‘Dollar Days’ begin April 1 at Grandfather Mountain

Mark your calendars for “Dollar Days.” Grandfather Mountain opens its gates to High Country residents, employees and their guests for only $3 each throughout April as part of “Dollar Days.”

The month offers plenty to do inside the park, including the return of animal encounter sessions, the seasonal reopening of the Fudge Shop, discounted Behind-the-Scenes Habitat Tours and the return of naturalist programs later in the month.

“We’re more than excited to continue the longstanding tradition of Dollar Days in April,” said Frank Ruggiero, director of marketing and communications for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation, the nonprofit organization that oversees the Linville, N.C.-based nature park. “With all the outdoor fun, activities and programs Grandfather Mountain has to offer, the Dollar Days promotion offers a mile-high value.”

The Dollar Days promotion allows anyone who works or lives in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga or Wilkes counties — along with their guests traveling in the same vehicle — to visit at the discounted rate.

Students attending a local college or university are also eligible for the discount.

To take advantage of the reduced rate, visitors must present a valid driver’s license, college ID or local utility bill as proof of High Country residency. An employee identification badge or pay stub can be used to demonstrate employment at a High Country business.

Grandfather Mountain’s extended spring hours started Saturday, March 24, meaning the park will be open daily, weather permitting, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Ticket sales end at 5 p.m., one hour before the park closes.

Animal Encounters

April is an ideal time to visit Grandfather Mountain, as the park’s flora and fauna become energized with the initial signs of warmer weather.

Starting April 14, the educational staff will begin animal encounters 11 times daily.

During these encounters, guests can talk with staff members about the habitat animals — bears, cougars, river otters, elk and bald eagles — and watch the animals receive an enrichment. Enrichments are special treats, new toys or unfamiliar scents that break up the animals’ routines and help keep them active and intellectually stimulated.

Visit www.grandfather.com/plan-your-visit/events/daily-events/, or check the sign at the habitat entrance to view daily enrichment times.

Watauga County Schools adds programs, drops out-of-county tuition

Watauga County Schools has announced plans to expand its arts, agriculture and academically gifted program offerings in the coming school year. The system is also expanding options for students currently enrolled in home school, or those who live out of county, to attend Watauga County Schools.

Students at Cove Creek School work to create raised garden beds at the school.

Students at Cove Creek School work to create raised garden beds at the school.

Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott said the expanded offerings were part of an effort to increase options and choices for students in Watauga County.

“We are proud of the consistent high rankings we receive as a system, but we don’t settle for them. We are constantly evaluating our programs and looking for new ways to expand flexibility for our students,” Elliott said.

Next year, students in Watauga County Schools will have the ability to take horticulture courses from middle school through the high school level. Tierra Stark, Watauga High School Career and Technical Education Coordinator said the new classes will fill a gap in the school’s CTE program.

“Our new push into agriculture education has its roots in the culture of our community,” Stark said. “Many students still live and work on active farms. Our new courses will also focus on exciting advances in agricultural research.”

Access to offerings like the new horticulture program aren’t limited only to students currently enrolled in the school system. Students who are currently enrolled in home school have a variety of dual enrollment options that allow them to take advantage of several opportunities at Watauga High Schools.

Home school students can elect to take a variety of courses at WHS — from CTE courses like automotive or computer technology to cosmetology, welding and mechanical engineering.

Home schoolers may also elect to spend part of their day at WHS taking part in advanced science and math classes or visual or performing arts. Dual enrolled students are even eligible to take free college level courses through the Watauga Innovation Academy and Caldwell Community College on campus at WHS, and some are able to take part in team sports at the school.

Students currently being home schooled are also able to access courses online through the North Carolina Virtual Public School once enrolled in the school system.

“We want to be the best place to learn and work in North Carolina,” Elliott said. “That means we have to continually evaluate and evolve with the changing needs of our students and our entire community.”

To allow better access for any student interested in taking part in opportunities offered by Watauga County Schools, the school system will no longer charge a fee to students who reside outside Watauga County.

The school board will continue to follow the existing application process for considering admission of students from families who wish to attend the school system from outside the county.

For more information on the expanded offerings in Watauga County Schools, or to get more information on dual enrollment for home school students, contact WCS Communications Director Garrett Price by calling (828) 264-7190 or emailing priceg@wataugaschools.org.

The Community Music School ASU Announces Fall Online Registration

App State community music schoolThe Community Music School (CMS) at Appalachian State University announces that online registration for the fall semester is open from Friday, August 12 through Friday, August 19. Registration will continue for an additional two days to Sunday, August 21 with a $50 late registration fee.

The Community Music School, located at 134 Doctors Drive, provides non-credit music instruction for children and adults in the local community as well as surrounding Western NC counties. Instructors include Appalachian State faculty and teaching artists and music professionals to provide students with outstanding musical training. Director of CMS Laura Chu Stokes says,

“we are looking forward to the start of another year of instruction in violin, viola, cello, guitar, flute, saxophone, trumpet, piano (individual and group) and percussion. Additionally, 3 rd -8 th grade students with unchanged voices have the opportunity to sing with the Appalachian Youth Chorale (AYC), directed by Lisa Combs.” Weekly AYC rehearsals take place at Grace Lutheran Church, 115 E. King Street.

The website link for CMS registration is: http://music.appstate.edu/about/community-music-school. Limited financial aid for eligible students is available. For further information, please contact Laura Chu Stokes at stokeslc@appstate.edu.

Local Women Launch Extra Hands Errand & Task Service

Do you ever feel like you could use an extra set of hands to get things done? As a fellow parent, I can attest of having this feeling several times!

Life can be busy and full of tedious tasks that fill up your to-do list. Launching last week in Boone, Extra Hands (The Extra Hands NC, LLC) aims to take the burden off you by offering services ranging from errands to household tasks, personal organization to pet care. Created by long-time friends, the team at Extra Hands takes on the projects that you don’t have the time or energy to do.

extra hands boone nc

“We created Extra Hands because we want our clients to spend time with the ones they love and focus on the projects that most deserve their time and energy,” says Catherine Wallace, Co-founder of Extra Hands.
In speaking to locals the team found that many people in Boone want help running errands, getting a bit more organized, with house and pet sitting, and more.  Extra Hands was born out of the opportunity to help others and simplify their lives.
“We know that you are trusting us with your most important tasks, and are committed to completing them with the utmost integrity,” said Alanna Young, Co-founder of Extra Hands. “Time is precious and we aim to make your life easier.”
Extra Hands provides a variety of task-oriented services including:
  • Errands: Need to mail some packages? Let us make the trip to the post office for you. Want us to pick up your dry cleaning, grocery shop or drop off donations? Let us help you with all of your errands.
  • Organizing: From straightening up to serious organizing – closets to junk drawers – we will help you get your life organized. We’ll work with you to get things in order and simplify your life.
  • Household: Have a full dishwasher? Clean clothes ready to be folded? Recycling that needs to be dropped off? Need to prep dinner for the week? We’ll handle that for you!
  • Event Support: Planning a wedding or baby shower, and need an extra hand? Have a child’s birthday party coming up and need help preparing food or setting up? We help prep, decorate, style, and more.
  • Summer Home Prep: Coming to the High Country for the summer and need someone to prepare your home? Let us stock your fridge, dust off the furniture, start your utilities, and welcome you back to your summer home.
  • Pet Sitting: Is your sweet pup sitting at home in need of a walk? Planning to be out of town and need someone to care for your pets? We provide pet care.
  • House Sitting: Need someone to house sit? Or look after your plants? Let us make sure everything is safe and sound while you are out of town.
Clients can sign up for a monthly membership, starting at 10 hours each month or buy a la carte hours. Don’t see something on the list, just ask! Extra Hands will consider all task-oriented requests.
“The idea for Extra Hands came to me when I had a growing to-do list and wasn’t sure how I would balance it all. I know that this is a concern for many and believe that Extra Hands was a much needed service in the High Country,” said Carolyn Clark, investor, co-founder and advisor. “I trust Catherine and Alanna with my most important tasks, and I truly believe in the business plan and their skill set. I am excited to see the impact they make in Boone.”
For more information and to set up a free consultation visit www.theextrahands.com or contact Catherine Wallace and Alanna Young at info@theextrahands.com or 407-864-5960.

Tweetsie Railroad Opens April 8, 2016!

Are we not lucky to have this great theme park in our backyard? Round up your family and friends as the Tweetsie Railroad historic steam engine locomotives will be pulling out of the station once again on Friday, April 8, 2016 to transport guest along a three mile Wild West adventure through the Blue Ridge Mountains, in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. This year, from April 8 through October 30, the park will continue the time honored tradition of providing family friendly entertainment and special events, including Day Out With Thomas™, the July 4th Fireworks Extravaganza, K-9’s in Flight, the Ghost Train® and much more. Tickets and Golden Rail Season Passes are available now at Tweetsie.com.

Feeding Goats at the Deer Park Zoo

There is plenty for the whole family to enjoy at North Carolina’s first theme park, from strolling through an authentic Western town, traveling on a historic train, panning for gold, and meeting a whole cast of characters from cowboys and Can-Can girls to Dora the Explorer™ and Go, Diego™. Not to mention the exciting amusement rides, gem mining, and the Deer Park Zoo, home to more than 90 animals including goats, deer, emus, llamas, miniature horses, pigs and more.

In addition to the theatrics on the Wild West train adventure, guest will have the opportunity to enjoy live entertainment daily throughout the park including Country Clogging Jamboree, Diamond Lil’s Can-Can Review, and Tweetsie Railroad’s own Hopper and Porter.

Each day is a new adventure at the Tweetsie Railroad, filled with tradition, fun and family memories. Start planning your trip today and be sure to check out the special events taking place during the 2016 season.

David Holt and the Lightning Bolts in Concert — Sunday, May 29
Enjoy old-time music with a new time jolt, featuring four-time Grammy recipient David Holt. The shows at noon and 3:00 p.m. will be filled with humor, stories and authentic American music.

Day Out With Thomas™: The Ready, Set, Go 2016 Tour — June 10-19
Take a ride aboard Thomas The Tank Engine™, all the way from the Island of Sodor. Sir Topham Hatt will be managing the station to make sure Thomas the Tank Engine is Right on Time and available to meet and take photographs with all his guest. Advanced tickets recommended.

Fireworks Extravaganza — Monday, July 4th
Celebrate America’s Birthday with the High Country’s most spectacular fireworks display at Tweetsie Railroad. Enjoy and evening of entertainment and park rides until 9:00 p.m. before preparing for the big show at 9:30 p.m. Dinner and premium viewing area available for those interested in a VIP experience.

Cool Summer Nights — July 9, 16, 23, 30
Beat the heat and enjoy the cool mountain nights at Tweetsie Railroad with Wild West entertainment and park rides open until 9:00 p.m.

Dora the Explorer™ and Go, Diego,™ Go – July 15-17
Explore the park with costumed characters from the hit Nickelodeon shows Dora the Explorer™ and Go, Diego,Go™. Hugs and photos encouraged.

K-9s in Flight Frisbee® Dogs — July 23-31
Be ready to be amazed and entertained by this one-of-a-kind performance by a team of dynamic dogs doing acrobatic freestyle routines. Three shows daily, including a special evening show at 7:00 pm on Saturday, July 23 and 30.

Riders In The Sky — August 6-7
Sing along with America’s favorite cowboys, Riders In The Sky, as they perform their well-known blend of Western music and comedy, at noon and 3:00 p.m. The quartet has been together for over 30 years and won Grammy Awards for “Best Musical Album for Children” with the production of “Woody’s Round Up,” from “Toy Story 2” and the companion album for “Monsters Inc.”

Railroad Heritage Weekend — August 27-28
Celebrate the history of steam locomotives and heritage of the Blue Ridge Mountains with special train rides, tours of the Steam Locomotive Repair Shop, performances by the Cherokee dancers and crafts from the Tsa-La-Gi Touring Program.

Ghost Train® Halloween Festival — Friday and Saturday nights September 23 – October 29
Hop aboard the Ghost Train® for a haunting ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Every Friday and Saturday night, September 23 – October 29, Tweetsie Railroad hosts a Halloween celebration for the whole family including trick-or-treating, the Freaky Forest, a Haunted House and more. Ghost Train® Halloween Festival has been named one of the “Top 20 Events in the Southeast” by the Southeast Tourism Society. Advanced tickets required.

Tweetsie Railroad will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays starting April 8, and seven days a week from May 27 through August 21. The park returns to the weekend schedule from August 22 through October 30, including Labor Day Monday. The 2016 season ends Sunday, October 30. The park’s regular hours are 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., but will be open until 9:00 p.m. on July 4th for the Fireworks Extravaganza and July 9, 16, 23 and 30 for Cool Summer Nights. Daily admission to Tweetsie Railroad is $44 for adults and $28 for children ages 3 through 12. Children 2 and under are admitted free. The Ghost Train® Halloween Festival will take place Friday and Saturday nights September 23 through October 29 from 7:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., with an admission price of $36 for adults and children. Tickets and Golden Rail Season Passes are available at Tweetsie.com.

For more information about the 2016 season at Tweetsie Railroad, visit Tweetsie.com or call 877.TWEETSIE (877.893.3874). Find Tweetsie Railroad on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Tweetsie and Twitter and Instagram.

ASU Community Music School – Register Today!

App State community music schoolASU’s Community Music School (CMS) is registering all interested students online from now until Dec 8. Extended registration continues through Dec 10 with a $50 late fee.  Instructors include Appalachian State faculty, students and performing artists with teaching expertise.

CMS offers instruction in:

  • Appalachian Youth Chorale (AYC) – 3rd-8th graders;  individual voice
  • Music and Movement – ages 2-5
  • Violin, viola, cello, guitar – traditional or Suzuki
  • Flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone
  • Individual piano, group piano: youth and adult (Recreational Music Making)

Lessons take place at the CMS building, 134 Doctor Drive.  *Group piano takes place on campus at the Hayes School of Music.

Information including instructors, rates, policies and more are available on the CMS website: http://music.appstate.edu/about/community-music-school. Contact Laura Chu Stokes at stokeslc@appstate.edu for further information.

Public Comments Invited for Strategic Plan for Watauga County Schools

The Watauga County Schools system is continuing to invite public input on the development of a new strategic plan for the district.

watauga county schools

“We very much want the strategic plan to be a useful working document that will help us make our schools even better so that our students can be even more successful,” stated Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott. “We know the plan will be stronger if it reflects input from the many stakeholders in our schools and we encourage all of the community to take part in its development.”

The strategic plan will include specific objectives to help shape the school system’s priorities and programs in the years ahead. Most objectives will emerge during the plan’s development, but one clear priority will be to continue increasing the graduation rate. The graduation rate at Watauga High School has risen from under 70% seven years ago to slightly over 87% for 2014 and is now about 4% above the statewide rate.

A survey to gather public input on the strategic plan is available through a link on the left side of each page on the Watauga County Schools website and on school websites. Links to the survey are also available on the Parent Links and News and Data pages of the district website. As another way to encourage public participation in developing the plan, Dr. Elliott is glad to come and speak about the plan with civic and business organizations, church groups, and other members of the community.

The Watauga County Schools system consists of eight K-8 schools and one comprehensive high school for grades 9-12. The system has a total enrollment of 4,400 students and is consistently one of the highest performing districts in the state.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare Hosts Heart Shape 2015


Saturday, February 7, 2015
8:00 am – 1:00 pm
Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center
232 Boone Heights Drive (Google Maps)
Boone, NC 28607
(828) 266 – 1060

Free Event

Event Details

Don’t Skip a Beat… Join us for the 3rd annual Heart Shape event on Saturday, February 7, 2015 from 8:00 am – 12:45 pm at the Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center. Over 100 people attended last year’s event and learned about heart health and the cardiology services available through ARHS in the High Country.

The 2015 Heart Shape Schedule:

Health Fair 8:00 am – 11:00 am
Health Screenings 8:00 am – 11:00 am
Ameriheart® Exhibit 8:00 am – 12:45 pm
Wellness Center Tours 8:00 am – 12:45 pm
Wellness Center Classes
Health Talks 11:00 am – 12:00 pm
Health Cooking Demo 12:15 pm – 12:45 pm

Attention Families! Interactive Ameriheart® Exhibitheart-exhibit

Ameriheart® Exhibit is a 13 feet long, 16 feet wide and 12 feet high anatomically correct heart for participants to investigate how the heart functions. The large interactive heart will serve as a compelling attraction that will provide heart health education to guests of all ages.

Workout Classes

During the event, the Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center will provide tours of the facility and will open four classes to the public. Bring your workout clothes and join us for a morning of fitness classes.

Spin Class 9:15 am – 10:15 am
Zumba 9:15 am – 10:15 am
Stretch & Flex 10:15 am – 11:00 am
Yoga 10:15 am – 11:15 am
Water Fitness 10:15 am – 11:15 am

Free Developmental Screenings for Four Year Olds Offered April 4 – 5

wataugacountyschoolsParents of Watauga County children that will be four years old on August 31st of this year are urged to bring their child to a free developmental screening available April 4th and 5th by appointment.

Every child in Watauga County who will be four years old on or before August 31st is eligible for the free screening.

Appointments are required and can be scheduled by contacting Renee Battle at 828 264-7190828 264-7190 between now and April 2nd. On April 4th, appointments will be offered from 7:45 a.m. – 2:45 p.m. at four schools: Cove Creek, Green Valley, Hardin Park, and Parkway. On April 5th, appointments are available only at Hardin Park School and the hours will be 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

“We really want to encourage all parents with a four year old child to make an appointment and bring their child to one of these free screenings,” said WCS Director of Elementary Education Tamara Stamey.

“It will provide helpful information for every family, regardless of what setting the child will be in next fall.” Parents with Friday appointments should report to the school office with their child and will be given directions to the classroom where the screening will take place. Parents with Saturday appointments should report to the gym at Hardin Park School.

A parent or legal guardian must accompany the child to their screening. When parents arrive, they will sign a form giving permission for their child to be assessed. While the child is being assessed, parents will fill out a questionnaire about their child. Screenings take approximately an hour and 15 minute to complete. Parents will receive a letter by the end of June that states whether the screening results indicate a potential developmental delay.If a potential delay is indicated, personnel from the Watauga County Schools Exceptional Children’s Program will follow up with the parents between July and September. Results from the screening will be reviewed for those parents who wish to apply for the NC PRE K Program in Watauga County.
Applications for the Watauga County NC PRE K program will be available on the parent links page of the WCS website and on request from the WCS central office beginning April 7th. To find the application online, please go to www.watauga.k12.nc.us, choose the Parent Links heading, and then click on “forms, menus & other WCS information.” Applications will be accepted April 8th through May 16th and must be delivered in person to Renee Battle in the Watauga County Schools central office at 175 Pioneer Trail in Boone.

Sharks and Other Creatures Arrive at the New Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium

The time has finally arrived. Can you believe we will have this great aquarium so close to us here in the High Country?

Concord NC Aquarium

concord nc sea life

Sea Life Charlotte-Concord ushered three sharks, five rays and over 30 species of other fish and invertebrates into their new aquatic home in red carpet fashion during the aquarium’s Fish Arrival event held at Concord Mills today.

The creature transport truck, a specially equipped semi truck with holding tanks and a life support system for the animals’ health and safety, arrived at Sea Life Charlotte-Concord Aquarium at 9:00 am Thursday. The truck was escorted by police vehicles, a NASCAR car and a stretch limousine. Check out special behind the scenes video:

Lug Nut, the official mascot of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, made an appearance on the red carpet in a NASCAR track car to introduce Sea Life Charlotte-Concord’s new shark mascot, Sharky, to the community.

Lug Nut Charlotte Motor Speedway

Sharky exited a limo with winners of the aquarium’s Young Environmentalist Panel contest. The Young Environmentalist student panelists were selected in December from more than 130 contest submissions. Ranging in age from 8 to 12, the students will help spread awareness of the aquarium and marine conservation issues to their schools and local communities.

SeaLife Aquarium Sharky

After a period of readjustment and monitoring in the truck for the creatures to acclimate, they were rushed inside and released into their tanks. The sharks and rays rode in hammock-like stretchers as the Sea Life team ran them up the stairs to the top of the main ocean tank. This was not the only creature delivery for the aquarium, but it was the only one open to non-employees.


The new aquarium owned by Merlin Entertainments will open its doors at noon on Feb. 20 at Concord Mills. Grand opening festivities for the public start at 10:30 am. Tickets and Annual Passes are on sale now at special discounted rates through Feb. 19 at www.VisitSeaLife.com/Charlotte-Concord.

For more information, visit www.SeaLifeUS.com or www.Facebook.com/SeaLifeCharlotteConcord.