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Y'all come back: Lansing continues its growth and impact in Ashe County

LANSING — The Town of Lansing has been tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains for a number of years, being one of Ashe County’s best-kept secrets. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, that secret has been released and the town has been growing more than ever within the past year.

Project Manager for the Greater Lansing Area Development Rene Shuford said that the pandemic, though it has been a tragic event for our country and world, was a blessing in disguise for the town. New businesses have opened their doors to locals and tourists, the Lansing Creeper Trail Park has upgraded for events, fishing, walking and more, the Lost Province Center for Cultural Arts has been booming with classes for all ages and fairs and the town itself is getting beautified more and more as time goes on.

“We want to spread the word on this wonderful place,” said Shuford. “We have opened up a lot of opportunities for businesses and housing within the past few years.”

Shuford and long-time historian Jim Parsons spoke on the newest addition to the town, the Old Orchard Creek General Store. The store is located right in downtown Lansing and offers Hatchet Coffee, books, an array of foods, handmade leather accessories, wine and more.

“This has been a blessing to the town,” said Shuford. “Business has been booming with the free concerts put on by the business as well as the addition to new menu items coming up in the future.”

The store is planning on upgrading their menu with more baked goods including sandwiches with breads provided by Stick Boy located in Boone. Their outdoor patio offers a breath of fresh air for customers as well as the enjoyment of live music which is provided a few times each month. Visit their Facebook page for updates on concerts and more.

Shuford said the town has only continued to grow over the years, seeing many of the vacant buildings in town are now being or are in the process of being bought.

“We’re very excited about this,” said Shuford. “The strip towards the end of town is being renovated, including the old barber shop which my friend and I purchased. We don’t know what we’re going to do with it quite yet, but we’re working on it.”

Part of the strip is going to be an outfitters store, which has not set a timeline for the project. Just beside the building there is going to have a garden center, a gift shop and possibly a space for cooking classes and a small brewery. Talks of a new Mexican restaurant is also in the works as you first enter town.

The old bank building, bought by James Little John, is going to be a wood shop gallery as well as a place for woodwork classes. The upstairs will be held for receptions. This project has been in the works for two years and is nearly finished, according to Parsons and Shuford.

Apartments are in the top floor of nearly all of the buildings, many obtained by long-time locals and some soon to become associated with Airbnb.

The Lost Province Center for Cultural Arts is also a popular attraction for the town. The LPCCA is now located in the old school building in Lansing and is a place where classes of all sorts are held for the public. Cooking classes, clay classes, arts classes and more are offered. The building is currently in renovation and they hope to build apartments in the upper half for students and long-time stays.

Molly Chomper hard cider is another popular attraction for locals and tourists. It is located just behind the LPCCA, but is currently closed for business due to renovations.

When first entering Lansing, you will see the Lansing Creeper Trail Park, which allows for walking, biking and more. A dog park is located on site along with a newly rebuilt barn for all sorts of occasions. The creek is one of the best sites for fly and trout fishing. Grills for all of your barbecue needs are also located across the park. Concerts, weddings, receptions, dinners and more are all part of the park. Shuford and Parsons are hoping for a connection from the Virginia Creeper Trail to the Lansing park in the future, which has been spoken of between the two.

Cash Bingo has been offered for a few years on the first and third Thursday night of every month at 6:30 p.m. at the barn, but has since been postponed since the beginning of the pandemic. Shuford and Parsons are hoping to get that going again as soon as possible.

A weekly Farmers Market is offered every Friday in the town at the park from 1 to 5 p.m. There are food vendors, arts and craft vendors, soaps, pumpkins and more.

Amy Anne apparel, located just beside the post office is one of the small businesses in Lansing, printing their own clothing, selling top-notch ladies clothing and also offering an online Etsy shop.

“I think thins will get better in the world and we’re in a pretty good situation, though COVID-19 has hit hard,” said Shuford. “I’m an eternal optimist and I think things will continue looking up. Outdoor-wise, this is where everyone is coming. We’re tucked away in the mountains and no one knows what Lansing is unless you’re around here, but people are starting to recognize it.

“We don’t seem to have enough accommodations for people, even locals. Land is being bought quickly, rentals are booked and the housing market has been skyrocketing, but I think it’s a good situation to have because it shows that people truly do want to live here.

“The town would love to campaign our outdoor resources. Since it is so hidden and not highly populated, it is sometimes hard to get the word out. But now, everybody has found Ashe County and the secret is out. We’d love for more people to take advantage of the town and what it has to offer.”

The town now has free wifi within its premises, mainly due to lockdown from the pandemic. Schools had to become remote and people had to work from home, leading many to rely on internet for their work. Parsons said it has only allowed growth for the rural area.

Shuford and Parsons said a pedestrian walking trail is also in the works, which will run from LPCCA down through the town. It will be tucked in so people will not have to walk in the streets.

The Beautification committee for the town came up with an idea last Jan. to encourage businesses to clean up their exterior. The businesses received a guide to abide by and Old Orchard Creek General Store was the winner of the beautification award.

The committee has also produced new welcome signs for the town, a new sign for the park and a few others being placed near the Virginia line, the Piney Creek area and the Helton area. A new map of the area is also being produced by Dennis Lawson along with a new Kiosk at the entrance of town.

The main road is now a scenic byway in Lansing. A brand new Bridge in town has been built and is set to be filled with flower boxes to add to the beauty of the area.

In 2019, the total population of Lansing was 202 and has been growing ever since. The town welcomes all tourists and locals to enjoy its beautiful offers.

Rooftop Cops: First time fundraiser yields more than $10,000 for Ashe children battling cancer

JEFFERSON — Motorists traveling along East Main Street in Jefferson may have witnessed a peculiar sight on Sept. 23 — cops on the roof of the local Hardee’s. The officers on the scene, however, were not responding to a criminal disturbance, but rather answering the call in the fight against childhood cancer.

Modeled after the statewide Cops on Top campaign which raises money for the Special Olympics, the Rooftops Cops event provides a means for Ashe County law enforcement to directly impact local children suffering from cancer. The day’s festivities marked the first time local law enforcement have held this event.

“They have what they call Cops on Top, which me and my wife have been a part of for the Special Olympics and we wanted something that was directly effective for Ashe County,” said Ashe County Sheriff Phil Howell. “We’ve seen probably two to three kids each year that has got some kind of cancer, so starting this year — we’ll do this every year starting in September — we’re going to try to raise money for those families.”

Beginning at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, about 40 officers representing a variety of different agencies did their part to raise awareness by taking a 2-4 hours shifts on top of Hardee’s throughout the day. The sight caught the eye of the restaurant’s patrons and passersby, who in turn made donations to their cause.

Law enforcement agencies involved in the fundraiser included the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office, West Jefferson Police Department, Jefferson Police Department, NC Highway Patrol, NC State Parks, U.S. Marshal Service, the State Bureau of Investigation and local probations officers.

“I think it’s a good thing, my sister just got diagnosed with stage four cancer,” said deputy Nick Johnson, one of the officer’s participating event. “I think it’s good that people are willing to donate money to those let fortunate than themselves.”

While the cops took to the roof, Hardee’s employees took to the parking lot, waving in cars and collecting donations from the Ashe residents. Employees also donned their favorite super hero attire and greeted kids visiting the restaurant. Aside from Hardee’s, several area businesses made donations to the fundraiser.

“The response has been really great. This community is alway great, anytime there’s a cause people are always behind it,” said Hardee’s manager Renee Taylor, who spent the morning collecting donations. “Local businesses have donated not only financially, but baskets, and baked goods and all kinds of goodies.”

Similarly, Hardee’s general manager Alicia Roark noted the outpouring of support the fundraiser hadreceived from the Ashe County community.

“It’s awesome. I haven’t ever heard of cops on the roof before, but we’ve had an amazing response so far. We’re blessed to live in a community that gives, we’re just overwhelmed,” Roark said. “I’am thankful to live in a community that gives back to their fellow man. I’m honored, and I’m glad the Sheriff’s Office included us.”

On top of collecting donations, the event featured live performances from Glen Sullivan, the Lonesome Willow String Band and more, as well as a raffle that included big prizes such as tickets to see the Carolina Panthers.

Law enforcement remained on the roof until 7 p.m. that evening, around that time it was announced that more than $10,000 had been raised for Ashe County children.

“I really didn’t have a goal for this time, I didn’t really know what to expect. But, my expectation was maybe $2000-3,000, just to help out the families,” Howell said. “For us to surpass $10,000 is just beyond what I would have ever imagined Ashe County would have given today and it’s pretty special. And I hope that everybody knows and understands that every bit of this money is going to be split up individually and given to those two families who are dealing with it right now.”

Those still wishing to donate to the fundraiser can do so until Sunday, Sept. 26, at the Hardee’s restaurant located at 799 East Main Street in Jefferson.

For more information about this event visit the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office on social media at www.facebook.com/ashesheriff.

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Blue Ridge Elementary named a 2021 National Blue Ribbon School

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recognized a total of 325 schools as 2021 National Blue Ribbon Schools, including eight in North Carolina and one very close to home.

Blue Ridge Elementary School was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School, which is a recognition based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

“Receiving the National Blue Ribbon School award affirms the hard work and dedication of the staff and students at Blue Ridge,” said principal Joallen Lowder. “I am honored to be part of an incredible school family, who work together to make great things happen for our students.”

Lowder also stated that the school is planning a ceremony to celebrate the new title.

“Blue Ridge Elementary School’s selection as a National Blue Ribbon School is a testament of the dedication of our teachers, staff and families to all children and the entire Blue Ridge community,” said Superintendent Dr. Eisa Cox. “We are very proud of this national recognition. Locally, we know that Blue Ridge Elementary is an excellent school with educators who care and do what is best for children. It is an honor for the Blue Ridge Community to be recognized by the US Department of Education.”

“I am so proud of Blue Ridge Elementary for receiving the Blue Ribbon Award,” said Katy Waddell, Instructional Coach at BRES. “The dedication of the students, teachers, and our community has been key to our school’s success. The Blue Ridge school family has worked hard to help students grow academically and to find their voice to become leaders.”

Cardona made the announcement during his Return to School Road Trip while visiting an awardee school Walter R. Sunding Jr. High School in Palantine, Ill.

The North Carolina schools named as national Blue Ribbon Schools were:

Burgaw — Pender Early College High School, Pender County School District.

Clinton — Sampson Early College High School, Sampson County School District.

Durham — Pearsontown Elementary School, Durham Public School District.

Elkin — Elkin Middle School, Elkin City School District.

Marshall — Brush Creek Elementary School, Madison County School District.

Vale — Union Elementary School, Lincoln County School District.

Warrensville — Blue Ridge Elementary School, Ashe County School District.

Wilson — Sallie B Howard Charter School, Sallie B. Howard Charter School (98A).

“This year’s cohort of honorees demonstrates what is possible when committed educators and school leaders create vibrant, welcoming, and affirming school cultures where rich teaching and learning can flourish,” said Cardona. “I commend all our Blue Ribbon honorees for working to keep students healthy and safe while meeting their academic, social, emotional, and mental health needs. In the face of unprecedented circumstances, you found creative ways to engage, care for, protect, and teach our children. Blue Ribbon Schools have so much to offer and can serve as a model for other schools and communities so that we can truly build back better.”

The coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content. Now in its 39th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has bestowed approximately 10,000 awards to more than 9,000 schools.

The Department recognizes all schools in one of two performance categories, based on all student scores, subgroup student scores and graduation rates:

  • Exemplary High-Performing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.
  • Exemplary Achievement Gap-Closing Schools are among their state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between a school’s student groups and all students.

Up to 420 schools may be nominated each year. The Department invites National Blue Ribbon Schools nominations from the top education official in all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and the Bureau of Indian Education. Private schools are nominated by the Council for American Private Education.

Haunted Factory offering fright nights throughout October

WEST JEFFERSON — The Haunted Factory of Ashe County opened its doors on Friday Sept. 24 to all who are ready to feel the spookiness of the Halloween season.

Starting the season early on in Sept. through building, producing and constructing, The Haunted Factory offers an array of frights, having many actors, costume designers, makeup artists and more. The Factory itself is a sight to see, its old architecture being enough to insight fear in those who choose to pass through the gate.

Open every Friday and Saturday until the end of Oct., including Halloween night, thrill-seekers can enjoy the walkthrough for $10 as well as purchase an unlimited season pass for $50. Starting on Oct. 1, the Factory will also be offering stamps for re-entry which will only cost $5 for any extra round.

Representatives at the Factory are pushing business a little more this year due to regulations. They are seeking the communities support to help them continue being in their current location.

The Haunted Factory is located at 301 Locust Street in West Jefferson and is open from 7 to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.