Historic Register status conferred to Jones School | Mt. Airy News

2022-07-05 05:55:54 By : Mr. Gary Lee

Colonel Don Belle holds the newly unveiled National Register of Historic Places plaque high as the crowd rises to their feet in applause.

The crowd Friday was led in the singing of the Negro National Anthem by Marie Nicholson.

Jones alumni pose with Mr. and Mrs. Lynwood Jones (second row, far right) who are descendants of the Jones family.

The guest speaker for the event was Forsyth County Commissioner Flemin El-Amin who said in his remarks that faith, family, and community are what “cement us together.”

After the ceremony the crowd mingles inside what was once the J.J. Jones gym, then its library after the student built gymnasium was completed.

J. J. Jones High School entered the National Register of Historic Places in 2021, the plaque was unveiled in a ceremony Friday at L.H. Jones Family Resource Center.

Commemorating the day with a photo alongside the new plaque.

The African American Historical and Genealogical Society of Surry County held an event Friday at the J. J. Jones Historical Site, or as it is currently known the L. H. Jones Family Resource Center.

It was a day for big smiles and at least one big hat, courtesy of LaShene Lowe, as alumni from Jones and members of the community came together for the unveiling of a new historical plaque in what was dubbed a ‘celebration extraordinaire.’

Friday’s ceremony was the culmination of a journey toward recognition on the National Register of Historic Places after the designation was granted in April 2021.

The recent journey of Jones had been a busy one since entry onto the register; its designation as a surplus property followed just months later. For some this was, and remains, puzzling how something can both have great historic significance while also being considered a surplus.

Dollars and cents were of immediate concern to the county as the upkeep on Jones and Westfield Elementary led to their surplus designations. Repairing an aging building like Jones without a serious influx of money to refit nearly everything from the boiler, windows, to plumbing was not feasible.

Adreann Belle told the audience of the truncated timeline the Save Jones group to get fully organized and find a 501c3 partner in with the African American Historical and Genealogical Society of Surry County to make this come to fruition. With non-profit status secured, Save Jones began to “beat the pavement” looking for donations.

The process from organizing Save Jones to the unveiling of the historical plaque took effort. It was a “herculean effort” LaShene Lowe has said on more than one occasion that took assistance from many parties.

Jones alumni Essie Gist of Faith Tabernacle in Mount Airy offered her thanks Friday to all who saved the building. Without it, “We would lose a lot of history. I thank (AAHGS) for saving history and preserving the past for us, because our children and those coming after us are not going to know if someone does not record it. All of us, I don’t care if you’re Black or white, should get behind this and support this to its fullest so that we might preserve history.”

Coming together with one goal in mind the former students of Jones arranged fundraisers, made impassioned speeches during the open forum of commissioners’ meetings, and kept the spotlight directly on their beloved J. J. Jones High. Their desire was not to keep the school in their hands, but rather have it returned to some of the very hands who built it.

Locals may know of the students at J. J. Jones who were taught how to make and lay bricks; job skills training in Surry County is not a wholly new endeavor. Theirs’ was not a class choice or elective, but hands on training born of necessity that yielded results still standing – results worth preserving.

With little funds for expansion a decision was made “to hire an instructor to teach the students to form and fire bricks. The students built the auditorium, gymnasium, and band room. They also lade pipe for water to the school from Spring St.,” Belle said.

For those who do not know of the story, there is a fair chance they never will. If it were not for the efforts of living historians who keep such tales alive, these tales could be lost. Preserving these stories of their own shared history was the very impetus behind Save Jones.

“Many of us have stories we want to tell,” Gist said recalling her own bussing experiences from Little Richmond outside Elkin. There were groans that confirmed a shared experience of school busses running late and delivering students to school late. “Anyone who ever went to Jones: you have a story. I know that I have quite a few. It’s that history that I want people to know and understand – where we come from.”

The audience was reminded during Belle’s remarks about the lofty goals for the former school turned community center and were reminded that keeping YVEDDI in place is an essential part of the equation. “Beyond keeping YVEDDI and the non-profits, AAHGS and Save Jones have a vision to create a tourist destination where people can enjoy the cultural heritage of the community, research their genealogy, and be a repository of minority and community artifacts.”

For community improvement there are plans to develop a commercial kitchen space “to serve the underserved.” An entrepreneurial business incubator is also planned to further the prospects of the community the new Jones serves.

The long-term plans are to have Jones as a mixed used community, there is time for that in the future. For now, it is home, “As of 12:01 a.m. we became the proud owners of J.J. Jones High School.”

Lowe added, “Jones is a national treasure, a precious jewel, and a living monument to the past, the present, and future. Today Jones is again in the hands of the community. After 57 years the Jones campus is united again.”

Fourth festivities draw crowds to city

The African American Historical and Genealogical Society of Surry County held an event Friday at the J. J. Jones Historical Site, or as it is currently known the L. H. Jones Family Resource Center.

It was a day for big smiles and at least one big hat, courtesy of LaShene Lowe, as alumni from Jones and members of the community came together for the unveiling of a new historical plaque in what was dubbed a ‘celebration extraordinaire.’

Friday’s ceremony was the culmination of a journey toward recognition on the National Register of Historic Places after the designation was granted in April 2021.

The recent journey of Jones had been a busy one since entry onto the register; its designation as a surplus property followed just months later. For some this was, and remains, puzzling how something can both have great historic significance while also being considered a surplus.

Dollars and cents were of immediate concern to the county as the upkeep on Jones and Westfield Elementary led to their surplus designations. Repairing an aging building like Jones without a serious influx of money to refit nearly everything from the boiler, windows, to plumbing was not feasible.

Adreann Belle told the audience of the truncated timeline the Save Jones group to get fully organized and find a 501c3 partner in with the African American Historical and Genealogical Society of Surry County to make this come to fruition. With non-profit status secured, Save Jones began to “beat the pavement” looking for donations.

The process from organizing Save Jones to the unveiling of the historical plaque took effort. It was a “herculean effort” LaShene Lowe has said on more than one occasion that took assistance from many parties.

Jones alumni Essie Gist of Faith Tabernacle in Mount Airy offered her thanks Friday to all who saved the building. Without it, “We would lose a lot of history. I thank (AAHGS) for saving history and preserving the past for us, because our children and those coming after us are not going to know if someone does not record it. All of us, I don’t care if you’re Black or white, should get behind this and support this to its fullest so that we might preserve history.”

Coming together with one goal in mind the former students of Jones arranged fundraisers, made impassioned speeches during the open forum of commissioners’ meetings, and kept the spotlight directly on their beloved J. J. Jones High. Their desire was not to keep the school in their hands, but rather have it returned to some of the very hands who built it.

Locals may know of the students at J. J. Jones who were taught how to make and lay bricks; job skills training in Surry County is not a wholly new endeavor. Theirs’ was not a class choice or elective, but hands on training born of necessity that yielded results still standing – results worth preserving.

With little funds for expansion a decision was made “to hire an instructor to teach the students to form and fire bricks. The students built the auditorium, gymnasium, and band room. They also lade pipe for water to the school from Spring St.,” Belle said.

For those who do not know of the story, there is a fair chance they never will. If it were not for the efforts of living historians who keep such tales alive, these tales could be lost. Preserving these stories of their own shared history was the very impetus behind Save Jones.

“Many of us have stories we want to tell,” Gist said recalling her own bussing experiences from Little Richmond outside Elkin. There were groans that confirmed a shared experience of school busses running late and delivering students to school late. “Anyone who ever went to Jones: you have a story. I know that I have quite a few. It’s that history that I want people to know and understand – where we come from.”

The audience was reminded during Belle’s remarks about the lofty goals for the former school turned community center and were reminded that keeping YVEDDI in place is an essential part of the equation. “Beyond keeping YVEDDI and the non-profits, AAHGS and Save Jones have a vision to create a tourist destination where people can enjoy the cultural heritage of the community, research their genealogy, and be a repository of minority and community artifacts.”

For community improvement there are plans to develop a commercial kitchen space “to serve the underserved.” An entrepreneurial business incubator is also planned to further the prospects of the community the new Jones serves.

The long-term plans are to have Jones as a mixed used community, there is time for that in the future. For now, it is home, “As of 12:01 a.m. we became the proud owners of J.J. Jones High School.”

Lowe added, “Jones is a national treasure, a precious jewel, and a living monument to the past, the present, and future. Today Jones is again in the hands of the community. After 57 years the Jones campus is united again.”

Budbreak is undergoing leadership changes, but the annual springtime celebration of the region’s wine and beer industries continues to uncork thousands of dollars for local charities.

The latest tally of proceeds from the downtown Mount Airy event featuring various vendors — last held in early May — is $17,000, it was announced during a Rotary Club of Mount Airy meeting this week.

Budbreak, which marked its 12th year in 2022, is spearheaded by the club. It traditionally receives a facsimile check for total profits reaped from Budbreak ticket sales and other revenue sources, which it then distributes to various community organizations.

Unlike the most-flavorful of wines, Tuesday afternoon’s occasion was bittersweet, however, with mention made of longtime Festival Director Bob Meinecke turning over the reigns to fellow Rotarian Sue Brownfield. She will now guide the Budbreak Wine and Craft Beer Festival, next scheduled for May 6, 2023.

“It’s been an incredible run,” Meinecke said of his 12 years as top organizer for the annual, well-attended gathering. It includes around 20 wine and craft beer vendors offering tastings and sales of their wares in a closed section of North Main Street on a Saturday afternoon.

Live music and dancing also is a part of the event that promotes those growing industries.

During Meinecke’s tenure, around $200,000 has been raised to aid the causes of local charitable groups in keeping with the official Rotary mission of community betterment under the motto “service above self.”

In addition to those organizations, members of the Mount Airy group mirror Rotary’s international mission in supporting efforts to battle hunger, along with literacy, polio and other programs.

Brownfield did not have an updated list of beneficiaries for this year’s Budbreak proceeds, but said it basically includes usual recipients such as the Shepherd’s House homeless shelter, Salvation Army, Surry Medical Ministries free clinic, United Fund of Surry and others.

One new recipient for this year involves Ukrainian relief in light of Russia’s invasion of that country, based on previous reports.

Meinecke indicated that he believes the management of the Budbreak Wine and Craft Beer Festival is in good hands going forward.

“And I thank you all for participating, with many more years of success,” Meinecke told fellow Rotarians.

This week’s Rotary Club of Mount Airy meeting also marked the passing of a baton in another way, with Dr. Phillip Brown being installed as the new president of the organization for the coming year.

This was done with the help of a visiting Rotary official, Mark Brandon from Yadkin County.

Brown is replacing Tonda Phillips, who served as president with particular distinction, it was mentioned during the meeting.

Phillips took an active role leading Rotary efforts in support of drug prevention; the Camp Raven Knob scouting facility, which included rappelling from a tower there to highlight its programs; the restoration of the historic Satterfield House; international programs on a local scale; and building its membership ranks.

As time pushes forward, our collective technology advances at an ever-growing speed. Each year, new phones, computers, apps, and more are released, deeming their predecessors obsolete. It is so hard to stay ahead of the technology curve, that many consumers have adopted the “if it’s not broke don’t change it” rule.

These advancements have also discarded some technologies and training as unnecessary. Things such as watchmakers, cobblers, seamstresses, and milliners are not as common as they once were. Surry County has a long history of these forgotten trades and arts, including the art of crafting the shoe.

As a child growing up in Surry County, I hated shoes. My rural environment and lush grass begged for bare feet roaming; shoes were not at the top of my priority list, no matter how many snakes roamed my yard. However, as I grew older and became interested in my own personal brand of fashion, that changed. Shoes can make or break your day, with comfort and affordability being key.

Today we find ourselves roaming neatly lined rows of perfect boxes when we are in need of shoes. Our forefathers and mothers had slightly different experiences.

Shoemakers, cobblers, or cordwainers used to be sprinkled throughout Main streets and communities across the world. This handicraft was unique to the country or region with more than 15 different techniques for making shoes or foot coverings. Contrary to many popular fairy tales, cobblers crafted shoes by hand. Many craftsmen started out as apprentices at other cobblers’ shops, with each in a constant rotation of passing the craft onto the next generation. The many tools, machines, and materials took devotion and practice to master.

Sandals were some of the first styles of shoes created, followed by clogs and leather-bottomed shoes. Fur, leather, and wood were common materials for cobblers to use. Each shoe, during this early time, was hand-measured and created for each person individually. It wasn’t until the early 1800s that a machine was made to aid in the creation of shoes. Marc Brunel created a way to mass-produce boots for the British Army. Rubber soles didn’t appear on the scene until the late 1890s.

The Industrial Revolution changed the way we consumed many products, including shoes. Cheap labor, readily available resources, and rising consumerism helped evolve the “shoe” narrative. However, even during the changing times, families and individuals favored repairing shoes over buying new. Local cobblers and repair shops could replace soles, eyelets, and sides. They also repaired bags, purses, and other leather goods. Downtown Mount Airy had several shoe repair stores or cobblers through the years.

Belton Shoe store was one of those shops. In operation, for 86 years the Belton legacy included two generations of the Belton family using the craft. In their timespan, the cost of repairing shoes changed drastically. In 1971 a shoe repair could cost around $4.75, the same job in 1998 would have cost $28. The L.C. Belton Repair store was originally located on Virginia Street but moved to N. Main Street, near Snappy Lunch, where it remained until it closed in April 1998. Another name in shoe repair from the area was L.B Albertson Boot and Shoemaker, which was originally on North Main Street in 1895.Harold’s Shoe Shop 1933, and J.E Harrold Shoe Shop on Moore Avenue were some other notable names.

As with the column a few weeks ago about Watchmakers, it is hard to find a repair shop in a downtown atmosphere; Elkin, still boasts a repair shop on Main Street, Patti’s Leather & Shoe Repair. However, they are few and far-between. The U.S. has an organization named Shoe Service Institute of America (SSIA) which, before the pandemic, met annually to award prizes, talk about the shoe industry, and socialize. Like many other handy-crafts, the work was hard and rewarding, fueling life for many families across the region.

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

North Carolina wildlife officials are still monitoring the deer population in the area for signs of chronic wasting disease.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a transmissible, always fatal, neurological disease that affects deer and elk, moose and caribou.

In late March it was detected in North Carolina in a deer in Yadkin County. In response, the NC Wildlife Resource Commission Executive Director enacted emergency powers on April 12.

Mindy Wharton of the North Carolina Wildlife Office said, “Only one positive case of CWD was confirmed through testing during the 2021-22 harvest season. Testing for that season has concluded.” The state has offered no updates officially since early May when they also reported no additional cases were found.

Last week, the board of county commissioners was asked to approve of two testing sites for CWD, and for the county’s permission to dispose of carcasses in the landfill. County Manager Chris Knopf said approving the testing sites would allow the county to collaborate with hunters ahead of the next hunting season.

Chair Bill Goins was designated to be the point man on this issue for the county when Commissioner Eddie Harris asked if the board could authorize such a move. This will allow the avid outdoorsman Goins the latitude to work with the wildlife commission without needing additional input from the rest of the board.

“This is a very serious problem that could wipe out the deer population,” the booming voice of Commissioner Van Tucker called from a speaker located in the ceiling. He went on to say that while there have been no reports of such yet, there may be issues of transmission of CWD to humans and precautions need to be taken to protect both deer and human.

Goins concurred, “It is a serious problem, if you see any deer acting strange — stranger than usual — contact wildlife commission because this is a serious matter.” Not everyone may know what a deer in distress looks like, but some literature says they look and act like zombies.

NC Wildlife posted symptoms including listlessness; lack of coordination; blank facial expressions; drooling and grinding of teeth; excess urination; and low weight.

Only a laboratory test can confirm the presence of CWD. Tthe only USDA-approved test for CWD is a microscopic examination of the brain and lymph node tissue, which must be acquired after death; there is no reliable live animal test for CWD.

The two testing sites to be opened are at the Siloam Recycling Center and in Yadkin County at the Historic Richmond Hill nature park.

“There are a lot of rules in place, if you’re a deer hunter you probably need to read those,” Goins said. The rules deal with transporting carcasses between counties, between states, and testing the meat.

There will be collection sites for deer testing during the regulated deer hunting season. Hunters are encouraged to take an active role in CWD surveillance by donating deer heads from their harvests at these testing drop-off stations for testing.

For now, Wharton says this is a case of no news is good news.

However, that could change so tracking and dealing with CWD will take an effort from all parties like hunters who are being asked to submit samples. The testing facilities will also test on deer found alongside the road and taxidermists play a major role in detection of CWD as well. It was a taxidermy sample that first detected the disease in both Virginia and Yadkin County.

More information on CWD along with deer head testing and transportation restrictions can be found at the NC Wildlife website: NCWildlife.org/CWD

PILOT MOUNTAIN — There’s something uniquely American about the car culture that fits perfectly with patriotism, along with freedom of the open road and otherwise, which appropriately was on display during the Independence Day weekend in Pilot Mountain.

Some of the finest examples of automotive excellence ever to come out of Detroit filled the downtown area Saturday afternoon and evening for the July edition of the Hot Nights, Hot Cars cruise-in series.

Conducted on the first Saturday of each month from June through October, the latest event coincided with the July 4 celebration just two days later — which seemed to give it an extra boost of horsepower from a national pride standpoint.

Along with shining up the sparkling chrome and paint jobs of vintage, muscle and other unique vehicles showcasing automaking history, some of those attending Saturday’s cruise-in proudly displayed U.S. flags or donned red, white and blue attire.

The spirit exhibited, partly fueled by nostalgia, was hard to ignore at the gathering that has been revving up the town for nearly 20 years now.

“I think it takes us back to the America I grew up in,” said Bob Wilson of Bassett, Virginia, who was attending the Hot Nights, Hot Cars cruise-in for the first time.

“I grew up around muscle cars like this,” Wilson, who was born in the early 1950s, added while standing near a 1960s-era Ford Mustang with a glistening black paint job.

“It takes you back to a kinder, gentler nation,” he said of the aura created in the small Surry County town via the Hot Nights, Hot Cars spectacle.

Two other words, “Hot Day,” easily could have been spliced onto that equation Saturday as temperatures hovered near the 90-degree mark.

Yet that — and a few random raindrops — did not keep crowds from filling downtown Pilot Mountain, with every square inch of both its main drag and side streets seemingly occupied by machines with power plants measured in cubic inches.

Sidewalks on both sides of West Main Street were all but impassable at times, with folks strolling by to view cars parallel-parked all along the way. Others, meanwhile, sat in lawn chairs lining walls of downtown businesses watching cool rides cruise through under an open-street format — mostly bumper to bumper — accompanied by the exhilarating roar of engines.

Later Saturday, a beach music group, The Entertainers, was scheduled to perform from the town bandstand.

Another highlight was the awarding of Classic Ride of the Month honors to a participating vehicle exhibitor.

Each cruise-in begins at 3 p.m. and lasts until 9:30 p.m., with admission free.

The next one is scheduled for Aug. 6.

Dr. Michael Walden heaped praised onto Surry County right from his opening remarks Thursday at the Viticulture Center at Surry Community College in Dobson, “I just feel the stress drain out of me when we are in Surry County.”

Sponsored by the Surry Economic Development Partnership and Greater Mount Airy and Yadkin Valley Chambers of Commerce, Walden came to town to offer remarks to business, community, and civic leaders on the economic outlook for Surry County.

Walden has a resume to accompany the gravitas with which he wielded the microphone while he spoke to the group. He is an author published many times over, a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor Emeritus at North Carolina State University, president of Walden Economic Consulting, LLC, and recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine among many other accolades.

In a global economy that has been plagued with supply chain issues, inflation, and the increasingly insecure access to fossil fuels thanks to the ongoing conflict in Europe, Walden provided some context. “The current condition of the economy is that we have been through a recession in 2020 due to COVID.”

“Economists knew there was going to be a recession once the governors in most states said stay at home and selected industries were told don’t even open your doors; so, we had a fairly nasty recession in the early part of 2020.”

During that time, he said a major reallocation of labor took place as a rash of retirements led to folks leaving the work force. Also, he notes labor ‘sit-outs’ are still occurring for those such as parents who stopped working to be at home teachers or full-time care givers. This left job openings in sectors that allowed for large movements between differing fields

“If you look at North Carolina, not only have you seen shortages in sectors like leisure, hospitality, construction, and manufacturing,” he said, “But we have also seen a reallocation of labor. In fact, something very unusual happened during the recession of 2020 that I have not seen” in the eight recessions of his professional career.

“What we saw in 2020 was when the government was providing assistance to households… many people, particularly young people, didn’t just take that time to watch TV or play video games. What they did was they used the time to get better skills to move up the economic ladder.”

When the economy started to reopen people were moving away from lower paying sectors to higher paying sectors, which led Walden to one of his suggestions to businesses who are having trouble finding workers.

Higher wages and better benefits can attract more applicants and he noted that in the restaurant field the average wage rate in the state rose 14%. “That is one of the few industries paying wages high enough that they outpace inflation.”

Yes, Walden knows higher wages may mean that prices must go up but here is a chance for business owners to explain why prices are changing rather than keep customers in the dark, “You’d be surprised sometimes how understanding people are.”

Substituting automation and technology is another suggestion he makes for solving labor shortages. He recounted meeting the McDonald’s order kiosk for the first time and coming to the realization that other customers were already acclimated to the new set-up.

Finally, he recommended taking a long broad look at the employees, their tasks, and the systems in place that create the distribution of labor. Finding redundancies in duties to eliminate them can increase efficiency by reducing the number of employees needed.

The nine-letter curse word of 2022 is inflation, and it is a global problem. Walden reported, “For most of the 21st century inflation averaged between 1 – 3% a year; since the end of 2020 we have seen a gigantic jump to the latest reading is 8.6%. Unfortunately, the average wage increase over the last year has been less than half that. Peoples’ standard of living is dropping because prices are going up faster than income.”

Walden explained if demand outpaces supply, prices will go up. The government pumped $5.5 trillion into the economy during the pandemic, a 40% increase in the actual money in circulation, “but the economy wasn’t open.”

During the pandemic personal savings rates increased dramatically from 3% to 14%. Now, stores are back open, and stay at home orders are a thing of the past, but the supply does not meet the new demand. Americans have money to spend but cannot buy many of the things they want because of supply issues. This is what he called “the perfect recipe for high inflation.”

Walden focused on Surry County, and he presented $2.3 billion as the total amount of good and services produced in the county for 2019. Data was available for 2020 but COVID skews all numbers from that year making a real comparison a fool’s errand.

The biggest sectors of the local economy are manufacturing, construction, retail, and financial services / real estate. All sectors of the labor market grew from 2009-2019 except for a 30% drop in manufacturing. Growing those sectors means the county needs people, in the past decade as the state grew in population 9.3%, the county lost 3.2%.

In a projection for the next three decades the state may see an increase in population of one-third. while Surry County stabilizes it losses to 1% a year. This trend of a lower population count may be one factor discouraging housing construction in this area, he said.

The growing population of the state may be a long-term benefit to Surry County. While the state attracts 4% migration from other states, the appeal of a “new farm lifestyle on cheaper land” may draw people away from the metros. “For a county like this, the future is very exciting,” Walden said.

With expanded broadband thanks to the initiative with Surry Communications, almost everyone can have access to high-speed internet which will be essential. The work from home trend has peaked, he feels, but the genie is out of the bottle and work from home will only expand with time. As it does the importance of living near a brick and mortar office will decrease, adding again to potential county population growth.

He offered some advice to job seekers as the labor market will slow, “Don’t pass up on that job that may not be your number one. It may not be there in three to four months.” He is seeing a trend of retirees reentering the labor force, some of whom feel they retired too hastily during the pandemic.

Education remains a key component of the future financial growth and long-term health of the local economy, and Surry Community College is helping create the work force this community needs. Dr. Walden said, “I think it’s very fitting we are here at Surry Community College.”

“I think the vanguard of education in terms of dealing with changing labor markets are community colleges. They respond to changes in the local community, so I think we will see these kinds of institutions at the forefront of dealing with labor market disruptions.”

New leadership has been announced for a local veterans organization that plays an active role in the community.

The fresh slate of officers for Surry County Detachment 1322 of the Marine Corps League was elected during a recent meeting of the group.

They include Michael Russell, senior vice commandant; David Gigante, judge advocate; Todd Abbott, commandant; and Travis Yelton, junior vice commandant.

The Marine Corps League, whose motto is “Same Team New Mission,” is the only congressionally chartered Marine Corps-related veterans organization in the United States.

Its charter was approved by the 75th U.S. Congress and signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Aug. 4, 1937.

The mission of the Marine Corps League includes promoting the interests and preserving the traditions of that branch of service; strengthening the fraternity of Marines and their families; and fostering the ideals of Americanism and patriotic volunteerism.

It is through that latter goal that Surry County Detachment 1322 of the Marine Corps League has most made its presence known locally by long spearheading the annual Toys for Tots campaign that helps children in need have a better Christmas.

In 2019, before the coronavirus brought some disruption to that effort, more than 1,300 kids were served through the distribution of 8,200-plus new unwrapped toys.

Even at the height of the pandemic in 2020, the local group was still able to collect or buy almost 4,900 toys.

Surry County Detachment 1322 also has helped spread Christmas cheer to older folks in the community, including at the Twelve Oaks assisted-living facility, and participated in Veterans Day observances.

At the Moore House in Mount Airy last week a group met to discuss housing challenges facing the area. Facilitated by Melissa Hiatt and the United Fund of Surry, the housing roundtable brought together stakeholders from local non-profit groups to hold a dialogue on what are the strengths and weaknesses of the community as they relate to housing.

Gathering a disparate set of voices that represent areas of need within the community, Hiatt said conversations on housing challenges began in earnest months ago. At their last meeting they spoke generally about what types of services were provided by non-governmental groups, as well as municipal and county organizations.

She said of those early talks, “It was so broad, we didn’t know where to go because in that conversation we started with the fact that we are having problems keeping folks in Habitat homes, then we talked about we don’t have enough space to put domestic violence victims to hide them.”

With needs that show the diverse scope and nuanced nature of housing problems — there is no one solution. In recent discussions with the economic development office, she said that housing has been a hot topic of conversation, “top three” among current issues that were discussed.

Hiatt advised the group’s purpose was to set a road map for Todd Tucker and the team at the economic development office. In July, Tucker will meet with a housing consultant about the situation in Surry County so that a study may be conducted; notes from the housing roundtable will help guide that study.

Housing issues may be found across the county, “We know we have lots of housing problems. That led me to do what you asked me to do, and I found county commissioner,” Hiatt said referring to Commissioner Mark Marion seated across the table.

After the needs were better identified by the small group she can invite in the municipalities to the conversation. Until such a time as all parties could join, she was concerned only having a representative from Mount Airy or Elkin, for example, would be a disservice to the other local governments. “We don’t want this to be about one specific group, it needs to be a broad purview.”

The group discussed areas of opportunity to determine what issues are best addressed by the member organizations of the United Fund of Surry. Not all issues would fall to non-profits; she mentioned housing at Ridgecrest as an area that would fall under the medical community sphere of influence. Her point being, “There have to be multiple leaders on this. When we have this list of needs and priorities, we can then take off the things that are not ours and send the rest on.”

Needs for the area were identified as a lack of market value housing, a homeless shelter option for men; options for domestic violence victims; public transportation; waiting lists for housing; ‘screen outs’ such as having a criminal record that hinder finding housing; cost of materials for the construction of new shelters or transitional housing; and a need for more education.

Karl Singletary of New Hope New Beginnings repeated more than once that many in the public see issues of homelessness and substance abuse only as shortcomings in moral character. “That’s one of the big challenges to the community, is the education because some people are just now recognizing substance abuse as a mental illness. If you can’t treat the mental illness and substance abuse at the same time, you are wasting your time.”

The group identified among the greatest strengths of the community to be the strong involvement of a wide array of non-profit groups. Also, they cited the creation of the office of substance abuse recovery and the hiring of drug czar Mark Willis to manage its efforts. Programs such as Ride the Road to Recovery and the Prevention All Stars have received notice locally as well as from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

One resource that Hiatt is excited to tap are the myriad of faith-based groups which have been speaking to her recently. Among their congregants are found a need for assistance, but members of the faith community have told her they need help to determine how best to help those in need. One said, “We don’t know how to help. Sometimes we feel we might be a hindrance.”

“They don’t feel qualified to answer questions because they don’t have the answers,” she said. “Or they worry they are keeping the cycle going” by helping.

For some, there does need to be a change in mindset. “I try to teach people it is never a handout – it is always a hand up. These folks have self-respect too and we need to help grow that. We have all been in a situation that we had to recognize we had to do better. It comes from the way someone has treated you, good or bad, or someone who has helped you that gives you that sense of pride that says, ‘I can do this.’ Our hand ups are what need to do that.”

“Our avenues of hope or help are not always faith-based, some are scientific based,” she went on to explain why some faith groups may shy away from aid. “These groups need to hear that we give everyone the opportunity for the approach they want. I am happy they are at least asking the questions.”

“You have to save them before they can be saved,” Commissioner Marion added in showing that there is a place for faith to enter the conversation.

Singletary reminded that twelve-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are spiritual programs, “God is all over there. What matters is a person — a human being — with choices. Just because they may not believe does not mean that they don’t have a right to recovery.”

There is no reason to send anyone away from the table who may wish to help, so Hiatt and the housing roundtable will continue bringing in more community and faith leaders to have honest discussions. Marion said the truth may not make everyone happy, but Marlin Yoder said of the need for honest discourse, “The truth may set us free.”

Attention golfers, the time is coming to hit the links for a good cause as the J. J. Jones Golf Tournament at Cross Creek Country Club is just around the corner.

The tournament is scheduled for Monday, July 11 with a shotgun start at 8 a.m. Registration is ongoing now with the deadline fast approaching on July 1.

For teams of two the cost to enter the tournament will be $150 per participant and the proceeds will all go toward necessary repairs and upkeep to the former J. J. Jones High School. Entry will cover the green fee, cart, lunch, and commemorative gift. For those whose slice would send a drive into Cana a $30 spectator ticket includes the lunch and no shame for lack of golf skill.

Bragging rights will be awarded to the winner along with a closest to the pin and longest drive competition. Simmons Nissan will also be sponsoring a hole-in-one competition that will net a new ride for the lucky participant who makes such a shot.

Since the county agreed to hand the former school site to the African American Genealogical and Historic Society of Surry County, the group has been working to raise money for the laundry list of items that will need attention at Jones.

The boiler, plumbing, roof, wiring, HVAC and windows are all nearing the end of their projected life cycle. It was this very list of items that led the county to seek to surplus the former school along with Westfield Elementary School last year.

Adreann Belle said Tuesday that efforts at the former Jones School are proceeding; no surprises have yet arisen. The group is seeking to cross the finish line on its fundraising goal. “We have an immediate need for $20,000 to continue operating the school at its current level,” they said.

Since the handover there have been multiple fundraisers including a masquerade ball recently at the Jones Auditorium and a presence by the group at both Juneteenth events in Mount Airy and Elkin.

The society and “Save Jones School” were awarded the property by the Surry County Commissioners after a lengthy campaign of public speakers and pleas from community members to preserve a piece of their collective heritage. The group has stated its appreciation to the commissioners “for putting their faith in the community and saving this historic site.”

The two organizations will take possession of the campus at the beginning of July. “Thereby restoring the entire campus to community who help build the school with blood, sweat and tears,” the groups GoFundMe page reads.

An unveiling ceremony will be held on Friday, July 1 at the form J.J. Jones High school currently operating as the L. H. Jones Family Resource Center.

The myriad of community services that are offered by YVEDDI and the other groups who operate out of L.H. Jones Family Resource Center are all slated to remain in the newly configured Jones property, Belle reiterated again this week.

The two groups are seeking to convert the old school into a mixed-use community center that has a historical center for artifacts of the Jones alumnus and the community at large. “We want a cultural and heritage center to preserve the artifacts not just of the school, but of the community,” Belle said earlier this month.

The building has deep roots as Jones High School was built in 1938 on the site of the Ararat Rosenwald School that had been lost to fire the previous year. Jones was the only African American High School in the county prior to 1966. The high school opened with grades nine through twelve but eventually served students of all grades who lived as far as 40 miles away from the city of Mount Airy in North Carolina and southern Virginia.

J. J. Jones High was erected on land that was donated by a former slave named Bob Dyson with the purpose building a school to educate Black children. In the 1940s when expansion of the school was needed but funds were lacking, it was the students of Jones who got to work. Students were taught to form the bricks and built the auditorium, gymnasium and band room on campus which remains intact today.

This school closed 1966 due to desegregation and afterwards the site became an integrated elementary school within the Mount Airy City School District until 1994 when the building was sold to the county. For its long history and significance, the site was awarded the status of National Register of Historic Places in 2021.

After being placed on the list of county surplus properties last year there was much concern about what may become of the former site.

Several plans were proposed including entering a public-private partnership with the Piedmont Triad Regional Council to oversee the redevelopment and later manage the newly re-imagined Jones site. Other options included selling outright to a developer, or the option the county chose — to gift the land to the African American Genealogical and Historic Society.

Chairing the tournament is Bobby Scales with Sonya Dodd helping as the co-chair with special thanks to Elaine Shoffner and Brenda Scales. For those who may wish to participate, interested parties should call 336-508-2121 to register for the tournament.

Mount Airy police are cracking down on sales of vaping products to underage persons, and hope charges filed against employees of two local businesses will cause that problem to dissipate.

“We feel it’s widespread,” Police Chief Dale Watson said Tuesday in commenting on the cases targeting Cloud Zone Tobacco and Vape on North Renfro Street and Snuff & Stuff on West Pine Street.

Those implicated are Hunter Chase Williams, 24, of 240 Creek Run Trail, Lowgap, an employee of Snuff & Stuff, and Ayman Mohamed Nagi Alghazali, 19, of Winston-Salem, who works at Cloud Zone Tobacco and Vape. They were charged last week with one count each of selling/distributing a tobacco product to a minor, as the result of an undercover operation.

Vaping generally refers to a way of consuming tobacco which has become popular, along with marijuana — especially in states where that drug is legal.

It involves the use of a “vape,” or electronic cigarette, which is a device that heats up a liquid to create a vapor one inhales, according to an online medical source. Vaping devices can include pens, e-cigarettes and hookahs (oriental tobacco pipes with long, flexible tubes that draw the smoke through water contained in a bowl).

“Some of it is like a synthetic marijuana,” Chief Watson said of substances that can be consumed in this manner.

The vaping devices vary in shape, size and color, which produce an aerosol byproduct from heating the liquid that sometimes consists of flavorings and other chemicals that can make the practice seem less harsh than smoking. The liquid delivers nicotine or other drugs to the user through a mouthpiece, which are inhaled into the lungs and then expelled from the mouth or nose.

While many vaping products typically contain about half of the nicotine found in a cigarette, users still face numerous health risks, especially younger persons, experts say.

Nicotine, a stimulant existing in many e-cigarettes, can harm the developing adolescent brain, which continues to grow until someone is about 25 years old. It can hamper parts of a younger person’s brain which affect learning, mood, attention and impulse control.

Such effects have prompted concern across the nation and locally, judging by the recent crackdown.

“We get numerous reports as far as the frequency of it,” Chief Watson said of vaping products falling into the wrong hands, minors specifically.

This resulted in an investigation targeting sales to persons under 18 in the city.

“As evidenced by the charges, the retailers aren’t doing their due diligence,” Watson said of employees checking IDs of younger customers to make they are of proper age.

The covert operation included having an underage person visit the two businesses on June 16, where the products were sold to that individual.

Criminal summonses for the misdemeanor charges filed were served last week on Williams and Alghazali, who were scheduled to appear in Surry District Court on Wednesday.

The stores themselves are not facing legal action, based on arrest reports, but police would like to think that a message has been sent via the crackdown.

“Hopefully, it puts everyone on notice,” the chief said.

The large blue water tank towering over Rockford Street in Mount Airy — bearing a familiar Andy and Opie image — is appreciated for its artistic value, but increasingly the storage facility also is becoming a moneymaker for the municipality.

This includes a deal forged earlier this month between the city government and the wireless network operator T-Mobile, which will result in Mount Airy being paid tens of thousands of dollars annually for allowing the company to place items there.

T-Mobile already has a presence at the city-owned site, due to a 2011 lease agreement that has allowed the telecommunications corporation to install antennas and associated equipment on the overhead storage tank.

This has resulted in Mount Airy being paid $33,795 per year in rental charges — which will grow by another $4,800 due to action by the city council at its last meeting on June 16.

City officials then approved a contract amendment that stemmed from T-Mobile recently asking to install a four-foot by 10-foot generator pad on the Rockford Street water tank property.

Since such an installation was not included in the original 2011 lease, it was considered an amendment to that pact and subject to additional rent.

The company proposed a $400-per-month increase, which city Public Works Director Mitch Williams considered reasonable and later was embraced by council members.

“Adjusted for inflation, this amount is comparable to the amount that AT&T pays for a generator that they installed on the property in 2004,” Williams states in a city government memo referencing another “tenant” at the site.

“The city attorney has reviewed and approved the contract amendment and it is ready for approval by the Board of Commissioners,” Williams added, with the board voting unanimously in favor of that change on June 16.

This marked the second time in less than a year that Mount Airy has entered into a lucrative arrangement with a major entity for use of water tank space.

In October, city officials renewed an agreement with AT&T — the world’s largest telecommunications company — which included an increase in rental costs that has resulted in Mount Airy now receiving $58,344 per year.

In exchange, AT&T is maintaining a bevy of cell phone antennas on the blue water tank.

Telecommunications companies tend to seek out such facilities for antenna placements, thus avoiding the costs posed by acquiring their own sites to erect tall towers along with potential regulatory and other hurdles including neighborhood opposition.

Surry County is ahead of the game when it comes to environmental protections at the county landfill. While it is not yet required, the county several years ago entered into an agreement with Hep Petra to being collecting excess methane gas that was collecting at the landfill.

Under the gas-to-energy project, Petra installed a collection system in 2011 to harvest methane gas and direct it to an engine. Specifically designed by Caterpillar for methane collection the engine uses the methane gas to produce the horsepower necessary to power a 1,600-kilowatt generator.

Commissioner Larry Phillips called the project at its launch a win-win for the county, “What you’re seeing here is a problem being taken and converted into a renewable form of energy that will in turn become a source of revenue for the county,” he said.

On Monday, the board of county commissioners were asked to renew the lease agreement with Renew Petra for their operation at the landfill as part of a refinancing plan of the company.

County Attorney Ed Woltz advised the board on the process and that there were some documents needed from Renew Petra that had not yet been received before the county could proceed. However, he suggested the board agree to the lease pact ahead of the paperwork being completed.

Public Works director Jessica Montgomery told the board this was essentially a formality, “They have always been there on that piece of land, they are trying to work out legalities on it. For some reason they keep getting hiccups; I understood they needed this by the end of June.”

The delays in Renew Petra getting the documents to the county are not of their own making, He further explained to the board, and they should therefore not be penalized. With no further board meetings this month, and the first meeting of July delayed for Independence Day Woltz wanted the county ready to act. “It’s a big deal for them. I don’t want to interfere with their financing if we can help it.”

Renew Petra needs the lease agreement to move forward in a timely fashion as they are using the lease agreement to collateralize new loans. The new funds will allow Petra to improve their installation at the landfill and other operations they have across the state.

“We need to get this moving,” Montgomery advised as there are concerns with the equipment currently in use at the Surry County landfill. She spoke of $500,000 of improvements to be made to the engine they use, “They are constantly replacing parts, so they need to overhaul it. Its not going to pass when it gets tested for emissions.”

Commissioner Mark Marion asked if the methane collection project was something the county is required to do. Montgomery answered it is not rather it is a good faith effort by the county. “We are not to the point where we are required to do this. But it does power 600-800 homes in the area; and it does prevent leak outs from the landfill. It is very good for the environment, but we are not required – yet.”

There is going to come a time when draining the methane would be required Chairman Bill Goins commented, but that it is some years away. Montgomery concurred, “Yes, but we are years away from that. We are testing very low right now.”

Money matters in Surry County, as with everywhere else, and Vice Chairman Eddie Harris wanted to know if the methane recovery effort was still a net revenue producer. He took it in stride when he was informed that it is a null sum project currently.

“We are making nothing,” Montgomery said, “We are in a cost sharing phase starting two years ago. Putting so much money into keeping the engine alive, we are not making any money at this point.” She did address Commissioner Larry Johnson’s direct question and reiterated that the county is not spending money either.

The fiscally conservative Harris kept his cool noting that “heretofore we were making money at some point in time not just a few years ago.” There is confidence that with the right equipment on site, the project will again be a source of revenue for the county.

Commissioners Van Tucker and Johnson both had questions for Woltz about the process and whether extending the lease would commit the county to anything long term. “Does extending the lease prevent us from getting out of it at any time?”

Woltz confirmed that and assured them the county was protected, “If the thing should unwind, they are also required to take away their equipment and remove it from our site.”

Harris summarized, “This methane program is something that prior boards have been very proud of because this methane is recovered from our landfill and used to run a gen to electrify hundreds of homes. I still believe this is a worthy project and I reiterate my support for it.”

The board approved the lease renewal pending the delivery of the remaining documents.

Local non-profits that help the animals of Surry County are finding themselves in a dire need of assistance. Multiple speakers at the last meeting of the county commissioners informed that Mayberry4Paws, Tiny Tigers Rescue, and Surry Animal Rescue are essentially out of funds, which means they are limited in the assistance they can render going forward.

Overpopulation of domesticated animals, especially feral cats, is an issue that has come before the commissioners more than once. Groups such as Tiny Tigers Rescue have been coming regularly to inform the commissioners on the problem and what their proposed solution is.

To help further their mission, Tiny Tigers Rescue (TTR) is holding an online auction through Saturday, July 2 at 8 p.m. Animal themed prizes are to be found and interested parties should look for Tiny Tigers Rescue on Facebook, then join the auction group to view the items.

A trap/neuter/return (TNR) program proposed earlier in the year by Tiny Tigers has begun. Amber Golding reported earlier this month they had already neutered 28 cats potentially preventing 336 kittens. By the start of August, they hope to have almost 80 cats to have completed the TNR programs.

As a former emergency department nurse Libby Radford has seen more than a few serious dog bites, and once approached the overpopulation problem as it relates to health and safety of humans.

Now she sees it a matter of life or death for these animals who now may have no place to go but the county animal shelter. Ten cats were just deposited at her home recently, and the cost to home, feed, and spay or neuter goes up quickly.

Becky Cummings is a trapper from Forsyth County who also spoke to the board about animal control. She said of the unexpected burden of caring for a furball that shows up on your door leads people to make cuts in their own spending. “People are making sacrifices from their own budgets to feed feral cats.”

Most conversations on animal control in Surry County start with someone taking a moment to thank Sgt. John Hawks and the county animal control team. “Animal control is doing the best they can,” Radford told the commissioners.

What is out of animal control’s hand is the number of animals being surrendered. Alan Bagshaw gave the commissioners some numbers on rescue versus euthanasia rates in Surry County. For the month of May he reported 95 dogs and 139 cats entered the Surry County shelter, nearly 50% had to be put down due to illness, age, or lack of space.

The total count was up from April when it was 89 dogs and 119 cats. In April, unfortunately, the euthanization rate at the shelter was 61%. These numbers will only climb higher if the local rescue groups cannot pull more cats and dogs to be rescued, if not there is no other solution.

Costs associated with euthanization at the animal shelter are higher than many would expect, part of the reason Commissioner Larry Johnson has always been so keen to hear from these animal groups. He often thanks them for taking the time to care about the animals and to speak at commissioners’ meetings.

Radford admits she has cornered Johnson, along with Chair Bill Goins and Commissioner Van Tucker, to bend their ear on the matter. “I sat down with Larry at a ball game. He listened; I was impressed.”

The Tiny Tigers is not alone. Jane Taylor of Mayberry4Paws said, “I can assure you that, at any given time, Mayberry4Paws are strapped for funds.” Their mission is to offer spay/neuter assistance for dogs whose owners cannot afford the surgery.

One idea on which these parties agree is the need for a humane society in Surry County. “Anything that will help, I’m all for it. I am glad there are other organizations getting involved like this,” she said.

Another would be to increase the availability of free or reduced cost spay/neuter services. In Surry County there is a lack of such services that leads animal advocates such as Radford to transport animals to Virginia for care.

Bagshaw said any additional help would be appreciated; rescue and foster groups are getting tired of “screaming into the wind” for more. He went on to cite a 2019 study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association which showed a higher proportion of deaths due to suicide among U.S. veterinarians than in the general population.

“We love what we do, and there’s a certain mystique about working with animals — a lot of people think we play with puppies all day long. But there’s a lot behind this,” said American Veterinary Medicine Association President José Arce. There is now a growing focus being placed on the wellbeing of veterinarians.

Cummings said she has seen how beneficial the TNR can be in Forsyth County, and she said, “I cannot emphasize enough for how bad Surry County needs this program. We can’t do it alone, I’m begging you,” to help break the cycle of pet reproduction.

“It will take additional ordinances and enforcement to impact the root causes of Surry County’s animal welfare/control shortfalls,” Taylor said.

Golding of Tiny Tigers said the community has helped her group locate many feral colonies, but her group can only do so much. There is something citizens can do that Bob Barker said for decades, it bears repeating: “Help control the pet population, have you pets spayed or neutered.”

DOBSON — Local election fans coping with the lull in political activity between a spirited spring primary season and the main event next fall can take heart in the fact there’s something to fill that void.

This involves nine different offices being up for grabs in three Surry County municipalities — Dobson, Pilot Mountain and Elkin — for which the candidates’ filing period begins Friday.

Incumbents and/or challengers for those seats can officially toss their hats into the ring beginning at noon that day at the Surry County Board of Elections office at 915 E. Atkins St. in Dobson. The filing period closes at noon on July 15.

A general election will be held on Nov. 8 to decide the winners in Dobson, Pilot Mountain and Elkin the same as other elected offices locally. But the filing cycle for those towns operates differently than that for county government, the city of Mount Airy and additional races which culminated earlier this year.

The municipal elections in Dobson, Pilot Mountain and Elkin are all non-partisan and include four-year terms for each office involved.

And with only three days before the start of filing, one longtime office holder, Dobson Mayor Ricky K. Draughn, is undecided about his plans for seeking what would be his sixth four-year term.

“Right now, no comment — no yes or no,” Draughn said Monday.

“Just let me think on it a while,” added the incumbent, who said there are no particular issues or factors at play with his re-election plans.

Also at stake in the Dobson election this year are two town commissioner seats now held by J. Wayne Atkins and John Lawson

Meanwhile, the upcoming filing period affects two seats on the Pilot Mountain Board of Commissioners presently occupied by Scott Needham and Donna M. Kiger, along with that of Mayor Evan J. Cockerham.

Unlike Dobson and Pilot Mountain, Elkin’s mayor is not up for re-election in 2022, but three members of the town board are: Jeffrey Eidson, Cicely McCulloch and William Gwyn.

While the candidate filing period for the three towns begins Friday, it will end that day at noon for Surry County soil and water supervisor seats that also are non-partisan.

At last report, three people had filed for the two seats available this year, incumbents Chad Keith Chilton and Bradley Boyd and Joe Zalescik, presently a member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners. Zalescik lost his seat in the May 17 city primary and will step down later this year.

Surry has three soil and water supervisors in all, with the third not up for re-election until 2024.

Autumn Leaves Festival might still be nearly four months away, but a deadline for vendors is fast approaching.

June 30 is the final day for would-be vendors to fill out a form expressing their interest in setting up and selling their wares, according to Jordon Edwards, who doubles as the Autumn Leaves Festival director and events director for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce.

“That’s actually a little late,” she said of the June date. “Typically, the cut-off date is April or May, so we’ve added in a grace period due to the transition,” she said. That transition is Edwards taking on her new role with the chamber, which was vacated earlier this year when Travis Frye left for the newly created tourism director funded jointly by the Dobson Tourism Development Authority and the Surry County Tourism Authority.

If the list so far is indicative of what the final line-up will be, Edwards said the folks visiting this autumn’s festival are in for a treat this year. Quite a few treats.

“We’ve had about 120 interest forms for crafts, and maybe 40 for food,” she said. “It’s been interesting to see … there is a large variety.” Among those are a good number — roughly 30% — of first-time vendors planning to set up at this year’s festival. “Randy has commented there are things that have not been in the festival in prior years,” she said, referring to Randy Collins, chamber president and CEO.

She said the pandemic-related shutdowns may have contributed to the new number of vendors.

“I think a lot of people, during the pandemic, picked up a craft and learned it,” she said. And now, they are ready to go out and sell what they have made.

While this will be her first time overseeing the festival, Edwards said she is no stranger to the annual fall gathering.

“I’ve come to the festival every year since I can remember,” she said. Prior to taking her post with the local chamber, she had worked with the Alleghany County Chamber of Commerce and the Alleghany County Public Schools, easy driving distance to Mount Airy. Close enough, in fact, she would often make multiple trips to each event.

“I definitely would spend a couple of days each year — you really have to try all the food, and you have to take the full three days to indulge. It was just always exciting to look forward to, like Christmas or a big Sunday brunch with family. You knew the Autumn Leaves Festival was going to happen.”

Now, she said it’s been fascinating to see the other side of the event, “the behind-the-scenes of how the festival truly does take a year to organize.”

As for the impending deadline — June 30 — Edwards said anyone interested in becoming a vendor should go to http://www.autumnleavesfestival.com/festival-vendor-information/ There they can find a link to an interest form, along with detailed instructions on what vendors are allowed to sell, and how to submit the form.

“We are a juried craft show,” she said, meaning filling out a form does not automatically reserve a spot. “We do have an autumn leaves festival committee that reviews the applicants and decides which ones are invited.” She said a number of factors go into that decision. Among those are the make-up of the festival vendor line-up already in place, if the craft is a good fit for the festival, and if it meets the requirements of being an actual “craft” made by the vendor.

The festival will be October 14 – 16.

Summer is reunion time for many families. A chance to gather with cousins, share stories and laughter and make stronger connections with those who share a common heritage.

The Burke family reunion is happening this weekend. For some that means coming home. For others this will be the first time in the area.

Members of the Burke and associated families have been instrumental in building business in Mount Airy and Surry County for 150 years. Though he came from humble roots, by age 21, William Walter (WW) Burke established a thriving dry goods store on Main Street and steadily built an impressive real estate business besides.

His father, James Marion Burke, was born to Irish immigrants in 1845 in South Philadelphia, the same neighborhood the fictional Rocky Balboa rose from. Even then it was a neighborhood of people of modest and limited means, mostly Irish, Scots, and free Blacks, working the factories, docks, and train yards, hoping to save enough to move uptown to a better life.

His immigrant father, also named James, was a bootmaker and within a decade owned his own small shop. The family moved to a nicer part of town and both he and his brother were working by the time they were 16.

In October 1864 James, then a tinsmith, enlisted in Company E of the 1st New York Artillery and served for the duration of the Civil War, a decision that left him hard of hearing.

We will likely never know what attracted him to Mount Airy but by 1870 he was working in the Brower shoe factory, cutting leather.

At the same time Lucy Hayes, recently widowed, moved with her eight daughters to Mount Airy where there was work in the Brower Cotton Mill. The six older girls (13-24) worked. The entire family was illiterate.

One of the girls, 18-year-old Ida, met James, perhaps walking to work, perhaps at church, perhaps a social gathering. Regardless, they married and bought a house on Pender Street where they raised six children, including their first-born, WW.

James and Ida ensured their children received an education and learned marketable skills. WW seems to have been a determined and progressive businessman from a young age, barely 21 when he opened his store. In 1901 he was a charter member of the Young Men’s Commercial Club of Mount Airy. The organization included many of the people who would shape the region’s economy and business landscape for much of the 20th century.

By 1913, WW was able to afford a large house on Pine Street and one of the first “horseless carriages” in the county when he bought a Hupmobile.

When he married Lucy Bell Taylor in 1907, he joined a storied family with deep roots across the region — roots that twine through the War of 1812 and reach to several patriots in the American Revolution.

Many of Lucy’s extended family were college educated, counting physicians, members of the state General Assembly, and business owners as well as farmers with large operations.

Her father’s grandfather, William A. Taylor, settled in Henry County, Virginia. The town that grew up around his farm was called Taylorville for many years until the name was changed to Stuart for a Civil War general who’d also grown up locally.

Burke turned his hand to a number of business ventures. He was one of the founding partners of Renfro Hosiery but sold out his share. He also bought several properties beginning a generations-long family involvement in real estate development.

History is so much more than important dates and the towering figures who loom large in our collective past. It is the daily sacrifice, hard work, and contributions made by the women and men of our families across generations. The important work of building communities is made by those who live and work in them and the seeds of success are carried on the winds as children branch out from their roots to new challenges and new locations.

Kate Rauhauser-Smith is a volunteer for the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History with 22 years in journalism before joining the museum. She and her family moved to Mount Airy in 2005 from Pennsylvania where she was also involved with museums and history tours.

Some local residents trekked to Nashville last weekend — not to launch careers as country stars, but visit with a musical icon hailing from Mount Airy and show her how much she still fills its heart.

“It is always inspirational to talk to this wonderful lady — whether by phone or in person,” Ann Vaughn commented in relating the group’s trip to reunite with Donna Fargo, which also included taking in the Grand Ole Opry.

“I can tell you that our visit with Donna outshined the Grand Ole Opry,” added Vaughn, who provided information about the visit along with another longtime local friend of Fargo’s, Deborah Cochran.

Fargo is a Grammy-winning artist who churned out a series of top 10 country music hits in the 1970s, including “The Happiest Girl In The Whole U.S.A.” and “Funny Face” along with hosting her own syndicated television series.

She had graduated from Mount Airy High School in 1958 and eventually migrated to California, teaching school before embarking on a full-time music career that yet continues.

Five people motored from Mount Airy to Nashville. In addition to Vaughn and Cochran they included Vickie Scearce along with Roger and Donna Hiatt Freschette.

“We think it is important to keep in touch with Mount Airy’s sweetheart, Donna Fargo,” Vaughn explained.

“She is always singing the praises for Mount Airy and giving credit to so many people from this area who influenced who she is and what she stands for,” she mentioned.

Fargo is equally appreciative of the special reunion with folks from home.

“Oh, it was just lovely,” she said Friday. “I love these people — they have been friends for a long time and it was just really a nice treat.”

“Donna truly loves Mount Airy and the people back home,” Cochran mentioned in sharing her thoughts about the visit with Fargo.

“She’s never too busy to show how much she cares about the people in Mount Airy,” advised the former longtime radio personality, also an ex-mayor and city commissioner who is now running for the at-large seat on the city board.

“Donna and I became close friends when I worked at the WSYD radio station for decades spinning her hits and interviewing her on air.”

Despite a stellar career, Donna Fargo has faced her share of challenges, including the loss of her longtime husband and manager, Stan Silver, to COVID in April 2021.

“Donna has had her own health issues,” Cochran further acknowledged.

This included a bout with the coronavirus at the same time her husband was stricken, on top of two strokes and the multiple sclerosis Fargo has dealt with since being diagnosed in 1978.

“Life can be a struggle even when one doesn’t think it will be,” Cochran observed.

“We are happy to report that Donna is well and sends her sincere good wishes to everyone in her special hometown,” Vaughn reported upon returning to Mount Airy.

Fargo also is staying active with her music, which included the release earlier this year of a CD, “All Because of You,” which is dedicated to Silver and was personally therapeutic in coping with his death, the Grammy winner has said.

“She has just recently released a new single, ‘One of the Good Guys,’ just in time for Father’s Day,” Vaughn pointed out, referring to a cut from the CD that contains six songs altogether.

Cochran also commented on Fargo’s dedication to career:

“She still works on her music, writing songs, books and greeting cards for Blue Mountain Arts. She and country star T. Graham Brown have an event coming in July. “

The local residents who met with Fargo in Nashville presented her with a big tin basket with items from back home. Susanne Lewis Brown, who was a classmate of Fargo’s, sent a lettered Mount Airy High School white winter jacket.

“Donna was so thrilled,” Cochran recalled regarding her reaction to receiving that and other gifts in the tin bucket that had a patriotic theme reflecting Fargo’s love of country — often displayed in her music.

Meanwhile, there is also an effort close to home to have a mural of Fargo painted on a wall downtown, similar to others posthumously honoring Andy Griffith and local singer Melva Houston.

Fargo presented some gifts of her own, according to Cochran, including autographed pictures to local businesses such as Dairy Center and Palace Barber Shop. She also autographed a tin plate for Good Time Trolley Tours and a red guitar for young Charleston Scearce, whose grandmother Vicki traveled to meet Fargo for the first time.

But perhaps what she bestowed most was from the soul.

“Donna Fargo is the perfect example of resilience and optimism,” in Cochran’s view.

“Those of us who have gotten to visit her in person will vouch that she has such a special gift of positivity that is so needed in today’s world,” Vaughn agreed.

”We all need to embrace this wonderful lady who has promoted her hometown since the very beginning.”

A full slate of holiday activities is scheduled in Mount Airy on July 4, all having a common thread of celebrating America’s independence.

This will include a parade through the downtown area, a traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence and other activities at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History and a fireworks show at Veterans Memorial Park.

There was one question mark looming Friday afternoon about the actual starting time for the parade on July 4, which has been announced as 11 a.m. by the sponsoring Downtown Business Association.

However, a spokesman for the Mount Airy Police Department — which must assign officers for street closures and crowd control, also aided by Mount Airy Rescue Squad volunteers — says the event officially is permitted for 2 p.m. on the holiday.

The time eventually decided on will be reported when that becomes available.

Jennie Lowry of the Downtown Business Association is expecting more than 50 floats and other units for the holiday parade. These tentatively will assemble at Veterans Memorial Park and leave at 11 a.m. en route to the central business district.

Parade applications are available at http://www.mountairydowntown.org/fourth-of-july-parade.html

There is a small fee for businesses and no charge for non-profit entries.

Next Friday is the application deadline.

Organizers of the parade and celebration have chosen the Allen family to serve as this year’s honorary grand marshals for the procession. The Allens have participated in the parade for many years as part of their family reunion.

The family was picked to specifically recognize one of its members, the late Thelma Allen, co-owner of Mount Airy Tractor Toyland, who recently died.

She was a longtime merchant downtown who was recognized by many, especially kids who frequented Toyland, a favorite spot for both the young and young at heart, according to an announcement from the Downtown Business Association.

What has become a familiar part of Independence Day activities, the reading of the Declaration of Independence at Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, also is planned this year.

This is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in the courtyard of the museum at 301 N. Main St.

Brack and Angela Llewellyn from the NoneSuch Playmakers group will have the honor of reciting the historic document that put the country on a path to its formation.

After the downtown parade, the museum will host games for kids and demonstrations with Janet Pyatt and the Backcountry Peddler.

A traditional Fourth of July fireworks display also is planned at Veterans Memorial Park on West Lebanon Street as part of the holiday festivities.

It will begin around 9 p.m., according to park President Doug Joyner.

The gates will open at 5 p.m.

Music is scheduled at the park by a DJ and a couple of food trucks are to be on site, Joyner added Friday.

The end has arrived for the PART Express Connector Route 6 from Winston-Salem through King to Pilot Mountain to Mount Airy. The park and ride commuter bus service ends June 30.

Once considered a novel idea to move workers between counties and reduce the number of cars on the road, a perception of diminishing returns led the county leaders to extricate themselves from the regional transportation authority which they entered in 2005.

At the most recent board of county commissioners meeting there was one speaker who encouraged the board to reconsider their action, Rachel Collins, a commissioner from Pilot Mountain. She has heard it on the ground that this change is hurting constituents and recounted a woman who told her she was retiring from her job in Winston-Salem because PART was her ride to work.

The Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation has been reaching out to members of the community in recent weeks. Collins shared a copy of the newsletter she received from the group that reference Surry County reaching the end of the line. Riders were asked to contact the authority for more information on mobility options.

“In the last several weeks we have gotten a lot more correspondence from people who want to know what the options are like van pooling,” said PART Director Scott Rhine said. He said details were to be released before the weekend on 50% off van pooling for the rest of the year. “If mobility is a challenge, we want to be part of the solution.”

Collins asked the county commissioners to consider a delay in exiting PART, which she says is “an asset to our community.” It influences businesses decision on where to locate, or where to stay, and can do the same for residents moving from the metro areas and looking for options.

She said, “By voting to withdraw you are saying Surry County is not interested in being a collaborator” with its neighbors who still see the value of membership in a regional transportation coalition.

“In all my years of this, I still am not sure how this came to be,” Rhine said of the county’s abrupt exit from the group. PART had been trying to expand services on its rural connector lines in Surry and Randolph counties by applying for a new round of federal grants.

After Surry exited PART, the federal grants were awarded: to Randolph County. He confirmed that they will now receive the entire grant, “Yes, Randolph will get all the federal funds. We had been eyeing $300,000 up to Surry and $300,000 down to Randolph County.”

“On August 1, we are expanding routes and services, with 35% more service frequency, and a new direct line from Greensboro to the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro.” This was just the sort of expansion of service that PART had hoped to run to Surry County.

Rhine explained to the county commissioners early this year as the PART departure was looming that the best way to grow ridership of the service was to increase the number of options riders had on where and when to board and disembark.

What drove the departure from PART was that ridership numbers were down from pre-COVID levels, and Rhine said even as levels are rebounding – he is not sure that the full ridership will ever return. He pointed to national trends on public transportation showing a similar trend in ridership across the country.

Secondly, to fund the county’s participation in PART there was a 5% tax attached to rental cars. When established, all member counties were given the option to have PART levy a rental car tax or place a fee on license plate renewals. Surry County opted to go the rental car tax route, which is distasteful to some board members.

Founding PART Director Brent McKinney said he felt both points were short sighted. “I feel the commissioners made their decision in absence of all the information,” he said Friday.

It was presented that the rental car tax was a hinderance to Surry County residents. Most rental cars within the county are rented by those who live outside of the county, he indicated, so tourists would be paying the largest sum of those rental car fees.

Furthermore, local car rentals are often related to a car being in the shop, he says let Allstate or other providers pay the rental car taxes in those cases.

What remains confusing to both Rhine and McKinney on the issue of taxation is that the county commissioners have no power over the rental car tax, they ceded that right by entering PART in the first place. “The 5% rental car tax was as high as it could be. The commissioners could have asked to have it lowered, rather than exit altogether,” Rhine explained.

Through several county commissioner meetings and in discussions between county staff, the county attorney, a PART attorney, and Rhine himself it is unclear if this question was ever asked or considered.

On ridership declines McKinney went on to say that some people have trouble considering the future. He has conducted traffic surveys for Winston-Salem, PART, and on the use of Highway 89 in Mount Airy by commercial trucking traffic. He said it is this expertise that tells him future use rates for all local roads are going to go up.

With that growth means more cars and more pollution. Here is one point he thinks is lost in translation: Forsyth and Guilford counties in the 1990s were not meeting air quality standards which was a driving force behind PART.

Now, he says, the state has been reclassified by the Environmental Protection Agency as “maintenance” which is why vehicle emissions tests are no longer needed. He quipped that while he cannot take full credit for this change, PART did play some role in eliminating the emissions tests. Having regional bus services has had an impact on air quality by reducing the number of cars driving into urban core areas in Forsyth and Guilford, which he estimates at 100,000 daily.

He returned to the serious nature of what losing “front door service to Baptist Hospital, Forsyth, and Atrium,” might mean to the residents of Surry County. He said some of the very best medical care available is in Winston-Salem, “We need to link the people to services and all the options available.”

Rhine may have added some rain onto the parade by informing that the county cannot remove the rental car tax until the park and ride lots have been sold. Until such a sale, the authority still must pay for utilities and insurance coverage on the lots; the rental car tax pays the county’s responsibility.

There are no additional commissioners meeting before the end of the month so there is no way to put the genie back in the bottle. If the sale of the federal lands delays the county’s full departure from PART, there may still be time to reverse course.

If not, all is not lost should the county change its mind in the future. “We won’t hold it against the county, or the riders,” Rhine explained. “If the county wants back in, we can do that.”

Surry County announced a property purchase at a time when few others seem to have the appetite to swallow current interest rates in order to make such a buy. So, when the fiscally conservative county commissioners opened the checkbook to buy the 1830 Surry County Courthouse in Rockford it took many by surprise, more so given the amount of time it had been in the works.

Chairman Bill Goins announced the move, “The board of commissioners are pleased to announce in conjunction with Surry 250 and Surry County’s Invest in Surry Initiative the acquisition of the 1830 Surry County Courthouse in historic Rockford. This acquisition process has been ongoing since last fall and was slowed due to title issues on the part of the seller. Now that this process has been concluded we are excited to move forward.

“The board wants to thank the county’s parks and recreation department, development services, and public works department for their property improvement efforts the past few weeks.

“The county staff is already engaged and working closely with a restoration specialist from the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ State Historic Preservation Office to develop a plan and use for the building and property going forward.

“It is the county’s primary intent to return use of this property to the citizens of Surry County in some capacity as we move forward in developing a plan for the property.”

To the public it was an unknown move but in county circles it was known for some time; some secrets can be kept – from some. Surry County employees knew and had sent a photographer well before announcing the buy to begin documenting the purchase through restoration of the property.

To some this secrecy did not appear the ideal way to conduct business with the taxpayers’ money. With no public input on the matter solicited, one county commissioner candidate has been raising concerns.

Assistant to the County Manager Nathan Walls had responded to questions on the purchase last week, “The purchase price was $75,000 and the Board of Commissioners are set to announce the acquisition of the old Rockford Courthouse at their regular board meeting.”

County Commissioner candidate Ken Badgett was the one peppering both County Manager Chris Knopf and Walls with questions on the acquisition. He expressed concerns this process was done behind closed doors, only to be revealed to the public upon completion.

“The secrecy involved in the transaction is unusual — or, maybe not. Who knows what the commissioners discuss in their ‘closed sessions?’ If done properly, the old courthouse building in Rockford is going to be very expensive to restore,” he added.

It was explained that County Attorney Ed Woltz contacted an Elkin realtor in May 2021 to determine if the Rockford Courthouse was available after hearing the property owner had passed away. He was advised the property was for sale, but the sale was contingent on approval from the clerk of court.

In September he was given approval to offer an amount between $50,000 – $80,000 for the property; the written offer was accepted on Oct. 5. There were issues with the title relating to the estate and connected trusts that took until late April to clear, not a wholly uncommon occurrence in estate matters.

Badgett also made inquiry to the county about the possible conveyance of the courthouse to the Rockford Preservation Society, a move akin to the J. J. Jones property transfer made the African American Historical and Genealogical Society of Surry County.

After Monday’s meeting Knopf offered unsolicited that there were no plans at this time for such a property transfer and that restoration specialists would be continuing their examination in order to proceed in planning. The desire remains, he said, to create some sort of community use center from the historic building.

The city of Mount Airy is preparing to launch major, much-needed utility upgrades in the downtown area using $1.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

This includes $987,500 for what is known as the West Side Main Street Water Improvements Project and $512,500 for a sewer project in the same area, both targeting the replacement of aging lines, according to Public Works Director Mitch Williams.

Though originating through a national source, Congress, the money is coming from a state agency, the Department of Environmental Quality.

The water project will include the replacement of existing water mains that serve Franklin Street, Willow Street, Virginia Street and West Oak Street. The sewer portion is to involve replacing existing mains on those streets.

These lines are some of the oldest in the city, where it can least afford problems due to the impact on the central business district, and have been a source of concern for years.

This included, for example, a discussion among municipal officials more than 10 years ago — in March 2012 — when they sought to address what had been termed a “ticking time bomb” regarding the aging facilities.

“One day, they’re going to break and Main Street is going to be blocked for two months,” then-Commissioner Dean Brown said of a worst-case scenario.

Another commissioner, the late Scott Graham, agreed. “One of these days it’s going to reach up and bite us,” Graham said of the problem that has been easy to ignore because of being underground and therefore out of sight.

The line replacements are finally ready to proceed, using the $1.5 million initially announced late last year in conjunction with the adoption of a state budget.

With the funding recently received, the present group of commissioners took action at a meeting last week to move forward with the respective utility projects.

This was accompanied by votes officially accepting the ARPA water-sewer funds and awarding contracts for planning and design services related to the two projects to The Lane Group.

City staff members had solicited requests for quotes from private engineering firms to provide those functions, with Lane the only one to do so in each case.

Yet staff members were comfortable with The Lane Group’s involvement, since it has a past working relationship with Mount Airy on large annexation and water-sewer rehabilitation projects. That firm possesses an “extensive knowledge” of the city utility system and always has been quick to respond to any conflicts arising during construction, a memo from Williams adds.

The Lane Group was awarded a $100,400 planning/design contract for the water project and one of $56,000 for the sewer work.

The American Rescue Plan Act funding for the utility improvements is separate from another $3.2 million received by Mount Airy in ARPA COVID relief which largely is earmarked for building repairs and equipment additions among the various municipal departments.

ARARAT, Va. — The community of Ararat just across the state line from Mount Airy has many attractions, and is ramping up efforts to get out that message.

As part of this goal, Noah Mabe, an associate of the Patrick Tourism Department, which leads efforts on behalf of sites countywide, recently paid a visit to Ararat.

That included a stop at Willis Gap Community Center, where the Dan River District component of the county tourism organization is working with the center to place a Virginia “LOVE” mural on the building. This is planned in conjunction with many communities, businesses and individuals becoming part of a LOVEworks project growing across the state with hundreds of participants now involved.

The only requirement involves creating a sign, mural or sculpture with the message L-O-V-E. Even though all contain those simple letters, each is different and showcases an area’s great outdoors, landmarks, agriculture and other resources.

In the case of Willis Gap Community Center, the mural will highlight Friday Night open jams held there and its connection with The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail.

To further the mural plans, Mabe, the county tourism associate, met with President Mike Noonkester of the community center’s governing board and Secretary Mary Dellenback Hill, who also is a member of the 2022 Patrick County Tourism Advisory Council. Hill recently was appointed as the representative for the Dan River District of the Patrick County Tourism Department.

County Tourism Coordinator James Houchins also is excited about the project and looks forward to seeing what the center and David Stanley of SilverLining Design will create for the mural.

During Hill’s visit, he and Hill also took the opportunity to view a Patrick County tourism sign at the North Carolina/Virginia border; Laurel Hill, the birthplace of Maj. Gen J.E.B. Stuart, including a tourism kiosk there; and the William Letcher gravesite (the oldest-known in Patrick County).

Letcher also was a great-grandfather of Gen. Stuart on his mother’s side.

“We wrapped up with lunch at Boyd’s Restaurant,” Hill advised regarding a longtime establishment in Ararat. “Noah appreciated the tour, and I think he gained some variable insight on enhancing the area from a tourism point of view.”

The new Andy Griffith mural on Moore Avenue would appear to have no relationship to recent struggles by a local body shop owner involving a proposed sign at his expansion location.

Yet the two have been drawn together by a city councilman alleging a double standard concerning how each has been handled.

Commissioner Jon Cawley questioned why a city ordinance is keeping shop owner Frank Fleming from refurbishing an existing sign at the former Winn-Dixie location, at the same time he says another ordinance has been violated regarding infrastructure for the mural.

A way can always seem to be found to accomplish things sought by certain parties locally, while others — such as a sign request by Fleming — are blocked by the rule book, Cawley charged.

“When one person can’t do it, but the city can,” he said of the apparent double standard resulting.

Fleming, who brought fame to Mount Airy through his long career as a modified race car driver, has launched a $2 million expansion project from his present location on Springs Road to a rundown site on Merita Street off U.S. 52-North.

That former supermarket spot is in a somewhat out-of-the-way place and the businessman is seeking to re-use the existing framework of a tall sign left behind by Winn-Dixie to draw attention to his new shop where jobs will be created.

However, that is not permitted under a municipal sign ordinance, updated in 2016, because it would exceed a maximum allowable height of 15 feet in cases of a new business development such as Fleming’s.

The Mount Airy Zoning Board of Adjustment, a powerful body whose actions carry the same weight as court rulings, denied his request to exceed the height limitation and Fleming is appealing the case to Surry County Superior Court.

A supportive crowd came to City Hall for a council meeting last Thursday night, when Fleming asked the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners to approve an amendment to the ordinance that would allow the existing sign to be used. The matter will be formally considered at a board meeting next month.

But it was during the same session in which Fleming spoke that Cawley referenced the Andy Griffith mural that was completed this spring on a wall of Surrey Bank and Trust facing Moore Avenue.

“And it’s a beautiful mural,” Cawley said without hesitation.

“But then we (the city government) went on to tear up the sidewalk and street,” he added in reference to his issue concerning the infrastructure work accompanying the placement of the artwork.

“Did you know that Mount Airy has an ordinance that the only people who can decide to tear up the sidewalks or the streets are the commissioners?” Cawley said. “And we’ve never voted on it — and we have a city manager (Stan Farmer), who told me in another conversation that he made that call.”

In further expressing his view in a general comment period at the end of last Thursday’s meeting “whether or not he really made that call, I can’t say,” Cawley said of the city manager. “But we’ve got an ordinance that says he does not have the right to make the call.”

No other officials attempted to rebut or counter Cawley’s claims at the meeting about the apparent ordinance violation involving the mural site — where a grassed area was dug up along with the sidewalk and street, including the loss of parking space. This allowed the building of a wider sidewalk area where visitors can pause to admire or take photos of the artwork.

Commissioner Steve Yokeley did say he thought these changes were appropriate and that ample parking exists at the spot in a public lot across Moore Avenue from the mural.

Cawley, the longest-serving city commissioner who is giving up his seat to run for mayor in this year’s municipal election, is not seeking any remediative action regarding the recently added Andy Griffith mural infrastructure.

“We’re not going to go tear up that,” he said.

“I’m not asking anybody to tear up what’s been done — I’m not,” Cawley emphasized. “I’m asking us to give the same leeway to people” who have a need, such as Fleming, to proceed in such a manner where an ordinance is concerned.

“I wonder what would happen to Mr. Fleming if he went ahead and built this thing?” Cawley speculated concerning the sign.

“Would he be fined X number of dollars a day because he’s breaking an ordinance? I don’t know what would happen to him — maybe they would put him in jail.”

DOBSON — Got a problem with the federal government? If so, an event Friday in Dobson could bring a solution for Surry County constituents.

This will involve plans by the staff of 10th District Congressman Patrick McHenry to hold office hours that day from 2 to 5 p.m. at the historic Surry County Courthouse, where citizens are invited to come with issues or concerns. The courthouse is located at 114 W. Atkins St. in Dobson.

McHenry has periodically offered this opportunity to local residents since Surry County became part of his district after the 2020 congressional election.

Roger Kumpf, McHenry’s regional director for Surry, will be available Friday to meet with constituents who have issues with agencies such as the Social Security Administration or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Kumpf will also be there to listen to any concerns that constituents have with federal policy or pending legislation before Congress. He will relay those concerns to Rep. McHenry.

Congressman McHenry’s staff holds regular office hours in each county of the 10th District.

He maintains district offices in Rural Hall, Mooresville and Hickory.

A Virginia man is dead, but no charges are expected, after an early afternoon crash on Interstate 77 near Elkin.

Andra Lewis, 38, of Virginia, was killed when the 2021 SUV Honda he was driving backed onto the interstate, where it was slammed by a tractor-trailer, according to North Carolina Highway Patrol Sgt. S.B. Marshall. He declined to give a specific city where Lewis lived.

The crash occured at mile marker 85, near Elkin. The sergeant said Lewis was on the right shoulder of southbound I-77, backing up northward along the shoulder, when he “lost control of the car, backed into the travel lane of the highway,” where the 18-wheeler was traveling southward. He said it was not clear whey Lewis was backing up on the shoulder.

The wreck, which occurred around 1:30, has snarled traffic on southbound I-77 as workers clean the wreckage and highway patrol officers investigate the incident. The Department of Transportation said they expected the interstate to remain closed until around 5:30 p.m., with traffic being diverted onto neighboring roads.

Marshall did not have the name nor residency of the truck driver, saying he was still being interviewed by troopers on the scene. The sergeant did say the driver was not injured, and he anticipated no charges would be filed.

No other individuals were in the truck or the SUV.

A long process of meetings, hearings, and number crunching in order to get the 2022-2023 Surry County budget together ended Monday with little fanfare with unanimous passage of a $93,607,336 budget which includes no property tax increase.

Board of Commissioners Chairman Bill Goins opened the floor to a public hearing on the budget to offer a chance for residents of Surry County to ask questions about the new spending plan. There were no questions — what remained was a formality.

County Manager Chris Knopf had presented changes to the proposed budget that had been made since the last planning meeting. The board directed him to find places to make additional cuts in order to fund increases in spending elsewhere without raising the over budget past projection.

Commissioner Van Tucker said at that time, “We ask you to propose a figure and we kind of have to look at the top of it. We’re at the phase now where rather than raise the top of what we thought we could make work for the budget we could wiggle out of here and change a few dollars from one column to another, from department to department, as necessary.”

Those changes yielded a total net decrease of $9,767 from the last number projected. That is not to say big changes were not made including an increase of $205,440 in school spending to raise the per student spending to $1,260.

An additional $268,147 was also added for salaries of county employees; full time county employees may look forward to a 5% cost of living adjustment.

Cuts totaling more than $50,000 were made in the proposed budgets of Emergency Management, $87,000 for EMS, and $150,000 from the recently hot topic of county departments the Board of Elections.

These are not cuts from previous year’s spending or to the overall departmental budget, rather adjustments made to the specific line-item requests in the next budget.

Such changes are made as priorities in other areas of the budget shift or as Commissioner Van Tucker said at the county budget planning meeting,

Commissioner Larry Johnson offered thanks to the county and staff members for their hard work, as one would expect. What may not have been was that he thanked the citizens – not for the first time –for caring enough to pay their property taxes on time.

It is the revenue from the citizens that funds the county and makes departmental budgets possible. At over 99.5% the rate of collection was “amazing” he said.

Knopf said the budget will be available on the county website for viewing soon.

The former Westfield Elementary School will remain a county owned property for the time being. With no additional bids made, the offer on the table was ultimately declined by the county.

County Manager Chris Knopf brought the matter to the commissioners in a late add to the agenda. The haste was necessary as their decision could have removed the property from the county ledger before the end of the fiscal year.

A bid of $102,000 was made by the Shelton family, who own nearby land, in early June. It was only the second bid made for the school that joined a list of surplus properties last year.

The board accepted their offer at that time in order to open a period of upset bidding that ended before Monday’s board meeting.

Vice Chair Eddie Harris suggested the offer was “a little under fair market value.” He preferred though to defer to Commissioner Van Tucker who represents the district in question.

Tucker made it known on June 6 when the offer was accepted that he hoped the school would fetch more with competition; he did so again Monday. The site has an estimated tax value of $279,124 and an appraisal value of $243,000 was given last year.

“I said before when we accepted the bid that we ought to accept the bid to start the process, but I also said I hoped that in the final end game we would be able to garner a little higher amount of money than that,” Tucker said. “I feel like this is a little less that the amount that this property should bring.”

There had been just the one offer prior in the amount of $150,000 that was rescinded by the buyer shortly thereafter. County officials cited potential costs of cleanup and possible remediation in the withdrawal of the bid.

Commissioners Larry Johnson and Harris each questioned if people had been adequately informed of the sale and the upset bidding process. “Maybe if the for-sale sign isn’t quite enough advertisement, maybe we can get more,” Johnson said.

A resolution was read into the record by Vice Chair Eddie Harris to honor the late Trooper Samuel Newton Bullard of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. Trooper Bullard was killed in the line of duty in Surry County on May 21, 2018, when his cruiser was involved in a collision during a high-speed pursuit.

The board is making a request to the North Carolina Department of Transportation to name the NC 268 Bypass – CC Camp Road bridge over the Big Elkin Creek the Trooper Samuel Newton Bullard bridge in his memory.

Bullard was a native of Wilkes County and a graduate of East Wilkes High who is remembered as an outdoorsman and hunter. He entered service with the highway patrol in June 2015 and was posthumously awarded the Officer of the Year at the 2019 Blue Line Brotherhood Banquet.

Harris was visibly emotional and took a moment to collect himself more than once as he read the resolution. “Some may wonder about my emotion here. Without a doubt this was the hardest evening in my term of 12 years on the board. It happened as Commissioner Tucker and I were leaving a meeting and Johnny Shelton called, we didn’t know which trooper it was.”

Trooper Brandon Cox, Harris’ son-in-law, was the driving force to get the bridge renamed in Trooper Bullard’s honor. He told the board he was appreciative to have the process moving forward saying that he knew getting the bridge renamed may take a while, “but not this long.”

Harris said he “wanted to make sure we get this right” and doubled back at meeting’s end to ensure that all procedural matters had been addressed so that the state had what was needed to advance the process.

He also asked for guidance on making a funding request to cover expenses and was told the county could cover the application fees out of the general contingency fund.

For anyone who believes “The Andy Griffith Show’s” hold on the public may be loosening, brothers Cort and Stark Howell have a message — not so fast.

The two, sons of actor Hoke Howell (a character actor known for portraying hillbilly Dud Wash on The Andy Griffith Show), released the independent film Mayberry Man last year. While the film has had a limited release — 30 theaters spread across a dozen states altogether, according to Cort Howell, many of those showings have been sell-outs. But what really tipped the scales for the movie was getting a deal to distribute through Amazon streaming services.

“It has performed extremely well on Amazon Prime for a small indie film — huge success for a small film like ours.”

That has led the duo, along with much of the movie’s cast, to take the next step and create Mayberry Man: The Series.

“In the feature film, arrogant movie star Chris Stone’s life changes when he is forced to spend a week at a nostalgic festival celebrating ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ the beloved television classic from the 1960s,” Cort said in a press release. “Mayberry Man: The Series picks up where the movie leaves off, following Chris Stone as he navigates his newfound relationships with Mayberry’s sweetheart Kate and the quirky characters of a modern-day Mayberry.”

The movie’s plot had its beginning in a real-life visit Stark Howell made to Mayberry Days several years ago.

“I’ve always been a fan of the show, but I was shocked to discover the spirit of Mayberry still exists today within the tight-knit Mayberry fan community,” he said. That visit started the creative wheels turning in his mind, and he and his brother, along with several other children of Mayberry stars, put the film idea together.

“It’s the perfect setting to tell modern-day, family-friendly stories that express the virtues of the fictitious town of Mayberry that we all love.”

He said during that developmental stage, he and his brother decided to produce the movie as an independent project, which he said would allow them to make a family-friendly movie without the influence of sometimes less family-friendly studios.

Stark’s younger brother Cort Howell produced the movie and will return as producer of the series. “We worked outside the Hollywood system and partnered with Mayberry fans through crowdfunding to protect the wholesomeness of the project,” Cort said. “We plan to repeat this winning formula with the series.”

Much of the funding for the project was raised through crowdfunding efforts, after a kick-off party at the Loaded Goat in Mount Airy, with many of the larger donors earning time on screen during the movie. They intend to use the same strategy for the series. While he and his brother have secured private backing for some of the cost of the venture, he said the crowdfunding component will be vital to getting the series off the ground.

“For fans who always dreamed of visiting Mayberry, they have the opportunity to participate in the show as actors and extras,” he said. When backing the project on Indiegogo beginning June 25, fans can choose from a variety of perks that include things such as getting their name in the credits, passes to a red-carpet premiere, participating on-set as a background extra, or they can even land an on-screen speaking role.

The project involves what Stark Howell calls “Mayberry royalty,” the kids of many of those actors who were in the show during its 1960-1968 run. Andy Griffith’s daughter Dixie Griffith is returning as executive producer and Karen Knotts, daughter of Don Knotts, will be a cast member. Additionally, co-producer Gregory Schell is the son of actor-comedian Ronnie Schell who appeared on “The Andy Griffith Show” and played Duke Slater in “Gomer Pyle, USMC.” Ronnie Schell is also slated to appear in the series.

The filming of the show will also follow a pattern familiar to those who have seen the movie. Many scenes will be shot in Mount Airy, especially during this year’s Mayberry Days. Much of the original movie was shot in Mount Airy and the surrounding area, including scenes shot during the 2020 Mayberry Days.

Other scenes from the movie were shot in and near Danville, Indiana, home of a smaller festival called Mayberry in the Midwest, as well as scenes shot in California.

Cort Howell said the eventual distribution of the series had not yet been determined, and most likely won’t be until 2023.

The crowdfunding campaign launches June 25 and runs through the end of July. Special events are planned throughout the campaign and can be found at mayberryman.com.

The Mayberry Cool Cars & Rods Cruise-In series was presented by the Downtown Business Association on Sunday in downtown Mount Airy. A variety of cars of all makes, models, and styles were on display Saturday as were motorcycles shown in a sponsored Smokin’ Harley Davidson of Winston-Salem display area.

In previous years these Mayberry Cool Cars events were held on the third Saturday of the month during summer, this year the events have moved to Sunday. The next events are scheduled for Sunday July 17, August 21, and Sept. 18 each from 1 – 5 p.m.

Smokin’ Harley Davidson was added this year as a presenting sponsor and they set up in the parking lot next to Old North State Winery for a bike show. Throaty hogs were on display next to sleek and sporty bikes with passersby snapping pictures and pointing to accessories or colors that caught there eye. Surely it must take a bit of training to be able to look 50 yards down the way and see a Harely in motion, and still be able to determine what year it was made.

It was just that sort of crowd that was on hand who had no real agenda or time table. Folks just wandered about listening to the sounds of “On the Beach” with Charlie Brown as they chatted with strangers about a teal 1950s pickup truck. Some cars were shiny and tricked out, some went the other route and brought what to some may have looked like a dangerous rust bucket, yet to the owner is their pride and joy.

Sadly, one participant lost their striking white Shelby Mustang to an apparent overrun of zombies who had then placed a car-hop tray of brains and Texas Pete out the window as a sign to keep other looky-loos away.

Many cars were seen there for the duration and some are known show cars of local residents. Having recently had ‘Cruisin’ with Honor’ at the Armory during Memorial Day weekend, a charity motorcycle ride at Veterans Memorial Park, and the auto/fly-in show at the airport last weekend — it has been a busy few weekends for those who enjoy showing off their prized wheels. There is some level of overlap as some of the best looking cars were local rides, so they show their grills at more than one event.

For the low price of free taking a few laps up and down Main Street on Father’s Day was a change of pace from days of high heat, humidity, and yard work. Rest assured: there is time yet in the rest of the summer for all of those.

Mount Airy officials have awarded a contract for building new public restrooms for an underserved section downtown, but a merchant who actively lobbied for that project wonders why it’s taken so long.

“I am grateful we will have bathrooms down here — most grateful — I just don’t understand the timing,” Martha Truskolaski said Monday of the facilities planned for the municipal parking lot between Brannock and Hiatt Furniture Co. and Old North State Winery.

“It was approved in November — why wouldn’t they have moved forward until now?” added Truskolaski, who operates Spotted Moon, a retail gift shop, in a building she owns at 419 N. Main St.

Truskolaski was referring to action last Thursday setting the construction in motion, for which funding was approved last fall through a city budget amendment totaling $295,000. It was set aside for an array of downtown projects, including the new restrooms, the updating of a master plan and others, with the group Mount Airy Downtown Inc. also committing $297,000.

This finally led to the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners’ vote Thursday night to award a $104,900 contract to Colt W. Simmons Construction Co., a local firm, to build the restroom facilities. These will be similar to ones located on the Granite City Greenway behind Roses, according to Public Works Director Mitch Williams, which include two bathroom units and a brick exterior.

“It’s about time,” said Truskolaski, who had appeared before the commissioners at a meeting last July urging them to add the restrooms in what she termed the “Forgotten 400 Block.”

“Why has it waited this long?”

In responding to that question, City Manager Stan Farmer explained Monday afternoon that officials spent much time exploring a suggested alternate location for the new restrooms at a site near Trinity Episcopal Church. This is a little farther north of the original one eyed, with the church located on the corner of North Main Street and Independence Boulevard.

However, it was decided after weeks of study to go back to “Plan A,” Farmer said of the location in the rear of the north 400 block parking lot between Brannock and Hiatt and Old North State Winery.

The restroom project should be completed by late summer or early fall, according to Williams, the public works director.

He mentioned that bids for the job recently were solicited from several local contractors — but only two, Colt W. Simmons Construction and J.G. Coram, submitted proposals.

Simmons was the low bidder, undercutting the offer made by Coram, $116,589, by $11,689, and in addition the Simmons company had completed past contracts for the city in a satisfactory manner and enjoys “an excellent working relationship” with it, Williams advised.

Along with the contract sum of $104,900, a 15% contingency fund is included to cover unforeseen expenses, for a total project cost of $120,000.

While lamenting the fact the new restrooms won’t be available until late summer or early fall — posing a further inconvenience to downtown visitors — Truskolaski indicated Monday that she is thankful the facilities are now within sight.

The local merchant had pointed out during her July 2021 appearance before city officials that the nearest public restrooms to the 400 block are almost two blocks away at the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. The only other public facilities downtown are at the southern end of the North Main Street shopping area in the Jack A. Loftis Plaza.

Truskolaski said when speaking at City Hall that this is particularly a problem with young children and the elderly and asked officials: “If you needed to use a restroom while out shopping, would you want to walk two blocks up a hill to do so?”

The merchant stressed last July that this void reflected a longtime problem needing to be filled sooner rather than later.

Adding public restrooms to the area in question “will benefit not only the visitors that come to our friendly city but our citizens as well,” Truskolaski commented during that appearance.

That there was not one, but two, Juneteenth events in Surry County over the weekend as the holiday enters its second year of official recognition after decades of less formalized but no less exuberant celebrations.

If you missed the events last weekend, fear not for Juneteenth events will be a fixture of mid-June revelry going forward in Surry County and across the United States.

“As we celebrate Black heritage, liberation, freedom and the great progress we have made, we must continue to be aware that systemic racism still persists,” Gov. Roy Cooper said last week. “Although we’ve come a long way since 1865, there’s more work to do.”

Juneteenth commemorates the events of June 19, 1865, which is where the name derives. On that day U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, and informed the enslaved Black people of their freedom after cessation of combat in the Civil War. It had been two and half years since President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863.

Also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, Juneteenth was made a federal holiday when President Biden signed it into law on June 17, 2021. Now more states and the District of Columbia are recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday and are offering it as a paid day off to state employees.

While knowledge and awareness of the holiday is increasing among the public, there is still a way to go and obstacles to overcome in acceptance. In June, nearly 60% of Americans said they knew about the holiday, compared with 37% in May 2021, according to a Gallup poll.

Mount Airy’s event on Saturday reflected a similar attitude with members of the community passing in, around, and through the Juneteenth festival in the Market Street Arts and Entertainment District with some not aware they were doing so.

That did not diminish the spirit of the event nor its participants. Even those passing through what one visitor referred to as “a pop-up fair” stopped to browse at vendor booths or gaze up at the visage of the giant Melva Houston from Melva’s Alley.

Young kids ran around as the grownups parked themselves at picnic tables or under shade on a warm day. Folks were coming in and out of the area waiting for the toast of the celebratory Juneteenth red drink and then to groove down to the sounds of Aquarius Moon.

It was a fun event in Mount Airy to mark a day of great significance to the nation, but the holiday creates angst for some others. There has been some resistance from state legislatures that suggests the acrimony that arose out of efforts to make the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a paid holiday throughout the country. After President Ronald Reagan signed Dr. King’s birthday into federal law in 1983, Arizona was the last state to adopt the Dr. King holiday, waiting until 1992.

It took intervention from the National Football League in the form of pulling Super Bowl XXVII from Tempe and big-name recording artists boycotting the state before voters changed course in late 1992. Arizona got there despite the best efforts of politicians to stop it; the voters got it done. Tempe was granted another opportunity after the vote, getting Super Bowl XXX three years later.

Michelle Obama has said of Juneteenth, “What I love is that even in that extended wait, we still find something to celebrate. Even though the story has never been tidy, and Black folks have had to march and fight for every inch of our freedom, our story is nonetheless one of progress.”

The late Coretta Scott King, widow of the Rev. Dr. King said of such progress, “Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won; you earn it and win it in every generation.”

DOBSON — A member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners who will be losing his seat later this year as the result of a recent primary defeat is setting his sights on another elected office.

Joe Zalescik has filed for Surry County soil and water conservation supervisor. Two such seats will be up for election in November.

The filing period for those offices, which are non-partisan, began on June 13 and will end on July 1 at noon.

Surry County Director of Elections Michella Huff has announced that in addition to Zalescik, the two people presently holding the pair of seats involved, Chad Keith Chilton and Bradley Boyd, also have filed as candidates.

Zalescik, who is now serving as the at-large member of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners, which also is non-partisan, finished third in a three-way primary on May 17 for a South Ward seat on the city board. It is now held by Steve Yokeley.

Yokeley, meanwhile, had filed as a candidate for the at-large post, after he and Zalescik reached an agreement to seek each other’s positions due to the terms involved with each.

Since the eventual winner of the at-large slot in November will be filling the unexpired portion, two years, of a four year term vacated by Ron Niland when he became mayor, this fit Yokeley’s desire to serve only for a short time more. He has been on the board since 2009.

However, Zalescik sought the full four-year term accompanying the South Ward seat.

Yokeley finished second in a three-person primary won by Deborah Cochran, a former mayor and commissioner, meaning he and Cochran will go head to head in November.

But since Zalescik was third in the primary for the South Ward seat, losing to Phil Thacker and Gene Clark, he will not be a candidate in November since only the top two vote-getters in the primary advance to the general election. Zalescik will be stepping down from the city board in December.

Zalescik, who was on the Mount Airy Planning Board before being selected as at-large commissioner last September by the other four commissioners, says his seeking of the soil and water conservation post isn’t about just wanting to hold an office.

“I had similar experience in New Jersey,” he said of the community where he resided before moving to Mount Airy in recent years.

This involved serving on an environmental board for about six years, which dealt with wetlands and related issues, according to Zalescik.

“It seems like it would be a good fit for me,” he said of serving as a soil and water conservation supervisor in Surry. “Since I lost the primary, I need to do something.”

The supervisors govern the Surry County Soil and Water Conservation District, one of 96 local districts in North Carolina, according to information on a state government website.

These were formed in 1937 by North Carolina General Statute 139 as part of a nationwide movement to prevent critical conservation problems that grew out of the devastating Dust Bowl by addressing soil erosion, drainage and related issues.

The soil and water conservation districts exist for the primary purpose of providing local direction to voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs to help landowners protect and conserve the state’s natural resources, including soil, water, wildlife, unique plant and animal habitats and others.

District supervisors work closely with county, state and federal governments and both public and private organizations in a non-regulatory capacity to carry out a comprehensive conservation program. It is aimed at protecting and improving counties’ natural resources while assisting private landowners in using conservation practices.

The soil and water conservation districts, which each have a five-member board of supervisors, according to the state website, are organized as governmental subdivisions of the state, as well as independent political units.

Carole Burke made a check presentation to the Rotary Club of Mount Airy last week from the Frank Smith World Law Fund. The donation was in the amount of $2,000 that will aid the local Rotarians in future projects.

The presentation gave Burke a chance to take the club on a “trip down memory lane” and a trip back in time as she told the group of her trip to the United Nations. She gave context to the life of Frank Smith as it related to his desire to grow future leaders – herself among them – and promote peace.

He established a fund that would promote the United Nations because of the world wars. “He abhorred war. He felt the only solution to end war was to have world peace. He wanted to talk about students writing an essay and going to the United Nations to learn about world peace and the organization itself,” she said.

A graduate of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Burke recalled, “When we would go to conferences usually, he was always the oldest graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and back then then I was the youngest graduate attending these meetings.”

Smith made his money in the Mount Airy Granite Quarry and used to tell her tales of his experiences.

He told Burke years ago that he had written a memoir of his life entitled “Memories of a 92-Year-Old Male.” While accurate at that time, she noted he would need to rename his book annually. Smith changed it to ‘Memories of a 94-Year-Old Male’ and left it there. There is one copy of his book in the Mount Airy Library, a gift from of Bob Ferris via Smith.

The Mount Airy Rotary Club has for many years sponsored a teacher and student from Mount Airy High School high to attend the American Freedom Association’s Global Issues trip to the United Nations; the 2023 trip will be the 70th such trip.

Established in 1953 as a movement in support of public education toward world peace, since its founding the American Freedom Association has organized a high school essay and public speaking program and the annual Southeastern World Affairs Institute. The organization has a long-standing relationship with UNC Peace Scholars program sponsored by Rotary International.

Students participate in a 1,000-word essay with the topic is chosen by teachers who participate in the program. The top essay from Mount Airy High then becomes eligible to receive the Oscar Merritt Scholarship that was established by the Mount Airy industrialist in 1953.

Merritt covered a lot of ground in his life of work from operating an orchard, to research and development in textile manufacturing, to land surveying and mapping, to commercial manager in the Caribbean sugar industry. It was written that Merritt, “Ascribed to the theory that if anyone thinks he has an idea that might preserve peace, (they) should be working on that idea 24 hours a day.”

“The boys and girls in our high schools today, tomorrow must take over leadership, not only of our own nation, but to a large extent of the whole world,” he said. “Has any generation ever faced so great a responsibility? Are we giving our young people the information and training they need?”

The winning essay’s author and their teacher then make the trek to New York City to see the sights, tour the United Nations with a tour guide, and receive a briefing from a United Nations official. The top four essays are presented at the United Nations before officials and the top essay received the prestigious Oscar Merritt Scholarship.

Burke was among the students on the 1963 edition of the trip, and she handed out a commemorative brochure that documented the trip each high school’s winner took to New York. It held a photo of “all the delegates that went to the United Nations from this program that was started in Mount Airy by industrialists who felt like we cannot go through another war, it has devastated our country.”

Photos showed the beehive hair styles and thick glasses of the day but more importantly showed the North Carolina delegates up close and personal in the halls of the United Nations. The attended a briefing with a representative of the United Arab Republic to hear his thoughts on the “Israeli-Arab dispute.” At that time, the U.A.R. was the given name to Egypt after Syria withdrew from their partnership in 1961.

Peace remains the mission and the goal today as it was for Smith and those who started the Merritt Scholarship. Burke explained that every year is declared as the “Year of International World Peace” and 2023 is to be no exception. “We were challenged to go back to our clubs and communities and ask that 2023 be declared as the International Year of Peace.”

As a Tarheel, the number 23 jumps out at her for the connection to one Michael Jordan. “We want to make 2023 a year where each of us dedicate ourselves individually, our families, our friends, and everybody we know to a year of international world peace. It does happen to be the year that Michael Jordan turns 60 years old, so there will be a very special celebration on Feb. 17.”

Tonda Phillips leads the local Rotary of Mount Airy and agreed with the notion of spreading peace starting at home, “Rotary still works toward world peace, and it starts right here with our individual members. We all give money per quarter which goes to world projects.”

Burke summarized, “We want everything we do in Rotary to be about the truth, and we want it to be beneficial to all. We want to be the crown Rotarians that are international peacekeepers, and we want to do everything we can to promote peace first with ourselves, our clubs, our city, our community, and our schools.”

Frank Fleming is known for drawing legions of fans during his distinguished career in modified racing, and Thursday night a crowd gathered at the Municipal Building to support Fleming in a regulatory dispute with the city government.

It involves a sign he wants to display at a site on Merita Street off U.S. 52-North where a new Frank Fleming Body Shop and Collision Center is being developed. This represents a $2 million expansion of his present longtime location on Springs Road near radio stations WPAQ/WSYD just outside the city limits.

The expansion also will create nine or 10 new jobs in addition to his present force of about 10 employees, Fleming said during a public forum at a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.

However, the project — which involves the now-rundown site of a former Winn-Dixie supermarket — is being hindered by another city board’s decision disallowing Fleming’s use of an existing sign displayed by the grocery business before it closed. The body shop owner has sought to re-purpose it in order to draw attention to his new operation.

He has been barred from doing so through a recent vote by a powerful group known as the Mount Airy Zoning Board of Adjustment — a quasi-judicial administrative body whose decisions affect private property rights to the same extent as court rulings.

Its decision is based on a relatively new sign ordinance approved by the commissioners in 2016 whereby signage for new businesses in the city may be no taller than 15 feet. Those already existing were grandfathered in under the measure.

Fleming is appealing the Zoning Board of Adjustment’s ruling to Surry County Superior Court, which is scheduled to hear the case in September, based on information revealed Thursday night.

In the meantime, Fleming, his brother Chris, also a longtime modified racer, and a throng of supporters made their way to City Hall in an effort to have the commissioners approve some amendment to the ordinance or other action allowing him to utilize the sign.

“This will enable me to use an existing sign that is in good condition,” he said during the public forum of Thursday night’s meeting, when the issue was not on the agenda for regular board consideration.

Chris Fleming also spoke on the matter during the forum, recalling how his brother had eyeballed the Merita Street property numerous times when they passed by it, and expressed interest in buying and improving the site.

“We know how bad the property looks now,” Chris Fleming said. “Frank bought the property — but he didn’t know about the sign (restriction).”

Chris also pointed to a safety concern posed by the lack of a tall sign to direct people to the body shop, in which motorists who miss the turn at Merita Street near McDonald’s would have to continue along U.S. 52 and double back to the business. This would require turning into busy lanes of fast-moving vehicles.

“I’m asking you to help Frank help the community,” Chris said of how the sign could contribute to the body shop’s success and aid improvement overall.

The crowd of supporters applauded the brothers’ position and stood up at one point to highlight their numbers.

The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners took no vote on the matter Thursday night, conforming to a regular practice in which issues raised during public forums are not considered during the same meeting. But they agreed to place the matter on the agenda for another meeting on July 21.

In the meantime, city officials did express a desire to find a solution to the impasse and prevent Fleming and the municipality from incurring huge expenses required by a court fight.

“Reasonable people can come up with reasonable answers,” Mayor Ron Niland said.

Niland wasn’t on the city council when the updated sign regulations were adopted in 2016, and said it wouldn’t hurt to have that package reviewed. “Looking at it is a good thing.”

Commissioner Steve Yokeley, who was on the board when the sign measure was approved and voted in favor of it, offered a similar view.

“I thought we had a good ordinance at the time,” Yokeley said, but added that this doesn’t mean it couldn’t be changed.

Commissioner Jon Cawley, who lobbied for the placement of the matter on the July 21 meeting agenda, was more stern in his take on the situation.

“I hope we can find a solution that will be pro-business,” Cawley said. “It never should have gotten to this point.”

One parting remark by Cawley regarding regulations also drew applause from the audience: “What’s good for the city also should be good for the citizens.” Cawley told Fleming that he deserved all the support exhibited Thursday night.

Commissioner Tom Koch also spoke highly of Fleming, saying his body shop had done a great job repairing his car after it was sideswiped while parked.

Still, Niland and other officials emphasized Thursday night that the board can’t just snap its figures and help Fleming without going through proper channels.

Since an ordinance already on the books is involved, changing it would require certain steps including a public hearing, according to the mayor.

Commissioner Joe Zalescik also reminded that an active appeal is under way. “I don’t think we as commissioners should interfere with that,” he said.

“One of the big issues in Mount Airy is signage.”

Support for Frank Fleming’s request also has come from an external source.

While she was unable to attend Thursday night’s meeting, Deborah Cochran, a former mayor and city commissioner, issued a statement to that effect.

“This property has been unsightly over the years and now Frank is bringing it back to life,” Cochran wrote regarding the Merita Street location.

“I wholeheartedly support an amendment to the existing sign ordinance,” added the former city official, who is a candidate for at-large commissioner in this year’s municipal election. “Highway 52 is a thoroughfare and the amendment would allow businesses located 300 feet back off the highway to have a taller sign.”

Cochran expressed confidence that Fleming would make sure it is refurbished in a professional manner.

“Frank has been dealing with this issue for months,” she wrote.

“He moves at lightning speed on the race track — I hope each commissioner will move fast on June 16th and approve this amendment, so Frank can continue taking care of business.”

So much changed over the past two years as the global pandemic occupied much of the collective time and attention of Americans. The landscape of the workforce changed during COVID-19 as many employers allowed, and employees gladly accepted, the chance to work remotely.

Melissa Hiatt, director of the United Fund of Surry, said this week that shift to remote work impacted her ability to raise money from workplace campaigns. Fewer workers in the building led to lower participation rates which in turn led to lower goals. The workplace campaigns are an essential component of the fundraising conducted by the United Fund of Surry to aid their mission in support of two dozen other groups.

In a new move meant to provide an additional opportunity for local businesses to offer support to the United Fund while also offering maximum exposure for themselves, businesses may now opt to be a United Fund Partner for the entire slate of events.

In years past this included sponsorship opportunities for the Downtown Rocks and Runs 5k & 10k and the Greater Granite Open golf tournament. Hiatt and her team added in an adult Easter egg hunt this year which is planned to expand next year. Now, there is a plan for an exciting new event in January – a Bourbon Bonanza – details are still forthcoming she said.

The new United Fund Partner plan will allow a one-time donation to be made that will then splash the sponsoring businesses name all over print donation materials handed out for the workplace campaigns; event flyers, and the United Fund’s social media, “They get to be part of the marketing for the whole campaign,” Hiatt advised.

She sees the new program as a chance to expand the marketing reach of both the United Fund and the sponsoring businesses. Furthermore, the partnership will allow these businesses to plan out their marketing through the year with these events in mind which can allow for more targeted spending as needed.

Above and beyond the business promotion, partnerships also come with goodies for the businesses to use as they see fit including multiple entries into the downtown races, the golf tournament, and a dinner on the evening of the bourbon auction. “These can be for vendors, for employees, for incentives – whatever they want to do,” Hiatt said.

There are places to have a business name added to signage, gift baskets, mile markers during the foot race, as well as golf and beverage carts at the golf tournament.

With partnership levels starting at $1,600 for the whole year she feels there will be a giving level for anyone who wants to participate. Individual sponsorship opportunities will remain because, “Some people want to stay right where they are,” finance manager of the United Fund of Surry, Paula Hiatt, said.

Recently both Hiatts, no relation, along with leaders of the member organizations of the United Fund looked over the Impact Report from 2021 to see how they were able to serve the people of Surry County. Under the umbrella of United Fund are found 25 organizations broken into four categories: crisis, seniors, medical and family and youth.

For the report year 2021 United Fund organizations aided 26,458 residents of Surry County in delivering 103,537 units of service. Some people utilize more than one of the services provided by member organizations. Consider when a child is helped by Surry Friends of Youth and is a member of Girl Scouts. She is counted only once but the services she received are counted individually to provide a more accurate representation.

Melissa Hiatt said that total is nearly one-third of the population of Surry County having received at least one benefit from a member organization of the United Fund. They used the volunteer hours of 1,172 people in 2021 to deliver 60,748 hours of service. That saves Surry County $1,733,749 in savings for services the county would have offered, but United Fund organizations instead provided.

For a suite of services that is used by one-third of the county, it could be reasonable to assume a similar percentage are making donations to the United Fund. Hiatt informed that the number is closer to 3% of the population who donate.

The pandemic may have changed the face of fundraising but the needs of the people of Surry County have not gone away, in fact they are increasing and changing in scope. More services are needed by senior citizens and that may be the trend going forward as the area population quickly ages.

Hiatt reminds the public that no matter what the needs may be a donation, sponsorship, or partnership with the United Fund of Surry “is an investment in the community.”

Mount Airy officials approved an $18.4 million budget for the city Thursday night over the objections of one councilman who complained about a lack of discussion over the 2022-23 spending plan and related issues.

The municipal budget for the upcoming fiscal year that begins on July 1, adopted in a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Jon Cawley dissenting, keeps the property tax rate at 60 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. The charge for water and sewer service also is unchanged.

While the $18.4 million general fund package — which does not include Mount Airy’s water-sewer operation — is the same figure first proposed when the preliminary budget was unveiled last month, it does reflect a recent addition.

That involves an expenditure totaling $201,150 in appropriations for the Surry Arts Council ($87,500), Mount Airy Public Library ($103,650) and Mount Airy Museum of Regional History ($10,000), an annual provision that had been omitted in the preliminary budget.

Ongoing city funding next year for the Mount Airy Rescue Squad, $10,000, and Mount Airy-Surry County Airport, $20,000, wasn’t slashed.

The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners restored the funding to the other agencies after a crowd showed up at its previous meeting on June 2 to object to the cuts specifically for the arts group and museum. In the case of the library and Surry Arts Council, which occupy buildings owned by the city government, structural improvements eyed for those are planned which apparently were meant to make the loss of the annual allocations more palatable.

City Manager Stan Farmer explained Thursday night that to avoid increasing the budget to accommodate the extra $201,150, a capital improvement fund was decreased to provide the extra funding and keep the bottom-line numbers the same.

“We added, but we took away,” Farmer said.

The general fund budget for 2022-23 is about 24% higher than that adopted last June for the present fiscal year that ends on June 30, totaling $14.9 million.

It includes $3.2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act, COVID-relief funding allocated to Mount Airy which is reflected in the overall budget and largely targeted for facility improvements and equipment additions among the various municipal departments.

The passage of the budget Thursday night was accompanied by sharp criticism by Commissioner Cawley over how the city budgetary process was handled and the future financial outlook.

He charged that there was a lack of public discussion on the spending plan, pointing to the fact no budget workshop was conducted. In recent years, Mount Airy officials have held such a special meeting, sometimes lasting several hours, to hammer out various details, but this year other city leadership opted not to do so, Cawley said.

“It’s something we’ve always had,” said the North Ward commissioner and mayoral candidate, who added that he never failed to learn key facts during those sessions and is “disappointed” that none occurred this year.

“I have missed that process very much,” Cawley said of the void left behind. “It’s not acceptable to me.”

The dissenting councilman also raised concerns about how this year’s inflated budget package might adversely impact the city property tax rate for the 2023-24 fiscal year in terms of a possible increase.

Cawley mentioned that there will be some carryover expense from the American Rescue Plan Act projects, and also cited a $1,500 raise for full-time municipal employees in the 2022-23 budget which will be ongoing. He questioned if this situation is sustainable over time.

“And I really want an answer.”

In reaction to Cawley’s comments, fellow council members said they were satisfied with the budget process led by the city manager, to whom some of Cawley’s criticisms were leveled.

“I think it’s a good budget going forward,” Mayor Ron Niland said.

The mayor also believes the package just passed won’t necessarily affect the 2023-24 budget, as argued by Cawley.

“What we do next year will be next year,” Niland said.

“The budget is not really dependent on past years and it doesn’t really depend on future years.”

The city manager also weighed in on that issue, indicating that higher-than-normal spending this coming year because of the injection of federal dollars shouldn’t be the case for 2023-24 and there’s no real reason to think taxes will rise.

“There could be other efficiencies, other revenue sources,” Farmer said, which could be in play and offset any need for a property tax increase.

The mayor, who is running to retain his seat against Cawley this year, also referred to comments by Cawley directed toward Farmer.

“I think we need to be a little kinder when we take on city staff,” said Niland, who expressed support for the job Farmer is doing.

Summer has always kicked off in June which just so happens to be National Great Outdoors Month. A classic spot in my mind that provides relaxation, fun, and adventure is none other than the local cave, Devil’s Den.

Devil’s Den is not some hole in the ground, it’s a local feature that has promoted tourism for more than a century, assisted in early navigation and transportation, potentially housed fugitives, inspired folklore and stories passed down over generations, provided habitat for a host of unique wildlife, and so much more.

The cave is hidden right off the Blue Ridge Parkway on the south-facing side of the mountain in neighboring Fancy Gap, Virginia, a few miles north of North Carolina. When I say Devil’s Den, most people only think of the cave system. In reality, the cave lies within the roughly 250-acre Devil’s Den Nature Preserve on top of Harris Mountain. To know the whole story though you truly have to start at the beginning.

Millions of years ago, the shifting of tectonic plates pushed rocks up into the Blue Ridge Mountains that we see today, and some rocks at Devil’s Den have been dated as being 600 million years old. The cave is unique in that it formed due to the collision of the Appalachian and Piedmont rock encrustations which means rocks forming the mountains hit rocks forming the hills. That collision is why some rocks stand 40-50 feet tall around the cave and some have created gaps big enough for us to fit in to explore. The rocks of the cave are also interesting as they are made up primarily of metamorphic schist and granite and also include features such as several solid bands of quartz.

Shifts in the earth have closed off certain passageways over time, and there is no real record of just how big or deep the cave is. What is well known is there is an old ladder leading down on the left side. You can also eventually exit the cave further down the mountain following the creek.

There’s more to the nature preserve than just the cave though, there are also hiking trails. Today you can take a short hike along the Good Spur Trail, which is actually a part of the roadbed for the original Good Spur Road. Before the creation of the Fancy Gap Highway, the passage up and down the mountain was extremely difficult.

As interest in traveling west picked up in the late 1700s, the need for roads that could handle wagon travel began to pick up. These early mountain roads would seem more like a dirt trail to us today, but they were a big difference at the time. Flower Gap Road, first officially documented in May of 1750, along with the Good Spur Road, which was first documented in 1786, were two of the earliest established mountain roads in the area.

Aside from families traveling west, these roads were also important to farmers such as Robert S. Harris, whose family gave Harris Mountain its name. Robert Harris once lived on the land that is now the Devil’s Den Nature Preserve, and remnants of his old farm home built in the late 1800s are still part of the property. The land was passed down eventually to Edward Harris Carlan who donated the land to the public.

When visiting the cave, it’s interesting to remember that tourism has been bringing people there for more than a hundred years, since the 1890s in fact. During this time, they even had guided tours down into the cave that allowed visitors to travel hundreds of feet down.

It became a tourism hot spot in the 1920s following the Hillsville courthouse massacre of 1912. It was rumored that members of the Allen Family hid out in the cave as the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency searched for them, but this was never confirmed. There have even been stories over the years that the Allen family left treasure down in the caves to keep some of their valuables safe from the law, but that story too has been left unconfirmed.

According to local legend, the cave helped to hide not just moonshine makers, but the moonshine itself. It has been said that the caves have been used as a drop-spot by moonshine sellers in the past. There are many other tales about the cave such as people going in never to return, but oddly enough no one has ever reported seeing supernatural creatures or “The Devil.” In fact, the site gets its name based on its rock formations more than anything.

Overall, this local recreation area is more than meets the eye. All along the property, you can enjoy a variety of wildlife from deer to rare salamanders and unique migrating songbirds. Even ten years ago, they still offered tours of the cave, and though that service is no longer available, the caves are still free to explore. The caves close in the winter, but they usually open up to the public May-November. I hope you all enjoy getting out this summer whether you drive out the parkway, hike, or explore.

Cassandra Johnson is the Director of Programs and Education at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. She is a Carroll County native whose family has been exploring the Devil’s Den cave for generations.

It has been twelve weeks since the Surry County Board of County Commissioners and the African American Historical and Genealogical Society agree to transfer the former J. J. Jones High School back into the hands of her alumni.

As the county’s fiscal year is reaching its end, the first benchmark of the agreement is set for July 1 when the deed will be transferred to the Save Jones group.

Co-chair of the Save Jones School Committee Adreann Belle advised this week that, “We are progressing nicely toward taking over the Jones Family Resource Center.” She said planning and work continue at the L. H. Jones Family Resource Center in anticipation of the transfer of the deed from the county to the Save Jones School group. Save Jones was given the former J. J. Jones High School from Surry County after it had been listed as surplus property due to the cost of maintenance on the aging building.

“Cosmetically, it’s not that bad,” Belle advised this week. “The boiler needs to be replaced, it’s on last legs. We are looking for some grant money, around $350,000 to help with that.” The county’s assessment of the building had identified the boiler, plumbing, roof, wiring, HVAC and windows as all being near the end of their projected life cycle.

After the boiler, the roof is the next major project; it will then be time for an architectural analysis to get the design elements of the new mixed-use facility. “We want a cultural and heritage center to preserve the artifacts not just of the school, but of the community,” Belle said of the future facility.

The group has made an application to the General Assembly for $500,000 in grant money to further projects that will transition the former school from its current configuration as the home for the organizations of YVEDDI to a mixture of residential and community use spaces. LaShene Lowe, president of the African American Historical and Genealogical Society, said Wednesday that at this time all YVEDDI occupants have signaled their intention to stay in the new Jones.

The end of month fundraising goal for the group is $20,000, down two thirds from the last update provided. To add to the Save Jones effort, there are several events upcoming that the community is invited to participate in beginning this Friday, June 17, at 7 p.m. with a Masquerade Ball at the Jones School Auditorium. “This is a dress to impress event,” Belle said, “but we will provide the masquerade mask.”

She said this is the one to put fun back in fundraiser, “We will have snacks, drinks, and music so it’s an opportunity to have some fun.” Entry to the masquerade ball is $15.

Furthermore, the Save Jones group will have booths set up this Saturday in both Mount Airy and Elkin for Juneteenth events. Juneteenth is the day in 1865 when residents of Galveston, Texas, learned that slavery in the United States had been abolished, two months after the end of the Civil War and 2 1/2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

In Elkin, the event is Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at The Heritage Center, 257 Standard Street. Greg Brewer, president of Bridge of Unity extended the offer, “If you are able to come, we would love to have you here. Our events will focus on things that bring us together and not focus on the differences – but things like food, fun, and fellowship that we can all agree on.”

Fernando “Sly” Best, CEO of Bridge of Unity, laid out the activities beginning at 11 a.m. with events for kids such as bounce houses, field day games, and an art gallery for anyone seeking some relief from the heat inside the Heritage Center. A selection of more than 30 vendors will be on hand and Elkin’s Got Talent karaoke begins at 2 p.m. where there is a $100 prize for the winner. From 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. the band Retropunkz will take the stage, “They are number-one in New Orleans and Bourbon Street,” he said.

“Come hungry,” Best has told those going to the Juneteenth event. There is an all you can eat buffet beginning at 5 p.m. that costs $25, but he warned, “Get there early because last year the ticket and the food ran out quick.” With selections of crab legs, brisket, ribs, turkey legs, hamburgers, chicken and more this is a ticket that understandably could fly out the window.

No fear if the buffet runs out, Best said he has it covered with a group of food trucks ranging from soul to creole and points in between heading to Elkin this weekend.

In Mount Airy, also on Saturday, the Second Annual Juneteenth Celebration with be held in the Market Street Arts & Entertainment District and Melva’s Alley. Big Dawg Catering & Food Truck will be there along with multiple artists and a performance from the UNC Chapel Hill Kamikazi Dance Team at 2 p.m.

Organizer Dougenna Hill said vendors were chosen from Black owned local businesses again this year to participate in the event. There will be live music in Melva’s Alley featuring Lois Atkinson & Aquarius Moon will be found from 7 p.m.- 9:30 p.m.

Before the evening’s music, there will be a moment of silence and a toast of red fruit punch, a donation of Lenise Lynch of Hampton Inn of Mount Airy. “Red is a color that evokes cultural memory of the bloodshed by our enslaved ancestors through the transatlantic slave trade,” said culinary historian Adrian Miller.

On Sunday, the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History is holding its own Juneteenth event from 1 – 4 p.m.

There will be a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation, games, live music and history focused activities such as crafts and a self-guided walking tour of the main street area that focuses on local African American history. This event is free to the public.

More than 30 years have passed since the death of an accomplished local student-athlete, but her legacy continues through annual memorial and scholarship programs for students at the school she attended, Mount Airy High.

This included the presentation of the Charlotte Weatherly Yokley Memorial Award to Jessica Sawyers and the awarding of the Charlotte Weatherly Yokley Scholarship to Mackenzie Welch.

Both occurred during Mount Airy High School’s annual honors program held recently near the end of the school year.

The presentation of the memorial award to Jessica Sawyers, signified by a trophy, was made by Pam Yokeley, Charlotte’s mother, and previous winners Oshyn Bryant (2021), Catherine Sawyers (2020) and Owen Perkins (2019).

It is based on academics, athletics and character.

Jessica plans to attend the University of North Carolina at Greensboro this fall. She is the daughter of Denise and Calvin Sawyers.

The receiving of the Yokley scholarship will aid Mackenzie Welch in her studies at Western Carolina University beginning in the fall. She is the daughter of Beth and David Welch.

It was bestowed to her by Pam Yokley and Charlotte’s sisters, Allyson Ferguson and Sheldon Fowler.

The scholarship selection is based on academics and character.

Charlotte Yokley, who would have graduated from Mount Airy High School in 1992, was a member of the National Honor Society, a junior marshal, received the John Hamilton Award in 1990 and was a member of the school’s varsity basketball, track and tennis teams.

In the summer of 1991, just before the start of her senior year, Charlotte was traveling the British Virgin Islands on a sailing expedition with a group known as Actionquest. During the trip, a collision with another boat operated by an intoxicated driver led to her death.

Both the memorial award and scholarship program were established the next year as lasting tributes to her.

Guy Sparger stands apart from other Freemasons not just in District 25 but across the nation for his recent recognition of 70 years of membership in the organization.

He was honored by his peers at his home in Mount Airy last week by a collection of masons who have seen 30 and 40 anniversary pins bestowed – but never seen a 70-year pin.

Local freemason Ricky Lawson joked, “They have special recognitions for 25, 50, and 60 years – but not 70 years!” Of the ten local Masons who attended there were none who could recall another Mason being so honored for that length of time.

Sparger is a lively gentleman in his 90s who held court with the assorted guests at his home, some of whom he was not as familiar with. For the local Masons of Round Peak Lodge #616 and Copeland Lodge #390 it was their honor to be there for the plaque and pin ceremony for the United States Navy veteran and elder local Mason.

Mary Louise Sparger, wife of the honoree, had the pleasure of pinning on the anniversary year lapel pin to her husband. The Spargers have been married since 1952, “that’s a lot of good years,” he told the men on the porch.

After leaving to attend school at UNC-Chapel Hill, Sparger entered the Freemasons on April 20, 1951. Yes, the math is a bit off, “They always keep us behind a year on the recognitions,” Lawson noted. It was in 1990 that he made his return to take care of his mother.

At that time, the Spargers moved into their current home off Sparger Road, just above North Surry High School. Even the road where the home is found has taken on the family name as he said his father had “help(ed) move the road up the hill from the water where it used to be.”

As Mary Louise explained they made such changes to the old home to make it livable. It is a lovely mix of old wood with modern touches that is reminiscent of many older farmhouses in Surry County that have had a facelift here and there, but the striking beauty of old quality craftsmanship shows through.

“We make good men better.”

Jonathan Underwood, grand secretary of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, praised Sparger noting again just how rare an accomplishment he has achieved. “It is very rare. We see a few as people are living longer now, 50s and 60s, but only a few who make 70 years. Especially given you have to be 21 to enter, it’s rare.”

“Freemasonry is a philosophical and philanthropic organization,” he went on, “whose aim is to teach men to be better, to live by the Golden Rule, and to be of service to one another.” Freemasonry teaches members to show concern for people, care for the less fortunate, and help for those in need.

Those are noble guideposts to follow in life, and Sparger said if more people ascribed to those goals that a closer sense of community could be found. “We’d be better off if more people went to church. I’d say going to church, being aware of what is going on around you and helping other people — that’s the way to get back to a greater sense of community.” The two pastors in attendance gave nods of approval to this diagnosis.

Each of the Masons agreed that they can and have a desire to serve others as is their mission. However, they would like to see the number of Masons increasing. Sparger said, “It’s the same in the churches now too, they ain’t coming like they used to.”

The average age of a North Carolina Mason, Lawson said, is 64 years old. The assembled masons struggled between them to produce an age of the youngest mason they could think of locally before concluding they could recall two members in their 20s in this area.

Bringing new members into the fold will only help the Masons with their desire to grow as men and to serve their community. “Masons are ready to help,” Sparger reminded.

Much of what the Freemasons do is cloaked in a bit of mystery; ask someone on the street who or what the masons are, and you may get a fantastical answer involving secret societies and intricate ceremonies. The Grand Lodge of North Carolina says, “The fraternity is so old and so many of its records have been lost or destroyed, or never written, that a vast amount of Masonic lore is admittedly legend. “

One masonic historian wrote, “The Freemasons kept their trade secrets secret as did most guilds such as ironmongers, bakers, and weavers. This secrecy protected the quality of the guild’s work and ensured job security for its members.”

Fully organized since 1717 it is thought the origins of Freemasonry may go back to guilds of stonemasons in the Middle Ages. Lawson said he thinks the origins go much further than that back to the time of King Solomon. Whatever the date, they write they are “the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organization.”

“The guild of Freemasons transformed into a social and fraternal institution in the 17th and 18th centuries. During this time, they used the tools and legends of their trade as metaphors to emphasize internal enlightenment and personal growth among the fraternity’s members.”

The men within its ranks then influenced the development of modern concepts of democracy and personal liberty – ideals entrenched in the founding of the United States.

In North Carolina, the first documented evidence of Masonic activity can be dated to Wilmington and New Bern during the early 1750’s.

Today the work of a mason may look different than in centuries past, but the underlying mission of the Freemasons remains one of service. Sparger has served several times over in his lifetime and is not done just yet; there are still ways he can make a difference.

Usually when actors who worked with Andy Griffith come to town it’s because of the Mayberry connection, but in Daniel Roebuck’s case his role on “the other” television series starring the local native — “Matlock” — was involved.

Roebuck appears in 55 episodes of that legal drama, which ran on the NBC and ABC networks from 1986 to 1995, playing Cliff Lewis, the junior partner of the law firm headed by the Griffith character, Ben Matlock.

And Daniel Roebuck’s face also is familiar to fans of the movie “The Fugitive,” in which he portrays Marshal Biggs, one of the officers working under Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) trying to apprehend the title protagonist (Harrison Ford).

The versatile actor’s long list of TV and movie credits further includes “U.S. Marshals,” a sequel to “The Fugitive,” and the TV series “Lost,” among others.

Yet Roebuck’s visit this week to Mount Airy, his first — lasting from Monday night to Tuesday afternoon — was all about soaking up sights and sounds of the man he worked with on “Matlock.”

This included visiting the Andy and Opie statue; Griffith’s homeplace on East Haymore Street; the Andy Griffith Museum; Grace Moravian Church, where young Andy learned to play the trombone and performed in the church band; and the new Andy Griffith mural on Moore Avenue showing Griffith at different stages of his career, which features an image of him as “Matlock.”

Of course, there also were the other obligatory stops visitors often take in, the granite quarry and radio station WPAQ.

To reach those locations, Roebuck was chauffeured around in a Squad Car Tours vintage Ford Galaxie driven by Mark Brown, which included the actor checking out the Mayberry Courthouse located next door to the squad car headquarters.

“What a great tour!” Roebuck, 59, exclaimed upon exiting the Galaxie, just before greeting and posing for photos with members of a large crowd gathered there.

The visiting actor explained that he had been on the road the past few days, covering about 1,200 miles, encompassing a number of key areas of North Carolina.

One was a site in Sylva in Jackson County in the far western portion of the state where an iconic scene in “The Fugitive” was filmed involving a collision between the prison bus Dr. Richard Kimble was on and a train.

The wreckage was left in place and has been a tourist attraction in the years since the movie’s release in 1993 — but Roebuck’s visit was accompanied by him falling down a hillside there and getting a banged-up face.

He also went to Wilmington, where “Matlock” was filmed. “And my brother lives there,” Roebuck said.

So his swing through Mount Airy was an appropriate addition to the travel itinerary, where something else stood out to him more than its various tourist attractions.

“My first impressions of Mount Airy is great people, ahead of everything else,” he said.

Roebuck also talked about working with Andy Griffith on “Matlock,” which transpired after a circuitous, typically Hollywood path. After initially appearing on the program in its first season, Griffith was so impressed with Roebuck’s work that he promised the young actor he would have a regular role on the show, according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) website.

This would take five seasons, two additional guest appearances as different characters and a change of networks, from NBC to ABC, but Griffith kept that promise and Roebuck finally became a series regular.

“What I remember most about my time with Andy Griffith is that there wasn’t a day when we weren’t laughing and smiling and having a good time,” Roebuck recalled Tuesday, which was despite the hard, grueling work required by episodic TV. The veteran actor also took an interest in Roebuck’s personal life.

“Andy was instrumental, pardon the pun, in helping my wife pick the music for our wedding,” he said. It incorporated a trombone choir, hearkening back to Griffith’s time in Mount Airy when he learned to play that member of the brass family.

Roebuck also remembers how Griffith wore black sneakers due to suffering from Guillain-Barre syndrome, a disorder accompanied by weakness and tingling in the feet. Roebuck said he has copied that approached by wearing such footwear all the time, even with suits and other formal attire.

“If it was good enough for Andy Griffith, it was good enough for me,” he reasoned Tuesday.

The 10-year anniversary of Griffith’s death in July 2012 at age 86 is approaching.

Daniel Roebuck’s more recent projects have included working on a reboot of the classic TV series “The Munsters,” playing Grandpa Munster in a role that merges his two favorite genres, horror and comedy. Spearheading that production was the singer, songwriter, filmmaker and voice actor Rob Zombie.

Roebuck wore a Munsters ball cap while in Mount Airy.

One of Roebuck’s reasons for visiting Mount Airy this week was to film material for his own social media channels. This included capturing some scenes at the Mayberry Courthouse site, where he took on the jobs as director and actor.

“He’s wanting to support our city for his social media outlets,” said local Tourism Development Authority Executive Director Jessica Roberts, who called Roebuck “a really interesting guy.” She, Brown and Jenny Smith of Mount Airy Visitors Center helped guide him to the various locations Tuesday.

“I think it is amazing that he is interested in our town,” Roberts said, and seeking to present it on his social media network. “I just think he wants to be a part of what’s going on in Mayberry.”

While she was serving on the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners, Shirley Brinkley was among the majority voting for a 25% increase in city property taxes — but now is singing a different tune.

Brinkley is advocating that taxes be slashed in the municipal budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year that begins on July 1, which the present council members possibly will adopt during a meeting this Thursday night without such a cut.

Although the proposed $18.4 million budget, released last month, is $3.5 million higher than that approved in June 2021 for the present fiscal year, the property tax rate is projected to remain at 60 cents per $100 of assessed valuation.

That might satisfy some citizens, yet Brinkley, a former South Ward commissioner who served two terms, believes the board should go an extra step given the present state of affairs with consumers hit by record gas prices and inflation at a 40-year high.

“A tax cut in this economy should have been your priority instead of increasing the budget by $3.5 million,” Brinkley told city officials while speaking during a public hearing on the spending plan at a meeting earlier this month.

That increase is largely due to Mount Airy’s receiving of about $3.2 million in federal COVID-relief funding through the American Rescue Plan Act, which is reflected in the overall municipal budget even though local tax dollars aren’t involved.

The bulk of that funding is proposed to be spent on a long list of projects during the next fiscal year, mainly including major building and equipment needs at City Hall, Reeves Community Center and elsewhere.

Brinkley implied that city officials should have found some way within the budget parameters to reduce property taxes rather than increase spending on items that do not directly help local residents.

“You are here to make changes and improvements that will benefit all citizens of Mount Airy, and I say all — not the few here and there.”

The former commissioner added, “I see many on this board making your decisions, and forgive me for saying this, in a vacuum,” and not “looking at the needs of all the citizens.”

Brinkley punctuated her comments with stern criticism.

“I’m just going to say, shame on you,” Brinkley told the commissioners at one point, warning that some would be held accountable come ballot time in November.

“Elections are on the horizon — voters are putting their eyes on those running that are honest and will keep their word, those committed to tax cuts,” she said.

“If I stepped on toes, I apologize,” Brinkley concluded in her remarks to city officials. “If you felt anything, maybe you had a little conscience from what I said.”

Ironically, Brinkley was on the city council the last time property taxes were raised, in June 2018 when the rate jumped from 48 to 60 cents. Before that, the last tax increase had occurred in 2007.

Part of the 2018 hike was due to Brinkley’s insistence that city firefighters get a raise.

For the next fiscal year, full-time municipal employees are recommended to receive a $1,500 increase.

Brinkley was up for re-election in 2019, but chose not to run for a third term.

Instead Marie Wood successfully campaigned that year for the South Ward seat held by Brinkley and in addition to serving as a commissioner is the city’s mayor pro tem, or vice mayor, who presides in the absence of the chief executive.

With Mayor Ron Niland not attending the last council meeting when Brinkley spoke, it fell to Wood to respond to Brinkley’s address — including her belief that now is not the time to reduce taxes.

Based on Wood’s statements, this is because the municipality is facing a financial crunch the same as private consumers.

“Things are going up — they are not going down,” she said of prices.

In her opinion, “it will be impossible to cut taxes — in this environment,” Wood added.

“Would I love to have my taxes cut? Absolutely,” she said. “But I don’t see that as a possibility — I’m saying I just don’t.”

There was no turbulence to be found that would hinder the Second Annual Auto Show at the Mount Airy-Surry County Airport that was held on Saturday. It was a return of a popular event from last fall that grew in size of both attendees and participants in the auto show and fly-in.

Displayed were classic cars, hot rods, modern American muscle, custom creations, and for this edition of the show motorcycles were added to the assortment of vehicles parked on the tarmac for onlookers to meander through before looking under the hood. It was a chance to show off the cars, the airport, and enjoy watching planes take off and land from up close.

Winners for the competition were Best in Show for Dale Bishop of Pilot Mountain and his 1968 Mustang GT 428, as well as People’s Choice which went to Ty Tutterow of Mocksville for his 1966 GMC C-10.

Event organizer Tamsen Beroth threw herself with gusto into this project again this year and she was found at the front gate leading the ticket selling and taking – effective leaders often lead from the front. A big smile welcomed visitors as she pointed where to go and what to do like this was old hat.

However, Speedology Lifestyle Solutions (SLS) is a young company that was created by Beroth in 2021 and is growing. She has an extensive background in the automotive, technology and marketing space with over 20 years of experience. There is a sense of excitement in her to share that knowledge and her joy of autos with others.

The SLS team ismade up of automotive enthusiasts who are now busy organizing events for residents and car clubs throughout the year in North Carolina. They want guests to enjoy scheduled meets and gatherings with other like minded individuals.

The purpose of Speedology’s structured events is to provide safe and entertaining venues where participants can show their enthusiasm for all things related to the automotive industry. Fans can focus on celebrating the variety of vehicles and people that come together to share the mutual appreciation of a shared passion.

Where Beroth seeks to set her event apart is that “first and foremost” it is to be of a family friendly nature. “I want to be able to offer this amazing opportunity – especially to the younger generations – to be able to do something together in a fun and safe environment.”

Her business “can be the source for event management when it comes to auto shows, car meets, races, rallies, fundraisers, and corporate gatherings.” Already their plate of events has swelled from 2021 and following the Mount Airy event there will be a pair of events at the NASCAR Technical Institute later this year.

As she and SLS have been growing their business, the Mount Airy-Surry County Airport is on the grow as well. Airport manager George Crater was bubbling with praise Monday in speaking about the previous weekend’s event, “It was just like anything else we have done with SLS they do a great job of coordinating.”

Beroth had multiple goals: facilitate a fun auto show, spread the word about the airport, and bring attention to the community partner for the event Mayberry4Paws. Animal causes are near to her heart, she said of Mayberry4Paws, “They are in a real need for fosters and are such a great organization.”

Crater added, “We are very pleased with the results and while we do not yet know how much the contribution to Mayberry4Paws will be, I can tell you we had over 120 vehicles and 15 fly in-outs. The weather was a big help.” He noted that last year the conditions of intermittent rain and overcast skies prevented the fly-in aspect of the auto show to be enjoyed to its fullest.

The airport is experiencing a big year as more people are getting back out to travel and Crater says some of the scheduling problems with the big carriers are leading more people to private travel. Companies such as NetJets are growing as they offer the personalized service and timing travelers desire over crowded commercial cabins, middle seats, and the long-lost bag of peanuts. Fuel sales are up year to date at the airport over last year despite the rising cost fuel, he said.

Over last weekend he noted several of the flights in and out were for folks staying in Virginia at the Primland Resort; he welcomes them to Mount Airy. He said the airport is competing with the airport in Martinsville, Virginia, for private air travel needs for travelers to this region. To entice more pilots to fly to Mount Airy, a terminal expansion is planned.

The expansion project at the airport is in the design phase now; the current design calls for a 1,500 square foot two-story terminal building featuring a restaurant, flexible workspaces, and prominently displayed granite fireplaces. Plans are still in flux, and he noted that supply chain issues may necessitate changes to the design or timeline.

The mockup designs for the project have yet to be delivered to Crater; he says he cannot wait to share the designs with the public.

Adding a place to eat on site will be appealing for those who are popping in to top off their tanks. Those who may wish to linger can enter Mount Airy using courtesy vehicles on hand at the airport for such, or “we can send someone to pick them up if we need to.”

The hogs ran loose from Veterans Memorial Park in Mount Airy this past weekend as the First Mount Airy Men’s Shelter Summer Festival Motorcycle Ride took place to help raise money for the cause. It was the first of its kind event for the charity, whose organizers hope to open a year-round homeless shelter for men in need in Mount Airy.

The reason for the festival was to bring awareness to and raise needed funds for the Mount Airy Men’s Shelter. Since she began speaking to groups such as the Rotary Club of Mount Airy last fall, Ann Simmons has been leading a team on a mission to secure land, break ground, and open doors of a dedicated shelter.

While the target need is for single men, she has said that there should be room available, if possible, for homeless men who may have children, or families in need. It is something that she feels she was called to do to improve the lives of others.

Under a bright sun the field along West Lebanon Street was filled with dozens of vendors selling their wares. Kids had bounce castle options which is always a good position for them to be in. As the adults wandered through the stalls more than one jealous eye was cast toward a flagon of refreshing strawberry lemonade or a tasty looking Aunt Bea’s sandwich.

With the sounds of Santo Chessari Jr. belting out the hits of Neil Diamond and local talent Kinston Nichols serenading with a range from Sinatra to Green Day, it was an all-ages affair.

Dancers entertained the crowd from Danceworks as well as the Surry and Carroll County Dance Centers who were recently featured at the Daytona 500. Kids ran loose as raffles were held for golf clubs and an outdoor griddle that was drawing lots of attention.

The main draw was the motorcycle ride though and after some safety instructions and prayer from Ron Mathews, more than 60 bikes rolled off as their throaty engines called for all in attendance to turn their heads and see.

Organizers of the Mount Airy Men’s Shelter are working toward building a facility on West Lebanon Street that would be near the Daymark Treatment center. They want to be able to house single men, men with children, and families out of the elements be it the heat and humidity of the summer, or freezing temperatures in winter.

The founders want to help the homeless by having a “safe and secure place to lay their heads with hot meals readily available.” The end goal is a year-round full-time facility where they can provide access to health resources, job skills training, money management/budgeting, public relations skills training, and access to regular meetings to help those with substance use disorder.

Offering more than just a pillow or a meal, the Mount Airy Men’s Shelter wants to help men transition back to what many of them desire: independent living. With counseling, skills classes, meetings, and a location across the street from one of the area’s major treatment centers — the shelter has the potential to significantly change lives.

The founders also point to a potential long-term savings to the taxpayers of Surry County. “Part of their mission states that ‘The community endures the cost if we do not provide for and address the issues of male homelessness in Surry County.’”

Costs can get passed back to the community when the homeless are arrested for trespassing on a cold night. Or, when one arrives to the emergency department at Northern Regional Hospital, they will not be turned away from not having health insurance; the hospital will have to recoup those costs somehow.

The recently begun Strengthening Systems for North Carolina Children program is looking at these issues, such as homelessness, as traumatic factors that can have a negative impact on a child. The Mount Airy Men’s Shelter could be one of the potential mitigation solutions to remove the adverse childhood experience of homelessness from that child. Also, the skills training may be the plus-one addition that a parent needs to break their cycle of unemployment.

Simmons knows those are the potential long-term outcomes, but she managed to keep her eyes focused on what is right ahead of her over the weekend. For her event she said, “The best part of the day were the tireless volunteers who came and helped out, the Aunt Beas crew who donated and served food.”

“Thanks to Santos who kept the music going and Kinston Nichols who put on a great performance — I hear he’s ready to put a band together,” she offered. “The girls dance teams from Danceworks Inc, Surry County Dance Center and Carroll County Dance Center, were all really good. I don’t think I ever moved that much as a child.”

What The Mount Airy Men’s Shelter founders have done is identify a need, one that has a target audience and a goal to help the homeless help themselves. To get the fundraising ball moving for them this past weekend’s Summer Festival helped bring in some funds they will use to move forward. “We are all exhausted but super happy for all the exposure for the Mount Airy Men’s Shelter.”

In the interim they will continue to help with food services for the homeless and being an advocate for those in need. More information and ways to help the Mount Airy Men’s Shelter can be found at: www.mountairymensshelter.com.

Seven area youths got a chance to paint, build their own rockets, test out parachuting, and release butterflies from downtown during the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History’s STEM Jr. Camp.

Cassandra Johnson, program and education director at the museum, said many of the activities were designed to be hands on, and meant to connect science with history.

“There’s not a lot of connection between science and history in the classroom,” she said recently. Johnson planned last week’s camp activities to show how important science is today, and how vital it was to pioneers settling the region in centuries past.

While the STEM camp is over, there will be other opportunities for area youth to attend the museum’s summer activity camps.

The next session will be the Explorers Camp June 20-June 24, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. each day, for ages 8 to 13.

“If your child is more about being outside and hands-on, this is really the camp that I recommend,” she said. “We’ll have a butterfly display, a butterfly release, we’ll go down to Riverside Park one day, we’ll be learning basic things about bird watching, local plants, bees…making a compass…a sun dial, a little about star charting and navigating,” all skills settlers to the region and earlier residents would have used and needed.

The cost of the camps for the general public is $100, with additional children in a family getting a $10 discount for the week. For museum members, she said the cost is discounted $20, so one child would cost $80, additional children from the same family would cost $70.

Johnson said parents should pack a snack for their child each, because there is a brief snack period each day. For more information about the camps, or the museum, call 336-786-4478 or visit the website at https://www.northcarolinamuseum.org/

There were plenty of friendly, knowledgeable folks to be found along the Mount Airy Blooms tour of gardens — but the real stars of that event were the plants.

Those taking in the tour Saturday were treated to a colorful and imaginative showcase of gardens at local residences — eight in all — plus a variety of informative displays by Surry County Master Gardeners at what is known as the Blue House, located downtown.

Visits to the different stops occurred on a self-guided basis, which produced steady traffic during the morning and afternoon hours, with a common theme evident at each location: an appreciation for greenery and beauty that highlighted the joys of gardening.

“When I’m in my garden, I’m in a different zone,” explained Carla Kartanson, whose home on North Main Street was one of the tour stops.

“It’s my spiritual time,” Kartanson added, when she can escape the pressures of the outside world and achieve a sense of comfort while working with or simply enjoying the plants — one going hand in hand with a certain mental state.

“I think you have to put yourself in a zone.”

While inspiring others to take up the gardening hobby and make the community a greener, more attractive place, the Mount Airy Blooms tour also emphasized how one can utilize whatever space is available — regardless of light and other factors.

That is certainly true at Kartanson’s home featuring a well-positioned site with southern-exposure chock full of flowering plants, including a colorful display of zinnias.

“I was inspired by Herb’s,” she said of nearby resident Herb Mason, whose home also was part of Saturday’s tour, with Kartanson a first-time participant in the event.

“The irises were already here when I moved here,” Kartanson said of relocating about 4.5 years ago from Texas, where she lived for a lengthy period and worked in the homebuilding field, after growing up in this area. Her flower garden also includes such varieties as Easter lilies, gerbera daisies, lantana and others.

But one thing Kartanson wanted visitors to take away from Saturday’s tour was the fact that lack of sunlight needn’t be a hindrance to plant growth. That is evident with her front yard facing the busy North Main Street, a shaded area where grass would not even grow well, she discovered upon moving here.

Though some homeowners purposely provide alternate landscaping just to avoid mowing their lawns, it was a necessity in Kartanson’s case. She researched plant species that thrived under low-light conditions and the result is a well-arranged grouping of mulched beds bearing rhododendron, azaleas and similar varieties that collectively create an attractive, engaging spot.

Kartanson has been involved in gardening for about 40 years, since “I first got married and started moving around and bought homes.”

Before returning to her native area, Kartanson lived in Dallas, in a gated community where yards were strictly regulated — fostering what she indicated was a state of conformity and uniformity that discouraged free-form gardening.

She was happy to move to the home in Mount Airy where her creative energies can run free.

In addition to picking up plant tips from the various residences along the tour, participants were treated to a one-stop, virtual oasis of educational exhibits at the Blue House of the Gilmer-Smith Foundation at 615 N. Main St.

About five different stations were set up at tents in the back yard there by Master Gardeners, including a display of live plants native to the area and one showcasing container gardening.

At another location, visitors were warned about the dangers of the spotted lanternfly, an invasive species that is steadily encroaching on this region. That insect is a known pest of grapes, apples, maples, oaks and others.

On a less-menacing note, Tasha Greer of Lowgap, a Master Gardener for six years and also an author, displayed and answered questions about an array of edible plants she brought along, such as garlic, kale, artichokes and breadseed poppy.

Saturday’s tour was presented by Mount Airy garden clubs, with Event Coordinator Anne Webb pleased with the turnout for the every-other-year attraction.

Proceeds from Mount Airy Blooms will benefit several appearance projects locally, including the rose garden at Joan and Howard Woltz Hospice Home and restoration of grounds at the historic Moore House.

Money also is targeted for the maintenance and upkeep of a mini-garden and fountain at the junction of North Main and Renfro streets and maintenance for a pollinator garden on South Main Street near the Municipal Building.

Another beneficiary will be exceptional children’s classes at B.H. Tharrington Primary School, for which special programming is to be provided.

Unlike others who serve Mount Airy in highly visible positions, city Planning Board members often labor in relative obscurity while playing important roles — but efforts were undertaken to ensure one member’s contributions didn’t go unnoticed.

Jeannie Studnicki recently was honored during a city council meeting for her volunteerism as a member of the Mount Airy Planning Board for nearly seven years — the last two as its chairman.

Studnicki’s present term on that board will expire this year and she is not eligible for reappointment due to serving the maximum time allowed.

The planning group is an advisory board to the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners on growth-related matters such as rezoning and annexation requests.

It analyzes present and emerging land-development trends and activities and recommends plans, policies and ordinances designed to maximize opportunities for growth while promoting public health, safety, morals and welfare.

The Planning Board gets first crack at zoning and land-use issues coming before the municipality which prove controversial at times, taking preliminary action on such matters in making recommendations to the commissioners for final decisions.

Studnicki has a marketing background and other business expertise, which has included being responsible for spearheading extensive and sustainable growth strategies for Fortune 500 companies.

She grew up in Ontario, Canada, and came to New York as a student-athlete before eventually making her way to Mount Airy.

Studnicki has taken a special interest in historic-preservation efforts while serving with the Planning Board. That included taking a lead role in recent years to have areas of Mount Airy with architecturally valuable sites added to the National Register of Historic Places.

“We have been very fortunate to have a person of your capabilities serving the city of Mount Airy,” Mayor Ron Niland told Studnicki during a late-May council meeting when she received a certificate of appreciation for her work with the planning group.

“That’s going to be a big void to fill on that board,” Niland added in reference to Studnicki’s departure. “So we want to recognize her for the invaluable contribution she has made while serving on our Planning Board.”

In remarks afterward, Studnicki — who joined that group in 2015 when she was appointed to an initial three-year term as the replacement for N.A. Barnes, who rotated off — mentioned that this also has been a good experience for her.

“It’s been a special time,” she said. “I have learned so much.”

A spirit of community was evident in her response to being honored by the city government.

“I’ve lived here for quite a while now,” Studnicki said of Mount Airy, where she has made a contribution in other volunteer roles in addition to the planning group.

“And it’s nice to be able to contribute to its success and its growth.”

In this day and age, most people will rarely have to use the services of their local funeral home, which is something to be grateful for. But that wasn’t always the case, and the public’s interaction with these businesses used to be much more prevalent — funeral homes used to also function as a basic ambulance service, and provided an early form of life insurance.

Before the mid 1800s, the care of the recently deceased was left up to the family. It was up to them to build coffins and sometimes even dig the graves. Times were harsh, living and working conditions were poor, which led to high mortality rates. Families preparing their deceased loved ones for burial was a common occurrence.

Luckily, for much of recent history, these duties can be designated to funeral homes, allowing the family to mourn without the added trauma. However, preparing for funerals has not always been the sole duty of funeral homes; they have historically fulfilled other roles in their communities.

Starting in the 1800s, funeral homes also fulfilled the essential service of transporting the sick and injured, much like a modern emergency medical service. Before the Surry County EMS program began in 1974, many funeral homes in Surry County had their own ambulances. Though it may seem strange to us now, it was a practical choice, as funeral directors were already on call 24/7 for funeral purposes. More importantly, hearses could be easily adapted to both function as hearses and ambulances due to their design and their size.

One of the first records of a hearse in Mount Airy is from 1892. Totten and Poole funeral home, which would eventually become Moody’s funeral home, was the first to purchase a hearse for the community.

In 1935, Ashburn and Calloway Funeral Home, having recently moved into its remodeled building on Pine Street, replaced its old combination ambulance and funeral coach with a new Chrysler. The vehicle was picked up by co-owner JE Calloway in Ohio and driven back to Mount Airy, where it was put on display for the public to view. An advertisement for this car promoted that it was equipped with hot and cold running water, electric fans for the summer, heating for the winter, and all first aid equipment that could be needed.

Another local establishment, Hennis Funeral Home, located on North Main Street and opened in 1942, advertised its ambulance service in 1942 as being available day or night, and only costing $2.50 for calls within the city.

In 1938, Moody’s Funeral Home purchased a new $4,000 Buick ambulance. With 140 horsepower, it was finished with a solid leather interior and was air conditioned. Moody’s went beyond the conventional ambulance, and as of 1946, was also the Surry County and surrounding territory representative for the Air-Ambulance Service of Durham. The planes were advertised as the “first fully organized aerial ambulance service in the US.” The air ambulance was said to be able to transport the sick and injured to any part of the US within hours and had a nurse in attendance on all flights.

The community was also served by Mutual Burial Associations, an organization under which subscribers could pay a fee which would collectively go toward the funeral costs of the association’s members. Locally, the Harrison Mutual Burial Association operated out of both Hannah Funeral Home and Moody’s. In 1931, the association paid for at least 80 members’ funerals in 1931, each costing between $50-$100. (between $951 to almost $2,000 today). Membership for Harrison Mutual Burial Association was a 25 cent fee in 1936, up from 10 cents in 1932.

Moody’s in Mount Airy’s is the longest operating funeral home. Its origins date back to the 1870s, when Bob Totten operated a coffin and furniture business in Mount Airy. When E.A. Hannah moved to the area from Indiana, he purchased Totten’s business, officially starting the business that would become Moody’s in 1902.

Wade Moody began working at what was then called “E.A. Hannah Harness and Coffins” in 1915 at the age of just 19 with a salary of $25 a month. Less than a decade later, Moody would become co-owner of the business along with D.E. Nelson, before becoming sole owner in 1932. After World War II devastated an untold number of families, the home was staffed for the most part by veterans of both world wars. Wade Moody was known at the time for playing a leading role in the local posts of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars. As an article from 1948 states “Moody’s is not only an undertaker’s establishment but also the center of many civic affairs and ventures.” The business remains in the family to this day.

Katherine “Kat” Jackson is a staff member at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. Originally from Australia she now lives in King. She can be reached at the museum at 336-786-4478.

When passing by Mount Airy High School along North South Street, one notices the walls, sidewalks and signage of a typical educational institution — but probably don’t realize that a thriving business is also within its confines.

During one recent morning at Blue Bear Cafe as the school year wound down, Ocean Davis, a senior, was putting the finishing touches on a fruit smoothie after earlier serving up cookies and brownies to an appreciative recipient. Chances are, another customer soon would be ordering a fresh-brewed cup of latte from the student-run operation.

The coffee at Blue Bear Cafe is reputed to be so tasty that teacher Ashley Pyles did not shy away from comparing what the kids prepare to that offered by a international coffeehouse chain:

“They make the best coffee, hands-down, over Starbucks any day,” Pyles said proudly.

Along with a variety of coffees — including frappe, latte and Americano — there are several flavors of fruit smoothies available, various sweet treats including bundt cakes, snack items, hot chocolate, cider and more.

The menu at Blue Bear Cafe further includes specialty drinks featuring what apparently has become a local sensation, bubble teas.

Yet perhaps the best product served up there is success — cooked up daily by apron-wearing student entrepreneurs who are gaining valuable business experience during the school year which can aid them in a career.

“It’s never about the coffee,” Workforce Initiatives Coordinator Polly Long said when discussing the mission involved, or for that matter the caffeine, the stimulative ingredient of that popular beverage.

“It’s about the skills,” added Long, a longtime school system employee who is being given much credit for making the on-campus business a reality.

“A student-operated coffee shop has been a dream of Polly Long’s for years,” says a statement prepared in conjunction with the Blue Bear Cafe program receiving special city government recognition during a recent council meeting. That statement also references the role “students with extraordinary talents” have played in its success.

The cafe, which emerged in 2019, seeks to provide targeted youth with training in essential entry-level skills and create a pathway to employment in the service industry.

For example, junior Jennifer Griffin has her sights set on becoming a pastry chef.

Blue Bear Cafe operates through the Occupational Course of Study unit at the school and is overseen by teachers Jennifer Gentry and Ashley Pyles in addition to Long.

“Jennifer is sort of our pastry chef,” Gentry said of Griffin’s go-to role in the operation.

About 10 students are enrolled in the program during a given academic year. They also take regular courses in addition to working a specified number of hours for the cafe, constituting class periods. It is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. when school is in session.

Blue Bear Cafe occupies a strategic space in the high school’s media center, which provides an inviting setting to enjoy a beverage or snack arguably rivaling that of any coffeehouse on the planet. The surroundings are pleasantly lit by large windows facing North South Street.

The place was arranged with the assistance of Goodwill Industries, Long said, which helped supply start-up funds to acquire new furniture and accessories.

It is tastefully adorned by walls painted in a soft-brown and olive-green color scheme, imprinted with phrases such as “serving kindness one cup of the time” and inspiring words including “imagine,” “create,” “inspire” and others.

Students respond by constantly adding new drinks and even developed a website to promote the business. A Blue Bear Cafe Facebook page is available to assist with orders.

The facility’s spic-and-span kitchen is located in a side room, near a counter area where students check out library materials as part of dual, harmonious existence between the two facilities. A gift shop specializing in student-made products also is located at the cafe offering items including mugs and T-shirts and handcrafted items from local entrepreneurs.

Along with the culinary talents honed by the youths, other abilities are learned that they can apply to many additional career endeavors besides a coffee shop itself.

These include leadership, communication, organization skills and teamwork, plus the real-life functions of dealing the public in taking orders, making change from a cash register and processing credit card orders.

“They’re seeing it in real time,” Long said of the impression left on those from the outside world who are able to witness education being applied to an actual enterprise. The students involved are a mixture of upperclassmen and lowerclassmen who ensure a seamless transition with the transfer of knowledge as they come and go.

“They are basically learning how to run a business on their own,” Pyles observed.

While the cafe is shut down for the summer, before resuming operations again with the start of the next school year, it has been popular among members of the public who can call in and pick up orders on the campus.

In other cases, large orders will even be delivered to customers.

“We are in the black,” Long said of the cost related to that service given the surge in gas prices. “What we try to do is break even,” with any profits going right back into the business.

“We use some of that money to take them (students) on field trips,” Gentry advised.

Long is hoping to expand Blue Bear Cafe to a downtown location if one can be found under the right circumstances.

The smell of success from Blue Bear Cafe has emanated to City Hall a couple of miles away, as evidenced by the special recognition it received during a recent meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.

Pyles attended that session along with two students, Griffin and fellow junior Shatavia Robison, who were there for a presentation on the program highlighted by the girls passing out chocolate chip cookies to those in attendance.

The cookies were contained in colorful packaging with labels extolling such sentiments as “be nice” and “choose happiness.”

“This program is first and foremost all about our kids,” Pyles said of the effort that “has just blown my mind.”

“The Blue Bear Cafe is one of the bright shining lights of the Mount Airy school system,” Commissioner Jon Cawley remarked, while thanking Polly Long for her involvement.

“I know y’all will go far in life,” Commissioner Marie Wood told the students.

“Great job, ladies,” said the board’s Joe Zalescik.

“This is what a community like Mount Airy is and can be,” Mayor Ron Niland said of the cafe’s success.

If anyone were to have needed medical assistance at the county commissioners meeting Monday night, they would have found themselves in the care of some of the best emergency responders Surry County has to offer. On hand were thirteen paramedics who were being recognized by the members of the board of commissioners for saving lives and for representing the county with honor in competition.

Surry County Paramedics Hannah Simmons, Aaron Stolzfus, and Mark Vogler were recognized for having saved ten lives in the line of duty.

Similarly honored for having saved five lives were: Daniel Banks, Staphany Blizard, Colby Cooper, Tiffany Earley, Mason Gwyn, Shellie Killgo, Hunter Odum, Abby Samuels, Mason Sewell, and Kaitlin Smith.

Smith along with Joshua Lecrone were also recognized for their participation as members of the 2022 Surry County State Paramedic Team. In the 30th annual competition the pair were crowned 2022 Region I Champions and advanced to the finals.

The competition is part of the North Carolina EMS Expo, an educational conference that brings together paramedics, EMTs and county emergency services directors to sharpen their skills with presentations from faculty from across the state and the country.

The teams all faced the same scenario as each emerged from sequestration to respond to a mock emergency. This year’s scenario had multiple patients at a rural farm setting — including a victim trapped in hay baler equipment, a Spanish-speaking victim experiencing chemical poisoning and an unresponsive person experiencing burn trauma.

Each team takes turns to assess, treat and stabilize victims in a scenario that lasts 12 minutes. They must move quickly and use their experience, education, and training to provide care to the victims. They may use first responders to assist while they render the most critical care. Teams were judged on professionalism, communication, patient rapport, conduct, attitude, appearance, and attire.

The competition is watched by hundreds of peers from bleachers that are set up inside the ballroom at the Joseph S. Koury Convention Center in Greensboro. It provides a training opportunity not only for the competing teams, but also for the paramedics and emergency medical technicians who closely observe each team’s analysis and reaction to the scenario.

Tom Mitchell, chief of the North Carolina Office of Emergency Medical Services, announced the winners at a banquet held Tuesday evening to cheers and applause from hundreds of the winners’ peers.

The team from Mecklenburg County EMS won the competition defending their title from the last competition in 2019.

“All of the teams in this competition are winners. They are North Carolina’s best of the best in emergency medical response,” said Mitchell. “We offer our special congratulations to this year’s winners.”

The commissioners offered their thanks to the women and men who risk themselves for the people of Surry County.

In other county commissioners’ news from Monday:

– A new offer has been made on the Westfield School site. The offer was made by John and Beverly Shelton in the amount of $102,000. A recent prior offer was rescinded by the bidder shortly after it was made due to additional costs of potential remediation.

Commissioner Van Tucker reminded the board in the absence of County Attorney Ed Woltz that accepting the initial offer only begins a bidding process. Woltz previously told the board members that they also had the ability to walk away from any offer prior to finalizing the sale for any reason.

“This bid should start a process which hopefully would land us with a little more in a final offer somewhere along the way in the open bidding process,” Tucker said as he made a motion to accept the offer.

Commissioner Larry Johnson pointed out that the Sheltons live in proximity to the former Westfield school, “I’m pretty sure these people live across the street. I think that’s good news too.”

The offer was accepted and now a period of upset bidding will begin in which any other party may offer an increase to the initial bid.

– County Development Services Director Marty Needham advised the board that the planning board has given its unanimous approval to a rezoning request that will yield a new Dollar General at 120 Mount View Drive in Mount Airy. The new location is just to the North of J. J. Jones Intermediate School at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Mount View Drive.

The tract of 2.14 acres needs to be rezoned from Rural Agriculture to Rural Business-Conditional. Commissioner Mark Marion asked if the new store would have a similar design to newer Dollar General location in Dobson on Zephyr Road, which was confirmed. The board was told new Dollar General locations are to have a larger footprint with increased cooler space for food items needing refrigeration.

Property owner James Lambert told the board the store has his blessing, and the commissioners approved the rezoning request.

– Penny Harrison of the county’s tax office was on hand to hold a public hearing on the renaming of private roads in the county. From the first of June 2021 through the end of May 2022 there were 13 instances of either a new private road being built, a private road name change, or corrections to private road names. As per state statute, the commissioners have to approve the naming or renaming of all roads, public or private, in the county.

The list of names was posted for one month with no challenges offered to the tax office, nor did any speakers rise during the meeting to speak at the hearing. Seeing no challenges, the names were approved by the board.

Roads impacted were: Cozy Creek Trail, Parker Hill Trail, Mountain Berry Way, Great Southern Trail, Legacy Lane, Pond Spring Trail, Willows Walk Lane, Rodriguez Lane, and Lovers Creek Trail all in Mount Airy.

Also on the list were Lewis Acres Lane in Pinnacle, Blue Dog Farms Lane in Dobson, David Lee Trail in Elkin, and Brudys Trail in Pilot Mountain.

– Dr. David Shockley of Surry Community College sent in a request to have Deidre Rogers reappointed to the Board of Trustees of the college, which was unanimously approved.

The 2022 Arts Alive camp kicked off the weekly summer camp series with more than 50 participants ages 3-5 years old along with middle and high school volunteers.

Emily and Bruce Burgess are working with arts and crafts, Shelby Coleman is hosting a drama class, and Tyler Matanick is working with music. Each class rotation emphasizes this year’s theme “Reach for the Stars.” Each class is teaching and reinforcing astronomy facts but the goal of Arts Alive continues to be to have fun and engage children in the arts to build future audiences.

Participants are looking forward to the annual Arts Alive Parade on Thursday, June 16 at 5:15 p.m. from Truist to the Andy Griffith Playhouse. The parade is followed by a celebration at the Andy Griffith Playhouse featuring arts, crafts, food, face painting and a performance by Arts Alive participants on the Andy Griffith Playhouse stage.

© 2018 The Mount Airy News