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Volume 17 • Issue 1 August/September 2021

Tourism Good Parking Bad How Can We All Get Along? August / September 2021

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

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DIANNE DA V ANT &ASSOCIATES Margaret Handley,

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Dianne Davant Moffitt, ASID Pamela McKay, ASID Priscilla Hyatt Councill,

Banner Elk, North Carolina 828.963.7500 Stuart, Florida 772.781.1400 davant-interiors.com B

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Home and community information, including pricing, included features, terms, availability and amenities, are subject to change, prior sale or withdrawal at any time without notice or obligation. Drawings, photographs, renderings, video, scale models, square footages, floor plans, elevations, features, colors and sizes are approximate for presentation purposes only and may vary from the homes as built. Home prices refer the options or premiums,2021 unless otherwise indicated for a specific home. Nothing on our website should be construed as legal, accounting or tax advice. Sotheby’s G H CtoO Ubase N T price R Y ofMthe A house G A Zand I NdoEnot include August / September International Realty® and the Sotheby’s International Realty logo are registered service marks used with permission. Each office is independently owned and operated. Equal Housing Opportunity.


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C O N T E N T S

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Our Cover Collection

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Five-Star Hospital with Five-Star Care

We take a look back at the covers for each of our editions of the High Country Magazine over the last 16 years as we celebrate our 15th anniversary a year late – thanks to the 2020 pandemic.

Watauga Medical Center is getting a multi-million dollar upgrade that will include a new patient tower and some of the most advanced technology in the state.

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More Parking Please

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Learning About the Needs of Avery County

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The Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority brought in an expert to figure out how to make the town more harmonious for tourists and residents.

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NC Representative Dudley Greene and NC Senator Warren Daniel answer questions from concerned Avery County citizens on a wide variety of topics.

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Bettie Bond’s Incredible Life Journey Boone resident Bettie Bond has traveled to many parts of the world and still finds time to support and volunteer her time to many important causes in the High Country.

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Celebrating 40 Years of Makoto’s

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Down on the Farm

Makoto’s Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar owner Gwen Dhing talks about her life inside and outside of one of the most popular restaurants in the High Country.

Horseback riding therapy is just one of many things offered at de la Cruz Farms in Deep Gap. Owners Jeff and Bencita Brooks share their story of hope and faith.

on the cover Lonnie Webster

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Our cover photo was taken by Lonnie Webster showing the bustling Blowing Rock Town Park on Main Street this summer. Lonnie has a passion for capturing life through photography. He says, “My belief is photojournalism is the art of photographing a verb.” Lonnie is available for destination publications, weddings and family portraits. Lonnie and hie wife Ada live in Blowing Rock. Visit his website at www.LonnieWebster.com 6

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August / September 2021


A R E A ' S

F I N E S T

A R T I S T S

Noyes Capehart

T H E

www.artcellargallery.com August / September 2021

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FRO M T H E PUB L ISH ER

A Publication Of High Country Press Publications

Editor & Publisher Ken Ketchie

Art Director Debbie Carter Advertising Director Jeffrey Green

Ken Ketchie

Where to Park is Always a Topic of Discussion

W

ell, it seems the secret keeps getting out. We live in a beautiful place. And because of that, more and more people are finding their way to the High Country. Is that a good thing? That depends on who you ask. For us living here in the High Country, going about our daily lives with work, school and day-to-day living, I know we sometimes forget about what a great place we live. There’s the small town feel, a university that provides so many cultural opportunities, the mountain scenery, the Blue Ridge Parkway nearby and an area that feels safe and secure. That’s where we live — and apparently — it’s a place where many like to travel, and some dream about calling it their home too. When friends come to visit or I meet a stranger from out of town, I get a reality check of just how special the High Country is. Folks from “off the mountain” will eventually say, “You guys are really lucky to live here!” For an area that depends on tourism for a big part of the local economy, the increase of traffic is good news. For those of us who remember the High Country from 20 to 40 years ago, we wonder if too much of a good thing is spoiling what a great place it is to call home, even though the reason why people are coming now is the same one that brought us here years ago. A story inside explores that issue. It’s about the Blowing Rock TDA, which has contracted with a national firm that specializes in small town issues and challenges. The firm began their study in May, and we’ll hear the final results and conclusions in a report this November. Preliminary commentary that has been shared at numerous meetings hosted by the team from the Destination Development Association is that Blowing Rock, and the High Country in general, has a problem that 99% of small communities wished they had — a thriving local economy with an amazing array of small businesses. In our case, tourism makes that happen. But then overtourism presents its own set of challenges. An easy solution to make everyone happy in Blowing Rock, according to them, is to have more parking. Then there’s room for everyone to find a parking place easily. But with more spots, does that mean even more people will visit? As the mayor of Blowing Rock likes to say — we’ve always had a parking problem. It goes back a hundred years. Boone and the other surrounding towns can certainly relate to the parking challenge as well. Maybe this study will offer some insights for us to think about as more and more people come to the High Country. On another note ... our magazine turned 15 last year. But 2020 wasn’t much of a year for having celebrations. So a year later in this 16th anniversary issue we bring you our covers since the first issue came out in 2005. Plus you’ll see pictures of some of the folks we’ve covered in the last six years since the 10th anniversary issue. As always, we thank you for reading us, and we are very appreciative for the support of our advertisers who make this magazine possible. 8

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

August / September 2021

Contributing Writers Nathan Ham Harley Nefe Jan Todd Sherrie Norris Bernadette Cahill

High Country Magazine is produced by the staff and contributors of High Country Press Publications, which serves Watauga and Avery counties of North Carolina.

Visit our online newspaper for the latest news happening in the High Country as well upcoming events and feature stories.

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE P.O. Box 152, Boone, NC 28607 828-264-2262 Follow our magazine online where each issue is presented in a flip-through format. Check it out at:

HighCountryMagazine.com Reproduction or use in whole or part of the contents of this magazine without written permission of the publisher is prohibited. Issues are FREE throughout the High Country. © 2021 by High Country Press. All Rights Reserved.

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Calendar of Events AUGUST 2021

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App State’s First Day of Classes Watauga County Schools First Day of Classes King Street Market, Boone, brwia.org Plein Air Festival, Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, blowingrockmuseum.org Banner Elk Music in the Park, Tate Evans Park, bannerelk.org Blowing Rock Farmers’ Market, Park Avenue, 828-298-7851 Jones House Jams, Boone, joneshouse.org Jones House Summer Concerts, Boone, joneshouse.org/summer-concerts The Business of Murder, Ensemble Stage, ensemblestage.com Watauga County Farmers’ Market, Horn in the West, 828-355-4918 Greensky Bluegrass, Beech Mountain Resort Concerts Ashe County Farmers’ Market, West Jefferson, ashefarmersmarket.com King Street Market, Boone, brwia.org Banner Elk Music in the Park, Tate Evans Park, bannerelk.org Blowing Rock Farmers’ Market, Park Avenue, 828-298-7851 Jones House Jams, Boone, joneshouse.org Jones House Summer Concerts, Boone, joneshouse.org/summer-concerts Watauga County Farmers’ Market, Horn in the West, 828-355-4918 Ashe County Farmers’ Market, West Jefferson, ashefarmersmarket.com Railroad Heritage Weekend, Tweetsie Railroad, 800-526-5740 King Street Market, Boone, brwia.org

SEPTEMBER 2021

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Bowing Rock Farmers’ Market, Park Avenue, 828-298-7851 Jones House Jams, Boone, joneshouse.org Jones House Summer Concerts, Boone, joneshouse.org/summer-concerts Roger McGuinn, Appalachian Theatre, apptheatre.org Watauga County Farmers’ Market, Horn in the West, 828-355-4918

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Ashe County Farmers’ Market, West Jefferson, ashefarmersmarket.com Banner Elk Art on the Greene, Historic Banner Elk School, 828-387-0581 Mile High Kite & Craft Festival, Beech Mountain, beechmtn.com Labor Day King Street Market, Boone, brwia.org The Red, White & Bluegrass Jam, American Legion Hall Blowing Rock, facebook.com/rwbj.boone.nc Blue Bear Music Festival, Blue Bear Mountain Camp in Todd, bluebearmountain.com The Wizard of Oz: A Live Radio Drama, Ensemble Stage, ensemblestage.com Autumn at Oz, Beech Mountain, landofoznc.com/autumnatoz Watauga County Farmers’ Market, Horn in the West, 828-355-4918 Blowing Rock Art in the Park, Park Avenue, blowingrock.com/artinthepark Blowing Rock Concerts in the Park, Memorial Park, blowingrock.com/concertinthepark King Street Market, Boone, brwia.org MerleFest Music Festival, Wilkesboro, merlefest.org Olde Time Antiques and Collectibles Fair, West Jefferson, wjantiquesfair.com Autumn at Oz, Beech Mountain, landofoznc.com/autumnatoz Fall High Country Rendezvous, Hickory Ridge Living History Museum, 828-264-2120 App State Football vs Elon, Kidd Brewer Stadium, appstatesports.com/sports/football/schedule/2021 King Street Market, Boone, brwia.org App State Football vs Marshall, Kidd Brewer Stadium, appstatesports.com/sports/football/schedule/2021 Prohibition Hot Rod & Moonshine Festival, Wilkesboro, prohibitionfestival.net Autumn at Oz, Beech Mountain, landofoznc.com/autumnatoz App State Class of 2020 Commencement Celebration Todd New River Festival, Cook Memorial Park, 828-434-6522 Art on the Mountain, West Jefferson, shecountyarts.org King Street Market, Boone, brwia.org


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App State Invites Class of 2020 Back for In-Person Commencement Festivities in Late September

raduation is one of the most memorable days for students who for the graduates. All of the festivities lead up to the Class of 2020 commencement celfinished their academic requirements. However, wearing black and gold regalia, walking across the stage and receiving a diploma looked a ebration that will be taking place on Saturday, Sept. 25. little different for Appalachian State University’s Class of 2020. Commencement ceremonies will be held at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. HowTypically, the cheers of family and friends are contained within the ever, additional ceremonies may be added based on demand. The cerwalls of the Holmes Convocation emonies will be capped at 450 Center on campus, but due to the members, and each ceremony COVID-19 pandemic, graduation will last 60-90 minutes. celebrations took place virtually. “Commencement is the ulA year and a half later, the timate celebration of one of the Class of 2020 is being invited back most significant accomplishments to celebrate their achievements of our students’ lifetimes,” Alumni in-person. Affairs wrote in an announce“On several occasions last ment. “We are pleased to provide year, Chancellor Sheri Everts a memorable commencement noted that in addition to virtual experience for our 2020 graduates commencement ceremonies, she through in-person ceremonies at would welcome 2020 graduates Holmes Convocation Center.” back to campus for an in-person During each ceremony, gradcommencement ceremony in uates will walk across the stage, their honor,” University Communihave their name announced and be professionally photographed. cations wrote in a statement. The Class of 2020 can invite an In a joint effort between the unlimited number of guests, and Office of the Chancellor, UniversiLaura Hodos, a multi-award-winning singer, will perform in a tickets are not required. The event ty Events and Alumni Affairs, App fundraising cabaret benefiting Ensemble Stage. is first come, first served. State has scheduled a full slate of “The Class of 2020, their defestivities between September 23-25, 2021 recognizing the regrees were actually conferred, so we don’t want anyone to feel cent graduates. like if they don’t come to the cer“Class of 2020, we know your Photo Credit: Appalachian State final year at Appalachian State Uniemony that their degrees were not conferred,” Billings said. “They are alversity did not end as you would have hoped,” Alumni Affairs wrote in an announcement. “Through it all, ready graduates. This is just a celebration of commencement. It will feel like we continue to be amazed by your resilience and are so proud of your a regular commencement, but it won’t have the conferring of the degrees.” accomplishments. The time has finally come to celebrate and recognize Another aspect that will be a little different this time is that regalia you, and the Appalachian community could not be more excited.” is not required, but it is encouraged if participants would like to wear it. The celebration festivities will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 23 with the Otherwise, business attire is preferred. App State vs. Marshall football game where the graduates in attendance “We wanted to make sure that if someone did not buy the cap and will be recognized. gown that that would not be a deterrent for them to come back and Then on Friday, Sept. 24, a new tradition will start with the Class of celebrate with us,” Billings explained. “We just wanted to make sure that 2020 as they will be able to ring the Founders Bell to signify their aca- there were very few barriers for people to come back and be able to exdemic achievements. perience this.” “The Founders Bell has never been a part of any commencement cerRegistration is required for the commencement ceremonies, and so emony, but we are starting a new tradition and are really excited about far there has been a good response. “We’ve had a really good response,” Billings said. “Once we sent it out, it,” Billings said. “We’ll have some people taking pictures and members we started getting a lot of registrations. We are thrilled that we can do of Alumni Affairs present to welcome people. It’s going to be really fun.” From noon to 5 p.m. on Friday, the Class of 2020 can visit the McKin- this. The university as a whole is very excited to have this class back. I ney Alumni Center to have a professional headshot taken, update their know it was very difficult for the class and for the university not to be able to celebrate like we normally do our graduates. We are so excited to have alumni information and receive an alumni decal for their vehicle. The Class of 2020 can then enjoy their Friday evening reuniting and them back on campus. There’s a lot going on, and it should be a lot of fun.” By Harley Nefe socializing at The Rock with a wine and cheese reception complimentary 12

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

August / September 2021


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Boone Resident Genevieve Austin Releases Book Sharing Her Journey of Self Discovery L

ocal High Country resident Genevieve Austin is a graduate of Warren Wilson College, and she has a passion for the mountains, music, art and writing. Her passion led her to be a former column writer for the All About Women magazine, but her latest project has been the publishing debut of her novel titled “The Toy Box.” The seed for the book stemmed from an assignment Genevieve received as a student taking her senior seminar at Warren Wilson College. “It completely transformed my life,” she said. “It was a godsend experience for me. It was just so unique.” The prompt for the assignment was to answer the question: Who am I? “That was the beginning of the journey for me,” Genevieve said. “It was the first time anybody had asked and the first time I had ever reflected on my life. I had this dizzy feeling because I was scared because I thought, ‘I don’t

E M U

B I S O N

Genevieve Austin know who I am!’” Out of that assignment came an autobiographical story that Genevieve tells from a fifth-

V E N I S O N

E L K

born child’s perspective capturing the colorful life of an American family chasing the dream of show business. Born into a performance-devoted family, Genevieve attempted to scramble into place. “It was an extremely creative childhood and a very chaotic childhood,” she shared. Genevieve’s parents are Roberta and the late Ned Austin, who met through “Horn of the West,” which is the nation’s longest-running Revolutionary War outdoor drama located in Boone. Genevieve’s father played Daniel Boone in the first three seasons of the show, and Genevieve’s mother starred as an Indian woman as well as was part of the chorus. While Genevieve and her siblings were growing up, she remembers her father doodling on napkins all the time. “He would write on these napkins and then he would call me over to look at them, and he

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CARLTON GALLERY Celebrating 39Years

Mid-Summer Group Exhibition

“Exploring the Monumental Art of Landscape” through September 15

The cover of Genevieve Austin’s book that was published this year. was a good artist so it was always cool,” Genevieve described. “There might have been a person’s face or a little character or a blueprint of a room, and he was always fascinated by them so I always believed in those napkins. He would say, ‘Your room is going to change, and I want you to pick the color carpet you want and look for colors of paint.’ And it was super exciting because I believed everything. But the only thing that actually came to fruition that I saw on the napkin and the next day it was there was this toy box.” Genevieve uses the toy box from her childhood as an analogy in her novel. “A toy box symbolizes the trappings of childhood with imagination, fun and creativity, and a toy box is also chaotic because kids just throw stuff in,” she explained. In the novel, young Genevieve states, “Little imaginings becoming real define my life,” as she opens her toy box to play and share her lively story with readers. “I hope readers can find more laughter than sadness, and I hope that they can find something in the book that they relate to and something that resonates with them,” Genevieve said. “I think the human story has some universal elements to it, and it really is through our empathy and our ability to see ourselves in one another that we gain strength and we find the inspiration to keep on going and that we keep believing that life is good and beautiful.” For those who are interested in reading Genevieve’s novel, it is available as a paperback or ebook and can be found on Amazon. Genevieve Austin can also be reached by email at groucho. jones123@gmail.com. By Harley Nefe

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MerleFest Supporters Ready for Spectacular Show! A Spring Tradition To Take Place This Fall F

or the first time in the event’s history, MerleFest fans will get to experience the fourday music event right around the beginning of the fall season. Each year since 1988, MerleFest typically happens in late April. However, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 festival was canceled and the 2021 festival was moved to September 16-19 with the hopes that more people would be vaccinated and the spread of the virus would be limited. While most of the musical stages at the event are outdoors, MerleFest organizers are strongly encouraging visitors to get vaccinated and wear masks. There will be numerous safety protocols and changes in place that have not been there in years past. There will not be any backstage tours and there will not be any side stage seating for patrons in 2021 as a protection for the artists and to reduce crowding backstage. For guests that plan on parking and riding the shuttle buses, all bus riders will be required to wear a mask. As part of an effort to keep everyone safe, representatives from the Wilkes County Health Department will be on-site during the festival to monitor health practices in all areas of the festival. In addition, the health department will offer free vaccinations to all volunteers and staff prior to the festival and all festival attendees during the festival. Despite the challenges over the last two

years for festival organizers, the musician lineup for the event will have people singing and dancing all weekend long. Some of the biggest

names that will be at MerleFest this year are Melissa Etheridge, Sturgill Simpson, LeAnn Rimes, Tedeschi Trucks, Mavis Staples and Margo Price. MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of Eddy Merle Watson as a fundraiser for Wilkes Community College and to celebrate ‘traditional plus’ music. MerleFest has always been one of the most popular music festivals not only in North Carolina but throughout the entire country. Those in attendance will be treated to a truly unique mix of music based on the traditional, sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues and rock. Some iconic artists have graced the stage at MerleFest over the years including Alan Jackson (2014), The Avett Brothers (nine years), Dierks Bentley (2010), Dixie Chicks (1997) Dolly Parton (2001), The Doobie Brothers (2011), Dwight Yoakam (2015), George Hamilton IV (14 years), Hootie and the Blowfish (1999), James Taylor (2017), Loretta Lynn (2005), The Marshall Tucker Band (2015), Merle Haggard (2014), Randy Travis (2011), Ricky Skaggs (12 years), Steve Earle (1997, 1999), Vince Gill (1988, 2004, 2012), Willie Nelson (2000) and Zac Brown Band (2010, 2011, 2017). The full musician lineup as well as the schedule of performances can be found online at www.merlefest.org/lineup. By Nathan Ham

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15

PLUS

Years of Covers

Playing Catch Up On Missed Anniversaries from the 2020 Pandemic 2020 was a year of missed anniversaries, and not a time for much celebrating. Our magazine turned 15 years old last August, but at the time we were just trying to stay afloat. So this year we’re celebrating that anniversary by showing off our magazine covers over the last 16 years. Here are the covers since that first issue was published back in August of 2005.

Volume 2 • Issue 2 • May/June 2006

Volume 2 • Issue 4 • 2006 Winter Holiday Issue

FREE

FREE

In Memoriam—Hugh Morton PHOTOS & RECOLLECTIONS

Who Designed the Course? BLOWING ROCK’S GOLF MYSTERY

Eleganza! Toasts the Arts A BEHIND-THE-SCENES PEEK

Norman Cheek’s Heart of Gold SUPPORTING TEENS & TROOPS

Volume 3 • Issue 5 • April / May 2008 • FREE

FREE

Volume 2 • Issue 9 • August 2007

Precision Clogging Instructor Vanessa Minton with her students

Fleet Feet

Colonial Revival

Boone’s PO Is Steeped in History

Flatfootin’ & Clogging in the High Country

All Aboard!

Saucy, Steady & Simply Perfect Together

Great Scot!

Music + Mountains + Home

The Unbeatable Duo of Lulu Belle & Scotty Wiseman

Reliving the Heyday of the ET&WNC

Joe Shannon’s Dream Celebrates Its 15th Year

Harvey’s Ritch Musical Influence

Celebrating Silver

Linville Ridge—Looking Great at 25

Volume 4 Issue 1 August 2008

Volume 3 • Issue 6 • June 2008

It All Comes Down to

Mesmerizing & Tranquilizing:

Fly-Fishing at Its Best

Timeless & Charming:

Blowing Rock

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PolItICs

Community and Commodities

VeteRAn PolItICIAns tell tHeIR stoRIes Gene Wilson • Pinky Hayden

PlUs: BeInG In wAsHInGton, D.C.

125 Years at the Mast General Store

Down On The Farm • DANIEL BOONE DAYS • ASU Marching Band

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August / September 2021

MerleFest by Firelight Community Bonding in Worship & Fellowship Tracing the Traces of Daniel Boone Local Color on Sqrambled Scuares Carolina Theatre —Amazing Past, Promising Future


Heroes

Volume 4 • Issue 5 April 2009

Volume 5 • Issue 1 AUGUST 2009

Among Us VoLUnteer FireFighterS

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Watauga River

The NexT GeNerATioN of MouNTAiN SoNG

JAM

Junior Appalachian Musicians

Powerful Waters Worth Preserving

before ‘GreeN’ wAS cool ShooTiNG STArS booNe druG AT 90

PLUS: The King Bees’ Blues • Stick Boy Bread • Peace Through Yoga • and Much More!

Volume 5 • Issue 2 OCTOBER 2009

We’re Off...

Beech Mountain’s Yellow Brick Road

Old Buildings Rock New Book Preserves Architectural History

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V l Volume 7 • Issue I 2 O ctober/November 2011 October/November

Autumn Allure

O C T O B E R / N O V E M B E R 2 0

Eat, Drink Be Merry

Savoring Summer

A History and Celebration of Dining in the High Country

Volume 7 • Issue 3 December 2011

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Discovering the Dark sky observatory the science of the Brown mountain lights

Downhill Diehards • ASU’s Solar Homestead • Young Philanthropists

A Photographic Journey through Appalachia

Volume 7 • Issue 4 May 2012

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Appalachian Voices Is Celebrating 15 Years Avery County Now Has A New Animal Shelter One Of The Greatest Basketball Coaches

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Chetola Ryan Costin New Old Boone

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Gem Mining Wahoo’s Is 35 Chris Clark Gallery Plus Anniversaries for

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McFarland Publishing The Town of West Jefferson Bill Leonard’s Family Business

The Liberty Parade • Blowing Rock Inns • and A Sign Maker

Merry Christmas

Valle Crucis Boulder Bash

10th Anniversary Issue August 2015

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COUNTRY MAGAZINE

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Year Evolution of a National Treasure

The

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Blowing Rock Country Club

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RETIRING PASTORS • ELK KNOB PARK • ASU'S SOLAR CAR

The Local Wedding Industry – SUSHI - Steve's Garden Mica Mining in Avery – Grandfather Mountain State Park August / September 2016

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Eseeola Seafood Spectacular

Volume 11 • Issue 5 June 2016

INSIDE:

This Year's HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

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HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

Merry Christmas

ASU Soccer History • The Far Horizons House • Jewely From Mia Banner Elk Fire Department at 50 • Bethel Church Growing

Dan'l Boone Inn • Our Museums • Ronnie Wilson • Postcards

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Volume 12 • Issue 5 June 2017

Volume 12 • Issue 4 April / May 2017

Volume 12 • Issue 3 December 2016

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ABC Stores • F.A.R.M. Cafe • LMC May Center • Elk River’s HCCF

Honoring Our Vets Plans For A Memorial

“And you thought we were sleeping”

Going The Greenway Art Cellar's Passion The Apple Farm Magic Eagles Nest Soars Again

Martial Arts Flourish News Hound Bertie Burleson

THE SUMMER SCENE

WHERE TO GO

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Joe Miller

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A Really Big Family Farm Caddying At Linville in The 50s Hang Gliding at Grandfather

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A MENTOR

Banner Elk Has A New Energy Around Town These Days Ashe Arts | Juanita Smith | Coach Payne

“Pappy, he will nd our den . . . right?”

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Volume 15 • Issue 3 December 2019

The New Normal

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That’s Rufus John Mena and Hair Taking On THE HIKE Mary Helen Cole Turns 100

Merry Christmas

APPALACHIAN THEATRE – SUCH A BEAUTIFUL RENOVATION 620 Plus Seats | 20,000 Sq. Feet | Award Winning Facade

BROTHERS in BUSINESS • CARROLL • GOODNIGHT • PHILLIPS

COVID-19 Hits Home In The High Country

“Pappy, We moved! Are you really sure Santa Bear will nd our new den?

Testing Results • Executive Orders Cancellations • School Disruptions

Inside: Timelines of Sacrifices July 2020

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Volume 15 • Issue 5 June 2021

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Merry Christmas To All

Blue Ridge ConseRvanCy – PRoteCting 22,000 aCRes - so FaR Dipper on the Corner | 500 Years of History | Valle Crucis Artist August / September 2020 Photo taken at Chetola Resort by Tara Diamond

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And the People We Featured Since 2015 Here Are the Folks that Appeared on Our Pages Over the Last 6 Years Our stories cover a wide array of topics from towns and communities down to the buildings within them, but it’s the stories about people that are the most fun. Everyone has a story, and we’re grateful we crossed paths with these folks and they shared their stories with us and our readers. These people were the centerpiece of a story about their life, a business they operate or maybe even one of the many proud non-profit organizations in the High Country.

David Brewer

Lois Hodges

John & Faye Cooper

Karen Sabo

Jim Morton

Mike and Pam McKay

Cheryl Cutlip

Randy Johnson 22

Dallad Ray Joplin

Skip Greene

Paul & Fay Hughes

Johnnie James

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

Mary Greene

Bobby Cordell

Charlie Travis

Steve Combs

Kathleen Rowell

Dipper Garrison

The King Bees

Tim Heschke & Scott Garland

Dr. James “Jim” Wood

John Pipes

August / September 2021

Garry Button

Seth Banks

Roger & Sheri Church

Bill Brown

Gwen Gentry Clark

Jason Drake

Jim Ward

Tim & Ginny Baker

Birdie Burleson

Dianne Davant Moffitt

Mack Brown

Frederica Georgia

Jeff Collins

Jim Cottrell

Jimmy Stahl

Tim Herdklotz & Carson Coatney

Pete Catoe

Edgar Tufts

Lee Rankin

Stanley Hicks

Hank & John Phillips

John Mena


Boone’s Premier Tile Showroom

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HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

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Andrew Critcher

Reba Moretz

Roarke, Matthew & Wayne Underwood

Jim Hamilton

Lynn Patterson & Roberta Jackson

Cherry Johnson

Jesse Pope

Brooke Bingham

Holly Drake

Tim Miller

Leigh Ann Henion

Howard Murray

Matt Vincent

Howard & Lucy Hayes

Bill Dixon

The Miller Family

Charles Hardin

Marc Payne

Dan Meyer

Sara Brewer

Steven Poulos & Keron Poteat

Ethan & Cathryn Greene

Chris Ayers

Juanita Smith

Tommy & Debbie Sofield

Mark Crumpler

Steve and Sally • Nicole and Dylan Tatum

John Davis

Joda Ollis

Joe Miller

Allen & Susan Curtis

Esther Erb Atkins

Officer Mike Foley

Our Contributing WRITERS Over the Last 5 Years Nathan Ham • Sherrie Norris • Adrienne Fouts • Harris Prevost • Kate Herman • Jan Todd • Harley Nefe • Allison West • Frank Ruggiero • Elly Murray • Tim Gardner • Sally Treadwell • Bailey Faulkner Blake Sorensen • Alison Azbell • Davin Underwood • Karen Sabo • Tzar Wilkerson • Madison Fisler Lewis Colby Gable • Jesse Wood • Joe Johnson • Katie Benfield • David Coulson • Angela Gazzillo • Hailey Belvins Jesse Campbell • Jim Swinkola • Kate Cahow • Linda Kramer • Randy Johnson • Virginia Roseman Meghan Minton • Savnnah R.Watts • Jason Reagan • Jessica Isaacs • Carl Tyri • Jessie Campbell Gianna Holiday • David Spiceland • Tara Diamond • Anna Oakes

Our Contributing PHOTOGRAPHERS Over the Last 5 Years Todd Bush • Peter Morris • Faisuly Scheurer • Frederica Georgia • Candice Corbin • Mariah Angelo • Jan Todd Lonnie Webster • Scott Pearson • Tara Diamond • Lynn Willis • Frank Ruggiero • Bob Caldwell • Bob Gefaell Hailey Belvins • Marie Freeman • Cheryl Zibisky • Jeanine Davis • Scott Pearson • Jordan Nelson • Randy Johnson

Our ART DIRECTOR • Debbie Carter 24

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

August / September 2021


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Investing in the Community

Major Upgrades Ongoing at

Watauga

Medical

Center

Artist’s rendition of what the completed 48-bed patient care tower will look like

By Nathan Ham

H

ealthcare in the High Country has come a long way since 1925, when Dr. Henry B. Perry moved into Boone’s first hospital facility in the Lovill House Annex. Blanford B. Dougherty established the infirmary – where Dan’l Boone Inn is currently located – to support Watauga Academy, now Appalachian State University, and the surrounding town. After operating on the university campus for 29 years, a new Watauga County Hospital, now Watauga Medical Center, was built at its current location on Deerfield Road. Its first patients entered the building on March 23, 1967. The original building was constructed through money allocated by the Hill-Burton Act of 1946. This piece of federal legislation, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman, allocated money to states for the purpose of constructing hospitals and healthcare facilities. Since that time, Watauga Medi26

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

August / September 2021

cal Center (WMC) has served the healthcare needs of countless patients, including a major expansion in 1980 and continual additions of new and updated services. The quality of care continued to improve after the 1980 expansion, but infrastructure problems such as power failures and repeated HVAC system repairs have plagued recent years. These issues prompted stakeholders to begin planning for infrastructure upgrades.

Rising to Meet the Community’s Needs Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) has begun a $126 million construction project, making structural and technological enhancements to ensure the delivery of premier healthcare into the future. “When we started talking about this project initially, it involved building a new bed tower and moving outpatient services back to campus in a new medical office build-


The Groundbreaking Took Place June 10 Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer were celebrated for the generous donation of $3 million to go towards the cost of the Schaefer Family Patient Care Tower at Watauga Medical Center. The new patient tower is just part of a $126 million improvement project for the hospital.

This photo was taken during the groundbreaking ceremony for the Schaefer Family Patient Care Towers. Left to right: Tom Dale, Rob Hudspeth, Peter Rucker, Bonnie Schaefer, Jamie Schaefer and Chuck Mantooth August / September 2021

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Construction at Watauga Medical Center has been ongoing over the past two months for a new entrance and patient care tower that will be much more patient and service friendly. Once construction is completed, rooms will be loaded with new, state-of-the-art technology that patients, doctors and nurses will all appreciate. ing,” said Rob Hudspeth, Sr. Vice President for System Advancement at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and the President of the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation. “The board of trustees started considering how to make that happen – if we could afford it and how it would impact services until we were able to build it all. Meanwhile, our new CEO Chuck Mantooth was transitioning into the role Richard Sparks had filled for more than 30 years.” To aid in the initial plans for hospital expansion, a team of Master of Architecture students from Clemson University’s Architecture + Health Concentration visited Boone to perform a needs assessment and survey the land. They performed the initial assessment and made recommendations for the bed tower and medical office building. Soon however, power plant issues began to arise, changing the initial building plans for the hospital. “We had a prolonged air conditioning failure during the hottest week of 2019 because of old and outdated HVAC equipment. While we were thankful for the support we received to try to keep our facility as cool as possible, our board of trustees realized we needed to consider major upgrades. They approved The brand new central energy plant (at left) for the hospital will feature $28 million in new equipment and upgrades. 28

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

August / September 2021


These artist renditions are of the new two-story entry and registration area for what will be greeting patients when the new wing of the hospital is completed. The natural lighting and the theme of the mountains will be visually appealing to patients as they wait. an engineering survey to review all our systems. Charlotte Engineering’s report stated we had multiple issues that needed to be addressed. The cost was estimated at $22 million to repair the 60-year-old building,” Hudspeth said. “Our central energy plant was antiquated. If you don’t have power, it’s hard to do surgery; it’s hard to keep patients comfortable and provide quality healthcare for them.” The decision to replace the central energy plant at WMC added approximately $28 million to the project cost which is being funded from a $126 million bond issuance. “We felt like it was the right thing to do for the community. We were designated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid as a five-star hospital, but we know we can’t keep delivering five-star care in a 60-year-old building,” Hudspeth said. “The expansion project started with the new central energy plant,” Hudspeth said, “because we couldn’t just tear down the power plant and build another one in its place. It has to be a staged, staggered approach. The new central energy plant will give us all of the modern technology and power we need.” The new 100,000-square-foot energy plant will include two fire tube dual fuel steam boilers, three condensing boilers, five hot water heating pumps, three 750ton water-cooled centrifugal chillers, a three-cell cooling tower, two 30,000-gallon above-ground fuel tanks, two 2,500 kilovolt-ampere (kVa) utility transformers and a 1,000-kilowatt (kW) generator. “For years, ARHS has successfully worked around limitations in space and declining buildings that have kept us from achieving our full potential. It’s time we invest in people, systems, and facilities. This will expand our opportunities and

position us for the future,” said Chuck Mantooth, President and CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

What’s New at Watauga Medical Center? A New and Improved Patient Care Tower A new 48-bed tower will provide larger patient rooms capable of accommodating high-tech mobile medical equipment, state-of-the-art surgical suites, an updated Emergency Department, new waiting areas, and more. Watauga Medical Center is currently licensed with 117 beds, which is enough for inpatient demand, so the bed tower will not add additional beds. This new

facility will allow the hospital to create new modern spaces and renovate and repurpose space in the current facility. Patient privacy is a primary concern of the new building. Separate patient and visitor elevators are planned for the bed tower to provide more privacy for patients traveling to and from their rooms for diagnostic tests, surgery or physical therapy. Built-in medication carts will be integrated into the six new surgery suites so all necessary supplies are at the staff’s fingertips. The bed tower will also be home to women’s health services as well as imaging and laboratory services - both of which are currently located outside of the hospital. Patients will be greeted by new registration and waiting room areas. Along with the expansion to the new patient care tower, the existing space will be upgraded and utilized. For example, a brand-new Intensive Care Unit will be located inside the current hospital building.

Another artist’s rendition of what the completed 48-bed patient care tower will look like once construction and landscaping are finished. August / September 2021

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August / September 2021

Chuck Mantooth, President and CEO of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System

A New Era of Surgical Excellence Along with the new building comes a whole new era of new technology advancement at Watauga Medical Center. A major feature of the new patient care tower is a spacious, efficient and modern surgical suite. “The current 300-square-foot surgical rooms limit our capabilities for advanced procedures like robotics-assisted surgery and orthopedic joint replacements, “said Kevin Henson, Senior Director of Surgery and Anesthesia Services for ARHS. “Many of the rooms are just not big enough for the equipment needed.” In designing the new surgical space, a cross-functional planning team considered facilities such as WakeMed, UNC Health, Duke Health and others, and aimed to meet or surpass the technology available in larger metropolitan areas of the state. Watauga Medical Center, already a high-achiever in quality metrics, will be considered one of the premier hospitals in North Carolina. According to Henson, the expansion will double the space of every new operating room. “With the expansion and design of these rooms, we can extend our robotics program. Every room will be able to handle the various needs of all surgical specialties, rather than relegating certain procedures to only certain operating rooms.” The new surgery department design will also have the pre-op and post-op rooms close to the operating rooms to improve efficiency. “On a typical surgery day, surgeons can


An example of what the new patient room will look like in the new patient tower. It will allow for technology to be brought into the room and more space for family members and visitors. At right is what the new operating rooms will look like with the latest innovations. log more than 18,000 steps and spend precious time they could use for patient care. They walk from one area of the hospital to speak with the family before surgery, then travel a couple long hallways to scrub in, and back down another hallway to go into the surgery department,” Hudspeth said. “We will relocate departments that work closely together to allow for more efficiency and a seamless transition between services.” Watauga Medical Center has recently

seen people traveling longer distances to receive care at the hospital. A significant portion of outpatient and inpatient surgery patients live outside Watauga County. “It’s a testimony to the vision that is being realized,” said Henson, “and it’s going to b an incredible facility for this small community.” ARHS leaders hope the expansion will help them continue to recruit talented physicians, nurses, and staff. In addition to patients seeking out Watauga Medical

Center for their procedures, they anticipate that doctors and healthcare professionals will increasingly view ARHS as an employer of choice and a place they want to be for a long time. Currently, many of Watauga Medical Center’s healthcare professionals live in Wilkes County, Ashe County, Caldwell County, and even across the state line into Tennessee. Many top physicians are also relocating to the High Country from other states, drawn by the facility improvements, the beauti-

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The 8,000-square-foot Heart & Vascular Center care wing facility at the medical center opened on August 17, 2020. ful local area, and more.

A New and Improved Heart and Vascular Center One of the earliest efforts of this expansion was a new Heart and Vascular Center. Formerly known as The Cardiology Center, the 8,000-square-foot facility opened in a new heart care wing at the medical center on August 17, 2020.

The Heart & Vascular Center provides more efficient and convenient access for patients, by integrating outpatient heart care with diagnostic services in the same convenient location. The center includes twelve exam rooms, three device rooms, and two heart failure treatment rooms. The new name represents the enhanced service offerings and multi-disciplined team of board-certified cardiologists, ad-

vanced practice providers, cardiac nurses, office staff, and device technicians that all partner with patients to manage symptoms, monitor medications, and create customized treatment plans. “Bringing services – diagnostic testing, catheterization lab, etc. – under one roof reduced the wait time for patients and enhanced the level of interaction between medical professionals to collaborate and

This is the new waiting area for the recently completed heart and vascular center at Watauga Medical Center. 32

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delivered customized care,” said Kim Bianca, President of Watauga Medical Center. After analyzing the number of people WMC was sending ‘off the mountain’ for cardiac catheterizations – approximately 300 each year – ARHS invested millions hiring additional cardiologists and enhancing the cardiac program. “During a cardiac emergency, time is muscle,” Bianca said. “Any delay in restoring blood flow increases the chance for significant damage to the heart muscle.” The WMC catheterization lab is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. High Country residents no longer have to leave the mountains for interventional and diagnostic services from the nation’s top medical professionals.

The Future of Family Medicine, Wellness and Orthopedics Programs in the High Country Over the last several years it has become evident that access to primary care, including family medicine, is a challenge in the High Country. The MAHEC Boone Rural Family Medicine Residency Program, located at Watauga Medical Center and AppFamily Medicine is a partnership between ARHS and Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) and will also serve as a clinical training site for medical students from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. The program was created to train full-scope family doctors to serve in rural and underserved communities. Resident training will take three years, and ARHS and MAHEC are hopeful that many residents will choose to continue their careers in the High Country. The Watauga Medical Center expansion ensures that resident doctors will be able to train in the most up-to-date, advanced environment while providing care to our rural population. A $1 million investment will be made into the future of the residency as a part of the capital fundraising campaign that supports the overall project. “We are enormously excited to welcome these family medicine residents,” said Molly Benedum, M.D., Director of the MAHEC Boone Rural Family Medicine Residency Program. “Their interest in our program indicates their strong commitment to spending their careers meeting the primary healthcare needs of communities across the state. We look forward to what they will accomplish in the years to come.” Recognizing the relationship between

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physical fitness training and healthcare for joints and bones, ARHS is allocating $1.5 million to relocate their acclaimed orthopedics programs to the Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center. Orthopedic physicians will now be able to collaborate more closely with physical therapy and wellness staff to provide access to specialized pre-surgical training and post-surgical physical therapy. David Jackson, President and CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce, greatly benefitted from a customized pre-surgery conditioning program before orthopedic surgeon Dr. Steven Anderson performed his hip replacement procedure. This “prehab” gave him the best possible chance of overcoming his lifelong struggle with a rare condition and chronic hip pain that threatened to destroy his active lifestyle and consume his family life. With the growing number of active seniors in the High Country, people who use the Wellness Center for fitness may increasingly find themselves in the midst of a major health event where they experience illness or need surgery. They may need help to get back to their previous level of activity. Fitness services, cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, physical and occupational therapy through The Rehabilitation Center, and other clinical wellness programs are currently housed in the 54,000-squarefoot building. With the addition of AppOrtho orthopedics and sports medicine, ARHS can consolidate services and help patients successfully navigate the cycle of wellness and rehabilitation. “We wanted to take the integrated care concept and create a unique space – some-

thing special for the community,” said ARHS President and CEO Chuck Mantooth. “With our specialized staff, trained to work with different health populations, we can help people live up to their potential at any age and condition.”

Support from Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation Appalachian Regional Healthcare System is a 501c3 non-profit organization that reinvests earnings to improve healthcare services for the High Country. It is important to note that construction of the central energy plant and bed tower will not raise taxes for residents or require the use of town or county funding. In addition to the $126 million bond issuance for construction, the ARHS foundation has been tasked with raising $12 million through a capital campaign for ancillary costs such as people, programs, and technology to enhance the project further. “Our foundation hired a consulting firm from Winston-Salem to perform a feasibility study and help develop our fundraising plan. We surveyed people in the community about a variety of themes around healthcare delivery,” Hudspeth said. “We are currently in the silent phase of the $12 million capital campaign and have raised about $6 million.” Created in 2007, Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation engages with the community to identify individuals, businesses and organizations who want to partner with ARHS in providing for the healthcare needs of the community. Appalachian Regional Healthcare Sys-

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As part of the ongoing construction progress at Watauga Medical Center, this new sidewalk is being constructed and will be used as a connector for the Greenway Trail. The trail travels from Southgate Drive past the hospital and Clawson-Burnley Park and follows along the South Fork of the New River to Brookshire Park and the soccer complex off of Highway 421. 34

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tem has been able to continue to provide excellent healthcare in part because of the generosity of full-time and seasonal residents in the High Country. “The support the foundation has been able to garner from seasonal residents is vital to our success, and we couldn’t provide this funding without them,” Hudspeth said. To kick off the capital campaign, the foundation received two major gifts from generous benefactors to recognize the excellent care they have received in the past. The first gift came from Blowing Rock residents Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer, together with their family, Marla Schaefer and Steve Weishoff, who generously gave $3 million for the future Schaefer Family Patient Care Tower at Watauga Medical Center. “They say people make a place and it’s a good thing, because the core hospital, built in 1967, is dated, in disrepair and in need of improvement,” said Bonnie Schaefer. “Watauga Medical Center offers lifesaving medical care to those living in the High Country,” said Jamie Schaefer. “The patients and healthcare professionals need and deserve a new, state-of-the-art hospital.” On June 17, 2021, Blowing Rock resident Ken Lewis surprised his wife, Donna,

Rob Hudspeth, Sr. Vice President for System Advancement at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System and the President of the Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation. with a $1.5 million contribution to ARHS in her honor to name the new Donna C. Lewis Heart and Vascular Center. Both Donna and Ken have needed cardiac interventions in the past. “Donna had some heart issues and she needed repair work about 15 or 16 years ago. I’ve had a

heart stent myself,” Lewis said, “When this (capital campaign) came up, I thought about how lucky and blessed we were to have the ability to access this kind of facility.” Lewis noted that as seasonal residents, they typically have all the facilities and technologies nearby their primary homes to address emergency situations. “But that is not necessarily the case when you are in the mountains,” he said, “It’s all about time in those situations. We have what we think are the best hospitals in the world [in our primary home cities], but they might as well be in China. At certain times of our lives, it is all about this hospital [in Boone]. It may be enlightened self-interest, but it’s also about all of the things we can do for the people of this region and this community. This is a great thing to do because it will help save people’s lives and Donna and I feel privileged to be a part of it.” The Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation hopes to have continued success to fully fund the capital campaign. For more information, and opportunities to contribute, visit apprhs.org/higherelevation. For more information about Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, visit apprhs.org. t

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STUDYING TOURISM IN BLOWING ROCK

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Blowing Rock Population: August / September 2021 Year Round: 1,300 • Summer: 5,200

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Where To Park?

Blowing Rock TDA Looking For Answers A Study by Destination Development Association Has Been Underway Since May By Nathan Ham

B

lowing Rock has always been a town driven by tourists coming to the High Country for a mountain getaway. That became even more noticeable in the last calendar year as people have come to the area to escape crowded cities during a worldwide pandemic. Travelers have made their way up to Blowing Rock from Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and areas in other states across the south to find their slice of peace and relaxation. From midnight on July 2 through midnight on July 3, the day that Blowing Rock held its 4th of July Parade, over 30,000 cell phones pinged a tower through Blowing Rock during those 24 hours. For residents that have seen the boom in visitors and a surge in home buying, it has been a point of angst for some, noting the strain on infrastructure and the real lack of parking in Blowing Rock. Led by the Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority, a study has been ongoing since May by Roger Brooks, the founder of Destination Development Association, to determine what, if anything, Blowing Rock can do to better handle the influx of tourists while keeping the quality of life good for residents. “Part of our mission at the TDA is to study and help mitigate any negative impacts caused by tourism. Our enabling legislation states, ‘This Authority also studies the impact of tourism on the Town and develops strategies to minimize any negative impacts of tourism on the Town.’ We had heard complaints from some residents of too many visitors over the last couple of years and decid-

Roger Brooks, the founder of Destination Development Association, presented his take on how Blowing Rock can deal with parking issues through a series of Powerpoint presentatins to the community..

Tracy Brown introduces Roger Brooks to residents, town council members and other stakeholders in Blowing Rock gathered here in town hall in mid-July to see a presentation on tourism data and information.

Number of Current Parking Places 428 • Needed: August / September 2021 H I G H C O1,500 UNTRY MAGAZINE

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The Fourth of July Parade in Blowing Rock saw a huge crowd of people lined up on Main Street. A cell phone ping counter in the town park was able to count over 30,000 different cell phone pings travel through Blowing Rock on Saturday of the July 4 weekend. ed that we needed to look into what was tion that Brooks founded, which helped chose Roger Brooks International because actually happening. We want tourism to the town get a foot in the door to have a of his expertise in this specific arena. We think he’s done a great job so far and feel work for everybody and not for just tour- study done. “We’ve seen him at industry conferenc- confident that we’ll be pleased with his ism-related businesses,” said Tracy Brown, recommendations at the Executive Director of the end of the project. He’s Blowing Rock TDA. “We interviewed a large porhope to gain insight and tion of the community and develop remedies regardmet with several different ing the issues causing fricsectors. He understands tion between residents the concerns and can help and tourism.” with the solutions.” The study will end up costing around $80,000 and a final report will be Parking is a made available sometime Big Problem in November according to Almost every town in Brown. the High Country has an “They still have a issue with parking. Resigreat deal of research to dents, visitors, employees do as well as building the and even people just passplan. We’ll have just over $80,000 in the final proj- Residents and visitors often times have to drive back and forth on Main Street hoping to ing through for a meal find parking spots. There is a three hour parking limit on Main Street. probably have a story to ect. Not a bad deal when tell about circling downyou consider it’ll help to strategically place tens of millions of es as a keynote speaker and presenter for town Blowing Rock, Boone and even Bandollars in development and marketing,” many years. We didn’t think we’d be able ner Elk hoping to find a parking spot. After spending three straight weeks in to afford him because he’s not cheap and Brown said. The Blowing Rock TDA is a member constantly in demand,” Brown said “We Blowing Rock, Roger Brooks has gotten of the Destination Development Associa- had three firms submit proposals, and we to see the many positives that the village

You have what 99.9% of all communities in North America wish they had in terms of assets, and wish they had in terms of challenges. Roger Brooks 40

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Tourism is not slowing down in Blowing Rock. Folks pack the streets, stores and restaurants during spring, summer and fall months, despite Blowing Rock having only 90 town-owned parking spots and only 428 total parking spots that include town-owned property, businesses, churches and Blowing Rock Elementary School. has to offer, along with the downfall of the parking problem. “Blowing Rock is one of the very few places in the United States that actually saw an increase in visitors during COVID. I’ve worked in more than 2,000 towns and what you have in Blowing Rock, you’re really lucky to have it,” Brooks said. “It’s not over-tourism that some people think they are dealing with. Shopping, dining and entertainment in a pedestrian-friendly setting are where 80% of nonlodging spending takes place. It’s why people are in Blowing Rock. A population of 1,300 can’t service 30 restaurants. You’d be lucky to have three, especially when you’re 15 minutes from Boone on this highway. This town is really fortunate. The only place where this town is falling short is parking.” The first time he ran for office in 2015, Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie Sellers knew that parking was a problem and that moving forward, adding more parking in Blowing Rock was going to be an issue no matter what. The mayor said that

right now there are roughly 90 parking spaces downtown that are town-owned parking spots. “We have all known there has been a

parking issue in Blowing Rock for years. I remember back in the days growing up here in the summers you couldn’t find parking downtown then either. We had issues then, and we probably always will. This consultant just further validates what we knew,” Sellers said. “Now we

don’t need any more band-aid approaches. We need a larger parking garage. A satellite garage has been brought up, which is very possible. That is something that has been put on the front burner for the town to see if we can come up with a good location and if it is feasible to do hundreds of spaces there.” Town councilman Doug Matheson said that additional parking is important, but finding the right way to implement it and pay for it will be the real key. “I think the study is bringing out a lot, but it is also bringing out a lot of things that we as town council are trying to do and trying to work on. We have a parking problem, and we are trying to figure out the best and easiest way to do that so it’s not such a major cost to the taxpayers,” Matheson said. “He mentioned a 600 space parking deck. For me, that would be wonderful, but I don’t see the state allowing us to dig that bank down next to a major highway to do that. What we are trying to do is do everything we can.”

The bottom line: Blowing Rock does not suffer from overtourism. Locals and visitors suffer from a severe lack of parking. Roger Brooks August / September 2021

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Blowing Rock Now Has Two Parking Decks With 155 Parking Spots

Parking Decks Are Funded in Part With TDA Occupancy Tax Revenues

T

here are currently two parking decks open in downtown Blowing Rock that make up for the bulk of the parking currently available to visitors in the Main Street area. The parking deck at the Blowing Rock Art & History Museum cost $1.3 million and it was financed through a 15-year loan with a rate of 4.08% that was approved in June of 2009. The loan will be paid for by the Town of Blowing Rock and through occupancy tax funding from the Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority. The BRAHM parking deck added 63 spaces. The American Legion parking deck was financed for $1,084,300 for seven years at an interest rate of 2.92%. Construction started in September of 2008 and it opened in June of 2009. The deck will be paid off through parking fees and occupancy tax funds from the Blowing Rock TDA. The parking deck has a total of 92 spaces. Both decks were designed by engineers and then those designs were approved by the Blowing Rock Town Council. Construction bids were received, bank loan packages were received and then the approval of financing was required for both projects by the town council and the Local Government Commission (LGC).

American Legion Parking Deck

Blowing Rock Art & History Museum Parking Deck

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to offset the cost of develIt’s not just Blowing oping new parking areas, Rock where parking is Overtourism - The inability to that would be great.” an issue, as most anyone mitigate the effects of having so Despite the parking that ever travels to Boone many visitors that businesses cannot issues, Roger Brooks had understands. plenty of praise for Blow“We’ve had issues and accommodate them, lodging is at, ing Rock, particularly challenges with parking or over, capacity during the peak compared to a lot of the availability in downtown seasons, the environment is being other towns he has been Boone for a long time, and to. He sees Blowing Rock we’ve had parking chaloverrun, and the infrastructure cannot as one of the top 10% of lenges at our more popular accommodate the influx of visitors. destination locations in outdoor recreation areas the United States, while around the county as well. most places that he visits We have tried to address already added with parking meters and is that through the years and will continue something that Blowing Rock will be con- want help to make their locations a lot to do so,” said Wright Tilley, the Executive sidering as they begin to tackle their own more attractive to visitors. “Blowing Rock attracts the right kind Director of the Boone TDA. “No matter parking headaches. of tourist. That’s why you don’t see a how much parking you have, there is go“I know there had been some coming to be a want for more. I think we have plaints about that when paid parking came bunch of cheesy t-shirt shops, tattoo pargrown in the last 10 years to a point where into downtown Boone. We didn’t get com- lors, and you have a really good set of rewe need to start identifying alternative plaints from visitors, but we did get some tail businesses here,” Brooks said. “Some parking options. There has been a lot of complaints from residents about having to towns have a third of their downtown conversation about it in Boone for a num- pay to park in downtown Boone,” Tilley vacant and are asking me what they can ber of years. I think they are still looking at said. “The initial complaints were about do to get more visitors there because most options about building a new parking deck having an hour for parking. Once the of those towns have lost their primary inhere and other places where they can add parking got extended to several hours, we dustry, whether it’s a steel town or another parking around downtown Boone.” really haven’t gotten any complaints about manufacturing town. People tend to move Paid parking is something that Boone paying for parking. If that revenue can go to the urban areas, people graduate from

Blowing Rock’s crosswalks (top left) are one of the things that Roger Brooks proposed changes to. Other towns similar to Blowing Rock have crosswalks with intricate designs (bottom left). Brooks also suggested that the town promote the use of a shuttle or AppalCart to transport visitors from parking lots outside of Main Street. August / September 2021

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Comments from the Community Questionaire Part of Brooks’ presentation asked community members to participate in an online survey of nine questions about what they think are the biggest areas of concern for Blowing Rock. Here are a sample of answers from two of the questions that they received in responses.

What are the three biggest challenges you see for Blowing Rock (the town)? The big box stores coming onto 321, 321 just being shopping centers, long term town vision for code/building - it seems like every new building is requiring special permits maybe our code is out of date. Balancing Tourism and Locals interests, wealth gap between patrons and employees, no big business. Too many visitors at times, finding low wage workers, housing for people who work here Growth without intention, absentee developers who do not interact with the community, congestion on Main Street 1) Overcrowding! 2) Loss of quaint, oldfashioned charm. 3) changing too many of its treasures Parking, Narrow Main Street Sidewalks, Incomplete Sewer Network Parking; increase in vacation rentals (Air B&B, VRBO. etc.) & how to regulate them in residential areas Impact of tourism due to congestion due to limited parking and unfriendly pedestrian access Maintaining the character of the town in the midst of development and redevelopment. Parking. Focusing on infrastructure and maintenance of town assets versus adding new assets. Over crowded. Too many homes rented out which diminishes the sense of community. Never enough parking.. Getting our leadership to except the idea that it is okay to change. Getting the homeowners who do not own businesses to understand that tourism is essential to Blowing Rock and always has been. Educating our leadership that there is a sustainable tourism model to keep our tourists and our residents happy and then getting them to make it happen. Balancing out of control tourism with the needs of year round residents (those who vote). I can no longer go to restaurants during the week and get a table. I stay at home more now than ever and not because of the pandemic. My money for dining out is spent in Boone at the grocery stores. Parking. Attitude of new property owners. Disconnect with country clubbers. Remaining quaint with sooo many people Ability to remain friendly with people who don’t get involved with community; but are takers only of our good environment.Parking is a huge problem but growth is ugly and changes the environment. 44

Managing growth, electing leaders with vision and forward thinking individuals who are capable of developing and adhering to long range planning . Parking, Parking, Parking! Over tourism, overcrowding of town, noise from motorcycles 1) Lack of restaurants and businesses that attract/ cater to the next generation of travelers and home buyers. And a lack of restaurant seats in general during busy times. 2) Need for another substantial parking deck to create parking for day tourists, but also alleviate traffic delays for home owners. 3) Balancing tourism with home owner needs. I pay taxes. We have owned a home for 25 years. The town is TOO focused on tourism. The retailers have too much power and they use the sales tax to bring even more people. Commercialism/development in town and neighborhoods, traffic/speed on Valley Boulevard, Slippery slope toward greater crime and vandalism, and, had to add a fourth, tug of war between development for tax base purposes vs retention of unique character of the community Making decisions that affect both businesses and homeowners, funding infrastructure projects, maintaining the core historic district as a place that people want to visit Too many “day-trippers”; very little commerce directed to residents, almost all shops are tourist oriented; no cohesive vision for what the town should be Way too many people in this place, especially in the summer; locals can’t afford to live here anymore so we’ve become a town of rich people who couldn’t care less about the community and its history. Businesses can’t afford to stay in Blowing Rock because the rent is so high and the margins are non-existent. You can’t have a tourist town with a bunch of real estate offices, one ice cream parlor, and mediocre bars. Tourism management, parking, 24 hour EMS Too many out of towners Thursday to Sunday. Parking at post office, tourist think it is a free parking. I’m tried of non tax paying tourists restricting my access to my town. Motorcycle are too loud. Truckers using Jack braking. Return my town to residents Tourists overwhelming the town, overdevelopment, a preference for new projects over maintaining existing amenities (such as building a sidewalk up 221 and talking of adding more pickleball courts instead

HIGH COUNTRY MAGAZINE

August / September 2021

of repairing existing disintegrating sidewalks and maintaining other aspects of the parks we already have). 1) Clarification of zoning: non-functioning vehicles, construction projects that never get completed, junk filled porches, etc. Then enforcement of those policies. The worst offenders are right around Town Hall. 2) Speeding on 321!! We see people run the light at Sunset and 321 every day. We need speed monitoring devices and tickets to offenders. Also enforce the “no air brakes” on 321. The truckers need to be ticketed. A horrible noise especially in the early (5am) mornings. 3) More restaurants during busy times. Specifically food trucks. Visitors need easy food without waiting two hours. 1. Parking!! 2. Can we get some nice middle class neighborhoods built that aren’t $2 million a house? Let’s make our market more accessible for year round residents Over-growth and Over Development that ruins it’s charm and small town/family friendly qualities. The Conditional Use Permit System that allows Developers to do whatever they want, regardless of Town Council and Citizenry’s inputs/objections and with the threat of legal action/lawsuits to ensure acquiescence. Parking Parking Parking -- Too many visitors for the legal parking available. Bonus 4th Issue - Illegal Short Term Rentals are turning neighborhoods into transient quarter ‘motels’. It’s busting at the seams in summer and there’s nowhere to park, yet we’re discussing how to bring in more tourists. More parking won’t alleviate the pedestrian congestion on the sidewalks. Pedestrians don’t understand how to cross intersections without a pedestrian light and/or they cross Main St at any point without looking before stepping out between cars. I’m not sure there is a solution for this, but it’s definitely a problem. An old political quote comes to mind - “It’s the economy, stupid.” The tourism-based economy, and a substantial number of part-year residents, don’t lend themselves well to year-round living wage jobs in the community. This is bound to create tension between keeping property taxes (main source of income for most town governments) reasonable and, at the same time continuing to provide the necessary community services. Not focusing on sustainable future. No environmental component to plans. Encouraging too many people to come here and not being able to accommodate them.

high schools in small towns and say they’re leaving.” Mayor Sellers expects that the parking fix that the town undertakes will be something that will please both residents and visitors alike. “I think Blowing Rock wants to be able to facilitate the needs of its citizens and its tourists in the best way possible. That means more parking. We don’t necessarily have a tourist issue as much as we have a parking issue. That holds true with our locals, they go downtown and can’t find a place to park. Our tourists are driving through and can’t find a place to park,” he said. “The town is built on tourism and seasonal residents. We have to have both. We have to be able to facilitate that to where the seasonal residents are happy and the tourists are happy. We have to find that happy medium, and that seems to be the hardest thing. We have to come up with a plan to provide for our seasonal and year-round residents.”

Ideas to Fix the Parking Issues

Many ideas have been tossed around as solutions to Blowing Rock’s parking problem, everything from an additional parking deck to shuttle parking. As is the case with any major infrastructure project, the cost will be the key. Paid parking seems to be the most logical idea to be able to bring money in that would pay for additional parking areas. “It’s a $15 million problem in a town with a budget of $12 million. It’s hard to wrap your head around, but there are ways to pay for it. If you have a visitor that wouldn’t pay $8 to park here for four hours, do you even want them here? This town is easily worth that,” Brooks said. “I think the town needs to catch up on the whole idea of shared parking. Whether it’s church parking or parking structures, there are some things the town can change with zoning and ordinances. If you took away the parking problem, you wouldn’t have the traffic problem.” Brooks suggested that a town the size of Blowing Rock needed


These three questions were part of nine questions on the online survey that both residents and tourists were invited to fill out. Below Roger Brooks summed up initial responses during his power point presentaion.

QUESTION What are the three biggest challenges you see for Blowing Rock (the town)? Part of Brooks’ presentation involved an online questionnaire for tourists and residents to fill out to voice both praise and concerns. about 1,500 parking spaces to accommodate visitors, employees and residents. Right now, the town has 428 parking spaces according to data collected in this study. The town does own property right off of Valley Boulevard across the street from Food Lion, however as Matheson pointed out, it would take NCDOT approval to build any sort of parking structure there that would involve removing part of the embankment. He anticipated the best use for that area would be a surface parking lot providing 55-60 spaces. Matheson is one of the biggest proponents for expanding a shuttle system that would allow for more parking areas away from Main Street. “A project that I have been working on for the last three or four years is a shuttle system. I’ve been trying to get that off the ground very hard over the last four years. We really need merchant involvement in that for the town and us to get that started. We’ve got stops in front of Holiday Inn, Tanger, Green Park Inn, but nobody knows about it,” Matheson said. “We’re trying to get people to come here, leave their car, jump on the shuttle and come to town. We have got to get the merchants to buy into this and tell people that we do have that shuttle and we do have satellite parking at Tanger and over at Food Lion when we get that finished. Even if we get a lot of the employees to park over there, it frees up a lot of parking downtown. I think they will buy into it if they know that they have a way to get from there to work.” Mayor Sellers envisions a four-level parking structure on the piece of land off of Valley Boulevard where people can enter two levels of the parking deck from Valley Boulevard and others can enter two levels of the parking deck from Main Street. Each level would have approximately 130 parking spaces, totaling up to 520 spots. He estimated that the cost of the parking deck would be anywhere from $20,000 to $24,000 per parking spot. Rogers made conservative estimates of the money that can

QUESTION What do you think Blowing Rock should or could do to make it a better place to live and to visit? Please be specific.

QUESTION If there was one thing you’d like to do right away, to make it an even better place to live, work and play, what would it be?

“It’s a $15 million problem in a town with a budget of $12 million. It’s hard to wrap your head around, but there are ways to pay for it. If you have a visitor that wouldn’t pay $8 to park here for four hours, do you even want them here? Roger Brooks August / September 2021

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Roger Brooks met with numerous stakeholders in Blowing Rock. He is pictured here meeting with Town of Blowing Rock staff members. YEARS

Comments from the Community Questionaire

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What do you think Blowing Rock should or could do to make it a better place to live and to visit? Please be specific. Turn Main Street into pedestrian only - the side roads will be enough for delivery trucks. Put parking decks at Tanger Outlets, in the big lot across from First Baptist Church. Start pedestrian only at Rumple church and Mellow Mushroom. Keep it quaint. Don’t allow this beautiful small town to be overrun with Gatlinburg type attractions. I am very concerned about the hotel being built behind Speckled Trout. I look forward to the completion of the sidewalk to Bass Lake. Too much traffic on main street and people should be fined for littering downtown. Tourists are trashing our parks, sidewalks, and Mayview pond. Carefully and thoughtfully consider development so as to maintain Blowing Rock’s special feel and historical look. Once it’s gone or diminished, tourists will have mo interest in visiting and our property values will suffer greatly. There have been too many projects green lit by the Town Council with little to no consideration or study of the long or even short term impact on traffic, erosion, water ways, density or anything else. Many of these decisions are made with little to no public knowledge or input and often during closed sessions in the winter months when many tax paying homeowners are not in BR. If you build more parking there will just be more people. There are TOO many day trippers. They do not live here. There are so many that the people who pay taxes can not go uptown.

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Close Main Street to cars between Laurel LN and Park Ave on weekends. Cars can easily be rerouted and access both parking lots, the loss of parking is minimal in the grand scheme of car counts, and you would create an energy filled Main Street that can handle increased tourist numbers. The sidewalks are far too overcrowded on weekends. Main Street closure would also allow restaurants to expand seating into the streets, the town could offer RFPs for nice/ select vendors to directly increase revenue, and people could roam and enjoy town for longer. Broadway closed to cars through the heart of Times Square, Blowing Rock can do it too….

going all the way to Boone.

Get a handle on tourism crowds. If you are a local, it is difficult ( nearing impossible) to even get to the Post Office or the Library during the summer and fall months.

Keep it small, keep it local, don’t lose the charm of the town

Freeze it in time.

Enforce speed limits and ticket violators for compression braking and illegal mufflers.

As a resident I’d like more shopping options that aren’t “touristy”; I’d like to be able to find parking and eat at a restaurant without having to have long wait times; I’d like to see better restaurants with more variety; I’d like for more shops to offer higher level, more sophisticated merchandise; more cultural offerings; don’t roll up the sidewalks at 9:30 Build an additional downtown parking deck. Put up crosswalk light signals for pedestrians on downtown Main Street cross streets. I live here full time and would love to have just one drive through fast food restaurant where I could pickup a burger without getting out of my car or

Create some type of music/theater venue. A few less expensive places places to eat such as Subway where families can pick up food for family picnics. Constrain permitting, enforce conflict of interest rules regarding politicians, stop out of control building particularly commercial Create a realistic parking strategy and strict zoning plan To live: Make it a place where locals can actually be. Even getting to and from the school is a nightmare.

Nothing! We love the small town atmosphere and local involvement

Don’t change anything. It’s perfect just as it is Contain and restrict number of new buildings in downtown proper. Continue design reflection of our history, heritage, setting and environment. Maintain strict guidelines of signage and aesthetic pollution. I don’t have concerns about needing to make Blowing Rock better. I think it is fine as it is. I worry very much about it becoming overdeveloped and losing its charm. Indoor fitness and recreation space for residents.


be made from paid parking for the current allotment of downtown parking spots and money that could be made from an additional 600-spot parking structure as part of his analysis. The estimates showed that Blowing Rock could bring in roughly $1.6 million a year from paid parking just at the spots already available by charging $2 per hour at a maximum of four hours. He also estimated a parking deck with 600 spots charging $1 per hour at a maximum of five hours would bring in roughly $432,000 a year.

The Importance of Wayfinding in the High Country

Another major point of discussion that Roger Brooks uncovered in his study of Blowing Rock is the importance of wayfinding signage. Towns put up signs directing visitors to where lodging, restaurants, attractions and even parking are located. Signs would also help relieve traffic issues by allowing people to follow those signs instead of their GPS systems that may be taking them to a location that does not have any parking areas. “Wayfinding signage is definitely needed in this town. I take it for granted because I know where I am going in this town. If I was new coming into town, you can’t find parking because the signs are not located in the proper places. We have our shuttle but nobody is going to jump on the shuttle not knowing where it’s going or when it’s coming back,” Mayor Sellers said. In Boone, some signage such as directing people to where the ski resorts are located have been around for a while. However, more wayfinding signage will soon arrive. “We were about to contract our new wayfinding signage program back in March of 2020 right when everything shut down for COVID-19, so we put that on pause for a little bit. We have re-initiated that program and reached out to the sign manufacturer that was the lowest bidder so we have that ball rolling again,” Tilley said. “I think the community, hopefully within the next year, will see our first phase of county-wide wayfinding signage. I think that will help somewhat with traffic flow as well.”

Keeping the Harmony Between Visitors and Residents Finding a happy medium for town residents and town visitors has proven to

This map shows where Blowing Rock purchased property alongside Valley Boulevard across the road from Food Lion. The property is slated to be used for parking areas, however, it has not been determined whether it will be a surface parking lot or a third parking deck for the town. According to Brooks’ estimate, the cost of a new parking deck with 600 spaces would cost the town just over $14 million, but securing available federal grants could lower the cost to just over $11 million.

Parking Structure Cost

$23,500 per space x 600 spaces =

$14,100,000 Plus soft costs of 15% - $2,115,000 Federal transportation grants (30%) - $5,000,000 Net cost of development

$11,215,000

This area is the plot of land off of Valley Boulevard that the Town of Blowing Rock purchased for what will be used as additional parking space for people to leave their cars and then take a shuttle to Main Street. Roger Brooks has suggested that a three story parking deck could be located here. August / September 2021

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be a challenge. In Blowing Rock, residents have created the Blowing Rock Civic Association as a voice to be heard in the town where they pay their taxes. Tim Gupton is the current President of the Blowing Rock Civic Association and is also a board member for the Blowing Rock TDA. Gupton said he has been pleased with what he has heard so far from Brooks’ report and the feedback from those around the town. “We are encouraged by the direction of his report, and it lines up very well with our published advocacy plan we put forth over the last three years, in particular, looking at the impact of visitors on the quality of life of residents. We are looking forward to his final report,” Gupton said. “Parking, wayfinding and shuttles totally line up with our number one recommendation, so we are supportive of that direction, assuming that the funding source is paid parking revenue. He’s recommending a downtown master plan, and that lines up with our thinking that the overall code use in the downtown district needs to be updated.” Gupton said that residents are “getting more and more annoyed and questioning the quality of life here.” “People who live here or rent property here have somewhere to go. Day tourists add to the congestion problem. We’ve got to fix that so the homeowner and the visitor are happy,” he added. Tracy Brown has heard positive reactions from both visitors and residents in regards to Brooks and the study that is being completed in the town. “We’re hearing that our residents and businesses appreciate his expertise. He knows what he’s talking about because he’s done this kind of work all around the U.S. Most folks are impressed with his delivery style and no-nonsense approach. This is not his first rodeo, and he doesn’t beat around the bush. It’s black and white 48

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with him,” Brown said. Matheson and the rest of the town council are understanding how many residents feel about calling Blowing Rock home. “They are losing the ambiance of what Blowing Rock looked like. I’ve seen a lot of different Blowing Rocks. Each one of them has ended up better through time. It has become such a destination place. To me, I don’t think we need to advertise Blowing Rock. Blowing Rock is wellknown,” Matheson said. The TDA-funded study has been a “very positive move” according to the mayor. It has shown that both residents and tourists are important to Blowing Rock remaining a thriving mountain town. “When you get an outside opinion, it enables those on the inside to put more effort forth into making changes. Most seasonal residents realize we’ve got to have tourism. If we did not have the tourists, it would go back to the way it was in the 60s, 70s and 80s where the seasonal people left and the businesses closed,” Sellers said.

“The council was in agreement that the town could not finance this because this is something that is tourism-driven. Using the property tax dollars to fund it would not have been good. Now we can use part of the property tax funding to help fund a parking garage because that will be utilized by residents as well. Our town doesn’t have to rely on 80% of its revenue on property taxes. We’re looking at roughly 50% of the gross revenues being from property taxes for the town to operate. The rest of the revenue is coming from tourism, sales tax and the ABC tax. We are one of few communities that can claim that. Now if we lose that tourism dollar, the impact would be cutting services or raising taxes, which I’m not in favor of, so I think we need the tourism money.” Tourism is the second-largest economic driver in Watauga County behind Appalachian State University. Whether it is the county as a whole, Boone or Blowing Rock, vacationers and day-trippers coming up the mountain to spend their money will

Just to highlight the extent of Blowing Rock’s parking problem, Roger Brooks used conservative estimates to show how quickly the town’s 428 parking spaces are taken by just employees at restaurants, retail tores and real estate offices at any given point during the day.

August / September 2021


Bottom line: You could probably reduce the traffic challenges by a third just by developing a wayfinding system, and you would create a better experience for both visitors and local residents. Roger Brooks

remain extremely important. “Visit North Carolina does an annual study every year based on visitor impact. We were 18th out of 100 counties last year. That’s pretty strong for our location and our county. Over the years, we have bounced back and forth between 18th and 19th. We might have the opportunity to move up a notch or so but that’s probably about it. Most of the counties ahead of us on that list are larger and have airports,” Tilley said. COVID-19 played a big part in why the High Country might have seemed even more crowded than usual over the last year. The mountains and the beaches saw an influx of people trying to get outside of the major cities. “The piedmont and larger cities that were so reliant on business travel, meetings and conventions are hurting pretty badly and a lot of them laid off lots of employees. We were fortunate. We have a lot of outdoor opportunities, so I think the public perceived us as a safer travel option. We saw an increase in traffic and occupancy and occupancy tax revenue. I think that will level off, but I think we did expose this area to new visitors that will put us on their radar,” Tilley said. “I think once people are more comfortable getting on airplanes, once the cruise industry gets fully operational and once international travel starts again, we are competing with those things that we didn’t have to compete with over the last year. You’re not hearing comments and criticism from local business owners, restaurants and lodging owners. But I understand that there is a balance between quality of life for residents and providing an economic engine for the county via tourism. We are sensitive to that.” Tilley said that taxpayers in Watauga County save between $450 and $500 per year on property taxes thanks to the revenue that the occupancy tax brings to the county. In Blowing Rock, the TDA had to adjust

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its marketing strategy with so many people arriving in the High Country last year during COVID-19. “After pandemic restrictions started easing, we noticed an influx like we’d never seen before. We pulled or stopped call-to-action advertising for the time being because It would be irresponsible to advertise when we can’t accommodate the people already coming,” Brown said.

What’s Ahead for Blowing Rock?

Blowing Rock is looking at some upcoming projects, including major ones that

involve infrastructure on Main Street. “Is it getting overcrowded? Can we keep handling it? Those are questions that we are working on, especially with the infrastructure. It does tax the infrastructure, things that people don’t see that are underground. If we are going to dig it up and we are thinking about a change, now is the time to work with the state and try and get the permissions and do it,” said Doug Matheson. As for the tourism study, Matheson has been pleased with the feedback. “I think we are moving along well. I think the survey is bringing things out and bringing a great response to it. We’ve

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“The town is built on tourism and seasonal residents. We have to have both. We have to be able to facilitate that to where the seasonal residents are happy and the tourists are happy.” Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie Sellers

already had 450 responses, and that’s a good response for here. I think when we sit down and look at it, it’s going to be a voice of the people. Then we have to figure out how to do it, how to implement it and how to pay for it,” he said. In the future, Matheson said he would be in favor of angled parking on Main Street and eliminating the parallel parking spots. Roger Brooks said this is the first time in his over 35 years that he has spent 21 straight days in one location. “I have been here for 3 weeks, I have never worked in a town where I was there for three weeks straight and never left. This is the first time I’ve ever done this. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a TDA say they want me to spend my entire time figuring out how to make this work with the residents,” Brooks said “Hats off to them, they do hear what residents are saying and are trying to find a way to make it work for both. There is always going to be some give and take.” Brooks and his team will continue to receive input from people in the community and then begin working on his final plan in August and September. “They will get a sustainable development tourism plan on how they make tourism work for everybody. I will recommend how to make this work, how to pay for it and how to put all the pieces together. Then in October, I will physically write the plan, and in November, I will come back with very specific recommendations. This isn’t just about the TDA, it’s about the town. Everybody will have a to-do list,” Brooks said. When the plan gets presented to the town, Tracy Brown said when they get the recommendations, it will be time for everybody to get to work. “This should give us a map going forward and allow us to make Blowing Rock a better place to live, work and invest.” t


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And Over in Avery County . . .

Moderator Jim Swinkola (left) asked citizen-submitted questions to NC Senator Warren Daniel (middle) and Representative Dudley Greene (right) on July 23.

Avery County Residents Share Questions and Concerns with Rep. Dudley Greene and Sen. Warren Daniel By Nathan Ham

S

tate Representative Dudley Greene the opportunity to represent the people was also good to see some old friends and and State Senator Warren Daniel here and talk about the issues that are im- make some new ones in the process. My took part in a question and an- portant to Avery County. Government is a thanks to Lee-McRae College, our modswer session at Lees-McRae College on collaborative effort. I think it works best erator Jim Swinkola, and all who worked July 23. Residents of Avery County were for our constituents when we all work to- to organize this event…and especially the able to submit questions for their state gether to solve our problems,” Daniel said. folks of the 85th NC House District for “It was a great evening for a conver- allowing me to serve as your Representarepresentative and senator to answer. Questions ranged from a variety of top- sation with NC Senator Warren Daniel tive,” Greene said. Lee King, the President of ics including broadband internet Lees-McRae College, hopes that access, opioid abuse, COVID-19 Avery County can receive some vaccinations and parks and recrebenefits and support from this ation programs. current general assembly session. Sen. Daniel, a graduate of the “I thought this event was a United States Military Academy perfect snapshot of community and the University of North Carocollaboration to engage our electlina School of Law, has served as ed leaders in a real dialogue of a member of the North Carolina importance to Avery county. I’ve State Senate since 2011. He repbeen impressed by how Sen. Danresents Avery, Burke and Caldwell counties. Rep. Greene was elected iel and Representative Green have to the North Carolina House of diligently worked to become enRepresentatives in 2021 after pregaged with our citizens and local viously serving as the sheriff of leaders. The state budget has imMcDowell County and the chief More than 50 participants, representing a cross section of Avery County portant initiatives for rural broadcitizens, listened intently to the questions and answers during “A detective/chief deputy with the band and supporting education, Conversation with Warren Daniel and Dudley Greene.” The event was Avery County Sheriff ’s Office. and Lees-McRae is particularly hosted at Hayes Auditorium on the Lees-McRae College campus.. He represents Avery, McDowell interested in ensuring that regionand Mitchell counties. al students are supported by the “Avery County is the gem of my dis- to provide an update to our constituents funding provided for the NC Need-Based trict in terms of its beauty, elevation and about this legislative session and address Scholarship program. ” King said. “I was the things that it offers. I am thankful for concerns of the people of our Districts. It particularly impressed by the cross-section 52

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Elected Officals Hear Avery Citizens’ Concerns

Senator Daniel (left) and Representative Greene responded citizen-submitted questions covering a wide range of topics concerning folks who live in Avery County. of the local community who participated in this event. There was a strong presence from local government officials, public education and the local citizens. It was an honor for the College to host this and bring together our community for this dialogue.” Banner Elk Mayor Brenda Lyerly was one of the local politicians that attended the event. She had nothing but praise for the two representatives that came to LeesMcRae to hear the concerns of folks in Avery County. “I was grateful that Senator Daniel and Representative Greene were willing to take time from their busy schedules to meet with the citizens of Avery County. We are blessed to have elected officials who respond to our needs and concerns. It is my hope that we can continue with this quality of representation after the 2022

election,” Lyerly said. “Those questions submitted to our representatives were significant to our area. I was impressed with the citizen participation. I do hope this will be one of many events of this type. We were given timely updates of the activities in Raleigh and given rationale for their votes on issues.” Others in the community hope information sessions like this will happen more often. “I think this type of event is very important to have and should occur on a regular basis. The legislators need to be in contact with t the people who elect them to serve and hear the concerns of the citizens. When Patrick McHenry represented Avery County he held many “town hall meetings” as did Josh Dobson. Hopefully, in the future, these events will be more

widely publicized and more people will attend,” said resident Dedy Traver. Traver also feels like the unemployment benefits need to be cut back to get people back to work. “There was a question concerning the unemployment funds that people are receiving. It would seem that there are jobs available but people are getting more money being unemployed than working. I was surprised to learn that the Governor vetoed a bill that would have reduced the unemployment checks. Many restaurants in the High Country are having to reduce hours due to a lack of people willing to work,” she said. Traver added that she had hoped that there would have been some discussion on the state of many roads around Avery County that have fallen into a state of disrepair.

What Sen. Daniel and Rep. Greene Talked About The event lasted for over an hour and numerous topics did get touched on by the two Avery County representatives. Here are their responses:

Workforce Housing Sen. Daniel’ Response “Right now we are experiencing a time where real estate values are inflated, and that is cyclical, I think there will be a point in time when that adjusts itself. Affordable housing is a problem all across the rural areas of our state. One of the things I have learned recently is the economic development teams of my other two counties are starting to focus on how to have places to live for people when we

create jobs. I think that is something Avery County needs to figure out a strategy for. Do we need to hire an economic developer? We need to adopt some of the ideas that some of the other counties are adopting to bring developers who are willing to develop a site and build 90, 100, 200 units of housing. Burke County has a site that just broke ground with 95 units that are in the center of town in Morganton. Developers are out there but there needs to be a collaborative effort between the economic development team bringing lenders to the table, some of the larger regional lenders, and see what

other counties have done. You have challenges that other counties don’t have because of your topography, but certainly, you can identify sites where you can build 20, 50, 75 units. That’s harder to do in Avery County because the land isn’t as flat and isn’t as available. USDA has some good grant and loan programs that are non-competitive grants and loans. Developers should know about those and be are of their availability.” Rep. Greene Response “I think ultimately the solution will end up

August / September 2021

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‘A Conversation with Warren Daniel and Dudley Greene’

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being a private-public partnership. In McDowell County, they are looking at a 186 unit apartment complex there to address this very concern. The county government and the community college got involved. They worked it out to provide land for that purpose and there was some federal money and a couple of non-profit entities that provided some matching funds. That model is something that we will probably see. I think there is going to remain some private sector involvement in the issue. It’s a problem in a number of areas of the state.”

Broadband Access Sen. Daniel Response “The more you expand broadband access, the more you attract people to your county. You can’t stop the future from happening and broadband is the future. This is an issue that has been on the state’s radar for the last three or four years. This year we have unique opportunities thanks to the American Rescue Plan dollars for grant opportunities. Once the budget does pass, I expect there will be close to $750 million that will be placed into the GREAT Program which is more than 10 times what has ever been allocated. Talking to some of your local broadband providers, to build out the remaining 30 percent of Avery County, you’re talking about 12 to 15 million dollars to do that. A reasonable amount of time it would probably take two to two and a half years to do that. Avery County has a good opportunity once these funds are appropriated to chip away at the remaining lack of access.” Rep. Greene Response “The GREAT Program has helped some areas get broadband access. I think one problem that was discovered is a lot of time the large providers would get the grant money and they would go into more of the urban areas first rather than going to the area like ours are. There is so much money being allocated to each individual county so large providers like Spectrum are not going to be able to take the grant money and go work in Charlotte. To get the money allocated for Avery County, when the budget comes through, they will have to do that build out in Avery County. Pole connectivity is another issue in our area with broadband connection. I know some of my colleagues have worked long and hard with rural providers and co-ops to try and work out an acceptable way to connect to their poles, which will be a big help.”

Workforce Development Sen. Daniel Response “I think the first thing we need to recognize is that workforce development is a cyclical issue. If you look back 24, 36 months ago, the issue in counties where manufacturing is a heavy part of the 54

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sector was finding people to make their products. North Carolina looked to the community college system to look at ways to work with industry to find Mechatronics programs. McDowell, Cleveland, Burke counties have one. Now in the last 12 to 18 months, the construction sector has taken off, so contractors are having a hard time finding laborers. I think it’s something we always react to when we see what the market needs. I think we need to do what we’ve always done and look to high schools and community colleges and try to figure out how to link interested students with those companies that need labor and how can we provide the skills necessary. We need to have job fairs and see where the interest is. If you think about Avery County High School, they graduate 150 students a year. There is some subset of that that wants to stay in Avery County and work some sort of trade, but we need to figure out who has that interest and try to provide them with the best skills that we can. It’s not something that can just happen overnight.” Rep. Greene Response “Our high schools and community colleges are key to that. In my experience with Mayland and McDowell Tech, our community colleges are extremely responsive to workforce development. If an industry is coming in and they know they are going to have a need for a certain skill set, they retool and will get a program going and it’s very effective. We just need to continue to support them.”

Opioid Abuse Sen. Daniel Response “Our state expects to get about $750 million from a $26 billion opioid settlement. That has the potential to do a lot of good in North Carolina once we figure out how the program will be structured.” Rep. Greene Response “I think addressing the concerns of drug use, drug abuse and addiction is a three-legged stool essentially. I think there have to be three components involved with that. One of those is in prevention, which involves an educational aspect and working with doctors, pharmacies and so forth to stem the tide of prescription abuse. The second leg of that is going to be in treatment. In my opinion, that is one area where I hope we can devote more resources to it. Our state is woefully short in mental health resources out there and the ability to help people who are seeking to get off their addiction. The third leg of that is enforcement and I don’t think we can let up there when illicit drugs are coming into our community. The state does have a number of resources involved in every aspect of that, but certainly, there are areas where we can do more.”


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Post-Pandemic Recovery Sen. Daniel Response “The house and senate sent a bill to the governor that would have declined to add the $300 supplement on top of unemployment funds and the government vetoed it. The legislature is realizing we have a workforce crisis and when you continue to pay people to stay home, that’s what they’re going to do. When we get the governor to realize that, we’ll be on the road to solving that problem.” Rep. Greene Response “I think what we discovered is there are some remote learning opportunities in certain circumstances where you may have weather-related closures that can keep people connected to the schools, but ultimately I think the in-person model has probably been found to be the most ideal and hopefully that will continue to be the primary focus.”

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Sen. Daniel Response “There should not be vaccine mandates, there should not be vaccine passports. It is a personal freedom issue. This community has done a lot to promote vaccine availability. The hospital has done yeoman’s work to provide facilities and personnel to make the vaccine available to people that want it. The state department of health and human services has encouraged people to get vaccinated. The federal government from President Trump to President Biden have all encouraged people to get vaccinated voluntarily.” As time was winding down for the evening, moderator Jim Swinkola turned the final group of questions into a form of a “rapid-fire” round with each speaker answering separate questions on topics that they could choose from. These responses are included below.

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Rep. Greene Response “There is some additional consideration be-

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Law Enforcement Rep. Greene Response “I think law enforcement in Avery County has probably suffered as a result of a lot of these movements that have gone on. We were reading the other day that the city of Asheville has lost 60 officers over the last few months. It’s getting harder and harder to recruit officers. It’s a problem now and if we can’t get a handle on it, it’s going to be a crisis. When all of these movements came out about defunding the police, in my opinion, we don’t need to be defunding them, we need to be supporting them. Certainly, there are ways that law enforcement can be more professional and transparent. What we need to do is try to support them in that.”

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ing given to our state trail system because that has been a big economic driver for some of our more rural areas for people that want to come up and see the mountains and the beauty.”

Rep. Greene Response “I had gone to Raleigh with litter cleanup and whatever happened to our inmate program doing that on my mind as we were hearing about that in the last budget. In times past, there were disagreements between the Department of Transportation and the Department of Adult Corrections about reimbursements to the Department of Adult Corrections for the personnel to go out there and supervise the inmates. I know there has been some legislation floating around before a contract lets out for roadside cleanup to first go to the Department of Adult Corrections to allow them to make a bid on that as well so we may see a little bit of that coming back. Unbeknownst to most of us, as a result of the COVID pandemic, there was a lawsuit filed with the state for prisoners wanting earlier release. As a result of that, I think the governor had released about 3,500 inmates from the department of corrections early and arbitrarily decided on a number to release another 6,500 inmates over the next few months. I am not sure that if the funding was provided to put the inmates back on the road if there are enough minimum custody inmates left in the system to perform that work.”

IN CLOSING

im Swinkola said that he will be following up with Rep. Greene and Sen. Daniel early in 2022 as a way for county residents to be kept up-to-date on the topics that were discussed. “As moderator of ‘A Conversation with Warren Daniel and Dudley Greene’ I could not be more pleased with the event. There were great questions from Avery County citizens and knowledgeable responses from our NC Senator and Representative. Both Daniel and Greene were forewarned that in January I will contact both of them for a progress update. The items addressed on July 23 will be examined for progress. I view the conversation to be ongoing.”

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A “Bond” That Lasts

Bettie Bond’s

Life of Service in Boone By Jan Todd

D

of philanthropic funds as r. Bettie Bond puts a source of grants for local the “fun” in fundcauses such as the Back 2 raising — and in School Festival, the Compretty much everything munity Care Clinic, the else she touches. This Hunger and Health Cosoon-to-be octogenarian, a alition, Watauga County resident of Boone with her Habitat for Humanity and husband Dr. John Bond for many more. just over 50 years, has imIn 2013, Bettie was pacted the High Country named Boone’s Volunteer as a leader, a volunteer, an of the Year while serving educator, an advocate, a on the town’s Historic travel guide, a motivator Preservation Commission and an inspiration to many. — ensuring the renovaThis summer, Bettie tion of the historic downwas honored by the Boone town post office — and Sunrise Rotary Club with a working with others to Lifetime Community Serencourage the town to vice Award — an honor provide upfront funds to bestowed by the club just purchase and save the Apthree times in the past 35 palachian Theatre. years. She was also named Over the years she has a Paul Harris Fellow by the worked to support Horn in Rotary Foundation, in apthe West, helped lead the preciation for her efforts Bettie Bond, pictured in her home library, was recently honored with a Watauga County Historitowards the “furtherance Lifetime Community Service Award and named Paul Harris Fellow cal Society, assisted in creof better understandor her philanthropic work in the community. ating the Digital Watauga ing and friendly relations archive, served at the (now closed) Appalachian Cultural Museamong people of the world,” as written on the award certificate. In 2014, she received the Lewis R. Holding Philanthropic um, organized fundraisers for the Humane Society, provided help Leadership Award for her work with the Watauga County Com- and guidance for the development of the Middle Fork Greenway, munity Foundation (WCCF) — an affiliate of the North Carolina and advocated for the Watauga County public library. “If there is a committee in Boone, Bettie has been on it,” said Community Foundation (NCFF). The WCCF manages a group

Bettie Bond has served and supported a number of non-profit organizations in the High Country, including those illustrated above. 58

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Bettie and John Bond’s story began when they met at Centre College in Danville. They married, went to graduate school at NC State, and taught at App State. The inseparable pair continues to live at the house they planted their roots in 50 years ago, and they are pictured here at the Western Youth Network 2021 gala event that was held in June at Camp Yanahnoka at Linville Golf Club. her long-time friend Lana Brantz, wife of Boone’s current mayor, Dr. Rennie Brantz. “She is a great volunteer,” added Lana. “Bettie embodies the giving spirit of Boone,” said Rennie. “She is active in so many nonprofits and causes. People want to live here because of people like Bettie.” The Bonds came to Boone in 1971 when John was offered a faculty position in Appalachian State University’s Department of Biology. A couple of years later Bettie began teaching history at the university, and the couple retired in 1996. In App State’s Department of History Newsletter published in 2018-2019, an article about the Digital Watauga Project said that in retirement, the civic-spirited Bettie

Bond “is proving as valuable to Boone as she did to the History Department.” Rennie, who taught alongside Bettie in the history department for many years, recalled Bettie as a “lively and enthusiastic instructor.” “Sometimes students mistook her joking and fun-filled attitude as a sign of a soft

“She was a good colleague. Her enthusiasm was contagious,” he added. “She has a personality that attracts people and encourages them to share their ideas openly. She warms up the room and has a magnetism that enables her to recruit others to support her causes.”

“If there is a committee in Boone,

Bettie’s Path to Boone

Bettie was born in 1942 in Danville, Kentucky, the oldest of four children. Her father was an obstetrician — and over the course of his career delivered more than 5,000 babies. “My father was gone a lot, because of his job. I remember when we went on vacation, we had to stay within a certain

Bettie has been on it.” Lana Brantz touch, but they learned very quickly that wasn’t the case. She was a tough grader, and her students came to appreciate that, once they figured it out,” Rennie said.

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Bettie Bond grew up in Danville, Kentucky. Pictured above (left to right): Bettie at age 2, expressing her enthusiasm for cake (which she still has today!); Bettie as a young pianist in 1950; Bettie and John’s wedding, held in Danville in 1965. Not long afterwards, John called Bettie mileage range, in case one of his patients year was also his first year of teaching, and went into labor. He was one of the found- he was so good looking. He walked with a for a date. “I wasn’t interested in dating ing fathers of the Kentucky OB/GYN As- cane, which gave him even more mystique. him steady, but I thought he might be okay sociation, and he was a lifelong learner.” When he came in the room, my best friend for a summer fling,” she laughed. “I had and I looked at each other and said, ‘His- my eye on some Phi Delts for the fall. But Bettie said. Bettie said she developed an early ap- tory. We’re majoring in history.’ It turned when I went out with John Bond, I discovered he was the sweetest, dearest person preciation and respect for the accomplish- out I really enjoyed it.” I’d ever met.” ments of women, because The two married, in the early years of her then moved to Ralife, she was surrounded leigh where they went by strong females. During to graduate school at World War II, her father North Carolina State was stationed in the mediUniversity. Bettie studied cal corps in North Africa, American and Asian hisand Bettie lived with her tory, and John earned his mother, grandmother and PhD in biology. aunts. “It was a nice soWhen they came to rority,” Bettie laughed. App State for John’s inBettie’s mother, a terview, Bettie said the stay-at-home mom, head of the department was active in church had just one question work, Girl Scouts, and for her: “Do you play in the lives of her chilbridge?” dren. “She’d have a jug Bettie replied in the of Kool-aid and snacks affirmative, and his rewhen we came home sponse was, “Well, you’ll from school and would Dr. Bettie Bond delivering a history lecture as an assistant professor at do just fine here.” feed all the neighborAppalachian State University. Bettie was known as a “lively and enthusiastic Bettie had much more hood kids,” Bettie said. instructor,” said her colleague Dr. Rennie Brantz. than bridge on her mind, Bettie earned a degree At Centre, Bettie also met her husband, though — and after a couple of years in in English and history at Centre College in Boone, she began teaching history at the Danville, where her father had also gradu- whom she calls “John Bond.” She was sitting in the library one day, university. In 1976 she was awarded the ated. While there, she served as president of the freshmen women, was a member of and noticed John looking at her, she re- Fulbright Scholarship and went to India several honor societies and wrote for cam- called. “He got up to leave and dropped a for four months, setting her up to return 3”x5” index card in front of me, then just to Appalachian to teach Asian history. pus publications. She earned her doctorate degree at UNCMajoring in history was an easy deci- continued out the door.” The message on the card? “You must Greensboro in the early 1980’s, while still sion for her, Bettie said. “There was a history professor named Dr. Charles Lee, and leave the library. You bother me,” he had teaching at Appalachian. Her involvement within the communihe’d been wounded in Korea. My freshman written. 60

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“She has a personality that attracts people and encourages them to share their ideas openly.” Rennie Brantz ty began while she was employed at the university, where she said she was encouraged to get involved in committees on campus as well as to serve in local organizations.

The Grand Dame of Grand Boulevard When John was offered the teaching position at Appalachian, the Bonds’ alma mater, Centre College, played a role in securing their housing in Boone. Centre College, a small private liberal arts college with about 1,400 students currently, gained notoriety in 1921 when their football team defeated Harvard’s team, in Boston, with a score of 6-0 — an upset that made quite an impression, Bettie said. (Folks in Boone can relate, experiencing a similar sensation in 2007 when App State’s Mountaineers beat the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor.) When the Bonds came to Boone, App State offered faculty housing for married couples with children, but because the Bonds did not have offspring, they were encouraged to look elsewhere, but couldn’t find any place available. “There weren’t any apartment complexes at that time — not at all like it is now!” Bettie said. They returned to Raleigh to prepare for their move, and a couple of weeks later, Bettie received a call from her mother, who had been visiting with family in Dallas, Texas. While there, her mother met someone whose mother, Mrs. Denny, lived in Boone. Mrs. Denny’s family was encouraging her to move to Florida — and asked the Bonds to pay her a visit at her house on Grand Boulevard. “Mrs. Denny was not happy at all about the prospect of moving. She told us, if we rented from her, she’d have to leave her appliances and some furniture. I told her that was great, because we’d been in graduate school for six years and could use anything she left behind. We assured her we’d take care of her things until she was ready to come back to Boone, but she was still un-

Bettie and John Bond pose in front of a miniature orange tree, planted the year of their marriage. Many of the trees and plants in their yard are associated with special memories and stories.

Bright colors adorn Bettie’s sunroom, her favorite place to relax. August / September 2021

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convinced,” Bettie recalled. Finally, Mrs. Denny asked the Bonds where they were from and where they went to college. When they told her they’d graduated from Centre College in Danville, Mrs. Denny’s eyes lit up. “You can rent my house,” she declared. “I was at the game.” “Yep, a 50-year-old football victory was the only reason we got that house,” Bettie said. The Bonds lived in Mrs. Denny’s home for about a year and a half, when a neighbor, Bill Ross, asked if they’d like to buy his house up the street. They jumped at the chance, and paid $26,000 for their home, where they have lived ever since. “Our best friends in the whole wide world – Lana and Rennie Brantz – live a few doors down. At the time we bought, there were no children on the street, just older people. Now we have lots of young families and the neighborhood is the liveliest it has ever been, with kids riding their bikes, running around playing. I love it,” Bettie said. The Brantzes recalled meeting Bettie and John for the first time. “We had just moved in, and the Bonds showed up at our door with some fresh corn and half a chocolate cake. From then on, we’ve been friends,” Lana said. The couples have shared holidays and have traveled many times together — to Spain, Hawaii, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and several places across the United States. They get together at least once a week at one of their homes for dinner. The Bond home is filled with mementos from their travels: a bathroom sink bowl purchased in Mexico, an elephant kite brought back from India, photos and numerous souvenirs reminding them of good times shared with friends. Every item seems to have a story — even the plants outside. In a large planter on their patio is a miniature orange tree, about four feet tall, planted when the Bonds were married 56 years ago. “It produces tiny little oranges — perfect garnishes for cock62

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Bettie Bond was honored with the Lifetime Community Service Award at the June 21 Rotary Club meeting at Booneshine Brewing Company, where John Cooper helped with the presentation.

tails!” Bettie said. Along the back fence is a small grove of pawpaw trees that were relocated from the home of Dr. B. B. Dougherty, one of the founders of Appalachian State University, when the house was moved off campus. “Pawpaw fruit is about the size of a persimmon, and we get a couple of bushels every year. I make pawpaw pies,” Bettie said. Bettie said the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, located in Boston, used to send biologist John various plants and trees to see how they would grow in North Carolina’s mountain region. Their yard contains many “experimental” trees and shrubs not native to the area — including a Henry Lauder Walking Stick shrub, a Magnolia tree, a Kentucky Coffeetree (a member of the locust family), and a ginkgo tree. One of the tallest trees in the Bond’s yard is a tulip poplar, over sixty feet tall. “Lana Brantz and I found it as a seedling in a green bean can, and we planted it 40 years ago,” Bettie said.

Strangers and Friends

Bettie and John are pictured here with Mark Freed, who is the Director of Cultural Resources for the Town of Boone and a proud supporter of Bettie’s many endeavors.

Bettie Bond worked with others for over a decade to save and restore the Appalachian Theatre in downtown Boone, which re-opened in 2019. August / September 2021

Gail Hern describes Bettie as “optimistic, thoughtful and extremely kind.” Gail, who moved to Boone in the 90’s and worked at App State as the former Chancellor Frank Borkowki’s chief of staff, met Bettie when they worked together planning the university’s centennial celebration held in 1999. The events for the celebration took a couple of years to plan, and Gail and Bettie grew to be close friends. “We formed a little group and started getting together once a month to have lunch and exchange small presents — souvenirs from our travels, plants, just fun little things. Bettie calls us ‘Les Girls,’” said Gail. When asked about Bettie, one of the first things most people say is, “Bettie has never met a stranger.” Wherever she goes, Bettie strikes up conversations with people she doesn’t know, her friends say.


“Bettie has never met a stranger.”

GO MAKE MEMORIES ...

Gail Hern One time, Lana said a group had gone to breakfast at Hardees. “Bettie saw a man sitting alone, drinking a cup of coffee. She walked over to him and kissed him on the cheek,” Lana said. As it turned out, Bettie thought she knew the man — but didn’t. “The man seemed very receptive to the kiss, and before we left, Bettie had a new friend,” Lana said.

Traveling Shoes As a faculty member, Bettie coordinated several trips with students. “I taught a course on the AmericanChina trade, and I would take students to New York City,” Bettie recalled. “We’d take the train from Greensboro to Washington, D.C., and catch the early morning train to New York, arriving at the opening hour for the Metropolitan Museum. Then

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Bettie and John Bond dressed for a sock hop themed “Hearts Ball” in the 1990’s, a GoodwillNWNC.org fundraiser held annually for the Hospitality House of Northwest North Carolina.

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the Watauga County Community we’d head to Chinatown for lunch, Foundation board for 30 years. go see the Frick Collection [an art While their positions have rotated museum], tour the city, go to a play from year to year, they’ve always or concert and then catch the 2 a.m. had a part in the organization. return train to D.C.” “Initially there was just one enOne time the group arrived at dowment fund of $10,000, and we Grand Central Station around 1:30 gave away a few hundred dollars a.m. after a day of touring, and a a year. Over time we have added policeman came up to them, asking funds and now have 35 funds towho they were and what they were Bettie played a role in the restoration of the Downtown taling $6 million. Ours is one of doing out at that hour. Boone Post Office in the early 2000s through the the top affiliates in the state. We “We told him we were from Boone Historic Preservation Commission work to save the give out $650,000 a year in grants North Carolina, and we were facility from being closed down. The renovations and scholarships — and Bettie has catching the train to Washington. were completed in October of 2013. played a big role in that growth,” He told us to sit together, and if we said Brian. needed to go to the restroom, to go wanted to go,” Bettie said. Gail Hern said she doesn’t know what in pairs, not to wander off alone. “You’ll The Bonds taught a week-long prothe community would have done without be fine,” he said. I think back about how gram in Newport, Rhode Island, takBettie, considering all of the organizations kind he was, to watch out for us like ing App State students as well as adult she has served. that,” Bettie said. learners. “We’d have a wonderful time Currently, Bettie serves as president of After she retired from the university, learning about history — and we’d althe Watauga County Historical Society, Bettie volunteered with the Appalachian ways have a Great Gatsby party and eat the board of the App State university liCultural Museum, founded by App State lobster,” she said. “To this day, a week brary, the Appalachian Theatre, Watauga in 1989. The museum — which closed in doesn’t go by when someone doesn’t County Community Foundation and 2006 due to budget cuts — once housed reminisce to me about some of our trips Digital Watauga. She is working on raisartifacts including a couple of NASCAR and ask to go again.” ing funds to expand the Watauga County racecars, a weaving loom, antique tools Public Library — her latest “big project,” and quilts, an old moonshine still, and A “Bond” With the Community she said. shoes worn by the Wicked Witch from the No matter what she works on, Bettie Land of Oz in Banner Elk. Brian Crutchfield, who retired nine Through the museum, Bettie orga- years ago as the Director of Economic brings fun and energy to the effort. Brian said, “Bettie changes the mood nized trips to visit and tour historical sites Development at Blue Ridge Electric, calls of a meeting, helps us be more producin New York City, Savannah, Charleston, Bettie a “force in the community.” Virginia and other locations. “She has a real knowledge of the his- tive. She arrives smiling and happy, hugs “We must’ve had 5,000 people on a tory of the area and the people, and usu- everyone. She influences others and serves mailing list: university faculty and staff, ally knows someone to fit a particular job, as a great example of someone who leaves a lasting legacy — through the work she core donors, local residents. We’d put the no matter what is needed,” said Brian. word out about the trips for anyone who Brian has served alongside Bettie on does, and just by being Bettie.” t

Bettie Bond, dressed as the fruit of summer in Boone’s annual 4th of July parade. (Date?) From left, John and Bettie Bond, Lana and Rennie Brantz, pictured while on vacation in Jamaica. The couples are close friends and have traveled together extensively. 64

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Gwen Dhing

Boundless MAGIC BEHIND MAKOTO’S AND MORE: Gwen Dhing Runs a Restaurant, Teaches Fitness Classes and Gives Back to the High Country Community By Harley Nefe

B

etween owning Makoto’s Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar, teaching aerobic fitness classes at the Broyhill Wellness Center and participating in many of the High Country’s fundraisers, Gwen Dhing has become a well-known figure in the community. Despite her busy life, she can always be seen bouncing around full of energy and with a warm, welcoming smile on her face. Her life’s journey, including owning an establishment with her husband Ronald 66

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Dhing, is one she never imagined happening when she first arrived in Boone. Gwen grew up in Kannapolis while Ronald lived halfway across the world in Singapore. But they both studied at Appalachian State University and eventually met at Makoto’s. It was a “match made in Makoto’s Heaven,” as they described it. “I graduated from high school in Kannapolis, came to Appalachian and never left,” Gwen said. “It’s a famous story for

August / September 2021

a lot of us. You think you’re supposed to leave, and then things happen and you don’t, and you wonder why. Most people don’t really get to see the reasons why their life goes the way it does, but I did, so that’s cool.” Back in Kannapolis, Gwen took dance lessons starting when she was two years old. Her aunt was a dance instructor, and she owned the Griffith School of Dance. Eventually, Gwen’s cousin, Glenna Griffith Wilson, took over the business.


“We came to visit her a couple of times Ronald, my now-husband. He was a chef.” “I took dance from her for forever, and In Singapore, students have to spend and did college tours, and I liked it,” Gwen that was my thing,” Gwen said. She then attended A.L. Brown High said. “There just really wasn’t anywhere two years in the military after high school. School, where she ended up being one of else that I was really interested in going. After Ronald served his two years, he folthe sponsors or letter girls in the Kannapo- I thought this was a good place, and I felt lowed his brother, Roy, to Appalachian to comfortable here. For all I know it could study graphic arts. He began working at lis band. “The sponsors were the girls who did have been in the cards for me, and I didn’t Makoto’s in January of 1987, and Gwen started in September. Ronald was 23 years the dances, and they had the tassel boots, know it. I just followed suit.” Gwen came to Boone in 1985 and ma- old, and Gwen was 20 when they met. long gloves and dress outfits,” Gwen de“We started dating in June of 1988, scribed. “They spelled out Brown, but the jored in communications. She then tried and the rest is history,” Gwen year that I was trying out they said. “If you can work with decided they had so many somebody, you can basically people that they were going do anything together. You to spell Kannapolis. They had can date, you can live todouble the number of people. gether, you can marry. If you We had 10 girls, and it was a can’t work with somebody, huge band.My first year I was please don’t be in a relationa letter N, and the second ship. A lot of people work so year I was a P while being the closely together that we’ve captain too.” had so many, what we call — One of Gwen’s close matches made in Makoto’s friends from middle school Heaven.” through high school, GeorWhile Gwen worked as gann Sapp, remembers being a waitress and Ronald was a a letter girl A next to Gwen. chef, Ted Mackorell and his “Gwen was an amazing then-wife Wendy owned the dancer, and she did our chorestaurant. Wendy was the reography,” Georgann said. hands-on manager, and Ted Gwen and Georgann were Gwen and Ronald Dhing, owners of Makoto’s, met when they both focused on the paperwork also in a service club together started working at the restaurant in 1987. They are one of the and payroll. in high school called Junio‘matches made in Makoto’s Heaven.’ Outside of Makoto’s, rettes, which is part of the out for App State’s dance team and made Wendy also owned an aerobics studio General Federation of Women’s Clubs. called Absolutely Aerobics and taught “We did all kinds of volunteer work it in 1986. While she was going to school at Ap- classes there. With her past experience with special needs children, and we helped the YMCA with some of their camps,” palachian, Gwen made new friends who with dance, Gwen started attending WenGeorgann reminisced. “Gwen has always ended up becoming roommates with her. dy’s classes. “Immediately, I lost like 25 pounds,” been such a giving person. She has always One roommate in particular, Kristal Kellbeen a friend to everybody and had a ner, got a waitressing job along with Gwen Gwen said. “I was like this is awesome! at Makoto’s in 1987 thanks to mutual Just exercising and watching what you eat smile. She never met a stranger.” — this is cool.” Gwen found herself coming to college friends and connections. At 22 years old, Gwen then became in“We wore kimonos back then with litat Appalachian because one of her good friends, Jane Russel, who is two years old- tle thong shoes and toe socks,” Gwen said. terested in teaching classes herself. “It took a lot, and you just didn’t go “So, I got the job, and that’s when I met er than Gwen, went to Appalachian.

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Gwen (Letter P) and her good friend Georgann Sapp next to her (Letter A) were sponsors or letter girls in the A.L. Brown High School band in Kannapolis in 1985.

When Gwen came to Appalachian State University, she tried out for and received a spot on the dance team, which was then called the Appalettes in 1986.

In 2018, Gwen was invited to Kidd Brewer Stadium and awarded Alumni of the App Football Game. She took a photo on the sidelines with App State’s Dance Team. 68

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teach,” Gwen explained. “You had to train and get certified.” Alongside Wendy was another aerobics teacher named Julie Taylor, and together they told Gwen they would teach her everything she needed to know. Eventually, Wendy became pregnant, and the opportunity presented itself to Gwen. “I remember Wendy said, ‘Do you want to teach class or do you want me to cancel?’ and I said, ‘I can do it!’” Gwen recounted. “So, I jumped in and started teaching, and then the next thing I knew, Julie was pregnant too, so I got my own class, which was hard to do because they were the aerobics queens of this town. But it was my thing, and I loved it. I started teaching in October of 1990 and haven’t stopped. All of my dance background helped me with my career as an aerobics instructor.” When Gwen started teaching, step aerobics became popular so that turned into her niche. “And then when spin came I ended up learning how to teach spin, and then kickboxing,” Gwen said. “You name it, I did it. Personal trainer, weight room certifications — I had it all.” While she was an aerobics instructor, Gwen still worked at Makoto’s. Whenever she graduated from Appalachian, the restaurant was looking for a manager, and she got the position. “Ronald was still in school because he changed his major to furniture design,” Gwen said. “We were living together at the time, so we decided it was perfect because he was still in school, and I had a job, and he could still cook on the weekends for us to make ends meet while he finished school.” It was a busy life for them in their early adult years, but Gwen said that’s why she can still do it now. They’ve been doing it for so long. Ronald graduated from Appalachian in 1993, and he decided he wanted to try his hand as a furniture designer. He shipped all of his furniture he made in college to New York City for the International Contemporary Furniture Fair. “Of course I had to go with him to work it, so I took my week’s paid vacation from Makoto’s so we could spend our money and go to New York City, and we did that for six years in a row, and he ended up getting jobs from it,” Gwen said. There were also thoughts about Ronald and Gwen moving to California for furniture design opportunities, but they ultimately chose to stay in the High Country with Ronald designing and making his own lamps and


(Left) Gwen, age 5, took dance lessons from her aunt and cousin who owned the Griffith School of Dance in Kannapolis. (Middle) Gwen is pictured in her high school yearbook photo, and she graduated in 1985. (Right) She graduated from Appalachian State University in 1990 with a degree in communications. continuing to work at Makoto’s part-time. good friend,” Gwen said. “Not only was contemplating closing for the whole day, he my boss, but he was my mentor and but so many people were here, and they Gwen continued to work as the manager. “The next thing we knew, Ted and taught me everything I needed to know. It’s wanted to come eat dinner. There were a Wendy were getting divorced, and he just all the things we have gone through. lot of people just hanging out, reminiscing and talking about their good bought her out of the business,” times with Ted. We’ve had lots of Gwen said. “Ted didn’t really like things happen in this place.” the hands-on part, so he wanted Ronald and Gwen ended up me to stay as the main manager, buying Makoto’s in 2006 and and we were a team.” have been there ever since. They Then all of a sudden, Ted found were given a loan, and they were out he had cancer, and Gwen and able to pay it off in six years. Ronald’s lives changed again. “I was so proud,” Gwen said. Ted and the staff of Makoto’s “We took balloons, and we orwanted Gwen and Ronald to buy dered one of those big checks the business because Gwen had with the last payment. We walked been the manager for a while, and over to the bank and went in the she and Ronald both knew how door and were like, ‘ahh!’ We to run the restaurant. took pictures with our loan offi“I was like, ‘Of course, I want cer, and it was fun.” to buy it!’ Gwen said. “This was When Gwen left Kannapolis in 2005, and I had worked at Maand came to Boone to go to Appakoto’s since 1987. I had already lachian, none of these life events done everything. I worked here with Makoto’s was on the radar. back when we had to call in for “I had no idea,” she said. “I credit card processing. When didn’t know what I was going to you work somewhere and you do because I had to pay for evgrow with it with the capacity erything on my own. This job of technology and everything, if paid for me to finish school after something goes wrong with your student loans; it paid for Ronald computer system, you know how Gwen started as an aerobics instructor at Absolutely Aerobics to finish school; it paid for our to do it the old way because you in 1991. The studio had professional portraits taken house; it paid for our son, Jett. were there when you did it that and hung them up in the building. It paid for a lot of people to live way. So, it was one of those things and for their whole families. The where we knew we could do it.” Ted passed away on November 14, Our boss passed away, and we were still reason why I work here is for them. It’s able to run the business. We closed down not easy, but I’m not willing to walk away 2005. “It was very sad because he was my during lunch for his funeral, and we were because of everybody else.” August / September 2021

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Gwen has a big following of students of all ages who take her Zumba class that is offered at the Broyhill Wellness Center. She started Zumba in 2009 and said it’s been a big hit ever since. She strives to inspire people to be healthier and see themselves in a different light. Out of all of her accomplishments, Gwen is most proud of her son, Jett, who is 22 years old. Jett was raised in the restaurant world and played soccer from the age of three until high school. He went to college at Appalachian for a semester before he moved to New York for school. The COVID-19 pandemic has since brought him back to Boone, where he continues to work at Makoto’s. When asked about his mother, Jett said, “She cares a lot about her family and our dog, Maya.” “The reason why I do it is because I wanted to keep something going because it was where I started out working, and I thought it was so special,” Gwen said. Gwen was the face of Makoto’s for 25 years and was the person who greeted guests at the door. Now, her responsibilities focus on numbers, scheduling, payroll and the communications aspect of the business. Ronald’s degree in furniture design can also be seen as he designed the lighting in the restaurant’s lobby and bar. But Ronald and Gwen couldn’t run Makoto’s without their staff. “One thing that is very helpful is that all of our chefs and our core team have been here for 20 plus years,” Gwen said. “I got my core group that I know is going to be here as my team, which I am very proud of.” The staff of Makoto’s is a tight-knit group, and they view each other as family. However, their impacts extend beyond the restaurant’s workers. “We’ve had Ted’s funeral, we’ve had weddings, we had memorial services,” Gwen said. “People came in and ate, and their parents passed away, and the family got together and wanted to come for lunch because they loved coming here and loved us and wanted to scatter their ashes in our garden. Things like that are why I do what I do. This has touched people’s lives. People have grown up here, and even if they didn’t work here, people come back to 70

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visit because it’s a part of Boone. It makes me feel really good because we’re a part of people’s whole lives, and it’s not just about serving food.” Apart from being there for her employees and customers, Gwen has also helped many men and women through fitness and being a cheerleader for them as she continues to teach fitness classes, like Zumba at the Broyhill Wellness Center. “I started Zumba in 2009, and it’s been a hit ever since,” Gwen said. “I have a diverse group. I have young, middleaged and older people there. Some are 80 years old and come and do classes alongside the others, and that’s good to be able to see. Everybody talks, and they are very welcoming to each other.” Trish Bailey, who also teaches at the Wellness Center and helps with coordinating new classes and instructors, has gotten to know Gwen really well. “Gwen has a really good energy about her, and when she comes to the Wellness Center to do the classes, she brings not only high energy but a positive attitude,” Trish said. “She’s like a magnet — you can’t help but to be drawn to her, and it shows through her classes.” “From aerobics to Zumba she has

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transitioned, and she has actually stepped up as far as substituting in any class,” Trish continued. “She’s very well-rounded when it comes to group fitness. I can ask her to do a step class, and she can do it. She can do a weight class, she can do Zumba — she’s very well versed in group fitness, and she does a wonderful job with all of it. With a full-time job owning a restaurant and spending a lot of time here, she loves it. It’s like she pours 100% in everything she does from Makoto’s to here, and that’s why her restaurant is so successful and her following is so big.” Tommy Keller, who is the operation supervisor of the cleaning staff for the Wellness Center, has worked with Gwen since 1998. He agreed that Gwen has quite a following, and said her students will follow her wherever she goes. “A lot of them have been with her for a number of years,” he said. “They move from the back to the front of the class overtime as they gain more confidence, and that’s what Gwen does best — she gives people confidence. She’s a very nice person, and she’ll do anything you ask. She has a big heart.” One student who has taken classes with Gwen since 2009, Martha Maiden,

August / September 2021

said Gwen has done a great job helping women and men with exercise and getting better at it. “She motivates me,” Martha said. “I love it. It just energizes me!” Another student, Heather Wright, who has taken classes with Gwen for nine years said, “Gwen is a creative visionary who inspires her students to always believe in themselves and to keep the faith no matter what odds are against them.” Gwen’s fitness classes act as another family for her as everyone knows each other. Students Joe Gay, Donna Lebert and Corinna Dietrich all agreed that Gwen is a wonderful instructor and they continue to show up for a reason, which is because they like her classes. It’s a workout, but it doesn’t feel like a workout as she makes it fun. They said together, “This is Gwen’s passion. It’s not about the money. It’s not about getting paid to do it. She does this for us. That’s been the motto ever since we met her many, many years ago. She said, ‘I do this for y’all and then I get some exercise too,’ and that’s really what it’s about. If she leaves, we have to follow.” Ronald further explained and said,


Makoto’s Now 40 Years Old

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Eventually, FairField Inn & Suites by Maramily and friends have been making memories and celebrating special oc- riott decided they wanted to build a hotel casions at Makoto’s Japanese Steak House in the area, so Ted decided that would be a & Sushi Bar for many years. However, this fitting time to upgrade the building of the year is extra special to the owners, staff restaurant. “I remember Ted asking me, ‘Do you and customers as it is the restaurant’s think if we build a new building that people 40th anniversary. The history of Makoto’s begins back in will come?’” Gwen recounted. “And I was like, 1981 when two brothers, Ray and Lee Bass, ‘Yes, they will!’” Ted was passionate about working on established the Japanese steakhouse in Boone. They owned several other restaurants plans for the new building. The location of in other locations including Hilton Head Is- it was to be pushed further back from the land in South Carolina and Melbourne, Flori- street with a parking lot in the front. While the new da, and they decided building was being Boone would make built, staff still ran the the next great spot. restaurant in the old The building building. They got for Makoto’s was through the winter originally the Alpine season and closed Steakhouse, but down the week afthe brothers soon transformed it into ter President’s Day Makoto’s Japanese The original building of Makoto’s opened in Weekend on Febru1981 and was torn down in 2004. Steakhouse and beary 16, 2004. Magan hiring people. Two individuals who were koto’s was closed for three months, and staff hired at the time were Ted Mackorell and were put on unemployment so they could Wendy, who has since remarried and is now return back to work when the new building Wendy Jones. When they first started, Ted was ready. had recently graduated from Appalachian “The old building was a lot more ornate State University, and Wendy was still in col- and dark, and it had these cushions,” Gwen lege around the age of 20. Wendy applied to described. “It was a different atmosphere be a waitress, and Ted was a busboy before than the new building, but we wanted to he eventually became a manager in 1982 upgrade with the times. That was more oldstyle Japanese, and now we are new-style and ran the restaurant. “When the restaurant opened, it was Japanese.” There is a garden in the center of the popular!” said Gwen Dhing, current owner of Makoto’s. “Everybody loved it because no- building that acts as the focal point of the body had been to something like this before. restaurant. All of the tables face into it so Makoto’s was one of the premiere Japanese guests can enjoy the bamboo growing there steakhouses that most people in North Caro- along with a Japanese maple tree. The tree lina hadn’t experienced ever back in the day. was moved from the old restaurant, and it Nobody had heard of a Japanese steakhouse was craned over the top of the building and and going and sitting and people cooking in placed inside the garden. The new building has 14 teppanyaki front of you.” One of the owners, Lee, passed away, grills that can seat 10 to 12 people at a table and then his brother Ray wanted to start sell- in addition to the bar area and patio. The max ing the restaurants. In 1985, Ted and Wendy capacity for the restaurant is 220 people. The new building of Makoto’s, which is bought the business while Ray still owned the land and the building until the 1990s when the same as it is today, opened on May 14, 2004. they bought the owner out completely. “But the day that we opened up in this The restaurant was located in what is now the front parking lot of Makoto’s and building, Ted found out that he had cancer, closer to the street of Blowing Rock Road. and he only lived a year and a half to the day The land behind the building contained a that he found out,” Gwen said. “We were a dirt parking lot and a trailer park at the time. team, and he built this new building, but he In 2003, there was talk about getting rid of never even got to work in it. It’s almost like he built it for us.” the trailer park.

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Gwen has been a vital part of the Blowing Rock Community Foundation’s fundraiser Groovy Nights where she performed as Tina Turner lip-syncing and dancing in front of a crowd in previous years. All profits raised from the show go to college scholarships for local students and grants for nonprofits in Blowing Rock. “She and Ronald have done a fabulous “Zumba is how she inspires people to be chian, so I got the football team,” Gwen healthier and see themselves in a different said. “I remember Ronald went to a place job,” he said. “I don’t know where she gets light. She doesn’t have to do it; she’s there and rented those big lights that they have the energy to do everything she does. She for them. It’s not so much exercising, it’s for the big red carpet shows, so we had runs the restaurant and does fundraisers. the lights outside, and it was a big deal She’s a hardworking gal. How does she do the inspiration. That’s priceless.” Besides being there for her employees to come here. We rolled out the red car- all that? I don’t know how she has that and her students, Gwen also takes the pet and went to the movie theater and much energy. I’ve got nothing but good time to give back to the community as got their velvet ropes and made it really things to say about Gwen.” Another fundraiser Gwen is a vital well. Over all years she has been in the special. It was fun, and we raised money High Country, Gwen has participated in for the Hospitality House, OASIS, High part of is Groovy Nights, which is the Blowing Rock Community fundraisers that have helped Foundation’s fundraiser. All out many different organizaprofits raised go to college tions. scholarships for local students “I don’t think people see and grants for nonprofits in the amount of time she generthe Town of Blowing Rock. ously gives to people for doing Groovy Nights involves a charity work and volunteering lot of dancing and lip-syncing her time to raise money,” Ronperformances that grace the ald said. “Those are the things stage at Blowing Rock’s Counthat go unnoticed. There’s a lot try Club. Out of the many — golf tournaments, Groovy things Gwen takes part in, a Nights, Celebrity Serve — any lot of people know her from charity work, she’ll do it.” playing the role of Tina Turner The first time Makoto’s in years past. ever did a fundraiser that “She not only brings Tina Gwen was a part of was when Turner to the performance Jack Pepper of Pepper’s Resand has for several years, taurant & Bar called her and Gwen as Tina Turner even made an appearance in the Blowing Rock Gwen has done a variety of invited her to participate in Fourth of July Parade riding in Ronald’s Tesla. different roles, but Tina TurnCelebrity Serve, which was a er is the most popular,” said fundraiser restaurants participated in that involved hosting meals with Country Soccer Association and the Mandy Poplin, Director of Membership, Marketing & Communications for Blowwell-known community figures to raise Make-A-Wish Foundation.” Along with doing fundraisers togeth- ing Rock Country Club. “Gwen is a local money for various causes. “It just so happened that I went to er, Jack Pepper has also watched as Gwen celebrity for owning Makoto’s and being high school with Mark Speir, who was took over ownership of Makoto’s and has the face of Makoto’s for so many years. She brings the local face that everybody one of the football coaches at Appala- grown into the position over the years. 74

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knows and performs for a good cause. She nails it pretty well. She shows really high energy in whatever the performance is, and she takes a lot of time to make sure that it’s choreographed well and true to the original artist. Gwen wants to do her part to give back to the community, and she does.” Sandy Miller, who is the chairman of the Blowing Rock Community Foundation agreed and added, “Gwen is awesome. She is a big hit at our Groovy Nights. Every single Over the years, Gwen has made many friends. Pictured here are Corrina Dietrich and Donna Lebert year, we love to have her at the end (Left) and Laila Patrick, who has known Gwen for at least 30 years (Right). of the show, and she does a fabuergy, and she literally would come bounc- me, it’s just really unique. She’s always lous job. We appreciate Gwen.” ing in, and she would have a big smile on there for me.” And nonprofit organizations aren’t From being a bright-eyed student new her face.” the only ones appreciative of Gwen. Her to Appalachian to establishing herself Eventually, Laila started going to best friend, Laila Patrick, who has known with her restaurant, classes and commuAbsolutely Aerobics, and she and Gwen Gwen for at least 30 years, remembers nity efforts in the High Country, Gwen started to hang out. Their close friendwhen she first saw Gwen. has always kept a high level of enthusiship grew from there. “I used to see her coming into Home asm and positivity in everything she does. “We just click on so many levels, and Video with Ronald, and I recognized her Through her close family, friends, emshe listens,” Laila said. “When she says from App State’s campus, but we weren’t in the same friend circles,” Laila said. “I something insightful, it is so spot on. ployees, students, the surrounding comjust remember them because they would When she will give you that sit down munity and afar, Gwen has been leavcome in and rent movies a lot, and she time, because she is always going, going, ing a lasting impression on everyone she would always come bouncing in with this going and she gives everyone help, but to encounters wherever her life adventure huge smile on her face. She was full of en- give you that extra time like she does with takes her. t

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Kitchen Manager Jody Peters Shares What it Takes to Put on a Show While Cooking Delicious Food

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akoto’s Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar has been a local favorite restaurant like no other in Boone where people can go for fine dining and enjoyable entertainment. Chefs put on a show, perform tricks and cook flavorful meals on the teppanyaki grill in front of guests who watch in awe. This experience wouldn’t be possible without the owners and the highly-trained staff who make Makoto’s the success it is today. Makoto’s kitchen manager Jody Peters, who has been working at the restaurant since 1994, knows what it takes to put on a show while cooking the exquisite cuisines served at Makoto’s. “It’s either hit or miss,” Jody said. “Somebody can go through the motions of cooking, but they may not be agile enough to do tricks and things. You can’t be clumsy and do it.” Jody remembers when owner Ronald Dhing trained him on the front teppanyaki grills around 1997, and he said he was very stiff in the beginning. “That’s where you have to be fluid with your motions,” Jody said. “Some of us were able to do it, and some could not do it. It’s just something you have in you.” In many other restaurants, there are hosts and servers (front of house) who interact with the customers and focus on getting the food out fast. Then there’s the kitchen staff (back of house) who often prefer not to talk to anybody, and they focus on cooking the food and making it taste the best it can. Makoto’s is different. “Here you have to learn how to cook, but you also have to have the personality that can deal with the customers as well,” said Gwen Dhing, owner of Makoto’s. “They have to be able to do both sides. They have to be able to cook the food, talk to the customers, put on a show and the food has to all be ready at the same time. Customers are always expecting a comedic performance as well.” When Jody first started training, he would come in on his time off and watch the chefs. He said observation is key. “You have to learn how to manipulate the grill, and that was the first thing I worried about,” Jody said. “I would sit down and order 76

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food, and I would sit on the end so I could watch the chef manipulate the heat of the grill because it’s either on or off.” When customers are seated, the host will turn on the grill so it’s warmed up when the chef arrives. And then when it comes to tricks, Jody said he would go home and practice. “I alerted the neighbors downstairs that there might be a lot of banging and noises going on, but everything was fine,” he said. “I would practice whenever I got the chance. Another guy that was also being trained was my roommate, so we practiced all the time and taught each other tricks.” Jody also remembers during training that at the end of every evening, staff would have an employee meal. Whoever worked that evening got a meal of rice, chicken and sometimes zucchini, onions and carrots depending on who was cooking. “But when Ronald was training me, he allowed people to order chicken, yakiniku and shrimp,” Jody said. “Then when I went out to cook

August / September 2021

for the employees, he made sure they were sitting around the table, and they had to be conversing and talking to each other and making it difficult for me to concentrate.” “I remember one time I had 20 orders,” Jody continued. “I had 20 people in one booth yelling stuff at me the whole time I was trying to concentrate on the order and converse with them at the same time. It was probably one of the most difficult things I had to do, but once I went to my first table, even though I was nervous, it was one of the easiest tables I had ever worked because I had so many people screaming and yelling, and these people weren’t. They were nice.” One of Jody’s favorite tricks he used to do was a lemon trick where he flipped a lemon up and when it came down he caught it on his fork. “The more noise you make, the more intriguing everything is,” Jody described. “Pa-pow! I would hit it as hard as I could and flip it up straight in the air and keep my fork where it was and catch it. That would probably be my favorite because once I learned to do it that way, I didn’t mess things up as much. If you add something new to your tricks, you have to work on it for a while before you actually add it at a table because you don’t want to mess up. The last thing you want to do is drop your spatula, stop what you’re doing, go wash your spatula, come back and start again.” Other popular tricks include the flaming onion volcano or when chefs throw balls of rice or shrimp tails at the customers. “I always tell people it’s my favorite job,” Jody said. “Anybody who gets a job here, if I see any frustration, I tell them this is the easiest job they will ever have, and for me, it is because I enjoy what I’m doing.” Jody cooked in front of guests from 1997 to 2004, and now he does most of the prep work in the back. “I still train people, but I take care of all the food, and that’s the big thing for me,” he said. “This is the perfect job for me to be the kitchen manager because all the food that we all use and eat, I get to replace it. I’m made for it. That’s why I enjoy it.”


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De la Cruz Farms — Where Hooves, Honey & Life-Enhancing Experiences Come Together

Serving as an oasis of sorts, de la Cruz Farms is a nondenominational faith-based organization for individuals and families dealing with the curve balls of life.

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Story By Sherrie Norris • Photos by Ken Ketchie

eaching or departing the mountain top are ways most people see their way through Deep Gap, but stopping at de la Cruz Farms in the heart of Deep Gap can mean a new life experience for many families in the area. A Spanish surname meaning “of the Cross,” de la Cruz Farms is a faith-based, nondenominational nonprofit organization — an oasis of sorts — for individuals and families dealing with challenging situations that life has thrown their way. Several years ago, owners Jeff and Bencita Brooks not only opened their minds to designing and creating this farm, but also their hearts and lives, to provide a place that offers positive, interactive farm experiences for children and their families. The Brooks couple, along with their daughter, Bella, have combined their indi-

vidual interests, talents, gifts and visions to lead what has evolved into a unique and life-enhancing opportunity for others. Since 2014, de la Cruz Farms has been serving area children and families in a unique farm-like setting that provides hands-on experiences in a safe, welcoming atmosphere. Its mission is simple: to offer

programs focused on restoration, learning and growth inspired by their Christian faith. “Our primary goal is to share Biblical truths about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with our guests, while helping them learn about the farm and to enjoy all it has to offer,” says Bencita Brooks, adding, “All of the activities we conduct at the farm

Just a few of the volunteers and staff members at de la Cruz Farms, pictured left to right: Jordan Rodgers, Bencita Brooks, Bella Brooks Bethany Critcher, Lori Eldred and Megan Temple. 78

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Whether for pleasure or therapy, or a mixture of both, horseback riding is one of the many activities youngsters are able to enjoy during their sessions at de la Cruz Farms. would be meaningless without the covering of genuine prayer.” What was once a seasonal outdoor venture has now become almost a year-round opportunity for the Brooks family to reach out to their friends, neighbors and even strangers throughout the High Country. Weekly one-on-one sessions are available at de la Cruz Farms for individuals and/or families at absolutely no cost (thanks to their fundraising efforts and the generosity of others), and include learning to care for the farm, its inhabitants

— horses and bees, primarily — as well as time spent in Bible study. The organization works with many special-needs individuals, so efforts are always made to make sure the farm is adequately equipped to do so, on a yearround basis. According to Bencita, the farm’s success is, in large part, due to its active board of directors, other volunteers and staff who recognize and reflect the organization’s core values, which, she says, include “commitment, compassion and humility.”

Looking Back In 2006, Jeff and Bencita began their new journey together by purchasing their farmstead, which included a house, acreage and an old barn in disrepair. Unknown to them at the time, they now reflect, God was engineering His purpose for their lives — and knitting together the skills, education, experiences and desires for His glory and their good. As a result of seeds planted long ago by Jeff ’s grandparents who lived on a farm, it was only natural, they say, for the couple

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ven though our Isaiah is still a little one of few words (though this is changing with Bencita’s help), he emphatically signs and says, “Yes!” when asked if he is ready to go to the farm. He enjoys visiting with Jubilee, watching the chickens, playing by the creek, and, of course, riding in the “Bota” (Kubota). It has been amazing to watch Isaiah’s progress during hippotherapy (equine therapy.) We have seen a notable difference in his confidence, communication skills and motor skills since he began riding Lakota. Bella and the trained volunteers who help during the sessions are so kind, caring and positive with Isaiah. Although he has not yet played on the playground, the open invitation to do so is a gift and one that we hope to explore soon. A few days following an illness and seizure, Isaiah had a hippotherapy session at the farm. He appeared to have had a setback with skills the days prior to and during the session. However, after hippotherapy, that night, it was if his whole little body and brain “woke up.” Isaiah was back to himself! Yes, to God be the glory! And, many thanks to Jeff and Bencita for their ministries at the farm. This hard-working and sanctuary place they have created invites us all with open arms and the love of God. de la Cruz Farms has been, and will continue to be, a blessing to our entire family, especially Isaiah. Your family’s work at your farm truly is a gift from our Lord. ‘Thank you’ just does not seem like enough! — Bob, Autumn, & Isaiah Cline August / September 2021

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Youngsters are matched up with trained session leaders to gain the full benefit of services offered at de la Cruz Farms. to utilize their property and resources to the ground of the Deep Gap property, the is described by Bencita as “a grace-filled build a farm environment in which chil- idea for a farm ministry became a reality husband and a dear father to our daughter, Bella; he is a great encourager with a dren, adults and families together love for nature, the outdoors and garcould enjoy programs that focused dening — and yes, horses.” on restoration, learning and growth. Today, the couple consider themCombining Jeff ’s desire to learn selves privileged with the opportuabout various aspects of farming nity to share their blessings with our more specifically — by keeping bees community. —and Bencita’s extensive speech It’s not about them and it’s not language therapy background with about hooves or honey, they emphachildren, a vision of a therapeutic size, “It is about magnifying God and farm ministry developed. His Son, Jesus Christ and speaking After overcoming her own fear of His gospel truth.” horses at the age of 40, Bencita beSince Sept. 1, 2014, when de gan to volunteer at a local therapeula Cruz Farms welcomed its first tic riding program for people with young participant and family, many disabilities. She also visited Crystal others have been able to enjoy their Peaks Youth Ranch in Oregon, which It’s fun and games atop their favorite animals for these two little time on the farm, learning about helped shape her vision for de la sisters who love their weekly visits to de la Cruz Farms. things that matter. Cruz Farms. She has since been able to combine for the couple. And, since 2014, despite a slow start in Sessions Impact Kids & Leaders the passion she has for others less fortunate with that of horses; in the last few honey production, the farm’s bees began Participation and acceptance are deyears especially, Bencita has learned that producing honey in abundance, which in termined first by the situation and need relationships with both can be built and turn, is a much-needed source of operating and then by availability, Bencita explains. income for the farm activities. strengthened through trust and respect. Each session varies, as it is tailored toward While not a “horse person” initially, Jeff the participant and his or her needs and From the first fence post that went into

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e learned about de la Cruz when our daughter was almost 4. She is a sweet and tender hearted child but was also shy and lacked confidence. We met Bethany at the annual picnic in July and we were so excited to learn that we could bring our little girl back to ride the horse. From the first day, Bethany developed a relationship with her that continues today. She is still the sweetest little girl but has grown in confidence so much. Now, our second daughter looks forward to coming for her turn. The girls may just ride around an arena on top of a horse but they leave feeling like they’ve been on top of the world. The farm chores have helped establish responsibility and the Bible time has aided in their foundation of knowledge of God’s word. De la cruz has been so dedicated to giving our family a special time of encouragement and refreshment. And as a parent, it is nothing more thrilling to see your child thrive, being filled with so much joy and to be learning about Christ. It’s amazing what God’s creation is able to do for us all. We are so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this tremendous ministry and we can’t wait to see how God uses these times in our lives in the future. — Mary Elizabeth 80

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interests. Sessions may last from 6090 minutes and present the leader and child the opportunity to get to know one another. The farm offers recreational horse-back riding and adaptive riding, as well as therapeutic riding. For recreational riding, “each participant will meet with a facilitator who will help him/her learn and grow in his/her understanding of horses and other animals,” Bencita added. “Farm choices may include pulling weeds, cleaning the pastures, watering the gardens, cleaning riding helmets, sweeping floors, feeding the chickens, cleaning the water trough, etc. We desire to encourage participants to learn responsibility, accountability and consistency when taking care of God’s creation.” Youngsters visiting the farm are Bencita Brooks is pictured with two of her regular participants as well as two visitors for the day asked to wear long pants and closedduring a recent Bible Truth session, which is something all the youngsters learn from and enjoy. toed shoes, preferably boots, if available, and be accompanied by at least one parent or guardian during his/her entire session. De la Cruz Farms works hand-in-hand with local licensed therapists — occupational, physical, speech/language pathologists — which enables them to utilize horse movements and the highly motivating tools of interaction with farm animals and the natural environment to help individuals achieve functional outcomes. “The term ‘hippotherapy’ (as used in one of the testimonials), originates from the Greek word, ‘hippo’ meaning ‘horse,’” Bencita describes. “Hippotherapy is an evidence-based practice of equine movement as a therapy tool to engage sensory, neuromotor and cognitive systems to promote functional outcomes as part of an integrated plan of care.” During adaptive and therapeutic riding, “When a participant is sitting on the horse, the horse’s walking gait facilitates movement responses remarkably similar to the human gait,” explains Bencita. “The effects can be used to improve coordination, timThis little visitor is a wide-eyed wonder and taking it all in as Bencita shares a Bible story in the barn on a hot summer day. ing, respiratory control, sensory integration and attention.” For participants who have emotional and traumatic aftermath, Bencita adds, the farm is a place for respite and rebuilding confi- gratefully received.” Currently, building materials, labor and funding are needed to dence, balancing emotions — and enjoying farm animals and the construct an indoor equine facility with a sensory/therapy room, farm atmosphere. an observation room, bathroom, second therapy room and indoor riding arena. How Can You Help? “This facility will be used to provide needed one-on-one sesBy God’s provision of private donations, Bencita said, sessions and speech, physical, and occupational therapy, utilizing sions are provided at no cost to families. “We receive no other hippotherapy techniques to reach functional outcomes for indifunding, thus, (tax deductible) donations of any amount are

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ince 2017 De La Cruz Farms has been an integral part of our 13-year old’s road to recovery from a traumatizing childhood. Although she looks like a typically developing teen from the outside, her cognition keeps her from thriving academically. Her confidence has soared to new heights with her knowledge of horse care and scripture, which is something she has had to work hard to accomplish. She has multiple Bible verses treasured in her heart through her exposure to the Gospel at Backyard Bible Buzz and through Bible Lessons shared with her at the farm. She has progressed from standing next to a horse with a timid expression on her face to working her way up to a trot, which she is thrilled to share with anyone who asks her. She looks forward to sessions with her instructor each week and begs to have them rescheduled if one is cancelled (usually due to rain because of the outdoor riding arena). We are so thankful to have de La Cruz in our lives and are so encouraged by the good works by all of the staff members as they minister to families with children with special needs in our community. — Joe and Sheila Temple August / September 2021

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The playground and farm animals are always popular with regular participants and visitors at de la Cruz Farms.

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orses and animals have been a special part of my life for as long as I can remember, and they’re a passion I have loved sharing with others over the years. I have been actively involved as a club officer at Appstate by leading a volunteer-based club that works with local programs and organizations to serve the needs of individuals of all ages and abilities in Boone. I knew de la Cruz Farm was where I needed to be when I saw how perfectly those two separate passions and talents of mine collided and provided me with an intentional way to serve. I never thought I’d say I serve the Lord by mucking pastured and grooming horse, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! I love that de la Cruz tangibly benefits everyone involved in both physical and spiritual ways — from the participants and families to the volunteers, everyone is valued. I am grateful for de la Cruz and ways I have been encouraged and challenged to be present in the lives of others and share Christ’s love through the things I am passionate about. — Megan Temple, farm staff

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e la Cruz Farm has been a tremendous blessing to our family. Our 5-year-old was born very early, at 23 weeks, and has cerebral palsy as a result. He is able to ride therapy horses at de la Cruz and I have noticed a great difference in his core strength and balance when he rides. He also loves to look at and sit on the tractor and big lawn mower! In addition to our 5-year-old, we also have children 8 and 11 who love to ride. They have gained confidence and learned many things about horses. They also enjoy the Bible lesson so graciously provided by the volunteers.  As a mom, I feel that de la Cruz is a safe place for my kids to learn about riding and caring for the horses and other animals. I know that the staff pays attention to their physical safety as well as keeping everything child friendly. Ms. Bethany is very patient and willingly answers the seemingly endless questions from my kids! I can tell the staff genuinely love my children.  Every time we visit de la Cruz none of us want to leave! We always take a few extra minutes to love on the horses, sheep, chickens, and cow! All in all, de la Cruz has been such a blessing to our family. We are so thankful for the people who work so diligently to provide a place like de la Cruz Farm.  — Michelle Parsons

D

e la Cruz Farms is such a blessing for families in this area. My granddaughters get so excited every time they know we are going there! The love of Jesus and his peace can be experienced there like no other place. We are so thankful for it and appreciate all who work there and who give us the opportunity to learn and grow in such a happy place. — Melinda Bryan

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have had the privilege and blessing of being a small part of de la Cruz Farm for a few years. My children have received services and now we have the opportunity to volunteer. It is amazing to watch God move in extraordinary ways through the animals, staff, volunteers, and land. We count our blessings and thank The Lord to be a little piece of this ministry. It certainly has our hearts! — Bunny Osborne

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or me, volunteering at de La Cruz is one of the best things I have ever done. It has not only given me so many opportunities to grow, it has also given me the opportunity to help others grow, as well — from learning about communication and team work, to learning to be calm in stressful situations. I have seen the farm touch the lives of so many people by allowing them a space to grow, learn and heal. — Jordan Rogers, volunteer

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viduals with a variety of abilities. (For more information, visit americanhippotherapyassociation.org.) Consistent funding for the 501(c)(3) organization to insure its ongoing facility and animal upkeep is a great need, Bencita says. “This includes basic animal care needs, veterinary well-checks, feed, shelter, equipment and paid employees.” Volunteers are a crucial part of the farm’s success and are needed to help with sessions, as well as farm chores. If under the age of 18, volunteers must have at least one parent/ guardian on premises with the volunteer. Volunteers must also be approved by the ministry’s board of directors, complete a face-to-face interview, pass background checks and have positive references. In addition to the aforementioned needs, future goals for the farm include the purchase of additional horses to allow for more sessions per day and increasing facility use by working with local medical and social service organizations to accommodate specific needs and specialized therapies. In its leadership roles, the Brooks couple is joined by Halle Pilkington, assistant director; Bethany Critcher, program director, Lori Elred, assistant program director, and the following board of directors: Doug Cheshier, Mitchell Gragg, Jennifer Cook and Gretchen Baldwin.

Community Outreach For several years prior to COVID, de la Cruz Farms hosted The Living Promise – A Live Nativity, a drive-through experience that presented participants an idea of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ, the gospel of which is paramount to the ministry. (There are currently no plans to resume this event.) The farm also hosts Barnyard Bible Buzz Vacation Bible School each summer, which expanded to a family edition this year. The organization also works closely with local health care practitioners to host Love and Logic forums. Its Honey Harvest Hoedown, a large and increasingly popular fundraiser, has been happening for several years and is on tap again for August 21. (See sidebar for more information.) De La Cruz Farms is located at 6696 Old 421S in Deep Gap. For more information and to access participant/ volunteer applications, or to learn how you can donate toward this worthy organization, visit www.delacruzfarms. com, or call (828) 964-8152. t

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Let the M u s i c P l a y August / September 2021

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What started out as a small endeavor with three beehives at de la Cruz Farms has become a huge undertaking for beekeeper Jeff Brooks — and a welcome funding source for his family’s nonprofit organization.

It’s Time for the 2021 Honey Harvest Hoedown I

f you enjoy good music, food, fun and fellowship while supporting a good cause, de la Cruz Farms is the place to be on Saturday, August 21, from 4-7 p.m. The Annual Honey Harvest Hoedown in Deep Gap is just around the corner and promises to be an event you don’t want to miss. It gives the High Country community a chance to come together once again for a fundraising event to learn more about the organization and to help with its ongoing needs. Among the fun events at the upcoming celebration will be fun games, including grape throwing — catch it in your mouth

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contest for the kids, a watermelon seed spitting contest, a bounce house, horseshoe competitions, live music by the Jones family and linedancing. The very popular baked pie contest is returning this year, with two divisions: those 13 and younger as well as adults have a chance to win nice prizes from the farm. Barbecue chicken and all the fixin’s will be catered by The Scarlet Hen. Suggested donations are : Students: $8 Adults: $15 Couples: $25 Children 13 and over: $10

August / September 2021

Children 12 and younger: $5 Large families: $40 maximum For more information about de la Cruz Farms, to secure your tickets and/or register for the pie contest, call 828-964-8152 or email info@delacruzfarms.com.

The first three beehives at de la Cruz Farms


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ADV E R T I S E R S I N D E X Please patronize the advertisers in High Country Magazine, and when you purchase from them, please be sure to mention that you saw their ad in our pages. Thank them for their support of this publication by giving them yours! Without their support, this magazine would not be possible. To all of All Area Codes are 828 unless noted. ADVERTISER

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Parting Shot...

Photo by Ken Ketchie

Butch and Gina Triplett with Jim Houston in the dining room of Woodlands on Wednesday, August 4, 2021.

Woodlands Closes a Chapter of Blowing Rock History

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ne constant has been part of the essence of the High Country during the past forty years, with a direct link to the time when Watauga, Avery, Ashe and Caldwell Counties served no alcohol, except in Blowing Rock; Highway 321 was two-lane all the way to Boone; and ASU had only 10,000 students. Until this month, the ownership of Woodlands Barbecue on the 321 has remained the same, with partners Butch Triplett and Jim Houston always at the helm. They opened forty-one years ago because they had to sell food to be able to sell beer and wine. Woodlands belongs to that special moment in time when the legendary P.B. Scott’s Music Hall, Sonny’s Grill, Sundown Times and Coffey’s Restaurant made the High Country hop especially for college kids – ingredients of a rare formula arising unbidden from the ether which conjures outstanding success and unforgettable memories. “When P.B. Scott’s came along, they started to try and get rid of it,” said Butch, who at that time with wife Gina was operating the Grubstake Saloon, a 88

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beer-and-wine-and music establishment, and doing pig roasts at a farm in the summer. “The town passed a law you had to sell 51% food to sell beer and wine as a way to get rid of P.B Scott’s.” Butch and Gina already served burritos and Fraser’s Frozen Barbecue, but “somehow Grubstake were the ones going to Court over how much food we sold.” Down at Coffey’s, bartender Jim talked of barbecuing. Butch asked, “Do you really want to start a barbecue place? He said yes. I said, you give me X amount of money and we’ll sweep and paint and change the name and put up a sign [as Woodlands] and we did a little remodeling and cleaned it up.” Jim remembers getting into the business by asking Butch in Grubstake if he’d thought about opening a restaurant. “We started hammering nails in ’79 and we got the doors open on May 16, 1980,” he said. Since then – except in 1991, when the boyfriend of one employee burned the whole place to the ground – Woodlands has gone from strength to strength, with a reputation for the best barbecue, sauces

August / September 2021

and entertainment around and a successful catering business as well. It concentrated traditional High Country culture, joy and fun in a place anyone could feel immediately at home. Big names dropped in, like Rita Coolidge who was in town for a concert at P.B. Scott’s, buying up all the hot corn bread and sending one of her crew back to buy their all t-shirts. But now, “tons” of barbecue later, the time for the changing of the guard has come. Butch will be 80 next birthday; Jim is already 70. Covid closed them down for three months. Students don’t have to travel to Blowing Rock for beer and wine, though the road is safer. Ethan Anderson of the Pedalin’ Pig was ready. It was just time to let the business go, they felt. “Yes, I’ll miss this place,” Butch says, reminiscing about musical acts from the past. And he adds, in parting, to the countless patrons he can remember from down the years, “Thank you very much.” “Thank you very much,” echoes Jim. We’ve enjoyed serving you for the last 40 years. Blowing Rock has done us good.” By Bernadette Cahill


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High Country Magazine Aug./Sept. Issue 2021  

This edition features a look at the ongoing upgrades and expansion efforts at Watauga Medical Center, the life story of longtime Watauga Cou...

High Country Magazine Aug./Sept. Issue 2021  

This edition features a look at the ongoing upgrades and expansion efforts at Watauga Medical Center, the life story of longtime Watauga Cou...

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