Scenes from Fourth of July 2014

There were lot of activities over the holiday weekend, including parades in Boone, Banner Elk and Blowing Rock; Christmas in July in West Jefferson; and fireworks everywhere!

Grandfather Golf and Country Club Fireworks from Nelson Aerials on Vimeo.

Things to do on a weekend – Complete a triathlon

The High Country area is home to several annual athletic endurance events. It has fun runs, 5Ks, marathons, half-marathons, century bike rides, foot races up a mountain, and mountain bike races around one. This weekend features a nearby contest which combines more than one – the Watauga Lake Triathlon.

The race features a 1,000-meter swim in Watauga Lake, a 35-kilometer bike ride around Roan Creek, and an eight-kilometer run through a pastoral farm area back to Watauga Lake. It was first run in 2005. According to race organizers, it was “inspired by the picturesque countryside and pristine waters of Watauga Lake.” According to a 2011 race preview, it’s as challenging as it is beautiful.

watauga lake triathlon“It’s a challenging course, an international distance triathlon, in between a sprint and Olympic distance, but it’s a challenging course,” organizer Scott Vandiver said. …

“We try to tell people it’s a low-key race,” Vandiver said. “It’s not a really high-powered, competitive kind of race, though we do get a lot of strong competitors and a lot of first-timers and others back for a repeat competition.”

Participants, he said, are friendly, creating an atmosphere that’s free of the pressure commonly associated with races.

“We also do a lot of relays, which are always fun, because we always have at least eight or 10 relay teams come in … with two to three people on the teams,” Vandiver said. “The majority of people do it individually, but there are a lot of relay teams, as well.”

The race starts at Sugar Grove Baptist Church, located just outside Watauga County in Butler, Tenn.

Things to do on a Weekend – Watch people jump off a mountain

This weekend marks the end of the annual Tater Hill Open, a paragliding and hang gliding contest which dots the High Country skies with flyers of all colors and sizes. It can be breathtaking, minding your own business, driving down 421 in western Watauga County, when … suddenly! … the clouds have moving freckles.

The gliders loops and sway. Trace their descents and you can find their landing spot. Watching is free. Bring the kids and they may get to touch a handglider, and meet some men and women who truly know how to fly.

tater hillGoodman added that 65 participants are flying this year, which is slight above the number that flew the previous year.

“Every year, it has grown by just a few pilots,” Goodman, adding that the pilots come from all around the country to fly over the High Country.

For those who want to see gliders in action, Goodman said a great vantage point exists at Silverstone Road in Zionville, where the pilots land.

Independence Day in the High Country

The High Country has a well established tradition of wonderful community events. Independence Day is one of the busiest, with several parades, fireworks shows and family events planned.

Here is a roundup of a few of the great opportunities for fun this weekend, via High Country Parent website.

Fireworks from Bethel BlastBeech Mountain Roasting of the Hog
This year, celebrate independence day with Beech Mountain. An annual event, the hog is roasted all day to perfection and cut up right in front of the crowd. With music, moon pies, games, and fireworks, this is a family affair that you won’t want to miss! The roasting will take place July 6th at 6pm.

Downtown Boone Fourth of July Parade
Starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Boone’s business district will become the site of the annual Downtown Boone Fourth of July Parade.

Downtown Banner Elk Parade and ‘Party in the Park’
Banner Elk’s traditional Fourth of July parade will kick off at 11 a.m.

Bethel Blast
Bethel Baptist Church will hold its annual Fourth of July celebration, Bethel Blast, Thursday, free, and welcomes everyone to take part in the festivities.

Christmas in July in West Jefferson
Christmas in July is a one full-day, and Friday night free-admission event
 featuring the very best in traditional mountain music and 
handmade crafts from throughout the Northwest Mountains
 of North Carolina!

Blowing Rock Fourth of July Celebration
Blowing Rock will be celebrating with all their activities on July 6th.

Possibly the shortest 5K ever run

It started possibly as a joke. It became, though, a worthwhile event.

Jimmy Smith Park 5KThe humor centered on Jimmy Smith Park, a small by-the-highway grassy area in Boone. It’s comprised of three benches, three rocks and a wrap-around sidewalk. Several weeks ago someone posted to facebook a crude drawing of the park, with the words Jimmy Smith Park 5K.

It was funny. But, in a region known for a variety of great outdoor runs, it also became a viral hit. Why not have a 5K at the shortest track ever run? To further attract giggles, it was scheduled on the most appropriate day possible – April Fools.

And lo, runners ran it. Another indication of the uniqueness of those who call the High Country home.

I am proud to say I participated in the 1st ever: Jimmy Smith Park 5km in Boone, NC on April Fools Day! Many folks thought this was just a joke with humorous banter via Facebook for the last 4 weeks. Runners showed up doubting it’s existence= yet we thrived!

The event started out as a kinda joke, yet artistic director/race director Sean Dunlap, seized the interest and created a real fund raiser for a Math Scholarship Fund! …

Jimmy Smith Park is a itty bitty park with a few rocks, plaque, benches and not enough room for a trash can. The paved loop sidewalk equals .1 mile, so Sean calculated 31 laps would equal 3.1 miles! Makes sense!

Long live the short run! Let it soon rival other area events, like the Blue Ridge Brutal 100, New River Marathon, The Bear, and many more. The High Country has a variety of outdoor events, whether on a bike or on foot, or even for just .1 miles.

Things to do on a weekend – Enjoy some Mountain Home Music

Saint Patrick’s Day, and its music of the Irish, will be the theme of this Saturday’s Mountain Home Music. The musical event brings together a variety of instrumentalists in the area as a way to honor the diverse influences in the mountain area.

The St. Patrick’s Celebration is a particularly special event, with a talented cast.

David Johnson (fiddle, guitar, banjo, etc.) is a member of the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame and has twice been named National Studio Musician of the Year (in gospel music).

Mountain Home Music logoScott Freeman (mandolin, fiddle, guitar) is a member of the old-time band, Skeeter and the Skidmarks, and is the founder of The Fiddle & Plow, a concert series on “The Crooked Road” Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail.”

Mary Greene (piano, guitar, dulcimer) studied Appalachian music at Appalachian State University and teaches music in Ashe County. In 2011, she toured Ireland with a group from Mountain Home Music. Jacquelyn Bartlett (harp) has performed with The New York Philharmonic, The Rotterdam Philharmonic, The North Carolina Symphony, and many other orchestras and symphonies. She currently tours with The Fire Pink Trio.

Nancy Schneeloch-Bingham (flute, penny whistle) teaches flute at ASU. She also teaches each summer in Ireland and is a cofounder of the Celtic group, Sunday’s Well.

Joe Shannon (hammer dulcimer, concertina) is the founder and host of Mountain Home Music.

This weekend’s Mountain Home Music will take place at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in downtown Boone. Concerts are held in a variety of venues. Here’s a past performance featuring Upright & Breathin’ with Steve Lewis.

Things to do on a weekend – Enjoy a college baseball game

Last weekend, the Appalachian State baseball team shocked the college baseball world, beating then No. 7 LSU two times in a three game series, including a 11-1 win in the rubber match. The Tigers had been considered a strong national title contender. The Mountaineers had been picked in preseason as a middle-of-the-conference team. The trip to Baton Rouge proved otherwise, and sparked excitement that this could be a special team.

Appalachain State baseball stadiumThe recent success and the series win at LSU owe mostly to pitching, and Pollard’s pitching background (he pitched at Davidson in the mid-1990s) makes it the program’s foundation. The Mountaineers have ranked fifth, third, second and fourth in the Southern Conference in ERA the last four seasons, with team ERAs declining from 6.14 to 4.42 in that span.

In the preseason, Pollard told BA, “(This) should be deepest pitching staff we have had in my eight years at Appalachian. We return three weekend starting pitchers and two of (the) three top arms out of bullpen. We should also be very strong defensively.”

The Mountaineers open their home schedule this weekend against Rider. They play in beautiful Smith Stadium, which has an outfield surrounded by a wooded area and a scenic view from the stands. Games have a great atmosphere, a luxury many communities lack. Dare to Live the Dream in a land of high-quality college baseball!

Things to do on a weekend – Celebrate the 80s downhill

This weekend Beech Mountain turns into a culture club with a new sensation – adding some hot pink to its cold white slopes. It’s a Retro 80’s weekend at one of the High Country’s three ski resorts. Leg warmers. Big hair. Loud colors. Smooth operators are free to lose control for three days of the best of times while they beat it up and down the slopes. Sweet dreams are made of this.

Beech Mountain 80s weekendThe ski resort is also sponsoring a Rail Jam freestyle competition at 4:30 p.m. Saturday featuring a DJ playing retro tunes.

“We encourage folks to dig out their 80s ski garb and head up the mountain for an enjoyable ski weekend,” said Calder Smoot of Beech Mountain Tourism Development Authority. “The final weekend of February typically provides great skiing conditions, as well as smaller crowds because it’s just after the President’s Day holiday.”

Businesses throughout town are rolling out retro-themed deals.

Ski season continues for a few more weeks, as long as the temps remain cold enough to make snow. That translates to plenty of opportunities to make a run or two or a dozen before spring weather takes over. An eventful reason to consider Living the Dream in the High Country of North Carolina.

So that’s what jumping into cold water sounds like

Blowing Rock Winterfest 2012 is complete, but odds are there are still a couple of people struggling to warm back up. A record 96 people participated in Saturday’s Polar Plunge. On the plus side, no ice in Chetola Lake! On the not-quite-negative, the water was a balmy 45 degrees. Not too dramatic but still, it was every man for himself.

Blowing Rock Polar PlungeAn estimated 1800 people rimmed the shores and docks the lake, eager to see the costumes, antics and “splashes” made by the assorted characters from all age groups. With Brown telling the jumpers they were “lucky” this year, what with the usual six inches of ice not formed across the top of the lake, the brave, timid, and intrepid alike braved the 45-degree waters. Many put on a brave face as if to say, “this will be nothin'”, but they were among the first to scream, “Oh my God!” or “Oh, #@)&*($!” upon their immersion.

At one point, Brown noted the many couples and father-daughters who jumped, saying, “Chivalry is dead in Blowing Rock. I’ve never seen so many guys shove their girlfriends, wives and daughters out of the way to get to the ladder first!”

“#@)&*($!” is reportedly Latin for, “Pardon me for my ignorance regarding how quickly I would adapt to the sudden change in temperature.” The is the first of two High Country plunges. Students at Appalachian State University in Boone are scheduled to make their descents into the campus’ Duck Pond February 16. Dare to Live the Dream – and do so drying off in near freezing water – only in the High Country of North Carolina.

Things to do on a weekend – Jump in some really, really cold water

One of the highlights of the annual Blowing Rock Winterfest is the Saturday morning Polar Plunge. Dozens of brave, cold-defying souls line up for their opportunity to be swallowed by the January-chilled waters of Chetola Lake. Many do so in costume. Others decide less is more. The colder the better!

In previous years the lake top has been frozen. That shouldn’t be the case this weekend, thanks to moderate temperatures. But there should still be quite the party atmosphere when the plungers arrive.

Blowing Rock Winterfest polar Plunge“We are freezin’ for a reason,” said Tracy Brown, the tourism director for the town of Blowing Rock. …

“We usually have between 25 and 50 people jump into the lake,” Brown said.

The audience festively agonizes with the participants, many of whom show up in costumes.

And when it’s all over?

Judges award the locally famous “Golden Plunge” award to the plunger sporting the best costume, Brown said.

Money raised at the event also goes to the participants’ favorite charity.

This year’s charity recipient is Wine to Water. So plungers can feel good about raising money for a local cause, even when dripping wet with chills from an icy jump. Just another unique Saturday morning in the High Country of North Carolina.

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