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Peace, love and blues: 19th annual New River Blues Festival draws crowd to Ashe County riverside

GRASSY CREEK — By promoting the natural beauty of the High Country, along with the soulful sounds of the blues, the 19th annual New River Blues Festival once again drew in hundreds for a day of sunshine and music on the afternoon of Sept. 5.

Each year the festival is produced by Ashe County blues and American roots act, the King Bees, which is comprised of Rob “Hound Dog” Baskerville on guitar, Penny “Queen Bee” Zamagni on bass and Jim Gillon on drums. Unlike other festivals in Appalachia which typically present old-time and traditional bluegrass music, this event is unique in that it showcases the iconic sounds of the blues.

“This is the only event in the North Carolina mountains that brings in real deal, authentic blues, and celebrates our beautiful scenic outdoors,” said Zamagni of the King Bees.

This year’s event kicked off around 1 p.m. at the River House Inn and featured performances by national renowned acts such as Boogie Woogie blues master Daryl Davis, South Carolina’s First Lady of R&B Wanda Johnson and fan favorite Donald Ceasar the Blues Emperor, a veteran performer of the festival.

“It’s like family, and that’s the good thing about blues is that it does bring people together, old, young, it’s all about a good feeling man,” said Ceasar about the New River Blues Festival. “You can forget about your troubles and let the blues take you away.”

Concert goers also witnessed a lively, unrehearsed performance by seasoned Costal Virginia bluesman Bobby Blackhat. This year marked Blackhat’s first appearance at the New River Blues Festival, an occasion which he noted had been delayed in the past due to the national pandemic.

“This is so cool, it was a challenge getting here because GPS doesn’t like this neck of the woods,” Blackhat joked. “But we got here, and everybody has been so hospitable and just so friendly. Music is one thing that unites so many people, and right now we’re just here in the moment enjoying the music and watching people dance and smiling and socializing. It don’t get no better than that.”

Other acts included Mountain bluesman Lynn Foddrell, and the King Bees themselves who provided a backing band for many of the visiting musicians. Others involved in the festival included event sponsor Celtic Force Productions, Kristin’s Hooked on Smoke who provided food, the River House Inn who provided the space, as well as beverages and volunteers such as the local Lions Club who parked cars.

According to Zamagni, this year’s festival looks slightly different due to the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases. In order to ensure ample room for people to socially distance, the festival promotors made the decision to sell less tickets.

“We have a limited number of people, because these days you have to. We’re about 200 tickets fewer,” Zamagni said. “We sold out. You know, there’s a lot of mad people out there upset that they couldn’t get their ticket but we warned everybody. COVID-19 has changed things, and we wanted to make sure that there’s room for everybody to socially distance.”

Despite the changes, Zamagni noted that the people in attendance did not seem to mind.

For more information about the 19th annual New River Blues Festival visit newriverbluesfestival.info/. Information about the festival can also be found on social media at www.facebook.com/NEWRIVERBLUESFESTIVAL.info.

Remembrance: A look back on the Sept. 11 attacks in Ashe County

Editors Note: This article contains interviews and other information from past editions of the Ashe Mountain Times and The Jefferson Post.

ASHE COUNTY — There are some days that just stay with a person: Sept. 11, 2001, was one of those days. Whether it was on the job site, sitting in traffic on your daily commute or dropping the kids off at school, anyone of proper age can recall exactly where they were when the news broke that America was under attack.

Sept. 11, 2021, will make 20 years since that devastating act of terror cost the lives of 2,977 individuals. Today, we look back at how Ashe County responded to the tragedy on that fateful fall day, now twenty years past.

Two days following the attacks, the headline of the Sept. 13, 2001, edition of the Jefferson Post read “National Tragedies” touch Ashe County. According to the article, during a service at the United Methodist Church a woman began to cry, her cousin and her relative’s husband had worked in the World Trade Center and her ex-husband had worked at the Pentagon. At the time she had not received word that they were safe. There was a sense of uncertainty of what lay ahead for both the county, and the nation at large. Locally, people prepared for the worst. According to the newspaper, the school superintendent at the time, Donnie Johnson, asked school resource officers to stop cars on school grounds and Governor Mike Easley put all NC National Guard units on standby. Meanwhile, Senator Richard Burr called the attacks an “act of war.”

In downtown West Jefferson, local shop keepers displayed black ribbons as a show of respect for those lost. One local business owner — Angelina Cambre — noted that even her small shop had felt the affects of the attack.

“People we do business with are in those buildings. There are companies who’s home offices are in the world trade centers,” said Cambre.

The Jefferson Post would also run ads on “How to talk to your kids about the attacks on New York, D.C.”

In the weeks to follow, Ashe County residents would band together to do their part for the nation. According to the the Sept. 18, 2001, edition of The Jefferson Post, Ashe County residents came out donate blood in support of emergency services in New York. According to the newspaper around 140 residents showed up to give blood and many having to rescheduled their appoints.

The Ashe County High School held a special memorial service in their gymnasium. An article about the event stated that “you could have heard a pin drop” as students made their way into the gym. A rendition of “God Bless America” was played as students reflected on the previous week’s events.

As the years began to fade, Ashe County residents continue to remember those lost on Sept. 11. Each year, the community continues to hold memorial service honoring the first responders and victims of the tragedy, with Sept. 11, 2021, will be no different. This year, the Sept. 11 memorial event will be held at Ashe County Civic Center located at 962 Mt Jefferson Road in West Jefferson. The event will be held at 7 p.m., and is sponsored by the Ashe County Honor Guard and Ashe County Firefighters.

Ashe sees 53rd death from COVID-19, nearly 200 individuals in quarantine

ASHE COUNTY — AppHealthCare has reported the 53rd death related to COVID-19 on Sept. 3 along with 83 active cases and 199 individuals in quarantine.

As of Sept. 3, Ashe County has seen a cumulative total of 2,803 positive cases since testing began. Neighboring Watauga County has seen 5,395 total, 150 current active, 217 in quarantine and 35 deaths. Alleghany has a total of 1,213, 41 active, 145 in quarantine and have also reported their sixth death.

Ashe remains in the “red” representing a high level of community transmission. AppHealthCare offers testing by drive-thru on Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 to 10 a.m. No appointment is needed.

According to the Sept. 3 situation update, Ashe has seen a 49 percent fully or partially vaccination rate and needs 21 percent to reach the goal of 70. 51 percent of the population remains unvaccinated.

“Based on CDC guidance, at this time, we are able to administer an additional dose of Pfizer or Moderna for individuals who are moderately to severely immunocompromised as recommended by the CDC,” said AppHealthCare. “This is for individuals who have already received a 1st and 2nd dose of Pfizer or Moderna and who have a moderately or severely compromised immune system such as individuals who are undergoing cancer treatment, have had an organ transplant, are actively taking medications that suppress their immune system, have advanced or untreated HIV infection, or have another moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency condition. Before receiving an additional dose, individuals will need to complete an attestation form stating they are eligible under the current criteria.

“Booster doses for the general public is set to begin Sept. 20 and depends on FDA and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendation.”

Vaccination appointments can be made by walk-in or by calling (828) 795-1970 for any of AppHealthCare’s clinics. Walk-in hours are 1-4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The CDC states that vaccinations are safe and strongly encouraged for those who are pregnant and breastfeeding.

“Pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant people. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from severe illness from COVID-19,” said AppHealthCare in their situation update. “Clinicians have seen the number of pregnant people infected with COVID-19 rise in the past several weeks. The increased circulation of the highly contagious Delta variant, the low vaccine uptake among pregnant people, and the increased risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications related to COVID-19 infection among pregnant people make vaccination for this population more urgent than ever.”

More than 13,200 vaccines have been administered by AppHealthCare alone in Ashe County as of Sept. 2. 12-17 year olds are at 24 percent, 18-24 at 37 percent, 25-49 at 47 percent, 50-64 at 58 percent, 65-74 at 71 percent and 75 and up are at 73 percent.

Since the Aug. 20 update, Ashe has seen 115 new cases, a lowered positivity rate of 16.96 percent and an increase of 678 COVID-19 tests.

A current cluster and outbreak in Ashe County is among the Ashe County High School football team. There is one active case as of Sept. 3 and eight cumulative. The last positive result was on Aug. 24.

In the week of Aug. 22-28, Ashe County Schools saw 54 positive cases among students and four positive cases among staff. No quarantine data has been released.

According to the NCDHHS, North Carolina has seen a total of 1,236,393 positive cases since the beginning of the pandemic. As of Sept. 3, there were 3,800 individuals hospitalized in relation to COVID-19.

Ashe County is currently issuing all county employees to wear masks in county buildings and they are asking, but not requiring, that the public do the same.

AppHealthCare continues to encourage the community to wear masks, wash your hands and watch your distance when able.

To learn more about the COVID-19 pandemic, to make an appointment for testing or to schedule a vaccine, visit www.apphealthcare.com or call the Ashe location at (336) 246-9449.

Traffic on NC-16 shuts down following a fatal collision on Sept. 6

GRASSY CREEK —Motorists traveling on NC Hwy-16 were advised to find an alternative route as first responders rendered medical aid following a fatal head-on collision on the afternoon of Sept. 6.

The wreck occurred at about 3:25 p.m. near the North Fork of the New River Bridge on NC Hwy-16, just north of Healing Springs Road. First responders from multiple agencies — including four medical helicopters — responded to the call.

According to the wreck report written by the North Carolina Highway Patrol, a 2012 Jeep Wrangler was traveling north on NC Hwy-16, when it crossed the centerline, and collided head-on with a southbound 2010 Ford Econoline van. The Jeep then ran off the road where it overturned.

The driver of the Jeep, Amber Culver, 60, of Grassy Creek, was seriously injured and transported by medical helicopter to Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist in Winston-Salem.

The Ford was owned and operated by Zaloo’s Canoes in Jefferson and was towing a trailer with kayaks. The driver of the van, Joann Ashely, 45, of Warrensville, was injured and transported by EMS to Ashe Memorial Hospital in Jefferson.

Four other passengers were transported by medical helicopter to Johnson City Medical Center in Johnson City, Tenn. A front seat passenger, Lori Richelle Myers, 49, of Terrell, succumbed to her injuries at the scene. She was restrained by a seatbelt.

According to the Highway Patrol, the on-scene investigation did not indicate impairment as a contributing factor. Currently, the investigation is ongoing.