Regional Happenings

Avery County

Woolly Worm Festival Fun

Like many mass gatherings and celebrations, the annual Woolly Worm Festival will not be taking place this year in its traditional format. And while the town of Banner Elk won’t get to welcome nearly 20,000 people to this family-friendly festival, there are still many ways to participate and celebrate our favorite caterpillar, also known as the “woolly worm.”

Now in its 43rd year, this world-renowned event co-hosted by the Avery County Chamber of Commerce and the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk will definitely look a little different. Yet organizers have found creative ways to share the fun, both in-person and on the world wide web. Online virtual activities for children, hosted by festival mascot Merryweather, will be open to kids of all ages beginning in October. And virtual races online will ultimately decide which Woolly Worm gets to determine this winter’s official weather forecast. Face-to-face fun will also be part of the festivities, with both the Avery County Chamber of Commerce and Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce holding small-scale woolly worm races outdoors throughout the month of October. Race boards will be set up so that visitors to our area can “try their hand” at racing a Woolly Worm up a string.

Many festival goers look forward to perusing the vendors’ special offerings, so for this year the Avery Chamber has provided website links to a variety of those vendors. The official 2020 t-shirt, designed by Don Iverson, is also available for purchase through a link at www.averycounty.com.

Since the Woolly Worm Festival began, more than $1.4 million has been raised to make life better for the children of Avery County and to promote tourism and business growth within the county. Every year, profits from the festival are given back to the community. In 2020, people can still support the festival’s mission by making a donation in support of the programs that would ordinarily be funded by festival proceeds.

Please continue to check the Woolly Worm Festival website (www.woollyworm.com), Avery Chamber website (www.averycounty.com) and the Woolly Worm Facebook page for further details on activities and opportunities. And for all those who were looking forward to experiencing their very first Woolly Worm Festival in downtown Banner Elk, you can step back in time and get a bird’s-eye view of a recent festival at http://www.woollyworm.com/videos/.

Oktoberfest at Sugar Mountain

Take in the beautiful fall foliage, cool, comfortable mountain temperatures, and a weekend full of festival activities at the 2020 Oktoberfest at Sugar Mountain. The festival takes place on Saturday and Sunday, October 10 and 11, from 10 am until 5 pm each day.

The Harbour Towne Fest Band will provide a festive Bavarian atmosphere to Sugar’s 30th annual Oktoberfest celebration. Bavarian food and drinks are available and local and regional arts and crafts vendors will also be on-site.

Admission, parking and shuttle service are free! So grab your beer stein, put on your lederhosen or your dirndl and head to Sugar Mountain Resort, rain, shine or snow! And don’t forget to bring the kids because the event is for the entire family. Visit http://oktoberfest.skisugar.com/ to learn more about the event and to plan your weekend, or call 828-898-4521.

A Word from the Organizers: The safety of Sugar Mountain Resort guests and employees has always been our top priority. We continue this commitment during the public health crisis by following guidance from the CDC and state public health officials to promote a clean, healthy, and fun environment.

Watauga County

Holiday Time in Blowing Rock

While the holiday festivities may look a little different this year, Blowing Rock is still one of the best, and most picturesque, destinations for celebrating Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Wanting to get an early start on your gift purchases? Blowing Rock’s popular Art in the Park finishes its season on Saturday, October 3. Some of the best local and regional artists and craftspeople showcase their handcrafted jewelry, pottery, fiber, glass, photography, painting and more. https://blowingrock.com/artinthepark.

And don’t miss the Blowing Rock Halloween Festival on Saturday, October 31. This free event is open to the public and includes the following lineup:

  • Creepy Crafts hands-on activity at Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, 2-3 p.m.
  • Games and Activities for Kids in Memorial Park, 3-5:30 p.m.
  • Airwalks in Memorial Park, 3-8 p.m.
  • Hayrides through Blowing Rock, 4-8 p.m.
  • Monster March on Main Street – join in with your costumes! 5:30 p.m. (Line-up at American Legion)
  • Trick-or-Treat Downtown and Trunk-or-Treat at Blowing Rock First Baptist, 6 p.m.-until
  • Costume Contest, prizes awarded! 7:00 p.m. (Sign up by 6:45 p.m.)
  • Moonlight Scavenger Hunt at Broyhill Park (Ages 6-13, bring a Flashlight), 8 p.m.

Looking for more Halloween fun? Head to Tanger Outlets on October 31 for trick-or-treating and more, 5-7 p.m. Find out more about Blowing Rock’s Halloween events on the Family Fun Halloween page at http://blowingrock.com/familyhalloween/. Schedule subject to change.

Mitchell County

Annual Spruce Pine Potters Market

The much-anticipated Spruce Pine Potters Market is on! Online, that is. The Spruce Pine Potters market is an annual gathering of our region’s outstanding ceramic artists, representing a wide range of aesthetic and stylistic interpretations. This year’s Market will be held online on Saturday, October 10, beginning at 10 a.m. on its website at SprucePinePottersMarket.com.

This year’s event, in a unique virtual format, will feature more than 30 potters from Mitchell, Yancey and Avery counties (as well as specially invited guest potters) including Will Baker, Pam Brewer, Cynthia Bringle, Naomi Dalglish, Susan Feagin, Terry Gess, Michael Hunt, Lisa and Nick Joerling, MichaelKline, Suze Lindsay, Shaunna Lyons, Courtney Martin, Kent McLaughlin, Teresa Pietsch, David Ross, Michael and Ruth Rutkowsky, Ken and Galen Sedberry, Jenny Lou Sherburne, Gay Smith and Joy Tanner.

While the Spruce Pine potters will miss seeing their devoted followers in person, they will offer their works for you to purchase from the comfort of your kitchen table or living room sofa. Online sales begin LIVE at 10 a.m. on October 10, although you can link to each artist’s web shop beginning October 1 at SprucePinePottersMarket.com. The artisans also encourage market visitors to join them in their annual support of local non-profits by purchasing raffle tickets. Works by potters Suze Lindsay, Lisa Joerling, Shane Mickey and Joy Tanner will be raffled to raise funds that will be distributed to Shepherd’s Staff and Neighbors Feeding Neighbors.

Learn more at www.SprucePinePottersMarket.com and at www.facebook.com/sprucepinepottersmarket/. Email: info@sprucepinepottersmarket.com, Phone: 828 733-5755. For updated information on other events taking place this fall in Spruce Pine, please visit www.discoversprucepinenc.com.

Yancey County

Celebrate with the Stars

The Bare Dark Sky Observatory, named for Warren and Larissa Bare, is located at the Mayland Earth-to-Sky Park in Yancey County. Throughout the year, the community can experience the wonders of the universe, and astronomy students can engage in hands-on learning.

While Public Community Viewing Nights may not be offered until later in the year, private viewings are available for up to eight people. Have something special to celebrate? Want to throw the ultimate star party for some of your closest friends? Your group will have the opportunity to view the moon, planets, and stars like never before. Astronomy experts will guide you on a tour of the dark skies by looking through the “Sam Scope,” the largest public telescope in NC.  

Although the night temperatures may be getting colder, the autumn and winter night sky is rich with incredible celestial objects not otherwise visible during the summer months. Now is a great time to visit the Observatory for a star-studded night! For more information on this unique opportunity, email observatory@mayland.edu. For additional information on the observatory, along with updates on the return of Public Community Viewing Nights, visit http://www.mayland.edu/observatory.

Ashe County

Lost Province at the Lansing School

Prior to the 20th century, the counties of the northwest corner of North Carolina (Ashe, Alleghany and Watauga) were separated from major economic centers of the state by their mountainous terrain. Known as the Lost Provinces, this area was relatively inaccessible. By the early 20th century, roads had been carved through the mountains and the N&W Railroad opened the area for transport; by mid-century, Lansing, NC had become a thriving part of Ashe County.

The stately Lansing School was constructed in 1938 under the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. It was the center of education in Ashe County from 1939 until the early 1990s, but has since had limited use.

Lost Province Center for Cultural Arts (LPCCA) was founded in 2018 by two community leaders, Beth Rembert and Carole Ford, who believed that the traditions and arts of Southern Appalachia were at risk of being lost forever due to generational lifestyle changes. They saw an opportunity to repurpose the vacant Lansing schoolhouse to create a center to preserve “all-things Appalachian.”

Their long-range vision includes renovating the Lansing School buildings to create a learning center that promotes Appalachian arts, crafts and skills. The preservation of the historic property will provide a spacious venue for classes, special events, sustainable multi‐use housing, a signature farm-to‐table restaurant and a showcase gallery.

The purchased buildings—a schoolhouse building made with traditional construction clad with local native stone, and a two-story brick classroom building—sit on the 4.475 acre original school site, along with a favorite Lansing destination, Molley Chomper Cidery.

On Saturday, September 19, from 2-6 p.m. the public has the opportunity to take a tour of Lansing School. Each tour takes approximately 30 minutes, and the tours will adhere to social distancing guidelines (masks required). To learn more about the Lansing School, the Lost Province Center for Cultural Arts, and future tours and events, visit https://lostprovincearts.org/.

After touring Lansing, head over to downtown West Jefferson and visit the town’s unique shops, restaurants and galleries. Ashe County also offers a number of outdoor opportunities during the fall months, including barn quilt tours, corn mazes and choose and cut tree farms. Visit ashechamber.com for a guide to some of the area’s most popular activities and destinations.

Throughout the High Country

The Season for Choose and Cut Christmas Trees

The first Christmas tree marketplace was created in 1851 in New York City; however, it took NC until 1955 to begin growing Fraser Fir seedlings specifically for harvesting. In 1959, five Avery County tree growers created the North Carolina Christmas Tree Association (NCCTA) to develop and extend interest in the production and marketing of quality Christmas trees in North Carolina. Their mission has been hugely successful, and today the High Country of NC is one of the most popular destinations in the country for Christmas tree shoppers.

Beginning in November of every year, countless families make the traditional pilgrimage to our mountains to pick their favorite Christmas trees at one of our many Choose and Cut Farms. There are more locations than ever in our surrounding counties, which include Avery, Watauga, Ashe, Alleghany, Burke, Mitchell, Yancey and beyond. Choose and Cut farms generally open the weekend before Thanksgiving and remain open through the week before Christmas. Most tree farmers make it an event for visiting families, treating their patrons to hot cider and hot chocolate, hayrides, and other Christmas-themed activities. In addition to trees, handmade wreaths and garland are popular purchases, and some farms offer locally made arts and crafts.

You can find a comprehensive list of Choose and Cut farms throughout our mountain region at the NCCTA’s website, www.ncchristmastrees.com. Visit their ‘Teacher Resources and Kids’ Corner’ page to download fun Christmas tree-themed activities, including craft projects and worksheets.

Add to Your Autumn Calendar

Many other seasonal events will likely take place here in the High Country throughout the autumn season. Some of the best resources for checking event listings, updates and changes are our local Chambers of Commerce and Tourism Development Associations. Be sure to check out our CML Community Chambers of Commerce Page before planning your visit to take advantage of all that our region has to offer.

Due to the uncertainties regarding COVID-19 throughout this Fall, CML advises everyone to check with local and state authorities—as well as individual destination websites—when planning seasonal activities, shopping and social gatherings.

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