Shoals celebrates Read Across America Week – Mount Airy News

Molly Snow and Tanzy Spurrier dress up for Cat in the Hat Day.
Graham Hunter poses for a photo.
Terrah Howlett and Riley Tanner.
Laken Simpson and Adaline Turner.
Bryanna Baker’s class.
Fifth grade students pose for a photo.
Avery Phillips and Makayla Hutchens.
Danni Liles and Jessie Perkey.
Jadyn McDaniel, Renee Bowman and Mia Chamberlain.
Meghan Collins’s class.
Luke Norman enjoys Green Eggs and Ham Day.
Millye Penley and Maycie Penley.
Courtnie Chamberlain dressed up as Cat in The Hat.
Teddy Shelton reading to students.
Cindy Hauser sharing a story.
Shoals Elementary recently celebrated children’s author Dr. Seuss and Read Across America Week with fun activities every day.
Monday was Cat in the Hat Day; Tuesday was Fox in Socks Day; Wednesday was Oh the Places You Will Go When You Read Day; Thursday was One, Fish, Two Fish, Blue Fish Day; and Friday was Green Eggs and Ham Day.
Local artist will be missed by many
Police reports
March 22, 2022
Citizens benefit when water and sewer lines in their neighborhoods are replaced, but there’s a downside: the work isn’t pretty and leaves scars behind in the form of damaged streets dug up during the process.
However, Mount Airy officials have acted to remedy that where a major water-sewer rehabilitation project was completed last year in the area of Maple and Merritt streets.
The multimillion-dollar utility project there included replacing aging lines.
During a meeting last Thursday night, the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners approved a resurfacing contract for the streets that were affected in a 5-0 vote. In addition to Maple and Merritt streets, the list includes Pippen Street, Porter Street, Rawley Avenue, Sydnor Street and a portion of Willow Street.
Mayor Ron Niland said he was especially concerned about the bad condition of the Willow Street section involved, running from West Independence Boulevard to some railroad tracks.
Wide disparity in bids
A local firm, Sowers Construction Co. of Mount Airy, was awarded the job, which constitutes the city’s annual resurfacing contract for 2022.
Sowers had the lowest of four bids submitted for the paving project after it was advertised in February, offering one of $258,416 which drew an observation from Commissioner Joe Zalescik about the final tallies resulting.
“I see that these bids are very interesting,” Zalescik said in commenting on the wide disparity between the lowest and next-lowest proposal, submitted by Carl Rose and Sons of Elkin, $321,083. The highest bid received provided even more of a contrast, a $488,971 offer from Adams Construction Co. of Jefferson — which was $230,555 higher, or nearly double, the winning bid.
“That happens sometimes with construction contracts,” city Public Works Director Mitch Williams responded regarding figures that can reflect a lack of interest by a particular company for whatever the reason. “That’s typical — they just don’t want the work as well as the winner.”
Rounding out the four bids was one submitted by Tri-County Paving, also of Jefferson, for $451,936.
The total budget allocation approved by the commissioners for the project is $284,258, which includes a 10% contingency figure to cover possible cost overruns in addition to the $258,416 low bid.
Williams pointed out that along with its bid, he recommended that Sowers Construction be awarded the contract based on its past performance on resurfacing contracts and an “excellent working relationship” with the city government.
The job is expected to be completed by the end of June.
Money for the project was included in the city budget for the present fiscal year that ends on June 30.
It is coming from the N.C. Department of Transportation, which awarded more than $300,000 to Mount Airy in 2021 in the form of State Street Aid to Municipalities, also known as Powell Bill funds.
That money is derived from state gas tax revenues that are given back to municipalities across North Carolina based on a formula set by the Legislature.
Mount Airy has devoted its Powell Bill funding in recent years to resurface clusters of streets in various parts of the city based on a priority list that addresses those with the greatest needs.
The funding formula includes the number of locally maintained street miles. Mount Airy is responsible for the condition of 73 miles of streets on the municipal system.
March 22, 2022
In a contest to raise money for the fight against cancer, there really is not a loser. Collectively, everyone wants there to be only one loser and that is cancer itself. For those who did not have the skill set to study oncology, it can be easier to find ways to aid in the ongoing battle against cancer than one may think.
Jacee Avara was announced Saturday as the winner of the 2022 Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Students of the Year for the Triad. It is worth noting that not all superheroes wear capes or masks, it turns out some may have glasses and be found slinging not a spider’s web, but rather a latte your way with a smile.
She was nominated to participate in the LLS annual Students of the Year campaign, in which high school students compete in a challenge to raise money to fight all types of cancer, by a family friend. “It’s an amazing opportunity, a once in a lifetime thing you get to do,” she said of the nomination.
From there, Avara set a goal that she promptly discarded, setting her ambitious objective even higher. “We started at $30,000 but, knowing me and my family, I figured we can do better than that. So, I went for $50,000.”
Avara assembled Team SWAT, which stands for Surry Working Alongside Traci and is named for her aunt Traci Haynes George, to help aid in her quest to be the top fundraiser from the Triad. Avara and her Team collected funds from donations, business profit gifts, matches from the likes of Northern Regional Hospital, and a bingo event that drew the attention of the county commissioners by raising nearly $20,000.
The participants from the Triad region collectively raised an impressive total of $237,000 that will make its way back to LLS to help fund their efforts. Of that total a staggering amount of more than $82,000, over one third, was raised by Avara and Team SWAT.
A gala event in Greensboro for the contestants from the ten area schools to crown a regional winner was to have been held last weekend, but COVID decided to muck up events for yet another year.
Not to be deterred, on Saturday night at the White Elephant in Mount Airy, an impromptu gala was set up for Avara and she walked the red carpet in style. In addition to receiving recognition for earning the title of Student of the Year, Avara will also receive a $1,250 scholarship towards the college or university of her choice.
Commissioner Mark Marion mentioned that he more or less stumbled upon the gala on Market Street that evening. From the dais, he offered congratulations during Monday evening’s Surry County Board of Commissioners meeting to Avara for a job well done.
Commissioner Larry Johnson was absent Monday but had previously told his fellow board members of the great success of the bingo event in early March. He noted that the large amount of money raised from one event shows the generous nature to this community, “I am just saying it can be done, but you got to work at it.”
Good news and news of good acts travel fast around Surry County, and word of the win spread quickly around social media. With generosity the likes of which this community showed Avara in reaching her target plus much more, paired with her own grit and determination to take on such a lofty goal, it’s a feel-good win-win for all parties – except cancer.
Marion concluded his tributes to “our celebrity” for her win Monday by sharing from Avara’s own victory speech Saturday: “Maybe we can find a cure for cancer.”
March 22, 2022
Chelsy Payne was named Mount Airy City Schools 2021-2022 Principal of the Year in a surprise fashion recently.
Surrounded by students, family, friends, and leaders from across the district, Payne was taken aback with the announcement.
“Chelsy Payne has done an amazing job during a difficult couple of years of pandemic challenges,” said Superintendent Kim Morrison. “She brings a joy and enthusiasm to her job that radiates out to her staff and students. We are happy to reward all of her hard work and determination with our 2021-2022 Principal of the Year.”
Following Morrison’s announcement, students in the Jones Intermediate School cafeteria erupted with cheers for their principal. Payne was encouraged to provide a speech and noted, “I’m honored. I would not have an ounce of success if not for the people in this room.”
Mount Airy City Schools and districts across the country have been working to come out of COVID-19 and are facing gaps in student learning due to a variety of factors. Payne has led her staff, students, and families through the pandemic and put structures in place to ensure teaching and learning identify areas impacted by learning loss and gaps are closed, officials with the school system said.
“Jones Intermediate School exceeded student growth in the 2020-2021 school year indicating that students were learning above the expected rate for the year,” according to a statement released by the system. “Through the use of flex time across grade levels, students are expected to grow even more as they are each being met at their point of need in math and English Language Arts. She has also worked to provide students with choice and voice in their learning through club offerings and the newly introduced special area fifth grade electives.
“This work truly reflects the work of so many,” Payne said. “I am thankful to my colleagues and fellow educators who nudge me toward my passion each and every day. Making a difference in the lives of children is the absolute best.”
Payne attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where she earned her undergraduate degree in elementary education. Her educational career began in 2009 as a teacher in Ogden Elementary School in Wilmington. In 2012, she completed her Master of Arts in education which focused on reading education through East Carolina University and became a teacher at BH Tharrington Primary School.
In 2017, she received her Certificate in School Leadership through Appalachian State University and her National Board Certification. She served as the Tharrington Primary’s curriculum facilitator from 2016 to 2019 when she accepted the role of principal of Jones Intermediate School. She is married to Tyler Payne and they have two children, TJ and Tennyson.
March 22, 2022
While the Mount Airy Fire Department is known mostly for responding to blazes, it also plays a role in medical emergencies — which has included 10 of its members being credited with saving lives during 2021.
“What better service can you give citizens than the opportunity to get their life back,” city Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said during an annual ceremony recognizing their efforts held last Thursday night during a Mount Airy Board of Commissioners meeting.
Providing a first-responder role in support of the Surry County Emergency Medical Service has been a key function of city firefighters since 2010, which includes a long list of life-threatening situations.
This expanded on a service previously launched in 1997 — that was limited to cardiac calls — to also include strokes, diabetes-related issues, cuttings/stabbings, overdoses, shootings, drowning/diving accidents, unresponsive persons and other emergencies.
This is incorporated into the department’s normal duties and utilizes fire trucks.
How saves occur
Being credited with a medical “save” requires a strictly defined process, which includes cases in which a victim was not breathing or the person’s heart had stopped.
In each instance, department members prolonged life by restoring the pulse of someone in full cardiac arrest or the person’s ability to breathe so he or she could make it to a hospital — and ultimately leave that facility alive.
Under the program guidelines, multiple fire personnel can play a role in saving a single patient, Poindexter said Tuesday afternoon. One firefighter might be engaged in chest compression’s and another ventilation, while someone else administers basic drugs the department is allowed to, he explained.
A county audit committee examines every case carefully to gauge the difference first-response efforts made in the outcome of an emergency to qualify as a save.
The Mount Airy Fire Department members cited during the most recent verification period include Capt. Scottie Wolfe, who is credited with two saves in 2021.
Registering one save each were Lt. Steve Everett, Lt. Brad Harrell, Lt. Justin Mayes and firefighters Michael Bowman, Daniel Camacho, Matthew Fink, Matt Hardy, Joshua King and Dusty Smith.
Chief Poindexter said at the meeting that fire personnel never know what they might encounter during the course of a shift, and mentioned “the risk they take when they go out and perform their duties.”
The aggressiveness those employees display in quickly making contact with a patient can be the difference between life and death, the fire chief indicated.
Commissioner Steve Yokeley said the expanded medical-response program by city firefighters was implemented at a relatively low cost, and added that any life saved is well worth the extra expense required.
“We can’t put a price on that,” agreed Commissioner Jon Cawley, who also believes fire personnel who record saves deserve much more than a paper certificate issued by city officials.
“Eight-by-eleven is just insufficient,” Cawley commented regarding the size involved.
March 22, 2022
All Surry County middle schools had the opportunity to compete in the Regional MathCounts Competition on a virtual basis recently.
Seven teams comprised of 30 students in grades sixth through eighth went through four rounds of math problem solving aiming to sharpen their skills. Because the regional event was virtual, each student participated on their school campus. However, the competition format remained the same, students first competing individually and then in a team format.
This event marks the first time every district middle school has competed on the regional level, and every team brought their all. Every team ranked within the top 20 in the region. Meadowview Magnet Middle School was the top-ranked team from Surry County, ranking sixth in the regional competition, with Gentry Middle School also ranking in the top 10. Central Middle School ranked 11th, and Pilot Mountain Middle School ranked 13th.
Surry County Schools also had many students rank within the top 25% of the entire regional competition. Meadowview Middle School representatives Sid Sutphin and Mckenly Fallaw ranked high, along with David Schuyler, Ayden Hicks, and Jackson Gardner from Gentry Middle School.
Participants from Meadowview Magnet Middle School included: Sid Sutphin, Mckenly Fallaw, Hudson Collins, Bailey Ray, Fernando Lachino, Katherine Bowman, Angie Guarneros, Jordin Beasley, Barrett Collins, and Violet Morgan. The participants from Central Middle School included: Cameron Cruise, Micah Whitley, Brynna Atkins, Eliza Nixon, Maddie Wolfe, Emma Bryant, and Kassy Jones. Gentry Middle School also had a strong turnout, with David Schuyler, Ayden Hicks, Jackson Gardner, Jaxie Draughn, Gabrielle Richardson, Ava McPeak, and Estephany Sanabria competing. Additionally, Kennedy Cook, Seth Sharp, Coby Yarboro, Caitlin A Joyce, Lexzandra Chavez, and Vada Woods represented Pilot Mountain Middle School.
“What an event. We are so proud of the students in all of our middle schools who were able to compete in this rigorous and challenging competition,” said Dr. DeAnne Danley, assistant superintendent. “Not only did our students showcase their understanding of advanced mathematical concepts, they also placed amongst the highest in region. It has been an absolute pleasure to see students excited about the opportunity to compete academically and engaging with teammates as they lead themselves and lead with others.”
March 22, 2022
The Surry Arts Players community theater will be performing Seussical JR. this Saturday and Sunday at the Andy Griffith Playhouse. Shows on both days are at 3 p.m. This Junior show directed by Shelby Coleman is filled with Dr. Seuss classics, and more than 700 students in area schools will see the production on Monday.
Horton the Elephant, the Cat in the Hat, and all of the favorite Dr. Seuss characters spring to life onstage in Seussical JR., a fantastical musical extravaganza from Tony-winners, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.
Transporting audiences from the Jungle of Nool to the Circus McGurkus, the Cat in the Hat, our narrator, tells the story of Horton, an elephant who discovers a speck of dust containing tiny people called the Whos, including Jojo, a Who child, who gets in trouble for thinking too many “thinks.”
Horton’s challenge is twofold — not only must he protect the Whos from a world of naysayers and dangers, but he must also guard an abandoned egg that’s been left in his care by the irresponsible Mayzie La Bird. Although Horton faces ridicule, danger, kidnapping, and a trial, the intrepid Gertrude McFuzz never loses faith in him. Ultimately, the powers of friendship, loyalty, family, and community are challenged and emerge triumphant.
The production stars Mason St. Angelo as Jojo, Django Burgess as The Cat in the Hat, Max Barnard as Horton the Elephant, Walker York as Mr. Mayor, Gracie St. Angelo as Mrs. Mayor, Lilly Ruth Beck as Gertrude McFuzz, Raegan Amos as Mayzie La Bird, Hannah Hiatt as Sour Kangaroo, and Maddie Youell as Young Kangaroo. Coleman is grateful to the parents who supported their children in this production that has more than 50 cast members.
Additional cast includes Thomas Holladay, Kori Hawks, Morgan Shipley, Tanner Price, Kinston Nichols, and Judy Adams as Wickersham Brothers; Lydia Beck, Maggie Wallace, Zinnia Burgess, Reese Cox, and Abbie Schuyler as Bird Girls; Noah Wilkes as Vlad Vladikof; Noah Petree as The Grinch; Brooke Nichols as Thing 1; Chloe Lawson as Thing 2; Matthew Adams as Elephant Bird; Kaitlyn Holladay, Ashton Freeman, Remi Devore, and Anne Rachel Sheppard as Featured Dancers; Claire Youell, Evelyn Casstevens, Noelle Snow, Ellie Kniskern, Chloe Vinson and Sidney Barker as Jungle Citizens; Genevieve Quinn, Makenna Wall, Avery Leonard, Owen Leonard, Lorena Arroyo, Ellyzabeth Rojas, Sidney Petree, Sierra Nichols, Catherine Douglas, Atticus Hawks, Prim Hawks, Kaitlyn Holladay, MaKenna Holladay, Anderson Holladay, and Samuel Holladay as Who Citizens.
Serving on the production crew is Coleman as director and choreographer, Music Director Darrell Beck, Stage Manager Lori Beck, Technical Director and Setbuilding Tyler Matanick, and Stage Crew Revonda Petree, Isabel Cowan, Patrick McDaniel, and Jordan Dover. Others assisting with design and setbuilding included Johannes Arnold and Bruce Burgess. Others helping with costumes include Amanda Barnard and Khristie Petree.
Performances are on Saturday, March 26 and Sunday, March 27 at 3 p.m. in the Andy Griffith Playhouse. Tickets are $15-20. Tickets are available online at, via phone at 336-786-7998, or at the Surry Arts Council office at 218 Rockford Street. For additional information, contact Marianna Juliana at 336-786-7998 or
March 22, 2022
Two students from Surry Community College have been selected to attend a study abroad program in Bordeaux, France, in summer 2022. The students are Nicole Freeman of Elkin and Kathy Santiago of Dobson.
Freeman is completing an Associate in Arts and has plans to transfer to Western Carolina University to major in history. She specifically wants to study medieval European history. This is her first time traveling outside of the United States, and she thinks that it will be a great experience for someone new to international travel.
“I grew up listening to stories of my grandmother who lived in Africa for years and was able to travel around the world due to her job. It’s a dream of mine to be able to live and experience different cultures. It’s so important for us as individuals and as a society to acknowledge and understand the different ways people live and experience their own lives. I feel that’s one of the ways to become a more well-rounded person and hopefully create better equality and less hate,” said Freeman.
Santiago is completing an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education. She works as a teacher assistant and feels that this opportunity will allow her to share knowledge and a new perspective on the world with her students. She is looking forward to experiencing the cultural diversity, language, architecture and historical sites that she will be introduced to in Bordeaux.
“I believe this experience will benefit me, personally and professionally. My teaching philosophy is that students should receive the necessary support, resources and guidance that will help them achieve their full potential. Sharing my experiences with them will contribute to that philosophy,” said Santiago.
The study abroad program is in partnership with Davidson-Davie Community College. The trip will take place from June 11-25. Students from North Carolina will be paired with University of Bordeaux students to complete a two-part project. Together, they will build a cell phone charger and then market the product.
Lead Instructor of Languages and Humanities at SCC Sarah Wright serves as the chair for the Global Education Advisory Committee.
“When I was asked to begin the Global Education program here several years ago, the goal was to implement some global outcomes into some classes and provide a way to increase cultural competence of students, faculty and staff,” Wright said. “Employers often cite cultural competence as being an area in which most educational institutions need more focus to help students. We added global components to a variety of classes in several disciplines, and in the last several years, we have had at least one intercultural event a week for our campus community. Essentially, one thing, travel, was missing from our global education program. This opportunity to send two students to Bordeaux, France, is a great chance for our students, program, college and community. “
Bordeaux is located in the southwest of France, close to the European Atlantic coast, and is well-known for its wine, vineyards and castles. Bordeaux is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its history, culture and architectural beauty.
March 22, 2022
Elaine Reales’ third grade Dual Language Immersion’s class held the Fourth Bilingual Living Wax Museum. This is a yearly tradition that Reales started in 2015 when she was first a regular second grade teacher.
The first year was a U.S. Presidential Wax Museum, then students began to represent historical figures from local, national, and worldwide societies. This school year, after a two-year layoff because of the COVID pandemic, students represented inventors explaining in both English and Spanish, how communities have been impacted before and after their inventions.
The research project aligned to three NC standards: social studies, writing, and speaking and listening.
March 21, 2022
DOBSON – A broken elevator in the Historic Courthouse in Dobson has forced the Surry Board of County Commissioners and staff to scrambled a bit to accommodate individuals wishing to speak to the board at tonight’s meeting.
“Those who have difficulty on stairways and wish to speak during the open forum or public hearing portions of the Board’s March 21 regular meeting can do so from a virtual setup in the Service Center Farm Bureau Training Room,” the board said in a statement released Monday afternoon. The Service Center, located at 915 E. Atkins St. in Dobson. is the former location of a Lowes Foods grocery store just off the Highway 601 exit for Dobson.
The virtual setup in the Service Center was used often throughout the COVID-19 pandemic when social distancing was recommended or required.
“The Surry Board of County Commissioners and staff will be able to see and hear citizens speaking from the Service Center via a virtual connection provided by the County’s MIS Department,” the statement said.
The open forum and a rezoning public hearing will be held tonight, requesting citizens’ feedback. Should anyone else scheduled on the agenda need to speak from the Service Center, that opportunity will be afforded to them, also.
March 21, 2022
Gentry Middle School’s seventh-grade students were revving their engines as they put their cars on the track for the 13th Annual Gentry Pinewood Derby recently.
This is a culminating activity for the study of force and motion, where student teams compete with each other, teachers and guests. During science classes, teams of students designed and created Pinewood Derby cars to demonstrate what they have learned about speed, friction, and aerodynamics.
Student enthusiasm demonstrated a need for speed as they tweaked their cars preparing for race day. Dr. Travis Reeves, superintendent of Surry County Schools, brought his own Pinewood car and challenged three lucky teams to a duel.
School officials said a special thanks goes to the Surry County Schools Education Foundation.
“The mini-grant through the foundation made our derby possible,” said seventh-grade teacher Jamie Mosley. “Their teacher and student support allows things to happen outside the box.”
North Carolina 811 once again sponsored “Victory Lane!” Call before you Dig- NC811 representative Brian Moorehouse spoke with students and shared his experiences as a NASCAR safety official.
“After having to take a year off last year because of COVID, it was great to see the excitement of the derby return this year,” Mosley said. “We really want to thank The Surry County Schools Education Foundation, Brian Moorehouse/North Carolina 811, and Old Hickory Council of the Boy Scouts of America for their support to help bring the joy of the derby back to our students.”
March 21, 2022
Three Mount Airy residents are awaiting court dates after being arrested and charged with numerous crimes related to trafficking or possession of methamphetamine.
Jason Daniel Tate, 38, Amber Nicole Hackler, 37, and Steven Ray Wall, 65, all of of 188 Critz Street, Mount Airy were arrested in a joint drug operation between the Surry County Sheriff’s Office, the Mount Airy Police Department and the Pilot Mountain Police Department.
Those three agencies executed a search warrant at the 188 Critz Street address in February, according to Surry County Sheriff Steve C. Hiatt, whose office released information on the arrestes Monday morning. Detectives located 34 grams of methamphetamine, 11 grams of opioids, assorted drug paraphernalia, and assorted firearms.
Tate was charged with two counts of trafficking methamphetamine, one count of trafficking opium or heroin, one count of possession with intent to manufacture sell and deliver schedule II controlled substance, and one count of felony maintaining a drug dwelling. Tate was placed under a $75,000 secured bond.
Hackler was charged with one count of conspiracy to to traffic methamphetamine, one count of felony maintaining a drug dwelling, one count of possession of a schedule III controlled substance, and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia. Hackler received a $50,000 secured bond.
Wall was charged with one count of possession of methamphetamine, one count of possession of drug paraphernalia, and one count of possession of a firearm by convicted felon, and was placed under a $5,000 secured bond.
All three are scheduled for court appearances on March 23.
March 21, 2022
A state forestry department official said Tuesday afternoon that efforts to corral the Lowgap fire are winding down as the blaze has been reduced to a mostly smoldering morass of fallen trees and charred underbrush.
But not before the fire consumed 201 acres, according to Jeremy Waldrop, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Department of Forestry. A day earlier, he said the fire had burned 195 acres, but was at that time 90% contained. On Tuesday, he said the additional acreage wasn’t necessarily the fire spreading since Monday.
“It’s just little more mapping has taken place, more accurate mapping.,” he said.
The wind-stoked fire broke out late Saturday, when a debris fire spread beyond control. Local fire departments responded immediately, but as the blaze continued growing, the North Carolina Department of Forestry came in.
Waldrop said Sunday, Sunday night, and Monday morning firefighters concentrated on establishing containment lines around the fire, then burning brush and other fuel between the containment lines and the blaze, thus limiting how much larger the fire could grow.
The effort was successful, with the fire burning remaining forest fuel inside the containment line, but not going beyond.
“It’s not very active,” he said late Tuesday of the blaze. “Crews have been working, there’s not really any activity going on with the fire. There is some smoking, maybe some smoldering, some large dead logs crews are taking care of today. Might be one or two spots deep in the fire where their might be some fire, but pretty much all of that is out.”
Waldrop said he expects the forestry department to close out the scene Wednesday morning, with local fire crews taking over monitoring the area. He said the rain forecast for the area should provide a final knock-out punch.
The forestry department official said there have been no injuries, nor any structures damaged by the fire. He said, to the best of his knowledge, that no one was evacuated from their homes, although several families fled the fire of their own accord.
Waldrop said the fire began late Saturday, when strong winds whipped up a debris fire someone had been burning, sparking the larger forest fire that has burned for three days. Continued dry and windy conditions, coupled with what he called “rough, steep, mountain terrain,” made firefighting difficult. In addition to the nearly 100-person ground crew fighting the blaze, he said the forest service has been using a helicopter to make water bucket dumps along the edges of the fire near the containment lines, and a small scout plane to keep track of where the fire might be spreading.
While there have been no mandatory evacuations, Waldrop said a few families did leave the area during the height of the fire, while most chose to stay home and remain inside, away from drifting smoke. He said area fire departments and the forestry service have kept vehicles in the area of many homes to be ready if winds drive the fire toward those structures.
Spring, he said, is one of two times a year when fires such as this one are more likely to break out — the other time being autumn. Spring, he said, often has dry and windy conditions, with brush and fallen trees providing ample fuel once fires begin.
“Exercise caution if you choose to burn,” he warned. “Contact your local fire department or forest service, talk with them before you do a burn.”
This is the second forest fire to hit Surry County in less than four months. On Nov. 27, a campfire burning in an unauthorized area of Pilot Mountain spread into a major wildfire, ultimately charring more than 1,000 acres over a week-long period before finally being brought under control.
March 20, 2022
City officials’ interest in a controversial site in the area of West Pine and Franklin streets has taken another twist, which will involve an attempt to buy property there.
The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted Thursday night to authorize City Manager Stan Farmer or a designee to bid on a small, vacant lot adjoining the former Koozies property. It borders West Pine Street, located diagonally across that roadway from Mill Creek General Store.
That action occurred after city officials discussed the matter in a closed session pursuant to a section in the state Open Meetings Law permitting such talks regarding possible property acquisitions,
The commissioners voted 4-1 to authorize the submission of a bid on the lot, which depending on one’s point of view can be considered either beside or behind the old Koozies building.
Commissioner Jon Cawley cast the dissenting vote.
Koozies was the name of a private club once operating at the site which has been closed for years, which a Quality Mills facility previously occupied. Its official address is 455 Franklin St., situated in a well-traveled, high-visibility part of town where South, Pine and Franklin streets converge.
The small lot in question — of about one-quarter acre — has no actual address, with the parcel number of 5020-15-54-6099 disclosed in conjunction with Thursday night’s action. It is scheduled to be auctioned Friday morning through a judicial proceeding known as a commissioner’s sale, which typically occurs to satisfy a debt.
One might wonder why the city government is pursuing the purchase of the land, which Mayor Ron Niland shed light on Friday.
The key is its proximity to the Koozies facility, one of three commercial buildings in the same area which have been deemed hazardous for human occupancy and were targeted by Mount Airy officials in a decision on Feb. 17. The commissioners voted then, 4-1, to issue a 90-day ultimatum to the separate owners of the three structures.
If they don’t act to bring the buildings up to code by that May deadline, the city government can proceed with demolition and later possibly acquire the sites through foreclosure proceedings to recoup the demo costs.
“The building is probably going to end up with us anyway,” Niland explained Friday while taking the long view of a future use for the site.
“It just allows for more land and a bigger development,” the mayor said of the possibility for the small lot to be used for parking, as an example.
Along with the Koozies building, the February action by the commissioners included the former Mittman body shop at 109 S. South St. and the so-called “red building” at 600 W. Pine St. beside Worth Honda.
City Attorney Hugh Campbell said Friday that the owners of the vacant lot the municipality will bid on are Gloria Mittman McNeil and Amy White, both of Lewisville. They are heirs of John Mittman who also own his former body shop, located across West Pine Street from the small parcel in question, with plans calling for the Mittman structure to be sold at a separate auction.
The empty land drawing the city’s interest is valued at $32,060, according to Campbell.
Cawley explains position
Commissioner Cawley offered multiple reasons Friday for his dissenting vote on the motion to submit the bid for the lot.
This includes venturing into an area where he thinks the city government doesn’t belong.
“I don’t think we ought to be in competition with the private sector,” Cawley said of it trying to acquire the property.
The veteran commissioner added that he would have supported the measure if the site were needed for a specific project — rather than just adding to the municipality’s vast real estate holdings for no particular reason.
“I think the last thing the public wants us to do right now is buy more land,” said Cawley, who also voted against issuing the ultimatum to the owners of the three buildings last month.
These were targeted by a now-defunct city redevelopment commission about seven years ago which identified the sites as being in a blighted area along with some thriving businesses — sparking fears of property there being taken forcibly via eminent domain.
West Lebanon rezoning
In a separate matter Thursday evening, the commissioners voted 5-0 to rezone property on West Lebanon Street which will allow it to be used for business purposes.
This involves both 1158 and 1160 W. Lebanon St., which total 0.36 acres now containing a vacant commercial building. The property is owned by Mayberry Marketing Group, LLC.
The rezoning applicant was identified as Henry Johnson, who requested that its zoning be changed from R-20 (Residential) to B-2 (General Business).
Thursday night’s approval by the commissioners will accommodate plans for a multi-tenant use of the building, with a hair salon and office specified in city government documents.
March 20, 2022
It’s the same old story — spending taxpayers’ money to raze unsafe structures neglected by owners — but this time Mount Airy officials want a firmer approach to ensure those funds are recouped, which discussion indicates isn’t occurring now.
“Over the last twelve years this has come up numerous times,” Commissioner Steve Yokeley, who was elected to the city council in 2009, said when it met Thursday night.
“It’s way past time to do something,” Yokeley added regarding a clear-cut policy to recover public money spent for demolitions.
Concerns expressed by Yokeley and others on the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners were triggered by its decision Thursday night to allow city Code Administrator Chuck Morris to have a dilapidated structure at 151 Paige St. torn down. It is located off West Lebanon Street.
No one has lived in the house for about a dozen years, Morris advised during the meeting, although such places tend to attract “unsavory characters,” he added. “The Police Department has rousted many people out of there.”
The structure is in violation of municipal minimum housing codes and was found unsafe for human occupancy, according to a March 15, 2021 letter from Morris to its owners, Overton and Ruth Bennett of Glass Road.
They were instructed to make needed repairs or tear down the house by May 14, 2021, which never occurred, with one complicating factor involving Mr. Bennett dealing with an illness.
This has become a familiar scenario, with Morris — who joined the city staff in November 2018 — mentioning that five such demolitions have occurred during his tenure.
Thursday night’s vote paves the way for the city government to step in and remove the house on Paige Street at an estimate price tag of $6,380 to demolish it and clear the lot on Paige Street.
The owners will have 60 days to pay that cost, and failure to do so will result in a lien being filed against the property which means the debt would have to be satisfied before it could be sold.
Governmental bodies also may take the extra step of launching foreclosure proceedings for the land left behind, allowing them to seize —and then sell — property on which money is owed for taxes or other reasons.
Commissioner Jon Cawley asked City Attorney Hugh Campbell if this is to be done with the Paige Street site, and Campbell replied that it will involve a board decision.
The foreclosure route has been taken in the past, based on previous reports, which suggest that this has occurred only sporadically at best.
Plan for future
Board members said Thursday night they want a more streamlined approach to ensure the city government is repaid in such cases, including foreclosures.
Cawley said he doesn’t believe the municipality has ever had a “game plan” for property demolitions, especially with efforts limited to filing liens. “We’re never paid back” if an owner doesn’t sell the land, he reminded.
“There’s no memory that we’ve ever recouped the demolition investment,” said Cawley, who has been a city commissioner since 2008.
The board’s Tom Koch said a more-diligent policy should start with listing all such projects approved in which the land hasn’t been sold or otherwise processed to recover the costs of a city government obligation to alleviate unsafe buildings.
That suggestion was embraced by other council members, and City Manager Stan Farmer said staff members will prepare that breakdown and present the results at an upcoming meeting.
Based on the discussion, some firm actions could be taken by the commissioners in response.
“I think we need to know at least how we’re going to get out of these things before we tear them down,” Cawley said.
The codes enforcement officer mentioned that a law firm in Asheville specializes in such matters, which Surry County officials have utilized.
Larry Johnson, a county commissioner who was in the audience for Thursday night’s council meeting, told the gathering that legal notices filed by Surry for property-sale cases involving money owed took up two pages of Wednesday’s Mount Airy News.
March 20, 2022
Friday always was a good day for a field trip, and with their permission slips in hand Commissioner Mark Marion and Chairman Bill Goins of the Surry County Board of Commissioners went to North Surry High School to speak to students about their role in county government and to ascertain what the students knew about how the county affects their lives.
Eric Jessup, the former longtime multi-sport coach, and conference wrestling coach of the year many times over, hosted the commissioners to his Business Law class first period. “These guys have more impact on your life than the president or the federal government,” he told the students.
His class was joined by students in the drafting class as well as web page design for a free form talk that ranged from the county budget to the new detention center, and all the way across the Atlantic to talk about how events in Ukraine are affecting life and prices here at home.
For Goins it was a return to form to be in front of a class, and back in his old stomping grounds amongst the Greyhounds of North Surry. Of retiring from the Surry County School System in 2020 and transitioning to a new role of public service, Goins said, “It was the right time of my life. We are doing this job to help; it is not for the money.”
Ever the educator, Goins stepped up to the display screen to present data while gently prodding and pulling answers out of the students. Not one to stray too far from where he is needed, the chairman was leaving the talk at North Surry on this morning for a stint as substitute principal down at White Plains Elementary. You can get Goins out of the classroom, but his educator’s spirit is alive and well past retirement.
Marion and Goins posed questions to the students and while it may be hard to get into gear for first period, the students were responsive and asked some questions that belied their age.
Among those were open-ended questions about the size of the county’s budget, or the size of the emergency fund, or how many motor vehicles operate in the county were not on the study guide. They did however allow for opening of dialogue and some fun guesses/corrections. “Yes,” Marion replied, “the county budget is $1 million, you just have to multiply it a few times.”
Students wanted to know what the commissioners did in their official capacity, so they explained how resolutions and ordinances are passed in place of laws at the county level. Scare resources mean not everyone can get what they want and sticking to a budget is important, was the summation of budgeting and finance.
Goins described in some detail the budget and appropriations process, and why having money left over in an emergency fund is necessary, pretty heavy lifting for high school students first thing on a Friday.
Marion followed that with a rundown of the new detention center including some of the stark numbers on the overpopulation at the jail. A gentle reminder to avoid crime was given, hence avoiding a stay with Sheriff Steve C. Hiatt and the team in Dobson.
The students were curious about public safety in general, and about what would happen if the state closed down Surry County’s jail due to overcrowding. They heard of the high price of sending inmates to other counties to be held – and all the additional costs of getting them back for trial.
The commissioners mentioned inmates being sent to Alleghany, Watauga, and Avery counties to be held when Surry County has no room. At a cost of more than $50/day, not to mention the salary of the deputy doing the driving, gas, and maintenance on the vehicle to make the delivery of the inmate, costs can rise quickly.
More than dollars and cents, “It is a safety issue, not just for the inmates but for the corrections staff and the visitors,” Goins said of the need for more capacity.
Marion took it farther noting the goal of around eight inmates to a block, but at times now that number may reach more than 20. “You got guys laying on mats, in the intake area. It’s not humane, you may be a criminal, but you don’t have to be treated like an animal.”
The need for more space for female inmates was discussed, the students were told if the jail were completed today, it would already be over capacity for women.
One student asked what plans are in place for non-binary inmates, a question that proves today’s youth are thinking about things in a different way than their predecessors. “We do have holding and single cells that can be made available for them,” Marion replied slipping in a gender-neutral pronoun without missing a beat.
The students grasped about proportional representation, and the need for an odd number of board members to break a tie. Marion expounded, “If all the commissioners thought the same way, how many commissioners would you need? One.”
The gentlemen agreed that the best part of the job remains helping their constituents. “Many calls are made to us to complain, but that one call that helps someone makes it all worthwhile,” Marion added.
“It may not feel relevant to your life, but we’re here to help and benefit your life,” he advised. “Its not for the money, sometimes this is a full-time job. If you’re doing this job for the $8,000 or so a year, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.”
Both Marion and Goins expressed their satisfaction for what can be an all-hours job of being a commissioner, yet both expressed a desire to limit their service on the board to two terms to allow for fresh perspectives and new ideas.
With five varying opinions and a budget of more than $80 million a year, the commissioners have to weigh the good and the bad. Goins said that means occasionally stopping to “slow the roll” of county government to make sure wise spending decisions are made.
When all is said and done, and he gavels the meetings to a close, Goins said, “We don’t always agree with one another, but we always leave as friends.”
March 19, 2022
Multiple residential break-ins have occurred in Mount Airy this past week, according to city police reports.
• This included one discovered Wednesday at the home of Bonnie Sumner on Bitting Avenue, where property valued at $750 and an unspecified sum of money were stolen after a secured door was pried open. Included were two rings and a necklace.
• Also Wednesday, a breaking and entering was reported at South Village Apartments on Carolina Court, where the rear door of a unit was kicked in to gain entry. This enabled the theft of household goods for which no loss figure was listed, with the apartment complex listed as the victim of the crime.
• Cody Lee Stewart, 30, of 307 Hadley St., landed behind bars after an incident last Sunday at O’Reilly Auto Parts on West Pine Street, where he allegedly stole merchandise valued at $55, including a Schumacher battery charger, a battery terminal cleaner brush and a metal razor.
In addition to being charged with larceny, Stewart was found to be the subject of a five-count outstanding order for arrest that had been filed in Surry County on Dec. 2 with no other details listed.
Stewart was confined in the county jail under a $1,500 secured bond and is slated to appear in Surry District Court on Monday.
• Three women are facing felony conspiracy and other charges stemming from a March 4 burglary of a home at River Hill Apartments on Newsome Street and the larceny of a vehicle there. This involved the alleged entry of the occupied dwelling at night, listed as the residence of Vickie Holland Clark, and the theft a 2009 Honda Accord valued at $6,500, which was recovered; purses; Branch Banking and Trust debit cards; an EBT (electronic benefits transfer) card; a driver’s license; and two types of medication.
Debbie Lindley Brown of Lexington also is listed as a victim of the incident that involved a false report allegedly made to the police station.
Those arrested for the crime were three neighbors, Teena Marie Wareing, 65, of 1238 Newsome St.; Shayna Marie Johnson, 46, of 1224 Newsome St.; and Clark, 68, of the home where the burglary occurred. All three are charged with conspiracy to commit felony larceny, with Clark additionally accused of filing the false report, larceny, aiding and abetting larceny, possession of a Schedule II controlled substance and possession of a Schedule IV controlled substance.
Johnson was charged with the larceny of the motor vehicle and possession of stolen goods. The three were arrested at the home of Clark, who was held in the Surry County Jail under a $2,500 bond, Johnson a $500 secured bond and Wareing, $500 secured. They are scheduled to be in District Court on April 25.
• Regenia Sue Goad, 73, of Dugspur, Virginia, was charged with larceny and possession of stolen goods with a total value of $440 on March 4 at Belk in Mayberry Mall, identified as a Biltmore bed comforter, an Anchor Hocking glass baking dish set, a Crown and Ivy multi-colored beach bag and other miscellaneous merchandise.
Restitution is owed in the case for which Goad is to appear in Surry District Court on Monday.
• Charles Thomas Bennett, 28, of 161 Grassy Knoll Lane, also is slated to be in court Monday regarding a felony drug charge filed against him after a Feb. 22 traffic stop on West Lebanon Street near Grace Street for a registration violation.
Bennett is accused of possession of methamphetamine along with two misdemeanors, resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer and possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance.
He was held in the Surry County Jail under a $7,500 secured bond.
March 19, 2022
Shoals Elementary recently celebrated children’s author Dr. Seuss and Read Across America Week with fun activities every day.
Monday was Cat in the Hat Day; Tuesday was Fox in Socks Day; Wednesday was Oh the Places You Will Go When You Read Day; Thursday was One, Fish, Two Fish, Blue Fish Day; and Friday was Green Eggs and Ham Day.
March 19, 2022
After a two-year absence induced by the COVID pandemic, VOCE — a choral ensemble — will return to performances in 2022.
“Our name, VOCE, means voice,” the group said in a press release. “If you love to sing, if you love to sing with others, if you would love to take your singing to a whole new level, then please join us.”
VOCE will begin rehearsals for a modified spring/summer concert on March 21 at 7 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Dobson.
“This season will be different for us all as we have had to adapt to a new way of life and learn to protect each other over the past two years, but the love of music is still with each of us,” the group’s statement read. “We look forward to making music and sharing it with you, our community. We will abide by the pandemic guidelines established by the VOCE Board of Directors during our early meetings, with future modifications as the COVID outlook changes.”
For more information, call 336-789-2035, visit the group on Facebook, or visit its website at
March 19, 2022
For participants at the Blue House Art Studio, Gary Arnder was a fixture on class days. He began as a participant in the activities held at the space on North Main Street in Mount Airy, and his presence is going to be missed.
Arnder passed away unexpectedly March 11 and is now being remembered by members of the artistic community he was a part of.
A recent tribute penned by Wendy Tatman, the Blue House Art Studio director, noted “his generous and sweet spirit as he encouraged and supported other student-artists.”
The Blue House Art Studio vision is one of getting special needs adults involved within the community by means of art therapy. The studio was once a place where he learned and grew in artistic endeavors, later he was the one supporting other artists.
“He has been an avid supporter of the program since its inception. After starting as a student, his skills led him to help others in both art and music classes. Students especially appreciated his guidance and enthusiastic support,” Tatman said.
She had known Arnder since coming to the Blue House Art Studio in 2011 and saw Arnder to be generous with his time. “He did many art projects, small and large, for friends who needed help, or might be ill, or discouraged. Or simply as gifts.”
Later a member of their board at the studio, he assisted in the repair of their attic floor as well as a “host of work and repair projects,” she said. His efforts were noticed by others, “Seemed like he’d do anything needed for Blue House,” Lisa Visek noted.
The old adage says never judge a book by its cover and tends to be good advice. “He may have looked like someone you would cross the street from,” Tatman joked with a smile last week as she noted his appearance with “hippie hair,” as she called it.
A little long hair may be par for the course for a musician who develop some chops alongside Chazz Elstone, also a member of the studio’s board, who helped show Arnder the ropes of percussion, the sticks and cymbals too as are required. Arnder took his talents on the road and was often a performer with the Scoops band on Thursday nights in their mini amphitheater.
Music though was not his only talent, Tatman noted a special skill was his ability to draw with both hands at the same time. Arnder impressed her by using both hands while using different colors and drawing different shapes simultaneously.
His eye for copying pictures in great detail, and also his experimentation with different media and techniques, impressed her. Some of his work was on display for a reception that was held last week for friends and family after Arnder’s funeral service at Moody’s in Mount Airy.
He was generous of his talents as Visek described two Arnder pieces she received. “I have two beautiful drawings he did and for me, they are Egyptian man and woman. Very well done.”
She also recalled of a special gift she made just for him. “I wrapped a big crystal for him to wear once. I know he was more a soft-spoken Christian, but he commented once on one of mine and I just had to wrap one for him.”
Tatman says she will miss him and hopes to find new volunteers like Arnder. In discussing what traits are needed in someone who could help, Tatman, a retired teacher, said she had not been an art teacher. A desire to help and gentle soul just like Arnder’s are all that is required to help the students at the Blue House.
March 19, 2022
Meadowview Magnet Middle School recently recognized Mandy Dean as the 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year.
She has worked at Meadowview Magnet Middle School for four years, as the Project Lead of the Way 2 Teacher.
“I love that our students have access to material and experiences because of Meadowview Magnet Middle School being a magnet school. I love that our teachers get excited about STEM-based curriculum, and do a great job with inquiry learning for our students.”
March 19, 2022
The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History will be holding two of its traditional spring activities — its Ukrainian Pysanky Easter Egg workshop and the Beginners Blacksmith Workshop.
For the seventh year in a row, the museum is offering its Ukrainian Pysanky Easter Egg workshop. Pysanky is the Ukrainian word for Easter Egg and this workshop is all about using the Batik method of dying which includes using primitive tools, beeswax, and dye to beautifully decorate eggs.
These eggs, if handled and stored correctly, can be kept for years to decorate with or admire. The oldest intact Pysanky egg is at least 500 years old.
This centuries-old tradition is a great way to appreciate the history behind egg dying, and makes for a great family activity, museum officials said.
The next class will be held on Saturday, April 2 from 1 to 4 the third-floor program room at the museum. The cost is $20 for museum members and $35 for non-members.
This can be a delicate craft so museum officials ask that all participants be at least 12 years old. Class size is limited to 15, so advance registration is suggested.
The museum is also bringing back the Beginners Blacksmith Workshop with master blacksmith Joe Allen.
Participants can expect to enjoy hands-on instruction on the tools and conditions necessary to forge iron, and will even get to take part in a beginner-level project they get to keep. All tools and materials will be provided for this course and it will be held downtown at the museum.
The first class will be held on April 9 from 1 to 5 p.m. and a second class is being offered on May 14 from 1 to 5 p.m. This workshop costs $75 for members and $100 for non-members. Because the workshop is hands-on each class will be limited to six participants per class.
Anyone with questions about the event can contact The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History at or call 336-786-4478.
March 18, 2022
The Alpha Xi Tau Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society at Surry Community College recently held its annual induction ceremony for 23 new members for fall 2021/spring 2022 in the Grand Hall of the Shelton-Badgett North Carolina Center for Viticulture and Enology.
SCC President Dr. David Shockley provided opening remarks. Janelle Johnson of Daughters of the American Revolution, James Hunter Chapter, was the guest speaker based on PTK membership selection. In addition, Heather Couch, an inducted PTK member, provided entertainment with musical performances of “Here Comes the Sun” and “Keep on the Sunny Side.”
The fall 2021/spring 2022 inductees are: Jonathan Bledsoe, Jacob Mills and Mariela Trejo of Dobson; Madalyn Edwards, Sharon Futrell, Samuel Gordon, Jennifer Hernandez, Christopher Hernandez-Carrillo and Katheryn Lachino of Mount Airy; Angela Flippin and Tristan Shockley of Pilot Mountain; Leonel Gonzalez of Elkin; Tyler Pilcher and Aaron Woodell of East Bend; Jesse Keaton of Boonville; Wyatt Hawks and Geneva Reavis of Yadkinville; Sarah Bare of Hamptonville; Michael Bonilla of Pinnacle; Susan Anderson of North Wilkesboro; Heather Couch of Ronda; Toby Groce of State Road; and Amanda Robertson of Stuart, Virginia.
The Surry Community College’s PTK chapter was recently designated as a Five Star Chapter. The college’s PTK organization does campus service projects and participates in a college-wide service project each year. Most recently, the chapter worked on an Honors in Action project to raise money for Hope Chapel Orphanage in Ghana. They also received a $3,000 grant from Walmart Giving to help establish a student outreach center on campus.
Established by Missouri two-year college presidents in 1918, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society serves to recognize and encourage the academic achievement of two-year college students and provide opportunities for individual growth and development through honors, leadership and service programming.
For more information about Phi Theta Kappa and their projects, contact PTK’s faculty co-advisors Dr. Kathleen Fowler at 336-386-3560 or or Kayla Forrest at 336-386-3315 or or go to Follow the local chapter on Facebook @surryPhiThetaKappa.
March 18, 2022
At every meeting of the Surry County Board of Commissioners is a period of Open Forum during which citizens can rise to speak to the commissioners on any topic for up to three minutes. This is their chance to say what is on their mind, bring attention to a problem, or give credit where it is due.
Last week, the Forum was visited by Gary York, local personality on WIFM radio, who rose to ask the board if they had fully considered the ramifications on exiting from the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART).
He said those most affected by the removal of a commuter bus line would be those who could least afford for it to cease operation: namely the elderly seeking medical treatment in Forsyth County.
“Some folks have no alternative whatsoever other than riding PART particularly to Winston-Salem to the V.A. or the doctor,” he observed. “Think about going down to the lot and riding the bus and see who’s on there. Its pandemic time, all things have changed. The people on the bus could be some folks that won’t have any alternative to go when PART leaves.”
PART operates the commuter bus line service that is meant to ease congestion on the roads and alleviate some of the pain at the gas pump for commuters working outside the county. The Surry County Express runs from Winston-Salem to hubs in Pilot Mountain and then on to the park and ride lot in Mount Airy off Andy Griffith Parkway and Carter Street, beside Big Lots.
Ridership numbers for Route 6 have varied for several years as the commissioners have previously observed. PART noted in a report to the commissioners that ridership across all forms of public transportation were down due to COVID-19, but that they are seeing ridership returning.
A federal grant to expand services on Route 6 created this situation, PART felt the best way to grow ridership was to increase services, thereby giving the rider more options. The board saw that as money chasing money on a bus line that served a purpose, a purpose that may not exist anymore. The transformation of the American workforce to one more reliant on remote work may never go back to the traditional commuting model of a decade ago.
The commissioners previously passed a resolution to proceed with the county exiting PART, and to begin the process of rescinding a tax on car rental that some of the board felt was unfair.
“The magnitude of this decision is onerous. It’s not about a lot of money, but it’s about folks who have no alternative to navigate going to public services in Winston-Salem. I ask you and challenge you all to look for the good, for there is that of God in all of us. There is good in everything we do.”
– James Henson made an appearance to present the commissioners with a “unique opportunity” to upgrade the county’s volunteer fire service, a topic of recent interest to the board. He mentioned he is paying a fire tax in three districts, and the rate differs between them. “Why is that fair? Our property taxes are the same.”
He offered that it is “time to do something immediate and bold, and level the tax” between fire districts. By having the same fire tax rate for each of the districts it would offer a “chance to revitalize” the volunteer fire departments of the county.
-Surry County has entered into another one-year agreement with Armfield Civic Center in Pilot Mountain to have them manage and facilitate the soccer leagues at Fisher River Park in Dobson.
-Surry County Sheriff Steve Hiatt asked for, and received, permission for his office to apply for an Internet Crimes Against Children grant from the North Carolina Sherriff’s Association. A decision on the grant application will be made in early May.
The grant could award up to $75,000 for the Sheriff’s Office to cover training costs for investigators of these heinous crimes, and an upgrade to computers and networks used in the investigatory process.
– Surry County Board of Elections supervisor Michella Huff has presented options for the realignment of the districts within the county. The BOE had previously reported an imbalance in headcount between the districts of the county commissioners. The goal is for each commissioner to represent as close to 14,271 individuals as is possible.
Currently Commissioner Mark Marion is representing 20,476 citizens compared to Chair Bill Goins and Commissioner Larry Johnson, each representing 12,104 residents a piece in the two Mount Airy districts.
Three proposals were made, and the commissioners chose the option that takes Stewart’s Creek #2 and moves those voters into the Mount Airy district. This change will leave the central district with 16,427 and the two Mount Airy districts with 14,129 each. While still not perfectly balanced, these numbers are closer to the target population.
-At the suggestion of Commissioner Larry Johnson, the board created a committee to investigate and study the need for a county funded fire department that would supplement the efforts of the county’s 17 volunteer fire departments. This committee will report back to the board of commissioners at a later date.
—Finally, Melissa Hiatt, executive director of the United Fund of Surry, thanked the county staff for their participation again this year in the Fund’s annual campaign. Assistant County Manager Sandy Snow received a special call out from Hiatt for her assistance in organizing the county’s campaign.
She went on to offer thanks to the many individuals, organizations, and businesses that participated in the successful United Fund Community Campaign. They will use these funds to offer support to the 26 member organizations that fall under their umbrella.
Hiatt has said that being the United Fund of Surry allows her organization to keep more of the money raised serving the needs of this community rather than sending local dollars to a national organization to spend as they see fit.
March 17, 2022
All over the country this week, college basketball pools have been formed for the NCAA Tournament — aka March Madness — but the community stands to be the big winner from one such activity locally.
This involves a draw-down contest conducted by the Rotary Club of Mount Airy in which 68 tickets were sold — representing the number of teams involved in the annual three-week process to crown the men’s hoops champion of America.
The tickets went for $100 each for a total of $6,800, with the person drawing the winning team to receive $1,000.
After the winnings and other expenses are met, this is to result in about $5,000 to aid various projects of the Rotary Club, which undertakes many community-minded causes each year.
“The last time we had it was 2019 — as a matter of fact it was the only time had it,” Rotary Club member Carol Burke said of the draw-down campaign, explaining that it has been yet another casualty of COVID-19 in recent times.
But the contest returned in a big way this week when a crowd gathered at White Elephant Beer Co. on Market Street for a drawing that determined the teams assigned to each ticket holder. This occurred Monday night in anticipation of “First Four” games played Tuesday and Wednesday nights to round out the tournament field.
Among the ticket buyers with favored teams are Bill Bateman with Gonzaga, the top overall seed for the NCAA Tournament, and Sandra Hurley, Arizona, another contender, Joe Zalescik wound up with Baylor, which also is highly regarded.
Those attending Monday night’s gathering at White Elephant Beer Co. also got the chance to render a written greeting to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) on a large poster to be sent to him.
Krzyzewski will be retiring after this basketball season is complete.
Duke is facing a first-round tournament matchup tonight with Cal State Fullerton in Greenville, South Carolina.
March 17, 2022
Millennium Charter Academy recently hosted its annual orientation for rising kindergartners and their families on March 10.
Nearly 200 parents and children visited eight stations, including kindergarten curriculum, Lion’s Watch and lunches, art and music, and more. At each station the rising kindergartners enjoyed a special activity, such as a read-aloud, touring one of the big, white buses, and singing.
Each group was led on the tour through one of the high schoolers attending the academy.
March 17, 2022
Though the Mount Airy Police Department is recommending no changes to address increased traffic on a local street — caused by the closure of another near Northern Regional Hospital — an affected resident contends some remedy is yet needed.
“It used to be a quiet neighborhood and now it’s like a freeway,” Mark Morency of West Haymore Street said Thursday regarding the extra flow resulting from the closure of a section of nearby Worth Street on Oct. 11.
West Haymore is one street over to the north from Worth, which was closed to traffic between Rockford and South South streets to accommodate a major expansion project of Northern Regional Hospital.
This naturally has caused motorists to find other ways to access Rockford or South streets, which has included West Haymore Street being heavily used as a handy cut-through since it also links the two.
Police Chief Dale Watson told the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners on March 3 that his department began receiving calls about the extra traffic soon after the closure. Many were alleged to be breaking the posted 25 mph limit on West Haymore.
And while Watson acknowledges the increase in vehicles using West Haymore, he is recommending no changes suggested for that street, specifically the implementation of a three-way stop sign configuration at its intersection with Andrews Street.
Andrews runs into West Haymore, forming a Y-intersection, where a stop sign already greets motorists approaching West Haymore from Andrews. The three-way stop was a proposed “calming” measure, the police chief said, which theoretically would slow down traffic due to everyone having to come to a halt at that point.
“That was my recommendation to (Commissioner) Steve Yokeley,” Morency said Thursday of the three-way stop.
However, Watson told the commissioners on March 3 — when he reported on observations made on West Haymore — that these do not merit such a change there. “We don’t recommend any signage,” the chief said of adding more to force West Haymore travelers to stop.
This finding was based on 42 special enforcement initiatives, according to Watson. “We used both marked and unmarked units,” he said. “I myself have observed this location numerous times.”
During the operations to evaluate any need for a three-way stop, a separate speed survey was undertaken, which the chief said determined that vehicles on West Haymore Street were travelling an average of 23 miles per hour.
“That did not support the concerns that were expressed to us,” Watson said of the speeding complaints, adding that the studies by his department were exhaustive.
“We’ve used a lot of resources in that area in the past few months.”
Resident not convinced
Despite such efforts, Mark Morency believes extra safety measures are warranted for the area.
“I don’t know why the chief is against any signage,” the West Haymore street resident said Thursday of what would be a low-cost step for any speeders — “something that would slow them down.”
He also has requested unsuccessfully that the city place speed bumps along the way, and also for traffic lights to be installed at the intersection of Haymore and Rockford streets.
“And it got shot down,” Morency said of the latter proposal to the N.C. Department of Transportation, which sent him a multi-page letter explaining why it would not add a stoplight system there.
“It’s frustrating,” he said of how efforts he has mounted were not embraced by the appropriate officials to alleviate a problem Morency believes is apparent among those living on West Haymore Street.
“People speed up and down that road all day.”
March 17, 2022
To celebrate Cinco De Mayo and Mexican culture, The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History is offering a traditional Mexican Dance Bootcamp.
During this bootcamp, participants will have the opportunity to learn about traditional Mexican dances, music, fashion and much more.
This workshop begins on April 6, and will have classes three nights a week, on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. There will be four weeks of classes and activities, and on May 7 participants will perform in a dance recital at the museum’s Cinco De Mayo celebration. This bootcamp is open to anyone age 15 and older.
Instructors Carmen Mungia and Luz Maria Alvarez will teach two different beginner dances, the Azteca and Jalisco. The dances are beginner level, but every skill level is welcome. Additionally, each dance has a special dress and headpiece that will be provided for the recital performance.
During the day of the recital, participants will perform the Jalisco dance themselves, and then perform the Azteca dance alongside instructors as well as other professionals. The professionals also will do a solo performance of two additional dances to showcase a range of traditional dances for the celebration. The dances may be recognizable to those who have attended previous Día De Los Muertos celebrations at the museum. This year’s Cinco De Mayo celebration will also feature music, food, a local craft vendor, a children’s activity table, and more.
For those who want to further learn about Cinco De Mayo and Mexican history, they will have the opportunity at this month’s history talk on April 30, which is always free to the public.
Ticket prices for the dance bootcamp per individual are $50 for members and $75 for non-members. This price includes the month of classes, the rentals for the two dresses that will be worn during the recital, and the materials for participants to craft their own headpiece during the bootcamp that will be theirs to keep.
There are 12 available slots for this workshop and registration ends on March 31. Anyone with questions about the event should contact The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History at or call 3336-786-4478, or visit in person at 301 N. Main St.
March 17, 2022
Intellectual and developmental disabilities include a wide range of conditions with complex-sounding names, but the message local supporters of people dealing them want to highlight to others in this area is simple:
“We want them to know they want to be involved in the community just like everyone else,” Pam Padgett of Behavioral Services Inc. in Mount Airy said Thursday of persons with Down Syndrome and other disorders.
These folks want to have fun and enjoy life despite having to cope with such challenges. “Inclusion is really important to them,” added Padgett, who is human resources director for the local service provider.
Examples of intellectual and developmental disabilities are Autism Spectrum Disorders, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Fragile X Syndrome and Prader-Willie Syndrome, according to information provided by Padgett.
This included a breakdown from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control showing that one in six children, ages 3 through 17, have at least one developmental disability.
The good news is that with proper services, these individuals learn to manage their lives and overcome everyday challenges, with many obtaining employment. The inclusion factor is important in allowing them to have a meaningful life, experts stress.
Balloon launch
As a family owned and operated entity that is in its 25th year as a service provider for individuals with such disabilities, Behavioral Services Inc. long has spearheaded local observances of National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month each March.
It was launched in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan to promote awareness, inclusion and accessibility in aiding individuals with those conditions.
Before the pandemic, this included an annual balloon release ceremony and reception held at the Behavioral Services Inc. office at 2342 S. Main St.
The ceremony and reception have been a long-standing tradition honoring not only the individuals the agency serves, but everyone with an intellectual or developmental disability.
This year, with COVID still a concern, the annual balloon release will be a virtual event held via Facebook.
“We’re thinking on the 31st,” Padgett advised Thursday.
Yet organizers are hoping to exude the same type of spirit and therapeutic awareness accompanying the previous non-virtual events.
Behavioral Services Inc. works closely with the individuals it serves and their families. The agency is accessible 24/7, including the work of a field staff.
It provides training in life skills and assistance with personal care under the NC-Innovations Waiver, a Medicaid community-care funding source for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities served in their homes and communities.
Services are based on the needs of the individual and are coordinated, designed and developed in partnership with the individual and a treatment team composed of trained professionals.
As part of its mission, Behavioral Services Inc. strives to foster inclusion through events held within its agency and collaborates with other entities to provide that in the community.
It operates in Surry, Stokes, Forsyth, Yadkin, Davie and Iredell counties.
March 16, 2022
RALIEGH – Authorities in Mississippi have arrested and jailed a man in connection to the 30-year-old murder of a woman whose body was found near Interstate 77 in Surry County.
Warren Luther Alexander, 71, was arrested in Diamondhead, Mississippi, and is being held at the Hancock County Jail awaiting extradition to North Carolina. He has been charged with murder in the death of Nona Stamey Cobb. Cobb, who was 30 at the time of her death, was found on the northbound side of Interstate 77 on the morning of July 7, 1992.
In April of 2021, special agents from the SBI’s Cold Case Investigation Unit and investigators from the Surry County Sheriff’s Office returned to the physical evidence in the case which was re-examined to include DNA. While working with Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick, founder of Identifiers International LLC, agents were able to identify Alexander as a suspect in Cobb’s murder using DNA.
On Tuesday of this week, authorities in Diamondhead arrested Alexander.
“This is an ongoing investigation as investigators are looking into whether there are more victims,” Surry County Sheriff Steve C. Hiatt said in a written statement announcing the arrest.
During that time, there were a number of unexplained murders of women, whose bodies were left along East Coast interstates.
Multiple media reports in the early 1990s detailed those murders. Between 1990 and 1992, at least 21 women were found dead along highways in North Carolina, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia and New York. While several of those cases have since been solved, many remain open.
Hiatt said he is appreciative of the work done by the SBI Cold Case Investigation Unit, SBI’s Hickory District Office, NC State Crime Laboratory, Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office, Indiana State Police, Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Hancock County Sheriff’s Office (Mississippi), Diamondhead Police Department (Mississippi), and the FBI Gulfport Office.
March 16, 2022
With pandemic limits on public gatherings being curtailed, local activities and gatherings are getting back to normal.
Nowhere is that more evident than in Pilot Mountain, where a full slate of spring, summer, and autumn activities has been unveiled, with the first such event starting this week with Thursday’s St. Patrick’s Day Downtown celebration getting underway.
That begins a string of more than 20 festivals, cruise-ins, specialty markets, family events and concerts slated over the rest of the year.
Christy Craig, Pilot Mountain’s downtown event coordinator, said the town’s first-ever St. Patrick’s Day event is a little more low-key than some of the other planned activities.
“It features a scavenger hunt,” she said.
The hunt begins at Town Hall, where visitors can stop in and pick up a complimentary green tote bag, along with a list of town stores participating in the event.
“Each store has a shamrock in there with a number,” she said. Shoppers write down the number on the shamrock, on the list of participating stores, then once they’ve found all the shamrock numbers, shoppers turn the card back in at town hall to be entered into a drawing for prizes.
She said the organizers might even help pay for a bit of the shopping — when visitors start their day at town hall, they can get a scratch-off ticket, with cash prizes to help lighten the cost of the downtown shopping.
“It’s just a small event to get people downtown, give the business owners a little bit of boost during a slow time,” she said, while offering visitors some fun activities.
“We were just looking to expand to do some events earlier in the season,” Mayor Evan Cockerham added. “Our summer schedule, and even our fall schedule, has gotten pretty tight. St. Patrick’s Day seemed like a logical choice.” He said some of the businesses and restaurants are even taking on a St. Patrick’s Day theme that day.
While it might be a smaller event, the scavenger hunt kicks off a wide variety of celebrations set for Pilot Mountain. Among those is the town’s well-known Hot Nights and Hot Cars cruise-in series set for a monthly get-together May through October; the return of the popular Mayfest after a three-year pandemic-forced absence; vintage marts; and a new activity — Fun Fridays.
“We’re going to try something out a little different this year to try to get people to come downtown after hours to stay,” Craig said of the Fun Fridays, which will take place on July 15, Aug. 19, and Sept. 16. “We want to give people something to do that no one else is doing.”
The event will include live music and a DJ, dancing, concessions, and other activities, with each one patterned after a different theme — the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
“We’ll encourage people to dress up for the theme and visit the stores before they stay for the party,” she said.
“We’re always looking to add on, to do more events,” said Mayor Cockerham. “Pilot Mountain has always done events really well, we just wanted to do something that brings more music, arts and entertainment.”
He said when he was first elected to office several years ago, one of his priorities was to work with businesses and other organizations to put on events that would bring more people to the town.
“We want downtown Pilot Mountain to become a destination choice, a place where families would visit.”
At the time, he said the town hosted seven or eight annual events. Now, that figure is nearly at two dozen.
“I give a lot of credit to Jenny Kindy and Cristy Craig,” he said. Kindy serves as the town’s Main Street coordinator. “We are excited to welcome people back to Pilot Mountain now that a lot of the COVID restrictions are over. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The full slate of Pilot Mountain events are:
March 17 — St Patrick’s Day Downtown
April 9 — Pilot View Vintage Market
May 6 – May 8 — Mayfest
May 28 — Community for a Cause 5k
June 4 — Hot Nights Hot Cars Cruise In
June 25 — PMPO Food Trucks
July 2 — Hot Nights Hot Cars Cruise In
July 15 — Fun Friday 70s
July 23 — Dinosaurs on Main
Aug. 2 — National Night Out
Aug. 6 — Hot Nights Hot Cars Cruise In
Aug. 19 — Fun Friday 80s
Sept. 3 — Hot Nights Hot Cars Cruise In
Sept. 16 — Fun Friday 90s
Sept. 24 — Foothills Dinner on Main
Oct. 1 — Hot Nights Hot Cars Cruise In
Oct. 22 — Glow Party
Oct. 29 — Monsters on Main & Trunk or Treat
Nov. 5 — Pilot View Vintage Market
Nov. 26 — Deck the Halls/Mistletoe Market
Dec. 3 — Parade and Tree Lighting
March 16, 2022
PILOT MOUNTAIN — The Pilot Mountain Outreach Center has received a $2,000 grant from the Food Lion Feeds Charitable Foundation to help feed neighbors in their time of need. The center will use the gift to purchase cereal for clients of the food pantry.
Karen Caparolie, an outreach center director, expressed appreciation for this Food Lion Feeds Charitable Foundation gift which will allow the organization to “provide a much-needed nutritious addition to our food distribution.”
“Food Lion Feeds Charitable Foundation is committed to supporting families facing food insecurity across its 10-state footprint,” according to the foundation. “Established in 2001, the foundation provides financial support for programs and organizations dedicated to feeding local neighbors in the communities it serves. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded more than $15 million in grants.
March 16, 2022
Next week, the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce will be gathering for a chance to celebrate local businesses — and honoring ten of those businesses and their employees with special recognition.
It will be the chamber’s annual Excellence in Business Awards dinner and ceremony, which gets underway on Thursday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Cross Creek Country Club.
“Other than the annual citizen of the year, these are the only awards we give,” said chamber President and CEO Randy Collins. “It’s really an opportunity to shine the spotlight on some great businesses that deserve the recognition.”
All totaled, there will be ten awards given out — and the chamber is announcing the winners in advance.
“We do that for multiple reasons,” he said. Primarily, though, it is to give award winners plenty of notice.
“We have given awards in the past and kept them a surprise, but sometimes if a company is getting an award, there are family members, employees who want to come. This gives them notice…We’re just hopeful more people will come to the event to celebrate these organizations or individuals.”
This year also marks a change with one new award — the entrepreneur of the year.
“We seem to have a lot of entrepreneurs here. This area attracts a lot of entrepreneurs…Our definition is someone who takes a business from concept to reality and has been in business at least a year.”
The winner of the chamber’s first-ever Entrepreneur of the Year award is Will Pfitzner of LazerEdge. This award is sponsored by Xtreme Marketing.
Traditionally the chamber’s most prestigious recognition is the Business of the Year Award, which is sponsored by Surry County Economic Development Partnership.
“That’s open to any size business, large or small, that really exemplifies a successful organization,” Collins said, adding that this is open to any business in the Greater Mount Airy area, not just chamber members.”We represent some 600 businesses, but there’s close to 3,000 business in the whole county. We don’t want to leave those people out.” And, he added, there were quite a few nominations for this honor.
This year’s Business of the Year Award winner is Northern Regional Hospital.
Additional awards, their sponsors, and the recipients include:
• Administrative Professional of the Year 2021: Melanie Clark, Rogers Realty & Auction Company Inc. This award is sponsored by Ridgecrest Senior Living Community;
• Agribusiness of the Year 2021: Mitchell’s Nursery & Greenhouse Inc., sponsored by Wayne Farms;
• Ambassador of the Year 2021: Joe Zalescik, Station 1978 Firehouse Peanuts, sponsored by The Mount Airy News;
• Business and Education Partner Award 2021: Shenandoah Furniture, sponsored by Surry Yadkin Electric Membership Corp.;
• Business Longevity Award 2021: Rogers Realty & Auction Company Inc., sponsored by Surry Communications;
• Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award 2021: Reeves Community Center Foundation, sponsored by Duke Energy;
• Excellence in Tourism Award 2021: Heart & Soul Bed and Breakfast, sponsored by Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority;
• Public Service Award 2021: Darren Lewis, City of Mount Airy, sponsored by Carport Central/Cibirix.
While last year’s Excellence in Business Awards was done virtually because of regulations against public gatherings as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Collins said he’s hoping to see a good crowd turn out for this year’s event. Before the pandemic, he said the awards ceremony generally drew about 200 or so individuals.
Any businesses interested in becoming a sponsor, or any individuals wishing to purchase tickets, can do so by contacting Collins by phone at 336-786-6116 or email at For more information on the chamber and the awards, visit
March 16, 2022
A man credited with providing valuable business expertise to help the Spencer’s redevelopment project in Mount Airy achieve recent success — as an unpaid volunteer no less — has received special recognition through the state Department of Commerce.
Bryan Grote was named a Main Street Champion during the 2022 North Carolina Main Street Conference last week.
This included his accomplishments being highlighted during a virtual ceremony, along with other downtown advocates, as part of the state Main Street program operated through the Department of Commerce to help such areas improve.
Main Street Champions are defined as individuals who are committed to downtown revitalization and strong communities through public-private partnerships and other initiatives.
Observers of Bryan Grote’s role in downtown Mount Airy — particularly the ongoing effort to transform the old Spencer’s textile complex for new uses — agree that he has provided such a commitment.
“Most people will never know the extent of time, care and expertise that Bryan Grote has given to Mount Airy,” it was mentioned during the ceremony recognizing him as a Main Street Champion.
“Working mostly behind the scenes and avoiding recognition, Bryan is humble and prefers to work out of the spotlight.”
Grote, who grew up in Winston-Salem, holds a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Minnesota and an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
He is a principal and co-founder of Mercator Advisors, LLC, a registered financial advisory firm that provides consulting services for transportation infrastructure projects and capital programs. Grote works with state and local governments on behalf of Mercator.
In highlighting the fact that his efforts on behalf of Mount Airy’s central business district have come at no cost to the municipality, an announcer said during the North Carolina Main Street Conference that he is “truly a Godsend.”
Grote serves as president of the governing board for the group Mount Airy Downtown Inc.
“Mount Airy Downtown has one employee (Main Street Coordinator Lizzie Morrison), so Bryan rolls up his sleeves and works endless hours on all four points of Main Street,” it was mentioned at the state ceremony.
“With 25 years of experience in government finance and infrastructure policy, Bryan’s knowledge has helped move the needle forward on major projects like the redevelopment of elements of the historic Spencer’s mill site in Mount Airy’s downtown district.”
This included Grote writing a request for proposals for the Spencer’s project in late 2020 and managing a process that led to city officials executing a development agreement for a $14 million boutique hotel and market center at the site.
“Bryan is a process-focused leader, a once-in-a-lifetime mentor and a wonderful friend,” it was announced during the ceremony.
“I have enjoyed this work, which gave me a greater understanding of the city’s situation,” Grote has stated regarding local economic-development efforts he has been involved with in recent years.
In all, 33 individuals, couples and groups were named Main Street Champions.
March 16, 2022
People handle grief in different ways, and when her husband died from the coronavirus last April it was only natural for legendary singer-songwriter Donna Fargo to rely on her music in the form of a new CD.
“It was so deep,” the Grammy winner from Mount Airy said of the pain and despair she endured after losing Stan Silver, whom she had married in 1968.
“I didn’t know if I would get out of this alive,” Fargo added during a telephone interview Monday afternoon from her home in Tennessee while recalling her thoughts in the aftermath of his death.
This ordeal was coupled with her own bout with COVID at the same time, on top of two strokes and the multiple sclerosis Fargo (birth name Yvonne Vaughn) has dealt with since being diagnosed in 1978.
The couple wound up at the hospital, where she was treated for the coronavirus and sent home with a good prognosis. “And they kept him,” Fargo said of her husband — who never got to leave.
“A God thing”
The death of one’s spouse is well-documented as an emotionally devastating experience rated as one of the most stressful of all possible losses on the life event scales.
And it was no different for Donna Fargo, who had churned out a series of Top 10 country music hits in the 1970s, including “The Happiest Girl In The Whole U.S.A.” and “Funny Face” along with hosting her own syndicated television series.
Those two songs also became crossover hits on the pop charts for the woman who had graduated from Mount Airy High School in 1958 and eventually migrated to California, where she taught school before launching her music career full-time.
Despite Stan Silver’s passing, he lived on in a sense in terms of how Fargo’s new CD project — “All Because of You” — evolved, she firmly believes in looking back on the events transpiring afterward.
“We had been working toward a new CD” containing fresh songs, “kind of off and on as I would write them,” she said. “We were just kind of in the middle of the project.”
This included an array of material the pair had been assembling for five or six years. “I had them scattered around,” Fargo said of those songs.
With her husband’s death it would have been easy to forget those creations and relegate them to the dust bin of history, but Donna Fargo believes there were forces at work which brought the songs to light.
“He left them for me to find,” she believes, which apparently was aided by no small degree of divine intervention, since Silver normally would have been the one to ramrod those songs into production.
“It was really a God thing all the way — I hadn’t thought about music.”
The result was “All Because of You,” developed under the PrimaDonna label in Nashville, a collection of six tracks — “just our favorite songs that I’d been written,” the local native said of she and Silver.
“Some of my favorite songs I’ve ever written are there,” advised Fargo, who now has “at least 20” albums to her credit along with authoring books.
And her latest CD seems to hold a special spot in her heart among that catalog of music.
“Thank you, God, for knowing what would pull me out of the depth of my grief when it seemed like music had become a stranger to my soul,” Fargo states in its liner notes. The CD is dedicated to Silver, with mention of his role in publishing Fargo’s songs and producing all her hit records.
Most of the tracks on the CD, with hearts adorning the cover, have romantic themes, such as “Love Knows No Door,” “I Think of You” and “One of the Good Guys.”
Then there is “This is America,” a rousing patriotic battle cry which Fargo originally had titled “We Can Do Better in America.”
“Growing up in Mount Airy, it seems like I’ve always loved God and my country,” Fargo explained Monday afternoon in discussing the basis for that catchy tune. “It’s hard to see what’s going on in the country.”
“This is America” refers to that with lyrics including “before we lead the world again, we’ve got to lead ourselves” and mentions “big shot CEOs sending jobs to other countries.”
“We need each other more than ever in America,” the song continues in its theme of “we can do better.”
“This is America” could be the signature track that is picked to spearhead the CD as a whole, a process now under way among selected disc jockeys around the country, Fargo reported.
Promotional material for the CD states that it is not taking the conventional release path, including store sales, and for now at least is available only at
Despite all the highs and lows she has been through, Donna Fargo is thankful for her existence today, which includes fond thoughts about the community from which she hailed.
“I’ve always been proud of my hometown and always bragged about it onstage,” she said of Mount Airy while offering a special message to its residents:
“Tell the people I miss them,” Fargo said, mentioning that she receives “so much mail” from Mount Airy.
“And I appreciate it,” the singer said of how that has enhanced her overall love for people and appreciation of life.
“I’m just really blessed.”
March 15, 2022
• A break-in at a Mount Airy residence has led to the larceny of a $1,000 television set, according to city police reports.
The crime was discovered last Friday at the home of May Nio on Arlington Street, where entry was gained via an unsecured basement door. This enabled the theft of property valued at $1,040 altogether, including the 70-inch Samsung TV set along with 13-foot and 3-foot sections of copper pipe.
• Tyler James Harris, 21, of 309 Taylor St., was charged with driving while impaired last Thursday after officers investigated a traffic crash on North Main Street near East Oakdale Street involving a 1982 Ford F-150 pickup he was operating.
Harris is free on a written promise to appear in Surry District Court on March 28.
• Police were told Saturday that a license plate, number RDB2839, had been stolen from a 2007 Honda Odyssey owned by Daymarie Joan Perez Rodriguez while it was parked at her home on Austin Drive.
• Donald Jefferson Todd Black, 49, of Shelby, was jailed without bond on March 3 on a felony charge of assault by strangulation along with misdemeanors of assault on a female and interfering with emergency communication.
The charges stem from a Feb. 24 incident at Holiday Inn Express and Suites on EMS Drive, where Eva M. Vickers of Glendale, South Carolina, reported being struck and strangling by the suspect who also prevented her from calling for help.
Minor injuries resulted during the incident for which Black is scheduled to appear in Surry District Court next Monday.
March 15, 2022
Even before the three candidates for Mount Airy mayor start facing off over city government issues, a debate has broken out regarding campaign signs put out by the man now holding that position.
Teresa Lewis, one of Ron Niland’s two opponents for a primary in May, is objecting to wording on the signs which urges voters to “re-elect” him as mayor.
Lewis contends Niland has not been elected mayor in the usual manner — with citizens casting ballots at polling sites — but actually was appointed to the municipality’s top office by other council members. This occurred in May of last year after Niland had served as mayor on an interim basis for more than six months following the resignation of David Rowe.
“Several people have mentioned to me that they were not aware that Ron was elected mayor,” Lewis said this week in questioning the sign terminology indicating this.
“Maybe Ron knows something I don’t,” she added. “I just don’t think it’s right.”
Niland contended otherwise when asked to react to Lewis’ complaint.
“My statement would be I was elected by the board,” he said of a 4-0 decision by council members to name him mayor last year. “I feel saying ‘re-elect’ is appropriate.”
Niland believes Lewis is nit-picking with technicalities over something he doesn’t see as a major concern, while also taking aim at her own sign practices.
“I think the bigger issue is people putting signs out in rights of ways,” he said of those promoting Lewis’ candidacy which began appearing well before the candidates’ filing period opened in December and allegedly weren’t permitted.
“She’s got them up all over the city,” Niland said of signs he believes Lewis should remove from improper locations.
Lewis responded by saying she has obtained owners’ permission to place signs outside homes and businesses.
“If mine are in the right of way, so are most of the other people’s,” she commented, in addition to sending photos of such signs located close to public roadways.
A matter of “semantics”?
Lewis said she would not have objected to Niland’s signs stating “Keep Ron Niland as Mayor” or something similar, with the “re-elect” reference the problem for her.
She pointed out that signs for another municipal candidate, At-Large Commissioner Joe Zalescik, simply are asking citizens to vote for him as commissioner.
Lewis said she also had such a view while serving as Mount Airy’s at-large commissioner about 12 years ago, when council members chose her to replace Deborah Cochran after Cochran was elected mayor.
“I was never elected, I was appointed.”
Had she chosen to run for the at-large seat later, Lewis said she would not have asked voters to “re-elect me” and is choosing to think Niland’s doing do involves a simple oversight.
“I don’t think he purposely did something that would mislead the people.”
Niland was asked if he ever considered different terminology for his signage.
“To be honest with you, I never even thought about it,” he responded. “I don’t think it’s that big an issue.”
This view is shared by the third person in the Mount Airy mayoral race, present North Ward Commissioner Jon Cawley.
“I can see where voters are questioning the semantics of it,” Cawley said of the wording on Niland’s posters. “But there’s a lot more important things in the world.”
Cawley, who was one of the four commissioners approving Niland’s assumption to the mayor’s position in May 2021, personally has no problem with the use of “re-elect.”
“The board elected him the mayor,” he reasoned, “so he has been elected.”
Both Cawley and Niland believe citizens who have kept up with city government events are aware of everything that has brought Mount Airy to this point as far as who is who and why.
“I think everybody pretty much knows what’s going on,” Niland said.
Cawley believes the “re-elect” reference simply is asking voters who are pleased with what’s occurring at City Hall to maintain the status quo.
“It’s not a big deal to me.”
Incumbency can be negative
Niland pointed to another aspect, the idea that being an incumbent — while sometimes giving one an inside track — is not necessarily a good thing.
If citizens are dissatisfied with city government, they are likely to blame present office-holders at election time, he said.
Niland also reminded that he would not be facing the situation of running for mayor had he maintained the post he earlier was elected to, at-large commissioner.
“My belief is that I gave up a safe seat that I could have run for, as commissioner at-large, and still had two years left in my term,” he said. “But I gave that up to run for mayor.”
Niland was elected commissioner in 2019 and had he remained in that position wouldn’t have faced re-election again until 2024 due to a switch from odd to even-year municipal elections adding an extra 12 months to existing officials’ four-year terms.
Sign placements
The locating of Teresa Lewis signs in rights of way around town prompted a special announcement from Surry County Director of Elections Michella Huff, according to Niland.
Among other rules cited by Huff in that Jan. 4 message, no political sign shall be permitted in the right of way of a fully controlled access highway, and none shall be closer than three feet from the edge of the pavement of the road.
Also, the permission of any property owner of a residence, business or religious institution fronting the right of way where a sign would be erected is required.
Lewis responded that “no one has told me” about any right of way violations on her part.
“I always step off six feet, which is what I was told by the Board of Elections,” the candidate continued. “And homes and businesses gave me permission.”
Niland hopes more attention can be devoted to key issues as the campaign creeps toward the May 17 primary, from which the two top vote-getters will square off in the general election in November under Mount Airy’s non-partisan system.
“I have tried to run and will run a very positive campaign,” he said.
“And I hope this campaign is about my vision for the city — and not about signs.”
March 15, 2022
Sons of Mystro will perform at the Historic Earle Theatre on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The violin duo will have two performances, one daytime performance for more than 425 local students and an evening performance open to the public.
Born in South Florida to a Jamaican father and Barbadian mother, Malcolm, 23, and his 20-year-old brother Umoja learned to play violin through South Florida’s public school system and attended Dillard High School for the Performing Arts.
Together, these brothers are Sons of Mystro. They use their violins to interpret reggae classics, American pop songs, and their own creations accompanied by a DJ and a drummer. They are winners of the Emerging Artist under 21yrs Old award at International Reggae and World Music Awards. Their debut recording, “Reggae Strings” is available wherever music is streamed or sold. Mentored by the classical meets hip hop duo, Black Violin, these artists’ stars are on the rise.
Sons of Mystro has played at many festivals and events, including The Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival, Legends Easter Fest, One Love Reggae Fest, Reggae Dancehall Awards, Sunfest, and the annual Jazz in the Gardens. They’ve graced the same stage with reggae, dancehall, and R&B veterans such as Marcia Griffiths, John Holt, Ken Boothe, Dobby Dobson, Freddie McGregor, Frankie Paul, Fantasia Barrino, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, and Earth, Wind & Fire.
The performances are funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council. Tickets are $10-$15 per person. For additional information or tickets, visit, call 336-786-7998, or email Marianna Juliana at
March 15, 2022
A total of up the $2.1 million is available for local non-profits as part of a plan meant to help them through a time when donations and fundraising may have dropped, but the demand for services did not. The clock is ticking for non-profits in Surry County to apply for a grant from Invest in Surry, the application window has been extended through April 14.
Federal planners wanted to offer relief to as many people as possible, so they set aside large amounts of money for local governments, counties, and tribal leaders to enact public works projects in their own communities. The theory being that local leaders would have a better sense of what needs to be done.
County Manager Chris Knopf explained the plan as an investment in the categories of salaries and revenue loss. Then the county can turn around over the next few years and invest those savings in infrastructure, public health, public safety, public recreation, community development and non-profit grants.
“We are using regular general funds to assist nonprofits that serve a public purpose and provide services the county has the statutory and constitutional authority to fund,” said Denise Brown of the county finance office. “Especially those that have been hit hard financially by COVID and have not received assistance from other sources.”
Simply put, the county is supplementing revenue loss and salaries with money the federal government is sending. The funds that would have been used for such will then be free to Invest in Surry, including more than $2 million for non-profit groups.
Preference for those non-profit grants will be shown to organizations which provide services to communities most impacted by the pandemic. Groups who have three years of service in the county serving vulnerable populations such as seniors, low income, handicapped, unemployed, or the homeless and have a net revenue of under $2 million are welcome to apply.
By approving Invest in Surry, the county can move on the approved items found within individually, as the county sees fit and when the funds become available.
The projects have to support public health expenditures or address negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic. Replacing lost public sector revenue, providing premium pay for essential workers, or investing in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure were also among conditions.
The county solicited ideas for how to best use the funds for the projects that would benefit the most people. Those suggestions from citizens, agencies, and county departments were then used to refine the initial blueprint on spending the rescue plan funds.
Prior to Invest in Surry, federal funds had been set aside for other projects, and the county made sure early in the process to develop and deploy bonuses for county employees who worked through the pandemic.
Last September, the board agreed to a one-time bonus of $2,100 to full time employees of the county. Permanent part time and temporary workers were eligible for a bonus using a sliding scale, with all employees having to be on payroll before May 2020, and actively employed by the county at the time of the bonus.
These relief funds were meant to benefit everyone so in February, the Invest in Surry plan was approved for projects to benefit the public.
Public health entities will receive $1.6 million in funding for additional PPE, air quality improvements to their offices, as well as pandemic mitigation upgrades. Public safety improvements such as a mobile command unit for shared use between county agencies and cyber security enhancements are budgeted around $1.5 million.
River accesses, lighting for parks and ball fields, completion of the Mountains to Sea trail, and pandemic protocol improvements to Fisher River Park including bathrooms and concession stand are estimated to cost $1.2 million.
Community development projects are projected at $900,000 and include funding for the new Surry on the Go streaming service, as well as capital improvements for the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History and the Surry Arts Council.
The largest percentage of the funds are set to go to infrastructure projects, currently estimated at 46% of the total fund budget, or $6.5 million. Water/sewer deficiencies, fiber broadband enhancements, Camp Creek riverbank restoration, and airport improvements were all listed as top priorities to the board of commissioners.
The broadband initiative is an exciting one for this area as it is the “last miles” project, meaning these communities in Shoals, State Road, and Lowgap are some of the last communities to have fiber broadband access in the county.
More information on the Invest in Surry non-profit grants can be found on a link on the county’s homepage at or use the search bar to search: Invest in Surry.
March 14, 2022
PINNACLE — The North Carolina Living Historical Farm Committee Inc. will hold its annual Spring Heirloom Apple Tree Sale beginning Saturday, March 19 and continuing through mid-April or until all trees are sold out.
Dozens of apple varieties will be available. Magnum Bonum, Striped Ben Davis, Russet Sheepnose, Rustycoat, Fall Orange, Red Cathead, and Dixie Red Delight are just a few examples of the varieties offered. All trees are grafted from cuttings taken from the Southern Heritage Apple Orchard and, as such, are duplicates of the heirloom trees in the orchard.
Four different rootstocks have been used to graft the cuttings onto, which will determine the height of the resulting tree.
• B9 Rootstock will produce a tree 8 – 10 feet tall
• G202 Rootstock will result in a tree 12 – 14 feet fall
• M7 Rootstock will produce a tree 14 – 16 feet tall.
• MIII Rootstock will result in a tree 20 feet or more in height.
Horne Creek Farm is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. The trees will be sold from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Price per tree is $22.50. All proceeds from the sale of the apple trees will be used specifically for the benefit of the Southern Heritage Apple Orchard.
In addition, the site will also have three varieties of peach trees available: Elberta, Indian Cling, and Belle of Georgia. Cost per tree is the same as the apple trees: $22.50.
Acceptable methods of payment include cash, check, Visa, Mastercard, or Discover.
Customers are encouraged social distance. Masks are optional, though unvaccinated and high-risk individuals are encouraged to wear one.
For more information about the Annual Apple Tree Sale, call 336-325-2298.
Horne Creek Living Historical Farm State Historic Site is part of the Division of State Historic Sites in the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The farm is located at 308 Horne Creek Farm Road, Pinnacle. For more information, contact the site at 336-325-2298.
March 14, 2022
A spring tradition will be returning to Surry County this year, when the Surry County Parks and Recreation holds an Easter Egg Hunt at Fisher River Park in Dobson.
The hunt was an annual tradition put on by the department until 2020. That year, as was the case with most of regular public gatherings, the event was cancelled in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, still in the throes of the pandemic, it was again cancelled.
This year, with the drop in local cases, the recreation department will bring back the popular event.
“We usually tally over 600 people entering the gate,” said Bradley Key, program coordinator for parks and rec. “The event is more than just the egg hunt…between 10 and 1, community vendors, agencies, civil service groups along with their vehicles — fire trucks, Humvees, various vehicles — are on display. Families come, visit these booths, talk with representatives from these agencies.”
There is also plenty of fun, with the Easter Bunny expected to be onhand to visit with children, along with face painting, arts, crafts, and other activities.
Best of all, Key said, the event is free — though organizers are asking those attending to bring a canned food item for donation, with the food going to area food banks.
Of course, the big draw — at least for the youth — is the Easter egg hunt. Key said roughy 8,000 eggs will be there.
“Each egg will be stuffed with candy or toys and there is a grand prize Golden Egg to be found in each age group’s area,” he said.
Key explained the egg hunting is done in three shifts, with kids grouped by age. At noon those aged birth up to 3 will collect eggs, at 12:20 p.m. the 4- to 6-year-olds will be let lose on the field; and at 12:40 those aged 7 and older will have their chance.
“You don’t want to be late,” he said with a laugh. “They can clear a whole ball field of thousands of eggs in less than 5 minutes. It is amazing. Generally, each child collects at least 20 eggs.”
He does say children need to bring their own baskets, although the county will have a limited number available for those who may forget or need an additional basket.
“We would love to see a similar size crowd to what we’ve had in the past, it’s a great fun healthy activity for the families to get back involved in. Folks may have not had as much opportunity to have fun over the past couple of years. We’re happy to offer this as a chance to get out for a fun, family activity.”
He said the event is outdoors, which will limit potential COVID issues, and while masks are not required, individuals are still free to wear one if they want. The county will have hand sanitizer on hand for individuals to use, and he said there will be plenty of space for people to spread out, observing social distancing practices.
The gathering is set for April 2. For more information, visit the Parks and Recreation Facebook page.
Key said if inclement weather occurs and the event cannot be held, it will still go on — just in a drive-through format, with folks able to drive up for youth to get some goody-filled eggs.
March 13, 2022
The American College of Health Care Administrators recently honored Virginia “Jenny” Triplett, RN, BSN, director of the Northern Skilled Nursing Center at Northern Regional Hospital with the 2022 Eli Pick Facility Leadership Award.
Only 3% of facilities nationwide met the initial selection criteria. This year, 57 administrators in 17 states met all eligibility requirements and were awarded the facility leadership award.
“This award recognizes outstanding leaders who have performed at the highest professional level for the entire 2021 calendar year,” said Chris A. Lumsden, Northern Regional Hospital president and CEO. “Jenny is an excellent nurse, leader, and person, and she and her entire team are most deserving of this coveted recognition. We appreciate Jenny and her many contributions in leading our award-winning Skilled Nursing Center.”
Eligibility for this award is based on three years of skilled nursing facility survey data, including the health, fire safety, and complaint surveys, as well as top quartile performance on designated quality measures. The criteria also include at least a 70% or greater facility occupancy and a three‐year avoidance of a Special Focus Facility status.
The Facility Leadership Award was introduced in 2008 by one of ACHCA’s most revered leaders, the late Eli Pick. A former executive director of the Ballard Rehabilitation Center, DesPlaines, Ilinois, for more than 30 years, “Eli embodied excellence as an administrator who cared for his residents, their families, and his community,” the organization said. “This award is presented annually in memory of Eli, a consummate member of ACHCA, dedicated to advancing professionalism and leadership in long‐term care.“
March 13, 2022
Shoals Elementary School recently named its student leaders of the month for February. They are pictured here.
March 13, 2022
The cold winds of Saturday morning were met with smiling faces from a team of volunteers from the Animal Welfare Committee of Surry County, Surry Medical Ministries, Humane Solution, and the vet team from DEGA. They created a pop up veterinary clinic in the parking lot of First United Methodist Church in Pilot Mountain to offer vet care to pets and owners in need.
DEGA Mobile Veterinary Care is a nonprofit based in the Triangle that provides their pop-up clinics in various locations to give basic vet care to cats, dogs, and pet pigs that would otherwise may not see a veterinarian. Dr. April Gessner and Dr. Bennett Deddens, spouses who met in veterinary training, held their first clinic on Valentine’s Day last year in Raleigh.
Determined for Everyone to Gain Access to Veterinary Care (DEGA) was born from Dr. Gessner’s desire to help pets on a more local level just as she has done in years of international volunteer work involving animals. It was also created to honor the memory of her beloved dogs Dega and Ghon by helping pets in need.
This desire brought DEGA on Saturday back to Pilot Mountain for their second time partnering with the Animal Welfare Committee to provide treatment. Advance registration for the event filled up fast with 23 confirmed appointment times, but they were anticipating more by the end.
Lee Stalcup, a volunteer and one of the organizers of the event, is thankful for the help from DEGA who offered a “needs based service, and a service to our community.” She would know a little something about communities coming together to aid animals. As the rescue coordinator for Mayberry 4 Paws, around the animal community in these parts Stalcup is known as an animal advocate of the highest order.
“Everyone at the event is involved in animal rescue in some way,” she said, adding that it takes a big heart to deal with animals in need. As this was a needs-based event, some of these animals and their owners may not have had the ability to seek out veterinary care.
While not offering a full suite of veterinary services, the clinic providing rabies vaccinations, checkups, microchips, minor treatments, flea and tick preventative, and heart worm preventative to some pets who may not have loved the attention from random strangers. The animals are sent home with more supplies depending on what is needed, a stack of dog food and treats were standing by.
Jessica Dunlap, president of the Animal Welfare Committee, had her daughter Alyssa along to assist with checking in the animals as they arrived at the church. A pop up clinic to be sure, the process still mirrored a vet’s office. Parents waited in cars as the animals went to be examined by the team of four vets and two vet techs.
Tender touches were observed and soft words spoken to dogs shivering in a brisk wind, with no sign of mom or dad to be seen. Animal lovers were all around though, the warmth and gentle nature of the staff of volunteers helped to calm confused animals.
Dunlap mentioned she is hopeful to add in the future spay and neuter services to these clinics. Animal advocacy groups have been presenting the lack of low/no cost spay neuter clinics as one of the root causes for pet overpopulation in the county. DEGA recently received a grant and purchased an additional mobile unit for such services.
As Amber Golding of Tiny Tigers Rescue can attest, one stray cat can yield more than a dozen kittens in one year. Having spay-neuter solutions that are easy to access, and affordable, could reduce the number of pets at the animal shelter annually who are put down at county expense.
Dunlap relayed a story from last October of a homeless woman who walked four miles with three dogs for treatment from their clinic, and the volunteers drove her where she needed to go afterward. The event meant for the animals was able to do so much more, she wishes though she could do more.
Replicating the success of these needs-based clinics again in this area will help to do just that, she said. Having the partnership with DEGA and the flexibility of the mobile care center will allow clients an ease of access to these low/no cost services that can be hard to find.
March 13, 2022
DOBSON — For the third spring in a row, a highly regarded musical event staged at Surry Community College in Dobson will not be held and could even be silenced for good.
“It may be dead forever — I don’t know,” said Buck Buckner, longtime organizer of the Surry Old-Time Fiddlers Convention, citing multiple issues for that outlook.
The event traditionally held around late March/early April has been one of the few of its kind anywhere due to catering entirely to the old-time music genre — unlike most conventions that include competition among both bluegrass and old-time performers. That is the case with those held in Mount Airy and Galax, Virginia, later in the year.
After celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019, the spring convention was cancelled in both 2020 and 2021 due to the coronavirus, and it also has been shelved this year, Buckner confirmed Friday — with no breakthrough seen on the immediate horizon.
“I don’t know if it will ever fire back up again,” Buckner said of the convention that typically attracts more than 100 old-time bands and individual musicians from near and far including youngsters plying the craft.
The two-day event has kicked off with a heavily attended Friday night square dance in the college gymnasium featuring well-known area bands, with the competition held there the next day. A festival atmosphere has permeated the campus during the conventions.
For 2022, the culprit is a combination of factors including lingering COVID concerns and a lack of interest among key parties, Buckner summarized.
Dr. David Shockley, the president of Surry Community College, “called it off back before the year started, really,” the organizer said.
“At the college, they’ve tightened up, and I think it was when COVID started,” Buckner added in regard to restrictions imposed by the state government which are continuing to affect such events.
He believes retirements and job reassignments of personnel at the college who played a role in perpetuating the convention to be another factor, with no one else taking up that task.
“They just don’t want to deal with it anymore,” in the view of Buckner, who said such complications are hampering any restart of the convention at this time.
“It’s very disappointing that it’s not happening,” said the organizer, himself an old-time musician who admits that his enthusiasm has become somewhat dampened as a result. “I just got kind of frustrated.”
Holding out hope
Despite that frustration, Buckner says there is a possibility the convention could be resurrected later this year.
He has been contacted by personnel from the town of Dobson who are interested in holding it at either a town park or Fisher River Park just outside the county seat.
A facility in Elkin is another possible venue.
“If we do figure it out, it will be in the fall,” Buckner said of a potential return of the Surry Old-Time Fiddlers Convention for 2022.
He said it’s unfortunate that it can’t be held this spring, especially with the pandemic situation loosening and music fans looking to attend an event featuring live performances.
“But they won’t find it at Surry Community College this year.”
March 13, 2022
What the Senior Games of North Carolina may lack in terms of the pomp and grandeur of the recent Olympic Games, they more than make up for with the character of the people of the Tarheel state. Sadly, Beijing saw no cheerleading contests between fierce rival squads of senior citizens, NBC has the ratings to prove it.
The Yadkin Senior Games and SilverArts 2022 will not have any intense curling battles, they will however take the fun of spirited athletic competition and add in contests in arts categories to engage in an olympiad of both the body and mind.
“You are never too old to play, and its never too late to create,” said Bradley Key, local coordinator of the games. In a typical year, he said the games may have 150 – 200 participants from across the region. The games are open to residents of other counties, only the pickleball tournament has a requirement one player live in Surry or Yadkin counties.
Feeding into the North Carolina Senior Games State Finals, The Yadkin Valley Senior Games and SilverArts have their registration open now through the end of March. Registration costs $10, will include a t-shirt, and can be found online at:
Athletic events offered at the Yadkin Senior Games include bowling, cycling, 5k run, swimming, and also track and field events. Tournament style events for billiards, bocce, disc golf, croquet, shuffleboard, and cornhole will also be held. Multiple racket events are being held with tennis, table tennis, badminton, racquetball, and a new favorite across the nation: pickleball.
A skill game involving launching dill pickles into an oversized barrel, this is not. Pickleball is a social game for all ages that combines many elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. Played on a smaller court with a paddle, Silver Sneakers Magazine said seniors enjoy the game because, “beginners are always welcome, the rules are easy to learn, and it’s designed to be carefree and fun.”
“Pickleball is a great sport for active living across the lifetime,” says Jonathan Casper, Ph.D., associate professor of sports management at North Carolina State University. “Because it’s similar to other racquet sports, you can learn the game pretty quickly, and you can play for as long as your body will let you.”
A sports fitness industry survey found a 21.3% increase in national participation since 2019, in part due to inclusion at retirement communities. However, the combination of a smaller court, a paddle, and serves not screaming by one’s head may hold appeal to players of all types.
Medical professionals have encouraged making regular time for physical activity as people age, making time for a brain workout may also reap benefits. Activities that engage both brain and motor skills at the same time can aid in both improving physical fitness while also putting one of the body’s most important organs to work.
To that end, the SilverArts are “a celebration of the creative expression of seniors in North Carolina” and are a major component of the traditional athletic competition of Senior Games that some may not have heard about.
Striving to keep seniors active and involved, the program unites athlete and artist to highlight the similarities found in both. Qualities of discipline, dedication, and pride in accomplishment can be found on display in a range of artistic mediums.
SilverArts categories include literary arts for entries in essay, short story, and poems. In visual arts submissions being sought include pastels, photography, sculpture, and watercolors.
For those who seek the spotlight performing arts will host vocal, comedy, and line dancing showcases. Cheerleading squads in groups small, medium, and large compete at the local level as well for their chance to make it to the state finals to achieve their bragging rights as best in the state.
Heritage arts category may be of special interest to craftspeople of the area. A display of skills among the best in local basket weaving, crocheting, knitting, needlework, quilting, stained glass, pottery, weaving, woodcarving, and woodworking will be sure to delight competitors and audiences alike.
“While many of our participants simply like to participate for fun locally, this is also an opportunity to qualify in an event and advance to compete at the North Carolina Senior Games State Finals,” Key said.
Submitted artwork will be on exhibit at Yadkin Cultural Arts Center from 12 – 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 2.
The Yadkin Valley Senior Games and SilverArts run May 3 – June 14. The North Carolina Senior Games state finals begin in September with archery and wrap up in November with a basketball tournament in Greenville.
With even more options than space to list here, those interested in participating locally should take a trip to: for a complete listing of all the offerings in the Senior Games and SilverArts.
March 12, 2022
• A man listed as homeless has been charged with stealing merchandise valued at $305 from the Tractor Supply store on Rockford Street, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.
Cody Levi Dalton, 28, is accused of larceny, possession of stolen goods and possession of drug paraphernalia stemming from the Monday night incident that targeted clothing and other items. Included were a $200 pair of boots along with a machete, hunting knife, belts, tools and pants.
Dalton is scheduled to appear in Surry District Court on March 21 and has been banned from Tractor Supply.
• Police learned Monday that a license plate had been stolen from Scenic Chevrolet Buick GMC after it fell from a vehicle onto the roadway at the Rockford Street dealership, which is listed as the victim of the crime.
The tag number was reported as FD92758.
• A crime involving breaking into a coin-operated machine, damage to property and hit and run was discovered last Sunday at Dusty’s Car Wash on East Pine Street. It included someone using a hammer in an effort to break into machinery, who also backed a vehicle into a concrete slab there containing decorative stones before leaving the scene.
Two coin-operated car wash boxes valued at $500 were listed as stolen during the incident, with damage put at $500 occurring to the concrete structure.
March 12, 2022
That bone-chilling feeling that’s made conditions seem colder than usual at times this year has been confirmed by the latest local weather statistics.
The average temperature for January was more than two degrees cooler than usual while February’s readings were only slightly above normal, based on a two-month breakdown issued last Monday by F.G. Doggett Water Plant.
It is Mount Airy’s official weather-monitoring station.
January’s contribution to frigidness included a pair of 10-degree days, on both Jan. 30-31, which took low-temperature honors for the month.
Ironically, the mercury had hit a balmy 77 earlier in January, on its second day, which was the highest reading during the 31-day period.
All this added up to an average temperature of a near-freezing 33.9 degrees, compared to the all-time local average for the first month of the year, 36.1 degrees. Weather records have been maintained in Mount Airy since 1924.
In February, the mercury averaged an even 40 degrees, less than 1 degree warmer than the usual monthly average of 39.3.
The average temp for both months combined was 36.95 degrees, cooler than the local average of 37.7 for January and February.
February’s showing included a monthly low of 16 degrees logged for both Feb. 7 and Feb. 16, with a 71-degree temperature on the 24th the high for the month.
Frost was noted on 15 days during January and 12 days in February.
Precipitation above normal
After several months of drought-like conditions, Mount Airy’s precipitation level so far in 2022 was 38.9% or 2.65 inches, above normal as of Feb. 28.
A total of 9.47 inches was measured in January and February at the water plant, compared to the all-time local average for those two months of 6.82 inches.
This was due to higher-than normal precipitation during each.
In January, it totaled 4.05 inches — exceeding the January local average of 3.72 inches — and in February the result was 5.42 inches compared to the usual 3.10 for the second month here.
Measurable amounts occurred on nine days during January, with 0.91 inches the most falling on a single day, logged for Jan. 10.
January’s weather picture also included 0.70 inches of snow on Jan. 3, 1.8 inches on Jan. 16 and 0.9 inches on Jan. 17
February produced 13 days of measurable precipitation during its short 28 days, with 1.52 inches on Feb. 4 the most occurring on a single day.
Fog was reported on one day each in January and February.
March 12, 2022
The Surry County Digital Heritage community project began more than six years ago, when a group of local historians began looking for ways to digitize and save the history of the county and its residents.
That has led the heritage project to its position today — the second largest local digital history project in North Carolina, not far behind Digital Watauga, a project that started several years before the Surry County project.
The local project’s work traces its ongoing success back to 2016, when the Surry Community College library received a grant through the State Library of North Carolina to bring a nationally recognized consultant in digital history projects to Surry County. Tom Clareson spent four days in the county looking at the collection of materials in various locations and prepared a report that supported the need for a digital history collection for Surry County and a planning template to make it a reality.
In subsequent years, grant applications were submitted to the State Library of NC and approved through the Federal Library Services and Technology Act, providing funds to hire staff to scan photos and documents to form the website that is now the Surry Digital Heritage Project, at . The original documents and photos that are scanned are all backed up and preserved “in the cloud” so that they always will be available.
The theme of the initial year of the project was Saving Our Communities, from Bannertown to Beulah and Mount Airy to Mountain Park. A picture of an old store building was the impetus for Melissa Taylor to write the story of the Dockery Store
For the second year, the project focused on the history of the more than 275 churches in Surry County. Unique items from some of the oldest churches in the county were digitized and added to the project website, including the Westfield Friends Church and Gum Orchard Baptist Church.
The third year of the grants focused on businesses, including materials such as a scrapbook created by Iveylyn Martin about the Skull Camp Dairy Farm operated by Ned and Iveylyn in the Beulah Community, . The theme of the current year is family history and materials from the Carlos Surratt Genealogy Collection at the Surry Community College Library are being added to the website.
The Surry Digital Heritage Project is a community-based project and website, not a commercial website such as Facebook. Materials on the Surry website will always be available, a guarantee that can’t be made for pictures and stories posted on a Facebook page. Community partners include the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History, Northwestern Regional Library (incorporating branches in Elkin, Mount Airy, and Pilot Mountain), Surry County African American Historical and Genealogical Society, Surry County Genealogical Society, and Surry County Historical Society. The project is coordinated through the Surry Community College Library. The project has attracted attention across the state by libraries and other organizations thinking about a digital history project.
Preserving the history of Surry County is the goal of the project. Materials will continue to be added to the website after the current, and final, year of the grants. However, it will be at a much slower pace because the grants have paid for 60 person hours of scanning each week. Anyone with documents, pictures, or stories related to the history of Surry County can contact Sebrina Mabe at the Surry Community College Library at or Amy Snyder at the museum of regional history at, or Alan Unsworth at SCC Library at Materials will be scanned and returned.
Cash donations are welcome to provide funds for the cloud storage and website hosting. Donations are accepted through the Surry Community College Foundation designated to the SCC Library for the Digital History Project.
March 12, 2022
Nearly two dozen individuals and bands competed in the recent Tommy Jarrell Youth Competition was held at the Andy Griffith Museum Theatre.
All totalled, there were 19 separate entrants, coming from as far away as Taylorsville and Boones Mill, Virginia. The youth competed in two age levels: 5-12 and 13-18 with categories for both age groups in fiddle, clawhammer banjo, guitar, vocal, dance, and other (which includes all other instruments and bands).
The Tommy Jarrell Youth Competition was sponsored in part by a TAPS grant from the Folklife Division of the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
The winners were:
Ages 5-12 years
First place: Cheyenne Grantham of Boones Mill
Second place: Hunter Hiatt of State Road
Third place: Sam Wilkerson of Thurmond
Third place: Sylvie Davis of Leicester
Clawhammer Banjo
First place: Wyatt Grantham of Boones Mill
Second place: Everly Davis of Leicester
First place: Judah Davis of Leicester
First place: Gatlynn Grantham of Boones Mill
First place: Maggie Wilkerson of Thurmond
First place: Josiah Wilkerson of Thurmond, Bluegrass Banjo
Second place: Emme Davis of Leicester, Mandolin
Ages 13-18 years
First place: Neely Sizemore of Elkin
Clawhammer Banjo
First place: Bayla Davis of Leicester
Second place: Robbie Herman of Taylorsville
First place: Robbie Herman of Taylorsville
First place: Candace Noah of Dobson
Second place: Darrius Flowers of Pilot Mountain
First place: Jackson Dunning of Pilot Mountain
Second place: Bayla Davis of Leicester
Third place: Robbie Herman of Taylorsville
Third place: Neely Sizemore of Elkin
First place: Candace Noah of Dobson, Bluegrass Banjo
Second place: Natalie Sizemore of Elkin, Mandolin
First place: Highway 268 featuring Darrius Flowers of Pilot Mountain, Neely Sizemore of Elkin, Natalie Sizemore of Elkin, and Jackson Dunning of Pilot Mountain;
Second place: Grantham Family featuring Cheyenne Grantham, Wyatt Grantham, Gatlynn Grantham of Boones Mill;
Second place: Wilkerson Family featuring Sam Wilkerson, Josiah Wilkerson, Maggie Wilkerson, and Silas Wilkerson of Thurmond;
Third place: Davis Family featuring Bayla Davis, Sylvie Davis, Judah Davis, and Emme Davis of Leicester.
March 11, 2022
In 2016, Morris Moore, of Siloam, decided to step away from a long-time career in the world of corporate finance. But it was no retirement — he was just making a career change to becoming a cattleman.
Now he and his wife, Denise, handle a herd of about 30 head of cattle, with plans to grow his operation as he expands beyond the 60 acres of pasture he has now.
Moore was recently recognized by the North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association with the 2022 NC Environmental Stewardship Award for pursuing what he calls regenerative agricultural practices.
“Basically, it’s focusing on healthy soil, which includes good soil biology,” he said. “If you have healthy soil it’s going to produce healthy forages for your cattle or livestock, which in turn will give them better quality of meat.”
The practice also tends to be better for the environment.
“With my cows, I planted pastures that have high diversity in plant species,” he said of how he farms. He said he has nine different plant species in his pastures, which offers his cattle sustenance that includes a wide variety of minerals. The mix of different grasses also means the soil stays healthier. While some of the grass he plants is more traditional for pasture cover, with shallower roots and quicker growth, other grasses have much deeper roots that help hold the soil in place during times of drought — as well as pull nutrients from deeper in the ground.
Moore said he also does not use any chemical fertilizers, pesticides, nor herbicides. Instead, he tends to allow the forage grass to grow longer.
“When you keep your forage taller in the pasture, it provides shade for the soil,” he said, and tends to offset the need for chemicals.
It also helps avoid root loss that traditionally happens when cattle are feeding on short grass, foraging around on the ground to get the last bit of grass.
One other practice he employs is rotational grazing. Using a light fence and temporary fence posts, Moore moves some of his fencing routinely, sequestering his cattle in a different section of his pastureland.
“A daily rotation is typically what I do when the forage is growing, in the spring, summer and fall,” he said. Some of his land is grazed only a day or two every 30 to 45 days.
“All of that serves to benefit the strength of the forage that’s growing in the pasture,” he said.
While Moore spent his career in finance, he fondly recalls his growing up years, spending summers on his grandfather’s cattle farm. It was there he believes the desire to be a farmer was first planted. When he had the chance, Moore took it — but he also knew he didn’t want his farm to be exactly like the one from his childhood.
”I’d been looking for something that wasn’t just conventional commodity agriculture,” he said. “Something to differentiate what I’m doing.”
Shortly after his 2016 retirement from the corporate finance world, he attended a conference on regenerative agricultural practices and decided that was for him.
He and his wife began the operation in 2018, and he has plans to continue growing.
“I have about 60 acres in pasture, plan to add 30 more over the next (few) years,” he said. He also would like to grow his herd size to around 40 to 45 head.
“One of my objectives is to get enough pasture developed I can have some… (that) I can plant to supplement the grazing during the winter, or have pasture I can let grow in later summer and fall, so cows can go and graze that in the winter. Looking to reduce the amount of hay I need to get the cows through the winter.”
He and his wife have also recently started a retail meat operation, selling grassfed meat directly to the public. For more information, visit the farm’s Facebook page at

© 2018 The Mount Airy News