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31st Annual

Christmas in July Join us


June 30

(Afternoon Kickoff)

& July 1 (All Day)

Downtown West Jefferson

Music, Crafts, Food, Children's Activities, Christmas Tree Growers’ Contest & Demonstrations and MUCH MORE!

2 - Mountain Times Publications


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Road closures planned for CIJ Festival BY BEN COGSDALE

The annual Christmas in July Festival is back for another installment and community members and locals alike will need to prepare for road closures in downtown West Jefferson. According to the Christmas in July Festival footprint, the BackStreet between Ashe Street and Main Street will be closed starting midnight on Thursday, June 29. Main Street between Jefferson Avenue and BackStreet will also be closed. The event will kick off on Friday, June 30 with live music beginning at 3 p.m. Beginning at midnight on Friday the entire footprint of the festival will be closed: • Main Street from Jefferson Avenue to Church Street • BackStreet from Ashe Street to Second Avenue • State Street at Jefferson Avenue • College Street from Main Street to First Avenue On Saturday, July 1, the festival will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 7 p.m. All streets in the festival footprint will remain closed to vehicle traffic except for controlled load in and load out and emergency vehicles. Parking There will be a number of parking locations available in downtown West Jefferson for festivalgoers. The following locations will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. • The corner of Second Street and Jefferson Avenue • Two parking lots between First Street and Second Street • The parking lot across from the Ashe County Cheese Factory • Public lot in front of Ashe County Early Learning • First Baptist Church • West Jefferson United Methodist • West Jefferson Municipal Cemetery • Fifth Third Bank Parking locations at private establishments may be subject to parking fees on the day of the festival. Handicap parking will be located at Main Street and Jefferson Avenue and at Market Street. Restrooms Public Restrooms will be available for use at the following locations: • Near Civil War reenactment in the West Jefferson Park • Across from the Community Stage • At the end of the craft section, at South Church Street • At the Ashe County Farmers Market • At the Corner of State Street and Jefferson Avenue


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mountain Times Publications -


‘People’s Choice’ Christmas Tree Competition Scheduled for July 1 Birdsell: ‘Christmas Tree contest is an opportunity for a little friendly competition among our growers’ BY BRIDGETTE STURGILL


ontinuing the tradition of promoting Ashe County Christmas trees during the Christmas in July Festival, the Christmas tree competition will be held on Saturday, July 1. This year’s contest will return with “The People’s Choice,” which gives the power to the people, allowing festival attendees the opportunity to vote for their favorite Christmas tree on display from Ashe County Christmas tree growers. “The Christmas tree contest is an opportunity for a little friendly competition among our growers,” said Ashe County Christmas tree extension agent Travis Birdsell. “It is also an opportunity to get consumer preference information, to figure out what type of tree people prefer and for the farms to market their award winning trees. Overall, the Christmas tree contest is a way to bring the Christmas tree consumers and the farmers together.” The 2016 People’s Choice Winner was Hart-T-Tree Farm of Grassy Creek.This year’s winner will receive a $1,000 prize and their name on a trophy. Because the competition is used to promote local Christmas trees, the contest is only open to Ashe County residents. Local growers interested in participating in the competition will need to deliver their tree to Parsons Farm Fertilizer & Feed, 1 State St., West Jefferson, between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Friday, June 30. Voting for the trees will begin on July 1 at 9 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. The winners of the contest will be announced on the main stage at 4 p.m. According to Birdsell other Christmas tree-related events and displays will be held at the booth located in front of Parsons; an educational

display of Christmas trees, how they grow, their environmental benefits and a wreath making demonstration. The undecorated trees will be located in front of Parsons Farms Fertilizer & Feed and will be individually numbered; attendees will cast their ballot on their favorite tree. The voting booth will be located in the middle of the trees. “This year the people who vote will be entered into a drawing, and if their name is picked they will be able to choose between one of three choose-and-cut trees that have been donated by specific farms,” said Birdsell. “The competition is always a great time for everyone and it really brings us back to our roots.” The Christmas in July festival begin in 1987 as a way to promote tourism in Ashe County by featuring the very best of what Ashe County has to offer: the local Christmas tree industry. “The Christmas in July festival is perfect for tying back into the original intent of the festival, which is celebrating the Frasier fir and the Christmas tree industry in Ashe County,” said festival board member Jane Lonon. “The Christmas tree contest keeps people coming back later on for choose-and-cut season.” Ashe County is known for growing Christmas trees and is one of the top Christmas tree producers in the world. According to the Ashe County Christmas Tree Association, seven Frasier firs from the area have been selected to be a White House official tree. The Christmas tree industry has become a major economic and agriculture staple, generating tourism and revenue for the county The festival was originally organized by the Ashe County Christmas Tree Association, and since its start, the festival has quickly expanded and changed but the goal has always been to promote the

PHOTO SUBMITTED Christmas trees will line ‘competition row’ during the 2017 festival.

local Christmas tree industry. The Ashe County Christmas Tree Association is a group of family farmers in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains that specialize in growing the “Cadillac of Christmas trees” the Frasier fir. According to the Ashe County Christmas Tree Association, the Frasier fir is highly prized all around the country because of its aroma, shape, dark green color, excellent needle retention and strong branches capable of carrying heavy ornaments. Association members also grow a wide variety of other tree species and nursery stock, in addition to making and shipping wreaths and garland. There are also a number of farms that operate choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms where individuals and families from all across the south visit to get their Christmas tree. For more information on the Christmas tree contest or Ashe County Christmas Tree Association, call Ashe County Cooperative Extension at (336) 846-5850 or email at

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4 - Mountain Times Publications

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Thursday, June 22, 2017


Schedule of Events Friday, June 30 BACK STREET 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. — Special Produce Farmers Market

MAIN STAGE 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. — Restless 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. — Lenz Frienz 5:45 to 6:30 p.m. — Opening Ceremonies 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. — Lucky Strikes 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. — Buck Haggard

WEST JEFFERSON BOWIE-SEAGRAVES PARK 6:30 p.m. — Skirmish Back to Camp 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. — Talk to Re-enactors in Camp

Saturday, July 1



BACK STREET 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. — Farmers Market

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9 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Christmas Tree Contest

COMMUNITY STAGE SCHEDULE 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. — Junior Appalachian Musicians 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. — Dancin’ Debbie’s 12 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. — Taylon Miller 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. — Footloose Express Cloggers 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. — Fleet Feet Cloggers 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. — Faith River 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. — Blue Ridge Kung-Fu Arnis Academy 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. — Henry Doss and The Turning Point 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. — Molasses Jam


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9 a.m. to 10 a.m. — Backporch Bluegrass 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. — Crooked Road Ramblers 11 p.m. to 12 p.m. — Elkville String 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. — Nothing New 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. — Jeff Little: The Pianoman 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. — Barr and Williams 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. — ClayBank 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. — The Dollar Brothers 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. — Never Too Late 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. — Amantha Mill

WEST JEFFERSON BOWIE-SEAGRAVES PARK 8 a.m. — Camp Opens to Public 10:30 a.m. — Ladies Tea 11:30 a.m. — Meet the Generals 12:30 p.m. — Artillery Demonstration 1:30 p.m. — Gen. Jones talk to troops and public on courage and honor 3 p.m. — Battle of Boone 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. — Sit and talk in camp, greet and meet re-enactors



Thursday, June 22, 2017


Mountain Times Publications -


Showmanship at the Ashe County Livestock Show BY TROY BROOKS

PHOTO COURTESY CHRISTMAS IN JULY FESTIVAL From left, a festivalgoer gets a first-hand experience of interactive theater by Jef at a previous Christmas in July Festival.

CIJ Festival not just for adults BY BEN COGSDALE

The annual Christmas in July Festival has many longstanding traditions, and fun and interactive activities for children is no exception. The threelot section of the festival, dubbed Creation Station, is located at booth 101 through 103 on the BackStreet and provides a creative and fun space for children to play. There will be face painting, arts and crafts and other activities. It’s not only been an annual addition to the event for years but, according to vice president of the Christmas in July board of directors Jane Lonon, it really adds some festival flair. “It’s important to have stuff for the children,” Lonon said. “It makes the Christmas in July Festival for all ages.” As in years past, Creation Station will be the headquarters for the festival’s roaming performers. Jef from Interactive Theater

by Jef, stilt walker Mark Lippard, balloon sculptor Donna Pruitt and magician Professor Whizzpop will all be in attendance dazzling and entertaining children and adults alike. Creation Station will also serve as the surrogate home of St. Nick himself, and kids will have the opportunity to pose for a photo with the man in the red suit. Further up the street, youth will also have an opportunity to play on a number of inflatables such as the moonwalk, slide, monster truck combo and obstacle course. The inflatables will be located at LifeStore Bank across from the community stage. The Community Stage will showcase the local talent in Ashe County, including performances by the Junior Appalachian Musicians, Dancin’ Debbie’s, Taylor Miller, Footloose Express Cloggers, Fleet Feet Cloggers, Faith River, Blue Ridge KungFu Arnis Academy, Henry Doss & The Turning Point

Agriculture has played a significant role in the communities of the High Country and that importance is being celebrated at the Ashe County Livestock Show on July 1 as children and families come out to showcase their favorite farm animals. The show will take place on July 1, the same day as the Christmas in July Festival, and is located at Upper Mountain Research Station in Laurel Springs at 8004 N.C. Hwy. 88 East. Participants are expected to starting bringing animals in at about 8:30 a.m. and the show starts at 10 a.m. Participants will show off a wide variety of animals including dairy cows, beef heifers, goats, sheep, lambs and poultry. The show is open to all youth in the Showmanship and Type classes. Exhibiters younger than 18, as of Jan. 1, are eligible to participate in Showmanship. For children, the classes are divided up into four different age groups; 6 and younger, 7 to 9, 10 to 14 and 15 to 18. Adults may also participate in the Showmanship and Type classes and will be placed separate from youth. This year’s Showmanship class will judge on how well participants control and present their animals, while the Type class will focus on the volume, body scores, legs and structure of the animals. Part of the goal of this year’s Livestock Show is to promote the importance of agriculture to the local communities. “Whether you are involved in agriculture or not, you’re still being affected by it, whether it’s through what you eat, what you wear, where your entertainment comes from, everything we do we get from agriculture,” said Ashe County Agriculture Extension Agent Micah Orfield. “It’s so important, not only for our kids but also because they share it with their parents and it creates a whole circle of how we are educating our families on how significant agriculture is today.” Several 4-H children will also be featured at the show, and have been practicing for the competition since April on breaking in their halters for cattle and sheep, as well as preparing to show off their beef heifers. “A lot of the children I know, when they first got involved, did not have cattle or sheep and now they are looking into getting their own animals,” said Orfield. “Whether they go into that later in life or not is up to them, but they’re learning now how cattle react, how they can interact with cattle and how it is so important to their lives. It also teaches them best management practices, such as handling cattle correctly, feeding them and vaccinating them. They’re learning important jobs, responsibility and how to network.” Orfield stated that participating animals should be broke and sheep should be sheered unless they’re a hair breed. Animals should also be cleaned before the competition and children will be washing their animals the day before the show. A health certificate must be present on the day of arrival, otherwise the animal must be inspected while it’s still in the trailer. For awards, grand champions will be awarded $30, first place $20, second place $15 and third place $10. Children will also receive participation ribbons. The Livestock Show is made possible by the hard work, planning and fundraising of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Ashe County Center staff, officials said. For more information, call Ashe County Cooperative Extension at (336) 846-5850.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY ASHE COUNTY COOPERATIVE EXTENSION Allison Brown participates in the 2016 Ashe County Livestock Show located at the Upper Mountain Research Station in Laurel Springs.

300 E. Main Street • West Jefferson, NC 336-246-7114 •

3470 Highway 221 • Jefferson, NC 336-982-2121 •


6 - Mountain Times Publications

Christmas in July

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Weekend to showcase Ashe County’s Christmas tree industry



ith the first weekend of July quickly approaching, many Americans are gearing up for Independance Day celebrations, but, for 31 years, Ashe County natives have reserved the first celebration of July for the Christmas in July Festival. The annual event that began as a means of showcasing the Christmas tee industry in Ashe County, has evolved into the preeminent festival of the summer. In 1987, Christmas tree growers gathered to develop a festival that would promote the No. 1 industry in the county. The Christmas in July Festival began as a three-day event spanning Friday afternoon through late Sunday. Christmas in July Festival Committee treasurer and Ashe County Native Wesley Barker remembers the festival at its peak in the mid-1990s, stretching the entire length of Jefferson Avenue and Main Street.

PHOTO COURTESY CHRISTMAS IN JULY FESTIVAL Thousands of people will fill BackStreet in downtown West Jefferson to experience the 31-year-old tradition of Christmas in July.

During this time, the number of vendors at the festival reached a couple of hundred, and Barker estimates more than 25,000 visitors attended over the weekend. With the large increase in popularity during the years

however, came the increase in commercialization. Barker said he remembers sports memorabilia vendors and even a hot tub dealer at early festivals. According to West Jefferson Board of Aldermen minutes from

2004, the festival changed its ending date to Saturday evening for the first time since its inception. In retrospect, this signaled the beginning of a transition period for Christmas in July. In 2006, the committee was at a

crossroads deciding whether to dissolve the festival or reorganize it. According to WJ BOA minutes from 2006, several organizers for the event resigned and a motion was made before the board to shift the festival toward local heritage and away from commercial products. Around this time the festival also relocated off of Jefferson Avenue to BackStreet, where it’s currently held. Vice president of the Christmas in July Festival board of directors Jane Lonon said that the festival has transformed during the years into a celebration of arts, music and the local mountain heritage. The 2017 installment of CIJ Festival will take place on BackStreet on July 1 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission to the festival is free for everyone and convenient parking locations are dispersed throughout the downtown area. While Saturday will be a full day affair, prospective attendees can get a jump on the action SEE FESTIVAL ON PAGE 7

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Thursday, June 22, 2017


with live music at 3 p.m. on Friday, June 30. Restless will take the stage from 3 to 4:30 p.m. while Lenz Frienz, Lucky Strikes and Buck Haggard Band will follow. Food Vendors will open at 5 until 10 p.m. and the Ashe County Farmers Market will also be open from 5 until 8 p.m. Friday will set the stage for the Civil War reenactments, another popular element of the festival. The reenactors will march into town to open the festival between 6 and 7 p.m. before performing their opening skirmish at 7:30. Attendees will have the first of several opportunities to talk with reenactors back at the camp after the skirmish. The festivities resume on Saturday with a number of musical acts on the main stage while the community stage will feature more performance art. Musical acts such as Backporch Bluegrass Band, Crooked Road Ramblers, Elkville String Band, Nothing New Band, Jeff Little: The Pianoman, ClayBank, The Dollar Brothers, Never Too Late and Amantha Mill will perform at the main stage Saturday. The community stage will feature the Junior Appalachian Musicians, Dancin’ Debbie’s, Taylor Miller, Footloose Express Cloggers, Fleet Foot Cloggers, Faith River, Blue Ridge Kung-Fu Arnis Academy, Henry Doss & The Turning Point and Molasses Jam. The popular street performers will be

Mountain Times Publications -

roaming throughout the festival looking for attendees to entertain. Jef from Interactive Theater by Jef, stilt walker Mark Lippard, balloon sculptor Donna Pruitt and magician Professor Whizzpop will all be in attendance. Christmas in July wouldn’t be complete without Santa, and Creation Station will serve as his main headquarters. The signature Christmas tree contest will also return this year. The contest will once again give the people a voice operating on a “People’s Choice” voting system. Prospective voters can place their votes between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday and the winner will be announced at 4. The Civil War reenactors will open their camp at 8 a.m. on Saturday and have several different activities sure to give attendees a taste of the history. Their performance is highlighted by the Battle of Boone at 3 p.m. All in all, the the latest installment of Christmas in July will be filled with all the crafts, food and fun that festivalgoers have come to expect over its 31 years. Sponsors for the event are the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company, Fleet Feet Cloggers, Ashe Civic Center, Timothy Rector D.D.S., P.A., Skyline/Skybest, Ashe County Arts Council, Mountain Aire Golf Club, Perry’s Gold Mine, Ashe County Cheese, Mountain Town Dental, American Emergency Vehicles, Town of West Jefferson, Ashe County Chamber of Commerce and the West Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department.

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8 - Mountain Times Publications

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Jammin’ at Christmas in July BY TROY BROOKS


ull up a chair, sit back and relax this year as you enjoy this year’s band line-up for the Ashe County Christmas in July Festival. This year’s music roundup highlights 14 bands. Some of the highlights of today’s schedule include BackPorch Bluegrass, The Dollar Brothers Band, Amantha Mill, Crooked Road Ramblers, ClayBank, Elkville String Band, Jeff Little and Never Too Late:

BACKPORCH BLUEGRASS Since coming together in 2005, BackPorch Bluegrass has slowly grown to becoming the hard-driving and highly sought after North Carolina based band it is today. The band is led by vocalist and guitar player David Culler, who provides a high, lonesome sound with one of the strongest bluegrass

PHOTO PROVIDED BY BACKPORCH BLUEGRASS Members of the Backporch Bluegrass band are, from left, Jake Joines on dobro, Wes Tuttle on mandolin/vocals, David Culler on guitar/vocals, Jim Matthews on upright bass/vocals and Tony Joines on banjo.

voices in the region. It was back in 2004 when his love of bluegrass music first inspired him to pick up the guitar. Willing to play or do whatever is necessary for the

group, banjoist Tony Joines is a superb musician who has played with many music groups in the past. Wes Tuttle plays many roles in the band. Aside from taking care of the mando-

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lin and fiddle duties of the group, Tuttle provides the tenor harmony of the group, as well as leading vocals on occasion. He has played with many professional groups in his time and brings a wealth of experience and expertise for the band Jim Matthews plays the upright Bass and brings a smooth baritone harmony to BackPorch Bluegrass. Another great musician, he can play fiddle, mandolin and guitar, and has experience playing with bands all over the country in different genres. The BackPorch Bluegrass Band is often visited by special guest Jacob Joines, who is the 2011 Galax Fiddlers Convention dobro champion and full-time member of the Darrell Webb Band. BackPorch Bluegrass plays at many events every year including festival, concerts, private parties and events, weddings and wherever the music takes them, according to BackPorch Bluegrass will be playing on the Main Stage from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. July 1.

THE DOLLAR BROTHERS Providing a high energy, family oriented bluegrass stage show, The Dollar Brothers are a traditional bluegrass band from Watau-

ga and Ashe County who have been playing bluegrass for more than 20 years, according to their website at The band is led by Darrel Dollar, the lead singer and oldest of the three brothers. He plays mandolin and has written many songs for the band. The second of the three brothers, Barry Dollar plays both banjo and fiddle and sings lead and baritone. Wade Dollar, the youngest of the three, plays many roles, from singing tenor and lead to playing guitar, claw hammer banjo and dobro. A cousin to the Dollar Brothers, Tim Norris plays banjo, guitar and piano and is also known for his vocals. J.M. Trivette of Zionville is the band’s bass player. The Dollar Brothers have shared the stage with many luminaries, including Jim and Jesse, The Seldom Scene, Doyle Lawson, Bill Monroe and The Osborne Brothers. They will be taking to the Main Stage at 4 p.m. July 1.

AMANTHA MILL A community oriented old/bluegrass act based out of Boone, Amantha Mill brings bluegrass, swing, cowboy, country and Americana roots music to West Jefferson for Christmas in

July. There is something here for everyone. The band was formed by Rebecca Eggers-Gryder, who formed the name from the small mill community of Amantha, N.C., from which her family comes from. While the mill may not be there anymore, having been washed away years ago, you can still see its footing if you take a drive through Cove Creek. Born and raised in Boone, Rebecca Eggers-Gryder is the bass player of the band. She has a keen interest and love for folk and bluegrass music and spends much of her time crafting songs and lyrics that dabble in the genres of bluegrass, country and blues. She has been an attorney for 20 years in her family’s law firm. Bill Helms started his music career after hearing the famous banjo theme from the movie “Deliverance.” Helms has performed at Carowinds, co-fronted half of the country duet “Marshall and Vaughn” and performed at Tweetsie Railroad. He also spent seven years in France performing with Grammy-winning artists, the Moody Brothers, at EuroDisney. He is the Worship Leader/Music Pastor at Howard’s Creek Baptist Church and a Certified Financial Planner. Bringing a smooth and stylistic flare to the group is John Cockman on fiddle, who always finds a way to produce interpretations of the band’s music while also providing a harmonic singing bass. Cockman has a doctorate in physics and is a professor in the department of Physics and Astronomy at Appalachian State University in Boone. Born and raised just down the road from acoustic music legend Doc Watson, Kevin Eller has been playing banjo since he was a teenager and has been involved in bluegrass since he was a child. Eller is a man of many talents, SEE JAMMIN’ ON PAGE 10

Thursday, June 22, 2017


Mountain Times Publications -

LIVE COOKING SHOW! with Celebrity Chef Jon Ashton September 9, 2017 6:00-9:00 PM • Watauga High School Auditorium Doors Open at 4:30 PM for Vendor Booths

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10 - Mountain Times Publications


playing banjo and guitar while providing harmony and lead vocals. He is a member of the Worship Team at his church and is pursuing his Doctorate Degree in Accounting at Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond, VA. Raised singing in church while also playing and singing Bluegrass and Gospel music since he was a child, Dustin Petrey brings energy and passion into the band. Petrey started learning mandolin when he was 13 years old and soon followed with guitar. Petrey also played in a previous bluegrass band, Standing Ground, along with Eller. Dustin works for Operation Heal Our Patriots and leads worship at his church. The members of Amantha Mill have a long history which comes together to form a tight group, harmonies and an explosive energetic sound that pays tribute to the mountain music heritage, according to the band’s website at Amantha Mill will be taking to the Main Stage at 6 p.m. July 1.

CLAYBANK Formed in January 2015, Claybank is comprised of Gary Trivette on bass, Tyler Thompson on banjo, Jacob Greer on guitar and Zack Arnold on mandolin. Proof that raw young talent combined with a wealth of


Band Schedule This year the 2017 Christmas in July lineup features 14 bands performing a wide range of music on the Main Stage, including jazz, bluegrass, blues, folk and country. All concerts are free and open to the public.

JUNE 30 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. — Restless 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. — Lenz Frienz 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. — Lucky Strikes 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. — Buck Haggard

JULY 1 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. — BackPorch Blue-

musical experience and expertise can prevail, this four-piece band has combined dynamic instrumentation and powerful vocals to produce an award-winning show. Arnold is a musician who has been around bluegrass music his whole life, joining his family in song at the local church and singing before he was 2 years old. As a child he took mandolin lessons and fell in love with the guitar as he grew older. With the formation of Claybank, Arnold moved back to the mandolin and began to astound audiences with his hard-hitting mandolin style along with

grass 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. — Crooked Road Ramblers 11 p.m. to 12 p.m. — Elkville String 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. — Nothing New 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. — Jeff Little: The Pianoman 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. — Barr and Williams 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. — ClayBank 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. — The Dollar Brothers 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. — Never Too Late 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. — Amantha Mill COMPILED BY TROY BROOKS

his strong vocals and harmonies. Forming his music at a young age, Greer learned to play electric guitar when he was 8 years old. He was introduced to bluegrass music a couple years later and soon began taking flat-picking lessons, studying the techniques of guitar greats Kenny Smith and Tony Rice. In 2012, he was invited to join Heritage, a local bluegrass gospel band, where he played guitar and sang for four years. Greer is recognized for his leads on guitar picking and his rhythm in ClayBank and his vocal range contributes to the band’s articulate sound. Born in Watauga County, Thompson was introduced at an early age to bluegrass music by his father, who also plays bass. At the age of 10 he started taking banjo and guitar lessons and soon began winning contests on both instruments. His primary instrument in ClayBank is the banjo and he is also an accomplished songwriter and singer, performing both harmony and lead vocals. Born to a musical family in Watauga County, Trivette began playing bass at the age of 8. He was influenced heavily by his father, Auborn Trivette, who was a well-known local musician, as well as his siblings. Trivette was heavily influenced by several artists, including Seldom Scene and Country Gentlemen. He spent 17 years as a banjo player

Thursday, June 22, 2017 for Southern Accent and later in Carolina Crossing. He is known for his rock-solid bass playing and vocal range along with his song writing abilities. According to the band’s website at https://, the name ClayBank comes from the band’s rehearsals on Claybank Road in the Claybank community in West Jefferson, which has become a center of the band’s heritage and a way of representing the bluegrass music tradition of the area. Claybank will be taking to the Main Stage at 3 p.m. July 1.

CROOKED ROAD RAMBLERS An old-time band from southwest Virginia, the Crooked Road Ramblers are steeped in the traditional music of the Blue Ridge. Providing a unique mix of instrumental and dance music, old ballads and the traditional bluegrass and country, the Ramblers are a notable band that have played at many venues throughout the region. According to the band’s website at https://, the band was started by fiddler Kilby Spencer from Whitetop, Va. Spencer has been playing old-time music for most of his life, learning from his parents, Thornton and Emily, who have been in the Whitetop Mountain Band for more than 40 years. He started the band in hopes of carrying on the driving Southwest Virginia big band sound that makes people want to dance. Known for winning many blue ribbons for her banjo playing, Kelley Breiding, of Crumpler, propels the band forward with her clawhammer banjo playing and high-powered vocals. She also leads her own traditional country music group, Kelley and the Cowboys. On guitar and vocals, John Perry is a retired welder from Independence, Va., who grew up playing with his brothers Buck and Arnold in a band called The New River Ramblers. Perry’s individualistic guitar style gives the band much of its unique driving sound. Donald Hill lives in Fries, Va., and comes from a musical family. He is one of the foremost rhythm guitar players in the Blue Ridge in addition to being a wonderful vocalist. Hill took up playing at an early age and has SEE BANDS ON PAGE 11

PHOTO PROVIDED BY CROOKED ROAD RAMBLERS From left, Donald Hill, Wayne Dye, Karen Carr, Kelley Breiding, Kilby Spencer and John Perry from Crooked Road Ramblers.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

passed his talent on to his sons, Eric and Patrick. His rhythm has been described as a wall of sound. Karen Carr of Galax, Va., plays bass and also sings for the band. She has won the Barbara Poole Memorial Bass award for best old-time bass player at Galax twice and has rock solid rhythm in addition to wonderful runs. She also comes from a musical family, being a descendant of old-time fiddlers Fred Cockerham and Wilson Ramey, both legends from the Low Gap area. Wayne Dye of Cleveland, Va., plays mandolin. A retired coal miner from the coal fields of Russell County, he can play anything with strings, in addition to singing many vocal parts. His father, Scott Dye, was a well known banjo player who could play both clawhammer and bluegrass style banjo. The Crooked Ramblers will take to the Main Stage at about 10 a.m. July 1.

ELKVILLE STRING BAND The Elkville Sring Band was formed in 2001 by Jerry Lankford to perform for the annual play “Tom Dooley, A Wilkes County Legend.” The founding members of the band were Jerry Lankford, Herb Key, Drake Walsh, Nicole Vidrene and Bill Williams, according to the band’s website at http:// Today, the Elkville String Band today is made up of two founding members, Key and Williams, along with three new members: Jim Lloyd, Trevor McKenzie and Eddie Ogle. Key is the guitar player and lead vocalist of the band. He grew up in a musical family in Wilkes County and has played music for most of his life while spending more than 30 years making, repairing and restoring instruments. He was inducted into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame on June 11, 2016. Bringing his talent on the banjo to light, Lloyd is from Rural Retreat, Va., where he owns and operates Lloyd’s Barber Shop, which also serves as a meeting place for musicians and storytellers and a place for Lloyd to teach lessons. He is well known for winning numerous awards and ribbons and plays guitar and fiddle along with being an award-winning storyteller himself. A native of Rural Retreat, Va., McKenzie plays fiddle and sings both lead and harmony vocals in the band. Having taken lessons from Jim Lloyd, McKenzie is well known for his musical ability on the fiddle, guitar and banjo as well as his powerful vocals. He has won several ribbons and awards at fiddler’s conventions. He graduated from Appalachian State University and now works in the library department there. McKenzie joined the Elkville String Band in 2011. Williams, the harmony vocalist and acoustic bass player of the band, moved to Wilkes County in 1976 where he went to work at American Drew Furniture. It was there that he met Steve Kilby, who taught him how to play upright bass. Throughout the years, Williams played in Lloyd Church’s band and with Floyd Williams and Drake Walsh in the



SATURDAY, JULY 8, 2017 LOCATION: Ashe County High School Parking Lot, West Jefferson, NC • Best Chevrolet • Best Ford • Best Mopar • Best Motorcycle • Best Import • Best GM (Non-Chevrolet) • Best of Show & People’s Choice • Rat Rod • Best Open


JEFF LITTLE When you think of Appalachian and Americana music, the piano is usually not the first instrument that pops into mind. However, Jeff Little is an excellent exception. His distinctive two-handed style, much influenced by the mountain flat-picked guitar tradition, is breathtaking in its speed, precision and clarity. It was while growing up in Boone that Little’s involvement in fiddle tunes, traditional blues and old time country began. His family owned a music shop in Boone that was a regular gathering place for musicians to stop by and pick a few tunes. During his childhood, Little could often be found sitting with many of these musicians, including one of America’s most influential: Doc Watson. It was these influences that shaped Little’s music heritage and is approach to the piano. However, there was also an echo of a more contemporary mountain tradition in Little’s performances. Today, Little and his trio stay busy traveling the country performing concerts with an energy and dedication to their music that is evident at every show. The group has played at The Smithsonian Institution, The National Folk Festival, American Piano Masters, Merlefest, performing arts centers, colleges and music venues throughout the U.S. He has also taken his traditional piano style around the world on U.S. government goodwill tours, performing in Sri Lanka, Bahrain, Oman, France and Tanzania. Little has released four CDs, and been featured on National Public Radio and PBS many times. In 2014, Littlewas inducted into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame. Little will take to the stage at 1 p.m. on the Main Stage July 1.

NEVER TOO LATE Forming nearly 16 years ago, members of Never Too Late were brought together in Oakridge to jam for a party. Since then the group has clicked and been together ever since, bringing bluegrass music and three and four part harmonies with tight instrumentation to the stage. The band members include Kent Huffman on bass and vocals, Brent Fain on guitar and vocals, Bruce Hill on banjo and vocals and David Dickerson on mandolin and vocals. The Never Too Late Band will also be featuring guitarist and vocalist Diana Wilcox for the gig, who will be singing several songs during the show. The Never Too Late Band will take to the Main Stage at about 5 p.m. July 1.

Pre-Registration . . . . . . $15.00 Gate Registration . . . . . $20.00 General Admission . . . . $3.00 Kids under 12 . . . . . . . . FREE



Southland Band. He is a founding member of The Elkville String Band and is still active in it today. Born in Iaeger, W.V., and raised in Newhall, W.V., Eddie Ogle got his first guitar once he graduated from Big Creek High School and landed his first job. Being left handed, Ogle had to reverse the strings on his guitar. In Roanoke, Va., he learned to play harmonica from Lillian Creed when he was 35 years old and honed his skills in contests at various fiddlers conventions. The Elkville String Band will take to the Main Stage at 11 a.m. July 1.



Mountain Times Publications -

Gates Open . . . . . . . . . . 9 a.m. Registration . . . . . 7 a.m.-Noon Judging begins . . . .12:15 p.m. Awards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 p.m.

ENTRY APPLICATION NAME ________________________________________________________ ADDRESS _____________________________________________________ CITY __________________________ STATE _____ ZIP _______________ PHONE ( ) ________________________________________________ MAKE _________________YEAR _____________ MODEL ____________ COLOR _______________________________________________________ CLUBS _______________________________________________________ Pre-Registration $15.00; At the Gate $20.00, Make checks payable to: Heritage Iron Club. Mail application & check to: Heritage Iron Club, P.O. Box 1727, Jefferson, NC 28640. Not responsible for any accidents or injury. Absolutely no firearms, drugs or alcohol permitted. For more information, call Bill Simmons (813) 777-2990.



12 - Mountain Times Publications

Thursday, June 22, 2017

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Christmas in July 2017  
Christmas in July 2017