United Fund offers season-long partnerships | Mt. Airy News

2022-06-18 19:32:33 By : Ms. Snow Hu

Paula Hiatt and Melissa Hiatt, no relation, look over the 2021 United Fund of Surry Impact Report in their office at the Edwards-Franklin House in Mount Airy.

Runners participate in the Downtown Rocks and Run event in 2021. Downtown Rocks and Runs serves as the fundraising kick-off for the United Fund of Surry’s annual fundraising effort. (Submitted photo)

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.”

Juneteenth, Rotary Day marked at museum

Crowd supports Fleming sign request

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.

Surry County Manager Chris Knopf presented the board of commissioners with his budget message Monday night for the upcoming fiscal year 2022-2023. He provided a bottom-line overview of the tentative budget for next year of $93,607,336. For comparison, the 2021-2022 county budget total was $83,889,031.

Of perhaps the greatest interest to the citizens of Surry County is that there is again to be no increase to the property tax rate. Revenues are reported as healthy and tax collection outpaces projections by around 2%.

Sales tax revenues estimates have been “very conservative” during the pandemic, but the revenues have been incredibly high. He attributed the robust sales tax revenue to be due to online shopping.

Knopf pointed out a few of the highlights that created the discrepancy between the two budget years. In the next budget an additional $1.2 million was included for weatherproofing projects on two county buildings. He told the board that in the past year many of the county buildings in Dobson had been well taken care of, such as the Government Center.

Jessica Montgomery of the public works office had identified of county buildings as a priority. She had told the board in April that weatherproofing projects were going to be needed at the Judicial Center where there is a need to replace windows, expansion joints, internal doors, and a wall that was damaged by water.

Weatherproofing at the Historic Courthouse in Dobson needs to be a priority as well. “Weatherproofing this building is crucial to saving the life of this building. This building has some issues and it’s all due to the fact that it is pulling in all the moisture from outside.”

Knopf noted that when taking out debt service, weatherproofing, and the worker’s compensation fund change, what he called an apples-to-apples budget comparison, the new total would be around $86 million or a 2.9% increase. “Which is below the inflation index right now,” Commissioner Eddie Harris commented.

The county still owes on its long term promise to Mount Airy for the Spencer’s Mill project which adds $250,000 to the budget; the county also makes an annual contribution to the Surry County Economic Development Partnership totaling $155,000.

Getting support from the county will be the Mountain-to-Sea Trail in the sum of be $100,000; $543,000 to support the Northwest Regional Library; $20,000 for the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History; $12,000 to the Surry Arts Council; and $9,000 to the Foothills Arts Council.

Furthermore, there is a proposed increase of $784,000 to the spending that falls under the Surry County Sheriff’s Office. In a notable change, the county is creating a $250,000 firefighters fund to reimburse strategically selected volunteer fire departments with expenses related to their need to hire full time firefighters.

Increases to public safety funding also include $566,000 for ambulance chassis remounts, the addition of power lift systems to ambulances, and sheriff’s office cruisers in need of camera or other equipment replacement.

The public-school systems had a proposed increase in the draft budget of $20 to the per student allocation taking it from $1,220 to $1,240 per student. Commissioner Larry Johnson encouraged the board go further.

“I would love to see it go to $1,260, we’re already in the bottom ten in the state. I’d like to see us move it up a notch or two. They all work so hard, and we have three of the best school systems in the state — I’d like for them to have a little more.” The final number, as with the entire budget, is still being settled on.

On Wednesday night at a budget planning meeting Dr. Travis Reeves, superintendent of Surry County Schools, and the board had a wide-ranging conversation on school safety in the wake of recent school shootings around the nation.

“We’re going to have to do more than just architectural improvements, we’re going to have to make it a mindset,” Commissioner Van Tucker said of school safety. “There will be no exceptions, when you go out if it’s inconvenient – it’s still just inconvenient. Somebody’s gonna have to take a pass card who’s authorized to get back in there; and not have a rock under the dang door.”

In areas of personnel the budget has projected $516,000, or 44% of the requests that were made from department heads and elected officials, to hire. A 5% cost of living adjustment will be added to all full-time county employees.

The county manager’s budget message is another point along the budgeting process. Assistant to the county manager Nathan Walls explained that now is the time for the public, and the board, to provide feedback. The recommended budget is available to look at in the Clerk to the Board’s office.

“The public hearing is scheduled at the board meeting on Monday, June 20. Citizens and the board can provide any comments or feedback they want during the public hearing.”

“The board will then decide whether to make changes, schedule another meeting to discuss the budget further or adopt the budget that night. They can make changes and adopt the budget on the same night of June 20 if they choose.”

A popular event held at the Mount Airy/Surry County Airport last fall is back by popular demand. The Second Annual Auto Show and Fly In at the Airport, presented by Speedology Solutions, LLC, will be held this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The event has a rain date of Saturday, June 18, just in case mother nature does not cooperate.

“We’re very excited to be partnering again with Speedology Solutions, LLC,” Airport Manager George Crater said. “They do a great job of coordinating, and airport staff provides the facility and handles aviation needs throughout the day.”

While the car show in 2021 was a great success and food trucks fared well, the rain impacted attendance for both spectators and the planes for the fly-in aspect of the auto show. Still, more than 120 domestic, import, classic and exotic vehicles were on hand and those in attendance got to take a leisurely stroll down the tarmac looking at all sorts of cool rides.

A big difference from the auto show last year will be that motorcycle owners are invited to show off their steel horses. Organizers of the 2022 show are hopeful that beautiful summer-like weather will boost attendance, “I expect it to be even better this year,” Crater said.

She also noted that the event moved ahead one hour so as to get as much of the event in before the heat and humidity creep in during the afternoon.

The price has been reduced from the previous show, it is $20 per show car which includes the fees for all the people in that car. General admission will be $5 each for those who are not showing.

Knowing no such event is complete without the eats, the fly in auto show will be featuring food trucks including Cilantro & Tacos and Lobster Dogs. The Dapper Bean coffee truck and Opie’s Candy Store are also slated to be in attendance.

Tickets for the event can be bought at the gate or in advance by following the link on the Mount Airy/Surry County Airport’s website: www.mascairport.com.

For those taking in the fun of the auto show and fly in, they may want to leave time in the afternoon available to take in another festival along with motorcycle ride in Mount Airy. The Mount Airy Men’s Shelter will be hosting their Mount Airy Men’s Shelter Summer Festival & Motorcycle Ride on Saturday, at Veterans Memorial Park, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Our first annual fundraiser is to help with the expenses of getting the shelter ready to occupy. Moving some walls, adding some showers, and getting the kitchen together,” organizer Ann Simmons said.

“Along with these beautiful motorcycles on display and the scenic motorcycle ride, there will also be lots of great vendor booths and a raffle for a grill,” she said. “The kid’s area will feature a sack race, twisty balloon guy, giant slide, kids’ removable tattoos, water balloon toss, obstacle course, football toss, corn hole, rock and craft painting, ice cream, shaved ice, and kids’ hot dogs.”

On hand will be BBQ by Aunt Bea’s, Mountain Top Concessions, Kona Ice of Mount Airy, Belle Full Vending, and Pickalicious. There are also going to be more than 40 vendors from local businesses on hand.

For the little ones there will be two bouncy castles, kids games, and activities that are free for the kids. Games operated by vendors are not, organizers want to remind.

The event is raising money for the new Mount Airy Men’s Shelter which was founded in order to give the homeless men of this area a place to sleep when they are in need.

“The creation of a men’s shelter, with onsite supportive services, has the potential to significantly decrease costs to the Surry County taxpayer. Without shelter the homeless arrive at emergency rooms, urgent care centers, and local businesses,” the group said.

For more information, visit: Facebook.com/Mt.AiryNCMensShelter

Local economic-development officials are hoping a large tract of now-wooded property at Mount Airy’s Westwood Industrial Park can be better marketed to companies with the help of Golden LEAF funding.

“It’s going to help us get that site ready for development,” Surry County Economic Development Partnership President Todd Tucker said Tuesday regarding $39,650 just awarded for the park located in the northwestern part of the city where some facilities now exist.

The Golden LEAF Board of Directors approved the funding for Surry through its SITE Program-Due Diligence component targeting such projects to stimulate job growth. The Golden LEAF Foundation was established in 1999 to administer money received by North Carolina through a master settlement with cigarette companies, aimed at strengthening economies of communities — with special emphasis on rural areas that have depended on tobacco.

Westwood is one of three projects in North Carolina tapped for SITE Program-Due Diligence assistance, with the others in Robeson and Martin counties. Receiving the money will allow eligible activities such as environmental assessments, archaeological analyses and mapping to be completed.

“Essentially what that is, is predevelopment work for the undeveloped tract of land,” Mount Airy Community Development Director Martin Collins explained Tuesday regarding the Westwood Park property involved.

“It’s a pretty large tract of land,” Collins added, “I’m going to say the largest tract of undeveloped land the city has presently.”

The predevelopment efforts will pinpoint the presence of wetlands or endangered species on the property along with geotechnic findings, according to Tucker, who wrote the grant application for Golden LEAF funding. Geotechnics is a branch of engineering dealing with characteristics of soil and its suitability for construction.

Industries eyeing sites for new facilities tend to be “risk-averse,” the county’s chief economic-development official says, which make them avoid locations with question marks that could disrupt timetables and cause lengthy delays.

“They just don’t know what’s there,” Tucker said of prospects who might eyeball the available property at Westwood Industrial Park, which first came on the scene in the 1980s.

“We’ve got approximately 100 acres up there in Westwood,” Tucker said of the space available for industrial development.

It is located out Boggs Drive, off Westlake Drive, to an area in the vicinity of an Andrew Pearson Design manufacturing plant adjacent to a cul-de-sac.

Now when business prospects visit the property, all they see is a large forest. This in itself can cause development problems even without wetland or endangered species issues emerging, Collins said of related tasks including cutting trees and removing stumps.

That can derail a potential project by hampering what already might be a tight time frame, the community development director mentioned.

Helping with such needs seems tailor-made for what Golden LEAF officials seek to accomplish, in the view of Don Flow, the chairman of the organization’s board.

“The need for industrial sites, especially in rural areas, was a gap identified in our strategic planning process,” Flow said in a statement. “As we have seen, ready sites are no longer a luxury but a necessity to move at the speed of business.”

Flow says the latest SITE Program projects benefiting Surry and other counties will help prepare North Carolina for economic growth opportunities.

Tucker, the Surry Economic Development Partnership official, is hopeful about the analytical activities planned at Westwood Industrial Park and the answering of key questions about any aggravating factors present.

“It’s going to help us determine all that and get ready for future development,” he advised.

“Ultimately, it’s going to make that site more marketable.”

A change in tactic was deployed Monday evening at the meeting of the board of county commissioners when another group rose during the open forum to discuss election integrity.

What had been a more broadly approached set of complaints against the 2020 election outcome, in particular voting machines and their security, was reduced to one point. More than a dozen speakers rose to explain their opinion that it is within the right of the county commissioners to request that the county move back to paper only ballots.

Keith Senter of the county Republican party again was the first speaker to rise and he reminded the commissioners that it was the anniversary of D-Day. He spoke about having courage, as those brave soldiers had, this was a recurring theme of several speakers Monday.

He asked the board to consider what would happen to the electronic voting machines had a catastrophic failure or a power outage occured, noting that the county would then revert to a hand count. In fact, he said the state already allows that a hand cast ballot shall be counted.

There are three approved voting systems in the state he advised, “ES&S, Hart InterCivic, and hand to eye ballot counting. This board may decline to accept ES&S and instead choose to have hand to eye counting of the ballots.”

After a vote is cast, he does not have confidence in it from there. “After you vote, we don’t know where the vote goes. We should. Mistrust in the voting system has to be fixed. Let’s put the machines in the closet and have hand to eye counting because state statue 163 grants you that right.”

Traci Laster offered another prayer for courage but also proclaimed that, “For far too long we have turned a blind eye to the corruption and the perversion of our electoral process. Without a shadow of a doubt our 2020 election was rigged and stolen.”

“We the people of Surry County are rising up, standing up, speaking out, uniting, and demanding our voices to be heard.” She referred to the book of Ephesians and noted that struggles against “spiritual wickedness in high places” were more pressing than those of conflict between flesh and blood, but she offered no new documentation nor evidence of her claim of a rigged election except to say, “We have seen undeniable evidence that voting machines can be compromised.”

If the commissioners wish to “regain the trust of your constituents” she said state statue 163-165 gives them the ability to adopt or decline any voting system. “Although not very common, it is time to use some common sense.” Paper ballots were used for decades without incident she reminded them. A request from the board to the county board of elections could begin the process of going back to paper ballots in Surry County in time for the general election.

That is where the group is now, they have requested the board of commissioners make a formal written request to return to paper ballots which they feel would be much safer. Jimmy Yokeley said that “where there is smoke, there is most often fire,” and many speakers pointed to the recent canvassing effort that took place in Surry County.

The canvassers, volunteers working with the GOP and not representatives of the local elections board, reported over a 41% rate of error in the canvasses completed, finding 170 instances out of 407 interviews in Surry County. These included voter registrations that did not match who lived at an address or the voter reported that the logbook did not match their 2020 voting method, the group’s members claimed at this meeting and the previous one on May 16.

With so many errors found and with the presentation made to the board on primary eve in May on election integrity Sandra Swain said, “You do have the authority to make a change, and after seeing the vulnerabilities in the current system, how can you not want to help ensure our elections are fair?”

“As Americans we have accepted election results in the past, but now there is too much opportunity for bad actors from who knows where to mess with the system. Make the change to paper ballots and hand counting.”

“If the Surry board of elections tries to stop the process, we the people will back you up. Instead of acting like a flock of ostriches and going along with the status quo — do something. Please stand up for fair elections.”

Steve Odum told the board he had raised a challenge against two voters he claimed crossed from Ararat, Virginia., to vote in the primary. Reached by phone Wednesday, he explained that he had reported the incident in real time and swore a statement to the same. He attended a hearing the week after the primary on the matter and was informed the county had no recourse due to the ruling in August of 2018 in the U.S. District Court by Judge Loretta Biggs.

Her decision threw out voter ID laws on the books at that time, and her injunction still stands to this day. As interpreted by Greensboro lawyer Mark Payne for Surry County, “In light of this order, Surry County Board of Elections is prevented from hearing this matter.”

Odum asked about taking the complaint to the state board of elections as his next course of action. Given the 3-2 partisan split of the state board of elections, he has no confidence in that path of escalation.

“What recourse do we have if we take it to the board or elections because your hands are tied, and they say they have no authority? It is a felony to vote like these folks did, but no one can prosecute and there are no consequences,” he said.

“You guys do have the authority to do something. If the states comes at you, if the board of elections come at you, you have thousands of people in this county who will stand behind you, I promise you that.”

Not everyone was feeling as supportive of the board of commissioners with some speakers questioning their courage, motives, and conservative bona fides. Tessa Saeli who ran against Vice Chair Eddie Harris in the primary she said she was not sure why she felt called to run against someone she had previously supported.

“I supported you and prayed for you because what you said on national news sources was the same thing I would have said: stand against wokeism. But now I am disappointed and now I see five cowards. Now I see why God told me to run and run hard to hold the seat you sit in, that potentially was obtained through cheating.”

After the last meeting with the guest speakers on election integrity, “Some of you were escorted out by officers of the law,” she noted. “Why? Because you were fearful of your friends? When you become afraid of your friends – there is evil in operation.”

Jimmy Yokeley asked the board to consider what can actually be done and then file a request with the state board of elections. “This is what we are requesting that you consider doing, and doing it as soon as possible, because if it is successful then come November, we can have great voter integrity in this county.”

“So instead of beating up what we can’t do, why don’t we focus on what we can do and make that written request to the North Carolina board of elections. We want to see the action and at least we deserve as citizens to see the board make that written request.”

Citizens will say they want government to be tight with taxpayers’ money, but certain budget cuts are then met with strong resistance — which is the case with funding for three organizations in Mount Airy.

Annual operational support for the Surry Arts Council, Mount Airy Museum of Regional History and the public library on Rockford Street had been omitted from the city government’s proposed budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which was released last month.

But the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners, during its latest meeting last week, voted unanimously to restore that funding, totaling $201,150. This includes $103,650 for the library, $87,500 for the arts group and $10,000 to the museum.

That occurred as council members faced a crowd of people who had ventured to City Hall for a public hearing on the budget scheduled during that meeting.

Their presence reflected a wave of opposition arising over the proposed slashing of municipal funding for the community agencies involved, which while not part of city government annually have received such support in recognition of their tourism and cultural contributions.

“I think all of us received a lot of emails and answered a lot of emails,” Commissioner Steve Yokeley said of feedback regarding the cuts as he surveyed those poised to speak on that subject.

Before the hearing began, Yokeley made a motion to provide the allocations for the three entities by adjusting the 2022-23 spending plan to accommodate that funding.

“We’ve had two weeks to review the budget,” he said of the package received on May 19, with board members formulating opinions on some of its elements during that time.

One definite focus was the special appropriations to outside agencies, which for the present, 2021-22 fiscal year included $87,500 for the Surry Arts Council, $103,650 to the Mount Airy Public Library, $10,000 for Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, $7,500 to the Mount Airy Rescue Squad and $10,000 for Mount Airy-Surry County Airport.

However, for the next fiscal year that begins on July 1, only the rescue squad ($7,500) and airport ($20,000) were listed for funding in the preliminary budget prepared under the leadership of City Manager Stan Farmer, who assumed that post in January.

Initially within the spending plan, in lieu of a special appropriation, $206,996 was proposed for much-needed repairs to the Andy Griffith Playhouse, which houses the Surry Arts Council, and $197,322 for the library under the same scenario. Both buildings are owned by the municipality although the arts and library operations aren’t under the city government umbrella.

The lack of financial support for the operational, non-building needs of the affected agencies produced a community furor.

All that set the tone for last week’s well-populated public hearing, for which top Surry Arts Council and museum officials Tanya Jones and Matt Edwards, respectively, were present although neither spoke.

Others did, yet the preemptive move by Commissioner Yokeley largely defused the pent-up dissatisfaction that might have been intense otherwise.

One local citizen, Calvin Vaughn, expressed concern over the notion that Mount Airy Museum of Regional History was being “overlooked” in the funding mix.

The museum is the largest-single tourism driver locally, according to Vaughn, who called it a Smithsonian-like facility with more than 25,000 artifacts telling the area’s history from Native Americans until the present.

It has sustainability “beyond the Mayberry mystique,” the hearing speaker stated, adding that the museum generates $1.4 million for the local economy each year.

“Every citizen benefits from the programs and services there,” Vaughn said.

Another hearing speaker, Jennifer Johnson-Brown, social director of the RidgeCrest retirement community, also praised the facility.

“The museum is the scribe of our city,” Johnson-Brown said in her remarks to the commissioners. “You don’t want to be the eraser on the pencil that wipes out the history.”

Nicole Harrison, a mother of two daughters, spoke in favor of the Surry Arts Council funding, while also acknowledging the commissioners’ earlier action restoring that money. “I just want to say thank you,” Harrison told them.

Khriste Petree stated that her children had benefited from both the museum and Surry Arts Council.

While city leaders were in a giving mood by restoring allocations to the library, museum and arts group, this did not extend to a separate request to also provide yearly operational funding to Surry Medical Ministries. It maintains a clinic in Mount Airy which provides free medical services to people without health insurance.

A motion to that effect by Commissioner Jon Cawley was defeated 3-2. The board’s Joe Zalescik sided with Cawley on the measure.

However, two of the three members voting against it were quick to voice support for the clinic that opened in 1993.

Commissioners Tom Koch and Yokeley, who were joined in their opposition by Marie Wood, said this largely involved a matter of timing.

Cawley sought to add Surry Medical Ministries to the list of recipients for special city appropriations at the rate of $100,000 annually.

Clinic officials already are seeking $200,000 in capital support from the city’s share of American Rescue Plan Act funding for COVID relief to aid its plans for a new building to better serve patients. Cawley said the $100,000 could be used by the clinic to buy medications or meet other day-to-day needs.

“I would really like to wait,” Yokeley said of considering the annual appropriation, explaining that he believes it needs additional study, which Koch and Wood agreed with particularly in light of the clinic’s pending American Rescue Plan Act request.

City Attorney Hugh Campbell also said the special appropriations involve a carefully controlled process of requirements and expectations that must be applied to Surry Medical Ministries in order for it to receive yearly funding.

A chance to visit beautiful gardens — while also supporting efforts to make public spaces more attractive in that regard — will be offered to area residents Saturday.

The Mount Airy Blooms tour will feature 10 different stops, including gardens of eight local homes. Those sites can be visited between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, with the event to be held rain or shine.

At one of the tour locations, the Blue House of the Gilmer-Smith Foundation at 615 N. Main St., Master Gardener demonstrations are planned and vendors also will be present there.

The tour is presented by Mount Airy garden clubs. It is held every other year, according to one of the organizers, Anne Webb.

Tickets for the tour cost $20 and can obtained at Webb Interiors on West Lebanon Street, Mount Airy Visitors Center downtown, Eventbrite.com or the various home sites involved on Saturday, including those of:

• Carla Kartanson at 1119 N. Main St.;

• Bonnie and Lane Hawks, 1301 N. Main St.;

• Kate and Mark Appler, 216 Robin Road;

• Debbie and Dennis Williams, 120 Greenbriar St., No. 1;

• Sue and Ronnie Kirkman, 129 Ashton Court;

• Judy and Lee Mills, 183 Lindsay Creed Lane;

• Capria and Pete Smith, 676 Matthews Road, Pilot Mountain;

In addition to those locations and the Blue House, the comfort station on Main Street is listed as a tour site.

Proceeds from the Mount Airy Blooms tour 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.

Proceeds also are targeted for the maintenance and upkeep of the mini-garden and fountain at the junction of North Main and Renfro streets and maintenance of the 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.

With the event to be held regardless of the weather, no refunds will be given, according to guidelines issued by organizers.

Well-supervised children ages 6 and older are welcome on the tour, with a ticket required for each.

No animals will be allowed, except service dogs.

Strollers, cars or motorized wheels are not permitted in the gardens, which also lack handicapped access.

No photography or sketching will be allowed at the sites.

When parking at homes, tour participants are urged to be courteous and park only along paved streets.

Restrooms will not be accessible at homes on the tour, with public facilities available in downtown Mount Airy at the comfort station and visitors center.

The Mount Airy Blooms tour is supported by various businesses, individuals and organizations including the local Garden Gate, Modern Gardeners and Mountain View garden clubs.

As part of the 50th Anniversary of the Mount Airy Blue Grass and Old-Time Fiddlers Convention this year, Surry Arts Council held increased the number of workshops it held this year — bringing in some new sessions and courses for fans.

Twenty-two musicians led 39 workshops from Tuesday through Friday at Veterans Park. The heat drove the workshops from the grandstand into the VFW Building during most of the week but on Friday, overcast skies permitted some of the workshops to be held outside.

Traditional music enthusiasts of all ages from North Carolina and beyond attended the workshops. Some took notes, some took videos, and several hundred just watched carefully and learned new songs and new techniques. There were more young people than ever before attending the workshops ensuring that the traditions will be preserved and passed on.

All these extra workshops were made possible with a grant to the Surry Arts Council from the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and Come Hear NC, and a subgrant to Veterans Park Inc from the Grassroots Program of the North Carolina Arts Council.

DOBSON — They might be small in number, but graduates of Surry Online Magnet School were told that their impact has been huge.

“You have trailblazed your way through education,” Kristin Blake, the principal of the school with Trailblazers as a mascot said to members of its Class of 2022 during their commencement ceremony Friday afternoon in Dobson.

“And everybody here today is proud of what you have accomplished,” Blake added during the gathering also attended by about 90 family members and friends of the graduates.

The name Trailblazers not only fits Surry Online Magnet School’s unique format compared to other institutions, allowing students the option of completing a high school education via strictly online means — stressing personalized learning through unique, flexible opportunities desired for various reasons.

It also applies to the fact that Friday’s graduation program was just the second in the history of the school that is still finding its way. This year’s class numbered 13, compared to seven in 2021.

The emergence of Surry Online Magnet School during the Pandemic Era was considered groundbreaking from both a state and local standpoint.

Continue to grow, speaker urges

It was appropriate that someone who was a key part of Surry Online Magnet School’s development was the special commencement speaker, Dr. Terri Mosley, a Surry County Schools retiree who is a former principal of North Surry High among other roles.

Mosley also is an eight-year member of the Surry County Board of Education who was chairing that body when the unique campus without a campus was founded.

And while Mosley congratulated its latest batch of graduates for their achievement Friday, she said during her address that their education should continue long after leaving with diplomas in hand.

“The real class is life,” Mosley said while pointing out that the graduates already had shown their character through community activities and other means. “While you were not perfect along the way, remember the job of learning is lifelong.”

If the seniors remember nothing else from her remarks, Mosley said she hoped it would be her message Friday afternoon that along with continuing to focus on their ABCs they shouldn’t forget the three Cs — change, choices and consequences.

In making the point about change, the speaker cited a statement from Gandhi, who said that individuals must be the change that they want to see in the world.

Mosley advised the Class of 2022 that the stage is now set for it “to change the world for the better.”

Regarding choices, she hopes the departing seniors will make more good ones than bad, with the consequences part of the three Cs highlighting the need to hold oneself accountable for his or her actions.

“As you take your walk down Memory Lane, take time to say thanks to those who helped you throughout that process,” Mosley concluded.

The seniors repeated a pledge during the program in which they vowed to view their diplomas as a sacred trust and “strive to bring honor to myself and my school.”

Due to the unique circumstances that characterize the lives of some Surry Online Magnet School class members, they already have gotten a taste of the adult world, said Blake, the principal.

This has included holding down full- or part-time jobs to support their families while also pursuing a diploma, she explained.

Their already hefty accomplishments will be joined by more in the future, according to Blake, who mentioned that two of the 13 graduates will be attending four-year colleges or universities, eight will take the community college route, two will be receiving vocational training and one is directly entering the workforce.

The fact that they have reached this point while overcoming challenges posed by COVID-19 is a special achievement in itself, the principal indicated.

“As we know, these last few years have been really hard.”

PILOT MOUNTAIN — “Pressure creates diamonds” was a theme of East Surry’s graduation ceremony for the Class of 2022.

A variety of obstacles during “these uncertain times” were piled on top of the usual trials of high school, testing 126 seniors in ways much different that many that came before them. The June 3 ceremony inside David H. Diamont Stadium commemorated the graduates’ resilience and brought to a close this portion of their lives.

“The metamorphic change we have all undergone in the last four years has been genuinely remarkable,” said Senior Class President Samuel Whitt. “Shy, timid freshmen have blossomed into confident, strong seniors, ready to take on the world with fervent vigor and zeal. We have grown not only athletically, academically and artistically, but have experienced tremendous personal growth and development.”

The Class of 2022 didn’t just scrape by in what Samuel referred to as the “masked elephant in the room.” They thrived, and many diamonds were created thanks to the myriad of challenges the class overcame.

According to Principal Shannon DuPlessis, the following statistics apply to East Surry’s Class of 2022. Of the 126 graduates:

As of Friday, East Surry’s 2022 graduates had been awarded more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants.

Following Whitt’s speech, Cardinals Sarah Taylor, Kaitlyn Wall, Mattison Wall, Sabrina Wilmoth and Riley Yard performed “Landslide,” by Fleetwood Mac.

Then came time for the presentation of diplomas. It was at this time that East Surry also recognized two particular students for their superlative academic accomplishments.

Rose Jeanette “Rosie” Craven was honored as the Class of 2022’s salutatorian. Craven attained the second-highest cumulative grade point average in the class: a weighted GPA of 4.65.

Cooper Wayne Motsinger was honored as the Class of 2022’s valedictorian. Motsinger attained the highest cumulative grade point average in the class: a weighted GPA of 4.76.

Cooper returned to the stage after all diplomas had been handed out. As student body president, Motsinger was privileged to give a speech at graduation; a speech, he joked, that he tried to ignore when running for the position the previous year.

Glancing out at a packed Diamont Stadium, Cooper admitted he was stepping out of his comfort zone by giving the speech. However, he used it to analogize the struggles he and his classmates overcame during their time at East Surry.

“Whether it be through stepping out of your comfort zone to adjust to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic or physically stepping up to the plate to help put East Surry in a state championship game, each of you have gotten here by being uncomfortable in one way or another,” he said. “I’m sure most of you have been on the receiving end of a signature Mrs. D death glare, so I know you know that feeling of being uncomfortable. In all seriousness, for that reason, being here today is an incredible achievement, and I want to congratulate you all on making it this far.”

As his speech came to a close, Cooper provided encouraging words to his fellow graduates as they prepare to embark on their new journeys.

“Today is a day that you probably won’t ever forget,” he said. “It marks the end of a large chapter of your life, and a new one awaits you after you toss that hat. For better or worse, you won’t ever hear that first period bell or Coach Hart yelling about some amendment from the other side of the school ever again. Our days on the field and in the student section are gone, and so are the nights trying to get an essay done before 11:59 p.m. But, the relationships and memories that we have formed here will last us a lifetime.

“I cannot wait to read each of your next chapters, and I wish you the best of luck with whatever you decide to write in them.”

The need for sustainability is discussed often these days, and a Mount Airy sock manufacturer has received statewide recognition for making that happen within its operations.

This involved Nester Hosiery recently being presented with a 2022 Manufacturing Leadership Award for Sustainable Manufacturing by the North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

The award program of that organization highlights companies for their commitment to the state’s industrial sector, as proven by outstanding performance in the areas of manufacturing excellence, sustainable manufacturing, innovation, workforce development and economic development/developing markets.

Nester Hosiery is a leading U.S. producer of performance merino wool socks and the parent company of the Farm to Feet sock brand.

“Sustainability is one of Nester Hosiery’s core tenants and we continually strive to improve our processes and systems to be the best global citizen we can be,” Anna Draughn, the company’s director of merchandising, said in a statement.

For example, in 2020 Nester Hosiery used 393,229 less kilowatt-hours of energy than it did in 2019 thanks to a number of energy-reduction programs including an air leak detection initiative on which it partnered with Surry Community College.

By identifying and repairing air leaks throughout Nester Hosiery’s production processes, it is estimated that the company could save 16,000 kilowatt-hours.

Along with reducing its plastic and cardboard usage, Nester has a strong internal recycling program and encourages employees lacking access to curbside recycling to bring recyclable materials from home.

In 2020, Nester Hosiery diverted 212.22 tons of those materials from the local landfill.

The company received formal recognition for its manufacturing excellence through such efforts at an awards ceremony in Durham in late May during an event called MFGCON.

It is known as North Carolina’s premier industrial conference that features the most up-to-date and relevant topics among influential manufacturing “thought leaders” in the state.

Nester Hosiery markets itself as the designer and manufacturer of the most innovative socks in the world, a key producer in the outdoor industry operating state-of-the-art knitting, finishing and packaging equipment to make premium outdoor performance socks.

It does so for leading outdoor brands and retailers as well as under its own Farm to Feet brand.

Nester Hosiery strives to have customers value the company’s manufacturing capabilities along with its commitment to social and environmental responsibility, while being an important employer and economic driver for this area.

The North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership is the official representative of the MEP National Network in North Carolina.

That network is a unique public-private partnership that delivers comprehensive, proven solutions to U.S. manufacturers, fueling growth and advancing domestic production.

Surry Communications was recently awarded a contract by Surry County to construct a fiber-based network to deliver broadband service to areas in the county that are categorized as either underserved or unserved.

This fiber installation is the largest part of the Invest in Surry program targeted toward a “last miles” initiative designed to get broadband into the final communities of the county where it is not being offered.

Spectrum and Surry Communications were the final bidders, with the proposal from Surry Communications being deemed by county manager Chris Knopf as more “responsive” to the county’s needs. Of $2 million set aside of Invest in Surry funds for broadband, Surry Communications will receive $1,690,373.

While many communities lack adequate connectivity needed to access healthcare, education, remote employment opportunities and business resources, the investment by the county demonstrates a sincere desire to bridge the digital divide that still exists within many rural areas, county officials said.

Commissioner Eddie Harris said, “This is money well spent form the Invest in Surry monies, and it goes a long way to help in areas in our county that would probably never receive broadband and if they did it would be many, many years.”

The areas identified for construction include State Road, Devotion, Round Peak area and Casper Stewart Road, and the lower southeast corner of Surry County. As part of the agreement, Surry Communications will provide a minimum of 100/100 Mbps high-speed Internet within the proposed fiber network area.

“Surry County is excited to provide these funds to agencies in the community that furnish critical services to the public,” County Board Chairman Bill Goins said. “Surry Communications will help Surry County improve its broadband connectivity, which is a great need for citizens and businesses in our community. This effort will upgrade quality of life and economic development opportunities, providing a better place to live and do business.”

“This is a broad public good for these monies and I think it helps our public-school children who have to access the internet, it helps businesses who may locate in rural communities. I am glad to see these monies going to area that are typically underserved in this regard, and it is taxpayers’ money well spent,” Harris echoed in April.

The remainder of the $2 million has been set aside for potential grant matches from the North Carolina Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) Program. The county set aside $309,627 in hopes that one, or all, of four companies who have applied for these grants may be awarded contracts to lay fiber broadband where current deployment plans will not reach.

Knopf explained, “What makes those applications stronger is that they would have a local match. We believe there would be four providers who may apply for GREAT Grants with the state, therefore would like to assist them in participating locally. The $309,627 would be enough if everyone were awarded.”

Applying for the GREAT grants are: Zitel LLC, Surry Communications, Charter Communications, and Connect Holding II, LLC dba Brightspeed. Knopf added there could be no predicting of those four who may get awarded a grant, but the county would be positioned to assist.

Aiding in the final deployment of fiber makes good sense, Todd Tucker of the Surry Economic Development Partnership said. “Access to high-speed internet is crucial in today’s economy. Not only does it connect business to each other and customers, it allows our small businesses to compete on a national level. It also opens up Surry County as a place to live and work from home if a person so desires.”

“We are very fortunate to live in a great community and have access to such needed services. I applaud the Surry County Board of Commissioners and Surry Communications for putting forth this effort. As Surry County continues to grow, this will be a helpful tool in strengthening our economy.”

Richie Parker, CEO of Surry Communications said, “We are honored to have the opportunity to help deploy a state-of-the-art fiber network to connect our rural communities. Having a reliable, high-speed connection is vital to the growth of our rural schools, businesses, healthcare systems and government facilities.”

Surry Communications is, “Not satisfied to maintain the status quo, the company continually seeks new opportunities to provide their customers and the residents of Surry County.”

It is a far cry from their start in 1954 with 192 co-op members over an eight-party line telephone system. Giving the remaining communities of Surry County the ability to access the internet at high speed will be a welcome change for some, and something never noticed by others.

Whether residents choose to access the significantly higher speeds that fiber connections allow will be up to the individual but having access will no longer be a roadblock.

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. Craftspeople and workers such as cobblers, seamstresses, milliners, and watchmakers/repairmen are not as common as they once were. Mount Airy has a long history of these forgotten trades and arts, especially watchmaking.

Watches have been dangled from and worn on our bodies for centuries. The term “watch” appears in a multitude of documents through the years. For example, sailors and hunting parties took turns on “watch.” Many cities and towns also had watchmen, whose job it was to keep time for the community. This profession helped to keep work shifts running smoothly; they served as one big community alarm clock.

Some sources suggest that the first portable watches appeared sometime in the 15th century. These spring-driven watches needed to be wound in order to keep time. Issues such as accuracy and longevity drove horologists, a term used to describe individuals who work on timepieces or apparatuses professionally, to continue tinkering with the technology of the mechanisms themselves.

The late 18th century saw new technologies invented that aided in the cutting and manufacturing of time structural pieces that make watches work. Wristwatches entered the scene early, with Queen Elizabeth the first being gifted an arm watch in 1571, however wristwatches as we know them were not that common until military men began to wear them just after the First World War. Imagine, having to pull out a pocket watch on the battlefield.

After this time, almost everyone would have had a timepiece, and it was no easy job keeping the mechanisms working. At one time, after WW2, Mount Airy alone had more than 21 watchmakers. One of the more famed watchmakers from Mount Airy was Foye Lester Dawson (1923-2006).

Dawson owned and operated his own watch shop on Virginia Street in Downtown Mount Airy. Dawson’s Watch Repair Shop was in operation for 34 years. Inside you could see him with eyes sharp, working diligently over a timepiece illuminated by the work lamp he kept on his desk.

Dawson learned the horology trade through the North Carolina School of Watchmaking in Greensboro. After WW2 the U.S. Army offered training in various occupations for disabled veterans, watchmaking being one of those programs. He began his long career working in another shop for 23 years before venturing out on his own. His career in the watchmaking business lasted for 57 years. He was the longest, as well as the last, licensed watchmaker in Mount Airy.

While finding watchmakers on your Main Street is now uncommon, they still can be found. Several organizations still teach the art of horology, training up a generation of makers. The American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute is dedicated to continuing the long history of horologists in the United States. North Carolina also has two chapters of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors that hold meetings to keep this history alive.

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, extension 229.

The Mount Airy Bluegrass and Old Time Fiddler’s Convention is often described by many as a family reunion of sorts, with folks from up and down the East Coast, as well as across the nation and even a few from other lands, descending on the town during the first weekend of June.

Once in Mount Airy, they gather, laughing and joking, telling stories, playing in jam sessions, catching up with one another. Many consider their fiddler’s convention buddies good friends, even though this might be the only time of year they see one another.

That was no different this past weekend, when the convention celebrated its 50th anniversary at Veterans Memorial Park. But there was something different this time as well — plenty of folks visiting who had never been to the event.

“We used to go to Union Grove,” said Butch Bost, who was strumming his guitar with friend Kenny Garren, who was playing a banjo. There, over the Memorial Day weekend, tens of thousands of musicians and fans would often gather, but over the years those crowds dwindled, and about a decade ago the festival closed down.

“We’ve had friends who used to go to Union Grove who come here, to Mount Airy,” he said, adding that they had encouraged Bost and Garren to visit the Granite City.

“He finally retired,” Bost said, motioning toward his lifelong friend, Garren. So, the two, who live in Fuquay-Varina, decided to visit the Mount Airy fiddlers’ convention this year.

“We’ll be back,” he said, adding the two had been impressed with the atmosphere and the musicians in Mount Airy.

“We just saw it advertised online,” said Tom Weierick. He and his wife, Jenn, were sitting among music fans Saturday, while their three children — Genevieve, Veronica and Juliet — took turns sitting in their laps, crawling down to play, and climbing along the bleachers.

The family, from Cary, drove in Friday evening to take in the concert that night and the rest of the convention on Saturday. “We just thought we’d drive up and see it,” he said. “It’s been really great. We’ve enjoyed it.”

First-timers were not limited to fans and casual musicians — many of those taking part in the various contests had never been to Mount Airy, either.

“I don’t know,” said Margo MacSweeny, a 12-year-old from Floyd, Virginia, who had just stepped off the stage after competing with her banjo, when discussing her reason for traveling to Mount Airy. “Mac just asked me if I wanted to go and compete, and I figured why not?”

The “Mac” is Mac Traynham, a music teacher who works at the Handmade Music School at the Old Country Store in Floyd.

“I’ve been teaching there for three years,” he said, making the offer of accompanying several of his students to Mount Airy each spring. None took him up on it until this year, when Margo decided to visit the convention to play.

Dakota Karper, from Capon Bridge, West Virginia, was in town to compete as well, and this was her first time at the Mount Airy gathering, although in her case there was more than just playing which brought her to town.

“I had this fiddle made in Kentucky,” she said, holding a nice, new instrument she had just used on stage during the musical competition. “I could drive all the way to Kentucky to get it, or, since he was coming to the convention, I could just meet him here and get it.”

The drive was worth it, she said.

“This is really a nice convention. I’ll be back again, for sure.”

Even one of the local volunteers helping staff the musician event was a first-timer.

“I’ve never done this before,” said Wanda Crabb, who along with Bobbie Easter were selling t-shirts and other wares for the festival, serving as information guides and helping those who were in town for the event.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed being here,” she said in between laughs and jokes shared with friends and strangers alike. “The people here, everyone I’ve talked to, are so friendly and nice.”

With all of the first-time visitors joining the regulars, convention organizer Doug Joyner said on Saturday the event had been a good one.

“It’s been great,” he said. “The weather’s been good, just about perfect, we’ve had a lot of people who come every year coming back this year.” Last year, he explained many of them were not able to travel to Mount Airy because of COVID-related travel restrictions. The year before, of course, the event was cancelled.

“They started coming in last Thursday and Friday,” he said of the fans who came in with campers and set up for several days of living at the park. He meant the last Thursday and Friday in May — more than a week before the festival officially began. “We’ve had a good crowd.”

The results of the convention’s musical and dance competition were not available at press time, but will be published in an upcoming edition of The Mount Airy News. For more information on Surry Arts Council workshops held during the convention, see page B2 of today’s paper.

North Surry High School held commencement exercises Saturday, June 4, for the graduating class of 2022.

A sunny morning was on tap for the graduates along with their family and friends. After opening remarks from North Surry principal Dr. Paige Badgett, student body president Nydia Cabrera spoke to the graduates.

She acknowledged that she and her classmates had missed a sense of normalcy over the last two years. For showing strength and the “perseverance to complete this four-year rollercoaster,” she told the graduates she was proud of them.

It was not always an easy road for her either, “Personally, it wasn’t an easy four years, there were plenty of difficult nights when I was overwhelmed; but, just like the times I would lose my mom in Walmart, I reassure myself it will be ok. It always works out in the end.”

To the staff she offered, “Our school would be nothing without our hard-working office, guidance, nursing, and lunchroom staff. Especially our custodians, they are some of the most hard-working people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.”

Educators had to roll with the punches of the pandemic, and the changing nature of their roles in general. “You didn’t sign up for a pandemic that completely changed your teaching methods; or a climate where we have lockdown drills, and you are a line of defense,” she said.

“I care more about your mental health and happiness than bubbles on a scantron. I am very grateful for the guidance and support of my teachers.”

Senior class president Jacey Ward addressed the student body with the message “Once a Greyhound, always a Greyhound.”

“I know it gets tossed around all the time, but I think that saying actually holds true to all of us here today. Lots of us were born Greyhounds, parents, grandparents, or siblings were Greyhounds and you remember imagining your high school experience being at North Surry.” Even for those not born into it, she said that making it through the trials and tribulations of freshman year bring everyone into the fold.

She recalled memories from the years before things went askew thanks to Covid. Extracurricular activities helped mold students into the people they have become today, as have the staff of North Surry. Ward said, “They are why you are where you are today.”

There were good times to be had like the “only true Mount Airy versus North Surry football game.” While North Surry lost, a trip to Cook Out soothed the sting of the loss. “These are all memories that cannot be erased because you are truly a Greyhound.”

As the senior class president, she joked she would see them all at the reunion, but left the class of 2022 with the following, “Giving back and appreciating this place, this community, and these people is what makes you always a Greyhound.”

“Always being a Greyhound in the future means that we need to represent this place well as we become proud alumni.”

There will be additional coverage of the North Surry High School graduation in Tuesday’s print edition of The Mount Airy News.

North Surry High School held its commencement exercises Saturday for the graduating class of 2022 at Charles D. Atkins Memorial Stadium under a sunny clear sky.

“We are gathered in the beautiful place on this beautiful morning to celebrate an accomplishment that will last a lifetime,” North Surry principal Dr. Paige Badgett said. The 156 graduating seniors were completing what she called a wonderful 13-year journey.

For her part, Badgett had begun at 8:30 a.m. on the dot, corralling the students in the gymnasium and reminding them of their order and placement. It was her last time to lead these students before giving them the final stamp of approval signifying they have met the requirements to graduate.

It was a formal ceremony, she reminded them, one that is a shared experience for the graduates and all in attendance so best manners were expected. A reminder to pay attention, mind the placement of their tassels, and directions to make crisp clean turns on the field because “it looks better” followed. Soon though, the Junior Marshals had the graduates queued up for their march and it was out of her hands.

The Greyhound graduates-to-be were met on their walk to the football field by the dedicated teachers and staff members from the school who supported and coaxed them along the way.

Before the staff were seen – they were heard, making boisterous cheers from outside that grew only louder as the line of students continued by. High fives elicited ones in return, hoots met hollers, and smiles signified the journey was nearing its end for the class of 2022.

A stirring rendition of the National Anthem from Greyhound Sounds set the mood before Dr. Badgett did the requisite heaping of praise onto graduates who she called, “an outstanding group of young people.”

Among the graduating class she reported 73% are planning to continue their education with 21% planning to attend a four-year college or university and 52% a two-year program. The track after graduation is leading 14% of the graduates directly to the work force, while 4% will be joining the armed services.

In the ranks of the graduates were 39 North Carolina Academic Scholar graduates, 40 National Honor Society members, as well as 54 National Technical Honor Society members. Between the graduates they have been awarded $4,264,000 in scholarship dollars.

“This group of seniors are special group of young people who will undoubtedly leave their mark on our community, our state, and our great nation and they embark on their own unique journey,” Badgett said before introducing Student Body president Nydia Cabrera to address her peers.

She acknowledged that she and her classmates had missed a sense of normalcy over the past two years. For showing strength and the “perseverance to complete this four-year rollercoaster,” she told the graduates she was proud of them.

It was not always an easy road for her either, “Personally, it wasn’t an easy four years, there were plenty of difficult nights when I was overwhelmed; but, just like the times I would lose my mom in Walmart, I reassure myself it will be ok. It always works out in the end.”

To the staff she offered, “Our school would be nothing without our hard-working office, guidance, nursing, and lunchroom staff. Especially our custodians, they are some of the most hard-working people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.”

Educators had to roll with the punches of the pandemic, and the changing nature of their roles in general. “You didn’t sign up for a pandemic that completely changed your teaching methods; or a climate where we have lockdown drills, and you are a line of defense.

“I care more about your mental health and happiness than bubbles on a scantron. I am very grateful for the guidance and support of my teachers.”

Nydia, who was a multi-sport athlete while staying active in charitable work, will be entering the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to study computer science with 52 credit hours packed along with her fall semester essentials.

Senior class president Jacey Ward addressed the student body with the message: “Once a Greyhound, always a Greyhound.”

“I know it gets tossed around all the time, but I think that saying actually holds true to all of us here today. Lots of us were born Greyhounds, parents, grandparents, or siblings were Greyhounds and you remember imagining your high school experience being at North Surry.”

She recalled memories from the years before things went askew thanks to COVID. How early high school extracurricular activities helped mold students into the people they have become today. She chose activates such as cheerleading and the tennis team while also being active with blood drives to give back.

Not only the senior class president, she also held the office of Western District Vice Chair for the North Carolina Association of Student Councils. She did this while still achieving Summa Cum Laude status with 27 college credits following her to Greensboro.

There were good times to be had like the “only true Mount Airy versus North Surry football game.” While North Surry lost, a trip to Cook Out soothed the sting of the loss. “These are all memories that cannot be erased because you are truly a Greyhound.”

For Jacey, the future is taking her to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to study in their respected apparel design program. To be in a position to enter the next chapter of her life, she gave thanks to all the educators and staff who helped her.

She asked the graduates to remember the same holds true for them, “They are why you are where you are today.”

As the senior class president, she joked she would see them all at the reunion, but left the class of 2022 with the following, “Giving back and appreciating this place, this community, and these people is what makes you always a Greyhound.

“Always being a Greyhound in the future means that we need to represent this place well as we become proud alumni.”

DOBSON — The recent primary election on May 17 served to whittle the field of candidates heading into the fall general election, which has since been increased by five office seekers who are taking the unaffiliated route.

In addition to the usual filings by those on the Democratic and Republican tickets for the 2022 election cycle, an option also existed for others to find places on the general election ballot without party labels attached to their names.

This is allowed by state law, which requires a nomination-by-petition process for unaffiliated candidacies to result.

In order to be on the general election ballot as unaffiliated office-seekers, candidates had to garner signatures amounting to 4% of Surry’s registered voters as of Jan. 1, which was 1,876.

A petition request form also had to be presented to the Surry County Board of Elections before candidates obtained signatures, which were due on May 17 — the day of the primary. Those names then were certified, including verifying that they are registered voters in the county and examining the signatures.

When petitioners obtain their required number of names and the petitions are certified, the process calls for the candidate to pay the appropriate filing fee, if necessary, with the elections office having each complete a notice of candidacy via petition.

With all that accomplished, county Director of Elections Michella Huff this week released a complete list of the unaffiliated candidates who cleared the hurdles.

• Frank Beals, a financial adviser in Elkin who is running for the South District seat on the Surry County Board of Commissioners now held by Republican Eddie Harris. Harris, a resident of the State Road community, won a GOP primary last month against Tessa Saeli of Elkin.

• Melissa Key Atkinson, a sitting member of the Surry County Board of Education who resides in the Copeland community. The retiree of Surry Community College was appointed in early January to the District 3 post on the school board, also known as its South District seat, to complete the unexpired term of Earlie Coe, who had resigned in November.

Meanwhile, two Republicans filed for that seat for purposes of the primary, won by Kent Whitaker of Dobson.

• Debbie Brown, an unaffiliated candidate for the Elkin Board of Education’s West District seat, for which Jennifer Kleinhekse, a Republican, was the only candidate filing to run in the primary.

• Will Ballard, who is seeking a City District seat on the Elkin school board.

• Mary Keller, another candidate for a City District slot on the Elkin Board of Education.

That district includes two seats, for which four Republicans had tossed their hats into the ring before the primary, won by Johnny M. Blevins and Earl M. Blackburn.

Huff, the county elections director, reminded Thursday that individuals were not required to change their party affiliation to run as unaffiliated-by-petition candidates.

But Atkinson did alter her status from Democratic to unaffiliated in February, which also was the case for Brown.

Ballard is unaffiliated, while Beals continues to be allied with the Republican Party and Keller, the Democratic Party.

Saturday morning was bright and clear across Mount Airy — but nowhere was that more vivid than on the football field at Mount Airy High School.

There, more than 130 seniors were gathered for their graduation, accompanied by enough family, friends, and school staff to nearly fill the stadium to capacity. While some of the remarks from students and faculty talked of their past and their years in the city school system, most of the focus was on the bright, hopeful future awaiting the graduates.

“The possibilities are limitless for us, as long as we believe in ourselves,” said valedictorian Calissa Watson during her address to her classmates and the audience. She encouraged her classmates to go out into the world and, no matter their career or life choices, to “work hard and have no regrets.”

“Don’t let the fear of falling keep you from soaring,” Class President Olivia Phillips encouraged her fellow graduates.

Cass Salutatorian Dylan Tilley brought quite a bit of humor to his speech, eliciting peals of laughter from the audience. First, he said he had procrastinated in drawing up his remarks so long he had forgotten what the subject was to be — and only got a reminder Thursday, two days before graduation.

Then, most of his comments were built around how his talk could be compared to the Hollywood PG ratings —which, he said, allow for some profanity, some depictions of violence, and even brief nudity, none of which his talk contained.

After a few more laughter-inducing lines, Dylan offered this encouragement to his classmates: “No matter what comes next, take some time to live a little…Give’m hell Class of 2022.”

“I’m the proud superintendent of Mount Airy City Schools,” Kim Morrison said when she took the podium to make her remarks shortly before Principal Jason Dorsett oversaw the presentation of the diplomas.

Morrison commented on how she and others with the school system have watched the graduates, from their first days walking into BH Tharringon Primary School, grow up — many becoming involved in sports and academic teams, school clubs, church youth groups, community projects, and a host of other activities as they grew into young women and men.

She told those gathered for the ceremony Saturday that the graduating seniors had been awarded more than $3.5 million in scholarship money for college, with 79% of the students planning to continue their education in community college or at a four-year institute. Another 19%, she said, will be entering the workforce, while 2% have committed to joining the military.

“You have overcome challenges, accomplished great things…you have stood up for what you believe,” she said of the 2022 graduates.

Those experiences and growth have all blended together, carrying the graduates to this point in their lives.

“Go out and make your future…you are the light” in a world that is often dark, she said. “Your light is important every day.”

After having the graduates stand in different groups — those who have completed 160 hours or more of community service, those who had earned honors with their graduation, and other accomplishments — the moment they had all waited for arrived.

Over the next 45 or so minutes was a procession of seniors, each coming up as their name was called, accepting their diploma, then leaving the stage a high school graduate, ready to move on and make their mark in the world.

DOBSON — Those attending Surry Central High School’s graduation ceremony Thursday evening who expected the usual “today is the first day of the rest of your life” message instead heard a variation.

“Many people say today is the day we started our journey, but I disagree,” Senior Class President Kimberly Gomez Godinez told a crowd packed into the school gym.

“Our journey started a long time ago,” added Godinez, who was among 140 SCHS grads in black and gold gowns listed as receiving diplomas Thursday night and one of two student speakers on the program.

She indicated that some of her classmates had endured the usual modern laundry list of family and other hardships just to reach this point in their lives, and says much thanks are due parents and guardians playing a role in this.

“And then to top this off, we got COVID,” Godinez said of the unusual situation posed by the pandemic at Surry Central and many more educational settings in recent years — which became part of their “journey” into Real World events.

“The end of our sophomore year approached and we got sent home with no hope of returning,” she mentioned while recalling conditions in the spring of 2020 when strict bans on public gatherings were in force and online learning was the rule.

“Our school has been through a lot over the last three years,” Student Body President Cannon James Gates agreed when later delivering his address from the commencement stage.

The senior recounted the days of not being able to see friends and classmates during an extended period of COVID isolation with schools shut down, and then having to social distance once being allowed to return.

Yet there was a silver lining added to the SCHS Golden Eagles’ black and gold color scheme during the coronavirus days, according to Godinez.

Because of that, the students became more unified, she said, along with being toughened by the experiences of surviving an unprecedented time in history for society as a whole — posed by a disease that didn’t respect the walls or fences protecting campuses.

“We realized how resilient we are — I wish my classmates, my friends, the best of luck, but you won’t need it,” Godinez stated proudly.

After reading her speech in English, the graduating senior repeated it verbatim in Spanish, which she said highlighted the diversity achieved at the high school located in the center of Dobson. The roster of graduates includes many with Latino surnames.

The doses of realism served up at Thursday night’s event were accompanied by the obligatory remarks celebrating the milestone being achieved by the seniors.

Someone had to offer the usual commencement pep talk for the program, and that was Principal Misti Holloway.

“You rose to challenges along your educational journey and you conquered them,” Holloway said to the departing seniors before later assisting with the presentation of their diplomas, referencing deaths in the family and other setbacks faced.

“We are gathering in this place to celebrate an accomplishment that will last a lifetime,” the principal observed. “Graduation from high school signifies a new beginning in our lives.”

For some, that means continuing one’s education, but about 40 of the graduates plan to go directly into the workforce, according to Holloway.

Gates, the student body president — who is heading to East Carolina University to major in communications — said that during the journey by him and fellow Golden Eagles, they have been equipped with what’s needed to “soar into the Real World.”

He also offered a bit of nostalgia to highlight the bittersweetness of students’ transition, referring to a statement by the Andy Bernard character on the television series “The Office”:

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in ‘the good old days,’ before you’ve actually left them.”

Surry County has the honor of having been selected as the pilot for a new program that is designed to support communities in furthering an understanding of how public systems and structures influence adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). This understanding is meant to help identify ways to strengthen systems and build community resilience to prevent such experiences.

Strengthening Systems for North Carolina Children (SYNC) is a training opportunity that is being coordinated by the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center and the NC Department of Health and Human Services’ Injury and Violence Prevention Branch.

The idea was to bring into the same room people from around the area who would not traditionally be working on issues such as these. NCDHHS and UNC are facilitating along with stakeholders from Surry County to find ways to change outcomes in lives of children and families.

There were three main categories under which adverse childhood experiences fell abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. SYNC team members are trying to find ways to intervene in repeating cycles like substance abuse, financial insecurity, and incarceration that can have long term negative impact on children.

The pilot team representing Surry County is made up of a mixture of health professionals, county employees, representatives from local organizations with a vested interest in like Surry Friends of Youth or Shepherd’s House and members of the community at large.

Community teams participated in workshops during which they learned how to use a tool called causal loop diagramming to create a map of systems that may influence ACEs in their community. The causal loop looks at the relationship between reinforcing patters versus ones that try to bring balance to systems.

They used this map to begin identifying key points of the system they will target to build resistance to and mitigation of ACEs. The purpose of this diagram is to help think through ways to strengthen systems that contribute to protective factors against these childhood experiences and disrupt systems that contribute to risk factors for experiencing such trauma.

The map can help guide questions like: what are the common factors that continue to drive people to substance abuse? Are there flaws in the systems that perpetuate the repeating of outcomes across generations? The systems model would look at the justice system and whether there needs to be a new approach like drug courts and juvenile courts to lower the population in the jails, for example.

After completion of the workshops, teams will have the skills needed to update their map and keep their prevention work moving forward. Teams will also receive one year of technical assistance after completion of the workshops so that when the training session is over, the action plan is not lost into the wind.

One of the main goals is to create a shared language for this community to approach ACEs and their mitigation. By using the “systems lens” to see how dynamic and complex systems like criminal justice or education can impact childhood experiences, SYNC participants will be able to identify common root causes in Surry County. Furthermore, those root causes will then need to be prioritized to see where the most impact can be made.

The Surry County group chose a variety of root causes with the most votes going to substance abuse, access to healthcare (including mental health), and economic factors. Knowing what the root cause was may allow them to find weak spots, places where a little effort from a third party could alter someone’s trajectory.

Food insecurity, for example, may be one of the root causes leading to Shelly not doing well in school. Her empty stomach makes paying attention in class hard and her grades have now suffered. Her grades were so poor, she got held back a year which led to frustration, and she dropped out.

If there had been in intervention along the way, if a third-party community group, church group or county agency had given her family some food assistance, she would have paid better attention, stayed in school, and from there she would be on a new path.

Groups with higher risk for the adverse childhood experiences include multi-racial, Black and Hispanic; those with less than a high school education; or who are below the poverty line; are unemployed; and those who identify as LGBT.

SYNC cites a Harvard study that “toxic stress weakens the architecture of the developing brain leading to long term consequences for learning, behavior, and both physical and mental health.”

“The consequences of ACEs can be passed down from one generation to the next if children don’t have protective buffers like positive childhood experiences or a caring adult in their lives,” a CDC report concurred.

The CDC also said preventing ACEs can help children and adults thrive and potentially lower conditions like depression while improving education and future job potential. They also point to a lowering in risky behaviors like smoking and drinking, all of which in turn may reduce the risk of passing behaviors on to the next generation.

In their 2019 Vital Signs report, the CDC went on to say that a significant potential reduction in negative outcomes in a broad swath of health area can be see including diabetes, cancer, asthma, and stroke.

Identifying who may be at risk and what common risk factors are will be helpful in finding novel ways to reduce adverse childhood experiences and improve the long-term prospect for children’s’ mental and physical wellbeing.

Surry County competed against several other counties and was selected for SYNC because of the needs of the community as well as the preparedness of the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery to implement the program. For more information contact Charlotte Reeves, Substance Abuse Community Outreach Specialist at 336-401-8218.

Ahead of Monday night’s meeting of the Surry County Board of County Commissioners, the county manager’s office released the following statement Friday:

Anyone in a wheelchair or with mobility issues wanting to speak at the June 6 Surry Board of County Commissioners meeting during the open forum or public hearings should report to the Surry County Service Center, 915 E. Atkins Street, Dobson, prior to 6 p.m., where they can make comments during the meeting virtually.

The elevator in the Historic Courthouse is unavailable due to a maintenance project.

Citizens have a chance to weigh in on Mount Airy’s proposed budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year during a public hearing today.

The hearing, required as part of the annual city budgeting process, will be held during a 6 p.m. meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.

City Manager Stan Farmer released the preliminary spending plan on May 19 and it has been available for public review in the Municipal Building since.

Budget elements that tend to spark concern among local residents — projected increases in the property tax rate or water-sewer charges — are not forecast for the next fiscal year that begins on July 1.

The proposed budget calls for the tax rate to stay at 60 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, in addition to no utility hikes. That tax rate has been in place since 2018, when city property taxes were raised by 25%

No tax hike is proposed despite the 2022-23 spending plan, totaling $18,437,250, being about 24% higher than the budget adopted in June 2021 for the present fiscal year, $14.9 million. It also is 7% above the adjusted spending plan for this year, which totaled $17,232,929 as of late March.

Those figures pertain to Mount Airy’s general fund spending, with the city maintaining a separate water-sewer budget that is supported by user fees under an enterprise fund arrangement. It is put at $7,409,750 for 2022-23.

The reason for the much-higher general fund package is the inclusion of about $3.2 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding allocated to Mount Airy as part of a nationwide COVID-relief package.

Most of that money is earmarked for a long list of projects to be undertaken during the next fiscal year mainly including major building and equipment needs at City Hall, Reeves Community Center and elsewhere.

These have a total price tag of nearly $3 million, part of total capital investment fund expenditures projected at $4.43 million. This will enable the city to make needed facility improvements while also providing non-profit appropriations “to maximize community offerings,” Farmer states in a budget message.

It is proposed that $128,500 be taken from Mount Airy’s fund balance, or savings, to help finance the American Rescue Plan Act-designated projects.

Personnel costs account for 55% of the proposed general fund budget, with full-time municipal employees recommended to receive a $1,500 raise for the next fiscal year.

One area of the preliminary budget that could generate some public hearing comments concerns special annual appropriations.

These are allocated to outside agencies that, while not part of city government, play vital roles in the community.

Last year this included $87,500 for the Surry Arts Council, $103,650 to the Mount Airy Public Library, $10,000 for Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, $7,500 to the Mount Airy Rescue Squad and $10,000 for Mount Airy-Surry County Airport, a total of $218,650.

For 2022-23, only the rescue squad ($7,500) and airport ($20,000) are listed for funding.

In lieu of a special appropriation, $206,996 is proposed for much-needed repairs to the Andy Griffith Playhouse, which houses the Surry Arts Council, and $197,322 for the library under the same scenario. Both buildings are owned by the municipality although the council and library operations are not under the municipal umbrella.

On the heels of the public hearing, the commissioners typically hold a special budget session later in June to discuss related issues and subsequently adopt the spending plan for the next fiscal year.

Lacking any pronounced drama, the primary elections came and went in Surry County. The votes were tabulated and results for the evening were complete by 10 p.m.

Following the vote was a quick count and prompt posting of results; there have been no complaints from victors or their competitors of shenanigans. The primary followed a plan that was executed by professionals and volunteer poll workers who took their duties seriously, County elections chair Michella Huff said.

“I describe that as a successful election where much planning and many hours of preparing by our staff and our dedicated poll workers, together resulted in the desired outcome.”

As it was a midterm, participation rates were expected to be significantly lower than those in a presidential cycle. She reported 9,549 of 46,864 eligible voters cast a ballot in a Surry County election – signifying a 20.38% participation rate. This was an increase from the 18.48% of the 2018 primary.

By comparison, presidential election year turnouts are much higher numbers, even in the primary: in 2020 the primary turnout was 28.16% and 2016 it was a robust rate of 34.56%.

Of the higher primary turnout this year Huff explained, “We expected a slight increase in participation with Mount Airy municipal races being held at the same time as the statewide primary for the first time.”

“Also, the election calendar changed from March 8 to May 17. This would have been the second time for a March primary in Surry County since the Senate changed from May to March in June 2018 with Senate Bill 655.”

The election itself went smoothly, she reported. “Mount Airy’s one stop early voting location held the top spot in early voting participation, which is not atypical but again, that was to be expected because of the municipal offices of mayor and commissioners.”

Some of the atypical was taken into consideration and attempts were made to anticipate problems that could arise. “We had put some additional safety measures in place for our workers and equipment in case we had any unusual activity, everything went according to plans, and all arrived safely back to Dobson in a timely and efficient manner.”

“Elections are like any other big event; you work and prepare all year long and the big day consumes the lives of our staff for two months straight where we do our very best to make sure things are in line for a smooth election day and night.”

After the primary, the county board of elections must do its own canvassing of the results. Huff explained, “Election night results are unofficial until the day of canvass. During the 10-day canvass period each county BOE determines the votes have been counted and tabulated correctly which then results in the official election results.”

This period allows her office to conduct some poll site sampling to authenticate results. “We held a sample hand-to-eye hand count from two election sites. This was open to the public and was done by three bipartisan teams of poll workers. All voting methods are audited during the canvass period, absentee by mail, early voting, election day and provisional.”

Concerns in the many weeks leading up to the primary, and the reason for a special presentation to the commissioners on election integrity on primary eve, had to do with the security and sanctity of the vote.

Some questioned if people were manipulating the system whether it be locally, in Raleigh, in corporate headquarters of voting machine makers, or the tabulation services themselves to influence elections.

During recent discussions about the voting process and what may be wrong with it, the underlying message was a lack of trust in the process. Speakers at the board of commissioners’ meetings spoke of a growing disconnect between voters and the process.

In March was the much-discussed conversation between Huff, Republican party chair Keith Senter, and Dr. Douglas Frank, a known figure for largely unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. At that time there was a denied request to inspect voting machines, and other claims of irregularities in voting records and turnout numbers.

Huff advised what paths of recourse were available which were, and remain, to file a claim with the county board of elections of voter registration errors; or, to contact the state board of elections with claims of election fraud.

These challenge avenues were used, Huff said, “We had two challenge hearings scheduled for 9 a.m. on the day of canvass. One was a residence dispute, and one was to determine and edit results for two voters voting twice.” For those raising charges against the integrity of the process, three individual instances are indeed not zero, they do though represent 0.03% of all votes cast.

On primary day, there were issues and confusions which she explained are not out of the ordinary. “Primaries seem to always bring a bit of confusion for voters in that they cannot chose which ballot style they would like to vote if they are registered with a party.”

“In a partisan primary, voters affiliated with a political party may only vote their party’s ballot and may not vote in another party’s primary. Approximately half of our provisional voter’s reason were because of voting wrong party ballot.”

As the primaries are a dress rehearsal for the general election in the fall, the team at the board of elections knew the playbook and showed they were ready for prime time. With a lot of extra attention on them and the process, Huff said her team delivered.

“I will say that all staff and poll workers persevered in a most difficult time in the weeks leading up to and even through the night before the election because we believe in ensuring Surry County voters have safe, secure and transparent elections and we will continue to strive for that as it is our duty.”

While Livia Livengood is a career educator who can speak four languages, her multi-talented background established over the years did not include being an expert baker.

However, that changed in recent months with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has been accompanied by the local resident spending much time around the oven in addition to her teaching job at Mount Airy High School.

Livenwood, who hails from Romania, was so touched by the plight of Ukrainian refugees that she began baking and selling bread from the kitchen of her home to help them financially. And at last report, that effort had generated more than $12,000 — including 142 loaves as of Monday afternoon.

“I just wanted to do something to help,” said Livengood, who has worked at the high school for 16 years, presently teaching Spanish.

Though her bread-making charity project coincided with the Russian attack on Ukraine, she was not exactly a novice in the baking department although it was a skill learned only relatively recently.

“I’m not (a baker by tradition),” Livengood said without hesitation, explaining that the embracing of that role stemmed from her own family’s needs as a result of the pandemic.

“You didn’t know if you were going to find bread in the store,” she explained.

So after the Ukrainian invasion, Livengood naturally turned to her newfound baking abilities as a way to aid the refugees, initially generating a tidy sum in one week via that method for a UNICEF program. “I was surprised to raise $400.”

Earlier, she and daughter Laura, 16, had baked bread together to provide agility components for a local dog park spearheaded by Rotary Club members.

Livengood’s Ukrainian assistance ratcheted up quite a bit after seeing refugees up close and personal rather than as just as random individuals on television.

This occurred due to some taking refuge in her native country Romania, located in the same part of the world as Ukraine, who struck a chord with the local woman upon witnessing them.

A German pastor of a church in Romania who was taking care of an initial 17 refugees, including a number of kids, posted a photo of the group. “He is putting them up in the German parochial church,” Livengood said.

“I saw the children and thought, ‘I need to do more for the children,”’ she added concerning the expanding of her Ukrainian aid efforts, while also mentioning that many worthwhile organizations are providing assistance.

“This pastor is the brother of one of my best friends from high school,” Livengood explained. “He did not even ask for help, he just posted the picture, and I was saddened by that — I just wanted to do something to help.”

Consumer prices are much higher in Romania than here, according to the Mount Airy High teacher.

“Everything is double there,” Livengood related, including an electric bill of $2,000 per month where the refugees have been housed. “I don’t know how people there survive and make it, it costs so much to live.”

Thousands of dollars were spent just to bring the refugees over from Ukraine.

Livia Livengood suddenly found herself juggling the teaching job at Mount Airy High School with a growing bread-making sideline, which certainly involved a marketable product, given her previous fundraising success for UNICEF and the dog park. “Everybody likes bread.”

This eventually would include baking four to six loaves per day in her kitchen at home. “It’s a yeast bread,” she said of the product involved. “It looks and tastes like sourdough.”

The process is not as easy as it might sound, with the bread dough having to be set up at the end of each day, Livengood advised. “And it rises during the night.” The dough also must be kneaded, with the baking done in the mornings before the teacher heads to school.

There was one occasion in which Livengood overtaxed her oven and almost set the house on fire. “That was a bad idea,” she admits, which also included burning all four loaves baking at the time.

Her family has been quite understanding about the undertaking, she indicated, which in addition to her daughter includes husband Rob and son Luca, 14.

Livia and Rob met in 2001 when he was overseas serving with the Peace Corps. She came to Mount Airy in 2004.

“I have been teaching at the high school for 16 years,” said Livengood, who along with now instructing Spanish also taught German for a couple of years. Overall, she speaks those two languages, plus English and Romanian.

After running at maximum production, the baking operation gradually has scaled down, going from four to two loaves daily and now about two every other day.

“Right now it’s very manageable,” Livengood said.

“The response was very overwhelming — in a very positive way,” Livengood said of the bread-making campaign. The order/sales process for loaves has been conducted through a Facebook page she maintains to aid the Ukrainians.

This was bolstered by the many followers she has amassed over the years, including former students and others. “I do have quite a following, which helps.”

A suggested charge, or donation, for each loaf is $20, with the option of paying more — due to the extra motivation of assisting a downtrodden people rather than just getting one’s full money’s worth.

“Some give $20 and some give $100 — it’s up to people what they want to give,” Livengood said. “A lot of people just wanted the bread.”

Besides its sales, contributions to assist the Ukrainians have come in other ways.

Livengood mentioned being at a charity event to promote their cause earlier this year at Miss Angel’s Farm. “A total stranger gave me $500.”

Central Methodist Church also donated $1,000.

Meanwhile, Donna Bailey has been baking cinnamon rolls in support of the fundraiser, and Harlan Stone has baked a couple of loaves of bread for the effort.

Some people have donated flour, including Chris Wishart, the chef at Old North State Winery, who gave a 60-pound bag. The Xi Alpha Pi Chapter of Beta Sigma Phi of Mount Airy donated $500, with group members giving more individually.

Among other assistance, Pamela Hicks raised $1,000 by donating two of her paintings to the Ukrainian fundraiser, including setting up a silent auction online which saved Livengood time. She also expressed thanks to Mark Walker and Stanton Denman for getting the paintings, and an anonymous donor who contributed $400.

“People have been giving so much,” the teacher/baker observed. “The generosity of people has been amazing.”

All the money goes to the church in Romania.

Livengood pointed out that the refugees will continue to need rent and other assistance as they settle into new homes and she plans to maintain her bread-making endeavor indefinitely.

“As long as it can help.”

A request to place a mural monument for The Easter Brothers musical group in downtown Mount Airy has sparked a wider discussion about the need for a policy regarding such memorial requests.

City officials who are exploring this regulation also say a way should be found to better direct visitors to murals and other attractions downtown in general.

The issue at hand was sparked by a request from Grant Welch to put a marker in Jack A. Loftis Plaza on North Main Street, a public rest area.

Welch is a local citizen who spearheaded an effort to have a large mural painted on a wall at the plaza of The Easter Brothers, a legendary local gospel bluegrass group, which was completed last year.

“People don’t know the mural is there,” Mayor Ron Niland said regarding the nature of the monument request during the last meeting of the city council on May 19.

“The purpose of this (the marker) is to direct them to the mural.” Downtown visitors might not be able to notice The Easter Brothers mural at all depending on their line of vision.

“Grant has a point, that when people are walking they don’t always see the mural,” Commissioner Jon Cawley said.

Based on a schematic design presented to city officials, the monument would rest at the edge of the plaza near the sidewalk and be about 3 feet tall and 24 inches wide. Plans call for it to contain the words “Easter Brothers mural” and an arrow pointing to the artwork.

It is proposed to be made of black granite with white lettering and a glossy finish.

While the mural plan might seem simple enough, the implications for its placement proved to be anything but during the council’s discussion.

One concern raised by Commissioner Steve Yokeley centers on the original purpose of the plaza that opened in 2011 — to honor a well-respected former mayor who has since died.

“If we do this,” Yokeley said of pursuing the Easter memorial, “I would like to get the approval of the Loftis family for anything else put there to honor somebody else.”

Yokeley added that there is a reason for the facility being named Jack A. Loftis Plaza. “I certainly think we need to continue to honor his name.”

The mayor said he has no problem highlighting the musical group itself. “The Easter Brothers were such a big part of our community,” Niland mentioned, adding that Welch has been “passionate” about the project.

Another revelation that arose during the recent meeting was that the city government lacks a comprehensive policy to handle requests such as that for the Easter monument involving memorial items placed on public property.

City Planning Director Andy Goodall confirmed that there there are no specific standards in place for codes enforcement of such markers.

“We don’t have a formal policy and that’s why the few (requests) that we’ve had have come before the board,” he said of the city commissioners.

Goodall said that previously two “monument-style benches” had been OK’d for a downtown alleyway containing a restored Coca-Cola mural.

Yokeley also recalled that a request for a memorial bench on the City Hall grounds was denied by officials.

Assistant City Manager Darren Lewis, former recreation director, said there is a program for naming items such as benches and picnic tables along the greenway and similar locations in memory or honor of someone. Lewis suggesting that this also could be applied downtown.

The matter of who would foot the bill for memorial markers also emerged as a consideration, with the mayor saying the municipality should do so when public spaces are involved— “rather than put that responsibility on private individuals.”

And city officials say that there should be a systematic way to guide downtown visitors to attractions not only including The Easter Brothers mural, but one honoring late singer Melva Houston, the Andy and Opie statue and a recently completed Andy Griffith mural.

Goodall suggested that publishing a brochure containing maps and other pertinent information distributed at Mount Airy Visitors Center might be a better way to do this than a marker.

“If a marker is only three feet tall, if a car is parked there people won’t see it anyway,” the planning director reasoned.

It was noted during the meeting that a downtown master plan update now underway contains a goal to provide more wayfinding signage in the downtown section which would address the issue raised about helping visitors find sites.

But in the meantime, city officials directed the Planning Department to work with local travel and tourism officials to come back with a temporary solution until the wayfinding program is fully established.

Meanwhile, City Manager Stan Farmer mentioned that a simple sign directing tourists and others toward the Easter mural could be placed in a flower bed at the Loftis plaza, a step that has since been implemented.

“I think this is a good start,” the mayor said of the preliminary plans.

Rhonda Baylor does not mean to sound boastful, but she is pretty content with life these days after some years of struggle. She remembers the version of herself that first arrived in Mount Airy 16 years ago and a lot has changed since those days for the better.

Boastful, no, but she is appreciative to be where she is now for it was not always this way. To honor those who aided her along the way and helped her to be on the solid footing where she finds herself now: she wants to give back to the homeless of Mount Airy.

On Saturday, June 4, Baylor will begin a new give back effort by offering a lunch and clothing giveaway for the homeless from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. in the parking lot of the 461 South Street North, #1, Mount Airy.

“We are going to have hot dogs, snacks and drinks,” she said. “Also, we are going to be giving away some clothing to those who need it.”

Baylor hopes to make this a regularly occurring event and said she would like to see it happening every month. She is grateful to the business for allowing her to hold the first event in their lot, but this is to be a onetime event at that location. “I want to find a more permanent place to do this,” she added.

At this time, she is not sure where the next location may be, access to the South Street parking lot is for this upcoming event only.

For now, she is placing her faith above knowing that the path forward will be revealed in due time. She said of her mission, “It has to be led by God, it’s all for the glory of God.”

Having a little faith has been a key for Baylor and she has already seen that faith come through when in 2011 the Baylor’s took ownership of their new Habitat for Humanity home. She said on that happy day, “I would like to thank each and every one who participated in helping us build this home, because without you, it wouldn’t be possible, so thank God for everything.”

It took the help of the community to get the Habitat home built and she is aware that she needs help from the community to grow her outreach into something that will last. By getting the word out now she hopes to be able to get more donations to make a bigger impact on a community in need going forward.

Alcoholism and homelessness clouded her outlook on life for many years and it was for that very reason that she made the journey in the first place. A recovery program that she had been working with found her housing in Mount Airy, and so she made the trek.

Armed with only three trash bags full of clothes, a beat up black and white TV, and a desire to improve herself – she arrived. Little did she did know that the journey was going to be a one-way trip. As is so often the case with people who move to Surry County, she fell in love with the area and chose never to leave.

With her situation improved and years of sober living in her rear-view mirror, her goal is to serve to the community and those who are in need. She said it clearly, “God put this on my heart. I am doing okay now, I have a house, two cars and got my associates in general education earlier this month. Things are going good for me — so I want to give back.”

“There is a great homeless problem in this area,” she observed noting the situation that she has seen in and around the county. She knows that the options for the homeless, especially men, are limited and it is here she sees an area to serve her fellow man and in turn her faith. In aiding in the carrying of another’s burdens she hopes she can be effective in changing outcomes and feels that will be its own reward.

With plans on the horizon for other groups to open transitional housing on Rawley Avenue and the ongoing goal to open a permanent Mount Airy Men’s Shelter, thankfully there are more options forthcoming. Baylor is happy to see other groups’ projects coming together — even if they are organizations she is not involved with — but knows those options will take time to come into service.

The Rawley Avenue transitional home needs to be converted from its current state of apartments into a mix of single residence apartments and dorm style multi-person units. Meanwhile, the men’s shelter is eyeing a vacant building in the area around Northern Regional Hospital after a previous plan to build on West Lebanon Street proved too costly.

Baylor seeks to be a stopgap that will help the homeless get from today to that day when a proposed permanent all-weather shelter opens its doors. For now, a simple offering of food or some fresh clothing is going to be the starting point for her efforts.

A common chorus that comes from these members of the community who feel driven to offer these meals, shelters against the elements, or clothing and toys to kids at the holidays is a desire to give back.

She is not alone as there are people around the community working diligently to improve the lives of others. Baylor needed an assist and getting that helping hand changed the trajectory of her life so now she feels compelled to do the same for someone else.

A crowd gathered under the hot sun Monday at the Mount Airy War Memorial only to be reminded of the harsher circumstances that have claimed lives of military personnel to preserve ideals of freedom that still live.

“Memorial Day is a time to remember and celebrate,” special speaker Stan Farmer said of its dual nature during an annual city program held in observance of that holiday attended by citizens reveling in the patriotism of the occasion.

“Though sadness touches our hearts, courage and bravery are two Memorial Day traditions that will carry on long after the sadness subsides and we ourselves are long gone,” added Farmer, a former Marine who became city manager in January.

“The meaning of memorial is ‘in memory,’” he told those assembled. They included veterans of the Korean, Vietnam and Middle East wars along with uniformed city Honor Guard personnel, Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Honor Guard units and Junior ROTC cadets — joined by city and county government officials.

“With this in mind, we know the true meaning of Memorial Day, to honor and remember all those American service members who died defending our freedom — our right to be free,” Farmer said.

“Reason for this day”

And it is not enough just to recognize the war dead, but to realize that their lives — and sacrifices — have that lasting meaning, reminded Mayor Ron Niland, who also spoke Monday. “I want us not to forget the reason for this day.”

Niland evoked words of two seemingly diverse sources Monday — Abraham Lincoln and The Statler Brothers country music group.

The mayor said he believed words Lincoln uttered during his Gettysburg Address best exemplify the meaning of Memorial Day in speaking after that battle about those killed when he said “that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

Rather, they ensured that a free government will exist forever, Lincoln stated.

Niland also referred to lyrics in a Statler Brothers song about a grieving mother approaching the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., which contains the names of those lost in that war.

While recalling how much she loved and missed her son who was listed, the woman says while looking toward Heaven, “Lord could you tell him, he’s more than a name on a wall.”

In addition, Niland read a city government Memorial Day proclamation Monday. It states that while the special day was first observed in May 1868 after the Civil War, those willing to put their lives on the line for the country have hailed from every generation.

Pastor D.M. Dalton, president of the Mount Airy Ministerial Association, who delivered the invocation for Monday’s program and special remarks, said these military members have reflected the lessons of Scripture to take “the old paths” and “the good way.”

Those who’ve made the supreme sacrifice should be honored every day, the mayor said. “But we should honor them especially on Memorial Day.”

Farmer, who told those assembled Monday that he was stationed at Camp Lejeune 30 years ago this month while in the U.S. Marine Corps, said what they accomplished and service personnel continue to defend are the foundation of the life everyone enjoys today.

“It’s the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press,” Farmer said. “It’s the sailor, not the poet, who gave us the freedom of speech — it’s the Marines, not the politicians, who ensure us our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — it’s the airman, who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag and whose coffin is draped by that flag.”

Farmer pointed out that many of those who died have been mere youths with their whole lives ahead of them.

“We know who they are, as we visit the cemeteries and note the deaths of their shortened lives on their headstones,” the former Marine said. “We know their loved ones, their fathers and mothers, their children and the friends who shall always miss them.”

Other highlights of Monday’s program included a raising of the American flag and wreath placement by the Mount Airy Honor Guard, local student Cassidy Mills’ singing of the national anthem, a group recital of the Pledge of Allegiance and a flag-folding ceremony by cadets with the North Surry High School Air Force Junior ROTC.

The event concluded with a rifle volley salute by members of two local Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Honor Guard units, from Mount Airy VFW Post 2019 and Pilot Mountain Post 9436, and their playing of “Taps.”

“What a great day!” Mayor Niland said.

The Surry 250 bus tours rambled on Saturday, rolling out of the Surry County Service Center in Dobson on a tour of historic homes and sites. It was a full house after the county made the tours free leading to a quick sell out of this ride, and the remaining tours as well.

A group of more than 25 was treated to nice weather for the tour that is among activities for the county’s sestercentennial. Tour Guide Marion Venable has been a part of tours such as this for years; she was a good fit to lead the tour group and provide her own insights and expertise.

Before the tour could even depart, the history lessons had begun as the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History had a travelling walk through exhibit on hand. It was just a teasing taste of what can be found at the museum with a glimpse at some of Surry County’s rich history. There were artifacts from the farm, an old rifle, and a Proctor Silex toaster to remind of the manufacturing roots of the area — to name only a few.

Museum director Matt Edwards alerted that the ongoing renovations to the museum are nearing completion. He encouraged the public to be on the lookout for upcoming events at the museum as the work is to be completed by summer’s end.

After a drive to view historic homes in downtown Dobson, the tour group departed for the Bartholomew Hodges House where descendant Wayne Hodges showed the group around the home. Another Hodges descendant was overheard telling tour members, “My grandparents lived here until they just couldn’t anymore, so that was probably the early 1980s.”

Nathan Walls of the county manager’s office joked that the cabin could still be lived in today as it has running water. Already on that Saturday morning it was cooler inside the cabin with no air conditioning than it was outside in the sun and humidity.

To have Wayne Hodges there added an extra dimension to the tour, as he was able to relate what people were seeing to his own memories. In the cabin’s main room he said, “This room, as I remember it, there were actually three beds in here Harley and Dewey, my great-grandma, and that addition there was the master suite. It could be a tight fit.”

Everywhere one looks is a piece of history, in a gesture to the same master suite Hodges elaborated, “The planks on that little build out, built in 1900, are from the old White Dirt School, they recycled the planks.” His knowledge and excitement to share it showed through, and he was excited to tell the group that the Hodges House is in the process of launching a website to increase access. “We’re trying to get people engaged.”

“That’s what important about people getting involved, people have to know you’re interested in order to inspire them to be interested,” Venable added.

Other members of the Hodges family were milling about and speaking to the tour group, one explained who was in a photo and then pointed to hats hanging from the ceiling to show which belonged to whom.

Venable chimed in with her own memories of bringing tour groups to the Hodges home since the mid-1970s and being greeted by Lonzie Hodges, “He always came in his pickup and would come out to meet the bus and share the house and the history.”

She also said having partners in history such as the Hodges family make preserving and sharing their story so much easier. At Kapp’s Mill the tour met another pair of active partners in history, Joe and Christine Blydenburgh, who are operating the home as an Airbnb.

Marion said, “They are an example of someone who is willing to devote time, energy, and resources to save one of the most interesting historic properties in our area. Joe has found and redesigned parts of the millworks into wall hangings you’re going to love it when you have an opportunity to go in.”

From Kapp’s Mill the tour continued for a boxed lunch followed by additional stops at destinations including the Charlie and Ollie Tucker house and Isaac’s Mill before returning to Dobson. At each stop Venable gave credit to those who were working to save or restore the structures such as the mills. “We used to have so many, we’re lucky to have two on this tour.”

“You have to have people that will keep it going for the next generation,” Marion said of the active partners in preserving history the tour group was able to meet. If the goal was to share a glimpse of the county’s history in honor of its 250th birthday, then it would be fair to call this a mission accomplished.

The remaining Surry 250 bus tours are sold out, but those still in the sestercentennial spirit can enjoy the remaining lecture series events:

– Surry’s Natural Heritage – NC Trail Days, will be a presentation made in cooperation with the Elkin Valley Trails Association on Friday, June 3 at 4 p.m. The event will be held at the Elkin Public Library, 111 North Front Street, in Elkin, and is presented by Ken Bridle, ecologist/botanist with the Piedmont Land Conservancy.

– Next will be a lecture on Native Americans of the Yadkin Valley to be held on Thursday, June 16 at 6:30 p.m. The Surry County Service Center, 915 East Atkins Street, Dobson will be the location for this lecture series event that is presented by professor Dr. Andrew Gurstelle of Wake Forest University.

– The 250th anniversary of the founding of the county will wind down on Friday, Nov. 18, at 6:30 p.m. with the last of the lecture series events. Rounding out the lecture series is a presentation by Paul Brown, a musician, producer, radio host, and retired NPR reporter entitled “Surry County’s Traditional Music Legacy” in cooperation with the Surry Arts Council.

Find more information at: http://www.surry250.com or https://www.facebook.com/surry250

KING – A routine traffic stop turned deadly on Newsome Road just after midnight on Sunday morning.

Two King Police officers stopped a vehicle at around 12:40 a.m. Once the car pulled over, several suspects jumped out of the car and ran, according to King Police Chief Boyette.

Officers gave chase, and at some point one of the suspects began firing at them. One of the King officers was fit by the gunfire, and both he and his partner returned fire.

The officer who was shot — whose name is not being published for safety concerns while the case is still ongoing — underwent surgery in Winston-Salem and should recover. The second officer was not wounded.

One of the suspects in the confrontation is dead, but it is not yet clear at this time if the person died from officer fire. The suspect’s cause of death is under investigation, according to Chief Boyette.

The State Bureau of Investigation is in charge of all investigations when a police officer-shooting is involved.

The officer who was shot is a three-year veteran, having joined the King Police Department in May 2019.

Saturday night/Sunday morning was busy for local law enforcement, as there was a homicide in Germanton and a deadly roll-over accident on Highway 704 in the northeastern part of Stokes County. The suspect in the Germanton murder has been apprehended.

On Memorial Day we remember those who have died in military service to this nation, its allies, and ideals. We think of rows of white marble crosses, cemeteries decorated with small fluttering flags. We think of the sacrifices made, our eyes welling with tears and our throats growing tight at the thought of the young men and women who pay the price for our collective freedoms.

They have made it possible for us to enjoy life in our hometowns. As they struggle in the hardships of the frontline, we move through a mundane world, complaining about price hikes, or how our favorite team lost the game. In America we are so insulated from the horrors of war it’s sometimes easy to forget the realities our service personnel deal with on a daily basis. We find out about their deaths days or weeks later.

The Korean War was a vicious conflict almost lost in a century of influential military actions and tremendous economic growth. But 70 years ago hundreds of young men and women from this region served in those unforgiving hills. Today we remember a few who never returned.

What began as a civil war between communist North Korea and the Democratic south soon boiled over into what many people saw as a proxy war between the USSR and the USA. The third major military engagement in 35 years, the Korean War raged in a land most knew little about.

All the while life continued on the home front. Here is a look at what was happening back home, here in Surry County, along with significant events related to the war.

June 25, 1950 – Soviet-backed North Korean soldiers invade the Western-allied Republic of Korea. The North Carolina congressional delegation unanimously supports President Harry Truman’s orders to deploy troops.

What began as a civil war between the Communist north and the Democratic south, soon boiled over into what many people saw as a proxy war between the USSR and the USA. The third major military engagement in 35 years, the Korean Conflict raged in a land most knew little about …. All the while, life continued on the home front.

August 1950 – The Central Telephone Company, based in Mount Airy, is granted permission to raise rates across the region from Mount Airy to Boonville, North Wilkesboro to Yadkinville.

The Bright Leaf Drive-In opens, dramatically changing the local teenage social scene.

A polio outbreak has shuttered Wythe County, Virginia, causing the town’s baseball team to withdraw from the Blue Ridge League. The Bassett, Virginia, team steps in as the deep-seeded rivalry between Mount Airy’s Graniteers and Elkin’s Blanketeers keeps fans riveted.

The Surry County Selective Service Board reopens its office in the courthouse. They ask all to “register immediately after their (18th) birthday” and those who are already registered to update their information if they have moved or married since.

The local National Guard heavy artillery unit, the 426th, is given a 30-notice for mobilization.

American is returning to the battlefield.

Surry County men were not part of the first call in the draft for the Korean conflict. There had been a delay in getting the office reactivated but would be expected to send draftees in the second call.

Some, however, were already there.

Sgt James Crouse, 21, Marine, killed Sept 26. – State Highway Patrolman JP Rhyne of Mount Airy knocked on Claude and Gladys Crouse’ door with news no parent wants to hear. The family home was just across the Alleghany County line in Ennice. He was the eldest of the Crouse’ four children, named for his grandfather, Jim Crouse, who lived at Fisher’s River near Lowgap on old Hwy 89. He’d already served three years in the Marines and reenlisted in November.

Crouse was the first Alleghany County soldier to die in Korea. More than 177,000 North Carolinians served in the war, with 784 killed and 201 listed as either prisoners of war or missing in action.

January 1951 – Mount Airy breaks ground for the Reeves Memorial Community Center.

The Surry County Chapter of the Gold Star Mothers is founded, an organization for mothers of soldiers killed in action. The Mount Airy News reported more than 50 county mothers were known to be eligible from World War II losses at the time.

Corp. Winfred Nelson Dawson, Jr., 18, Air Force, killed Jan. 1 – One of nine children born to Winfred and Nellie Dawson of Ararat, Virginia, he was part of the storied 335th Fighter Squadron.

August 1951 – Mount Airy’s First Baptist congregation launches a major building program.

Pvt. Samuel Carlise Hamlin, 21, Army, Killed Nov. 21 – Part of Gen. MacArthur’s 1st Cavalry, Hamlin was posthumously awarded the Silver Star “for gallantry in action” in the Chorwon region of Korea.

April 1953 – Surry authorities struggle to bring a rabies epidemic under control.

Pvt. Merlin Marshall, 21, Army Medic, Missing in Action April 18 – One of the region’s last casualties, Merlin was last seen attending his fallen comrades of the 7th Infantry Division. His remains were never recovered, and he was presumed dead the next year. The White Plains High School graduate is remembered in the National Memorial Cemetery in Honolulu where the names of nearly 30,000 military personnel Missing in Action or Lost at Sea are inscribed.

May 1, 1953 – Mount Airy’s Martin Memorial Hospital is destroyed by fire.

The war was fierce but stagnant much of the time as troops dug in to hold ground, often in brutally cold temperatures, sometimes as low as 25 degrees below zero. Hostilities dragged on until July 1953 when an armistice was signed, and an uneasy peace was reached.

Often called the Forgotten War, the war seems lost in history between the better-known WWII and Vietnam. It is time we remember. The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History has very little information about anything to do with the Korean War and those who served.

If you have photos, letters, mementos, or family stories about people who served in this war, consider contacting curator Amy Snyder. Such items can be scanned or recorded so future generations understand the price of freedom.

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.

The Surry 250 bus tours rambled on Saturday, rolling out of the Surry County Service Center in Dobson on a tour of historic homes and sites. It was a full house after the county made the tours free leading to a quick sell out of this ride, and the remaining tours as well.

A group of over twenty-five was treated to nice weather for the tour that is among activities for the county’s sestercentennial. Tour Guide Marion Venable was on hand to lead the group and provide her own expertise.

There are still lecture series events to be held including:

Surry’s Natural Heritage – NC Trail Days, will be a presentation made in cooperation with the Elkin Valley Trails Association on Friday, June 3 at 4 p.m. The event will be held at the Elkin Public Library, 111 North Front Street, in Elkin, and is presented by Ken Bridle, ecologist/botanist with the Piedmont Land Conservancy.

Next will be a lecture on Native Americans of the Yadkin Valley to be held on Thursday, June 16 at 6:30 p.m. The Surry County Service Center, 915 East Atkins Street, Dobson will be the location for this lecture series event that is presented by professor Dr. Andrew Gurstelle of Wake Forest University.

The 250th anniversary of the founding of the county will wind down on Friday, Nov. 18, at 6:30 p.m. with the last of the lecture series events. Rounding out the lecture series is a presentation by Paul Brown, a musician, producer, radio host, and retired NPR reporter entitled “Surry County’s Traditional Music Legacy” in cooperation with the Surry Arts Council.

There will be additional coverage in Tuesday’s edition of the Mount Airy News.

The weather for the first weekend in June possibly will be sunny and hot, but there’s a 100% chance of pleasant sounds during the 50th annual Mount Airy Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddlers Convention.

In celebration of this milestone, a special concert is planned Thursday night to help kick off the convention that will feature competition both Friday and next Saturday when it concludes.

And free old-time and bluegrass workshops are offered from Tuesday to Friday, designed to perpetuate the area musical legacy for another 50 years or more through passing it on to younger generations.

The Mount Airy Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddlers Convention is held on the grounds of Veterans Memorial Park at 691 W. Lebanon St.

Established in 1972, it is dedicated to the two musical genres, along with dance, and traditionally is held on the first weekend in June — although the coronavirus forced its cancellation in 2020.

The event resumed in 2021 and gradually is recapturing its pre-pandemic stature based on attendance by the public and participation of musicians vying for cash prizes, trophies and ribbons in various competition categories.

“We’re about halfway there, I guess, three-quarters, something like that,” Veterans Memorial Park President Doug Joyner said this week of the convention’s recovery from COVID, judging by last year’s event and interest in the one upcoming.

Based on everything that’s happened, this year’s golden anniversary has special significance, Joyner added.

“It’s been going on a half-century,” he said of the convention, “and we’re glad that the park can be putting it on every year (now).”

Joyner hopes fans will come out and help celebrate the occasion.

The convention officially starts Friday at 7 p.m. and will resume next Saturday at 9:30 a.m. for a day-long slate.

However, there are always early arrivals who set up shop in camping areas at the park and provide music throughout the week.

The competition categories at the convention are open to both youth and adults, including old-time and bluegrass band, bluegrass and old-time fiddle, bluegrass and old-time (clawhammer) banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass, dobro, dulcimer, autoharp, folk song and dance.

In addition to the performances during the convention, many impromptu jam sessions typically can be found when circulating around the grounds — and one never knows who might be involved.

Members of the group Donna the Buffalo have been spotted over the years along with other notable musicians such as Dom Flemmons of The Carolina Chocolate Drops.

The special Thursday night concert to celebrate the convention’s 50th anniversary will feature The Junior Sisk Band on the main stage at the park.

It is scheduled for 7 p.m., with $20 wristband tickets for the performance to be sold at the gate.

The admission cost to the park to attend both Friday and Saturday sessions is a $10 wristband each day.

Joyner says interest is high among musicians, including many returning performers.

“These people, they like to pick and grin,” he said.

“They keep emailing about it,” Joyner related. “I got a phone call the other night from a guy in England.”

That individual wanted to attend the convention in June 2021, but was prevented from doing so by COVID travel restrictions.

Joyner said he also has been contacted by a band in Russia which might show up for the event.

While convention organizers don’t relish capitalizing on others’ misfortune, the Mount Airy gathering also stands to benefit from the apparent demise of an early spring event in Dobson, the Surry Old-Time Fiddlers Convention. It has been cancelled the last three years due to the coronavirus and other factors.

“I think it will help us,” Joyner said of that development, particularly among the old-time musicians the Dobson convention was geared toward who desire a performance outlet to fill the void.

Another highlight of the convention week will be the free workshops in both the old-time and bluegrass styles.

The sessions are scheduled Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the grandstand area at Veterans Memorial Park.

Workshops are to feature the fiddle, banjo, vocals, guitar, jams, dance and more, organizers say.

Participating instructors and bands will include Emily Spencer, Martha Spencer, Kirk Sutphin, Kevin Fore, Chester McMillian, Wes Clifton, Trish Fore, The Mustard Cutters Band, The Pilot Mountain Bobcats, Nancy and Bill Sluys, Darrius Flowers and others.

A number of award-winning performers from the Galax fiddlers convention and others are among their ranks.

The special week-long workshops are made possible by grants from the Grassroots Program of the North Carolina Arts Council, with additional funding provided by the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources in honor of the convention’s 50th anniversary.

A complete schedule of workshops, jams and dances will be available at the park gate, according to organizers.

More information about the convention can be found at https://www.surryarts.org/mafiddlersconvention/index.html More information about the workshops can be found on page B12 of today’s paper.

In remembrance of members of the armed forces who have fallen in service to the country, a grateful nation observes Memorial Day on the final Monday of May.

One Elkin resident and army veteran has taken extra steps to honor the fallen, having taken two Flights of Honor to Washington, D.C.

The Flights of Honor have been taking veterans on trips to see the memorials placed in their honor in the nation’s capitol since 2005. Originally the plan for Honor Flights was to get World War II veterans to the capital to see the new WWII memorial; now, that focus has expanded.

Elkin resident and retired Master Sergeant Paul Rusk, United States Air Force, was fortunate to go on two of the flights, first as a guardian and later as the honoree. The recent trip in April had roughly 90 people on it, totaling the veterans, guardians, and medical personnel.

A rainbow water cannon salute sent the flight on its way from Piedmont International Airport in Greensboro and welcomed the veterans at Reagan National upon their arrival. No strangers to a regimented schedule, veterans boarded four busses and barnstormed the memorials in short order.

The veterans’ caravan drove to visit the Iwo Jima memorial on route to the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. Its distinctive design rises from the area surrounding it and creates quite an impression for those approaching from either direction.

“As the aircraft goes up – that’s the bomb burst,” he educated. The steel arcs in the sky evoke the ‘bomb bust’ maneuver of the Air Force Thunderbirds. However only three arcs are show, the missing fourth arc symbolized the “missing man” formation used in Air Force flyovers, especially poignant on this weekend.

He was particularly impressed with their visit to the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery. They watched the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment, known as the Old Guard, at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the changing of the guard. “I found significance in the weapon being on the opposite side of the solider is to keep intruders away from the tomb.”

For him, the Old Guard signified much about service, Rusk said that their high code of personal conduct and exacting standards set them apart, not just that “you can shave in the shine of their shoes.”

“The guys and gals of the old guard, they are great,” he reflected. The changing face of the military now means that there have been five women to earn the Tomb Guard Identification Badge of nearly 700 earned.

“They have women, because there was a lady who was doing the changing.” More roles have opened for women in what had been traditionally restricted combat roles, the Old Guard are an active unit. To think the women are any less capable though is folly, as he warns, “We have lady rangers they are just tough – dynamite comes in small packages you know.”

Rusk found on the Vietnam Memorial Wall his late first wife’s brother. “I knew he had done it, and I had found his name on the travelling wall, so I knew it was there, I just had to find it here. One of the volunteers at the wall, since I could not get down and do the rubbing, she did it for me.”

“Those are true heroes, those that are on the wall, and on Memorial Day we remember those heroes.”

Of the confusion many Americans have over Veterans versus Memorial Day, he offered, “Veterans Day is for all vets, regardless of if they are breathing or not; and Memorial Day is for the true heroes who are at Arlington and the national cemeteries scattered around the nation, and in private cemeteries.”

To memorialize the brave fallen soldiers, the United States erected memorials on the National Mall, with World War II being the last to open in 2004. On his recent visit, the veterans approached the memorial from the Pacific side, whereas when Rusk was the guardian, his group approached on a cold rainy November day from the European side.

On that day, “We had brass pouring out of the Pentagon to come over and commingle with the vets, they had all sorts of braids on their uniforms and scrambled eggs,” he said using a colloquial for the embellished designs of officers’ caps.

To have officers of different branches come down to visit with the vets meant a lot to the visitors.“It was good to see it, we had enlisted ranks through admirals and generals.”

Honor Flights were meant for those World War II vets in the first place, to get them to Washington, D.C., to see the memorial to their brave sacrifice, and those who did not return from that great conflict – before it is too late.

Of the three veterans under his charge he said, “As nasty of that weather was, I did not hear one word of complaint out of none of them. I figure that was a piece of cake compared to what they went through in WWII. My dad was Normandy and Battle of the Bulge, but we could never get him to talk about it. The WWII vets just didn’t, they saw some horrific (stuff).”

No stranger to the horrors of conflict himself, Rusk said of his time in Southeast Asia that there was barbarism on both sides and things happened no one wants to repeat. “There was crap that went on in the jungles on both sides. We tried to fight a guerilla war like we fought WWII, you can’t do that.”

He is grateful that attitudes have change in recent years and the perception and reception of Vietnam era veterans has changed, “from baby killers to heroes.”

After a term of service of 22 years and 22 days, August 1957 – August 1979, Master Sergeant Rusk called it a career when one last assignment to Berlin conflicted with the best interests of his family.

He encourages young people to consider the military and offers that the Air Force and Navy offer the best skills training for a non-combat role post military. In Army, he noted, you drill for ground combat; on a ship, the daily maintenance of the vessel translates directly to electrical or technical savvy much more easily than marksmanship.

He added with a chuckle, “It’s true you can ‘Join the Navy, and see the world,” and get a GI Bill. It’s great, as long as people aren’t shooting at you.”

Saturday morning, the gym at Millennium Charter Academy in Mount Airy was filled with students, parents, and others sharing laughter, hugs, memories, and a few tears.

Nearly 400 people were gathered there for the MCA Commencement Exercises, marking graduation for 19 seniors who had completed their time at the school.

The graduates reminisced, were told to hold onto and treasure every second of every memory they had created with their classmates and friends at the school. They were also encouraged by keynote speaker Rev. Dr. Chris Lawson to go out into the world and become uncommon leaders by tethering themselves to truth, always doing what is right, and always acting with compassion.

This was the fifth graduating class from the charter academy, a group of friends who had grown close over their years at the school. Despite their relatively small number, it was evident the students had already touched a lot of lives — the bleachers along both sides of the auditorium were mostly full, as was a small section of chairs set up in front of the stage. Some of the students cried, all smiled and laughed, as they shared memories of their time at the school and encouraged one another to consider their graduation not an end, but the beginning of a new adventure.

The stage for the ceremony was set early on by graduating seniors Jada Adams and Sophia Gomez, who shared the Class Will of the members of the graduating seniors, some producing quiet chuckles from the audience, others sending peals of laughter rolling through the crowd. In the end, though, it was a combination of tears and smiles — especially from Jada — which had the audience cheering its support while she struggled to share her last message with her classmates.

“I love every single one of you,” she said before breaking to compose herself. “All of you hold a special place in my heart.”

Graduating seniors Zeke Harrison and Tristan Shockley shared some good-natured, tongue-in-cheek predictions for a few of their classmates — among them a forecast that Jada would someday sit on the Supreme Court and ban dress codes, while other predictions said one classmate would develop “digital crochet” courses, another would own dozens of cats, and two would go into politics with one winning the presidential election without actually claiming the popular vote while another would win the popular vote but fall short of the Oval Office.

Two students shared words of wisdom through honor addresses to the audience.

Max Oakley said recently walking through the classrooms of the school — from kindergarten and elementary wings of the facility to the high school, was “like walking backwards in time.” The memories inspired him to offer a bit of encouragement to his classmates: “Life can be hard, sometimes cruel, but I encourage you to cherish every day.”

“I cannot believe that today has finally come,” said senior Hartley DeVore. “It feels like yesterday when we were walking into the high school hallways for the first time.”

While joyful, he said “Those memories carry with them a heavy weight,” as looking back on them now shows just how fast time passes.

Focusing on the line “Come further up, come further in,” a line near the end of C.S. Lewis’ “The Last Battle,” the final book in the Chronicles of Narnia series, Oakley said the graduates were much like the characters in the book, having come to the end of their journey together.

But that line, he said, was not about endings, but about new beginnings, which is where he and his classmates find themselves — with a new beginning.

With voice cracking, DeVore ended his talk with a final line directed at his classmates: “I will miss you all.”

Rev. Dr. Chris Lawson, executive pastor of Reynolda Church in Winston-Salem, was the keynote speaker for the ceremony.

“When you leave here today, you will create great moments, or at least you will have opportunities to create great moments,” he told the 19 graduates. Those great moments, he said, will present opportunities for today’s graduates to shape the way the world thinks, the way the world cares for one another, the way the world behaves.

Saying he believes today’s youth will be required to be the most resilient in history, Lawson encouraged the graduates to become life-long learners, to never stop seeking more knowledge, and to “tether yourselves to truth.”

“The world is groaning for leaders,” he said. “Lead from your own unique gifts, lead from your integrity, lead from an insatiable desire to know more. “

© 2018 The Mount Airy News