Weekly gas price update…

Average retail gasoline prices in North Carolina decreased one cent from last week at $2.89 as of Monday, July 19. This compares with the national average which increased two cents to $3.15 per gallon, according to www.northcarolinagasprices.com.

National, state debt update…

As of Monday, July 19, the United States’ national debt was 28,537,324,746,249 according to www.usdebtclock.org. That debt figure breaks down to $85,586 in debt per person and $226,794 in debt per taxpayer. Also as of Monday, July 19, North Carolina’s state debt was $49,919,554,437, which breaks down to $4,743 in debt per citizen.

State unemployment and food stamp update…

As of Monday, July 19, 1,282,093 state residents were registered as unemployed, according to www.usdebtclock.org, and 740,674 North Carolinians were registered as food stamp recipients out of a total state population of 10,696,460.

We want to hear from you…

The AJT prides itself in investment in our community. We make an effort to cover everything we possibly can, and want the help of our readers to continue to represent what is happening in Avery County. We want your submissions, but they need to meet a few criteria to be considered for publication:

  • Submissions may include a photograph with everyone in the photo identified.
  • All submissions must include contact information, including an active phone number.
  • All submissions must include basic information.

Submissions are not free advertising. No submission that directly benefits a private individual or for-profit organization, either monetarily or for political gain, will be printed. Some good examples of acceptable submissions are philanthropic events, religious events, community events and any events or occurrences of special interest.

The AJT reserves the right to edit submissions to fit publication guidelines and reserves the right to not publish any submission for any reason.

All submissions may be sent to news@averyjournal.com.

Griefshare seminar held

weekly at Newland

Presbyterian Church…

GriefShare is a special weekly seminar and support group designed to help you rebuild your life, as well as offer help and encouragement after the death of a loved one. We know it hurts, and we want to help.

The group meets from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on Thursdays through Sept. 16 at Newland Presbyterian Church, located at 199 Elk Street in Newland. There is a $15 fee for a class workbook. For more information, contact Terri at thauser@cfl.rr.com or Peggy at peggyleebaird@gmail.com.

Beech Mountain History

Museum reopens…

BEECH MOUNTAIN — The Beech Mountain History Museum has reopened for the Summer season Thursdays through Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. It is located next to Fred’s General Mercantile at the top of Beech Mountain.

Two new exhibits are featured. The first exhibit is a scale model of “The Battle on Beech,” which was a brief battle fought during the Civil War. The second exhibit is an audio exhibit of Ray Hicks, the famous area storyteller, telling his stories called the “Jack Tales.”

In addition, the museum has a sizeable collection of Land of Oz memorabilia, a model railroad from the logging days, Cherokee arrowheads dating back more than a thousand years, features on the birth of the ski resort and town, and much more.

Come visit the Museum, grab lunch at Fred’s and enjoy our cool mountain weather!

Rupard Family Reunion

August 7…

The annual Rupard Family Reunion for 2021 will be held at God’s House of Worship Fellowship Hall at noon on Saturday, Aug. 7. Each family is asked to bring a covered dish and a two-liter soda for the event, as well as come hungry! For more information, call Debi Rupard at (828) 457-5387. We look forward to seeing as many as possible this year.

Calhoun Reunion August 7…

Calling all Calhoun’s of Avery County! The annual Calhoun Family Reunion is being held at the Senior Center in Newland at noon on Saturday, Aug. 7.

Our Family has been coming together the Saturday before the Decoration at Fork Mountain Cemetery since the early 1940s. We honor our ancestors by continuing the tradition of fun, yummy food and lots of laughs. Please come this year and bring your old photographs to share. We’ll have an auction to raise money for headstones and catering. Please bring a dessert to share. If you make something homemade, please bring a copy of the recipe. We look forward to seeing everyone! For questions call Vickie Kutscher at (904) 710-7391.

Clark Family Reunion August 8…

The 31st annual reunion on the descendants of John Dalas Clark and Rachel Dale Clark will be held at Altamont United Methodist Church Family Life Center at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 8, with a covered dish luncheon. All descendents of their children are urged to attend. Those children include Frank Clark, Charles Clark, Edna Clark Putnam, Leeota Clark Vance, Verda Clark Hughes Jaynes, and Lillie Clark Johnson.

Fall Farm Tour returns

August 14…

The Avery County Agricultural Advisory Board is sponsoring the eighth annual Fall Farm Tour from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14.

The tour will depart from the Avery County Cooperative Extension Center, located at 661 Vale Road, Newland, NC 28657. Four local farms will be showcased on the tour, including Linville Falls Winery, Ollis Farms, Trosly Farm (where owners Amos and Kaci Nidiffer were named North Carolina 2020 Small Farmer of the Year Award) and Avery Farms, which will be hosting the “Pig Picking.”

Registration cost for the tour is $40. Pre-registration is required for the tour and there are no refunds. Sign-in will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14, at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Avery County Center. The tour will depart from the Avery County Center (661 Vale Road, Newland) promptly at 10 a.m., loading the bus at 9:45 a.m. Transportation will be provided.

No pets are allowed on tour, and children under 12 years old may not participate. Raffle tickets will be available to purchase on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021, with the raffle conducted at Avery Farms. Winning raffle ticket holder must be present at the pig picking to win. Vendors will also be on site for participants to purchase items.

For additional information, or to pre-register, contact Arizona Gragg at (828) 733-8270.

Avery County Private Pesticide Applicator Training Sub-Class “X” July 20…

The N.C. Cooperative Extension, Avery County Center will be hosting a Private Pesticide Recertification Training from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20. The training will be held at the Avery Community Center (661 Vale Road, Newland, NC). This training has been approved for 2.0 credit hours in sub-class: X.

Register by calling (828) 733-8270 or online at https://avery.ces.ncsu.edu/ under the Events Section. For additional information, call Jerry Moody, County Extension Director at (828) 733-8270.

MCC Yancey Learning Center first Continuing Education division to be approved to offer Nutritional Dietary Manager

program in NC …

SPRUCE PINE — The Yancey Learning Center of Mayland Community College is excited to announce a recent approval by the Association of Nutrition and Foodservice Professionals (ANFP), to offer the Nutritional Dietary Manager program. This is the first program in the state to be approved to offer the program within the Workforce Development/Continuing Education division.

The program will prepare students to sit for the Certified Dietary Manager (CDM) credentialing exam after the completion of 120 classroom hours and 150 hours of work-based learning. Students will participate in work-based learning at various facilities including Blue Ridge Regional Hospital and Mission McDowell Hospital.

“This certification class demonstrates Mayland’s commitment to securing state and national certification classes in a wide variety of job fields, for in-demand careers,” said Dr. Monica Carpenter, Associate Vice President Workforce Development & Continuing Education. “There continues to be a need for qualified Dietary Managers, Mayland’s program will help meet that need.

The class will be taught by Jessica Thomas, Registered Dietitian and Tammy Woodie, Certified Dietary Manager. Topics include analyzing basic nutritional needs of your clientele, assessing dietary intake, managing foodservice operations, and more.

The class will begin on August 3 and is also eligible for the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Funding (GEER) that will pay for 100% of the costs of the classes including registration fees, text, supplies, and more.

For more information about this certification program call (828) 682-7315 or click to www.mayland.info/dietitian.

McConnell assumes pastoral role at Banner

Elk Presbyterian…

BANNER ELK —Banner Elk Presbyterian Church voted to call Rev. Rachael Margaret McConnell on July 18, 2021. McConnell begins in mid-August, preaching her first sermon at the church on Sept. 5.

McConnell, a Texas native, comes most recently from Cary, NC, where she serves as director of children’s and family ministry at Hudson Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh. She and her husband, Josh, have four sons: Isaac, 15; Esmond, 12; John, 4; and Willie, 18 months. McConnell came to faith in Christ as a teenager after her best friend in high school asked her to sing in her church choir when she was 15 because of her love of singing. She began attending the church, and on her 17th birthday, was both baptized and ordained as an elder on Session.

Rachael says her ministry is about “creating a community where people are centered in Christ, but also are loving one another while serving their community.” She credits the Rev. Dr. Jeanie Stanley and her first church community for recognizing her leadership gifts at a young age, while walking her through developing her faith and recognizing God’s calling for her.

“That was the mustard seed that started my calling to ministry and very much shaped my ministry,” McConnell said.

McConnell describes her ministry as nimble and ready to move where the Spirit leads, and she is open to hearing people’s ideas, which helps in preaching, leading and listening.

A woman of many talents, McConnell earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in music from the University of Texas at Arlington. She has an enriched background in which she has done many things, from being a speech competitor and opera singer to teaching music and Spanish, and performing improv comedy. After graduating with her undergrad degree, she, Isaac and Josh moved to Argentina for two and a half years before returning to Texas where Rachael enrolled in seminary. She completed her Masters of Divinity at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and served in various capacities at churches in Texas before moving to North Carolina for Josh’s career.

McConnell knew she was called to be a pastor as a 21-year-old new mother, teaching at a Christian school and working on her undergrad degree when she heard God tell her she was a pastor. She heard the same words again after returning from Argentina, and with the support of Josh and other ministry leaders in her life nurturing that calling, she entered ministry work. After feeling an urging to find where God was calling her, Rachael and Josh recently visited Boone to unplug and spend time in prayer and discernment. Their last day there, they decided to pray over different churches in their search and contacted Banner Elk Presbyterian around the same time the PNC independently became interested in Rachael’s candidacy.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to be able to serve,” McConnell said. “I feel like my whole life has been equipping me for this point, and I’m just so ready and so excited to step into the next chapter.”

Programs at Crossnore

Presbyterian Church…

Crossnore Presbyterian Church presents its 2021 Summer Series of Speakers and Music. All programs are free and open to the public.

  • Tuesday, July 27 (7 p.m.), Church Sanctuary — Zack Allen and Maggie Lauterer will host “A Night of Old Time Mountain Music and Stories.” Zack Allen and Maggie Lauterer, among other gifts and skills, are mountain musicians and storytellers.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 3 (7 p.m.), Church Sanctuary — Bobby Taylor and the Jazz Band. The concert will feature music from the Great American Song Book including songs from the Gershwin brothers, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Jerome Kern, and Johnny Mercer.
  • Sunday, Aug. 8 (11 a.m.), Celebration of God’s Creation Worship Service. The May Wildlife Center, Lees-McRae College, will be joining us in worship. Nina Fischesser, her staff, and animal ambassadors will be ready to greet you at 10:30 a.m. that morning as you come into worship. The owls, falcons, song birds, and other creatures will join us as we praise and worship God our Creator.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 10 (7 p.m.), Church Sanctuary — Dr. Karl Campbell — “Critical Race Theory: What Is It and Why Is It So Controversial.” Dr. Campbell will lead us through a nonpartisan examination of this contemporary debate and explore the ways modern scholars think and teach about the history of race in United States history.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 17 (7 p.m.), Church Sanctuary — Old-Fashioned Hymn Sing. Kathy Hutcheson, our Director of Music, will lead us in singing some old hymns we know and some we may have never sung. Come and join in the fun!
  • Sunday, Aug. 22, (11 a.m.), Church Sanctuary — A Worship Service of Song and Scripture: Ulysses Long, an acclaimed NC professional singer and church musician and soloist will be sharing his gift of voice and piano. Come, ready to sing and to listen to God’s voice in the words and melody of sacred music.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 31, (7 p.m.), Church Sanctuary — Anne Trenning and Ed Williams will present “A Concert of Music and Word.” Anne Trenning is an award-winning instrumental pianist and has composed and recorded five CDs. Ed Williams was the editor of Charlotte Observer’s editorial page for more than 25 years before his retirement. Together, Ann and Ed weave a magical evening of readings and music that blend both spoken word and instrumental music.

We are holding the evening programs in the church sanctuary with the windows open. There will be plenty of room to spread out. We ask people who have not been vaccinated or have a compromised immune system to wear a mask. For more information, call (828) 733-1939. Crossnore Presbyterian Church is located at 200 Chapel Drive in Crossnore.

Reaching Avery Ministry Golf Tournament August 14…

RAM (Reaching Avery Ministry) will host its annual Golf Tournament on Saturday, Aug. 14, at Sugar Mountain Golf Club, with an 8 a.m. shotgun start. The tournament will be a four-man captain’s choice format tournament.

For more information, call (828) 733-5127 or click to email ramemergencyfood@bellsouth.net.

DSS School Clothing Allowance beginning September 13…

Avery County DSS Clothing Allowance will begin Monday Sept. 13, 2021. Qualified individuals must have children under the age of 18 who reside in your home at least 51% of the time. This allowance is for school clothes only. The pink application will be located outside the DSS office starting September 13. Applications can be left in our dropbox or with our front desk. This is a first-come, first-serve program.

For any questions, call Tasha Smith at (828) 733-8256. Income limits are $2,873 for two individuals, $3,620 for three individuals, $4,367 for four individuals, $5,113 for five individuals, plus $746 for each additional member. The program will end Sept. 30 or until funding is gone.

Community grants available from the Avery County

Community Foundation…

AVERY COUNTY — The board of advisors of the Avery County Community Foundation is accepting grant applications from nonprofits serving needs in the local community.

Funds are available for nonprofit organizations serving the local community in Avery County and will be awarded from the community grantmaking fund. Grants typically range from $500 to $1,000.

Applications are available now. Click to nccommunityfoundation.org for information about applying. The deadline for applications is noon on Tuesday, Aug. 3.

Grants are not available for regranting purposes, capital campaigns, capital improvements, out-of-state travel or for individuals. Funds are awarded by the board of advisors of the Avery County Community Foundation, an affiliate of the North Carolina Community Foundation.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for our nonprofits to expand their impact in our local community,” said Jamey Thompson, board president. “We are excited to partner with our nonprofit community to continue supporting Avery.”

For further information, contact Tyran Hill, NCCF program officer, at thill@nccommunityfoundation.org or (828) 772-1886 or visit the NCCF website at nccommunityfoundation.org.

BBB Scam Alert: Child tax

credits are coming, and so

are the scammers…

Through December 2021, if you qualify for payments through the American Rescue Plan Act, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced it is sending monthly payments direct deposit, paper check or through debit cards. These payments are an advance on the child tax credit, which means eligible people will get up to half of their child tax credit in these monthly payments and the other half when they file their 2021 taxes. You can go to IRS.gov to see who qualifies, how much you may receive, and how to address any problems. You will also have the option of unenrolling from the Advance payments program.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, when it comes to the government being in the news, the scammers will likely use their standard playbook, meaning impostor scams may appear, with con artists pretending to “help” you get your payments earlier, get more money, or commit identity theft.

BBB and the FTC share these tips:

Avoid Impostor scams — Government agencies like the IRS or Social Security Administration will not call, text, DM, or email you.

Do not give out any personal information, like social security numbers, bank account information, or credit/debit card numbers.

Eligibility requirements and payment disbursements are monitored by the IRS only.

  • When someone is requiring payments by gift card, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency, it is likely a scam.

Roan Mountain Summer Concert Series each Saturday through early September…

ROAN MOUNTAIN, Tenn. — From 5 to 8 p.m. each Saturday through September, the Roan Mountain Summer Concert Series will feature different area musicians to bring dulcet tones to the Roan Mountain Community Park (located behind the Roan Mountain Post Office off Hwy. 19E).

On Saturday, July 24, the series welcomes Mercies River (gospel) at 5 p.m., and No Name But His (Gospel) at 6 p.m. Grab a lawn chair, pack a snack and enjoy an evening on the Roan. For more information, contact John Bland at (423) 956-0714 or jebnj@hotmail.com.

‘A Conversation with Warren Daniel and Dudley Greene’

at LMC Friday…

Hayes Auditorium on the campus of Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk will host a “Conversation” with Avery County’s state government representatives, NC Senator Warren Daniel and NC Representative Dudley Greene, beginning at 6:30 p.m. this Friday, July 23.

Both representatives will offer opening remarks, with a “Question-and-Answer” session being the central portion of the evening. Questions will be gathered both beforehand and during the opening portion of the meeting. The event is free for the public to attend.

High Country Area Agency on Aging offers virtual music

therapy program…

Back by popular demand, The High Country Area Agency on Aging is hosting another Music Therapy Support Group starting July 14, and it will meet every Wednesday from 1 to 2 p.m. until Sept. 9, 2021. This group is completely free and will meet via Zoom.

This group will be led by Kelly Frick, a board certified music therapist. It is meant to help family caregivers use music to relax, de-stress, and cope. There are limited spots available so register now. Anyone from the seven county region (Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Wilkes, Watauga and Yancey) can sign up and enjoy the group. To sign up, or for questions or more information, contact Amber Chapman at (828) 278-7406 or achapman@hccog.org.

Call for Sculpture Artists for 35th Annual Sculpture Celebration…

LENOIR — The Caldwell Arts Council announces its 35th Annual Sculpture Celebration in Lenoir on Saturday Sept. 11, 2021 at the Broyhill Walking Park.

Sculptors are invited to bring up to three sculptures for this one-day event to compete for $11,000 in cash awards, along with potential sales and commissions. Registration includes free camping, a Friday Night Sculptors’ Dinner, breakfast, and a meal voucher for the day of the event.

This annual family-friendly event attracts sculptors and buyers from the eastern United States to Lenoir, and in past years, has attracted more than 4,000 people. It is funded in part by generous sponsors and by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Early registration discounts are available. For complete competition details, click to www.caldwellarts.com, or contact the Caldwell Arts Council at (828) 754-2486 or office@caldwellarts.com.

Ginseng harvesting permits

will not be issued in 2021…

ASHEVILLE — The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests will not issue American ginseng harvest permits this year due to continued declines and low population levels observed through monitoring and surveys.

Commercial harvesting of wild ginseng has been occurring for the past 250 years. Declines are attributed to long-term harvesting, more recent over harvesting, out-of-season harvest, and the taking of mature plants without planting the seeds for future crops. The number of plants now in the national forests is too low to be sustainably harvested.

“Every year we’ve seen fewer ginseng plants and the danger is that they’ll completely disappear from this area,” said Gary Kauffman, botanist for the National Forests in North Carolina. “We need to pause the harvest now to help ensure that these plants will be available in future years and for our grandkids and their kids.”

Kauffman monitors plant levels and has worked with other organizations to reintroduce ginseng into the forest where the plant has been overharvested.

Anyone removing wild ginseng plants or its parts on national forest lands without a permit may be fined up to $5,000 or a six-month sentence in federal prison, or both.

Warner at Orchard

at Altapass book signing…

The Orchard at Altapass welcomes Amazon bestselling author Rebecca Warner for a book-signing event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 24. In her emotional new novel, “My Dad My Dog,” Warner weaves her own powerful caregiving experiences into the heartwarming tale of a journey that a man with Alzheimer’s and an elderly dog are destined to take together.

Beyond chronicling the unlikely friendship of a sweet-natured war hero and an elderly Black Lab, Warner’s narrative also sheds light on the real-life challenges faced by the 16 million Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers who provide $232 billion in unpaid labor in the U.S. each year. Celebrating their contributions, and shedding light on those challenges, Warner offers a story of humor, warmth, family and personal growth.

Warner is the author of the two-time award-winning political thriller, Moral Infidelity, as well as “Doubling Back to Love,” which was included in the popular ten-novel anthology, “Peace Love & Romance.” Her third book, “He’s Just a Man,” is a self-help book for women seeking healthy romantic relationships. Rebecca and her husband of 33 years, Jason, live in Asheville with their feisty blue heeler, Chance.

Join Warner in the red barn where she’ll be reading excerpts, signing her books and inviting comments and conversation. Visitors are welcome to bring their copies for signature or to purchase them at the event. This is the first book signing of the season. Three more are planned for later this month and into the early fall. Please visit the website for information, dates, and times.

Located at 1025 Orchard Road near Spruce Pine at mile marker 328.3 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Orchard is a not-for-profit working orchard, music, and educational venue. The Orchard’s hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, is family and pet friendly, as well as wheelchair accessible with buses welcome. For information, click to www.altapassorchard.org or call (828) 765-9531.

Family Fun Night with Famous Brick Oven this summer…

Famous Brick Oven’s Family Fun Night Series takes place with live music every Friday from 5:30 to 8:45 p.m. through mid-August, followed by a family-friendly outdoor movie. Free Bounce House fun will be available from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. as well. The events are free, with food and beverage available for purchase inside.

For more information, call (828) 387-4000.

New hours at Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce…

As summer emerges, the Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce has extended its open hours to 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday thru Wednesday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday. For more information, call (828) 898-8395.

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings each week at Baker Center…

“If you want to drink, that’s your business. If you want to stop drinking, that’s our business.” Alcoholics Anonymous hosts meetings at 7 p.m. each Tuesday and Friday evening at the Oak Room of the Baker Center, adjacent to Cannon Memorial Hospital in Linville.

Banner Elk Book Exchange now open …

Banner Elk Book Exchange is now open, operating with the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays until Oct. 31. Masks are not required, but you may wear one if you prefer.

Banner Elk Book Exchange is a community-based, volunteer-run book exchange for Banner Elk and Avery County, operating on a “bring a book, take a book” policy. Bring a book, take a book! There is no check-out or return of books. Simply bring a book or books and exchange them for the same number of different books. No books to trade-in? In lieu of a book to exchange, you may make a small donation to take a book home.

The Book Exchange is more than just a library! We offer the following programs to the community:

  • Book Discussion Groups
  • BE Readers (Children’s book discussion)
  • Play & Learn Sessions
  • Science/Nature Programs for Children
  • Music Jams

Many people have contributed the books in the Book Exchange that fill our shelves, and a year of being sequestered at home will probably produce an abundance of book donations. We are grateful for the donations that allow others to enjoy reading, but please consider these guidelines for book donations:

  • We cannot accept textbooks, reference books (dictionaries, thesaurus, etc.), outdated magazines or self-help books, or books that are damaged, mildewed, smelling of smoke, or otherwise unable to be placed on our shelves.
  • We accept paperbacks in good condition.
  • We keep the larger, high-quality ones on the shelves of the Book Exchange, and share those we cannot use with organizations like the V.A. hospital in Asheville. Some books also are sent to the correctional facility in Spruce Pine.

When in doubt, ask yourself if you would like to take home the books you are donating. Please do not be offended if we cannot accept your books – we are not a repository for everything! Outdated books and magazines, or those in poor condition can be taken to the recycling center on Norwood Hollow Road at the base of Sugar Mountain or on 194 at the Three Lane between Elk Park and Newland.

We appreciate your consideration, cooperation and generosity!

Vacation Bible School at Harmony Baptist Church…

Come take a walk with Moses at Harmony Baptist Church, located at 1539 Jonas Ridge Hwy., Newland, NC 28657. Wilderness Escape VBS takes place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on July 21 and 23, and is available for kids age 4 to 12 years.

Mayland high school equivalency diploma classes return

to campuses…

SPRUCE PINE — Mayland Community College is holding classes in-person and online to help students earn a high school equivalency diploma. Mayland Community College offers preparation classes for the GED and HiSET tests, and also offers Adult High School classes.

Mayland Community College does not charge tuition for the classes. However, a commitment of at least 8 hours a week is necessary to be successful. Although there are no fees associated with attending the classes, there may be a small fee for taking the equivalency tests.

Classes are offered at all three campuses in Mitchell, Avery and Yancey counties. Evening classes are available at the Mitchell Campus, located in Spruce Pine.

Online classes require dependable access to the internet and the use of a computer in a quiet setting.

Call (828) 766-1327 or email learninglabs@mayland.edu for more information.

DMV resumes regular road tests for drivers

15 to 17 years old…

ROCKY MOUNT – With health safety conditions improving in North Carolina, the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles is resuming regular road tests this week. This ends the Contactless Road Test (CRT) program that had been required for 15- to 17-year-old drivers seeking their Level 3 Full Provisional license and a select group of other drivers who could not qualify for a road test waiver.

All drivers who already had been scheduled for a CRT should proceed with that appointment but be aware they will instead be taking a road test in regular traffic conditions, instead of the parking lots where CRTs were conducted.

Other 15- to 17-year-old drivers who have had their Level 2 Limited License for at least six months can schedule an appointment at https://skiptheline.ncdot.gov/Webapp/_/_/_/en/WizardAppt/Welcome, selecting Teen Level 3 as the process.

Other drivers who would have required a CRT appointment, including those who previously failed a road test, are governed by lawful and or legal presence status (not a permanent resident), or whose driving privileges were suspended when their previous license expired, should select Driver License – First Time for their appointment process.

By returning to regular road testing, the DMV is going from 28 locations that were hosting the contact-less tests to about 100 offices across the state that will do regular road tests.

For health and safety reasons, all drivers will be required to wear a mask, as will the examiner, and all testing drivers will have their temperature checked before beginning the road test.

2021 visitor season under way on the Blue Ridge Parkway…

BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY — National Park Service officials announced the opening of the 2021 visitor season on the Blue Ridge Parkway with reminders that park visitors play a key role in protecting the historic 469-mile route. With many of the Parkway’s campgrounds, picnic areas, and visitor centers fully operational, park visitors and neighbors are reminded that when visiting these and other areas to stay on trails and roads, pack out trash, and leave park resources as you find them.

“The protection of the Parkway is a shared goal between park staff, partners, volunteers, and the millions of visitors who come to the park each year. We expect this summer and fall to be busy on the Parkway and one of the ways visitors can help us take care of park resources is by planning ahead,” said Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Tracy Swartout. “Visitor choices to recreate responsibly and plan ahead play an important role in helping us preserve and protect the Parkway and its resources for future generations.”

Just in time for summer, park rangers are also sharing some important tips for visiting the Blue Ridge Parkway. From reminders about what to do at crowded overlooks, to navigation tips for the Parkway, this new Top 10 Tips list helps both new and experienced park visitors alike get the most out of their trip to the Parkway this season. The tips can be found by clicking to https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/top-10-things-to-know-before-you-go.htm.

Visitors can also expect several road and construction projects happening throughout the season that address ongoing maintenance needs. Current projects include two bridge rehabilitation projects; one at the Linville River Bridge in North Carolina, near Milepost 317, and another at the Roanoke River Bridge in Virginia, near Milepost 114. Signed detour routes are in place around both of these project closures. A pavement preservation project at overlooks and picnic areas in Virginia is ongoing and could have minor impacts; and a major exterior rehabilitation project is also underway at the Moses Cone Memorial Park Manor House at Milepost 298. The Manor House is open during construction.

As the NPS continues to monitor and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, public health measures are in place across the park including capacity limits and temporary closures in response to local conditions. Consistent with CDC recommendations, people who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear masks indoors and in crowded outdoor spaces.

A complete schedule of open facilities, as well as additional information to help plan a memorable and safe Parkway experience, is available on the Parkway’s website. Regularly updated information regarding ranger events, music performances, and cultural demonstrations is also available online.

Forest Service shelters available along the southern Appalachian Trail…

ASHEVILLE— Shelters along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia are now available for use. Hikers are encouraged to bring their own personal tent and face coverings. Earlier in the pandemic these shelters were shut down, along with trailheads.

The shelters are located on national forest land, managed by the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Officials say there are hundreds of shelters averaging about eight miles apart along the trail, although the intervals vary. Shelters might not be frequently maintained at all locations.

Another overnight option is dispersed camping in designated areas of the national forest. Hikers should be prepared to tent camp if social distancing in shelters is not possible.

Hikers can plan ahead by checking forest websites for site-specific details before their trip. The southern portion of the Appalachian Trail runs through four national forests:

Tennessee: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/cherokee/recreation, Cherokee National Forest

Georgia: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/conf/recreation, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests

North Carolina: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/nfsnc/recreation, National Forests in North Carolina

Virginia: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/gwj/recreation, George Washington and Jefferson National Forests

The Appalachian Trail is a popular hiking path stretching more than 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine. About 100 miles of the trail are in North Carolina and about 226 miles of the trail are along the North Carolina and Tennessee border. Hikers are encouraged to recreate responsibly, maintain a safe social distance and follow health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health authorities.

At-Home testing for the SARS-CoV-2 Virus…

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), in partnership with LabCorp, is piloting a program to provide 35,000 no-cost, at-home testing kits to underprivileged and/or disabled North Carolinians experiencing financial barriers to getting tested. FNS recipients are able to order Pixel by LabCorp at-home testing kits to be shipped overnight directly to their homes. The test kits include test supplies (nasal swab, sample container, etc.), detailed instructions and prepaid specimen return shipping materials. Results are typically reported back to the individual within 48 to 72 hours from the time the specimen is received at the lab.

The Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 at-home testing kit is a molecular test that detects the presence or absence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. For questions contact The Pixel by LabCorp at website https://www.pixel.labcorp.com/nc or the Pixel’s dedicated support line at (800) 833-3935.

Farmers Tailgate Markets open in the

High Country…

HIGH COUNTRY — Farmers tailgate markets are open for the season. These markets offer an array of produce, including colorful root vegetables like carrots and radishes, tender lettuces and salad greens, cold-hardy greens like kale and spinach, mushrooms, spring alliums, and much more. In addition to produce, market vendors will have meats, cheese, eggs, bread, and prepared foods as well as a wide selection of plant starts.

Opening dates for Appalachian Grown farmers markets in the High Country are:

  • Alleghany County Farmers Market (90 S. Main St., Sparta, (336) 372-5597): Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Ashe County Farmers Market (108 BackStreet, West Jefferson): Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • Avery County Farmers Market (185 Azalea Circle SE, Banner Elk): Thursdays, 4 to 6:30 p.m.
  • Bakersville Main Street Farmer’s Market (143 Crimson Laurel Way, Bakersville, (704) 819-0729): Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Blowing Rock Farmers Market (corner of Main St. and Park Ave., Blowing Rock): Thursdays, 3 to 6 p.m.
  • King Street Market, Boone: Tuesdays, 4 to 7 p.m.
  • Spruce Pine Farmers Market (parking lot of NAPA Auto Parts on Hwy. 226, (252) 675-9989): Wednesdays, noon to 4 p.m.
  • Watauga County Farmers Market (591 Horn in the West Dr., Boone), (828) 355-4918): Saturdays, 8 a.m. to noon
  • Wilkes County Farmers Market (842 CBD Loop — Yadkin Valley Marketplace downtown North Wilkesboro, (336) 667-7129): Tuesdays, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Many COVID-19 precautions, including social distancing, limiting the number of shoppers, and mask requirements, are still in effect. Check individual market websites and signage for details and updates.

SNAP/EBT is accepted by many farmers markets in the region. In addition, some markets also offer SNAP incentives, such as one-to-one matches on dollars spent through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program at farmers markets. Find details about this and other farmers market SNAP programs at asapconnections.org/snap.

There are more than 100 farmers markets across the Appalachian Grown region, which includes Western North Carolina as well as surrounding counties in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina. For a complete list of markets click to asapconnections.org/farmersmarkets or use ASAP’s online Local Food Guide at appalachiangrown.org.

Riverwalk Quilt Guild holds monthly meetings…

Riverwalk Quilt Guild in Newland meets the second Thursday of each month, beginning at 6 p.m. Our meeting location is at Newland Christian Church, located at 2800 Millers Gap Hwy/Hwy. 194 in Newland. For more information call BJ Mickel-Close at (828) 260-3204.

The group’s mission is to preserve our mountain heritage of quilting, to be a source of education and inspiration for quilters, to encourage excellence in quilting and related arts, to be of service to the community, and to provide fellowship to people with a common interest.

Recreational senior softball league seeking


High Country Senior Softball is looking for men ages 60 and older and women ages 50 and older to come out and enjoy a fun time competing in senior softball or leisurely throwing the ball around for exercise. Senior Softball meets April through September every Monday at 9:30 a.m. at Avery High School and every Friday at 9:30 a.m. at the Watauga Recreation Center. Ages for competitive teams range from 60 to 69, as well as 70 and older. Bats, balls and gloves are available for use, so lace up you sneakers and come out. For more information, call Bert Valery at (727) 215-5560.

Local students invited to join JAM program…

Avery students are invited to join the Avery Junior Appalachian Musicians program. The program accommodates musicians at all levels. If you’re an accomplished player or wishing to learn or improve your skills this program is for you! One of our initial goals is to form a JAM band. We’ll help guide you to reach the playing level you will enjoy. For more information, contact Bobby Willard, Extension Agent with 4-H Youth Development at (828) 733-8270, or bobbie_willard@ncsu.edu.

Caregiver Haven at Avery Senior Center…

Caregiver Haven is a project of the Avery County Senior Center that seeks to give family caregivers of dementia and memory loss loved ones a break by offering respite care every Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Your loved one will be attended by our caring staff and stimulated with a variety of activities, programs and games. Often we take clients on field trips and out to lunch. Lunch and snacks are provided as part of the program.

Currently there is space available for new clients. We would love to help you in your caregiving journey. While we do encourage cost sharing through donation, no one is turned away because of not making cost sharing donations. Also, transportation through Avery County Transportation can be arranged at little to no cost. If this is a program you are interested in please contact the Avery County Senior Center at (828) 733-8220.

This program is currently operating. Let us assist you in your caregiving journey.

Draft Pull at Avery Heritage Park Aug. 7…

Avery A&H Fair will host its third annual Draft Pull at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7, at Heritage Park (661 Vale Road in Newland). A concert featuring Distant Gold will take place at 6 p.m., with youth activities and more. Concessions will be provided by Linville Central Rescue Squad, with a raffle by Leathers & Fur 4-H Livestock Club.

For more information, call Michelle South at (828) 733-8270.

SBA Extends COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan Application Deadline through Dec. 31…

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Small Business Administration announced that the deadline to apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program for the COVID-19 Pandemic disaster declaration is extended to Dec. 31, 2021. The deadline extension comes as a result of the recent bipartisan COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress and enacted by President Trump on Dec. 27, 2020.

To date, the SBA has approved $197 billion in low-interest loans which provides working capital funds to small businesses, nonprofits and agricultural businesses make it through this challenging time.

“Following the President’s declaration of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the SBA has approved over 3.6 million loans through our Economic Injury Disaster Loan program nationwide,” Administrator Jovita Carranza said. “The EIDL program has assisted millions of small businesses, including nonprofit organizations, sole proprietors and independent contractors, from a wide array of industries and business sectors, to survive this very difficult economic environment.”

EIDL loan applications will continue to be accepted through December 2021, pending the availability of funds. Loans are offered at very affordable terms, with a 3.75% interest rate for small businesses and 2.75% interest rate for nonprofit organizations, a 30-year maturity, and an automatic deferment of one year before monthly payments begin. Every eligible small business and nonprofit are encouraged to apply to get the resources they need.

Banner Elk Artists Gallery open…

While the Historic Banner Elk School remains closed to the general public, the BE Artists Gallery will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Please call the number on the sign at the front door and we will promptly let you in.

Please note that masks are required, capacity is limited to a maximum of six guests at one time, and that no public restrooms are available at this time. You can also schedule an appointment to visit the gallery by emailing art@beartistsgallery.com, or calling (828) 898-6767.

Avery County Local Food Producers


The Avery County Cooperative Extension Center is reaching out to all local food producers in Avery County. In an effort to provide our residents with information about fresh local food available in this area, Bill Hoffman, Extension Agent-ANR, is compiling a directory containing local food producers along with contact information and products that are available for purchase.

If you are a local food producer in Avery County and would be interested in having your information listed in the upcoming directory, please contact the Avery County Cooperative Extension Center at (828) 733-8270.

Get outdoor cats fixed and vaccinated at no cost…

If you have strays in your neighborhood, you can get trap-fix-release them for free through a grant with the Avery Humane Society. Call (828) 733-2333 for more information. Offer is valid for residents of Avery County with a valid photo ID.

Celebrate Recovery…

Each Monday at 7 p.m., Heaton Christian Church, located at 221 Curtis Creek Road, offers help for anyone struggling with addictions (drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.), or other undesirable habits or compulsions, to overcome their battles and find their relationship with Jesus Christ.

No one will be judged. This is a ministry of loving, caring people, some who have experienced the same struggles. Family and friends of those needing help are encouraged to participate and support their efforts. For more information, call Butch or Courtney at (828) 528-5476.

Mentors needed for Avery kids and youth…

Western Youth Network, in partnership with Williams YMCA, is accepting applications for mentors for Avery County youth ages six to 17, who are in need of a positive role model in their lives. Mentors serve a unique role in the life of a child that is different from that of a parent, teacher or friend. After spending time with a mentor (an average of two hours per week for one year), young people show improvements in their academic performance, school attendance and behaviors. Most of all, they know someone cares about them.

Mentoring opportunities are also available through the program’s lunch buddy program at local elementary schools. For more information, or to fill out an application, call or email Avery Mentoring Coordinator Sabena Maiden at (828) 264-5174 or maidens@westernyouthnetwork.org or Williams YMCA Community Outreach Director Sheila Bauer at (828) 737-5500 or sheilab@ymcaavery.org.

Avery County Volunteer Communications Club…

Avery County Volunteer Communications Club (AC4VC) holds meetings on the second Thursday of each month, beginning at 6 p.m., at Linville Land Harbor Mountain View Activity Center (22 Twin Tree Lane, Newland). Any and all who are interested in Amateur Radio are welcome to attend. There will be a general meeting and training. Following training, the group will be conducting testing of all three types of Amateur Radio licenses. For more information, contact Jay Glen, N4HOP and ACVC Club President, at (828) 305-9851, or email AC4VC.Club@gmail.com.

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