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Release date:2021-06-17 18:51

Former J.J. Jones High joins National Register

June 03, 2021

The former J.J. Jones High School has always been a special place for area residents with ties to the all-black campus that operated in Mount Airy during the last century, and now has achieved even greater status.

It has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, according to an announcement Thursday from Nancy Bowman Williams, the president of the J.J. Jones High School Alumni Association.

^The National Register has been called `a roll call of the tangible reminders of the history of the United States,¨ ̄ the announcement states.

^Being included among all the places recognized as such is of great significance to the town of Mount Airy and all its residents, especially so for the former (Jones) students and instructors. ̄

The school was named for John Jarvis Jones, a pioneering African-American educator who moved to Mount Airy in 1914.

Jones and his family would establish an educational legacy that served generations of students.

The campus that would bear his name, located on Jones School Road in the northern part of the city, opened in 1936. It bid farewell to a final high school graduating class in 1966 ! corresponding with the desegregation of public schools in Surry County.

Leonidas Harold ^L.H. ̄ Jones, son of J.J. Jones, was the only principal of Jones High during its 30 years of operation.

The former high school later served both white and African-American elementary pupils until the mid-1990s, when a new J.J. Jones campus opened on Riverside Drive. It is attended by the city¨s intermediate students.

L.H. Jones Family Resource Center, where a number of community agencies are based under the Yadkin Valley Economic Development District Inc. umbrella, now occupies the former school site that is owned by the alumni group.

Jones Alumni Auditorium also is part of the sprawling complex and hosts a number of community events.

That includes a reunion of those who attended the formerly all-black campus which is held every two years.

^The school provided the best formative education for African-Americans possible during the segregated era, ̄ says information provided by Williams regarding the local landmark.

^Many of those graduates went on to graduate from college, acquire advanced degrees and became successful businessmen and women, teachers, lawyers and doctors. ̄

National Register Designation

Several areas of Mount Airy were recommended for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018 based on research by a Lexington, Virginia, architectural historian recognizing those as historically valuable and worthy of preservation.

The former J.J. Jones High School was nominated as a stand-alone site.

An application for the national designation was initiated on behalf of the former campus in August 2019.

What Thursday¨s announcement termed an ^arduous process ̄ of being of approved for that honor recently was completed with the signing of a certificate by an official in Raleigh. This occurred at the State Historic Preservation Office, which is part of the Office of Archives and History under the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

^We are extremely proud of this honor and look forward to a celebration ceremony that will be an appropriate show of appreciation to those whose hard work and perseverance was paramount in the success of the school, its students and those who were instrumental in obtaining this recognition, ̄ Thursday¨s announcement by Williams states.

The Alumni Association, YVEDDI and the Family Resource Center will celebrate that ^significant milestone ̄ later this year with a program and installation of a seal, it adds.

Around the first of this year, two areas in Mount Airy that also had been recommended along with J.J. Jones High were added to the National Register of Historic Places, the Lebanon Hill Historic District and Country Club Estates Historic District.

The National Register of Historic Places now contains more than 95,000 entries encompassing 1.8 million-plus sites, buildings, structures and objects, which can be found in nearly every county in the nation.

Short-term funds OK¨d for Spencer¨s work

June 03, 2021

Mount Airy officials have approved a budgetary measure aimed at avoiding delays in the redevelopment of the former Spencer¨s textile mill property downtown.

Specifically, the city council established project ordinance and budget ordinance amendments providing funding leeway for a construction coordinator overseeing the redevelopment, to complete preliminary work officials hope will lead to a hotel and convention-type center on the site.

A limit of $50,000 for that purpose was set aside during the last meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners on May 20.

Infrastructure improvements totaling about $2.9 million have been identified in connection with the hotel/market center development, around $1.63 million of which would provide parking areas at the project site now owned by the municipality. Surry County officials have agreed to fund $1.5 million of the total.

An option agreement was approved by the commissioners in March under which an entity known as Sunhouse Hospitality proposes to build a hotel at the former textile-manufacturing complex containing 70 to 80 rooms and the market center with ^mini-convention ̄ space.

The hotel is eyed for a structure known as the Sparger Building and the center in the so-called Cube Building nearby.

Sunhouse has an exclusive option to buy the former Spencer¨s property at a price of $350,000.

Streamlining measure

In the meantime, certain preliminary tasks are needing to be paid for, which led to a suggestion by Mayor Ron Niland to establish the project ordinance/budget ordinance funding mechanism allowing the $50,000 to be used for those.

Niland indicated that with certain needs arising recently with no money officially budgeted for them, this scenario potentially could delay development of the site.

An asbestos study was mentioned as one, along with the abatement of any of the cancer-causing substance detected as a result.

Niland said a leak in the roof of ^The Cube ̄ also needed to be addressed.

^It¨s my understanding that things are moving very, very quickly on the downtown project and the hotel and the convention center, ̄ he related during discussions leading up to the decision effectively setting aside the $50,000.

^It¨s moving so fast that us not being able to do something is slowing them down now. ̄

Niland explained that this concerned having to wait until the next council meeting for approval to fund some facet of work. The board regularly meets on the first and third Thursdays each month.

Instead the new system allows Charlie Vaughn, the construction coordinator, to OK work he deems necessary, maybe costing $5,000 here or $6,000 there ! up to the $50,000 limit, rather than the commissioners micro-managing everything.

Niland used the example of a section of pipe having to be relocated.

^We don¨t need to be waiting until another meeting to move that pipe, ̄ he reasoned, saying city officials earlier had pretty much given Vaughn such authority in his consultant role.

The $50,000 will be available to cover other miscellaneous items that might arise, according to Niland.

^^We don¨t know what¨s going to happen down there, ̄ he said of the project area. ^It doesn¨t mean you have to spend it (the $50,000), because things may not happen. ̄

Workshops to highlight music convention

June 02, 2021

After COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 Mount Airy Blue Grass and Old-Time Fiddlers Convention, many musicians, music-lovers, and fans throughout the region were overjoyed to learn the event would return this year.

Now those folks can add one more reason for happiness ! a full slate of free workshops put on during the convention weekend by the Surry Arts Council.

The convention is traditionally held the first weekend in June and is a family friendly event that brings together musicians and fans for two days of competition, jam sessions, dancing, singing, education, and entertainment, all built around the old-time music made so popular by Surry County musicians of generations past and present. The festival, established in 1972, is dedicated to old-time and bluegrass music as well as dance. The Fiddlers Convention features solo and band competitions and winners are awarded cash prizes.

Once again this year, Veterans Memorial Park Inc. and the Surry Arts Council are offering free workshops and demonstrations on Friday, June 4, at the Indoor Grandstand at Veterans Memorial Park. The workshops offer those attending the opportunity to learn from area award-winning musicians and dancers in an informal, relaxed setting.

Workshops begin at 11 a.m. on Friday with Nancy Sluys and Chester McMillian. Sluys has won numerous clawhammer banjo awards including first place at Galax Fiddlers Convention in 1995, 2002 and 2004. She also won prizes at most of the major fiddlers conventions in the South, including first prize at Elk Creek and Mount Airy. Sluys also plays fiddle and is leader of the Pilot Mountain Bobcats with her husband Bill who plays bass. Kirk Sutphin, another well-known old-time musician, will also be taking part in the workshops.

Chester McMillian will be partnering with Sluys on guitar. McMillian has won many awards and plays with Backstep. He is a recipient of the North Carolina Folklore Society¨s Brown-Hudson Award and has played with legends including Tommy Jarrell, Kyle Creed, Whit Sizemore, Benton Flippen and Fred Cockerham.

Other workshops will be held at the same time with award winning dancers, vocalists, and musicians Martha Spencer, Emily Spencer, Wes Clifton, Nick McMillian, Michael Motley, and others.

At 12 p.m., Jim ^Vip ̄ Vipperman will facilitate the Surry County Old-Time Music demonstration. Vipperman is a multi-instrumentalist and teacher with a long career in music, including winning more top-ten awards than any other fiddle competitor in the history of the Galax Filler¨s Convention and being recognized by the North Carolina Folklore Society with the Brown-Hudson Award for teaching excellence and passing on the tradition.

The demonstration features area old-time musicians and is open to fiddlers convention guests.

At 1 p.m., there is a Flat Footin¨ and traditional dance workshop led by Aaron Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe has competed and won at numerous conventions. Dr. Ratcliffe is assistant professor at Appalachian State University.

Numerous additional workshops begin at 2 pm with many of the same musicians. At 3 p.m. the workshops wrap up and musicians, vocalists, and dancers join together for a Surry County Frolic with dancing led by Martha Spencer and Michael Motley and other workshop leaders playing in ^the band. ̄

Veterans Memorial Park Inc. receives partial funding for these workshops and demonstrations, from the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Flyers with a complete list of workshops and instructors will be available at the Fiddlers Convention.

For additional information on the workshops, contact tanya@surryarts.org. For information on the fiddlers convention, contact judithmappa@ymail.com.

Never forgotten

June 02, 2021

A slight drizzle gave way to blue sky and brilliant sunshine during Sunday¨s dedication ceremony for the new Gold Star monument in Elkin Municipal Park. Though recognizing the sadness of the sacrifice of families who have lost a loved one in service to the nation, the day was also a triumphant celebration of the vow to honor that sacrifice and never forget those who gave all.

^We intend this to be a place of healing and reflection, we want the families to know that their loved ones have not been forgotten, ̄ said Jon Garing, chairman of the Gold Star Committee which raised funds for the monument.

The event was widely attended by area Gold Star families, veterans and supporters as well as numerous members of the Rolling Thunder motorcycle group which honors POW and MIA members of the armed services.

The monument in Elkin, part of the Hershel Woody Williams Foundation which seeks to ^honor, recognize, and serve Gold Star Families, ̄ is the 84th such statue in the country. There are two additional Gold Star monuments in the eastern part of the state in Wilmington and in Carteret County, this is the only Gold Star memorial in western North Carolina and southwest Virginia.

Williams, the last remaining World War II Marine to wear the Medal of Honor, took part in the ceremony, sharing several poems and readings reflecting on those who have lost loved ones in service.

^This is a day of a new beginning for this community, ̄ Williams told the large crowd. ^This is a special day for memories, a day to ensure those of the past who served America will be remembered. For those loved ones who sacrificed one of their own, for America, and for all of us. ̄

^This is a historical place but history doesn¨t stop, it continues. So we¨re making history again for this community today, ̄ Williams continued. ^It¨s going to affect the lives of untold Americans, those who sacrificed and those who, for the first time, can observe a tribute and honor to those who have kept us a free people or perhaps made freedom possible for somebody else who has never known what freedom really was. ̄

The history of the site where Elkin Municipal Park now stands was referenced several times during the event.

^It is only fitting that such a monument be placed in this park for it was here in September 1780 that patriots assembled for a march to Kings Mountain to defeat the Tories in a turning point in the American Revolution, ̄ said Elkin Mayor Sam Bishop.

^Three trails converge in the park, the Overmountain Victory Trail´ the Elkin and Alleghany trail ´ and the North Carolina Mountains to Sea trail, running for over 1,300 miles from Clingman¨s Dome in the Great Smokies to Jockey¨s Ridge on the Outer Banks, all pass by this monument. This monument shows that Elkin honors the Gold Star families of Northwest North Carolina and Southwest Virginia and thanks them for their sacrifice, ̄ Bishop said.

Also speaking on Sunday was Davie County native Harold Franks, the 96-year old fought on D Day in the European campaign of World War II. Franks survived a German prisoner of war camp and is a Purple Heart recipient as well as recipient of a Bronze Star and the French Legion of Honor.

Franks described the night he was on patrol and was shot in the shoulder and the next day captured by the Germans. He detailed watching his buddy with a broken leg being ^shot like a snake. ̄

^That told me I was in for a hell of a time, ̄ Franks said. ^But I didn¨t give up, that¨s the secret to surviving. I knowed my mom wanted me to come home and a lot of my friends wanted me to come home. ̄

^When things got really tough in that POW camp, I could hear Mom praying for me, ̄ Franks said, his voice thick with emotion. ^Thank the Lord she did cause that¨s what gave me the courage to keep fighting. ̄

Franks also gave accounts of some of the generals he fought under during World War II.

^I loved ol¨ Patton, he cussed a lot, that didn¨t bother me, I didn¨t have to do it, ̄ he said. ^He wanted to get the job done and get us home. ̄

^I served under Eisenhower, Bradley and Patton, all. I loved `em all, ̄ Franks said. ^They wanted to be generals, they didn¨t want to be senators. ̄

^The Army generals we¨ve had lately want to be senators where they can get up there and steal our money, ̄ Franks said to to laughter and applause from the crowd.

Sunday¨s event concluded with Gold Star family members being the first to view the unveiled monument up close as they then laid yellow roses at the base of the monument. Members of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association, dressed in Revolutionary War era attire, fired a gun volley and Taps was played.

Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-258-4035 or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @news_shewrote.

Sign company expanding in Mount Airy

June 01, 2021

Roughly two-and-a-half years ago, in the autumn of 2018, Kieffer | Starlite sign company, with facilities in both Denton, Texas and Sheboygan, Wisconsin, purchased Mount Airy¨s Burton Signworks.

Tuesday, the company announced it would be expanding the Mount Airy location, and adding jobs to its local operation.

The firm will actually be consolidating two local facilities, one at 510 Riverside Drive and a second at 609 Junction Street, into one single operation at the Junction Street location, according to Brad Davis, purchasing agent with the company. As part of that move, the company will be expanding, building a 21,000-square-foot addition to the already existing 80,000 square feet at the Junction Street location.

^Two new loading docks are included in the construction, and the layout is redesigned to accommodate channel letter and thermoforming equipment that will be moved to the main facility, ̄ the company said in a written statement about the expansion.

^We are grateful to have the support from our community leaders, ̄ said Roger Miller, director of manufacturing for the Mount Airy plant. ^Their commitment to our success is making our vision a reality much sooner than anticipated. ̄

The firm held what it is calling an ^internal groundbreaking ̄ for employees and company officials last week, with the intention of completing the expansion by the end of August.

In addition to housing all of the company¨s local manufacturing, Miller said the expanded facility ^´will result in a safer and more efficient work environment. ̄

The firm has 140 employees at present, with 35 of those in Mount Airy. Davis said Kieffer | Starlite has 10 job openings at present, and hopes, after the expansion is complete, to have a workforce of 50 in the Mount Airy facility.

^We have several positions open now and will continue to add more after the expansion, ̄ Miller explained. ^Our company offers competitive pay, with benefits and many other monetary incentives. ̄

He said that ^the sign industry offers an exciting career path as there are multiple cross-training opportunities. With custom sign work, there is always a new challenge. ̄

^We have a great team that works together to take a product from concept to watching it ship out to the customer. Our team of hard workers focus on Kieffer Starlite being best in class when it comes to manufacturing and enjoys being a part of delivering quality products to our customers across the U.S. ̄

Kieffer | Starlite had its beginnings more than six decades ago, when Starlite Signs was founded in Denton Texas in 1956. Three years later, in Sheboygan, Kieffer & Co. was founded, according to the firm¨s website.

The two companies operated largely independent of one another, maintaining a successful presence in the industry until November 2016, when the two merged and branded the new company as Kieffer | Starlite.

^The result was increased manufacturing capabilities and ability to provide best-in-class sign solutions nationwide and globally, ̄ the company said.

In what the company refers to as its Southeast Expansion, Kieffer | Starlite bought the Mount Airy-based Burton Signworks in the fall of 2018, acquiring the 35-year-old firm and its 80,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

Now, the company has announced the expansion of the Mount Airy location, along with the job openings. For those wishing to know more about the job opportunities, or about the firm in general, visit https://kiefferstarlite.com/careers/

Local graduates revel in `normal¨ ceremonies

June 01, 2021

After a tumultuous 2020 when COVID-19 disrupted both classroom instruction and graduation exercises, hundreds of seniors returned to normalcy in recent days through ceremonies celebrating both their academic achievements and overcoming the pandemic.

Yet the coronavirus loomed over the proceedings held at various campuses across Surry County, as was the case Saturday morning during Mount Airy High School¨s commencement program.

^Wow, what a year it has been, ̄ Valedictorian Brooke Lankford told a large crowd assembled on the school¨s football field, saying COVID-19 had provided an educational experience in itself.

^I learned that staying positive can make all the difference. ̄

Such comments were echoed at other commencement programs all around the county ! collectively recognizing the fact that it has been a year like no other, but the human spirit triumphed over adversity once again.


Diplomas were awarded to 135 MAHS seniors Saturday morning during a program that punctuated a victory arguably as big as any achieved by the Bears football team in the same venue.

Senior Class President Peyton Harmon, one of five student speakers on the program, neatly summed up events of the past year as ^this most unusual time in our lives. ̄

He went on to say that at periods in life when everything seems to be going well, some unexpected event can occur which disrupts even the best-laid of plans.

^COVID made that pretty clear to me, ̄ the Class of 2021 president observed, while pointing out how good things can still happen under such circumstances.

^We didn¨t back down from the challenges of COVID, ̄ Harmon said of one such result, as evidenced by the proud appearance of the graduates Saturday. ^We did it! ̄ he exclaimed.

Another speaker Tessa Stovall, the vice president of the senior class, offered a similar view:

^While this school year has been anything but ordinary, we are all glad to commemorate this special day. ̄

Darius Walker, Mount Airy High¨s student body president, cited an added degree of pride surrounding Saturday¨s milestone, involving the fact that the campus was opened to in-person learning last August.

^We were the only school in the state of North Carolina to do so, ̄ said Walker, his remarks drawing loud applause from those assembled, including family members and friends of graduates packing the stadium bleachers.

That distinction also was acknowledged Saturday by Dr. Kim Morrison, the superintendent of Mount Airy City Schools.

^I¨m so thankful to everyone who made this happen, ̄ Morrison said during her time at the podium, specifically praising school board members who rendered the difficult decision to proceed with in-person learning.


North Surry graduated 163 seniors Saturday in Charles Atkins Memorial Stadium.

Isaac Riggs, student body president, spoke to his fellow graduates about the importance of being kind. He shared experiences of missionary trips taken during his youth to Ecuador and the Dominican Republic and how the importance of being kind to one another was something he learned through these visits.

^I want us to know that the small things matter ! try to have a positive impact on someone¨s day, ̄ Riggs stated.

^We as `regular¨ people do not always have to give enormous amounts of money or perform amazing acts of generosity, but can simply be kind and do the little things ! this will have the biggest impact, sometimes more than you know. ̄

Riggs was recognized as the salutatorian of the NSHS Class of 2021. He will be a student at Lenoir-Rhyne University in the fall.

James Jessup was the valedictorian of North Surry¨s Class of 2021 and also the senior class president. In addition, he served as Student Government Association president at Surry Community College this past year.

Jessup graduated from SCC before he actually did from high school and is headed to the University of North Carolina in the fall to eventually pursue a career in law.

He spoke to his classmates about looking to the future.

In his speech, the valedictorian quoted Malcolm X: ^Education is the passport to the future. ̄

Jessup also left classmates with a bit of his own advice, saying that ^regardless of the pathway we take, we all have the potential to make a distinguished impact. ̄


Perseverance was a central theme of the East Surry graduation ceremony held inside David H. Diamont Stadium Friday evening.

^It¨s hard to ignore the elephant in the room when we¨re discussing our high school experience, ̄ said Colton Allen, East Surry senior class president. For 135 graduating seniors, attending their final year of high school during a pandemic posed all new challenges on top of the traditional trials students face.

Both student speakers ! Allen and Student Body President Chloe Hunter ! as well as Charity Rosenhauer, who performed Riley Clemmons¨ song ^Keep on Hoping, ̄ stressed the importance of never giving up when faced with seemingly impossible odds. An excerpt from Rosenhauer¨s song perfectly expressed this message to those in attendance: ^Lift your eyes, you¨re gonna be alright. You¨ve got the strength to keep on going, so keep on hoping. ̄

The school year began with remote learning, transitioned into alternating school days in which students learned in cohorts, then slowly but surely made its way back into a more normal environment that permitted graduation to take place.

Students were able to experience all the things one would expect to see at a graduation ceremony including the loud friends and families that filled the bleachers, the smiling, and maskless faces of students as they walked across the stage to shake hands with (or chest bump) Principal Jared Jones, as well as the cloud of silly string that filled the air after the declaration of graduation.

East Surry was also able to properly honor the two students with the highest cumulative GPAs. Jacob Michael Haywood was recognized as valedictorian and Chloe Noelle Sloop as salutatorian.


At Surry Central High School¨s ceremony Thursday evening in Dobson, some graduates danced across the stage or fluttered flags as capes while crossing the threshold to their post-high school futures.

^It is no secret that the past three semesters have been challenging, ̄ Principal Misti Holloway told them.

^You rose to these challenges and you have conquered them. ̄

This year¨s senior class will disperse with 122 pursuing post-secondary education, six entering the military and 46 joining the workforce.


Getting a jump on graduations this year with the first local ceremony was one of the newer educational institutions in the county, Surry Early College High School.

Marking its 2021 graduating class were 64 students who achieved that educational milestone.

This was the 11th Surry Early College High School graduation ceremony, with students earning both a high school diploma and a two-year college degree. The 64 students were honored in in a ceremony held on May 21.

Two of the class¨ top students were the featured speakers, remembering their years together at the school as well as encouraging classmates to look forward to a bright future.

The senior speaker was Mason Elijah Melton and the ^super ̄ senior speaker, Paloma Garcia-Serrano.


Surry Online Magnet School not only celebrated the milestone reached by its seniors Friday afternoon, but the fact that they represented the first-ever graduating class of a unique institution.

^You placed a mark on history, ̄ special speaker Dr. Jill Reinhardt told the seven departing students during their commencement exercises at the Surry County Government Center in Dobson ! a small group with a large achievement,

Surry Online Magnet School had offered them the option of completing a high school education via strictly online means stressing personalized learning through unique and flexible opportunities desired by students for various reasons.

They did so with ^no classroom walls, no metal desks and no cafeteria, ̄ said Reinhardt, who retired from Surry County Schools in January but had served as a key member of a development and implementation team to make the online magnet concept a reality.

Though lacking walls, the school does have a mascot, the Trailblazers, which was referred to multiple times during Friday¨s commencement.

Reinhardt said the individual graduates might have begun their educational careers as Cedar Ridge Elementary School Panthers or Westfield Wildcats, but were ending as Trailblazers ! signifying the uniqueness of the new online public school that was groundbreaking both locally and statewide.

The students were individuals ^who took a chance on change and progress, ̄ said the commencement speaker, who added that some thought the school could not get off the ground during a pandemic and accomplish what it has in such a short time.

The graduates also were praised Friday by their principal, Kristin Blake:

^You have trailblazed through your education and everyone who is here today is proud of your accomplishment. ̄


Millennium Charter Academy presented its fourth graduating class at the annual commencement ceremony on Saturday.

This year¨s class is the school¨s largest with 34 graduates, 80 percent of whom are going to a college or university, including an Ivy League school, with the balance heading directly into the workforce.

MCA¨s commencement¨s theme was ^The Times We Are Given, ̄ a reference to how the students, school and families courageously dealt with the pandemic, even with all the challenges presented, and completed a highly successful school year.

Saturday¨s keynote speaker was Stan Jewell, president and CEO of Renfro Brands, a company that also dealt successfully with the times it was given when Renfro switched from sock manufacturing to mask manufacturing and literally masked Mount Airy and various other cities.

Jewell¨s address offered sound advice to the graduates and all those present. He said it matters not so much where a person goes in his or her life, but how they got there.

The speaker encouraged every student to travel through life with authenticity, being true to themselves, and to have curiosity and grit and work hard in all that they do.

Unlike last year¨s commencement ceremony, which was held out of doors as families watched from their cars, this year¨s program took place in MCA¨s upper school gymnasium.

Graduates were limited to six guests each, and all attendees were masked.

Vietnam vet laments `horrors¨ of war

June 01, 2021

Memorial Day 2021 in Mount Airy was filled with color and pageantry ! ample displays of flags, uniforms, flowers and red, white and blue all around, which largely masked the not-so-pleasant realities associated with the holiday.

But Vietnam War veteran Arlis Thomas, featured speaker for Monday¨s event, made sure those weren¨t glossed over when addressing about 125 attendees ! gathered appropriately at a large granite monument bearing names of Surry Countians dying in America¨s various conflicts.

Regardless of whether one fought in the jungles of Southeast Asia, the snows of Europe or on the high seas, war is accompanied by ^a lot of horrors, ̄ Thomas said. It subjects participants to levels of cruelty and meanness that people can¨t really understand unless they have been there, the Mount Airy veteran added.

That was an experience Thomas had hoped to avoid as a younger fellow.

^I got drafted in 1969, ̄ he related, believing that factors involving timing and training were in his favor. ^I thought I was going to get out of the Vietnam War ! but I didn¨t. ̄

Instead Thomas, a member of the U.S. Army, would go on to serve for two years during a conflict that claimed the lives of about 57,000 Americans before its conclusion in the 1970s.

^I¨m glad I made it back, ̄ said the special speaker, who became emotional at times when reliving memories of the Vietnam War.

^I felt a little guilty that I did make it back (because of) all those who didn¨t. ̄

Yet Thomas admitted during his speech that he didn¨t exactly escape unscathed, recounting the emotional struggles of readjusting to civilian life.

^War affects a person ! not just coming home, ̄ he told the crowd.

Thomas, who pastors a Baptist church in the area, credits his faith for helping him make the transition and deal with the emotional struggles left from the war, by finding peace with God. ^He¨s the one that¨s got me through since 1972. ̄

Much of Thomas¨ address Monday was devoted to those who didn¨t make it back ! from Vietnam and other conflicts dating to the Civil War, which sparked the first Memorial Day observance in the 1860s honoring military members perishing in that struggle.

^It honors those who did their duty and never asked for anything, ̄ he said. ^These soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice. ̄

They served under the flag and for the flag ! the one also ^draped on their coffin, ̄ Thomas said.

The Memorial Day speaker mentioned that all one has to do when calculating the cost of war is to visit a military cemetery and view the dates on tombstones which are testaments to lives cut short with loved ones left behind.

Thomas also said during his speech that Americans owe a debt to those who died.

^It is the responsibility of citizens of these United States to remember those soldiers, ̄ he emphasized. ^I¨m thankful for our soldiers and this country God has blessed us with, ̄ including its freedoms of speech, the press and others.

City official comments

Mayor Ron Niland spoke in a similar vein during Monday¨s program. This included referring to the Mount Airy War Memorial listing the names of 500-plus Surry Countians who made the supreme sacrifice in conflicts beginning with the American Revolution.

^We¨re here today because these names matter, ̄ said Niland, whose father, Francis ^Frank ̄ Niland, served during the Korean War and died last year at age 93.

^By being here, you are telling them that `you are not just names on a wall,¨ ̄ the mayor advised those assembled, saying this is not something to be done just one time of the year.

^They are our families, friends and neighbors and we need to honor them every day. ̄

Monday¨s patriotic program also included a raising of the flag, a singing of the national anthem, a flag-folding ceremony, the reading of a special Memorial Day proclamation, a rifle volley salute and the placing of a wreath at the monument.

In an invocation, former Mount Airy Mayor Deborah Cochran acknowledged those ^who gave their lives so that we may gather here today ̄ and prayed for a time when such sacrifices will not be necessary.

A day to memorialize those who gave all

May 31, 2021

Tomorrow is a day of prayers, moments of silence, and amazing stories.

On the last Monday of May, we as Americans celebrate Memorial Day. While the origins of the holiday are complicated and diverse this day of remembrance can traditionally be traced back to the Civil War.

The holiday was originally known as Decoration Day. This specific day was used to clean, commemorate, and pay homage to the many men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice in their service to our country in war. In our Post-Civil War world, families, communities and our entire country were struggling with an appropriate way to mourn the loss of the more than 620,000 American citizens no longer alive.

This day of remembrance was nationalized due to the extreme number of casualties during and after the Civil War. During this time America saw a rise in community cemeteries devoted solely to soldiers of war; however, some of the traditions dated back to more distant times.

Prior to community and church cemeteries, smaller family-owned plots were popular. Many such places can still be seen on private land and on federal and state holdings. These smaller, family-owned burial places are usually maintained by the descendants of the deceased or through a family-trust. Caretakers clean and maintain the various elements within the graveyard to ensure that traditions were intact.

Keith Kggener, a professor of art and architecture in Missouri, was once quoted with saying that cemeteries were ^created for celebrating and containing. ̄ Many different groups and religions feared that spirits continued to walk among the living after death. The common practice of laying a tombstone or headstone was said to ensure that their loved ones stayed put. Fences were added to keep wildlife and grave robbers out, but some suggest iron bars were used to keep the spirits in.

Decoration Day, and later Memorial Day, celebrations see loved ones and caretakers carefully placing new flowers, seeds, or tending to the faded synthetic blooms. Romans planted flowers among their gravesites to bring beauty and peace to the spirits who dwell there. At the turn on the century, superstition suggested that seeds would blossom into flowers on the grave of a good and kind persons but turn to weeds on a wicked soul. Today, flowers are left in remembrance of love, good times, and hope.

Many gravestones once cleaned reveal detailed symbols or poems of peace and hope. Some common markers in our area are doves for children, or for peace, Hand of God to symbolize ascension into heaven, or a willow tree for belonging and relief.

After a day of travel, hard work, and likely some tears, families often gather for cookouts, potlucks, or snacks. As families settle into their meals, stories and memories are exchanged in hopefully good humor. Victorians also shared food after a day in the cemetery. Funeral biscuits were given as favors. Two sweet cakes wrapped in paper sealed with black wax were given out to funeral goers as a Thank You for attendees.

As we celebrate this Memorial Day with cleaning, remembering, and eating we implore each and every one of you to share wonderful memories of the dearly departed with your friends and family. Our memories and history stay alive as long as we share them with others.

Emily Morgan is the Guest Services Manager at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. She and her family live in Westfield. She can be reached at eamorgan@northcarolinamuseum.org or by calling 336-786-4478 x229

Mount Airy Scout recognized with national honor

May 30, 2021

Ted Radford Jr., a local paramedic, grew up immersed in scouting, with his dad serving as a scout master, and the younger Radford eventually earning his Eagle Scout award and later, as an adult, serving as a scout master.

Along the way he, like millions of scouts across the nation, read the monthly magazine Boys Life, a publication which carried a monthly column detailing the exploits of a Scout somewhere in the nation who had been awarded the Medal of Merit. Those medals are rarely awarded, and only to scouts for showing unusual bravery, or coolness and calm, in the face of an emergency. Oftentimes, those Medal of Merit winners had saved a life with their actions.

^I always wanted to meet someone who had one that medal, ̄ he said recently. ^I thought that would be so awesome. ̄

Little did he know that he would get that opportunity ! and the medal winner would be his son, who may have saved his dad¨s life with some quick thinking after a chainsaw accident.

The incident took place on Christmas Eve in 2019, in the backyard of his aunt, Tabatha Mauldin, cutting up a tree which had fallen .

^I was just cutting firewood, something I¨ve done since I was 8 or 9 years old, ̄ Ted Radford Jr. said. ^The saw just kicked back on me´wrong place, wrong time. ̄

^I don¨t remember exactly now, but I I think I was either trying to split another piece of wood or was stacking wood, ̄ Trae said of the incident. ^Me and my stepbrother, we were kind of talking and working, then I heard a pop, a loud pop, and my Dad started screaming. ̄

The running chainsaw, when it kicked back off the wood, sliced into Ted Radford¨s arm, right below the shoulder and down along the bicep, opening a wide and deep gash. The blade also nicked his chest, chewing through his clothes and into his skin.

Trae, who was 13 at the time, ran over to his dad immediately, and while he said there wasn¨t as much blood as he was expecting, he saw the wound was severe.

^I knew he needed help, ̄ Trae said.

^I looked around, grabbed the cleanest rag I could find, I gave it to him, he did the best he could with that to stop the bleeding. I ran ´to my aunt¨s house. ̄

Once inside, he had his cousin call 911 while he explained to his aunt what had happened. They grabbed some towels and a few belts, then ran back outside, where they used the towels to apply pressure to the wounds and used the belts to apply a tourniquet to slow the bleeding until paramedics arrived. The EMS workers rushed the older Radford to the hospital, where he underwent surgery.

^It was pretty severe, ̄ Trae¨s dad said. ^Luckily I avoided the bone, and didn¨t get any major arteries, but I had some vascular damage, smaller tendon damage. It was very very fortune it wasn¨t worse than it was. ̄

Still, the loss of blood at the scene could have have had tragic consequences had Trae not sprung into action, falling back on training he¨d received at home and in the scouts. He said some of his Scout training was the reason he acted without panic.

^We have the first aid merit badge in scouts, ̄ he said, explaining that part of earning that badge is practicing on mock victims handling wounds just like his dad received. While doing it for real is a little more tense, it was simply following the steps he had already practiced.

His dad was able to come home late that night to spend Christmas with his family, but the story didn¨t end there.

For his actions, Trae was nominated for the Medal of Merit, something only a handful of youths in Scouting receive each year.

In October, during a ceremony at one of the Troop 553 meetings in White Plains, Trae received a surprise.

^My Dad actually presented it to me, ̄ Trae said. ^It was a pretty big surprise, it¨s a really cool medal to earn, it¨s real nice to have that feeling, that you helped out somebody. ̄

But his Dad kept one secret from Trae ! the fact that the episode would be featured in an upcoming edition of Scouts In Action, a monthly column in Scouting Life Magazine. Then one day earlier this month, Tra received a text at school from his dad ! a picture of the page detailing his work to save his dad¨s life and limb.

^It was awesome, ̄ he said with a laugh, then saying he, too, has always wondered about the young men who are featured in that monthly column of the magazine, and what it would be like to be one of them. ^I don¨t know anybody who has done that personally, but all those guys who are in there, a bunch of people talk about them, ̄ he said.

^I hate that I got hurt and he had to see that (injury) in the process, but it¨s an awesome opportunity to meet someone who has been awarded one of those, ̄ Trae¨s dad said, beaming with obvious pride.

Even though it¨s been less than a month since publication of the piece, Trae said others have already noticed. He was recently at a camping event with Scouts from other areas, when his newfound fame became evident.

^One of the guys in my group, he asked me where I got that medal, ̄ he said of the award he was wearing on his uniform. ^I said I got it from helping my dad out when he got hurt cutting wood. `Oh, so you¨re that guy in Boy¨s Life magazine,¨ Trae said the Scout replied.

Trae, now 15, may be in for more such recognition. Over the summer, he¨ll be on the fulltime staff at Raven Knob Scout Camp, whee he¨ll be working with thousands of Scouts coming in from different parts of the state, and region, to camp over the summer.

Afterward, he has plans to finish work on earning his Eagle rank by diving into his community service project required for the award, starting around mid-August, a service project that will be used to help others in the community.

City Memorial Day event making triumphant return

May 28, 2021

Every Memorial Day is special in honoring and remembering those who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces, but a holiday program Monday in Mount Airy will be even more significant than usual.

^It¨s the first public event that the city has been able to have, ̄ Mayor Ron Niland said Friday of traditional large gatherings including those highlighting military service which have been missing in action from a COVID-19 artillery barrage of sorts.

Those casualties included a city Memorial Day observance last May limited to a wreath laying by two Mount Airy Honor Guard members witnessed by a handful of citizens, and a vastly scaled-down and socially distanced Veterans Day program in November.

But Monday¨s Memorial Day event will mark a return to the full-fledged observances of the past with a slate of activities such an occasion deserves, Niland indicated.

^It¨s just exciting to be back out and return to normalcy, ̄ he said.

The program is scheduled for 10 a.m. at its familiar location, the Mount Airy War Memorial on the corner of South Main and Rockford streets, with sunny skies forecast.

Everyone is invited to the event that will feature patriotic activities including a raising of the flag, the national anthem, a flag-folding ceremony, the reading of a special Memorial Day proclamation, a rifle volley salute and the placing of a wreath at the monument bearing the names of Surry County¨s war dead.

^I¨m excited that we¨re going to have an event on Monday, that we¨ll actually be able to gather together in person, ̄ said Niland. He was just appointed to be the city¨s chief executive on May 20 by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners after serving as mayor pro tem in the wake of Mayor David Rowe¨s resignation in October.

Niland will play a key role in the Memorial Day observance, including serving as its emcee.

The schedule includes:

? A call to order by Mayor Niland;

? The raising of the American flag by the Mount Airy Honor Guard;

? A performance of the national anthem by Cassidy Mills of Gentry Middle School;

? A group recital of the Pledge of Allegiance;

? An invocation by former Mayor Deborah Cochran;

? The reading of the holiday proclamation by Mayor Niland;

? Remarks by guest speaker Arlis Thomas, a U.S. Army/Vietnam veteran;

? The placing of the wreath by the city Honor Guard;

? A flag-folding ceremony by the North Surry High School Air Force Junior ROTC featuring cadets McCain Griffith, Kayle Moore, Luther Wagoner, Jesse Willard and MacKenzie Yoder;

? A rifle volley salute by members of two local Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Honor Guard units, from Mount Airy VFW Post 2019 and Pilot Mountain Post 9436;

? The playing of ^Taps ̄ by the two Honor Guard units.

^Please join us for this Memorial Day service, ̄ says a statement issued to the public by City Clerk Nicki Brame, who has organized such programs for years.

^This event offers citizens a chance to recognize, honor and remember military men and women in protection of our country today and in the past. ̄

Automated garbage trucks being pressed into service

May 28, 2021

Trash collection is going high-tech in Mount Airy in the form of two new automated garbage trucks recently joining the fleet of the city Public Works Department.

Most people are familiar with the traditional means of collection whereby sanitation workers empty trash carts into the rear of a truck, then grab a spot on the side of the vehicle to hang precariously while traveling to the next residence where more containers await.

This is being replaced with a new system in which carts are side-loaded using controls inside the cab without exposing personnel to traffic and other hazards associated with the traditional hands-on emptying of garbage from outside.

Mount Airy¨s move to automation ! eyed since 2019 ! is motivated by both safety and financial considerations. The costs of implementing it, including eliminating garbage collector positions through attrition or personnel shifts, are expected to eventually offset the expenses of the change.

That includes the new trucks with a price tag of $760,000 which recently arrived.

The automated system doesn¨t officially begin until July 6.

However, crews have been making some practice runs to get the hang of the automated trucks and equipment.

^We¨ve been training, ̄ city Sanitation Supervisor Russell Jarrell advised Wednesday while headed to East Bluemont Road where the capabilities of one of the trucks were exhibited.

^The drivers have picked it up really good, I think, ̄ Jarrell said, explaining that the July 6 start dates gives employees time to both train and learn the best way to run the city¨s garbage routes.

That proficiency has emerged despite the controls in the driver¨s compartment resembling those of a Boeing 747 with numerous buttons and switches to oversee.

But driver Lee Wright and fellow employee Josh Lyons deftly emptied a cart on Bluemont Road through the process involving a mechanical arm attaching to a trash container and moving it toward a large bin at the front of the Mack truck. After the cart is emptied into it, that container then goes backward over the cab and dumps the garbage into the large storage space to the rear.

Educating residents

Mount Airy officials have said that along with training sanitation personnel, city residents will need some educating about the automated system, which Jarrell reiterated Wednesday.

This includes placing carts on the street with handles facing toward the residence, since the automated trucks can¨t turn the carts around to the proper side. Requiring personnel to leave the cab and move the carts to that position defeats the purpose of the automated system.

To avoid confusion, Jarrell says arrows will be put on the trash carts to indicate how they should be left.

Placement of the carts along the roadway also is important, for the same reasons, allowing them to be easily accessed by the equipment and not requiring a worker to physically maneuver containers into position.

This includes being put close to the curb or edge of the street.

Trash carts also should be left at least three feet from obstacles including recycling carts and fixtures such as utility poles, mailboxes and trees, in addition to parked cars. This allows space for carts to be safely picked up without tipping over other containers or damaging property.

Jarrell sees great promise for the new automated garbage service when all the kinks are worked out of the system.

^I think once people get used to placing them (carts) the right way, it will be just like it is right now ! they won¨t know the difference, ̄ he said of sanitation pickups that will occur on the same days as the present schedule.

^It¨s going to be a great improvement once we get acclimated to it, ̄ Jarrell added.

Cruise-in rolls into RidgeCrest

May 27, 2021

RidgeCrest is normally a quiet and laid-back place, but residents of the retirement community in Mount Airy have gotten a taste of life in the fast lane.

That occurred Wednesday evening when a cruise-in was hosted by the facility as part of a special occasion.

^Today is Senior Health and Fitness Day, ̄ RidgeCrest Social Director Jennifer Johnson-Brown said while standing beside a row of vehicles including models from the 1950s and 1960s with paint schemes boasting an array of colors and waxed up for the event.

Johnson-Brown said social activities are considered a part of the health and fitness equation, with Wednesday¨s cruise-in allowing RidgeCrest residents the chance to enjoy each other¨s company and that of visitors along with looking at the cars and trucks.

Another focus of the day was nutrition, which was addressed with food being served on the grounds of the facility located just off North Main Street near Greenhill Road.

The cruise-in/car show at RidgeCrest also was a warm-up of sorts for local owners of vintage, rare and otherwise unique vehicles in anticipation of a major activity upcoming in Mount Airy.

^All these come to our regular cruise-in, ̄ said Phil Marsh, chief organizer of the Mayberry Cool Cars and Rods Cruise-In series that will kick off again on June 19 downtown after being stalled last year by the coronavirus pandemic.

Marsh, the president of the Downtown Business Association, estimated that about 30 vehicles were part of the cruise-in at RidgeCrest.

The car owners involved were not part of any auto club, he said, but just wanted to come out and add to the festive occasion for RidgeCrest residents.

National Senior Health and Fitness Day is the largest older adult health and wellness event in the United States, which is now in its 28th year.

Those attending the cruise-in at RidgeCrest were among more than 100,000 seniors who were expected to participate in health and wellness events Wednesday at 1,000-plus locations across the country.

Both spring and fall gatherings are part of the National Senior Health and Fitness observance. Its theme for 2021 goes hand in hand with Wednesday¨s cruise-in: ^Life is Better in Motion! ̄

May 27, 2021

The Pilot Mountain Farm and Art Market will make its downtown debut for the 2021 season Friday evening and Saturday morning, offering a diverse array of locally made and grown items.

The market will open on Friday at 5 p.m. with vendors scheduled to be on hand until 8 p.m. The market will reopen at 9 a.m. on Saturday, closing at noon.

Displays of merchandise will be set up at 223 East Main Street on the lawn in front of The Art of Massage and Wellness. According to organizers, the spacious area should provide ample room for growth.

The venture is an expanded version of a farmers¨ market that began late last summer, with restricted scheduling and access due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The concept and planning was a joint venture between friends Jennifer Tinnes and Jennifer Hatcher. Hatcher has since moved away and, though still active in the market, defers the role of primary organizer to Tinnes.

Plans are for the expanded market to host a variety of vendors with offerings ranging from produce, plants, food and eggs to art and handmade crafts. Other items will include but not be limited to jewelry and tie-dyes, metaphysical items, household goods and wellness products. Friday and Saturday vendors may vary and new vendors are still being added.

^We¨re pleased with the variety so far and our plan is to continue to grow throughout the summer, ̄ Tinnes said. ^We want to have a balance of food and art offerings. Right now, we¨re looking for more food and produce vendors. We want to emphasize a rainbow theme, reflecting the diversity of offerings and of our entire community coming together in unity. ̄

A mural depicting a rainbow is planned for the side of an adjacent building, overlooking the lawn and vendors.

Future market dates are scheduled throughout the summer and will follow an unusual pattern. Markets will be held on the second Saturday morning and the fourth Friday evening of each month through October. Plans are for markets to be held rain or shine.

Vendor spots will continue to be available, with 10 x 10 spaces offered for $10 each. Interested persons may text 336-528-4863, email PilotMtnFam@gmail.com or visit the Pilot Mountain Farm & Art Market Facebook page. Additional information may be found on the Facebook page along with a complete schedule

^I¨m excited, ̄ Tinnes said. ^We have an assortment of vendors planned for this weekend and it should be a good start for us. And we¨re still adding vendors so we¨ll continue to grow. This should be good and a lot of fun for our entire community. ̄

Three area teens charged with first degree murder

May 26, 2021

Three area teens ! two from Mount Airy ! have been indicted on charges of murder, kidnapping, and other charges in connection with the shooting death of a Greensboro teen. All three will be tried as adults, according to Surry County Sheriff Steve C. Hiatt.

Their indictments and the charges are in connection with the shooting death of 17-year-old Xzavian Bernard Graves of Greensboro, whose body was found on the grounds of the Armfield Civic Center in Pilot Mountain on May 6.

The next day, officers with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation along with members of the Surry County Sheriff¨s Office criminal investigation division arrested Katelyn Susanne Meyer, 16, of 2520 Wards Gap Road in Mount Airy and Darrin Isaac Lusk, 17, of 105 Brookvalley Road, King, in relation to the case. Shortly after that, based on additional information gleaned in the probe, they arrested Trei Alan Hiatt, 16, of 150 Booker Street, Mount Airy.

While the sheriff¨s office initially did not release any of the names of those charged because they are juveniles, Hiatt announced on Wednesday the three would be tried as adults, and released their names. That came after a Surry County grand jury this week issued indictments against the three, charging each with first degree murder, conspiracy to commit first degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and kidnapping.

The three are being held, without bond, at a juvenile facility administered by the North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice.

The charges are related to the May 6 incident when groundskeepers working for the Armfield Civic Center found the body, immediately calling the Pilot Mountain Police Department and the Surry County Sheriff¨s Office. Surry County¨s three public schools in the town ! East Surry High School, Pilot Mountain Middle School and Pilot Mountain Elementary School ! were all put under a shelter-in-place order at the time out of caution, given the three school¨s close proximity to the Armfield Center.

The shelter-in-place order, which allows students and faculty to move around inside of buildings but does not allow them to exit any building, was lifted within two hours and the students were able to complete a normal school day.

There was no indication if the three knew their alleged victim, nor whether the victim was killed on the grounds of the Armfield Center or elsewhere and his body left there. Additional information was not immediately available.

Sheriff Hiatt said he ^would like to thank the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Surry County Emergency Medical Services, Pilot Mountain Police Department and the Surry County School System for their assistance in this investigation. ̄

City poised to sell property near park

May 25, 2021

Mount Airy officials appear on the verge of selling municipal property in the vicinity of the Westwood recreational and industrial parks, which will not affect the operation of those facilities.

^It is just a wooded tract and I¨m not aware it is currently being used for anything, ̄ city Community Development Director Martin Collins said during a Mount Airy Board of Commissioners meeting earlier this month when the proposed land transaction was discussed.

It was triggered by an offer from a neighboring landowner for the property, a 5.13-acre parcel situated between Galax Trail and North Franklin Road which Collins described as ^a rolling tract. ̄

He said it is across Galax Trail from ballfields at Westwood Recreation Park, part of a 57-acre tract the municipality owns there. Collins added that the land is on the south side of Westlake Drive nearby, and not part of Westwood Industrial Park located along that route.

James Hill, who already owns 21.19 acres at 650 N. Franklin Road along with his wife Julie which adjoins the city property sought, made a written offer in April to buy it for $22,500.

^We have always had cattle on the property and plan on continuing the tradition, ̄ he added of a family involvement there going back nearly 40 years. ^I would like to pasture the land proposed (for purchase). ̄

The Hills actually live on Vine Street and James Hill is the owner of A&A Insurance on West Pine Street.

The commissioners voted unanimously on May 6 to accept Hill¨s offer subject to an upset bid procedure city officials have used for similar circumstances in the past.

This involves soliciting other offers for property considered surplus to ensure ^citizens receive top dollar for this public land, ̄ City Attorney Hugh Campbell explained.

The upset bid process included a newspaper notice being published informing others who might be interested in the property to make another offer of a percentage increase from what Hill put on the table.

A 10-day period was set aside for counter-offers to be submitted to City Clerk Nicki Brame, who advised Tuesday that this has passed without any being received.

The matter will now go back before the board for consideration, Brame mentioned.

A 2018 report revealed that the city of Mount Airy owned more than 900 acres in various locations, including property in the Westwood area.

It was suggested at that time that the municipality should consider selling some of its vast holdings in order to boost revenues on the heels of a 25% increase in the property tax rate approved in June 2018.

Roberts to head Parkway Association

May 25, 2021

An old saying goes, ^if you want to get something done, ask a busy person to do it ̄ ! which applies to a local tourism official who also is becoming president of the Blue Ridge Parkway Association.

Jessica Roberts already wears multiple hats, including serving as executive director of the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority and the Tourism Partnership of Surry County.

Along with spearheading local tourism efforts for the past 17 years, Roberts continues to chair the Piedmont Triad Film Commission based in Winston-Salem, which seeks to lure movie and television productions to Surry and other communities in the region. She has held that position since 2018.

As if those functions weren¨t enough, the local tourism official is poised to take the reins of the Blue Ridge Parkway Association, which will occur during the annual meeting of that organization Thursday in Wytheville, Virginia.

^This group is sort of the marketing arm of the Blue Ridge Parkway, ̄ explained Roberts, who has long been a member of its board of directors.

^And now I have progressed to take over as its president, ̄ she said of activities to occur at Thursday¨s meeting. It will be conducted both in-person and through the Zoom virtual platform given the lingering coronavirus threat.

Also among the slate of 2021 Blue Ridge Parkway Association officers and governing board members to be submitted during Thursday¨s meeting is another local figure, Steve Helms, who is associated with Primland Resort in Patrick County, Virginia.

He will become president-elect and is to take over after Roberts serves out her term as head of the organization.

^Pretty neat considering the Parkway covers 469 scenic miles and both of us are right here in the area, ̄ Roberts commented regarding its wide reach.

^So we try to have a variety of people on that board to represent the entire three-state region (involved), ̄ she said of the leadership of the Blue Ridge Parkway Association.

It is a non-profit entity formed in 1949, made up of businesses and organizations that serve visitors along the scenic corridor of the Shenandoah National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Association members span communities in the tri-state region of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and beyond.

The fortunes of local tourism are closed allied with those of the Blue Ridge Parkway, due to it passing though Surry and neighboring counties and existing as ^one of our biggest attractions, ̄ Roberts said.

She pointed out that Parkway visitation surpassed 14 million people during 2020, despite the pandemic.

Some of those folks invariably make their way to Mount Airy and other nearby destinations for lodging, dining, shopping and additional needs.

The Blue Ridge Parkway Association has provided maps, brochures and the Blue Ridge Parkway Travel Planner free of charge since 1949, according to its website. The group¨s travel resources have evolved to include information online and a trip-planning mobile App.

Roberts is taking on a greater leadership responsibility with the association at a promising time. This region is fighting its way back from COVID-19¨s grip, fueled by a pent-up demand among the public to take advantage of tourism opportunities, she says.

^People have a sense of wanderlust right now. ̄

Ahead of their time?

May 24, 2021

In the early years of the 20th century, Stewarts Creek Township was home to a few hundred families who mostly made their living through farming. Many faced hardship and strife in the first few decades of this new century, regardless of occupation or location. The rural residents of Stewarts Creek Township faced an added difficulty, one that still remains a struggle for many today; expensive medical bills.

Many of the leading causes of sickness and death in rural communities at the time were preventable diseases, however access to medical care was usually too expensive for these families.

Adding to the community¨s health care costs was the distance to the nearest doctor¨s offices. This community, located in the western edge of Surry County, would have to pay extra to get their doctors to travel to them. This cost could be as much as a dollar for every mile, often amounting to a hefty sum just for the doctor to travel to them, even before the consultation fee and medication costs. This meant a simple doctor¨s visit could damage their savings. A prolonged sickness, requiring multiple visits and extra medicine, could have extreme financial consequences.

The citizens of this area banded together to find a unique solution to this common problem. In 1922, 200 of the families joined together to create the The Stewarts Creek Doctor¨s Association. The idea was that families in the area would pay a yearly fee for medical care which would cover as many visits as the doctor needed to make to their home that year and would do away with travelling fees entirely.

Each family that joined paid $18 annually. The fee covered medical care for the entire family and anyone living in their household (excluding servants.) During the Great Depression, with many struggling to make ends meet, the fee was decreased to $15 annually.

Two years after the founding of the association, a new physician moved to Surry County, Dr. Moses Young Allen. Born in Georgia, Dr. Allen studied at Mercer University in Georgia, completed medical training at Tulane University in New Orleans, and worked for a time in West Virginia. In the early 1920s, Dr. Allen accepted a position as a physician in Mount Airy. In 1924, Dr. Allen left Mount Airy for Stewarts Township to serve as the association¨s doctor. For the next 17 years, Dr. Allen would be the only doctor available to more than 200 families in a 10-mile radius.

In 1993, his daughter recalled that the doctor never ^pressed a man down on his luck to repay a note. ̄ In fact, Dr. Allen tried to reduce the price his community paid as much as possible; he would purchase his medicines at cost and sell them to his patients at wholesale prices.

Dr. Allen¨s dedication to helping his community is evident in his determination to reach his patients. In an era where roadways were only slowly catching up to the boom in the number of cars, local roads were rarely paved. Dr. Allen¨s Chevrolet would often become stuck in mud while travelling to house calls, and he would keep a shovel and a hoe in his car in order to dig himself out. As a backup, Dr. Allen had his horse, Byrd, to transport him wherever he needed to go.

This scheme to lower the cost to their healthcare was a success, with three quarters of the bills being paid when due. Those who were late to pay were not left behind. Understanding the financial strain, if there was at least an effort to pay by those past due, they would continue to be eligible for care and no interest was charged on their late payments.

Though the coverage had restrictions (it did not cover dental or surgery) it made basic medical care much more accessible for this rural community. After the first decade of the association, 75% of the original families continued to be part of the scheme, and many new families joined.

The story of The Stewarts Creek Doctor¨s Association is one of a community banding together to solve a problem that affected them all, and in turn, bettering their community as a whole.

Katherine ^Kat ̄ Jackson is an intern at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. Originally from Australia she now lives in Winston-Salem. She can be reached at the museum at 336-786-4478.

Proposed city budget for 2021-22 unveiled

May 23, 2021

Mount Airy¨s preliminary budget for the upcoming 2021-22 fiscal year includes no increase in the property tax rate or water and sewer charges, but citizens still stand to pay more in taxes.

That¨s because of revaluation being a factor in 2021, involving an every-four-year process undertaken in Surry County to update real estate values and reflect present market conditions.

Mount Airy officials learned earlier this year that this would result in higher property values of 7% overall, which is reflected in the proposed city budget.

The package presented Thursday night to the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners by City Manager Barbara Jones calls for the property tax rate to stay at 60 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

Yet that will produce additional revenues because of the revaluation factor. The 60-cent rate is estimated to reap $7,321,200 for the next fiscal year that begins on July 1.

Jones said during follow-up questioning after Thursday night¨s meeting that this is about $600,000 more than the same 60-cent tax rate generated for the present fiscal year before the revaluation.

State law requires local governments to publish a ^revenue-neutral ̄ property tax rate in their budgets immediately after a reappraisal to reflect what the rate would be in order to keep total revenues the same as they were for the previous year.

In Mount Airy¨s case, this would be 57 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

^The purpose of the revenue-neutral tax rate is to provide comparative information, ̄ the city manager states in her budget message, with a municipality not required to downshift its rate to that level.

Mount Airy¨s proposed general fund budget for 2021-22 totals $14.9 million, compared to the budget of about $13.9 million for this fiscal year which was approved by the commissioners last June.

Based on the city¨s adjusted budget for 2020-21, the spending plan for 2021-22 proposes an overall 2.7% increase in operational costs.

The lion¨s share of next year¨s budget would go toward personnel expenses put at $9.8 million.

All full-time municipal employees are to get a raise under the proposed budget, of either 2% or $1,000, whichever is greater.

The Mount Airy Police Department is the largest-funded department in the city, budgeted at $4.78 million.

In addition to property tax proceeds, the second-largest revenue producer locally is the sales tax. Funds from it are projected at $1.3 million next year, a 13% increase compared to the original city budget adopted last June at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

The upcoming general fund budget also calls for appropriating $558,216 from Mount Airy¨s general fund balance, also known as its surplus or savings, for city government needs.

Mount Airy maintains a separate water-sewer budget, representing a self-sustaining enterprise supported by user fees that are to be unchanged for 2021-22.

^I feel this proposal does allow us to continue providing and maintaining a high level of service for Mount Airy citizens and business partners, ̄ Jones states in a summary of the preliminary budget.

Citizens have a chance to weigh in on it during a public hearing to be held during the next meeting of the commissioners on June 3 at 6 p.m.

Young entrepreneurs compete

May 22, 2021

Twelve young people from each of the area¨s seven public high schools gathered Thursday for the day-long YESurry Entrepreneurial competition, showing off their start-up business ideas, all hoping to learn a little more about making their fledgling businesses a success.

And they were hoping for a little cash, too.

The competition is among local high schoolers who are starting up their own small businesses, with the young business people competing in their local high schools, with the winners at each school moving on to countywide competition held last week.

The YESurry Entrepreneurial competition had its beginnings in 2019, when six entrepreneurial teams at Mount Airy High School competed for money to help their start-ups get off the ground and to give each of them a chance to work with local business mentors.

Last year, the competition expanded to other schools in the county, with 38 teams set to compete in the various school competitions before the program was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the competition returned, with 28 individuals and teams competing at the various high schools for prize money and the chance to move on to the county-wide contest.

Those qualifying from each school for last week¨s event, and their business, included:

? Millennium Charter Academy, Max Oakley, Massage Therapy;

? Mount Airy High School, Raymond Milian, Live Edge Woodworks

? North Surry High School, James Jessup, Marissa Casstevens and Cassidy Hull, Canitoy;

? East Surry High School, Josh Lawson and Ty Orosz, Knot-breaker;

? Surry Early College, Nathan Turner, Nathan¨s Creations;

? Surry Central High School, Lanie FitzGerald, Surreal Photography;

? Elkin High School, Beau Callahan and Wesley nations, Blue Ridge Drive-in.

Those students spent Thursday afternoon meeting with a local board of judges, made up of area business people, each team going through a question-and-answer session with the judges.

Later, they each had to do a five-minute elevator pitch, a limited time during which they made their business pitch.

After all was said and done, the judges selected what they considered the top team. The teams were judged on their business plans, their presentations and the strength and viability of their businesses.

At the end of the day Mount Airy¨s Raymond Milian, with his business Live Edge Woodworks, came out on top. Second place went to Nathan Turner, of Surry Early College High School, with his business Nathan¨s Creations and third place went to the North Surry High School¨s James Jessup, Marissa Casstevens and Cassidy Hull and their business Canitoy.

The judges for the competition included Thomas Eidson of G & B Energy; Skip Eckenrod of Interlam; Chris Fletcher of Traffic Control Safety Services Inc.; Albert Lara of Carport Central Inc.; Richie Parker of Surry Communications; John Springthorpe, retired, of SouthData; Tammy York of Petroleum Transport Co.

Photographer to musical stars

May 22, 2021

Daniel Coston, who has spent years as a photographer focusing on musical and entertainment stars ! especially those with ties to the old time and bluegrass music of this region, was on hand Tuesday for a presentation at the Historic Earle Theatre.

Hosted by the Mount Airy Photography Club, the presentation was attended by music enthusiasts as well as photographers.

Entitled ^On the Way to Here, ̄ Coston¨s talk focused on his years photographing legendary musicians and personalities. Many photos in his presentation had never before been seen. He shared stories about surviving in the business of photography.

Photos the Charlotte-based photographer shared included those of Andy Griffith, Benton Flippen walking to his car, and other well-known musicians including Johnny Cash.

Coston has been to Mount Airy several times during his career that has focused on North Carolina musicians including several from Surry County. His extensive body of work represents many genres and a diversity of backgrounds and cultural experiences.

He has expressed his hope that his work will give visitors an experience and a personal connection to the music of North Carolina and celebrate musical styles from old-time, blues and jazz, to folk, rock, bluegrass and country, the music that makes up the rich heritage of Surry County and the state.

Coston¨s exhibit, ^Carolina Calling, ̄ remains on display at the Historic Earle Theatre. The exhibit and the presentation are sponsored in part by a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council, a Division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Niland appointed mayor by board

May 21, 2021

There¨s no need to refer to Ron Niland as mayor pro tem anymore, in light of a ^promotion ̄ he has received from fellow members of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.

Niland was appointed as mayor during a meeting Thursday night after having served in the pro tem, or vice mayoral, capacity since the resignation of the city¨s top elected official last fall. Mayor David Rowe stepped down in October due to health issues.

Since then, Niland has filled two roles, that of mayor pro tem and as the city¨s at-large commissioner, a position he was elected to in November 2019.

And based on discussion Thursday night, fellow officials believed it was time to narrow that down to one.

^Having watched Mayor Pro Tem Niland for the months that he¨s been in that position and especially as he¨s grown comfortable with it, I would make a motion to that we appoint Ron Niland as the mayor of Mount Airy, ̄ Commissioner Jon Cawley said.

The subsequent vote approving that was 3-1, with Niland abstaining and Commissioner Steve Yokeley casting the dissenting vote.

However, Yokeley indicated that his opposition was not due to any problems he has with Niland, but the selection process undertaken Thursday night.

^Ron does a good job and I agree he would make a wonderful mayor, ̄ Yokeley said in echoing statements by other board members.

Yokeley asked that the appointment be delayed, citing factors including whether the next municipal election ! when the mayor¨s office will be at stake ! will be conducted this year or in 2022. Legislators in Raleigh are said to be close to approving a request by Mount Airy to move its elections to even-numbered rather than odd-numbered years as have other localities.

Also, Yokeley said he wanted to get input from the community about filling the mayoral job. ^So I¨d like to postpone the vote, ̄ he said of the motion to appoint Niland, who also is a former city manager of Mount Airy.

A motion by Yokeley to that effect failed in a 3-1 count and led to the successful one by Cawley calling for Niland¨s appointment.

Cawley reminded that Rowe had resigned nearly eight months ago and state statutes suggest such vacancies be filled ^promptly. ̄

^And we¨ve had interest from some of the people in the community, ̄ he added. This includes an appearance by Teresa Lewis, a former city commissioner, who expressed a desire to either run for or be appointed as mayor during a public forum at the board¨s previous meeting on May 6.

There also have been questions from citizens about when and how the post would be filled, according to Cawley.

^I think it¨s a good time to do that, ̄ Commissioner Marie Wood said of naming Niland, mentioning the fact he has had to occupy two positions.

^He¨s shown a lot of energy and a lot of creativity, ̄ said the board¨s Tom Koch in supporting that move. ^It¨s been a very good experience. ̄

Thursday night¨s action leaves a bit of unfinished business, including the naming of another pro tem and filling Niland¨s now-vacant commissioner seat.

In the past, Mount Airy officials have solicited applications from citizens for openings arising on the board.

Niland said those items will be addressed at another meeting.

Niland reaction

The city¨s new mayor expressed gratitude Thursday night for the confidence shown in him by fellow officials.

^I am humbled and honored by you allowing me to serve in this position as mayor, ̄ Niland told them.

The new appointee referred to the many good chief executives Mount Airy has had over the years and indicated that he will attempt to carry on their legacy and ^bring a consensus when possible. ̄

With contentious issues being addressed during his time as mayor pro tem, such as ones surrounding the redevelopment of the former Spencer¨s textile property downtown, there has been spirited debate among city officials on occasion.

^(But) we¨ve never left here mad at each other, ̄ Niland said to fellow officials.

^I just want to thank the board for this honor and I promise to do my best. ̄

Niland, who was 64 when he filed to run as at-large commissioner in July 2019, is a native of Maryland who has lived in North Carolina since 1973.

He completed undergraduate studies at Wake Forest University and obtained a master¨s degree from Appalachian State University in political science.

Before coming to Mount Airy in the early 1990s, serving as city manager from 1991-96, Niland held the same job in Hamlet and also was on the council there for a short time.

He founded the Greater Mount Airy Habitat for Humanity in the 1990s.

Niland and his wife Marie, a retiree of Mount Airy City Schools, have two children.

Local woman addresses Congress on Alzheimer¨s

May 21, 2021

A Surry County leader of efforts to battle Alzheimer¨s disease took that fight to Congress this week ! not by journeying to Washington, but through the next best thing given the present COVID-19 situation.

^Normally these meetings are held in person on Capitol Hill, ̄ Pamela Padgett explained regarding a presentation in which she advocated for federal legislation to advance research and enhance treatment and support services for those living with Alzheimer¨s and their caregivers.

Instead, this week¨s congressional sessions occurred via the Zoom video conferencing system.

But Padgett, human resources director for Behavioral Services Inc. in Mount Airy, believes relying on that virtual platform did not diminish the importance of seeking a cure for Alzheimer¨s or the effectiveness of her message to Congress.

^I think they like to hear from regular people, ̄ she said of members of both the Senate and House of Representatives the local resident spoke to this week.

Padgett has been a local advocate for Alzheimer¨s-related causes for about four years. The disease that gradually robs one of his or her mental faculties hit home for Padgett when her grandmother, Mae Holt, died from it in 2018.

She has chaired the past three Walks to End Alzheimer¨s in Mount Airy and also became an advocate at the state level this year. ^My primary role is to interact with state officials on behalf of people living with Alzheimer¨s, to express what is needed in funding and support for them, ̄ Padgett advised.

The Surry resident also is part of the Alzheimer¨s Congressional Team through the Alzheimer¨s Impact Movement advocacy group, which led to this week¨s presentation to elected officials in Washington concerning the need for more funding.

^I was honored to be appointed to serve in three different congressional meetings, ̄ she added.

Toward that end, Padgett said she addressed members of a key group this week, the Senate Appropriations Committee, which contains legislators from around the country. The North Carolina congressional delegation was among those keyed in to the event, including senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis and Rep. Patrick McHenry, whose district includes Surry County.

^Most of them have been touched by Alzheimer¨s, too, ̄ she said.

Padgett admits being a little nervous going into the congressional meetings. ^I had written a speech, ̄ she said, and practiced it beforehand.

^Once I got started, I felt more at ease, ̄ Padgett said of her address to federal lawmakers, ^once I saw how human they were. ̄

Emphasizing the need

^My speech centered around research which is essential to slowing the disease down until a cure is found, ̄ Padgett disclosed. ^Every year there are 10 million new cases diagnosed, and early onset Alzheimer¨s is represented among those numbers more and more often. ̄ It can strike people as young as 30.

The advocacy effort involving Padgett and the Alzheimer¨s Congressional Team is focused on several legislative items.

These include the Comprehensive Care for Alzheimer¨s Act (bill reference numbers S.1125/H.R. 2517); Equity in Neuroscience and Alzheimer¨s Clinical Trials (ENACT) (HR 3085/S 1548); the Alzheimer¨s Caregiver Support Act (S.56/HR 1474); a $289 million increase in annual Alzheimer¨s research funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); and $20 million in funding to support BOLD (Building Our Largest Dementia Infrastructure).

^That funding¨s essential, ̄ said Padgett, who also expressed thanks to members of Congress for Fiscal Year 2021 allocations, an investment she thinks will aid the many valuable research projects already being conducted.

^Our goal is to effectively treat and prevent Alzheimer¨s by the year 2025. ̄

The past investment in research has resulted in a drug that might be able to slow the disease progression, with advocates awaiting its approval by the Food and Drug Administration on June 7.

Researchers also are close to the development of a simple blood test to detect Alzheimer¨s as soon as 20 years before symptoms appear, according to information provided by Padgett.

^This could be huge and change the course of Alzheimer¨s altogether, ̄ she observed.

^Although great strides have been made, there is still so much left to do. ̄

If a treatment breakthrough does occur by 2025, Medicare and Medicaid spending would be reduced by $47 billion in just the short term, figures from the local advocate indicate.

Meanwhile, money continues to be raised locally through the Walk to End Alzheimer¨s, which is planned this year on Sept 18 at Riverside Park.

Coke machines banned from county facilities

May 20, 2021

DOBSON ! A Coca-Cola advertising slogan urges consumers to ^Taste the Feeling, ̄ but Coke¨s stance on a Georgia voting law has left a bad taste in the mouths of local officials.

This included a vote by the Surry Board of Commissioners earlier this week to remove the company¨s machines from all county government facilities, described by one official as a grassroots movement he hopes will be embraced by other localities.

^Our board felt that was the best way to take a stand and express our disappointment in Coca-Cola¨s actions, which are not representative of most views of our citizens, ̄ says a letter penned by Commissioner Eddie Harris explaining that decision.

The letter, addressed to James Quincey, CEO of the Coca-Cola Company based in Atlanta, is responding to a statement recently released by Quincey in which he criticized Georgia Senate Bill 202. That included Quincey labeling a voter photo ID requirement as racist.

^This bill is a result of the chaos that transpired during the 2020 election, ̄ Harris¨ letter to the Coke CEO continues. ^Specifically, this bill expands early voting opportunities, provides changes to ensure shorter voting lines, ensures that drop boxes are secure and allows greater access to fast, secure and transparent elections. ̄

The board¨s vote on Monday to banish Coke machines from Surry County governmental facilities was ^due to your company¨s support of the out-of-control cancel culture and bigoted leftist mob, ̄ Harris says in the letter to Quincey.

^And the political correctness that goes along with it, ̄ the South District commissioner who lives in the State Road community added Thursday.

Harris said he does not know when the company¨s soft drink dispensers will be removed from county property.

^We actually just notified Coca-Cola local and Coca-Cola corporate yesterday (Wednesday), ̄ he said in reference to a Coke bottling facility on West Pine Street just outside Mount Airy and its Atlanta headquarters.

^There are a dozen machines, ̄ Harris said of the total located at various county installations.

Sending a message

The South District commissioner acknowledged Thursday that the move taken in Dobson will not put any financial dent in a huge global corporation that enjoyed net operating revenues of about $33 billion in 2020.

He said the important thing is to send a message to Coke regarding its position on the Georgia voting law, one he hopes will pick up steam in other areas.

^I intend to send this to county boards all across the state, ̄ Harris said of the letter. ^And we hope this starts a grassroots movement. ̄

The commissioner states in his message to the Coca-Cola CEO that the Georgia voting measure is designed to protect ^the most sacred right that we have in our Republic, ̄ casting ballots.

^Millions of Americans believe that the last presidential election was not held in a fair manner and that more voter fraud will occur in the future if elections are not more closely monitored and regulated, ̄ Harris wrote Quincey.

^Your company¨s position on this is wrong on many levels. ̄

Harris charged that this includes hypocrisy on the part of Coke in its supposed effort to ensure social justice:

^I have seen no public statements from you or Coca-Cola regarding the placement of China¨s ethnic Uighurs and Turkic Muslim minorities in concentration camps, ̄ the letter to the CEO states. ^Where is your outrage of this persecution in a communist country in which Coca-Cola is heavily invested? ̄

Harris¨ letter cites polls showing two-thirds of Americans of every race support photo IDs, and points out that such an ID is required to enter Coke shareholder meetings.

He also mentions charges by a whistleblower that the company has asked its employees to be ^less white ̄ and listed 10 areas in which Caucasians should improve.

^This type of bigoted and racist thinking has no place in corporate America or our country, ̄ the Surry official wrote.

^Coca-Cola should pay a price for their actions, ̄ Harris said Thursday.

Efforts to reach Coke representatives for comment regarding the removal of the machines were unsuccessful.

A call to Coca-Cola Bottling Company Consolidated on West Pine Street was diverted to Charlotte, where a spokeswoman referred questions on the matter to media personnel at the Atlanta headquarters.

They did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Unusual vote

Monday¨s action by the Surry commissioners to remove the Coke dispensers wasn¨t exactly a slam dunk as one might expect from an all-Republican body, but a 3-2 decision reflecting misgivings by some board members.

Larry Johnson, a Mount Airy District commissioner, attempted to abstain from the vote, which typically occurs when a member has a direct personal involvement in a matter that amounts to a conflict of interest.

The other commissioners were required to vote on Johnson¨s abstention, with Commissioner Bill Goins making a motion to that effect.

^It didn¨t get a second, so the motion died, ̄ Harris said.

And when the vote was taken to ban the machines, Commissioner Van Tucker sided with Harris, while Goins and board Chairman Mark Marion dissented. Johnson did not respond one way or the other, ^which in effect was a `yes,¨ ̄ under parliamentary procedure, Harris said.

Johnson could not be reached for an explanation on his position.

Goins and Marion, for their part, had concerns about how the machine ban might hurt local Coca-Cola employees.

However, Harris doesn¨t believe any local workers will be displaced, due to factors including Coke¨s strong presence in the marketplace overall.

He thinks it was imperative to call out the corporation regarding its position on the Georgia voting law. ^Coca-Cola has been the most outspoken company on this. ̄

Harris also believes he and Tucker were reflecting the sentiments of their constituents.

^The people of this county elected us as conservative Republicans, and that¨s how we¨re going to act. ̄

May 20, 2021

Similar to the Blue Ridge Parkway itself, a lengthy pavement preservation project is now under way which will be accompanied by short-term closures at overlooks and picnic areas ! including sites near Surry County.

The work encompassing the Virginia section of the 469-mile scenic highway was launched earlier this month, when the contractor for the project began overlay paving at its northernmost end before proceeding south toward this area.

It is taking place from Afton Gap (also known as Rockfish Gap) at Milepost 0 in the Shenandoah Valley to the Blue Ridge Music Center at Milepost 213 near Galax, and will include 80 overlooks and picnic areas by the time the project runs its course.

Among the picnic areas to be paved are Groundhog Mountain (Milepost 188.8), a favorite among Mount Airy-area residents, and Rocky Knob, located a little farther up the road at Milepost 169.

Individual sites will be closed only while work is occurring, officials say. Paving at each overlook is expected to last only a few days while larger parking areas and picnic sites will take a bit longer.

Plans call for the project to continue throughout the summer and early fall.

Questions including when it might progress to this area were referred to a maintenance unit at Fancy Gap, which could not be reached for comment.

Marianne Kovatch, associate program director for the Blue Ridge Music Center ! where the project will extend to ! mentioned late last week that the center had not received any details about the work.

Kovatch suggested that those wishing to visit affected locations check the Blue Ridge Parkway road and facility closure list to see what¨s open before heading to the Parkway. It can be accessed at https://www.nps.gov/blri/planyourvisit/roadclosures.htm

She reminded that the project will affect overlooks, parking areas and picnic grounds rather than the roadway itself.

Given the large inventory of paved surfaces along the Parkway, and in order to effectively invest available funding, the pavement preservation strategy focuses on keeping the good sections intact and returning fair sections to good condition, officials say.

In addition to the 469-mile motor route, these include bridges, tunnels, parking areas, spur roads, service roads, campground roads and picnic area roads.

Pavement preservation is becoming a regular maintenance strategy in national parks, according to information from the Blue Ridge Parkway headquarters in Asheville.

Studies find that for each dollar spent on preservation, between $6 and $10 in future pavement rehabilitation costs are saved. Funding for road maintenance in national parks, including the Parkway, comes in large part from the Highway Trust Fund, which is derived from a national gas tax managed by the Federal Highway Administration.

^This summer¨s pavement preservation project takes care of key features along the Virginia sections of the Parkway, ̄ its acting superintendent, Alexa Viets, said in a statement.

^We are pleased to bring these areas into better condition with a project that is anticipated to move quickly and should present only minor inconveniences to park visitors. ̄

7 area residents nabbed in drug sting

May 20, 2021

Seven Surry County residents, including three from Mount Airy, were among 46 who were rounded up and arrested as part of an undercover drug sting operated by multiple law enforcement agencies in Stokes County.

The undercover effort, dubbed Operation Busy Bee by Stokes County Sheriff Joey Lemons, took part in recent weeks throughout Stokes County, the sheriff said in a press conference held Thursday and in a subsequent written statement released by his office.

While Lemons did not give the exact time frame of the sting, he said ^This operation is the result of a lot of man hours, resources, and collaboration with agencies from across our region. ̄

He also said the operation consisted of a series of undercover operatives buying illegal drug, traffic stops leading to drug seizures, and search warrants being executed at county residences ^where illegal drugs are being sold and consumed. ̄

Overall, he said Operation Busy Bee netted 46 arrests, many on multiple charges. The operation also led to the seizure of 415 grams of methamphetamine, 28 grams of heroin, 87 grams of cocaine, 1,255 grams of marijuana, and ^various quantities of illegal mushrooms, Oxycodone, Xanax, Adderall, Ecstacy and Sub Oxone pills, along with four firearms. ̄

Among those arrested were:

? Ryan Michael Hartwig, 23, of 6366 Westfield Rd. in Mount Airy, charged with possession with intent to sell and deliver marijuana; felony maintaining a drug dwelling; and possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Hartwig was placed under a 1,000 secured bond.

? Angel Noel Tate, 29, of 151 Crosswinds Dr., Mount Airy, charged with possession with intent to sell and deliver heroin; possession with intent to sell and deliver methamphetamine; felony maintaining of a drug vehicle; and possession of drug paraphernalia. She was jailed under a $30,000 secured bond.

? Kent Lee Brown 31, 241 Gaylon St., Mount Airy, charged with possession with intent to sell and deliver heroin; possession with intent to sell and deliver methamphetamine; felony maintaining a drug vehicle; possession of drug paraphernalia; and driving while license revoked. He was jailed under a $40,000 secured bond.

? Paul Ray Collins, 43, of 1125 Munster Trails Dr. in Pilot Mountain, was charged with two counts of possession with intent to manufacture sell and deliver methamphetamine; two counts of delivering methamphetamine; two counts of selling methamphetamine; along with two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia and one count of resisting a public officer. He was jailed under a $51,000 bond.

? Brandon Darrell Wilson, 24, of 227 South Laurel St., Lowgap, who was charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was placed under a $1,000 secured bond.

? Roger Dale Hauser, 66, 2115 Volunteer Rd., Pinnacle, who was charged with possession with intent to sell and deliver a schedule II substance; selling a schedule II substance; delivering a schedule II substance; and felony maintaining a drug dwelling. His bond was set at $1,000 secured.

? Clinton Dwight Brown, 43, of 1121 Roy Tuttle Rd., Pinnacle, who was charged with possession with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver heroin; possession with intent to manufacture, sell and deliver methamphetamine; felony maintaining a drug dwelling; and possession of drug paraphernalia. His bond was set at $40,000 secured.

The large-scale drug operation resulted in charges against individuals from not only Surry and Stokes counties, but from Forsyth, Yadkin, Rockingham, Davidson and Davie counties.

^The sale and distribution of illegal narcotics doesn¨t stop at the county line, ̄ Sheriff Lemons said. ^It takes a team effort in order to be successful. I want to thank all of our assisting agencies alongside our deputies who worked very hard to make this operation a success. ̄

Among the law enforcement agencies working with his department, Lemons listed the sheriff¨s offices in Surry, Forsyth, Yadkin, Rockingham, Davidson and Davie counties, police departments in Mount Airy, Pilot Mountain, and King, along with the North Carolina Probation and Parole office and the US Department Of Homeland Security.

Hot nights, hot cars to return

May 19, 2021

There¨s a buzz in the air among car enthusiasts in and around Pilot Mountain this week as the word got out that the Hot Nights and Hot Cars summer cruise-in series will finally be making its return to the downtown area.

All 2020 series events were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic along with the first two cruise-ins of the current season. On July 3, however, the series will celebrate the Independence Day weekend by coming back to life with a full slate of traditionally favorite activities from past events, including live music.

According to Jerry Venable, chairman of the sponsoring Mount Pilot Now group, organizers had been in ongoing discussions with the Town of Pilot Mountain about when the event could be revived.

^We had looked at starting back in June, but to make sure we¨d be able to go ahead and confirm a date, we decided on July, ̄ Venable said.

After a restart date was chosen, expectations were that July¨s event would not include a popular staple of past events, a well-known beach music band playing live on the Depot Street stage. Those plans changed after last week¨s relaxing of mask requirements by the CDC.

^We had planned on having The Entertainers, but when we thought there wouldn¨t be any live music we¨d cancelled with them. I was afraid they¨d already booked the date again but reached out just to see. They were still open and we were really pleased to be able to get them back, ̄ Venable said.

Having played at several cruise-ins, the band is a familiar one for local beach music fans. Formed in 1980, the group combines beach and soul classics, including their own, with a diversity of selections. Highlighting their array of awards collected over the years, The Entertainers were voted the Carolina Beach Music Group of The Year for 2014.

^What a kick off for the season, and what a day to start back, ̄ Venable noted with enthusiasm. ^Independence Day is an awesome time to get this started. It¨s worked out great. It¨s perfect. ̄

For years the long-running series has proven to be extremely popular, regularly drawing hundreds of cars and thousands of classic car and beach music lovers to fill the small town on the first Saturday of each month throughout the summer.

While drawing visitors from as far away as other states, the events have also been a favorite gathering spot for locals who come early and stay throughout the day. With stores benefiting from the increased pedestrian traffic, downtown businesses have also come to eagerly anticipate the events.

^The car shows in downtown Pilot have become a local institution, ̄ Pilot Mountain Mayor Evan Cockerham said. ^When the weather is good, this event always brings thousands to our town. We are grateful to Jerry and to Mount Pilot Now for working with the town to bring this back. ̄

Other returning features will include a 50/50 drawing as well as the sale of commemorative event t-shirts.

According to Venable, the series is expected to settle back into its regular summer schedule, with events to be held on the first Saturday of each month through October.

Announced hours are 3-9:30 p.m. but, because of the events¨ popularity, downtown streets usually begin to fill by noon. Classic and spectator vehicles continue to make their way into town throughout the afternoon, cruising Main Street or parking to allow owners to experience the event while sitting or strolling. Multiple parking areas are designated for spectators while specific lots are reserved for classic vehicles.

^We¨re working on lining up sponsors and we want to go ahead and finish booking our bands for the rest of the summer, ̄ Venable said. ^We¨ve gotten a lot of calls and interest from Virginia and especially from South Carolina, and even some from Tennessee. We know everybody is going to be excited to have this back. ̄

`We love public schools¨ tour includes Surry stop

May 19, 2021

It¨s not unusual to see recreational vehicles at Veterans Memorial Park in Mount Airy, with its spacious camping areas, but one RV recently arriving at the West Lebanon Street facility stood out from others.

This particular conveyance boasted an eye-catching paint scheme and messaging that left no doubt about the purpose of its travels: to pay tribute to the state¨s educators.

That was accomplished with a colorful decoration containing an apple in the shape of a heart to form the statement, ^We love public schools, ̄ in which the heart symbol was used in the place of the word ^love. ̄

The appearance by the special recreational vehicle in Mount Airy was sponsored by the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) as part of a statewide tour to show support for teachers amid efforts under way aimed at making their job easier.

As noted on the side of the RV, that mission involves traveling to all 100 counties in North Carolina within a five-month period.

Its stopover in Mount Airy marked the 76th visit to a county and was timed with the observance of Teacher Appreciation Week earlier this month, according to NCAE representative Colleen Lanier.

The visit provided an opportunity to celebrate public education and thank local educators for the job they do, Lanier added.

Representatives of both Mount Airy City Schools and Surry County Schools were present at Veterans Memorial Park for the occasion.

Along with the visibility generated by the large vehicle, Lanier said it allows personnel who drive the RV to the different locations with a convenient place to stay overnight.

She said the tour was temporarily halted last week in a western part of the state due to the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline causing major gasoline shortages there and elsewhere in North Carolina.

Underlying issues

The RV tour is coinciding with efforts by the North Carolina Association of Educators to draw attention to various changes sought on behalf of public school teachers, including pay.

^I would like to see the salary commensurate with the new requirements for teachers, because now you have to teach half the class online, ̄ said Gloria Lawrence, a retired local educator who is active with the NCAE.

Lawrence pointed out Tuesday that while Mount Airy City Schools have operated in-person since the first of this academic year, ^in the county you have half the class online. ̄

That has hampered the ability of teachers to adequately perform their jobs, not only instructing but engaging in vital communications with parents, Lawrence says. ^It¨s harder to have conferences, I think, when you can¨t see each other, ̄ she said of one example.

Lawrence mentioned that she is part of the ^retired version ̄ of the educational organization rather than the ^active version. ̄

^And we¨re stronger than the active version of that group, ̄ she added, due to factors including departures among the ranks of the latter. ^Most of us were active when the political climate was different and we stayed active after we retired. ̄

Lawrence said the retirees¨ arm ^would like to change that if she could, ̄ including more members representing those still working.

In the meantime, the North Carolina Association of Educators recently conducted a Zoom press conference to highlight new poll results showing broad bipartisan support for public schools, educators and investing additional funding in campuses.

Among the findings of the survey, conducted by public opinion pollster Cornell Belcher, 69% of North Carolinians believe the state does not invest enough in public schools and 6 % of Republicans strongly support more funding.

The poll also showed that 6 % of citizens have a positive view of educators in their neighborhood public schools.

North Carolina ranked 42nd in teacher salary for the 2019-2020 school year out of the 50 states, according to the National Education Association.

Among others goals of the NCAE are having nurses stationed in all schools and changing a measure that goes into effect next Jan. 1 in which teachers hired by the state no longer will continue to receive insurance benefits after retirement.

The NCAE believes 2021 could be the year to get some of its goals accomplished since the state Legislature has additional money to allocate as a result of federal pandemic aid.

Long-time community journalist passes away

May 19, 2021

Longtime Mount Airy News journalist and former Lifestyles Editor Eleanor Powell will be laid to rest today in a service scheduled for 2 p.m. in Mount Airy.

Powell passed away last week at the age of 90.

Powell, known affectionately by her former colleagues at The News as Miss Ellie, said during a 2012 interview that it was a high school internship she began at the age of 17 which set her on her life¨s work.

As a high school senior she began working part-time at the paper, typing community news and releases, and writing a weekly column geared toward teenagers.

^I walked into the building when I was 17 and never left, ̄ she said with a laugh in 2012, when she was just days away from retirement.

She did leave the paper before that retirement ! on two separate occasions. She married Joe ^Pete ̄ Powell in 1949, and after working with The News for a few more years, she and her husband began a family, so Miss Ellie took a few years off to raise her three children, returning to The News when the youngest of the three was old enough to begin school.

In 2007, after having worked at the paper for 47 of the previous 59 years, she retired.

That didn¨t last long. Less than a month later, she¨d been talked out of retirement by then-publisher Gary Lawrence. She rejoined the staff, taking up her old mantel of Lifestyles editor as well as editor of the popular weekly publication Surry Scene, a key move during a tumultuous time in the history of The News.

Lawrence, who was a Heartland Publications vice president operating out of the Middlesboro Daily News in Middlesboro, Kentucky, recalled that period on Monday. Heartland had recently purchased the Mount Airy News, along with several other newspapers in North Carolina, and many of the Mount Airy News staffers walked off the job without giving notice.

Miss Ellie had opted to retire during the ownership transition. Lawrence came to Mount Airy, at first on a temporary basis, to assume leadership of the paper in light of the walkout.

^While somehow managing to put out a paper with only a handful of employees and trying to find people to fill vacancies, I did manage to contact a few people in the community and seek advice from the staff that remained, ̄ Lawrence said. ^Without question, the most frequent and forceful response I got from all that contributed advice was `You need to get Eleanor Powell¨ back in the paper. People love her and the stories she presents to the community. ̄

Lawrence reached out to Powell, who was at the beach and in no mood to chat after hearing rumors being spread by former staffers of ^how the new owners were going to cut people, cut benefits, cut this and that, ̄ Lawrence said.

He managed to convince her to sit down and talk with him upon her return to Mount Airy ! by this time Lawrence had been named publisher of The News, while retaining his duties as company vice president.

An hour-long meeting managed to convince Powell the rumors were simply that ! rumors with no truth to them, so Lawrence requested that she consider returning to The News.

^Fully understanding the situation, and in concert with exactly how savvy she truly was, she proceeded to outline her salary, work condition, and other guarantees about supporting the paper, the employees and the community. ̄

Lawrence said his answer to each was a simple ^Yes, ma¨am. ̄

After realizing she was agreeable to returning, Lawrence said he wanted to close the deal. ^Okay then we will run an announcement in tomorrow¨s paper, I¨ll see you at 8 a.m. Monday morning. Her retort was `Oh no, I don¨t show up until 10 a.m. and I¨m not starting until a week from Monday,¨ and once again I was left with nowhere to go but ^Yes, ma¨am. ̄

When she did return, Lawrence said he grew in his respect for her as a person and a journalist.

^I would never diminish the contributions of everyone who stayed at the paper and worked their tails off for the next six months by saying she was the sole reason we ´ survived that period, but I firmly believe she was a key figure in stabilizing the rumored `bad guys, new owners¨ as `not so bad after all.¨

^From a personal perspective, I came to love her, cherish our time together, and my admiration grew for her immensely. She was a force of nature and while I¨m sad she has departed, I¨d bet all I have she¨s likely covering a council meeting of significant importance in her new home community. ̄

The stabilizing force Miss Ellie brought back to the newsroom continued for another half-decade, until she retired for the final time in December 2012.

^I¨ve done nearly everything there is to do here, ̄ she said at the time. Not long after starting her internship, she found herself a regular member of the staff, doing whatever was needed to produce the paper. Shortly prior to her retirement in 2012, Powell said she¨d covered city council meetings, breaking news, taken pictures of auto wrecks and other news events, and written hundreds, perhaps thousands, of feature articles and columns over the years. She said she¨d even been known to sell an ad or take a subscription order at different times over her career.

Throughout much of her time at The News, Powell served as the Lifestyles editor, writing a weekly cooking column, a weekly feature for Surry Scene, handling weddings, engagements, and much of the paper¨s social news. Most weeks during her tenure Surry Scene was chock full of social and feature events. The paper also compiled an annual cookbook featuring recipes and cooking features she¨d written over the previous year.

^Before I came to Mount Airy, I had already heard about Ms. Ellie, ̄ said current publisher Sandra Hurley, who was the general manager at the time of Powell¨s 2012 retirement. ^In conversations about editorial teams, the Society writer in Mount Airy was given as an example of how the work should be done. She was gracious, she was involved in the community, and above all she wanted to share the stories of life in her town.

^There were many times an event wouldn¨t move forward until Eleanor Powell said she was finished getting all the pictures she needed. She was like a butterfly around the audience, bringing smiles to many, as she went around the room, getting pictures, taking names, and asking questions. Civic clubs, schools and church groups knew to keep Ms. Ellie on their contact list and her work with Surry Scene over the years, recorded the good deeds and life events so our readers could share in those joys. ̄

Over the course of her career, her writing won awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the NC State Food and Nutrition program, the NC Lions, and other organizations.

While Powell was an accomplished journalist, that was hardly her only impact on the community. She was a founding member and 60-year charter life member of Modern Gardeners Garden Club, serving at various times as the club¨s president, vice president, and as the chairman of the publicity committee.

Because of her expertise and experience in the garden club movement, she was appointed to the Mount Airy Appearance Commission, serving numerous terms on that body.

^She will truly be missed, and was loved by so many, especially her friends here at The Mount Airy News, ̄ Hurley said.

Her funeral service will be held at Central United Methodist Church, 1909 N. Main Street, in Mount Airy on Wednesday at 2 p.m. with Rev. Danny Miller and Rev. Kennette Thomas officiating. Burial will follow at Oakdale Cemetery. The family will receive friends from 1 p.m. until the hour of the service in the lobby adjacent to the Family Life Center of the church. Due to public health concerns, attendees are requested to wear a mask and practice social distancing.

Baseball bat assault deemed racially motivated

May 18, 2021

An alleged baseball bat attack that left a woman with severe lacerations has landed a Mount Airy man behind bars on felony assault and ethnic intimidation charges.

Alan Michael Buchner, 57, of 863 Willow St., was being held Tuesday in the Surry County Jail under a $40,000 secured bond stemming from the weekend incident involving a neighbor, which investigators say was racial in nature.

Buchner was found to have struck April Denise Clark, 50, who is black, in the face with the baseball bat Saturday night while using racial slurs, arrest records state.

^I think that based on the witness statements, they felt this was whole incident was racially motivated, ̄ city Police Chief Dale Watson said Tuesday regarding the charges issued by arresting officers.

^It was the N-word, ̄ Watson said of the racial slurs said to have been involved.

This served to take the matter beyond an assault case into the hate speech realm and prompted the rare filing of an ethnic intimidation charge in Mount Airy. ^It has been many, many years, to say the least, ̄ the police said of the last instance of that.

Buchner, a native of Brooklyn, New York, is accused of assault with a deadly weapon, inflicting serious injury, a felony, in addition to ethnic intimidation, which is a misdemeanor.

Officers have not determined what led up to the alleged assault, such as bad blood between the victim and Buchner. The incident occurred at his residence, according to police records.

^We¨re kind of at a loss, ̄ the chief said of what might have triggered the event, with officers ^not aware ̄ of anything in particular.

A sign of the times?

Chief Watson says the fact no other ethnic intimidation accusations have formally come to light in Mount Airy for years before now doesn¨t necessarily mean the city has been free of such incidents.

He believes the latest case could be a reflection of what has been occurring nationally over the past year or so with more attention being devoted to racial issues, including the use of terminology considered hate speech.

^People are more aware of it and more apt to report it than they have in the past, ̄ Watson said of ethnic intimidation.

^It¨s just a challenging time. ̄

Buchner is scheduled to make an appearance in Surry District Court next Monday.

Hair plays cultural significance in the past

May 17, 2021

Medusa, Samson, Rapunzel, and Sif (Wife of Thor) all have on thing in common ! hair.

Hair, while physiologically dead once it leaves your scalp, is a vibrant piece of our lives as humans, during and after we have departed.

For many of our legendary heroes and villains, such as Medusa and Samson, hair is regarded as a symbol of power, status, and beauty.

Many Native cultures believe hair is a direct representation of one¨s self-esteem, self-respect, belonging, and holds a higher purpose than simple ornamental beauty. Some European sources echo this statement saying that ^the virtues and properties of a person are contained within that person¨s hair, ̄ explaining why multiple cultures have rituals and superstitions when it comes to cutting, coloring, covering, and styling their locks.

Even ailments were said to have been cured by the wonders of hair and old superstitions. One granny tale suggests that if a child is ailing with asthma, you must ^Drill a hole in a black oak or sourwood tree just above the head of the victim, put a lock of his/her hair in the hole sealing it with wax afterwards. Once the child passes the spot in height, they will be cured. ̄ This tale also warned caretakers to be sure not to cut down the tree ! I¨ll leave the result of that to the imagination.

Here in Appalachia, many superstitions suggested that hair should be cut on a particular day and never after sundown. Disposal of hair was also important; many believed it was to be burned. Hair was/is sacred and could be used against you. If a bird used your hair to create or add to its nest, lore implied that you would be stricken with headaches. The tighter the nest was weaved the worse off you could be.

The Victorian Era or Second Industrial Revolution was noted for its resurgence of women and men wearing hair jewelry. Not only was hair revered as a powerful characteristic, but also a meaningful and tangible token. Rings, necklaces, chains, pins, artwork, and more were carefully crafted and preserved for several occasions and meanings.

Queen Victoria of England (Victorian Era 1837-1901) helped popularize new mourning practices which included wearing jewelry or carrying tokens that contained hair of the dearly departed. These tangible reminders helped the grieving process loss without losing the person entirely. Often lovers would give hair jewelry as a way of being remembered while not together. The crafting of the actual jewelry was detail-oriented and was quickly labeled as an appropriate activity for upper-class women and men. Master hair artisans opened up shop creating refined hairwork that often consisted of precious metals and stones.

While the practice of wearing hair jewelry has fallen out of favor, saving hair as a token of love and remembrance has not.

One 1945 Beulah High School yearbook in the museum collection has a page full of clipped hair. Jessie Snow Chilton clipped and gathered hair from her friends to commemorate their year in school. Each bunch of hair is labeled and placed neatly within the yearbook¨s pages. Jessie went on to open Glamour Beauty Shop, which was operated from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s on Main Street in Mount Airy.

Recently Chad and Debbie Taylor donated a trunk belonging to Chad¨s mother, Ethel Booker Taylor, that contained two bunches on hair. One a long reddish-brown and a smaller blonde clipping. We are unsure who these clippings belonged to, or why they were saved.

No matter the reason, be it for love, superstition, religion, loss, or friendship, hair has unknowingly played an important role in our lives.

Emily Morgan is the guest services manager at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. She and her family live in Westfield. She can be reached at eamorgan@northcarolinamuseum.org or by calling 336-786-4478 x229

Vision group outlines farmer¨s market, ETJ, other plans

May 16, 2021

Community gardens, a sheltered farmers market, a splash pad recreational feature, increased broadband capability and a potential return to extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) zoning are among recommendations from one of four new Vision Committees in Mount Airy.

Plans for those groups were first announced last December by Mayor Pro Tem Ron Niland to help the city move ahead in certain strategic areas. These include economic development; community development/connectivity; downtown/small business development; and municipal partnerships with non-profit organizations, county government and schools.

Each of the Vision Committees, headed by members of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners and containing volunteers from the public at large, has been meeting this year to explore plans in their respective categories and formulate firm recommendations.

The first to announce the fruits of its labor is the committee on community development/connectivity chaired by the board¨s Steve Yokeley.

^I¨m ready for lots of positive changes, ̄ Yokeley said of priorities presented by the 10-member group during the last commissioners meeting on May 6. ^Some will cost a little bit of money, but some won¨t cost anything at all. ̄

Farmers market

Much attention was devoted during the presentation to improving the Mount Airy Farmers Market, which now operates on Fridays in a parking lot at the city post office.

Two separate concepts are suggested for a more permanent, sheltered market facility, one that would be developed on municipal property at the corner of Cherry and South Main streets, and the other prescribing a central downtown location attracting more foot traffic.

Amy Zalescik, one of several members of Yokeley¨s committee who gave mini-reports on the various ideas, said a sheltered facility also could have restrooms and be used by multiple groups for events in addition to the farmers market.

Plans for a splash pad or other water feature could be incorporated with the farmers market shelter, under the community development/connectivity group¨s vision.

A splash pad typically is located in a public area, involving nozzles providing a spray of water to allow both adults and children a means of cooling off in the summer in lieu of a pool.

It was noted that the farmers market/splash pad could be part of the overall project area downtown where a proposed hotel and convention-type center are being pursued on former Spencer¨s textile property.

Community gardens

While those additions will require more planning and unspecified funding, Yokeley¨s committee also focused on what was described as ^low-hanging fruit ̄ ! projects that would be easy and inexpensive to implement.

One is the development of community gardens with assistance from local garden clubs and civic groups such as Rotary.

^They¨re inexpensive and they bring communities together, ̄ Zalescik said. The gardens promote a positive mental outlook and also physical health benefits including better nutrition, she mentioned.

Commissioner Tom Koch said there is much interest in the community for the gardens, based on his contacts with citizens.

Zalescik also brought up another idea springing from the group, in which Mount Airy would become a Tree City USA Community.

^Planting trees along the entryways (to town) and other streets would be a relatively inexpensive way to improve the appearance of our city, ̄ says a written report it prepared.

^Better aesthetics along West Pine Street should be considered a high priority. ̄

Another ^easy ̄ enhancement, mentioned by fellow committee member Brandon McCann, involves providing wayfinding signage, especially near downtown, to better guide tourists to popular venues.

McCann said this should not present a big burden to the city due to plans already approved by the N.C. Department of Transportation to provide signage for identifying stops along what is known as the Yadkin Valley Heritage Corridor.

He also cited another need identified by the committee, to increase broadband, or high-speed Internet availability and accessibility especially in the downtown area, with emphasis on underserved areas.

Broadband improvements would boost economic development, McCann said.

Revisiting ETJ

Another recommendation issued by the committee includes exploring a possible need for extraterritorial jurisdiction zoning, which the commissioners eliminated in 2019 through a 3-2 vote.

The ETJ zone was an area once extending for one mile outside the city limits where Mount Airy maintained control of commercial and residential development. It existed for nearly 20 years after being implemented ahead of a massive round of annexation, to oversee and manage growth in fringe areas eventually brought in to the municipality.

After the special zone was phased out in 2019, the areas it included reverted to county government control.

Commissioner Yokeley was the most-adamant defender of the ETJ zone on the city council, arguing that it was still needed to protect in-town property owners from undesirable fringe development.

The committee¨s recommendation includes having the city planning staff study areas where the zoning might be needed.

Caution urged

Yokeley also was insistent during the May 6 meeting that fellow commissioners accept his committee¨s report and instruct members of the city staff to explore the feasibility of the projects outlined.

While the board did vote unanimously in favor of a motion by Yokeley to that effect, there was discussion on the need to proceed slowly with some of the recommendations such as the farmers market plans.

City Manager Barbara Jones warned about ^going all over the place ̄ with such projects, given the possibility that other Vision Committees will have differing views on facilities when their reports are presented.

^I will choose to wait (on taking major action) until everybody has given a report, ̄ Commissioner Jon Cawley said of the four committees.

^What happens when one group wants to go this way and one wants to go that way? ̄ he said of desiring to avoid a situation in which differing plans are pursued simultaneously. Cawley added that the board should learn everything it can about the various recommendations before making final decisions.

That is expected to come this summer, when Niland seeks to hold a summit including all the committees in which ideas can be reconciled and a priority list prepared.

Gyms coming back to life

May 16, 2021

With the easing up of COVID-19 restrictions and the growing number of vaccinations, local gyms are slowly recovering from the effects of the pandemic.

In March 2020, Gov. Cooper ordered the closing of all fitness centers as a precaution against COVID-19. After almost half a year of being closed, gyms were finally able to re-open in September and members slowly returned to exercises.

^It was really slow there out of the gate with our more vulnerable population, but things have really picked up here lately as more people are becoming vaccinated. Everyone has really been happy with our cleaning and sanitation procedures, ̄ said Mount Airy Parks and Recreation Director Darren Lewis about Reeves Community Center.

Reeves members are required to wear masks while working out and six-feet social distancing is strongly recommended.

^Overall it is going well, we have adapted and evolved with the different challenges and requirements in our fitness gyms and our fitness classes as well. It has made us think outside of the box, we are fortunate to have some amazing instructors. We are looking forward to the time we are back to normal, ̄ said Lewis.

Not all gyms in the area have been as fortunate.

^COVID had a tremendous effect on our business. We were closed fully for six months and when we were able to re-open we were under the restrictions of 30% of the capacity. We have recovered about 50% of our membership as of April 30, but we¨re still missing about 50% of our members, ̄ said Armfield Civic Center Director Leah Tunstall.

The imposing of COVID-19 mandates have received a mixed reaction at the fitness center, with Tunstall noting that membership took a hit when Gov. Cooper ordered that masks be worn when working out back in November. As wearing masks while exercising makes breathing more difficult, many members simply didn¨t want to deal with it.

In contrast, the staff at Northern Wellness and Fitness Center used the downtime to upgrade and improve their facility.

 ̄We closed down March 18, and we re-opened Sept. 7. We used that time to renovate our entire gym, we completely cleaned and sterilized our entire facility, we put fresh paint on everything. We have refinished our basketball gym floor, repainted the entire building, put a completely new dehumidification system, lockers, showers, everything. We installed a bunch of new equipment, ̄ said Northern Wellness and Fitness Executive Director Dean Carpenter. ^Since we reopened, we have steadily grown our membership and hired several well-known local instructors to join our existing instructor list. ̄

Taking precautions against COVID-19, a mandatory temperature check is in place for entry to Northern Wellness and Fitness. Members of the gym are also required to wear masks when exercising, as well as maintain social distancing of six feet.

Officials at Anytime Fitness were not available for comment.

Crowd celebrates Easter Brothers mural

May 15, 2021

Saturday wasn¨t officially Easter Brothers Day in Mount Airy, but could have been judging by the tremendous outpouring of support for the locally based gospel bluegrass group now immortalized on a mural gracing a downtown wall.

A crowd estimated at more than 200 people jammed into and around the Jack A. Loftis Plaza rest area on North Main Street for the dedication of the 18-foot by 14-foot artwork that was completed last month. It occupies an imposing spot outside the building housing Mayberry Trading Post.

The gathering included the last-surviving member of the award-winning musical trio, James Easter, 89, in addition to other Easter family members such as his son Jeff and his wife Sheri. They performed during the event with fellow musicians assembled for the occasion underneath the mural depicting the brothers standing outside their tour bus with instruments in hand.

^It honors them for their music and what they have done for the community, ̄ said a former Mount Airy mayor and radio personality, Deborah Cochran, who spoke about the significance of the mural during Saturday¨s event.

Cochran was one of several former or present local elected officials who attended the program, also including Mayor Pro Tem Ron Niland.

Niland said he was glad to help honor a group that has ^brought so much joy ̄ through its music along with great exposure to the trio¨s hometown.

Familiar to Elvis

The Easter Brothers bluegrass gospel group consisted of James, along with his brothers Russell and Edd, who have both died in the last couple of years.

Their musical legacy was launched in 1953 and included writing more than 400 songs while garnering numerous awards along the way. This included twice being named Gospel Bluegrass Band of the Year in Nashville by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America.

After initially performing in Danville, Virginia, The Easter Brothers gained a following and made several recordings. Their career continued to spiral during the early 1960s through radio shows hosted by the highly popular Don Reno and Red Smiley.

The brothers also had a regular program on local radio station WPAQ and in 1979 the band began performing full-time, with the Easters giving up their day jobs to focus on music. Their performance schedule included stops at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Smithsonian Institution and Sydney Opera House.

Cochran, a huge fan of Elvis Presley, said the local group¨s music even attracted the attention of the so-called king of rock and roll before he died in 1977.

^One of his favorite songs was `The Darkest Hour¨ by The Easter Brothers, ̄ related the former mayor, who also said their presence was felt close to home.

^They sang at my mom¨s funeral, ̄ Cochran mentioned.

James Easter, in special remarks during Saturday afternoon¨s program, recalled the grueling touring regimen that the brothers endured which he said obscured the link to their hometown.

^A lot of people didn¨t know we were born and raised in Mount Airy because we stayed gone all the time, ̄ Easter told the enthusiastic crowd that frequently responded with applause during Saturday¨s program containing ample helpings of reverence and humor.

He confided that the brothers collectively abused alcohol early in life and caused their share of trouble, before turning to the Lord and committing themselves to perpetuating gospel music in His glory.

Jeff Easter referred to his dad Saturday as ^the original Ernest T. Bass, ̄ a character on ^The Andy Griffith Show ̄ who breaks windows with rocks and causes other mayhem.

Key to the city

While no official Easter Brothers Day proclamation was prepared, Saturday¨s program did include a similar ceremonial gesture when James was presented with a key to the city by Niland and Cochran.

^I understand that if we had given it to you in your younger days, we might have been in trouble, ̄ Niland said of reference to Easter¨s wilder times.

^I¨m too old to do anything now, ̄ the key recipient joked.

Easter thanked city leaders for supporting the painting of the mural on a wall right across the street from his music store.

^It¨s an honor that the town of Mount Airy would let us do this today, ̄ he said of the momentous dedication program.

It also provided an opportunity for the artist who painted the mural, Tim White of Blountville, Tennessee, to be recognized.

He was presented a plaque of appreciation by Larry Johnson, a member of the Surry County Board of Commissioners who represents the Mount Airy District.

^It¨s been an honor to paint this mural, ̄ said White, also a musician who plays with the band Troublesome Hollow along with hosting and performing on the nationally syndicated television program, ^Song of the Mountains. ̄

White said he grew quite familiar with The Easter Brothers after becoming involved in music, which has included performing in Mount Airy during Mayberry Days with Troublesome Hollow.

^Mount Airy¨s been a very special place for me and The Easter Brothers have, too, ̄ the mural artist said of the subject highlighted through his creative abilities. ^I thank the Good Lord for giving me the talent. ̄

Another person mentioned Saturday was a local man who spearheaded the project to bring about the mural, including a major fundraising campaign and numerous logistical tasks.

^None of this would be possible without Grant Welch, ̄ Cochran said. Tammy Miller and Downtown Business Association President Phil Marsh also were involved.

Welch told a reporter as Saturday¨s program was drawing to a close that the mural effort required some special help to reach fruition.

^If it hadn¨t been for the Lord, I never would have done that, ̄ he said as onlookers began cheering Jeff and Sheri Easter just before their performance.

^Seeing the crowd, it really means a lot to me. ̄

Area high schools set for graduation

May 14, 2021

With graduation later this month, school officials and students at area high schools are looking forward to a more typical ceremony. Last year, schools were forced to drastically alter their ceremonies and limit guests due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Surry Early College High School kicks off this year¨s graduation festivities, holding their ceremony on campus on Friday, May 21 at 7 p.m. In event of rain, the ceremony will be moved to Saturday, May 29 at 2 p.m.

Next in line is Surry Central High School, with a graduation ceremony on campus on Thursday, May 27, at 7 p.m. The ceremony will be postponed to the following day at 9 a.m. in event of rain.

This will be closely followed by Surry Online Magnet School¨s graduation at the Surry County Government Center in Dobson on Friday, May 28 at 3 p.m. East Surry High School students will graduate on campus later in the day at 7 p.m. In event of rain, the East Surry graduation will be moved to the following day at 2 p.m.

North Surry High School caps off the Surry County Schools graduations, having a ceremony on Saturday, May 29 at 9 a.m. The graduation will be postponed to 7 p.m. in event of rain.

Each of the Surry County Schools graduations will permit six student guests, with COVID-19 protocols closely followed throughout the ceremonies.

^Our graduates are excited that this is a return to a more normal feeling for their senior experience, ̄ said Surry County Schools interim Director of Communications Sonya Dickerson.

On the same date and time, Mount Airy High School¨s graduation ceremony will be held at Wallace Shelton Stadium on the football field. Students are permitted a limit of six guests in attendance. In event of rain, the ceremony will be moved to the main gym, with student guests limited further as indoor restrictions require.

^It will be nice to have a graduation and not draw it out. Last year due to COVID, we postponed it hoping things would get better in terms of what was happening, ̄ said Mount Airy City Schools Executive Officer of Communications Carrie Venable.

Last year, Mount Airy students waited until August before having a proper graduation ceremony. All of the more than 100 student seats were positioned six feet apart, with students getting up one by one to receive their certificates. Any planned speeches were recorded and projected on a screen for the audience to watch. In the end, last year¨s ceremony lasted twice as long as the typical graduation at Mount Airy.

Millennium Charter Academy¨s 2020 graduation was greatly altered as well, with those at the school opting to hold a special drive-in ceremony in hopes of combatting COVID-19. Students stayed in their cars until it was their turn to receive their certificate, and car horns were honked in replacement of claps. Although far from the typical ceremony, the event proved to be a huge success with both parents and students alike.

This year, Millennium students are graduating on May 29 at 10 a.m. in the upper school gym. Guests are limited to six per student. Only Millennium¨s fourth high school graduation, the graduating class of 34 is the largest the school has seen yet. Renfro CEO Stan Jewell will be a guest speaker at the ceremony.

^We¨ve done our due diligence in making sure all restrictions and guidelines are followed. We¨re thrilled to be able to have it this year, ̄ said Millennium Charter Academy Director of Development and Director of IT Lu Ann Browne.

Club member, 94, reaches record milestone

May 14, 2021

Belonging to a group for more than a half-century is a remarkable achievement, but ironically, Bill Holcomb¨s association with the Mount Airy Rotary Club would have exceeded 70 years had he not put work over membership.

^I was asked to join when they formed the club, ̄ Holcomb, 94, said Wednesday afternoon when recalling events occurring shortly after its emergence in 1949 while he was employed at a family business located downtown, Holcomb Hardware.

He declined that offer, not due to lack of interest on his part, but a scheduling conflict.

^They had a twelve o¨clock meeting, ̄ Holcomb explained regarding a timetable still observed by the Mount Airy Rotary Club in sessions at Cross Creek Country Club.

^And that did not work well with the hardware business. ̄

His job responsibilities were such that Holcomb couldn¨t get away for the noontime lunch gatherings even though they were held across North Main Street from the store, at the fabled Blue Ridge Hotel that later faded into the pages of history.

Finally, Holcomb did see fit to become a Rotarian.

^I joined the club in 1968, ̄ he said, launching a career of involvement with the group that¨s arguably the most active in the community through various projects tackling hunger, illiteracy and disease; aiding the environment via litter-pickup campaigns; and more.

Holcomb¨s membership tenure would continue for decades afterward, ending with the nonagenarian¨s recent resignation due to his back being in what Holcomb described as ^terrible shape. ̄

^Well, after 53 years, that¨s a long time ! and I¨ve enjoyed every minute of it, ̄ he said in summing up his departure.

No one has served longer in the 72-year existence of the Mount Airy Rotary Club, and Holcomb was honored for that milestone during a recent meeting of the group at Cross Creek.

This included presenting Holcomb with a clock engraved with the dates of his Rotary tenure in appreciation of those many years of faithful membership and attendance.

He was referred to by one club member as a ^Rotarian extraordinaire. ̄

During his involvement, Holcomb became a Paul Harris Fellow, named for the man who founded the Rotary Club in 1905 in Chicago. That designation recognizes members who contribute $1,000 to The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International.

Holcomb regularly has given a ^birthday check ̄ to the Rotary Scholarship Fund, members say.

His other civic achievements have included being named Young Man of the Year in 1958 while serving as president of the Mount Airy Jaycees.

While Holcomb is tuned in to the service aspect of Rotary, he also has appreciated just being able to congregate with fellow members during gatherings he initially was reluctant to attend but later embraced wholeheartedly:

^The meetings ! the speakers at the meetings, ̄ Holcomb said of what he enjoyed most. ^The camaraderie¨s just great. ̄

Those sessions also enable members to stay abreast of current events, Holcomb observed.

^You find out what is happening in town. ̄

Andy Griffith memories

Bill Holcomb was born and raised on West Elm Street, according to bio information prepared by Rotary Club member Anne Webb.

He gained Eagle Scout status in 1942 and graduated from Mount Airy High School in 1944.

While there, he was a classmate of some fellow named Andy Griffith.

^I don¨t remember too much (about Griffith), ̄ Holcomb said. ^It¨s been so long ago. ̄

Holcomb, however, did share in-class time with Griffith when they took the same English course when Holcomb was a senior.

His few memories of the man who would become a household name as Sheriff Andy Taylor less than 20 years later do not exactly evoke hints of Griffith¨s star potential or acting talent.

^I remember he could go to sleep about as fast as anyone I¨ve ever seen, ̄ Holcomb said. ^It wasn¨t unusual to see him go to sleep in class. ̄

After graduation, Holcomb attended N.C. State University until enlisting in the Navy in 1945, according to the facts compiled by Webb. After World War II, he returned to and subsequently graduated from NC State.

In 1950, the young man began working full-time at Holcomb Hardware, which had opened in 1946.

Also in 1950, Holcomb married Marjorie Benbow and the couple went on to have three children, Inglis Rowe, Denise Faw and Richard Holcomb.

In 1997, Richard Holcomb became sole owner of the traditional hardware store that remains a fixture in the downtown business community.

Despite his back trouble and age, Bill Holcomb still is able to get around town.

^I don¨t drive much, but I do drive, ̄ he said. ^I had my driver¨s license renewed in January. ̄

Yokeley opposes housing complaint process

May 12, 2021

Mount Airy officials are embracing the fact that a $1.73 million federal grant can have strings attached, including requiring the city to establish ! for the first time ever ! a complaint process for alleged cases of housing discrimination.

In view of the grant implications, the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners has voted to adopt the Fair Housing Complaint Procedure, but in a 4-1 decision that reflected vigorous objections of the lone dissenter, Steve Yokeley.

^I have a big problem with this, ̄ Commissioner Yokeley said during a May 6 meeting when that issue was discussed at length.

This resulted in the board¨s action aimed at informing citizens who believe they¨ve been denied housing ! for reasons including race, religion, marital status and others ! about a clear-cut way to register such complaints.

^I¨m all for the intent of this, ̄ Yokeley said of the Fair Housing Act, a law containing anti-discrimination provisions which is the basis for the new complaint procedure. ^I just think some people will take advantage of this and try to get back at landlords for not renting their property to them. ̄

Yokeley also dislikes the fact that the policy as written requires a municipal employee ! the city clerk ! to be involved in the complaint process. ^That¨s a new responsibility for the city clerk ! I don¨t think that¨s their job. ̄

Grant is catalyst

The matter at hand dates to 2018, when Mount Airy was awarded $1.73 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funding to replace aging sewer lines along Maple, Merritt, Porter, Pippen, Rawley and Willow streets.

Part of the granting agency¨s mission is seeking to ensure equal opportunities in housing for all persons regardless of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, familial status or marital status.

And Mount Airy is required to meet various federal guidelines while the grant is open, including approving and publishing the Fair Housing Complaint Procedure that contains contact information for filing a grievance.

Martin Collins, the city¨s community development director, explained in a briefing during the meeting that housing discrimination for the reasons listed is already prohibited by law. The problem for local residents is that up to now, those possibly victimized have been faced with the question ^but what do I do? ̄

Collins said he has received calls from such individuals in the past and referred them to Legal Aid for assessments about whether discrimination actually has occurred.

Under the new procedure approved by the commissioners, anyone wishing to file a complaint of housing discrimination in Mount Airy is to inform the city clerk of the facts and circumstances of the alleged discriminatory acts or practices.

After receiving a complaint, the clerk must acknowledge it within 15 days in writing and inform the North Carolina Human Relations Commission and the Division of Water Infrastructure about the matter.

The city clerk also is directed to offer assistance to the commission in the investigation and reconciliation of all housing discrimination complaints based on events occurring in the municipality.

Board comments

Most of the commissioners said they understood the need to adopt the new procedure as part of receiving the $1.73 million grant.

^We accepted the money under those conditions, that we would do this, ̄ Mayor Pro Tem Ron Niland said of meeting the housing complaint requirement and others.

^There¨s a litany of things, ̄ Niland added. ^And this is pretty standard stuff. ̄

While Niland considers such provisions to be reasonable, he pointed out that in accepting the money Mount Airy is pretty much compelled to do what the grant agency says regardless. ^I don¨t know any other way around it, ̄ he said.

Commissioner Tom Koch also said he didn¨t think the city government had a choice about the matter.

But the board¨s Jon Cawley wondered whether city officials knew about the complaint requirement up front in the grant process. ^Did we fail to do enough due diligence when we took the $1.73 million? ̄ he asked.

Yet Cawley said he doubted local officials would have turned down the money because of such factors.

While emphasizing that he supports the spirit of the Fair Housing Act, Yokeley, a retired dentist who now owns a realty firm, said he sees a potential for abuse.

He cited a hypothetical case of someone with a low credit score and a criminal history of ^50 pages ̄ who might be denied a rental home, then retaliates by filing a complaint against the property owner.

Although Collins replied that those are legitimate reasons for someone being turned down and his or her complaint wouldn¨t advance through the regulatory channels as a result, Yokeley was skeptical.

The South Ward councilman said he could envision a newspaper headline publicizing the fact that a discrimination complaint had been filed against someone, even though it lacked merit.

^And their reputation¨s ruined, and they had very valid reasons to deny rentals. ̄

Clerk involvement

Yokeley further believes a municipal employee should not be expected to take an active role in the complaint process.

He asked Collins if wording in the Fair Housing Complaint Procedure could be changed to remove that requirement by regulatory officials.

^I would say no ! this is their template, ̄ the community development director replied.

^So this has to be approved exactly as written? ̄ Yokeley continued.

^That¨s my understanding, ̄ Collins said.

Commissioner Marie Wood made a motion at one point to table action on the complaint process until possible changes in the wording could be explored.

However, board members decided against that in a 3-2 vote, with the majority desiring to go ahead and approve the document in question to avoid delaying the grant closeout.

Despite the procedure being accepted as written, support was expressed for pursuing changes in the text to eliminate the involvement of the clerk, although City Attorney Hugh Campbell said the municipality will not actually adjudicate complaints.

^Maybe we do need some clarity on exactly what that means, ̄ City Manager Barbara Jones said of the clerk requirement and the possibility of someone else fielding housing-related grievances instead.

City official advocates COVID relief for restaurants

May 12, 2021

A Mount Airy elected official is spreading the word about special COVID-19 assistance available for a segment of the local economy that has suffered disproportionately during the pandemic.

^The restaurant industry has been hit so hard, ̄ Commissioner Marie Wood said as part of an effort to make owners of dining establishments in the community aware of the federal $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund recently made available.

^This is a grant, ̄ Wood stressed during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners last Thursday, unlike a pandemic-related loan that must be repaid.

^So I hope you will take advantage of this money, ̄ the South Ward council member, a retired certified public accountant, added in an open statement to local restaurant owners who have been particularly impacted by governmental restrictions on occupancy.

^This is a great opportunity to try to get some of the money back, ̄ Wood said of significant financial losses and other economic distress resulting to eateries and culinary operations including caterers and food trucks.

In some cases, businesses have been forced to rely on drive-through service and curb pickups with dining rooms closed and limited personnel available.

Timing element

Commissioner Wood pointed to a sense of urgency surrounding the Restaurant Revitalization Fund being operated through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which opened its application period for the direct relief funding on May 3.

^And for the first 21 days of that program, the SBA will prioritize funding applications from businesses owned and controlled by women, veterans and socially/economically disadvantaged individuals, ̄ she said.

^After that, all eligible applicants will be funded on a first-come, first-served basis. ̄

The federal program is providing restaurant owners with funding equal to their pandemic revenue loss up to $10 million per business and no more than $5 million per physical location, according to information from the Small Business Administration.

Funds must be used for allowable expenses by March 11, 2023.

SBA officials say the Restaurant Revitalization Fund is designed to address marketplace realities of food and beverage operations.

They also point out that the effort seeks to promote equity in ensuring smaller and underserved entities, which have suffered the most, ^can access this critical relief, recover and grow more resilient. ̄

The Restaurant Revitalization Fund includes $9.5 billion set aside for smaller businesses. The relief program was established under the American Rescue Plan and signed into law on March 11.

Affected persons can register and apply for funding assistance at the restaurants.sba.gov website.

The online application process is to remain open to any eligible establishment until all funds are exhausted.

New tax collector

In addition to reaching out to local restaurants concerning the COVID relief funding, Commissioner Wood performed another service at last Thursday¨s meeting when she held the Bible for the swearing in of a new Mount Airy tax collector.

Cindy Lux was administered the oath of office by City Clerk Nicki Brame during a brief ceremony.

Mount Airy Finance Director Pam Stone ! whose department handles municipal revenue collections along with budgetary functions, water-sewer billing, the preparation of financial reports and more ! said Lux is a new hire, becoming a city employee about a month ago.

She comes from the business world, having been associated with a finance company in Elkin for 20 years.

^That finance company closed, ̄ Stone explained, leading Lux to migrate to the city government post.

^She¨s jumped right in and is very excited to learn, ̄ the finance director said.

Mount Airy¨s property tax collection rate in recent years has been in the 98% range. This traditionally reflects an intent by the person responsible for that to make sure everyone pays their fair share through a variety of means at his or her disposal.

Lux is replacing Shannon Phipps, who was sworn in as tax collector last year.

Phipps resigned in January, Stone said.

Library to host used book sale

May 11, 2021

A new chapter is being written for a popular event in Mount Airy: a used book sale at the public library which hasn¨t been held since the fall of 2019 because of the pandemic.

It is slated to return this week, but will still be somewhat under the influence of the coronavirus as evidenced by plans to conduct the sale in a different spot than its familiar environs inside the building at 145 Rockford St.

^We¨re going to be set up outside, ̄ explained Cara Maynard, assistant branch manager of the Mount Airy Public Library. The books and other items will be displayed in a courtyard area near the front of the facility during the two-day sale.

It is scheduled Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Rain dates for the event are May 21-22.

One thing hasn¨t changed is its longtime sponsorship by the Friends of the Mount Airy Public Library organization, which uses the proceeds to support various needs of the facility.

The used book sale normally has been held each spring and fall, a schedule said to have been in place for more than 30 years ! that is, until COVID-19 called a halt to the event after the last one in November 2019.

No sale occurred in either the spring or fall of 2020 as the coronavirus maintained its grip on virtually all public gatherings.

The disease situation has improved to the point that the used book sale can make its comeback.

^But in anticipation of COVID numbers and crowds and everything, we just want to have everything outside to be safe for everyone, ̄ Maynard advised.

Though this is a departure from the used book sales of recent years, the shift to the outdoors venue is not exactly breaking new ground.

^We¨ve had some smaller ones outside in the past, ̄ Maynard said.

Huge array available

The sidelining of the event for 18 months produced one positive result: the accumulation of more books for the Friends of the Mount Airy Public Library to offer due to no outlet to dispose of those volumes in the meantime.

^We do have quite a large inventory, so there will be something for everyone and plenty of books to go around, ̄ Maynard said of the stockpile housed in a storage area. ^There¨s got to be probably hundreds of items down there that they will be pulling from to set up for the sales. ̄

Books typically are arranged by categories to promote easy browsing.

The prices will be $2 for hardbacks and $1 for paperbacks, with kids¨ books to be available at the rate of five for $3.

DVDs, audio books and VHS tapes will be sold for $1 each.

^All books are donated and the prices can¨t be beat, ̄ according to a Friends of the Mount Airy Public Library statement, which mentions that the used book project is its largest revenue producer.

Profits from the biannual sales, which have averaged $2,500 to $3,000 in the past, go into a fund maintained by the organization to meet a variety of needs at the library, including buying new books to benefit readers.

^They help us with programs, books, lots of other things that the library needs that aren¨t within our regular budget, ̄ Maynard said.

^Our Friends do a great job with it, ̄ she added regarding the sale and the contributions that result.

Among the efforts Friends of the Mount Airy Public Library supports most are a summer reading program; fall backpack giveaways to students in grades K-12; E-book funding; Internet upgrades; special-interest activities for children, teens and adults; new library equipment; and more.

Outdoor classroom, partnership unveiled

May 10, 2021

Mount Airy City Schools recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Mount Airy High School¨s newly constructed outdoor classroom and announced a new workforce development partnership with Carport Central.

On April 23 the school¨s Business Advisory Council and a number of special guests, including 91st District Rep. Kyle Hall, gathered around the newly constructed outdoor classroom to learn how the school seized the opportunity to get students outside during the school day during the pandemic.

The group also learned of the Connect 4: Community Collaborative Project (C4) that aims to engage 10th-12th grade students in real-world learning experiences in construction, manufacturing, quality control, engineering, marketing, and business through a partnership between Carport Central and the city schools.

The outdoor classroom sparked the partnership and was funded in part by the NC Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council through the North Carolina Schools Go Outside Grant that was designed to eliminate the main barrier to getting kids outside during the school day. This creates a dedicated space for students to explore and learn in a hands-on environment. Mount Airy High School was awarded a $15,000 grant that provided a 20 x 30 shelter and tables for the space. Carport Central donated the majority of the concrete, $100 for plants, and were available to execute the project before the Dec. 31 deadline. The city Board of Education granted $1,500 to provide a wheelchair accessible table and internet connectivity.

The goal for this space is an outdoor classroom during the day and area for students to complete work after school hours. The newly formed Technology Student Organization designed and worked on the space and will sponsor it in the future.

As the district worked with Carport Central to create this outdoor space, ideas began to develop on how to produce students ready for the workforce locally. C4 was then developed and is guided by three primary goals:

1) Increase student interest in engineering, construction, design and logistics sectors of industry through the lens of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM);

2) Increase student achievement by providing a local learning environment with a wide variety of career exploration and project-based learning opportunities

3) Motivate students to pursue STEM related career pathways (especially under-represented populations) and to assist with retaining local youth who will be future community leaders. Within the partnership¨s programs, female students and those from ethnic/racial communities underrepresented in STEM will be targeted for recruitment to engage in STEM pipeline activities.

Accountability and Career and Technical Education Director Olivia Sikes noted, ^We are excited to expand our partnership with Carport Central with the Connect 4: Community Collaborative Project. This innovative partnership will provide opportunities for students to gain internship and workforce development experience in an industry that supports employment opportunities in several career clusters. ̄

For decades, Mount Airy City Schools has enjoyed business and community partnerships that have allowed students first-hand experiences in potential careers. Even in the midst of a pandemic, Mount Airy High School continued to offer internships and work-based learning for students. The NextGen program, led by Polly Long, provided 50 students with paid internships, job placement, Surry Community College (SCC) tuition, and met other needs of students.

Through CTE, under the direction of Catrina Alexander, 61 students enjoyed internships with many being paid allowing them to earn money and discover if the career path they were on was the right fit for them. This year¨s newly formed Surry-Yadkin Works, a collaboration between Elkin City Schools, Mount Airy City Schools, Surry County Schools and Surry Community College, also provided paid internships for four students at MAHS along with SCC tuition, apprenticeships, and job placement. Under the direction of Krystal Tyndall, Safer Surry career development facilitator, nine students have been identified to the newly formed Public Safety Program.

Activities that will be included in CONNECT4 project include:

¢ Career and technical student organizationswill have the opportunity to visit the industry

¢ Technology Student Association members and construction students visiting Carport Central

¢ Mentors working closely with C4 interns posing real-world problems

¢ CTE teachers and Carport Central leading the C4 project and engaging students in project-based learning

¢ Interns from high school traveling on a consistent basis to Carport Central to work closely with STEM experts in the field

¢ Programming through Career and College Conversations at the high school and the Career Cafe at the middle school to bring in guest speakers

¢ Families engaged in the Connect 4: Community Collaborative Project attending after-school club meetings, traveling to Carport Central with their students, attending parent meetings, and engaging with industry experts and counselors to set a path for their student in STEM education

¢ Summer and yearlong programming allowing C4 students to engage with industry for internships and apprenticeships to solve problems and create projects to share out solutions to these problems to the community and their families

Students participating in this partnership will have many hours of being mentored by STEM teachers and STEM industry experts. The 2021-2022 school year will begin with five interns and grow as large as 20 interns in one year. These internships will be paid and have possible opportunities for students to receive tuition funding to continue their education needed for certifications and more.

The beginning of a new era

May 10, 2021

In the years following the Civil War, African Americans gained their freedom from slavery. Families that had been enslaved their entire lives were now free to pursue their dreams and create their own paths. These groups began to spread out over the country, even to create a home in Surry County, an area that had been developed by white landowners for a little more than a hundred years at this point.

The first free African Americans to settle in Surry County came in 1889, though the history surrounding the first settlements is muddy due to a lack of records from the time. The settlement began in the area known as Chestnut Ridge, a section of modern-day Westfield. Perhaps the most noteworthy of the settlers, George Robert McArthur II, bought about 23-1/2 acres of land in 1899 for about 50 cents per acre, eventually spreading out to a further 93-1/2 acres.

Over time, the community would grow into a self-sufficient farming combine. The members of the Chestnut Ridge community would farm, build, and clear land for expansion, being quoted as being able to ^raise a cabin in one week. ̄ McArthur¨s farm became big enough that local farmers, both black and white, would come help in their tobacco barn every Sunday during curing season.

In 1904, the community would build what is now known as the Chestnut Ridge Progressive Primitive Baptist Church, led under the teachings of the nearby Locust Grove Primitive Baptist Church, in which they shared a building. A few years later, in 1907, the group found themselves locked out of the original church, citing doctrinal differences. Later that year, they were able to purchase the plot where the church currently stands for $25. The church still stands today, and you can see it as you drive Highway 89 into Westfield.

Chestnut Ridge got its name from the large number of chestnut trees that the farmers had on their land. The chestnut trees were used to create housing shingles, and chestnuts were sold by the cup alongside the streets for 5 cents. A good number of African American farmers had claimed their territory in the Chestnut Ridge area by the 1920s, but the great depression would prove too much for a lot of them. Noted by Nathaniel McArthur, son of George, Virlen Jessup (a local farmer) lost his entire farm for less than $60 due to the state of the economy at the time.

Nathaniel would put forth an effort to preserve the history of the Chestnut Ridge Community, and in May of 2003, a memorial was dedicated to the founding African American farmers of the area. A celebration was had, and more than 300 people showed up to its dedication. Then governor Mike Easley noted ^Their perseverance and commitment to excellence served them well. These same traits have passed down from generation to generation. It is fitting, therefore, to honor their legacy. ̄

The site can now be found on McCarthur Road (another historical spelling of McArthur), with a memory garden and historical placards.

Michael Morgan is a resident of Westfield with his wife Emily. He is a graduate of Appalachian State, and is a network technician for SouthData Inc. in Mount Airy.

Chamber holds student job fair

May 09, 2021

Last week the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce held one of many job fairs it¨s put on over the years. Except, this one was a little different ! it was specially set aside for area high school and college students looking for both short-term and long-term employment.

^We¨ve done job fairs before, but this is a first for the chamber of commerce to partner with the school systems on it, ̄ said Surry County Schools Superintendent Travis Reeves while stand at the entrance to Veteran¨s Park, where the event was held on Monday. ^It¨s encouraging to me to see young students getting the opportunity to connect with local businesses. ̄

Job fairs are held with the goal of making both the hiring process easier for employers, and the job-seeking process easier for potential workers. Each business involved in a job fair sends a group of representatives to speak on their behalf, being easily accessible to any job-seekers attending the event.

With many area businesses pressed to find employees and fill positions, 38 hopeful businesses participated in the student job fair. One business even managed to hire an employee on the spot.

^A student heard about our program through the welding program at Surry, and he specifically came up here to get a job with us, ̄ said Tampco HR & Safety Director Emily Cave. ^I think the job fair is wonderful. It¨s great for us to be able to see these students one-on-one, and it¨s good for them to speak with people and shake people¨s hands. ̄

^I hope the job fair inspires somebody to seek out a career they didn¨t know they were interested in. With every job you have, you¨ll learn more and more. For people who aren¨t working a job, this is an opportunity to show that you want it, ̄ said Shelton Vineyard¨s Travis Dale.

Lasting four hours, the event was attended by students from every high school in the area, with Mount Airy High School bringing in the most students. Not only limited to high school students, the job fair also hosted students from colleges including UNC Charlotte, Catawba, Western Carolina and area community colleges such as Surry.

 ̄It seemed like a good opportunity, I¨m looking for a summer job, something with mechanical engineering. It¨s been a really good day, there¨s lots of good companies, and I have learned a lot more than I thought I would, ̄ said one Surry Community College student about the job fair.

 ̄We were very pleased with the event. We had more vendors than we thought we would, and we had about 120 students show up. You would always like to have more job-seekers and more students, but overall we thought it was a success, ̄ said Chamber President Randy Collins.

The chamber plans to hold a second student job fair some time in 2022. In the meantime, the chamber will host another job fair this summer open to anyone who wishes to attend, adults and students alike.

Looking for work and missed the job fair? Contact Randy Collins at randy@mtairyncchamber.org with a resume and any other relevant information, and he will gladly distribute it to the various vendors who were present at the event.

Hospital parking deck, building plans revealed

May 09, 2021

Northern Regional Hospital has unveiled plans for major projects costing an estimated $11 million, including the addition of a medical office building, parking deck and other facilities.

This emerged during a presentation to the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners at a meeting Thursday afternoon, when city officials were asked to close a section of Worth Street near the hospital as a safety measure linked to those plans.

The changes in store for the Rockford Street facility ! which opened in 1957 ! represent 16 months of study and reflect ^where we are going for the next 20-plus years, ̄ hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Lumsden stated.

^We are very excited today to be able to present this plan to you, ̄ Lumsden said of the overall campus site study containing various elements, which meets one of his goals when becoming CEO nearly three years ago: growing the hospital.

Mayor Pro Tem Ron Niland mentioned Thursday that it is now the largest employer in Surry County with more than 1,000 people on the payroll.

The project announcement came in the wake of action last month by the commissioners to rezone five separate parcels of hospital land on South South and Worth streets for Medical Business use.

One highlight of the master campus plan ! to be done in phases ! is the construction of a 25,000-square-foot medical office building on South Street just west of the main hospital site.

It also the costliest, with a price tag of $8.25 million. The construction is scheduled to begin this fall and be completed in the spring of 2023.

^We are moving very quickly to secure pricing for all phases of the project, ̄ said Lumsden, since construction costs are increasing.

Though not included on the list of items presently pursued, Lumsden said that at some point another 40,000-square-foot building is to be constructed to accommodate specialty services.

Parking measures

While more office space is an objective of the expansion effort, Lumsden said safe and convenient accessibility to Northern Regional Hospital is another ! ^which is a challenge for some of our patients and employees. ̄

Toward that end, a parking deck costing $2 million will be built on property near the corner or Rockford and South streets above a portion of an existing surgery center parking lot.

The one-level deck is to contain 70 spaces. Work on it is slated to start in February or March of 2022 and be finished in December of that year.

Another parking addition will involve the development of an on-grade lot south of the surgery center, providing another 50 spaces. Work on this phase is to begin in July or August and be completed in December.

About 375 new parking spaces will result from the different projects, according to Lumsden, who said this is ^really needed. ̄

Worth Street closure

Another facet of Northern Regional Hospital¨s growth package is focused on the redevelopment later this year of its north campus along Worth Street, where a helicopter landing and takeoff site is located.

^Most important is it will create a safer environment for our employees and patients and visitors, ̄ Lumsden said.

In conjunction with the north campus phase, Lumsden asked Mount Airy leaders Thursday afternoon to close the portion of Worth Street between the intersections of Rockford and South South streets.

He said safety is the prime motivation there, adding that the hospital would have sought the closure even without the redevelopment plans. ^Because it¨s a dangerous situation. ̄

The present setup includes a painted crosswalk on the pavement and signage directing motorists to stop as people cross back and forth between a parking area and the hospital building.

^But the sign gets run over and has to be replaced, ̄ the hospital CEO said.

^The vast majority of vehicles that use Worth Street ´ exceed the speed limit, ̄ Lumsden added. One driver passing through was clocked at 51 mph.

This is coupled with the findings of a recent one-week survey showing that about 750 crossings of Worth Street occur per day, including ill or injured persons ferried across it to medical helicopters for trauma center transports.

^That¨s not good ! that¨s not safe, ̄ the hospital official commented.

The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners took the first step toward the Worth Street closure Thursday afternoon by giving unanimous approval to a resolution of intent for that and setting a required public hearing for next month on the proposal.

City Planning Director Andy Goodall, who outlined this process Thursday, said the closing of the section of street in question probably will draw little or no opposition since the hospital owns most of the property abutting the roadway.

Because the street is on the state highway system, the closure must be approved by the N.C. Department of Transportation along with municipal officials. That also is not viewed as an obstacle, based on discussion at the meeting.

Career Center open house to aid job seekers

May 08, 2021

Local residents have an opportunity this week to learn about employment opportunities while also enjoying an array of refreshments.

This will occur through a series of open houses on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the NCWorks Career Center, 541 W. Pine St., Mount Airy.

Those events, to be hosted by the center along with the Piedmont Triad Regional Workforce Development Board in Kernersville, are geared toward persons interested in entering, changing or advancing in a career.

The open houses will allow them to learn about various career services available at no cost to North Carolina residents.

Organizers say this week¨s events also will benefit businesses.

^Many local employers are having a difficult time finding applicants for the positions they need to fill, ̄ explained Tammy Caudill, strategic initiatives coordinator of the Piedmont Triad Regional Council, which works on behalf of member communities including Mount Airy.

^We believe that is due to lack of awareness of job seekers, ̄ Caudill added, including knowing about career and training opportunities.

NCWorks Career Centers, including the one in Mount Airy, have services to assist all state residents in their employment search. For qualified individuals, NCWorks also can help with funding for needed training to embark on a new career path.

^People are also unaware that an individual does not have to be unemployed in order to use many of NCWorks¨ services, ̄ Caudill observed.

Muffins and more

As an added enticement to prospective attendees, each of the three open houses this week will be accompanied by food-oriented themes to help promote the events. These include:

? Muffin Monday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.;

? Wet Your Whistle Wednesday, offering coffee, teas and juices. The schedule that day is also 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.;

? Fresh Fruit Friday, to occur during the same 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. time frame.

Everyone is invited to stop in for the refreshments and learn about the career services available.

Interested individuals are asked to wear face masks and practice social distancing.

Those unable to attend one of the three sessions can call to make an appointment for career assistance at 336-786-4669.

^We hope that this event will help educate job seekers about the many services available at NCWorks, ̄ Caudill mentioned regarding the open house campaign.

Teen killed, 3 others charged in his death

May 07, 2021

Three teenagers have been arrested and charged with murder in the shooting death of a 17-year-old whose body was found in Pilot Mountain on Thursday morning.

Although law enforcement is releasing limited details of the death, Surry County Sheriff Steve C. Hiatt issued a statement on Friday saying the body, found at the park at Armfield Civic Center in Pilot Mountain, was that of a 17-year-old male who had died from a gunshot wound. The sheriff categorized the death as a homicide, and said three teens ! a 16-year-old female and two 17-year-old males, had been arrested and charged in the case ^for their direct involvement in the shooting death of the male victim. ̄

The sheriff said he would not release the names of the victim nor the three charged because they are all younger than age 18, nor give any indication where they live. He said the three suspects each have been charged with first degree murder, armed robbery, and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

Hiatt said law enforcement has contacted the parents or legal guardians of all juveniles involved, and the three suspects were turned over to the custody of the North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice.

^This is still an ongoing investigation, and no additional information will be released at this time, ̄ he said.

The situation unfolded Thursday morning, when the grounds crew at the Armfield Center discovered the body while mowing around 11 a.m., according to the sheriff¨s office. After contacting the school resource officer at nearby East Surry High School, law enforcement from the Surry County Sheriff¨s Office and the Pilot Mountain Police Department were quickly on the scene.

East Surry High School, as well as Pilot Mountain Middle School and Pilot Mountain Elementary School, were put under a shelter-in-place order which meant faculty and students were free to move about inside the buddings, but could not go outside nor allow anyone else to enter the buildings. Sonia Dickerson, a spokesperson for the city schools, said that order was lifted shortly after 1 p.m., and those schools stayed on their regular schedule the rest of the day.

Campaign launched to aid scouts

May 07, 2021

In the true scouting spirit of being prepared, a campaign is raising funds that will allow participating youths to safely continue what organizers describe as ^educational adventures ̄ at venues including Camp Raven Knob in Surry County.

The effort seeks to aid members of local Cub Scout packs; BSA (formerly Boy Scouts of America) troops; and Venturing Crews, an inclusive BSA program offered for males and females, along with activities at the camp ! all weathering a challenging year.

^Of course, COVID has affected everything, ̄ scouting volunteer Ann Vaughn of Mount Airy said regarding how the disease has not only curtailed group events but efforts to support them including the annual Friends of Scouting fundraising campaign now under way.

This has prompted a special appeal for support to area residents by the Dogwood District, of which Vaughn is a committee member along with being on the governing board of the Old Hickory Council that includes the district.

^The Dogwood District needs the community¨s help to meet its Friends of Scouting goal, ̄ says a statement from the organization.

Its campaign already has made headway and is seeking further support toward realizing a 2021 goal of $29,000. At last report, about 60% of that total had been generated.

Individuals or businesses in the area not contacted by a scouting volunteer already, and would like to contribute, can call or text Dogwood District Executive Chris Duggins at 336-409-0411 or email him at chris.duggins@scouting.org.

Vaughn said the campaign began in April and hopefully will be concluded by the end of this month.

^Our District Committee would like to express gratitude to those who have already contributed to the 2021 Friends of Scouting campaign, ̄ the statement from the district adds. ^We also hope to encourage others, who have yet to give, to join our effort to provide programming and support that benefits our local youth. ̄

All dollars donated to the 2021 Friends of Scouting campaign will remain locally in the Dogwood District and Old Hickory Council to provide programming and support benefiting youths.

The Dogwood District has served scouts in the Mount Airy, Dobson, Pilot Mountain, Shoals, Westfield and Lowgap communities of Surry County since 1969.

An important mission

When combined with donations from seven other counties, about 25% of the local scouting program¨s budget is achieved through the annual Friends of Scouting effort. Most of the remainder of the budget is met through popcorn sales and scout card sales, officials add.

Local funding allows scouts to participate in hiking, camping and rank advancement in Surry.

Yet based on information from the Dogwood District, they do much for their respective communities which arguably matches or exceeds yearly campaign contributions.

Local scouts provide hundreds of community service hours while earning advancement and gaining valuable life skills, officials say.

Meanwhile, the leadership opportunities in scouting provide knowledge and personal development that is beneficial throughout a scout¨s youth and adult life, which in turn strengthens the community.

Girls and boys in Surry, ages 5 through 17, participate in all aspects of the BSA programs in the Dogwood District, with youths involved having the opportunity to pursue the trail to the Eagle Scout rank.

Many become adult scouting volunteers, maintaining continuity and allowing the program to flourish, officials say.

With the pandemic gradually being overcome, they are hoping for a continuation of the major financial and volunteer support for the Old Hickory Council which has been received from Mount Airy and surrounding communities since 1954.

Local citizens and businesses have provided funding that has created exceptional camping and leadership experiences for youths, both within their respective units and at Camp Raven Knob, according to the Dogwood District statement.

That facility annually provides summer jobs for about 120 staff members, who direct a full scouting program of swimming, hiking, boating, shooting sports, high-adventure activities, leadership training and other skills.

Officials say the camp is fully invested in the local community, bringing business back to Surry County through supply purchases and services provided.

Attempt to buy brush carts gets trashed

May 06, 2021

After recently complaining that fellow Mount Airy officials were moving too slowly on plans to fully automate the city¨s garbage collections, Commissioner Tom Koch tried to act on that concern Thursday afternoon.

Koch made a motion during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners to amend the municipal budget in order to buy 2,500 brush carts toward that goal.

The first-term North Ward councilman said he was seeking the purchase ! which wasn¨t on the agenda for the meeting ! to ^finally fully automate ̄ the city¨s sanitation operations.

However, the other commissioners did not support that move, which was defeated in a 4-1 vote.

In January, the board did decide to buy two new garbage trucks at a cost of $760,000 to accommodate the shift to an automated garbage collection system that has been under discussion since 2019. This will allow trash carts to be side-loaded onto trucks using controls inside the cab, rather than exposing personnel to oncoming vehicles and other hazards of emptying containers outside into the rear of trucks.

However, the majority of commissioners have declined to add another component eyed as part of that mix, 4,500 brush carts ! costing $270,000 ! for residents to place yard waste such as clippings and tree limbs in as part of the new process.

Koch complained during a meeting last month that the lack of those carts is holding up plans for total automation, which he says will save the city $1,550,000 over a 10-year period due to eliminating four jobs involved with the standard collections.

Instead, fellow commissioners only want to cut two positions for 10-year savings of $775,000.

Their collective rationale behind this surrounds questions about whether most city residents even want or would use the carts.

In the meantime, officials see a need to maintain two garbage collectors to physically place yard waste into the new side-loading vehicles in the absence of the brush carts, apart from regular garbage.

That will be a more difficult task since the entry point is higher for the automated vehicles ! which are expected to arrive any day now ! than that of the rear-loading trucks now used.

As a compromise, Koch has proposed acquiring 2,500 brush carts for $150,000 to accommodate at least some residents who would use those containers and thereby allow full automation.

He made that into a formal motion during Thursday afternoon¨s meeting, only to be met with resistance.

^I don¨t know that I feel this is the appropriate time to vote on this, ̄ said Commissioner Ron Niland, who also is serving as Mount Airy¨s mayor pro tem.

Niland explained that it was his understanding everyone was going to wait and see how the automated procedure works in the coming weeks, and how brush collection fits into that equation.

^I¨m going to vote `no,¨ ̄ Niland added Thursday, ^because I don¨t know that we¨ve answered those questions yet. ̄

He elaborated on this after the meeting, saying there are uncertainties about the size limitations of yard waste for purposes of the carts, with another option also now in place that allows larger items to be picked up by city crews using a grapple truck.

Niland reiterated previous concerns that most residents do not want to use the brush carts.

He mentioned that he had posed that question to 20 people, and only three said they would.

Body found with gunshot wound in Pilot Mountain

May 06, 2021

The discovery of a gunshot victim on the grounds of the Armfield Civic Center in Pilot Mountain sent Surry County law enforcement officials rushing to the scene and prompted three Surry County schools to be put on a ^shelter in place ̄ order for several hours Thursday morning.

Little is being released by law enforcement as the incident remains under investigation. Thursday morning, staff with the Armfield center were mowing when they discovered the body, according to information from both the Surry County Sheriff¨s Office and the county school system.

Officials from the Pilot Mountain Police Department and the sheriff¨s office received the call at 11:10 a.m. and arrived on the scene within minutes. Once assessing the scene, Sheriff Steve C. Hiatt said his office issued a shelter-in-place order for three county schools: Pilot Mountain Elementary, Pilot Mountain Middle, and East Surry High School, all of which are in close proximity to where the body was found.

Surry County Schools spokesperson Sonia Dickerson said the move was a ^precautionary measure while the events were unfolding. ̄ Shelter in place means students and faculty are free to move around inside the building, but cannot leave. The measure is less restrictive than a lock-down, when each room is secured and no one is allow to move around within the school building until cleared to do so by law enforcement. .

Dickerson said the order was lifted around 1 p.m., and that the rest of the school day, including dismissal, would proceed as planned. She referred additional questions to the Surry County Sheriff¨s Office.

Sheriff Hiatt said the body was that of a male who appeared to have suffered from a gunshot wound. He said via written statement his office had requested assistance from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, and that the case is still under investigation.

Neither he nor his office said if a gun was found nearby, or if a potential shooter might still be at large.

The sheriff added that he ^would like to thank the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, Surry County Emergency Medical Services, Pilot Mountain Police Department and the Surry County School System for their assistance in this investigation. ̄

Holy Angels marking 100 years

May 03, 2021

Often, when the words ^south and religion ̄ are put together in a sentence, the automatic thought turns to Protestantism, mainly the Baptist sect. However, this is not an accurate portrayal of the religious diversity found here.

North Carolina¨s history is one of migration and immigration, and as people move their cultures and beliefs go with them. As such, one of the city¨s local churches, Holy Angels Roman Catholic Church, is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its dedication this year, on May 8.

The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church as well the head of Vatican City, a sovereign city-state; thus, his duties are political and spiritual. Only the Pope can appoint new bishops and dioceses. Bishops supervise the clergy within their diocese (a district under the jurisdiction of a bishop) as well as confirm and ordain members of the clergy.

The first Bishop in the United States was established in 1789, at the Diocese of Baltimore, which tended to the entire country at the time. Later, in 1820, the Dioceses of Richmond, Virginia, and Charleston South Carolina, were established; North Carolina fell under Charleston¨s jurisdiction. North Carolina was granted the Diocese of Raleigh in 1924, which covered the state and a Catholic population of 6,000. As the years progressed and the number of Catholics grew to approximately 70,000, in 1972 the Diocese of Charlotte was created from the Diocese of Raleigh for the western half of the state.

Even without a church the faithful will practice, and this is exactly what the first Catholic families in Surry County did. Belmont Abbey, a monastery of the Order of St. Benedict, was established in 1876 in Belmont. In 1910, it was made a nullius ^diocese ̄ which gave it cathedral rank. Due to this, the Abbey was able to dispatch monks to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The first mass offered in Surry County was in the home of George Bailey in 1905. During the years that followed, mass would be offered in this way; in the homes of the faithful as well other locations around town, such as the Galloway Opera House.

Another option to receive Mass was to travel to St. Leo Church in Winston-Salem. Recognizing the need for a local church, land was purchased in 1919 from J.D. Sargent, head of the North Carolina Granite Corporation, on the corner of North Main and Byerly Street. More land was purchased the following year and in 1921, construction began on Holy Angels, which was built from granite from the local quarry. The church began service later that year. In 1929 the rectory was built and in 1930 Holy Angels was established as a canonical parish by the Bishop of Raleigh.

With the establishment of the railroad in 1888, the granite in the quarry could be transported out of town and be profitable. However, skilled stonecutters were needed; many migrated from northern cities to the quarry or immigrated from Europe. This influx of migrants and immigrants from traditionally Catholic backgrounds helped to boost the number of attendants at Holy Angels.

The church experienced another influx of new members in the late 1990s due to the settlement of Hispanic and Latino families in the region. Today North Carolina boasts approximately 390,000 Catholics and Holy Angels has approximately 400 families in its congregation.

Throughout its history, Holy Angels Roman Catholic Church has been dedicated to supporting and growing the Catholic community in the area. However, the support does not end there. Highly involved through partnerships and church sanctioned groups, such as the Knights of Columbus and the Columbiettes, Holy Angels reaches out into the wider community to support and contribute to its growth.

Justyn Kissam is the Director of programs and education at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. Originally from Winston-Salem, she has moved around the state for her education and public history work until settling in Mount Airy. She can be reached at 336-786-4478 x 228 or jnkissam@northcarolinamuseum.org

Fiddlers convention to make tuneful return

May 02, 2021

As life gradually resumes some degree of normalcy from the pandemic, fans of the Mount Airy Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddlers Convention are ready for the music to begin again.

After the event established in 1972 was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, convention organizers are tuning up for its triumphant return June 4-5 at Veterans Memorial Park on West Lebanon Street.

^Everything is a go, ̄ park President Doug Joyner said of that development marking the end of a challenging year for the facility. This included not only the scrapping of the fiddlers convention but other major, revenue-producing events held there such as the county fair.

As 2021 progressed and conditions have improved with COVID vaccination, convention officials grew increasingly hopeful about its return with the easing of crowd restrictions.

^It was COVID permitting, ̄ Joyner said of the initial outlook, which eventually led to organizers being comfortable with planning the convention on the usual dates during the first weekend in June.

^Everything is opening up, ̄ the park president said of the thought process behind this.

Joyner believes the fiddlers convention¨s resurgence not only will be welcome from the standpoint of continuing a tradition of celebrating bluegrass and old-time music, but psychologically ! which should make its 2021 version special.

^It will be a good thing this year, because people are wanting to get out together and do something. ̄

While the coronavirus will still be a threat in June, there won¨t be any official mask requirement for convention attendees during the outdoor gathering.

^I¨m not going to hold people to that because they¨re not going to do it no way, ̄ the Veterans Memorial Park official reasoned.

Yet organizers want folks to exercise a degree of care given the circumstances and police themselves accordingly. ^If you come out there, be cautious, ̄ Joyner advised.

Musicians enthused

The one-year hiatus for the Mount Airy Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddlers Convention apparently hasn¨t diminished any interest among musicians who compete at the event, nor have fears about the disease, Joyner says.

^It¨s looking really good so far, ̄ he reported. ^We¨ve had a bunch to register. ̄ The online registration deadline is June 3 at 5 p.m.

All indications are that the convention will pick up right where things left off in 2019 with spirited performances in both solo and band categories and cash prizes awaiting the winners.

In addition to two full days of competition, it offers jam sessions, dancing, education including workshops and family entertainment overall.

Some attendees arrive early on the week of the convention and camp out on the grounds while awaiting its official start.

Joyner is thankful for the return of the event not only for the sake of the traditional music it helps keep alive, but the financial health of Veterans Memorial Park after a stressful year.

^It was rough, ̄ he said of coping with cancellations and the economic fallout from this. ^We lost a bunch of money. ̄

The park president estimated that figure at around $80,000.

Local homeless shelter has new director

May 01, 2021

Less than a month after the retirement of its executive director became public, officials of the Shepherd¨s House in Mount Airy have named her replacement.

The appointment of Jana Elliott to head the local homeless facility was announced Friday by Traci George, the chairman of the governing board for the Shepherd¨s House operation. Elliott is taking over for Mary Boyles, who had served as executive director since September 2015.

^We had a big gap when Mary retired, so we¨re very fortunate and blessed to find Jana, ̄ George said Friday.

Elliott¨s previous experience, including aiding at-risk children and being a foster parent, conforms to the overall Shepherd¨s House mission of not only providing temporary housing to those in need but helping families avoid the plight of homelessness.

^Jana comes from a non-profit background as well, ̄ George said.

Elliott most recently has served as executive director of Heroes Helping Heroes, including responsibility for mentoring programs targeting youths and a Seeds of Hope summer camp. In that role, she also led adult-based programs aimed at the children¨s parents and caregivers with the goal of breaking generational patterns of abuse, neglect and dependency.

Along with trying to help kids in her professional capacity, Elliott and her husband John have been directly involved in such efforts by allowing their home to become a safe haven for more than 20 foster children over the years.

Elliott indicated Friday that her new job with the Shepherd¨s House is basically a continuation of what¨s she¨s done before due to the holistic approach taken by the homeless facility.

In addition to sheltering those in need, it operates the Helping Hands Foundation of Surry, a prevention and diversion program that seeks to prevent families from encountering homeless situations by attacking poverty with food, job and other assistance.

^This really just answers that need in being able to touch the lives of the adults that are having these kids that come into foster care, ̄ Elliott said of the whole-family approach that prompted her to join the Shepherd¨s House.

^It was just kind of rounding out the picture of where my life had been focused and centered for so many years. ̄

Elliott began work at the Shepherd¨s House earlier this month, and both George and Bob Meinecke, another member of its board, say the transition has been seamless.

^She¨s taken the ball and run with it, ̄ Meinecke said Friday, mentioning that in speaking with Elliott during a conference call it was as if she had been in her new job for six months.

^We are really pleased ! she is a perfect fit. ̄

George echoed that sentiment.

^Jana has jumped right in by supporting the efforts at the Shepherd¨s House and Helping Hands, ̄ she said.

^One thing I would add is she¨s also very genuine and passionate. ̄

The Shepherd¨s House board members are appreciative of efforts by Donna Smith of the AREVO Group, a part of Workforce Unlimited which seeks prospects to fill executive positions.

AREVO¨s efforts, donated to the cause, involved a search process by Smith which identified Elliott as a highly qualified candidate, and a personnel committee of the Shepherd¨s House board concurred in the decision to hire her.

^Big house ̄ presents challenge

Jana Elliott is coming aboard at a key point in the history of the Shepherd¨s House, which opened in 2003 at 227 Rockford St.

Construction is under way on a three-story, 11,190-square-foot building fronting Spring Street behind the existing shelter which will open later this year. The project is coinciding with the homelessness problem growing in this area and overtaxing the capacity of the present facility.

The expansion will allow the homeless shelter, which has become increasingly unable to meet the demand, to house up to 48 people as opposed to 18 now.

Elliott¨s initial goals as executive director include the successful completion of the new building, which she has dubbed ^the big house. ̄

^When we get into the big house, it¨s going to be a whole new ballgame, ̄ she said of the increased level of assistance to be offered. ^Moving into the new facility is going to be a challenge in itself. ̄

This includes ensuring the staff is up to speed and other resources are in place, said Elliott, who sees her role as ^driving the ship ̄ in terms of building partnerships for the Shepherd¨s House mission, seeking grants and recruiting volunteers.

Elliott received a bachelor¨s degree in communication with an emphasis in public relations from Salem College, where she was a cum laude graduate.

She also is a Realtor with Century 21 Smith Love Realty in King, and before serving with Heroes Helping Heroes and Century 21 was a marketing consultant for Clear Channel Radio. Elliott has four children and eight grandchildren.

^I look forward to the challenge, ̄ she said of joining the Shepherd¨s House as executive director. ^I have big shoes to fill, but I¨m thankful I have the opportunity to do this and really be impactful in our region. ̄