout western North Carolina.

Using this tool, Neufeld said those looking to see fall colors can best plan their trips and outings to enjoy the outdoors and appreciate our natural environment.

To visit Neufeld, Matthews and Costa’s leaf updates, visit https://www.ourstate.com/our-favorite-north-carolina-fall-mountain-views/.

To find Neufeld’s weekly fall color reports with Appalachian State University, visit https://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors.


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St. Jude's Family Fun Day draws crowd to Lansing, raises money for childhood cancer research

LANSING — Despite cloudy skies and scattered rainfall, crowds gathered in Lansing’s Creeper Trail Park on Sept. 18, for an afternoon of fun and philanthropy at the annual St. Jude’s Family Fun Day. The event is held each year in honor of Ashe local Meagan Price, and raises thousands for childhood cancer research.

Present at the event were friends and family of Price,, as well as a legion of community minded volunteers who came together to make the festivities possible and do their part in the fight against childhood cancer.

“This was inspired by a dear friend of mine and many members on our committee; her name was Meagan Price and she passed away from childhood cancer in 2016,” said Abby Sullivan, event volunteer and friend of Price’s. “This is our effort to try to give back to those children and families who are suffering the same thing that Meagan was suffering.”

The event featured a variety of craft vendors and events throughout the day, including live music, pumpkin painting, a silent auction, a duck race, corn-hole tournament and dunking booth.

“It’s been absolutely amazing. I was very excited to see the Lansing park, which is a pretty big park, absolutely filled up with craft vendors, horseback rides, different booths with things going on, inflatables and all kinds of stuff,” Sullivan said regarding this year’s event. “It’s going very well so far.”

As of 1 p.m. on Saturday the event had already yielded around $17,000 of it’s $50,000 goal. The following day (Sept. 19) it was announced on the event’s Facebook page that this year’s Family Fun Day has raised $41,000 for the St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.

The outpouring of community support gave peace to many of the event’s participants, some of which had made the journey from out of state to attend the day of charity.

“I got here at midnight last night, “ said J.T. Price, a friend of Meagan’s who made the drive down from Pennsylvania to take part in Family Fun Day. “It’s a lot bigger than I had thought. I had heard that it was a big event, and when I showed up I couldn’t even get a parking spot up there. It makes me happy, it gives me joy to see people coming together in support of the community and in support of the St. Jude’s Foundation.”

Likewise, family member’s of Price’s expressed their gratitude to the community and volunteers who helped make the event possible.

“I think it’s wonderful, we’re so blessed. So many people cared so much for Meagan,” said Meagan’s grandmother, Rose Price. “What we make here, every penny of it goes to St. Jude’s. What we do here, we hope it will make a difference, we know it will it will make a difference.”

According to St. Jude’s, only four-percent of government funding for cancer research goes towards childhood cancer. Though this year’s event is over, people can still donate to this noble cause by visiting tinyurl.com/4fr8vbuh.

To learn more about Lansing’s St. Jude’s Family Fun Day visit www.facebook.com/stjudelansingnc. You can also reach out to event organizers via email at st.jude.lansingnc@gmail.com.


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Short Life of Trouble: New documentary traces life and legacy of musician G.B. Grayson

JEFFERSON — During the course of his short life, musician G.B. Grayson would record a number of old-time standards still popular today, tunes such as “Omie Wise,” “Handsome Molly” and “Train Forty-five,” yet many have never heard his name. Now, a new documentary created by local film maker Kelley St. Germain hopes to shed light on Grayson’s life while giving the old-time fiddler the credit he deserves.

G.B. Grayson is believed to have been born in Ashe County in 1887. Despite being partially blind from a young age, he would go on to become an accomplished fiddle player — an instrument which he played in his own distinctive style, low and against his shoulder. Along with guitarist Henry Whitter, Grayson would record a series of tunes with Gennett Records and later Victor Records, including the classic “Tom Dooley,” which would eventually be made popular by groups such as the Kingston Trio.

Despite his success, however, Grayson along with his musical contributions, would fade into obscurity following his untimely death in 1930 in the wake of a automobile accident outside of Damascus, Va.

Presented by his company Germain Media, in association with the Appalachian Memory Keepers, St. Germain’s new film “Short Life of Trouble: The Legend of G.B. Grayson” showcases the late fiddlers life and his influence on modern music.

“Anytime you can tell a story about someone that’s nobody’s ever heard of, but affects their life, that’s a good story to choose. And G.B. does affect lives,” said St. Germain. “Anyone that’s interested in music, especially old-time, bluegrass music, he affects their lives. He effects the lives of people all over the world. From Japan — like the film said — to Scandinavia, his songs are played everyday on stages by the biggest names.”

Through the years, G.B. Grayson’s music has been played by the likes of everyone from traditional pickers such as Doc Watson and Ralph Stanley to folk legend Bob Dylan and rock superstar Mick Jagger.

Even to this day, however, little is known regarding Grayson’s personal life. The lack of documentation on the musician, coupled with the folklore surrounding him would lead St. Germain to liken the filmmaking process to chasing a ghost. Much of what is known about G.B. Grayson has been passed down orally from generation to generation.

“It was the most challenging film of my career, in the sense of trying to access information, finding the story. Only four pictures exist, how many times can you show that in a film,” St. Germain said. “This was originally conceived as a three-month, $6,000 project and it turned into a $20,000 project. I had to go much further afield in trying to find stories and info than I thought I would have to.”

Aside from interviews with relatives and historians, St. Germain’s new film features interviews with prominent musicians such as Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor, singer-songwriter John McCutcheon and Ralph Stanley II, who explain Grayson’s lasting influence on music today.

So far, “Short Life of Trouble” has been accepted into the Friday Harbor Film Festival in Washington state, Louisville’s International Festival of Film in Kentucky and into the Franklin International Indie Film Festival in Tennessee. Now 91 years after his death, St. Germain hopes that the film will help the public recognize Grayson’s impact on the world.

“I hope to give G.B. the credit that he’s due. I hope to shine light on this blind musician from one of the most isolated parts of the east coast,” said St. Germain. “He had this incredible effect on music the world over, and nobody’s ever heard of him. But, it started right here.”

St. Germain said he hopes to have the film available for public viewing by the summer of 2022. To learn more about the film “Short Life of Trouble: The Legend of G.B. Grayson” visit shortlifeoftrouble.com/.

People can also find the Appalachian Memory Keepers on social media at www.facebook.com/AppalachianMemoryKeepers.


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Olde Time Antiques Fair returns to downtown West Jefferson for the 10th year

WEST JEFFERSON — From vintage oil cans and cameras to classic stoneware and old-school toys, the 2021 Olde Time Antiques Fair had a little bit of something for everyone.

Sept. 17-18 marked the 10th year the Old Time Antiques Fair has taken to the streets of West Jefferson. This year’s event featured about 40 different antique and craft vendors, along with tents selling festival favorites such as fresh popcorn and lemonade. Families had the chance to enjoy the sights and sounds of downtown while also picking up some unique items to take home with them. This year, the rows of antiquarians stretched down Jefferson Avenue for two blocks.

“I think it’s been good. We had a lot of cancelations due to COVID-19 and other ups and downs, but it was our goal to pull it off, to make it happen,” said event founder Keith Woodie. “We filled up two blocks really good. We had a really good crowd on Friday.”

Each year, the event draws in crowds of folks with an appreciation of old-time craftsmanship who spend time browsing vendors tents, visiting local shops and eating in downtown restaurants. During the fair streets are closed off in West Jefferson to allow vendors room to showoff their merchandise, while also giving visitors to the High Country a chance to take-in what the downtown has to offer.

This year also marks the return of the festival, which was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the set backs brought on by the last year-and-a-half, Woodie noted that he hopes to expand upon the event in the future, extending the fair’s reach in downtown.

“I hope that we can get it all the way up to Boondocks,” Woodie said. “I think it’s a great success and a great thing for the town. I think it’s always been good for the town, and that’s what we do it for. The things that we go through season to season, our main emphasis is trying to help out downtown area and our businesses.”

For more information on West Jefferson’s seventh annual Olde Time Antiques Fair, contact (336) 977-9165 or (336) 977-0398, or email oldetimeantiquesfair@gmail.com.


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