Grant expands robotics opportunities for county students | Mt. Airy News

2022-08-13 05:29:42 By : Mr. Edgar Zhou

Surry County Schools is one of 18 school districts and one charter schools recognized statewide to share in $1.6 million in grants for robotics programs approved this month by the State Board of Education.

The grant funding is meant to support after-school programs aimed at developing student interest and proficiency in science and math through competitive robotics

The approved grants, recommended by a review team within the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, were selected from 65 applications across the state and representing $6 million in requests – nearly four times the money available for the programs. The General Assembly included the $1.6 million, allocated from federal COVID-relief funding, in the state’s biennial budget approved last year.

The size of individual grants ranges from $24,600 to $316,950, depending on numbers of students to be served and other factors such as geographic distribution, and how the program would support students disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Grant funds may be used for several different purposes, including establishing a relationship with a robotics partner, purchasing robotics kits, costs associated with supporting a robotics team, and paying stipends for coaches.

Surry County Schools plans to use the $58,980 allotted funding to create an after school program that encourages students to work together and develop soft skills taught in conjunction with leadership framework attributes, school officials said in announcing the grant.

”The goal of this program is to re-engage students with classroom learning and help students adapt to working in teams,” the county school system said in a statement.

The robotics partners that grantees choose must have a national presence in robotics education and competition and provide adequate instruction and programming for students and adult volunteers in robotics education, project-based learning, and competitive robotics. They must also promote a safe and equitable social environment (live or virtual).

“I believe that it is extremely important for students to have access to hands-on STEM activities. I am looking forward to implementing this program at all of our elementary schools. Our goal is get students engaged with STEM and this funding will allow our district to support our existing middle school robotics programs,” says Jeff Edwards, STEM coordinator for Surry County Schools.

“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to have robotics clubs in our elementary schools,” said Dr. DeAnne Danley, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. “This is an investment in STEM education for our district that aligns with our strategic plan focusing on achievement, leadership, and life. The core values component of the First Lego League will integrate with our district Leadership Framework as students lead self and work with others. Additionally, students will benefit from the hands-on learning experiences.”

Breakfast over Business event set for Aug. 18

Dual fatality in 601 logging truck accident

A local business has been victimized by a false-pretense scam that resulted in a monetary loss totaling $20,637, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.

The crime was reported to city authorities on Aug. 4 by an employee of Southern States on Snowhill Drive, part of the six-state regional chain specializing in farm, lawn/garden and pet supplies.

It occurred sometime between June 1 and Aug. 3, a police incident/investigation report states.

The case involves an unknown suspect acting as someone else in order to receive a wire transfer of currency for the $20,000-plus sum specified, according to a department official. That individual is said to have posed as a legitimate party for such a transaction.

At last report the case remained under investigation by Mount Airy police.

That could lead to a charge of obtaining property (or money) by false pretense against the perpetrator, which is a felony.

In a case of ringing out the old, the Surry Medical Ministries free clinic soon will be operating in a new location — one near its present facility on Rockford Street.

“And we are thrilled,” said Nancy Dixon, the president of the non-profit organization’s board of directors. She added Thursday that the first clinic session there is planned for Aug. 22, with an official grand opening to come later.

Clinic officials have been raising funds to provide a larger facility to meet the growing demands of its clientele, low-income uninsured patients who receive free health care there.

That turned out to be a vacant structure at 951 Rockford St. formerly occupied by Dr. Glenn Pfitzner, a longtime gastroenterologist who has retired.

“He came to us and said, ‘I think this building would be perfect for you,’” Dixon mentioned regarding how plans for the move evolved through recent efforts to alleviate cramped conditions at the present facility.

“It’s amazing — it’s absolutely perfect,” she said of the modern-looking medical building vacated by Dr. Pfitzner. It is being bought by Surry Medical Ministries at a price of $2.7 million, financed largely through a low-interest federal loan.

Located just down the hill from the present clinic toward U.S. 52, Pfitzner’s former office facility contains 9,500 square feet of space, nearly four times that of the existing clinic at 813 Rockford St. It has slightly more that 2,500 square feet.

The clinic has been housed in that structure, which is about 70 years old, since opening in 1993.

It renders medical services as a non-profit foundation with the help of volunteer health-care professionals, and also includes a dental component.

Various economic crises over the years that caused local residents to lose employer-provided insurance coverage when companies shut down have increased patient caseloads along with the coronavirus pandemic.

That number increased to nearly 5,000 last year, clinic officials have said.

This past winter, the clinic’s hours were expanded from a two-days-per-week schedule to four days, in response to its caseload more than doubling after COVID-19 struck.

At the same time, a search was mounted for a larger facility, the outcome of which is similar to the “The Wizard of Oz” message of happiness being found at one’s own back door.

Dixon said clinic officials could not have asked for a better location for the expansion.

Similar to the present facility, it is right across the street from Northern Regional Hospital.

Dixon pointed out that this is beneficial to clinic patients needing diagnostic services at the hospital.

To make the expansion a reality, Surry Medical Ministries filed for federal assistance to buy the medical building through the Rural Development Community Facilities Loan and Grant Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA is supplying $2.7 million in funding, $500,000 of which is in the form of a grant to the clinic. The net loan sum of $2.2 million is being financed over a 30-year period at an interest rate of 2.5%.

An advertised public meeting for comment on the loan was held Wednesday night at the clinic, with no opposition voiced, according to Dixon.

Meanwhile, fundraising efforts are continuing to complete other facets of the expansion relating to the Pfitzner building, since the USDA loan does not cover construction — only the purchase of that structure.

“We need about a million for the renovations and upfit,” said Dixon, who explained that this will include adding a pharmacy, which the former occupant lacked. Also joining the mix will be a nurses’ station and more parking to serve clinic patients and staff due to limited spaces available there now.

Efforts to raise the additional funds needed are ongoing, including an appeal to the public for donations.

These can be mailed to Surry Medical Ministries, P.O. Box 349, Mount Airy, NC 27030-0349.

“They are tax-deductible,” Dixon said.

The timetable for completing the renovations/upfit will depend on funding.

Along with allowing more space and efficiency of operations, the new clinic location will offer therapeutic value that goes beyond treatment for physical ailments, its board president believes.

“Patients, you should see their faces,” Dixon said of the reaction from those who have learned about the move.

She indicated that the new facility will have the same look as any other medical office around town — as opposed to what might be described as the less-appealing veneer of a charitable agency.

“People know when they’re getting equal care,” Dixon said.

“It’s a respect thing.”

More than six decades ago, Bob and Hallie Flippin donated some land to their community to be used for a local Ruritan club.

Saturday, that organization — South Westfield Ruritan Club — will be celebrating its 60th anniversary with a drop-in gathering.

The club is a service organization, focusing its activities on helping others in the community as well as providing a number of scholarships to local students over the years, providing two such scholarships to youth going to Surry Community College each year.

The group is also active with its backpack program, helping to provide area school children with backpacks and food; providing needed money and provisions for families undergoing hardships; as well as many other similar efforts.

On Saturday, Aug. 13, from 4 to 7 p.m., the club will be holding a drop-in celebration, rather than a single gathering, to keep inside numbers low as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, hot dogs, dessert and drinks to go will be available for purchase.

The club will have displays set up showing a number of plaques, pictures over the years, and newspaper articles done on the club.

Eighteen students — including several from Stokes County — recently graduated from Surry Community College’s Truck Driver Training Program at the Yadkin Center.

The graduates include Mark Mabe Sr. and Isaac Midkiff of King; John White of Walnut Cove; Tyler Hanger Wilson of Pinnacle; Autumn Hunter and Terry King of Mount Airy; Austin Simpson of Pilot Mountain; Juan Lira Negrete of Dobson; Sherry Hawks of State Road; David Gross of East Bend; Daniel Mathis of Roaring River; Nick Kelly of Boonville; Mark Mabe Jr. of Tobaccoville; Nathanal Eaton and Lena Reins of Wilkesboro; Matthew Martinez of Winston-Salem; Carson Phillips and Ian Smith of Yadkinville.

Surry Community College will be offering another section of Truck Driver Training starting this fall. The class will run from Tuesday, Oct. 11 through Friday, Dec. 16 and will meet from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

College officials said that median pay for truck drivers is $47,100 per year, according to the United States Department of Labor. “Drivers with experience can make more than $50,000,” the college said.

“With a shortage of up to 12,000 truck drivers in North Carolina and as many as 200,000 nationally, CDL-certified drivers will easily be able to find jobs. The U.S. Department of Labor says the profession is expected to keep growing – by 6% during 2020-2030,” the school’s statement said.

“There are currently job openings for truck drivers locally and nationally. We developed this program as a direct response to the requests from local truck driving representatives who need skilled applicants to fill job vacancies,” said SCC President Dr. David Shockley.

The SCC Truck Driver Training Program teaches proper driving procedures, safe driver responsibility, commercial motor vehicle laws and regulations, and the basic principles and practices for operating commercial vehicles. The coursework includes motor vehicle laws and regulations, map reading, vehicle maintenance, safety procedures, daily logs, defensive driving, freight handling, security and fire protection.

Highway driving training exercises and classroom lectures are used to develop the students’ knowledge and skills. Graduates are qualified to take the Commercial Driver’s License Test and are employable by commercial trucking firms. They may also become owner-operators and work as private contract haulers.

Admission requirements include official driving record; physical examination; reading placement test score of 40 or higher; disclosure form; high school transcript; and drug testing.

For more information about the driver training program, contact the Yadkin Center at 336-386-3580. The tuition is $1,876, though some may qualify for tuition scholarship. To check eligibility, visit

Mount Airy Wesleyan Church will soon be expanding its worship services.

Beginning on Sunday, Sept. 11, the church will add a third worship service on Sunday mornings.

“We are so thankful for the growth of our church family,” said Rev. Eric Smith, the church’s pastor. “Offering three services will give everyone more space. We hope that this will also encourage guests to attend if they are looking for a church home.”

A contemporary worship service will be available each week at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. in the Worship Center and a traditional worship service will be available at 10:45 a.m. in the sanctuary.

Nursery and Kids’ Church will be provided during all worship services. Mount Airy Wesleyan is located at 2063 South Main Street in Mount Airy. For more information, contact the church at 336-786-7250 or via social media.

For the fifth consecutive year — and the tenth over the past fifteen years — Native American people will be gathering in nearby King for the King City Powwow.

While the event is a way for area residents to see the colorful Native American dress worn by the participants and a chance to experience authentic Native American dance and chants, it is important to organizers for another reason.

“Our culture is our history,” said Patrick Suarez, one of the chief organizers and a citizen of the Meherrin Indian Nation of Ahoskie. “Through song, dances and our arts/crafts we are able to preserve our rich traditions for our future…generations. We hope by having our annual powwow that it provides true understanding and history of our people. This is an opportunity that people can have hands-on experiences that books cannot teach.”

The powwow will be Aug. 13-14, at 436 Main Street in King. On the first day, there will be grand entries for those leading the event and the dancers at noon and at 6:30 p.m., and again on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

Joey Crutchfield and Eddie Nickens will be leading the event, along with Head Man Ryan Dial-Stanley and Head Lady Idalis Jacobs. Smokey River will be the Southern drum host, while Red Clay will be serving as Northern drum host.

Cheyenne S. Daniel, of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe of Hollister and a former Miss Indian North Carolina, will be performing as hoop dancer.

This year marks the second in-person gathering since the coronavirus pandemic began. In 2020, Suarez said organizers “thought outside the box” a bit and held a virtual powwow, with more than 10,000 people logging on to watch.

Normally, he said the crowd for the popular King event draws between 2,000 and 4,000 visitors during the in-person events, from Stokes, Surry, and surrounding counties.

The first powwow was held in 2007, started and organized by Lance Redhawk. The event continued for several years, but took a five-year pause after the death of Redhawk’s brother. The powwow was restarted in 2017 and has been an annual event ever since.

In many ways, the gathering remains true to Redhawk’s goals 15 years ago: “To bring awareness of the indigenous culture here in the Triad,” Suarez said, explaining that many people with Native American lineage live in the region because of the work opportunities. “It was established to bring awareness of our culture, song, dance, arts/crafts and history.”

He said there are sometimes as many as 80 dancers, including Aztec dancers from Mexico, flute players and more than 20 authentic Native American vendors selling their arts and crafts.

“Each (of the) vendors were screened and handpicked to make sure they were either enrolled in a state or federally recognized nation. This is to ensure we follow the Indian arts and craft law to protect our indigenous artists’ work and make sure things are not made in China.” Native American food will also be on sale at the event.

Suarez said there is one federally recognized nation in North Carolina — the Cherokee — but there are seven such nations recognized officially by the state.

”There is a Powwow every weekend in all states,” he said of the gatherings. Anyone wishing to learn more about powwows in general, or to find where others may be held, can visit

Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law last fall a change allowing creation of “Social Districts” where licensed retailers such as bars, breweries, and restaurants can sell alcoholic beverages for consumption in common areas.

Monday evening the Pilot Mountain Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to adopt a plan creating such a district in the downtown defines as Main Street from Stephens to Depot Streets.

Local leaders said the “Downtown Pilot Mountain Social District” is meant to capitalize on the growing trend across the state and to “further the economic development efforts in downtown Pilot Mountain.”

Social districts create areas where a person can go into a licensed establishment, purchase an alcoholic beverage and then take that beverage out of the establishment and walk around the designated district. After discussion the board decided to limit the hours of the new social district to 10 a.m. to 11 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.

There are no changes to ABC laws outside of the established time frame nor outside the social district itself.

For those who have concerns that this is just an open invitation for rabble-rousers to hoist a pint of brew on the sidewalk, Mayor Evan Cockerham seeks to assuage those fears, “If you look into the social district law the town just adopted, it is very heavily-regulated.”

He said he thinks that troublemakers “aren’t the ones that will buy the drink from a local business, in a special social district cup. Because of this, I do not believe there are any significant drawbacks.”

Council member Scott Needham says he has been on board from the earliest stage of the new plan. “I have been the biggest advocate for a social district and downtown Pilot Mountain. We have over 30 events downtown and some of them have roped off areas with a beer garden or concert area where we invite breweries and wineries to serve alcohol. For each one of these events, we have to get a permit to serve.”

“The social district would save us time and money in not having to get those permits each time. As long as the event goers have the designated cups, they will be able to walk all around in the designated area downtown with their beverage.”

Cockerham said, “This puts our local establishments like The Tilted Ladder on a level-playing field with vendors that participate in our events. Before, if you wanted to have a drink while you enjoyed live music on Main Street, you would have to purchase from a vendor on the street. You would not be able to purchase a drink from a brick-and-mortar store and carry it out.”

This is not designed to mimic the wild west or Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras, “You still will need to remain within the confines of our social district with your beverage. We believe this will allow folks more opportunity to shop around at local businesses, that allow beverages in their stores,” the mayor said.

“We believe this may help attract additional businesses and visitors to Main Street. We’ve already seen a revitalization in terms of great local businesses opening on Main Street, and this is part of that overall effort — in addition to the physical improvements to downtown, promotional efforts, incentives, and events that appeal to the whole family.”

Needham agrees with his assessment, “We hope to use the social district as a marketing tool. To attract more visitors to our downtown and also to attract more businesses. We hope that this increases foot traffic to our downtown. That would help the shops we already have, attract more retail businesses, and possibly a brewery and/or a distillery to our downtown.”

He echoed Cockerham’s note about the fairness of the new plan and how a “rising tide lifts all boats” mentality suggests more foot traffic and interest in downtown businesses can help all those businesses, even those not selling alcohol.

“This approach is more fair to the businesses here in downtown that pay rent twelve months a year and at this time cannot allow customers to take alcohol outside of their businesses. It would allow customers from those establishments to be able to go out and enjoy the music, shops that allow beverages, and/or festivities during these events — and other weekends. Not just the wineries and the breweries that we invite for that particular event.”

“If someone wants a domestic, they would be able to buy one of those from these established businesses and still be able to participate in the event just like the people buying alcohol from the vendors.”

The concept is gaining in popularity with other cities across the state in various stages of planning or implementation of social districts including Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point, New Bern, Albemarle, and Wilmington.

The Raleigh City Council voted unanimously on a temporary trial for a social district beginning next week, even expanding the borders created in the initial plan to broaden the area before it launched.

With so many opportunities already for tourists to comes and spend time in this corner of the state, the Downtown Pilot Mountain Social District is yet another attempt to provide more options for guests and residents alike to linger and enjoy all Surry County has to offer.

Citizens soon will have a chance to weigh in on an updated master plan for downtown Mount Airy which proposes major changes including new housing and other developments, expanded parking and traffic reconfigurations.

“These are all major projects to help downtown Mount Airy move forward in the future,” President Jason Epley of the Benchmark consulting firm said when presenting plan highlights during a city council meeting last Thursday.

Benchmark, which has been providing planning services to Mount Airy since city officials privatized those functions in 2011, last year took on the added task of refreshing an earlier downtown master plan completed in 2004.

The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted last November to commit $67,000 in city funds for the update along with money from the group Mount Airy Downtown Inc. for a total commitment of about $125,000.

Efforts kicked off soon after which involved Benchmark staff interviews with local citizens including property owners and municipal officials to gain their perspective on downtown needs.

“Fifty-five people were interviewed in the course of about three days,” Epley said, with a written survey also undertaken to solicit input on traffic and other issues along with listening sessions.

He added that 120 people were involved in a workshop effort in April to help guide the plan update to fruition.

A further opportunity for citizen input will come early next month due to the commissioners voting to set a public hearing on the downtown master plan update during a meeting on Sept. 1 at 6 p.m.

A key part of the update focuses on vehicular travel downtown, with the plan recommending that one-way traffic be maintained along North Main Street — the chief artery through the central business district — thereby rejecting the alternative.

“In the survey it was very clear no one wanted to go back to two-way traffic,” the Benchmark president said of a format in place years ago which was flirted with during the recent rebooting process.

However, the proposal includes five different one-way options, three of which would involve switching from the present two lanes of travel to one with either angled or parallel parking on one side. The street itself would be 20 feet wide.

Epley explained that this reflects a desire to create “flex space” to allow more outdoor dining and other changes on sidewalks which would be accomplished by providing a 20-foot space on each side of the street.

Sidewalks of 12 to 20 feet wide are eyed, along with the addition of trees, burial of above-ground utility lines, strategically placed loading zones, new decorative street lights and a removable bollard system.

Larger flex spaces could be employed at street corners under the plan, which contains photos from cities such as West Palm Beach, Florida, and Greer, South Carolina, where such flexible streetscape concepts have been successfully employed.

The updated plan also recommends the creation of “complete streets” for locations such as Independence Boulevard and Renfro Street as a way to enhance pedestrian safety.

This would involve reducing the number of travel lanes and “conflict points” for vehicles.

A greenway/multi-purpose path connection also is in the mix for the street plan.

Epley says the proposal for complete streets recognizes the fact that many people are drawn to downtown Mount Airy because of its opportunities for walking.

The master plan update additionally acknowledges the ongoing revitalization of the former Spencer’s textile mill property downtown and lists the funding and building of a conference and visitor center there as a priority.

“This is an exciting project to see happening,” Epley said.

In conjunction with this, the redevelopment of the Franklin Street area nearby is an important thrust of the plan in order to provide a “critical pedestrian link” to the conference center.

Improvements to an existing municipal parking lot are envisioned which would include expanding the spaces from 160 to about 210 and providing green spots.

Another facet there is the proposed construction of a 12,000-square-foot mixed-used building located vertically along Franklin Street between Willow and North Main streets.

Epley agreed that execution of the Franklin plans would require working with neighboring property owners to secure the extra space needed.

The master plan update further highlights opportunities for residential and other developments downtown utilizing what are identified as six “opportunity sites.”

These include a 1.9-acre tract on the corner of Virginia and Willow streets where a three-story, 85-unit housing complex is eyed.

Also highlighted is a 2.9-acre parcel where The Mount Airy News now is located alongside a vacant lot behind Old North State Winery where a building burned in 2018.

Plans envision 170 housing units on that property — including three stories, with the topography deemed suitable to parking underneath buildings.

Among other opportunity sites are the municipal complex on Rockford Street and a vacant lot at Main and Cherry streets.

Commissioner Steve Yokeley said he hopes aspects of the updated plan can be implemented in stages.

“We look forward to getting some public input at the September meeting,” Mayor Ron Niland said of the upcoming hearing.

(The full downtown master plan update can be accessed from the city of Mount Airy website.)

• Little Richards Barbecue has become the victim of a counterfeit check scam to the tune of $4,657, according to Mount Airy Police Department reports.

The felonious incident involving the obtaining of property by false pretense occurred last Friday at the restaurant on Frederick Street, where an unknown subject used the bogus check to obtain the money.

• An Onn wireless speaker was discovered stolen Monday at the home of its owner, Joshua Colby Hooker, on Golding Way.

The speaker, described as black and orange in color and valued at $80, was taken from an unlocked 1993 Nissan Sentra at the residence.

• A costly pair of shears was stolen on Aug. 1 from Smart Style Hair Salon on Rockford Street by an unknown party. The purple Shark Fin-brand shears are valued at $460.

Susan Elizabeth Moore, a Circle Drive resident who is associated with the hair salon, was identified as the victim of the theft.

• Jerry Ellis Thompson, 51, listed as a homeless North Carolina resident, was charged with second-degree trespassing last Saturday after officers responded to a civil disturbance at 615 N. South St., the address for the Lady Bug laundry establishment.

Police records show Thompson had been banned from that location on July 30. He is scheduled to appear in Surry District Court on Aug. 29.

An open house series at a local historic site will continue this weekend, an organizer has announced.

The public can tour the Edwards-Franklin House both Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. each day. The open house events are free.

Constructed in 1799, the Edwards-Franklin House is considered the finest example of its architecture in the Piedmont.

It was built by Gideon Edwards and later occupied by his son-in-law Meshack Franklin, a member of Congress and brother of North Carolina Gov. Jesse Franklin, who served in the 1820s.

The structure was bought in 1972 by the Surry County Historical Society and restored to its grandeur, with many unique architectural components featured.

It is located at 4132 Haystack Road west of Mount Airy.

In addition to the house, visitors can view the log water pipes, slave cemetery and family cemetery on the grounds.

This weekend events are part of a monthly Saturday-Sunday open house series that resumed in May after a two-year shutdown prompted by the coronavirus.

The open house series will end the second weekend in September, according to Dr. Annette Ayers of the local historical group.

Disrespect shown by governmental leaders toward their political opponents isn’t just a Washington, D.C., phenomenon — in the view of one former Mount Airy official this also is occurring locally, and should stop.

“It’s an embarrassment,” Shirley Brinkley said during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners last Thursday when she complained about actions by council members when they previously had gathered on July 21.

“I do not appreciate the disrespect you’re showing for one particular fellow commissioner,” said Brinkley, who served as a South Ward board member from 2011 to 2019, when she chose not to seek re-election for a third four-year term.

Brinkley was referring to a debate surrounding a new Andy Griffith mural on Moore Avenue and Commissioner Jon Cawley’s contention that related sidewalk and street changes made there violated the city charter, its chief governing document.

Cawley, a candidate for mayor this year, says only the commissioners had the authority to do so, rather than City Manager Stan Farmer, based on the charter.

The North Ward council member had been asked to produce such documentation at a previous meeting and then to read it aloud on July 21 — only to be criticized by other commissioners who said they had a different interpretation of the charter.

This exhibited “disrespect and bullying,” Brinkley charged when speaking on the issue during a public forum portion of last Thursday’s meeting.

She focused on Commissioner Marie Wood, who was Brinkley’s hand-picked successor for the South Ward council seat Brinkley gave up in 2019.

“I think a lot of Marie,” Brinkley said during the forum, while taking issue with Wood’s reaction to Cawley during the July 21 session that Wood, also the city’s mayor pro tem, had led in the absence of Mayor Ron Niland.

Brinkley mentioned that Wood “snickered” after Cawley read the charter, which the former board member says gave the impression Wood thinks provisions contained in that document are not important.

She added that city commissioners already should know all aspects of municipal regulations and policies without those having to be brought to their attention.

Brinkley also referred to how Wood had rejected her pleas for a property tax cut at an earlier meeting when the latter spoke at a public forum ahead of a vote on the city budget.

Wood was absent from last week’s meeting when Brinkley spoke, but Brinkley directed general comments toward others on the council.

“Speaking for many citizens, I am calling you out,” the former commissioner told them. “I feel like I am a kindergarten teacher calling you out and you are a bunch of children who need to be shown how to behave yourself.”

Brinkley added that the council ought to be setting an example for the community, especially its youth.

“It is your job to serve the people who pay your salary.”

Council members did not respond directly to Brinkley’s comments, but Mayor Ron Niland indicated later during Thursday’s meeting that she did not accurately portray the relationship among city officials.

“I’ve seen boards that were a lot less nice,” said Niland, who in addition to being a former city manager in Mount Airy has served as a consultant to other municipal governments.

The mayor believes Mount Airy officials get along well for the most part, despite tackling some tough issues at times.

“And it is a very rare occasion — rare — when we leave here without speaking to each other,” he said of their departure from council chambers.

“There’s nobody sitting here that I don’t feel good about.”

The Embers featuring Craig Woolard return to the Blackmon Amphitheatre on Thursday followed by Envision on Friday and The Castaways on Saturday. All three bands are set to play at 7:30 each evening.

The Embers are widely considered a musical marvel and have laid the groundwork for what has become known as ‘Beach Music’ in the Carolinas, Virginias, the gulf coast region of North America, and every beach in between. They are a true musical tradition with which many Americans have listened to from childhood to adulthood. The Embers consider the genre of Beach Music as “music with a memory” and have been creating lasting memories since its inception in 1958.

“Envision’s stage show is as exciting to watch as it is to dance to, covering hits from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, all the way up to the contemporary sound of Today’s Top 40,” concert organizers said. “Although specializing as a ‘party band,’ the band’s repertoire encompasses a wide variety of musical styles, including R&B, beach, Motown/oldies, pop, dance, funk, and jazz.”

The Castaways are “the premier party band in the Carolinas and Virginia,” organizers said. “They have been pleasing audiences with their unique flavor of beach, soul, and Rock N’ Roll for generations of fans. But don’t let the fact that the band has been around for 50 years fool you. High energy, current songs, and fun on stage will bring a party to all ages.”

Each concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Admission to each show is $15 or a Surry Arts Council Annual Pass. Children 12 and younger are admitted free with an adult admission or Annual Pass.

The Dairy Center, Whit’s Custard, and Thirsty Souls Community Brewing will be at the concerts to provide food, snacks, drinks, beer, and wine for purchase. No outside alcohol or coolers are allowed to be brought into the Amphitheatre area. Those attending are asked to bring a lounge chair or blanket to sit on.

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

Eighteen students recently graduated from Surry Community College’s Truck Driver Training Program at the Yadkin Center.

The graduates include Autumn Hunter and Terry King of Mount Airy; Austin Simpson of Pilot Mountain; Juan Lira Negrete of Dobson; Sherry Hawks of State Road; David Gross of East Bend; Mark Mabe Sr. and Isaac Midkiff of King; ; Tyler Hanger Wilson of Pinnacle; Daniel Mathis of Roaring River; Nick Kelly of Boonville; Mark Mabe Jr. of Tobaccoville; John White of Walnut Cove; Nathanal Eaton and Lena Reins of Wilkesboro; Matthew Martinez of Winston-Salem; Carson Phillips and Ian Smith of Yadkinville.

Surry Community College will be offering another section of Truck Driver Training starting this fall. The class will run from Tuesday, Oct. 11 through Friday, Dec. 16 and will meet from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

College officials said that median pay for truck drivers is $47,100 per year, according to the United States Department of Labor. “Drivers with experience can make more than $50,000,” the college said.

“With a shortage of up to 12,000 truck drivers in North Carolina and as many as 200,000 nationally, CDL-certified drivers will easily be able to find jobs. The U.S. Department of Labor says the profession is expected to keep growing – by 6% during 2020-2030,” the school’s statement said.

“There are currently job openings for truck drivers locally and nationally. We developed this program as a direct response to the requests from local truck driving representatives who need skilled applicants to fill job vacancies,” said SCC President Dr. David Shockley.

The SCC Truck Driver Training Program teaches proper driving procedures, safe driver responsibility, commercial motor vehicle laws and regulations, and the basic principles and practices for operating commercial vehicles. The coursework includes motor vehicle laws and regulations, map reading, vehicle maintenance, safety procedures, daily logs, defensive driving, freight handling, security and fire protection.

Highway driving training exercises and classroom lectures are used to develop the students’ knowledge and skills. Graduates are qualified to take the Commercial Driver’s License Test and are employable by commercial trucking firms. They may also become owner-operators and work as private contract haulers.

Admission requirements include official driving record; physical examination; reading placement test score of 40 or higher; disclosure form; high school transcript; and drug testing.

For more information about the driver training program, contact the Yadkin Center at 336-386-3580. The tuition is $1,876, though some may qualify for tuition scholarship. To check eligibility, visit

Two area individuals, including a 5-year-old boy, were killed in an early morning wreck just south of Dobson, according to authorities.

The North Carolina State Highway Patrol responded to an emergency call Wednesday morning before 6 a.m. off of US Highway 601 and Chandler Road, according to that agency.

While details were scant early on, Sgt. Fletcher Pipes of the Highway Patrol confirmed Wednesday afternoon that a tractor trailer carrying timber lost control and crossed left over the center line and overturned on Chandler Road. That sent part of its load of logs tumbling off the side of the truck, in the process the falling timber crashed into a passenger vehicle that was traveling in the opposite direction.

Two passengers in the vehicle that was struck by the falling logs were gravely injured, both were pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

The Highway Patrol this afternoon identified the adult victim as April Hill, 42, of Dobson.

Hill’s family told FOX8 WGHP that her 5-year-old son was in the car with her and was also killed, that station reported.

Sgt. Pipes said that while all accidents are tragic, the loss of a child’s life is an especially horrific loss.

Emergency responders from the county as well as the Dobson Rescue Squad responded to the scene of the accident. Surry County Emergency Management Director Eric Southern said that Highway 601 had been closed for several hours because the truck landed on its side and the logs that fell off had to be removed. The truck lost hydraulic fluid that needed to be contained, and a power line was impacted as well.

Highway 601 had returned to normal operation before noon.

According to the Highway Patrol charges are pending the outcome of the investigation.

Surry County Schools is one of 18 school districts and one charter schools recognized statewide to share in $1.6 million in grants for robotics programs approved this month by the State Board of Education.

The grant funding is meant to support after-school programs aimed at developing student interest and proficiency in science and math through competitive robotics

The approved grants, recommended by a review team within the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, were selected from 65 applications across the state and representing $6 million in requests – nearly four times the money available for the programs. The General Assembly included the $1.6 million, allocated from federal COVID-relief funding, in the state’s biennial budget approved last year.

The size of individual grants ranges from $24,600 to $316,950, depending on numbers of students to be served and other factors such as geographic distribution, and how the program would support students disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Grant funds may be used for several different purposes, including establishing a relationship with a robotics partner, purchasing robotics kits, costs associated with supporting a robotics team, and paying stipends for coaches.

Surry County Schools plans to use the $58,980 allotted funding to create an after school program that encourages students to work together and develop soft skills taught in conjunction with leadership framework attributes, school officials said in announcing the grant.

”The goal of this program is to re-engage students with classroom learning and help students adapt to working in teams,” the county school system said in a statement.

The robotics partners that grantees choose must have a national presence in robotics education and competition and provide adequate instruction and programming for students and adult volunteers in robotics education, project-based learning, and competitive robotics. They must also promote a safe and equitable social environment (live or virtual).

“I believe that it is extremely important for students to have access to hands-on STEM activities. I am looking forward to implementing this program at all of our elementary schools. Our goal is get students engaged with STEM and this funding will allow our district to support our existing middle school robotics programs,” says Jeff Edwards, STEM coordinator for Surry County Schools.

“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to have robotics clubs in our elementary schools,” said Dr. DeAnne Danley, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. “This is an investment in STEM education for our district that aligns with our strategic plan focusing on achievement, leadership, and life. The core values component of the First Lego League will integrate with our district Leadership Framework as students lead self and work with others. Additionally, students will benefit from the hands-on learning experiences.”

While speed dating might sound a little frightening — maybe a lot frightening — a version of speed dating set to take place Aug. 18 for local business owners and managers offers plenty of upside with no downside.

In this case the networking breakfast is not aimed at helping participants find dating partner. Instead, the gathering is aimed at helping participatns but a far deeper — and hopefully long-term — business relationship. Many of them, in fact.

The Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a morning networking event called Business Over Breakfast that day, from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Surry County Service Center at 915 East Atkins Street in Dobson.

In traditional speed dating, participants sit down with one another, and get a short period of time — maybe four or five minutes — to tell one another about themselves, see if their personalites jell, before moving on to another person to do the same. Participants are generally hoping to get a date, and maybe a longer-term relationship, out of the dating cattle call.

While the chamber’s Business Over Breakfast might on the surface seem to have its format in common with speed dating, its purpose if far different — hoping to introduce businesses to one another and help them start what will be a long-term, mutually profitable relationship.

“Business Over Breakfast will feature table top networking where attendees can talk about their businesses and exchange business cards,” chamber officials said of the event. “Attendees will rotate tables and have the opportunity to meet almost everyone in the room. People who may be interested in this event are sales managers, sales professionals, business development staff or any small business owner.”

The event will feature a buffet breakfast catered by the Ol’ Farmer Restaurant, in Cana, Virginia. The breakfast is open to all members of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce or any prospective member. Sponsorships for the Business Over Breakfast are available and provide marketing for company and event tickets.

“Traditional business networking is alive and well in Surry County,” said Chamber President and CEO Randy Collins said.

The breakfast is part of a quarterly series for local businesses people to get together, learn about one another and trade business cards for later reference, but it is far from the only marketing opportunities for chamber members.

The organization, in conjunction with those members, sponsor regular after-hours networking mixers along with its Lunch with Leaders program. Those mid-day meetings give chamber members a chance to network, but also to meet with and hear from area legislative, education, and industry leaders.

At next week’s Business over Breakfast, “Attendees will meet many business prospects in a short amount of time,” Collins said. “Bring your business cards and come join us.”

The event is open to all chamber members and prospective members.

Tickets or sponsorships can be purchased on the chamber website Questions on the event should be directed to Jordon Edwards at the chamber via email at

Mount Airy is supporting Pilot Mountain in advocating for the return of the PART public transportation system to Surry which county government officials discontinued on June 30 — although one city commissioner questions how much it actually was used.

“I’m hoping we can support a sister city that feels this is important,” Mayor Ron Niland said just before the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners voted unanimously for a resolution to that effect during a meeting Thursday.

The city government’s decision was a reaction to bus service to local communities operated by the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART) being halted before the start of the county’s fiscal year on July 1.

In orchestrating that removal, Surry officials said the level of ridership involved did not justify the cost, specifically local revenues from a rental car tax which went to support the program. It allowed residents here to access key locations in Winston-Salem, such as hospital, shopping and employment destinations, cheaper than driving one’s own vehicle.

With Pilot Mountain being a stop along the bus system that also includes other area counties, officials there have been especially vocal about the cessation of service one said town residents heavily relied on, especially to Winston-Salem medical facilities.

“I myself have used the bus service before,” said Scott Needham, a member of the Pilot Mountain Board of Commissioners who also serves as the town’s mayor pro tem.

Needham, who was speaking during Thursday’s meeting in Mount Airy, said it came in handy after he had to undergo a hospital procedure and added that a fellow commissioner in Pilot who is a cancer survivor also was able to utilize the service.

Riding the bus to Winston-Salem in such cases has been a welcome option due to one’s inability to drive after some medical procedures, he explained.

Needham thinks it is important that the local public transportation routes be resumed, in appearing before Mount Airy’s commissioners to successfully seek their support.

The visiting Pilot Mountain official said he had written Surry County leaders in an effort to accomplish that, which they have declined to facilitate.

“I think that by doing this, they thought they could eliminate the car tax, but they haven’t,” Needham mentioned regarding how no regular property tax revenues were used to support the transportation system, only the rental-related revenues.

“Which is still in place,” Needham said in his remarks to Mount Airy officials. “They’re still collecting that money, but we’re not getting the service.”

Before last week’s city meeting, Pilot Mountain had issued a resolution applauding the low-cost transportation service and its role in reducing private vehicles on roads — saying it promotes safety and convenience while also reducing fuel emissions contributing to climate change.

The Pilot resolution further asks PART officials to reinstate the service to the town and Surry. It cites one provision in which they have authority to do so for situations in which a stop is within 10 miles of a participating county.

Mount Airy’s resolution in support of Pilot Mountain concurs with the latter’s sentiments and formally requests that PART services be restored to Mount Airy.

After Commissioner Steve Yokeley made a motion to approve Mount Airy’s resolution of support, which opened the floor to discussion on the matter, the board’s Joe Zalescik was quick to respond.

Zalescik said that when he first heard about the planned ceasing of the bus service in February, he visited the PART parking lot on Carter Street in the Big Lots shopping center.

He saw six vehicles there, two of which were from Virginia, Zalescik said.

Upon returning after the service ended, four were parked, which he speculated were owned by participants in a van pool merely meeting at that location. Had 60 or so cars been present, “it would be different,” the city commissioner said of his assessment.

“It’s kind of like, where are the riders?” asked Zalescik, who said he supports the idea of public transportation but questioned the limited routes and days available when the service was offered. He believes true public transportation is a seven-day-per-week proposition, and also pointed out that the ending of the bus runs hasn’t produced a citizen outcry.

“I’ve heard no complaints from anybody.”

Zalescik additionally questioned the system’s value when it was operational locally, saying that with no residences in close proximity, users had to drive to reach the PART lot. “That doesn’t take any cars off the highway.”

Other officials attempted to address Zalescik’s concerns, including Mayor Niland saying that if riders had to drive five miles to reach the lot at least they were not on the road for 40 or 50 miles.

It also was pointed out during the discussion that some users might not have vehicles and simply walked to the lot, which would explain an absence of cars there.

Needham and Yokeley believe that the surging gas prices in recent months would increase ridership should the PART service be resumed in Surry.

Yokeley said that among other benefits of the bus system, it hasn’t cost Mount Airy anything.

“We don’t know what the future holds,” Mayor Niland said.

Downtown Rocks and Run is the kick-off for the United Fund of Surry’s annual fundraising effort. This year, the agency hopes to raise $500,000 for its member agencies, and with a good turnout for Saturday’s races the pace will have been set for the rest of the year.

Under the umbrella of the United Fund are found a wide variety of community service organizations from around the area such as The Children’s Center of Surry, Surry Senior Centers, the Shepherd’s House, scouts, and area Rescue Squads.

Member agencies of the United Fund of Surry County meet to coordinate strategies for their unique missions. Often there are non-profit organizations working toward a similar goal that may find working together can lighten the load.

Hiatt is known to be a matchmaker for organizations which need just the right person to fill a role, or a non-profit looking for new office space. It brings her joy to help facilitate new connections and bring people together to serve the greater good of everyone in Surry County and beyond.

“After an overwhelmingly successful Rocks and Runs event last year, we do expect this year’s race to be affected since life has returned to somewhat normal. More and more races have started coming back and people are not stuck at home quite like they were last year,” Hiatt said.

There is still time to register for this weekend’s races as the online registration runs through August 12 at 6 p.m. Registration fees are $30 for the 5K, Team Fitness Challenge, and Corporate Participation Challenge. Walkers and strollers are welcome to join in the 5k.

For the 10K individual and Corporate Participation Challenge the registration fee is $40.

The Fun Run is free for kids 12 and younger (no t-shirt); $10 w/shirt purchase. All fun runners will receive a participation ribbon.

Finishers will receive a finishers medal and the 5K Team Fitness Challenge award will be presented to the fastest team based on the average time of the top 5 team members.

Race day registration begins at 6:30 a.m. in front of the Mount Airy Municipal Building, 300 S. Main St. The 10k will start at 7:45 a.m. and the 5K follows at 8 a.m. The 5k starting line will be found near the US Post Office parking lot of Cherry St.

The Kid’s Fun Run will begin at 9 a.m. in front of the municipal building, where the awards presentation will also take place following the races at 9:15 a.m.

The 5K and 10K races will have a gun start and chip timed finish. This means that all participants will have the same start time, and the finish time will be recorded as each runner crosses the finish line by reading the chip on the back of the runner’s numbered bib.

Also, the 5K race is going to have a wide start line that will enable all runners to get across the start line after the starting horn sounds as quickly and safely as possible. As there may be kids and strollers taking off at the same time, spreading out the start line across a wider area will allow everyone to have a safe start to their race, walk, or fun run.

Of note, the Fun Run will attempt to live up to its name by having a clock at the finish line, but individual times are not recorded for this event. The honor system will be required when reporting times back to friends or loved ones, or just ignore the clock altogether and enjoy the moment.

A grateful Hiatt said it takes a small army of agency volunteers and board members to set up, run, and break down the Rocks and Runs event once all the runners are back home and rehydrating. “We are overflowing with gratitude, an event like this takes a lot of manpower. Agency volunteers as well as board members set up, run, and take down this event,” she said.

Without special assistance from the staff of Reeves Community Center, local law enforcement, emergency services, and especially the public at large in the role of community cheerleaders – it may be too much for any one person to handle.

Downtown Rocks and Runs is the annual campaign’s kick-off event, following will be the Greater Granite Open to be held Friday, Oct. 14 at Cross Creek Country Club.

Also, there will be a brand-new event added to the upcoming campaign, a Bourbon Bonanza, at Old North State Winery on Saturday, Jan. 21. This event will include raffle tickets for specialty bourbons, dinner, and a bourbon tasting.

• An encounter with officers at Walmart has led to a Mount Airy man being jailed under a large secured bond on felony drug charges, according to city police reports.

Matthew Wayne Shinault, 57, of 149 Sherman Trail, crossed paths with officers at the store Thursday during a suspicious-person investigation, which led to Shinault consenting to a search that turned up both methamphetamine and marijuana, arrest records state.

He was charged with possession of a Schedule II controlled substance with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver; felonious possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance; and possessing drug paraphernalia, listed as plastic and rubber containers. Shinault was confined in the Surry County Jail under an $11,000 secured bond and was slated to be in District Court Monday.

• In a separate drug-related incident, Gavin Marcel Green, 31, of 2029 Rockford St. (the address for Hampton Inn), was charged last Wednesday at that location with two felonies: possession of marijuana with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver and possession of a Schedule II controlled substance that was not identified in police records.

Green was jailed under an $8,000 secured bond and was scheduled to be in District Court Monday.

• Hannah Marie Schmidt, 28, listed as homeless, was arrested on a larceny charge on the afternoon of Aug. 1 after allegedly stealing merchandise valued at $51 from Walmart.

Schmidt, who was located by police in the parking lot of Sweet Frog nearby, is accused of taking lighters, Hanes underwear, popcorn chicken and other items from Walmart, which were recovered and returned to the store.

She was jailed under a $500 secured bond, with the case set for the Oct. 3 session of Surry District Court.

Surry Community College is offering an Operations of Trucking class online, starting this month.

The Operations of Trucking I class will meet in-person for the first day on Monday, Aug. 18, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Yadkin Center, 1001 College Drive, Yadkinville. After that, the class will be taught online through Oct. 7. This class will count toward the Trucking Logistics Management certificate.

Operations of Trucking I provides an overview of managing a trucking business. Topics include the business, marketing, economics, finance, accounting, freight brokerage and entrepreneurship aspects of operating a trucking business. Upon completion, students should be able to define the skills and personnel needed to run a successful trucking business.

Tuition for the course is $127. For more information about this class or to register, contact the Pilot Center at 336-386-3618.

No for-sale sign has been spotted yet in front of City Hall, but 15 parcels of municipal-owned property elsewhere around Mount Airy are on the market.

This is a result of unanimous action last Thursday by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners to authorize sealed-bid sales of 15 different tracts, a move Mayor Ron Niland says makes sense for several reasons.

“We don’t need to be a landowner, holding on to excess land,” Niland said in the wake of that decision.

It came about as a result of City Manager Stan Farmer reporting in April that the municipality owns more than 900 acres both within its boundaries and in Surry County.

That prompted discussions among council members about disposing of land the city government doesn’t need.

“We have talked about this on several occasions and I think it’s the general feeling of the board that any property we can put to use and put toward the tax base” should be sold, the mayor said. “This is keeping with one of the policies we have.”

It involves taking property out of the city government’s hands and putting it into private hands, meaning that in addition to sales proceeds the parcels can be developed and produce tax revenues.

Niland said an exception involves sites the municipality needs for its facilities or growth.

This includes 705 of the total 903 acres reflected in the city manager’s breakdown, where facilities such as the Municipal Building, water plant, Andy Griffith Playhouse and other structures are located, in addition to land occupied by recreation and industrial parks.

All of the 15 sites declared surplus through last Thursday’s vote by the commissioners are all undeveloped, with a resolution they approved stating that the city “does not need or desire the use of this property.”

Farmer says 14 of those vacant parcels presently are zoned for residential use.

Three of the 15 are located on Carolina Avenue, along with another three on Lakeview Drive and two on East Pine Street. The others are on Lewis Drive, Lakeview Drive, Lyn Avenue, Fairfield Drive, East Wilson Street, Circle Drive and Tesh Street.

The parcel identification numbers on Surry County tax records are listed as 5011-12-85-5040, 5011-15-74-2097, 5011-16-74-5124, 5011-16-74-7200, 5011-16-83-4405, 5011-16-83-5592, 5011-16-83-5630, 5011-16-83-7745, 5929-07-57-9796, 5929-o8-98-7529, 5020-16-94-4497, 5020-16-94-7764, 5020-12-95-9788, 5030-09-05-1739 and 5020-12-96-5919.

(For searches in the Surry County GIS Website, the hyphens applied to the above numbers — to make them more readable in print — should be omitted.)

More information about the property also can be obtained from the city manager’s office, according to municipal documents.

The parcels are being sold through an advertisement and sealed-bid process in which bids will be accepted until 5 p.m. on Sept. 2 at the office of the city clerk in the Municipal Building on South Main Street.

Offers also can be mailed there at P.O. Box 70, Mount Airy, NC, 27030, postmarked on or before that deadline.

The highest responsible bidder for each parcel is to be determined by the city commissioners after they receive a report during a Sept. 15 council meeting. Those officials either will accept bids or reject any and all offers by the end of that session, according the the resolution approved Thursday.

Each bid will remain open and subject to acceptance until formal action occurs.

A bid deposit of 5% is required, among other sale provisions listed in the resolution.

Another includes the fact that individual parcels are to be sold by separate bids with no grouping of parcels or block bids allowed.

Insteel Industries Inc. (NYSE: IIIN) said its net earnings for the third quarter of fiscal 2022 were up sharply over the same period a year ago.

For the quarter, Insteel reported net earnings of $38.6 million, or $1.96 per share, more than double the figures from the same quarter a year ago, which stood at $18.4 million, or 94 cents per share.

The results continued a year-long trend of strong earnings. For the first nine months of the fiscal year, the company reported net earnings of $100.7 million, or $5.13 per share, compared to $41.5 million, or $2.13 per share, for the same period a year ago.

“The company’s results were favorably impacted by strong demand for its reinforcing products and incremental price increases to recover the escalation in raw material and operating costs,” the firm said in announcing the results.

Net sales for the third quarter stood at $227.2 million, up from $160.7 million for the prior year quarter, driven by a 53.9% increase in average selling prices partially offset by an 8.2% decrease in shipments, the firm said.

Net sales for the first three quarters combined rose to $618.8 million, up from $419.3 million for same period a year ago.

“The average selling price increase was the result of price increases implemented across all product lines to recover rapidly escalating costs. The unfavorable shipment volume comparison was driven by lower activity in the company’s standard welded wire reinforcement product line together with curtailed operating hours at certain facilities related to staffing challenges,” the company’s statement said.

“We expect our historically strong financial performance to continue for the fiscal fourth quarter,” said H.O. Woltz III, Insteel’s president and CEO. “Our markets remain robust and economic indicators for non-residential construction activity along with internal customer and market insights point to continued momentum through the balance of the calendar year.”

Woltz continued, “While deliveries of offshore steel wire rod alleviated the raw material shortfalls that constrained production and shipping volumes during the first half of the year, we are increasingly contending with unusually tight labor markets that have prevented full capacity operating schedules at certain facilities. We have responded to this challenge with innovative work schedules and higher pay levels which we believe will support the ramp up in production we expect through the end of the calendar year.”

To see the full quarterly report, along with additional information about Insteel, visit

DOBSON — After a two-year break from play due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation (SYEMC) was able to donate $9,750 each to four area nonprofits after the cooperative’s 10th Charity Golf Tournament brought in more than $39,000. The 2022 golf tournament goal was $30,000.

This week, members of SYEMC’s Community Projects Committee, led by chairman Travis Bode, SYEMC’s economic development coordinator, presented checks to the Yadkin Valley United Fund, Grace Clinic of Elkin, Greater Mount Airy Ministry of Hospitality — which include The Shepherd’s House and Helping Hands Foundation — and Second Harvest Food Bank.

The day of the tournament, representatives of the nonprofits were on hand to help volunteer and greet the 120 golfers at Cedarbrook Country Club in State Road. The 30 teams were divided into three flights for the captain’s choice format.

Winners of the championship flight, with a score of 55 were Gene Walden, Brandon Carroll, Cecil Alexander and Nelson Rector. In second place, with a 55, were Adam Key, Daryl Tilley, Connor Key and Glen Key.

First flight winners were Donnie Limon, Daniel Rodriguez, Brent Whittington and David Rodriguez, with a score of 53. Second place, with a score of 53, were John Evans, Clark Comer, Robert Kent and Jeff Benfield.

The winners of the second flight, with a score of 57, were Michael Frazier, Laura Neely, Erica Parker and Greyson Cox. Second place, with a score of 60, were Noah Hill, Toliver Wright, Patrick Frazier and Cody Spencer.

Closest to the pin award went to Tony Shinault, and longest drive winner was Michael Frazier.

“When the sponsorship money started coming in, we were elated to find we had so much support from business partners and players that we passed our goal by almost $10,000 and we had a waitlist for teams,” said Bode. “Next year we hope to restructure our tournament so we can include more golfers.

“Surry-Yadkin Electric’s employees love that we have a chance to support nonprofits in this way. It is part of our cooperative principles, with one being concern for community,” he said. “We have caring, giving employees and we are honored to have business and community members who join us in making a difference for those in our area.”

In addition to the annual golf tournament, Surry-Yadkin EMC, a member-owned electric cooperative, hosts a food drive in the fall, sponsors families at Christmas, sponsors youth programs such NC Youth Tour, Bright Ideas Education Grants (with applications from area teachers due by Sept. 15) and Touchstone Energy Sports Camp, and more.

For more information on SYEMC and its community programs, visit the cooperative’s website at

The Small Business Center at Surry Community College will be offering multiple online webinars this month free of charge. These webinars cover a variety of topics that are intended to help individuals gain skills for working with a small business.

The webinar Website Building for Small Businesses will be held Aug. 15, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. This seminar can help you quickly and efficiently design a website for your business with little technical knowledge.

The webinar (Re)Launch Your Airbnb in One Weekend: A Masterclass on Airbnb Hosting will be held Aug. 23, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. This seminar is intended for anyone exploring Airbnb as an income stream, wanting to launch or upgrade their Airbnb and for those wanting to provide a five-star experience for guests.

The webinar Email Marketing: A Crash Course will be held Aug. 25, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. This seminar will cover the tools and features for basic email marketing in Constant Contact. This webinar is great for beginners who want to learn how to start creating email marketing campaigns.

The webinar How to Start a Small Business will be held Aug. 30, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. After going through the course participants should understand the basics of starting a business in this seminar that takes you from idea to opportunity. Learn key strategies for start-up, financing and marketing as well as important information about legal issues, licensing, zoning, operations and more.

To register for upcoming virtual seminars or to view a complete listing of the upcoming Small Business Center offerings, visit After registering for a webinar, a link to join the event will be emailed to you.

For information about confidential, one-on-one counseling and resource referrals, contact SBC Director Mark Harden at or call 336-386-3685.

The Small Business Center provides seminars, workshops, resources and counseling to prospective business owners and existing business owners. The SCC Small Business Center has facilities in Dobson, Elkin, Mount Airy, Pilot Mountain, and Yadkinville.

Over the summer months Bruised Not Broken has held a pair of events in Mount Airy with the goal of providing additional assistance to the homeless and those in need. In the first two events Rhonda and Keith Baylor along with supporters have handed out hot meals and clothing to residents in need of assistance.

The Bruised Not Broken event has rotated to a new location for its next date. The group will return Saturday, August 13, in the parking lot of 364 N. South St. from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Baylor said those in need are welcome.

There will be sandwiches, chips, drinks, and perhaps even some pizza to offer those who come by. More than a meal, folks can enjoy fellowship, pick up some donated gently used clothing, and some good cheer from friendly faces.

Having been on the receiving end of a helping hand herself when she moved to Mount Airy many years ago, Baylor like so many others in the community, wants to give back. It feels like the least she and her husband Keith can do, and they make it clear that it is a calling for them. “All the honor and glory belong to God,” she said.

With school just around the corner Baylor said she wants to try and help the kids in any way she can. She will be gladly accepting donated school supplies during the event next weekend and then distribute to local schools and children.

To make a bigger impact and provide more school supplies, they will be raffling off a $50 gas card for a $5 entry.

Bruised Not Broken will be moving locations month to month in an attempt to reach more people, the Baylors will keep the public updated on where the next event will be.

For more information on how to help, donate, or join their outreach contact Rhonda Baylor at

Northern Regional Hospital President and Chief Executive Officer Chris A. Lumsden was presented with the 2022 American Hospital Association Grassroots Champion Award during the North Carolina Healthcare Association’s biannual meeting.

Every year, one individual in each state is honored as a “Grassroots Champion” by the American Hospital Association (AHA) in consultation with state hospital associations. This year, the North Carolina Healthcare Association nominated Lumsden to receive the 2022 Grassroots Champion Award for his service and efforts.

Lumsden is an active member of the North Carolina Healthcare Association and regularly participates in NCHA grassroots advocacy initiatives, including visiting local, regional, and state lawmakers. He travelled with the Northern Regional Hospital Executive Leadership Team and Northern Leadership Academy Members to the state capitol to promote Northern Regional Hospital healthcare initiatives and advocate for rural hospitals and their positive role in caring for the physical and economic health of rural communities.

“It is a great honor to receive the 2022 Grassroots Advocacy Award. I view this as a Northern Regional Hospital Team award rather than an individual one. It is a privilege to help tell the wonderful story of Northern Regional throughout our region and in Raleigh,” said Lumsden. “We are not only an award-winning hospital, but also a critical economic engine and driver for our rural community. It is an honor to represent our 1,000 employees and the 250,000 patients we serve every year.”

Lumsden has served as president and CEO of Northern Regional Hospital since 2018. He served previously as chief executive officer of Virginia-based Halifax Regional Health System for 30 years. Lumsden is a Fellow in the American College of Health Care Executives (ACHE), a licensed Nursing Home Administrator, and was selected as a Top 20 most admired CEO in the Triad Region by the Triad Business Journal.

Willie Byrd Williams was a schoolteacher and, like many people in Surry County, also a farmer. In 1913 he entered some of his corn harvest in a fair exhibit. It must have been some fine corn because he won for the best ear of seed corn.

He took that premium money straight to Dobson to buy a marriage license.

He and his sweetheart, Cornelia Jane Bray, were married for 57 years and raised their daughters, Ola and Minnie, in their Zephyr home just north of Elkin. They were also active supporters of the Zephyr Community Fair and the Surry County Fair for their whole lives.

Fairs and carnivals were a great excuse for people to come together and have fun. The Surry County Fair, from the beginnings in 1916, has scheduled hot air balloons, airplane stunts, side show acts, rides, and fireworks to entertain.

But their primary purpose in the beginning was much more practical. In the days before the internet, television, or radio, fairs allowed farmers and other businesses to promote their products to a much larger audience than they would otherwise be able to reach. They also provided education for young and old.

“The man who … fails to attend misses a fine opportunity to meet his neighbors and see what is being done by other people in the various occupations of life.” Mount Airy News, Sept. 25, 1919.

Farmers and business owners got to see new products that local stores were not able to carry or to see how seeds or fertilizers from various companies behaved in local soil with a reduced financial risk.

Companies such as Chesapeake Guano Company of Baltimore, Maryland, that specialized in fertilizer for tobacco in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, were popular in this region for decades. In 1886 they advertised in the Yadkin Valley News (predecessor to the Mount Airy News) that the judges of the NC State Fair in Raleigh granted their product the highest award for manure.

I know it’s tempting to chuckle at that, but for farmers it was no laughing matter. The right fertilizer combined with other progressive farming practices increased production dramatically at the turn of the last century. Corn yield went from 12 to 20 bushels per acre, wheat from 9.5-11.5. The US population was growing at an unprecedented rate, and the nation, with thousands of acres under cultivation and isolated from the direct damages of war, quickly became an important exporter of grain to feed a starving world. Successful farmers were vital to world food management.

George Hinshaw opened a general store in Winston-Salem in 1868 specializing in seed and fertilizers. He is credited with organizing the first three “Wheat and Cattle Fairs” in Forsyth.

Such events, if done well, brought people and money to a region, an economic jump-start for any community that hosted one. They were also an important tool to spread information on public health matters or better farming practices or to recruit for military service or civic organizations. But they were expensive to organize and needed a competent organization to pull local and state resources together.

It’s no surprise that soon after the trains arrived in Surry County, calls from local newspapers started encouraging people to organize a fair. The first mention I’ve found is in the Western Sentinel of Winston-Salem, Nov. 21, 1889.

“The News is pushing for a Surry county (sic) Fair next year. Winston wishes its Surry neighbors a big success.”

Though many communities across Surry, such as Zephyr and White Plains, held smaller fairs, it would take 27 years for the first county fair here.

In the meanwhile, Surry residents were taking special train excursions to attend the Catawba, Cumberland, and Forsyth county fairs and the State Fair in Raleigh. Several locals traveled to Chicago’s Columbian Exposition. With each passing year calls persisted.

“With all the progress and public spirit and wonderful achievements of Surry people and most especially the thrift and growth of Mount Airy and Elkin it looks odd to see such a grand county as Surry without a county fair. A fair properly managed would do more to stimulate farmers and manufacturers than anything else that has been tested.” Winston-Salem Journal, Sept. 25, 1907.

Finally, in 1916 the Charlotte Observer reported “Surry County is to have a fair this Fall” with a state charter and $50,000 in committed capital. A meeting in the opera house resulted in “more than a hundred business men (sic) and farmers” from across Surry and from surrounding counties buying shares at $10 each ($271 in today’s money) to fund the fair.

Mount Airy, the largest town in the county, was chosen as the location for many reasons, not the least of which was “the splendid system of sandclay roads.” Business and civic leaders such as Thomas Fawcett (founder of the First National Bank of Mount Airy), W. G. Sydnor (immediate past mayor of Mount Airy and president of the Workman’s Federal Savings and Loan), and JD Sargent (owner of the granite quarry) organized the Surry County Fair Association in June 1916.

Directors and vice presidents from every township in Surry and representatives from Carroll, Patrick, and Stokes counties signed on. They bought land from Dr. W.S. Taylor northwest of town. We’re not certain but it seems to be the same land where the fair is held today, the Veterans Memorial Park. They graded a racetrack, built exhibition buildings, and promoted the new fair relentlessly across the state.

The first fair was held in mid-November, the next two were mid-October, but in 1919 it settled in September where it would stay for a century before moving into August.

Whenever it is held, though, the fair remains exciting for kids of all ages, drawing the community together through good times and bad. If you’re headed to the fair this week, enjoy. If you’ve entered an exhibit, best good luck!

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

Surry County Schools recently held its annual Agriculture camp during the second week of July, and students participated in numerous hands-on experiences.

On Monday and Tuesday of the camp, students began by getting their hands dirty with plant science, learning the process from a seed to the consumer as they talked with Jim Mitchell of Mitchell’s Nursery and Greenhouse. Firsthand knowledge was also gained as Cattleman Mike Gillespie discussed the process of his beef cattle operation from selecting a profitable sire to happy quality beef-producing customers. Wayne Farms also helped students see the importance of poultry processing to the farmers and residents in Surry County.

On Wednesday, students suited up and dove right in as they smoked the bees at the Surry County Beeyard, locating the queen, drones, and workers as they learned the honey making process from local beekeeper Douglas Butcher.

The students also visited Greenhouse Towers, where James and Severin Garrett explained how to use vertical aeroponics to grow plants vertically with only water. Later on, students visited North Surry and East Surry High Schools to scope out their live animal labs. High school students and FFA club representatives Eve Bodnar and Kylee Seats mentored the students and answered questions as the week progressed. Additionally, Tractor Supply hosted the students for a scavenger hunt on farming products, usage, quantities, and needs.

The last day of the camp was full of more activities. Joshua Cave of James River Equipment guided a tour and explained the importance, choices, and cost of equipment that farmers and residents would need for land upkeep, farm transportation, and harvesting. Greg Hall and his llama also accompanied the tour with interesting details and facts.

In the afternoon, Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation gave the students a birds-eye view of its solar farm, explained procedures for gathering solar energy, and highlighted the importance of utilities to farmers. Students wore the proper gear and tried their hand at operating the equipment that keeps the power to local chicken houses, tobacco barns, hog farms, electrical fences and similar equipment.

“Each day the students saw farming from a different approach and mindset. I believe we touched every student’s interest level with our activities from spotting the queen bee to wearing a hard hat to getting their hands dirty. My heart pounds when a student asks, ‘Can I sign up again next year?’ I know our Ag Camp is making a difference,” said seventh-grade Science Teacher Jamie Mosley.

Surry County Schools officials said they would like to thank the local business and community partners who made this experience possible for students.

“A special thanks to Joanna Radford and Ryan Coe of NC Cooperative Extension for their hard work and assistance with this camp,” school officials said.

To call Danny Riggs a casual music fan would be a gross understatement.

“He loves music,” his twin brother Donnie said Friday with emphasis. “There’s music in our house 24/7.”

And Danny is fond of one country star in particular, Lee Ann Womack, a singer, songwriter and musician who has cranked out hits such as “I Hope You Dance.”

“I guess you could say he’s her biggest fan,” Donnie Riggs added.

He related how his brother even has a daily routine before going to sleep in which he will listen closely to a CD of Womack’s music and say goodnight to her. And when one of the artist’s songs is played on the Music Choice service he has access to, Danny is super-elated.

So when he recently received a gift of souvenirs signed by the country star, it could’ve been the inspiration for one such song of his own, “Happiest Guy in the Whole USA,” a variation of Donna Fargo’s iconic 1972 recording.

The items included autographed sheet music of Womack’s top hit, “I Hope You Dance,” and a pair of ballerina shoes similar to those used in a music video — also signed by her.

A side note to Danny Riggs’ situation is that he is a special-needs individual with cerebral palsy. The 60-year-old lives in the Fairfield community with his twin brother, who is his guardian.

Danny also is a client of Behavioral Services Inc. in Mount Airy, which aids individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and played a key role in his connection with the blond-haired singer.

Recognizing the fact that he “absolutely loves Lee Ann Womack,” it struck a chord with the staff there when a special request by Danny came to light, one key official recalled.

“His guardian had expressed what it would mean to him to get to meet her or get a video phone call from her,” explained Pamela Padgett, human resources director at Behavioral Services.

Padgett pointed out that part of its treatment approach involves taking a interest in things clients find meaningful and trying to help them in the realization of their dreams.

“Our caregivers here are real helpful about getting him his music,” Padgett said of Danny. “That’s the first thing he wants every morning.”

So when Mary Raasch, a service supervisor with Behavioral Services, learned of Danny’s request related to Lee Ann Womack and shared it with others there, the team sprang into action.

It just so happens that David Bumgarner, another supervisor in the office, once worked in the journalism field in Nashville and used his connections there to successfully process Danny’s request.

He has since posed for pictures holding the items received from Womack — wearing a huge smile. This has made a big difference in Danny’s life, says his brother, who works in the home-care field in addition to looking after his sibling.

“I also want to thank Behavioral Services for their involvement,” Donnie Riggs said.

“We’re just happy to be a part of it, honestly,” Padgett said.

Donnie Riggs is hoping an additional chapter to the story can be written which would be the icing on the cake for his brother: an actual conversation with Womack via Zoom, an online video communication platform used for such chats.

Danny would be up to that event, his twin believes. “He’s verbal to a point.”

Some might say Danny Riggs is lucky to have the support of his brother and that of Behavioral Services — but as those who have spent time around special-needs individuals often well know, this goes both ways.

“I’m lucky to have him, too,” Donnie said.

UScellular has appointed Darryl Canty to store manager for the company’s Mount Airy location at 752 S Andy Griffith Parkway. In this role, Canty is responsible for leading his team of wireless technology experts to help customers select the devices, plans and consumer electronics to best meet their needs. Canty has 18 years of wireless experience.

“At UScellular we work hard to ensure our associates are equipped with the knowledge needed to help customers make informed decisions about their wireless service,” said April Taylor, UScellular area sales for western North Carolina. “I am excited for Darryl to lead our Mount Airy store, and I’m confident that his leadership skills will guide our team to help customers in the area with their technology needs.”

Prior to this role, Canty was a manager for a national sales organization.

UScellular is always looking for professionals with sales experience, excellent communications skills and an enthusiastic commitment to customers. “Store leadership and full and part-time retail wireless consultant sales positions are available in a high-energy, professional environment, and interested applicants can apply online at,” company officials said. “These positions offer a competitive starting wage and benefits that include medical and dental insurance, a 401K and tuition reimbursement, along with incentives such as performance-based bonuses and discounted wireless service.”

Abriana Vail has made quite an impression in Dobson this summer during her internship with the Surry County Office of Substance Abuse Recovery.

During her internship she has aided in the implementation of the state’s new Strengthening Systems for North Carolina Children (SYNC) program of which Surry County is the pilot county. She has also spent tireless hours helping the county co-author a primary prevention document for the All-Stars Prevention Group.

Vail will be a rising senior this fall at Salem College. She attended Surry Early College and graduated in 2020 with her Associate in Arts as well as Associate in Fine Arts along with her high school diploma with a GPA of 3.9.

She is attending Salem College on a full scholarship and is holding tightly onto another GPA of 3.9. Vail has hopes of attending Wake Forest University to obtain a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling. The Early College again has sent a graduate into the world who is interested in using skills and knowledge gained to help their home community.

In her time with the substance abuse recovery office and in Community Outreach and Prevention she has worked closely with Charlotte Reeves, who coordinates the county’s community outreach. “Sometimes we neglect to honor our students who are working so hard and doing great things in their lives for our communities. I want to thank Abriana for all her hard work,” Reeves said.

Earlier this year Vail wrote the following piece entitled “It’s Time to Talk About Mental Health,” which follows below:

Mental health is a topic typically shrouded in darkness, with an ideology persisting since the dark ages. While mental health is now receiving a little more attention and acceptance, it still receives far less than it deserves. However, in light of the pandemic, mental health is now a frequent topic of discussion, as many individuals are struggling with their personal issues due to being forced to remain isolated indoors for over the past two years.

Now is the perfect time to talk about why mental health is so important and keep the conversation going. The state of our mental health can affect every aspect of our lives, from making decisions, managing stress, to maintaining relationships. We need to lose the stigma surrounding mental illness so that people can feel comfortable enough to come forward and get the help they need. Going to see a psychiatrist is no different than going to see your local doctor; taking medicine to manage symptoms of ADHD is no different than taking medication to manage high blood pressure. We cast a dark cloud over mental health as if it’s this forbidden topic that people should never speak of when it is just as important and valid as physical health.

When you feel that something is wrong with your physical health, you seek out the help of a doctor, so why should it be any different when it comes to your mental health?

Anyone who is experiencing problems with mental health and/or substance use, or has someone close to them who is, should contact Charlotte Reeves at or 336.366.9064.

For immediate help, call or text 988 the official Crisis Center Hotline for anyone experiencing a mental health, substance use, or suicide crisis.

Individuals can also contact the National Alliance on Mental Health at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email

• Wheels and tires valued at more than $1,000 have been reported stolen in Mount Airy along with an attempt to take a vehicle involved, according to city police reports.

The crime was discovered on July 24 at Granite City Collision on Rockford Street, targeting a Honda Accord owned by an employee of the business, Leighton Scott Adams of Roaring River.

An unsuccessful attempt was made to steal the vehicle by breaking a locking cylinder, which police records indicate caused $1,500 in damage. But the four Honda wheels and General Altimax tires were taken, valued at $1,144 altogether.

• A police encounter Sunday involving an improperly parked car in the 1000 block of South Main Street resulted in Isabella Nicole Newman, 25, of 117 Oaklawn Road, being served with an outstanding summons for a charge of second-degree trespassing.

It had been filed on July 15 with another Oaklawn Road resident, Serna Meliton Vargas, as the complainant. Newman is scheduled to appear in Surry District Court next Friday.

• A Virginia license tag, number MAVETT2, was stolen Monday from a 2012 Toyota Tacoma pickup while parked at Walmart. The victim of the crime was identified as Alma Yvette Miller-Hill of Prospect, Virginia.

• Harold Preston Spurling, 46, listed as homeless, was charged with second-degree trespassing Sunday at Northern Regional Hospital, after having been banned from that facility by a hospital security officer the day before. Spurling was held in the Surry County Jail under a $100 secured bond and slated for an Aug. 22 appearance in District Court.

• The dental office of Dr. Richard W. Gilreath on South South Street was the scene of a larceny on July 26, which involved a package of exercise bands being taken from the front door area.

• Jerry Ellis Thompson, 46, listed as homeless, was charged with second-degree trespassing last Saturday after being encountered by police during a civil disturbance at a residence on Merritt Street from which he had been banned earlier that day by Tammy Thompson and Officer Miles Caudle.

Thompson is scheduled to be in District Court Monday.

• Police were told on July 25 that the license plate, number BFB8223, had been stolen from an unidentified vehicle owned by SouthData while in the parking lot of the company on Technology Lane.

As expected, the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners has voted, 3-1, to set the stage for demolition of a building on Franklin Street declared dangerous — amid indications that the property owner might respond with a lawsuit.

“I don’t think it’s right what they’re doing,” Rod Brumley of National Decon Holdings LLC said in reaction to the board’s action Thursday afternoon involving the Koozies building owned by that entity.

The stage had been set for this in February, when the commissioners voted to give National Decon Holdings, located in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, 90 days to either repair the structure that is in violation of building codes or have it razed.

That decision also paved the way for the city government to have the condemned structure torn down if the owner failed to act, which officials say did not occur before or since the 90-day deadline expired on May 18.

The situation came to a head Thursday when the board voted — with Commissioner Jon Cawley dissenting (and the board’s Marie Wood absent) — to direct City Manager Stan Farmer to take steps toward achieving that end.

This will involve Farmer preparing a request for proposals from qualified and insured contractors for the demolition of the Koozies building and safe removal of all debris from the site. Koozies was the name of a private club formerly operating within those confines, but the facility has been vacate for many years and fallen into a state of major disrepair while posing a safety hazard.

A “most dangerous” structure

In objecting to the seeking of proposals from demolition contractors, Cawley questioned why two other buildings also condemned in February and included in the 90-day window aren’t being targeted in the same manner. These include the former Mittman body shop at 109 S. South St. and what is referred to as the “red building” at 600 W. Pine St. beside Worth Honda.

“It looks like to me we might be giving someone a case against us for unfair business practices,” Cawley said of the singular focus on the Koozies site.

“So why are picking out this building out of the three at this time and only acting on it?” he asked.

“From my point of view, this building is the most dangerous,” Commissioner Tom Koch responded regarding that structure, “most apt to hurt somebody, most apt to fall in the street.” He pointed out that its roof has collapsed and left a freestanding wall that possibly could fall, among other concerns.

Koch also appeared bothered by National Decon Holdings’ alleged ignoring of the order by the city and disinterest on its part in mitigating the issue. This piggybacked on a concern by Cawley about what contacts had been made with the owner by municipal representatives.

The city manager said Thursday that a certified letter was sent to National Decon Holdings after the February action and other attempted contacts by Chuck Morris, Mount Airy’s building codes enforcement officer, had occurred in the interim.

Morris told the commissioners Thursday that he has sent nine letters to the owner, plus made a total of nine phone calls and sent 12 text messages regarding the matter.

“And in fact, I had communication with them today, and we spoke about the pending meeting today and what the potential results of this meeting could mean,” he added. “So we have been in contact with them as much as they were willing to be in contact.”

“They don’t care,” Koch said of the ownership group’s concern about Mount Airy.

“And I getting to the point I don’t really care about them in Oklahoma.”

The codes officer also agreed with Koch’s assessment that the Koozies building poses a greater safety threat than the other two structures included in February’s blanket vote, and National Decon Holdings has done nothing to address the worsening safety hazard.

“There has been some movement on both of those other properties,” Morris said, including the Mittman building being sold and eyed for changes and the red building beside Worth Honda eyed for demolition once a pending sale goes through.

Thursday’s discussion included mention of the fact that the board still must approve a contract for the razing and approve funding for it, meaning the demolition is not a totally done deal at this point.

In the wake of Thursday’s meeting a warning was relayed from the owner of the Koozies property about possible legal action.

“He’s planning on suing” if the city government tears down his building, according to a source close to the situation.

That possibility could not be confirmed afterward with Brumley of National Decon Holdings.

City officials have said they legally can seize the property left behind to help recoup the cost of the takedown.

Saturday morning at Homeplace Recreation Park, roughly two dozen area youth will unload from cars and trucks and vans, making their way to the main building, where they will have the chance to have some breakfast snacks and get to know one another.

Later that night, those same youth will be singing and clapping, maybe even playing some instruments, during a concert given by some local musicians.

And in between will be swimming, corn hole, lunch, dinner, and other games — maybe even some crafts — during what will no doubt be a busy, tiring, but fun-filled day.

The youth are special needs children, and they will be getting a full day of fun thanks to the annual Eldora Handicamp taking place.

The annual gathering started in 1986, when Paul Key and Brent Simpson started the event to give the youth a break from constant reminders of health and other issues they deal with — a chance for them to have a normal camping experience.

Both men have passed away over the years, but Simpson’s son, Kevin Simpson, along with other members of his family and an army of volunteers have worked to keep the event alive and healthy.

“My dad always said it was mainly for the kids to have a weekend away and for the parents to have a weekend to their self, too,” Kevin Simpson said. And if the smiles and laughter and excited chatter among the participants is any indication, the event accomplishes that goal every year.

Up until the COVID-19 pandemic, the gathering took place over three days — Friday evening, all day Saturday, and a good portion of Sunday during camp weekend. As was the case with many events, the 2020 version was cancelled, and in 2021 it was pared to one day.

This year, Simpson said the event will again just be one day, though he is hopeful of resuming the three-day event next year.

“The activities are all the same, we’re just doing a one-day camp again this year…we’re just going to do a bunch of games, hopefully can do some crafts. Usually, over the whole weekend, we do a hayride, go swimming, do crafts, have a band that comes, a big church service on Sunday, just whatever we can get into.”

As is the case most years, he said the kids enjoy the entire event, but he said two activities usually stand out as favorites — swimming in the Homeplace pool, and the Saturday night concert.

The singer, local musician Doyle Watson, has a few musical friends that play a few times a year at various functions, Simpson said. One of those dates is the annual Eldora Handicamp — and the kids love the show.

“They do some beach music, rock, we’ve got one of the kids they let get up there and he plays the drums, he does a solo on the drums.”

Simpson said Watson will often go out into the crowd, interacting with the youth, getting some of them to sing along, even having a few up on stage with him.

While most everything is set and in place for Saturday’s event, Simpson said they could use one more thing to make it a great day for the campers — more volunteers.

Because the campers have various special needs, Simpson said some require more than one volunteer to accompany the camper. And there are always odd jobs and set-up and cleaning and other tasks to be done during the day.

Usually, he said the camp attracts more than 100 volunteers, although last year the numbers were down just a bit.

“We probably had 75, we’re hoping to have that or more this year,” he said. While he and his crew have professionals to fill in some tasks — two or three nurses will be onhand to help with any medical issues — the skills most volunteers need are simply the willingness to help.

“Just show up…that’s all they need to do. We’ll give them something to do once they get there.”

Even folks who can’t work the entire day can come in and help out for a few hours, he said.

The camp gets underway at 8 a.m. and will last until “9 or 9:30 at night,” he said — a long day but one he believes is well worth the effort.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s very enjoyable and you’ll get a lot out of it just being around these kids,” he said of anyone wishing to help out.

Gov. Roy Cooper and Surry County Emergency Management Director Eric Southern are encouraging individuals, families, schools and businesses to review their emergency plans and update their emergency supply kits during the month of August for Preparedness Month.

“North Carolinians need to be prepared year-round,” Cooper said. “Take the time now to prepare so your family will fare better during a disaster and recover more quickly after it’s over.”

Southern agrees, “Weather events like extreme heat and heavy rains are occurring with increasing frequency. Planning for just or one of two of these ideas can mean the difference between life and death.”

He also offered a standing order for Surry County residents, “Make sure to check on your neighbors.”

“Emergencies can be scary, but being prepared with a plan and an emergency kit will allow you to better protect your family and pets, while reducing your anxiety about having to shelter in place or evacuate,” said North Carolina Public Safety Secretary Eddie M. Buffaloe Jr.

State officials encourage families to develop an emergency plan that should include staying with family, friends, or at a hotel, “which are better options than a busy shelter.”

Southern said to build an emergency kit with enough non-perishable food, water, and supplies to sustain you and your family for at least seventy-two hours. Medications need to be brought along with items such as a flashlight, cell phone charger, and cash.

Items such as face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes may not have been considered at all two years ago; now they are suggested for all emergency kits. If a situation developed with such speed that a taking shelter in a church hall or gym was the only option, having extra protection against ever-festering COVID-19 variants would be of benefit.

Southern reminds not to forget pets during an emergency when time may be short, which illustrates the need for having Preparedness Month. “Protect your pets and animals by planning ahead to have a place where they can be kept safely out of the environment.” The state guidance leaves no doubt, “You should always take your pets with you when evacuating.”

Your pet has their own needs too, so in preparing consider kibble, bags for solid waste, and a bowl. For many, pets are part of the family – taking a moment to prepare for the ones who cannot prepare for themselves could save their life.

“You improve your chances staying safe when you have an emergency kit and everyone in your family knows where to go and what to do during a crisis,” said State Emergency Management Director Will Ray. “You can also help your community by helping your neighbors prepare.”

Southern says that trained resources are on standby in all corners of the county, “Surry County, Mount Airy, Dobson, Elkin, and Pilot Mountain all have public safety resources at the ready when needed but events and disasters are unpredictable. A fire that causes an evacuation or a flood that washes a road out will delay arriving help.”

He suggests current information needs to be added to the family’s emergency kit. Residents can stay up to date on any changing weather and sign up to receive notifications of local events through channels such as Hyper-reach, he said.

That organization provides a free service to send mass notifications for public safety agencies that allows those agencies to alert people during emergencies. Find more information or sign up for the service at:

Southern said throughout the month that his office will be sharing some tips on social media on preparedness topics. He also advised information and links located can be found at, including a description and itemized list for building an emergency preparedness kit for your family.

North Carolina is an active state for many types of disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms, Gov. Cooper said in announcing Preparedness Month. In 2021, the state experienced 21 tornado touchdowns, 109 flood incidents and 344 thunderstorms with damaging wind and 101 hail events.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Thursday trimmed the hurricane forecast, now predicting 14 to 20 named storms, down just one from the high-end estimate of 21. It is still predicted to be a “busier than normal” year in the Atlantic.

Currently there are no tropical storms in the Atlantic. That could change at any time, so the county’s emergency management office will be releasing tips via social media on hurricane preparedness and evacuation.

The last storm to form was Colin, who briefly grazed the Carolinas before dissipating on July 3. NOAA reports this is now only the third time in the past three decades that no Atlantic tropical storm was active between July 3 and August 5.

Gov. Cooper also reminded residents, “Severe storms are not the only natural disasters that affect that state. Wildfires, earthquakes and man-made disasters are also a possibility.”

Therefore, Southern says to remember the basics: have a plan, share your plan, and practice your plan. Know who to contact and how to contact them. Ensure children know a phone number of a family member in case of emergency, one they remember without looking it up.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1735 about Philadelphia’s fire preparedness. There is a reason this adage is still quoted nearly three centuries later; good advice never goes out of style.

The Surry County Basketmakers Guild is preparing for a basket making retreat next week in White Plains where 29 students will be instructed in the ways of the Nantucket basket. This will be the second year they are having ‘Nantucket Weaving with The Whites’ to be held August 12-13 at the White Plains Volunteer Fire Station.

Back again this year is the teaching duo of Charlene and Bill White from New Bern who are sharing their time and skills with the Surry County crafters. The club’s Debbit Badgett said that sharing the know-how of basketmaking is important to keeping the skills alive and yield some high quality baskets. “It is very kind of them to come and share this with us again.”

This is not to be confused with the normal meeting of the Surry County Basketmakers held the second Tuesday of each month from 6-9 p.m. at the Andy Griffith Playhouse in Mount Airy. Those gatherings draw up to a dozen or so members from the area and across the border in Virginia and are self-led by members of the guild.

Rather this is a two-day intensive boot camp on making the Nantucket style basket as opposed to reed baskets of the variety they usually construct. “The class is full, which is really wonderful,” Badgett said after COVID had reduced the number of participants last year.

Badgett offered thanks to the Surry Arts Council for allowing the guild to have its regularly scheduled meetings there. All it takes, she said, is the occasional donation of a basket to Tanya Jones which she may then include in an auction or such.

“I tell people, this isn’t some $10 basket you can get over at Walmart, you can try. Yes, I’m bragging, but you’ll see the quality – you won’t find it over there,” Badgett said.

Donna Edwards said of the Nantucket basket class, “Last year’s event was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work in weaving.”

The length of time for making one of these Nantucket baskets varies based on the size of the basket. Badgett said that a small basket may take up to four hours and that a larger size one could take the whole weekend of the retreat.

She has set a goal to make two baskets next weekend, one being a Nantucket purse the size of which would be used in place of a handbag or clutch to house car keys or a phone. Secondly, she will be making a wine basket, although it need not be used for exactly such a purpose.

An additional design was made available this year — the Aunt Bea’s Nantucket pie basket as part of a custom designed Mayberry series just for the Surry County Basketmakers. It joins last year’s hot item which Badgett said was the Nantucket Mayberry Basket.

The local guild is a member of the North Carolina Basketmakers’ Association, and they send representatives to the state’s annual convention in Raleigh. These gatherings have brought together crowds totaling up to 1,500 attendees prior to the pandemic, down to roughly half that last year, Badgett said.

If the sign-ups for the Nantucket basket retreat are any indication, folks are ready to get back to crafting and doing things they love — spending time with other crafters who share the same joy for the craft as they do is a reward onto itself.

It would be a fair question to wonder where these baskets wind up. “Well, you may laugh, I don’t make them to sell them.” She said to charge the right amount for the baskets would be to create a little sticker shock as the materials are not cheap and her time is of value, too.

She isn’t keeping all the best baskets to herself, “If you saw one and you really loved it, you could ask me, and I’d let you have it…. maybe not that day, but I’d let you have it.”

The Surry County Basketmakers Guild will return to its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at the Andy Griffith Playhouse. More information and lots of photos can be found on the guild’s appropriately named Facebook page: Surry County Basketmakers.

Some of the potential next generation of doctors and health professionals recently got a chance to experience their industry hands-on.

Eighteen local high school students interested in becoming registered nurses, physicians, occupational therapists, or any number of occupations in the medical profession participated in Camp Med 2022 Summer Program provided by Northern Regional and the Northwest Area Health Education Center, an initiative of the Wake Forest School of Medicine. The camp took place on July 18-22.

“Camp Med gave Northern Regional Hospital the opportunity to meet and introduce 18 young individuals to the healthcare field,” said Daniel Combs, head of Student Programs at Northern Regional Hospital. “They started out quiet, but by the end of the week, they were full of questions and excitement about our hospital and community. I am confident that this Camp Med has changed the lives of these young students.”

The program provided a range of educational experiences in the healthcare workforce, from meeting practitioners to observing state-of-the-art technology to touring healthcare facilities and learning about the services provided to patients, as well as presentations by the Mount Airy Police Department, Surry County Sheriff’s Office, Surry County Emergency Services, and Air Care.

Participants explored different medical career pathways, including obstetrics, surgical services, diagnostic imaging, and more. Each student that participated in Camp Med obtained a CPR certification through the American Heart Association. The camp included a tour of Surry Community College to explore the healthcare certificates and programs offered there. The students finished their camp with a service project for Operation Medicine Drop, an event that encourages the public to drop off expired prescriptions and over-the-counter medications for proper disposal.

“There are many local students interested in entering the medical field and so we held Camp Med to give these individuals some experience and interaction to help them explore the many opportunities in healthcare here at Northern Regional Hospital,” said Tina Beasley, manager of Volunteer Services at Northern Regional Hospital and one of the coordinators of Camp Med. “Our hopes and intentions with the camp are to expose students to a wide variety of careers within the medical field so that they might discover they have a passion for a career they might not have even known existed before attending the camp.”

“Camp Med was an amazing opportunity,” said Katie O’Neal, oneof thestudents. “I highly enjoyed the pig dissection, OR tour, Air Care, intubation session, doing IVs on a mannequin, and hearing from several medical professionals. I also thought it was interesting and very informative when I had the opportunity to sit down with the pharmacy director and the infectious disease control pharmacist in a meeting. I will forever remember this experience and I learned so many things in only four days.”

Camp Med participants were from across the area, including Karlee Bryant, Jace Hazelwood, Sophie Hutchens, Cassius Jennings, Chloe Jennings, and Wenxin Zheng from East Surry High School; Savanna Cortes, Alexander Cropps, Christopher Hernandez-Carrillo, and Haylee Orellana from Surry Early College; Chloe Johnson, Katie O’Neal, and Brianna Wilmoth from Surry Central High School; Aryan Hira and Palak Patel from Millennium Charter Academy; Mattie Bare and Zoe Draughn from North Surry High School; and Madison Spencer from Mount Airy High School.

Plans are for the program to be an annual camp held at Northern Regional Hospital.

After years of discussion, speculation and controversy, is a troubled structure in Mount Airy finally reaching a date with destiny today?

That could be the case during a meeting beginning at 2 p.m., when the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners is slated to consider a resolution to solicit contractors for the demolition of the sprawling Koozies building.

However, one board member desires more information before voting to take that route.

“I want to know what contact we’ve made with the owner,” Commissioner Jon Cawley said Tuesday regarding an out-of-town entity involved.

The structure fronting Franklin Street, which also is bordered by North South and West Pine streets, has been a problem for years — sitting vacant after housing a private club known as Koozies which closed, and gradually deteriorating to a dangerous state.

Council members set the stage for today’s possible move by taking action in February giving the owner of the property — National Decon Holdings LLC of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma — 90 days to repair or demolish the structure, once a Quality Mills facility.

The commissioners were told then that the building not only had become unfit for human occupancy, but posed an “imminent danger,” based on a determination by Chuck Morris, city codes enforcement officer.

“However, said owner has failed to take any corrective action to bring the building up to the standards” of the City of Mount Airy Code of Ordinances, states the resolution to be considered this afternoon.

“The building remains in a dilapidated and unsafe condition,” the proposed resolution adds, nearly three months after the compliance deadline on May 18. “Two fires have occurred inside the structure in recent months which have been linked to homeless persons living there.”

Meanwhile, the roof structure over a large portion of the building has collapsed, leaving an expansive exterior wall along Franklin Street largely unsupported, the resolution before the commissioners goes on to say.

“Other structural elements of the building are decaying and dangerous,” it says. “These conditions cause or contribute to blight, disease, vagrancy or fire or safety hazard(s) — accordingly, this building is found inimical (harmful) to public safety and deemed a public nuisance.”

If the resolution is approved by the board today, City Manager Stan Farmer will be directed to prepare a request for proposals to seek qualified and insured contractors for its demolition and safe removal of all debris from the site.

“There’s no doubt that all or part of that building needs to come down — that’s not the question,” Commissioner Cawley said Tuesday.

The question is how city officials have handled the situation up to now, he explained.

Cawley says he can’t see how the municipality can raze a structure it doesn’t own, which is where contact with the Oklahoma-based party comes into play for him.

“If we have contacted them and they basically have said ‘we’ll deed the property to the city,’ it seems to be a very appropriate step,” he said of seeking demolition proposals. “How we do things is very important.”

The proposed resolution mentions that the owner did not appeal the city’s order for mitigation before the May compliance date and otherwise has failed to act.

Today’s OK of the resolution would include a finding by the board “that the owner has abandoned the intent and purpose to repair, alter or improve the building.”

Mount Airy officials have said the city could legally seize the land left behind to help offset the cost of the tear-down, which is expected to be sizable.

Commissioner Tom Koch had said during the board’s last meeting on July 21 that the municipality was leaving itself open for a possible liability lawsuit by delaying the demolition should the building collapse and kill or injure someone.

Efforts to reach National Decon Holdings this week were unsuccessful. No telephone listing or email address could be found for the company.

• A vehicle was broken into last week in Mount Airy which an unknown suspect also tried to steal, according to city police reports.

The incident occurred Friday in the parking lot of Food Lion on West Pine Street, targeting a 1988 Chevrolet pickup owned by Rozalena Mae Guynn, a resident of Edd Bennets Lane who is an employee of the store.

Although the attempt to steal the vehicle failed, its ignition switch was removed and damaged, police records state.

• Police were told Monday that an Apple iPhone 13 valued at $800 had been stolen from Walmart. The owner of the smartphone is listed as Ashley Brooke Morton of Sarah Street.

• A break-in was discovered at a home in the 200 block of Elm Street on July 25 which involved the theft of an undisclosed sum of money, checks and other property. Bonnie Goins Shelton of Westfield Road and Sandra Goins Scott of Sam Marion Road, Pinnacle, are listed as victims of the crime.

Entry was gained through an unsecured window, enabling the theft of a lockbox containing the money, a Vizio 40-inch television set, a 14-inch smart TV set, a red push lawn mower and Branch Banking and Trust checks belonging to Elsie Goins.

• Property valued at hundreds of dollars was discovered stolen on July 19 from United Plastics on Hay Street.

The business was entered through a chain-link fence, which received $150 in damage, leading to the theft of Milwaukee-brand power equipment including two cordless hammer drills, six battery chargers containing batteries and four cordless impact drills.

Also listed as missing were a Canon digital camera and two Milwaukee screwdriver bit sets, with the property loss totaling $1,283.

As someone who’s already had two heart attacks, the potential for another is in the back of local musician George Smith’s mind whenever he takes the stage — and on his lips.

“My wife said, ‘George, you should mention to everybody where your nitro is at,’” Smith said of advice he has heeded in informing audiences about nitroglycerin sublingual tablets being in his pocket which could prove invaluable in such an emergency.

“It probably would never happen,” he said of total strangers frantically administering that medication used to treat cardiac episodes by relaxing one’s blood vessels so the heart doesn’t need to work as hard while also requiring less oxygen.

Smith, who lives in Lowgap, agrees that such an announcement could save his life — or that of someone else under the same scenario through the gift of awareness.

“I think I used it as a way to help others that might have the same problem,” he said of incorporating the nitro advisory into his shows. The underlying message is that, with time being of the essence in such a crisis, people shouldn’t be bashful about intervening “if you see somebody keel over.”

As a 43-year-old man who had his first heart attack at age 35 and his most recent on July 12, George Smith has learned to live with that possibility. While others might have chosen to avoid any type of stress, including giving their all during concerts, Smith vowed to continue performing — to pursue his passion.

“I just love playing so much,” he explained. “It’s just a big part of who I am — I kind of lose myself when performing.”

Immediately after undergoing various medical procedures over the years, the musician says his physical condition has always rebounded as a result.

“I also feel much better currently than I have in a long time,” he said in discussing the aftermath of the heart attack in July.

“The challenge is to do as much as you can without overdoing it,” added Smith, who also must be cognizant of dietary and other restrictions.

“I have to remember to sort of take it easy.”

Many people know George Smith as the leader of a group known as MAUI — the Mount Airy Ukulele Invasion — a unique rock orchestra class he started which has included students ranging in age from 5 to 85.

More than 50 ukulele players sometimes perform at concerts and for special events in this area, and Smith is looking forward to MAUI recording a live album at the Reeves Theater in Elkin later this month.

“Everybody in MAUI has been really supportive,” he said of members’ response to his medical condition.

Smith’s musical talents aren’t just limited to the off-the-beaten-path instrument popularized in Hawaii.

He has played the mandolin in opening for Ralph Stanley, and the bass opening for Darius Rucker and Jason Michael Carroll.

The local musician also has been featured playing six-string banjo on an episode of the PBS television show “Song of the Mountains” with the Porch Dog Revival band, along with opening for musicians such as the Steep Canyon Rangers and Larry Keel.

As a member of the band Mood Cultivation Project, he did so for Lynyrd Skynyrd at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem. Mood Cultivation Project also was the warm-up act for groups including The Marshall Tucker Band and Goose Creek Symphony.

Smith additionally has used his musical talents to fill in with different groups where needed while also writing his own material.

“Now it’s either I’m a band leader or a hired gun — I enjoy doing both,” he said of gigs that mostly have included playing bass — although Smith has dabbled in a little bit of everything.

“Of course, I teach and I tune pianos as well,” he said of a multi-faceted career as “a self-employed musician.”

Smith is a longtime instructor at Olde Mill Music in Mount Airy, a family operation run by Jennie Lowry and her husband Rick.

“He’s very well-liked and thought of in this community,” Lowry said.

The veteran musician grew up in the Beulah community, attending White Plains Elementary, Gentry Middle and North Surry High schools. During his senior year, Smith was a foreign exchange student in Germany.

He eventually would earn a college degree in German, but his musical interests grew to dominate Smith’s career goals. He held factory jobs in the early 2000s which he juggled with band-organizing activities.

Music became his main pursuit, especially with many local industries closing as the result of NAFTA.

Fate dealt George Smith an unwelcome hand about eight years ago when he experienced the first heart attack and was diagnosed with a condition involving a major blockage in the left anterior descending (LAD) artery.

“They refer to it as the widow maker,” Smith said, which in his case was a 99% blockage. He’s endured multiple artery blockages requiring the insertion of stents — small mesh tubes that hold open narrowed arteries.

Smith underwent a particular procedure in which two stents were positioned together to form one “because I have an extra-large heart.”

Various treatments over the years led to his most recent heart attack last month and an outlook of further medical uncertainties.

“I’m on my way to my cardiologist appointment right now,” Smith said when contacted last week.

“In two weeks, I’ll go back for another heart cath,” he added regarding a procedure whereby a thin flexible tube, or catheter, is guided through a blood vessel to the heart to treat clogged arteries.

If that catheterization is unsuccessful, Smith will face heart bypass surgery, in which blood vessels are taken from another part of one’s body to circumvent a blocked artery.

“I know I have missed a little bit of work because of this,” Smith said of how his heart condition has affected performance schedules — which also were hampered by COVID-19.

And even if the upcoming catheterization goes perfectly, he still faces the further prospect of that.

In the past, Smith has travelled to such places as New York for concert dates. Efforts now are made to keep destinations within a 16-hour travel radius to and back, such as Virginia Beach or northern West Virginia, in order to spend as much time as possible with wife Gin and 6-year-old son Dorian.

At one time, Smith had no health insurance, but does now, with the loss of income concerning him in looking ahead.

The local musician, who says he always has tried to be self-sufficient, did not broach the subject of possible donations from the public during an interview, discussing that only after being queried about how others might help.

“You don’t want to ask for anything,” Smith said proudly. “I’ve always been taught to work for what I have.”

He’s gotten a few dollars here and there from friends, which the performer says has been “overwhelmingly wonderful” and difficult to fully express in words.

And while Smith doesn’t want to ask for assistance from anyone, he acknowledged that at this point “it certainly would help.”

Folks can do so electronically via two popular online payment systems, Venmo and PayPal.

The respective account access information includes Venmo:@themusicofgeorgesmith and PayPal,

Those without Internet access may make donations at Olde Mill Music.

“If I receive anything, I will certainly pay it forward in the future,” Smith pledged. “If people want to help, it would be appreciated.”

No matter what the future holds, George Smith is “grateful” at this point in time.

“I’m so grateful for the life I’ve had already,” he said.

And in looking ahead “I hope to be here a lot longer,” Smith observed. “But I’m still doing far better than the majority of the world in the grand scheme of things.”

The Arts Place of Stokes in Danbury will be the scene of a musical reunion of sorts on Sunday as John Cowan, Andrea Zonn and The HercuLeons “all-star” band return to the Three Sisters Stage after performing at the venue in 2021. Sunday’s performance begins at 3 p.m., with doors open for seating beginning at 2 p.m.

John Cowan is no stranger to the area, having performed in Stokes County many times.

“Stokes County means everything to me,” Cowan said. “The friendships that I have there go back to my New Grass days almost 40 years ago and the sheer beauty of the place is just magical.”

While Cowan spends most of his musical days touring with the Doobie Brothers, Stokes County and the Piedmont of North Carolina are never too far from his mind. “In many ways coming back to Stokes County every year is like coming home,” Cowan added.

Joining Cowan in the headlining role for the HercuLeons on Sunday is Andrea Zonn. Zonn is not only a national champion fiddle player and vocalist, but one of the most requested names in music. She has toured with James Taylor, Vince Gill, and Lyle Lovett, and recorded with the likes of Trisha Yearwood, Martina McBride, George Strait, and Neil Diamond.

Rounding out Sunday’s “all-star” musical cast will be legendary guitarist Tom Britt, multi-instrumentalist Abe Parker, pianist/vocalist/composer Jody Nardone, and drummer Andy Peake, whose 30-plus years in Nashville have included recordings with Tanya Tucker, Nicolette Larson, and Don Williams.

The Arts Place of Stokes is located at 502 Main Street in Danbury. Advanced tickets are encouraged and can be purchased by visiting or by calling 336 593-8159.

A local woman has been chosen as National Royalty for the Miss National US Scholarship Pageant held in July. The pageant is held for ladies of all ages. The newly crowned Miss National US Ms. 2023 receives a cash award, the official crown and banner, an invitation to a professional photo-shoot in Chicago, Illinois, along with other prizes.

Jennifer Johnson-Brown, age 40, of Mount Airy, is now vying for that national title, after having been crowned National Royalty for the Miss National US Scholarship Pageant. She is the daughter of Wanda Johnson and Keith Hodges

The pageant is held for girls and women ages 4 and older, in seven different age groups. Contestants competed in five overall categories including formal wear modeling, personal introduction, interview, resume, and community service project.

“Each year, the pageant awards scholarships and prizes to recognize and assist in the development of young ladies nationwide,” the organization holding the pageants said in a statement announcing Johnson-Brown’s selection. “All aspects are age-appropriate and family oriented. The focus of this organization is to create future leaders and to equip them with real-world skills to make dreams a reality.

“This program is based on inner beauty, as well as, poise and presentation, and offers Miss Heart of Service awards for the one individual who completes the most service hours to better their community.”

As Miss National US Ms. 2023, Johnson-Brown will continue her endeavors to bring awareness for Alzheimer’s and be an advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association. She serves as a committee member on the Western North Carolina Mount Airy Alzheimer’s Association, and she will be hosting the Pageant to End ALZ on August 20 at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. From that event 100% of the proceeds go to the Alzheimer’s Association.

For those who wish to take part in the Pageant to End Alz, entry fee is $50 per participant. In order to be considered for Ultimate and Mega Grand Supreme, Supremes, and Age Division titles, contestants must compete in all areas of competition and optional categories.

There are numerous division and age titles in the event, with a number of prizes available, and a chance for some contestants to join Miss National US MS. 2023’s Walk to End ALZ Tea and to ride in the Mount Airy Christmas Parade with Miss National US Ms. 2023 Jennifer Johnson-Brown

Anyone interested in attending the Pageant to END ALZ should contact Johnson-Brown. She is available by email at, on Facebook @msnationalus, and Instagram at mnus_ms.

Johnson-Brown is being sponsored by The Groovy Gallery, Walley’s Service Station, Mayberry Squad Car Tours, and Jessica Rose Quilts, all of Mount Airy.

NC GreenPower recently announced that Rockford Elementary School was selected as one of 20 schools across the state which received matching funds to establish a 5-kilowatt solar energy system on campus.

NC GreenPower plans to award each school with a solar educational package, valued at approximately $42,000. In addition to a solar array, the schools will receive donated SunPower solar modules, STEM curricula, teacher training, and more.

Rockford Elementary School will join 56 other awardees since the Solar+ Schools program launched. This will be Surry County Schools’ second school to earn this distinction, with Meadowview Magnet Middle School being the first NC GreenPower Solar+ School to go online in 2015.

NC GreenPower’s board of directors’ review committee met this spring to evaluate applications and make selections for 2022’s program. For the first time, 20 schools will be awarded solar installations, the most in the program’s history. Additionally, six more schools will be announced later this summer, including one in Johnston County, another new county to the program.

Officials with Surry County Schools and Rockford Elementary School are excited about the benefits of having a solar array on campus. The installed photovoltaic systems serve as educational tools and provide an energy impact, likely producing enough renewable energy to power the school’s main office. In the past, installed solar arrays at other schools have generated an average of 8,026 kilowatt-hours annually, which could potentially save Rockford Elementary School up to $800 per year. NC GreenPower Solar+ Schools have saved an estimated $68,400 in electricity expenses since the program’s introduction in 2015.

“I am excited about the real-world, hands-on experiences that this grant will provide for the students and faculty at Rockford Elementary,” said former Rockford Elementary Principal Dr. Matthew White. “I know that the incoming principal, Laura Whitaker, is looking forward to this as well. I am also thankful for the continued partnerships with NC GreenPower, NC State Employees Credit Union, Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership Corporation, and our Surry County Schools Educational Foundation for their support of Rockford Elementary.”

Jeff Edwards, science coordinator, echoed Dr. White’s enthusiasm. “We are pleased to be able to provide students with the opportunity to explore green technology and to learn about sustainable energy as they grow to become leaders in our communities. We are thankful for Surry County Schools Education Foundation and Surry-Yadkin Electric Membership for their support for this project.”

“Surry County School is beyond excited to work with NC GreenPower once again,” said Superintendent Dr. Travis L. Reeves. “When Meadowview Magnet Middle School received this distinction in 2015, the district knew that installing solar technology on campus would prove to be a powerful educational tool for our students. Now, with the addition of Rockford Elementary School’s solar installation, Surry County Schools can continue to inspire the next generation of STEM leaders. In Surry County, our mission is to help students design their dreams and grow as leaders. Opportunities for students to have hands-on interactions with cutting-edge technology assists the district with this mission and will make a meaningful impact on the lives of students.”

Surry County Schools and Rockford Elementary School plan to hold a dedication ceremony once the solar array is installed and operational.

A local resident with an interest in attracting more business to town has been appointed to a group often playing a role in that, the Mount Airy Planning Board.

Nathan Bond was approved for a three-year term on the Planning Board, an advisory body to the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners on zoning, annexation and other growth-oriented issues.

Bond was appointed to that term, which will expire on July 31, 2025, by the commissioners during their last meeting on July 21.

He is replacing Jeannie Studnicki, whose term expired and no longer was eligible for reappointment due to serving the maximum time allowed on the Planning Board. She recently was hired as a city planner by Benchmark, a private firm that has provided planning-related services to Mount Airy since 2011.

Bond is employed as market manager by Vulcan Materials. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a bachelor’s degree in management, while minoring in finance.

“I have an interest in serving on the Planning Board to help overlook the expansion of our city while providing guidance to those looking to invest in the city,” Bond said in a statement. “I am looking forward to working with business owners hoping to invest in our city by moving and growing their businesses here.”

Bond’s other local involvements include serving as a member of the City of Mount Airy Steering Committee and chairing a group known as the Market Street Arts and Entertainment District Ambassadors.

In 2021, Bond was a member of the Downtown/Small Business Development Vision Committee that studied and made recommendations on various ways to improve Mount Airy’s central business district.

The Surry Art Council’s Summer Concert Series has two bands set to play this weekend. Jukebox Rehab will play the Blackmon Amphitheatre on Friday night. Gary Lowder & Smokin’ Hot will take the stage on Saturday. Both shows will start at 7:30 p.m.

Jukebox Rehab is a country music band based in Winston-Salem. “They deliver a monster country show that is steeped in classic country traditional sounds ensured to lift your soul,” the arts council said of the group.

Gary Lowder & Smokin’ Hot are known as a soul, R&B party band based in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

”Their musical repertoire covers decades of hits from your favorite artists and genres of music including soul, rhythm and blues, funk, reggae, jazz standards, country, ’50s, ’60s, and Carolina Beach Music,” the arts council said. “In addition to performing some of the most current hits that are topping the charts today, the group has had many successful chart-topping hits on local radio and internet stations across North and South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, and Florida. Gary Lowder & Smokin’ Hot are comprised of multi-talented musicians who have come together to produce incredible performances each and every time they take the stage.”

Admission to each show is $15 or a Surry Arts Council Annual Pass. Children 12 and younger are admitted free with an adult admission or annual pass. The Dairy Center, Whit’s Custard, and Thirsty Souls Community Brewing will be at the concerts to provide food, snacks, drinks, beer, and wine for purchase. No outside alcohol or coolers are allowed to be brought into the amphitheatre area. Those attending are asked to bring a lounge chair or blanket to sit on.

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

The Mount Airy Public Library has something to offer readers of all skill levels regardless of interest. Manager Rana Southern said that over the summer months it can be challenging to get young people to come to the library, so they created programming and events meant to spark a desire to learn in kids of all ages.

Summer programs to get young folks to participate included a watercolor event for the teens and just last night an escape room with pizza, one of her favorite ways to coax teens through the door. For the youngsters there were craft events like one during shark week as well as a traveling performance of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic Treasure Island.

Something Southern is excited about breaks from the mold of what one may visualize when thinking of a library. She was all smiles recently when showing off some of the new furniture and configurations in the library meant to appeal to kids and teens.

New high-top tables are available to spread out and study. There are new booths laptop usage with ample available outlets and USB charging available. Southern invited an onlooker to take a seat in a new comfortable chair that she said was for gaming. No, not Parcheesi or chess, the library is looking to install a PlayStation or similar video game platform.

In explaining why such non-traditional elements in the library are needed, she said that is the nature of the game these days. Information is so readily available that there needs to be an extra incentive for some youths to see a reason to visit the library.

For younger readers, the library is also holding their annual backpack drawing, but time is running out to participate. Entries for the backpack drawing will close Thursday, August 4 and the backpack drawing will be held on Friday, August 5.

Every time kids checked out a book at the library this summer, they were able to enter their name into the drawing for one of the backpacks loaded down with goodies. Don’t alarm the kids, but the school year will be here before they know it and snagging a backpack full of school supplies will help start the year off on the right foot.

The Summer Reading/Learning Kickoff has also been ongoing since late May and was designed to try and get kids ages 8 – 18 to put down the phone and turn pages instead. The summer’s top reader, based on amount of time read, is going to win a Kindle of their own to load up with as many books as possible.

The reading logs for the summer program will need to be turned in by August 9 and the winner of the Kindle, and of the prize bag, will be announced August 10.

If hearing the teens had their escape room event created a twinge of jealousy, adults can have their chance to get in on the fun of the escape, too. The Bermuda Triangle Escape Room will be held at the library at 9 a.m. Friday, August 9. Southern will have to let everyone know which of the teams, teens or adults, bested the escape room in the fastest time.

There are plenty of chances to get into the library for story time events this August. Wednesdays are Toddler Time at 10:30 a.m. for kids aged 2 to 3 years old. Thursday mornings are for book babies with a story time event starting at 9:30 a.m. for ages two and under. Preschoolers can join at 11 a.m. on Thursdays for their story time event.

As learning is a lifelong endeavor, grownups can also benefit from some time at the library getting lost in the pages of a good book. Southern said, “In an effort to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and in collaboration with our local Alzheimer’s Chapter, our community book club is reading ‘Elegy for Iris.’ ”

She described it as, “A luminous memoir about the beauty of youth and of aging and a celebration of a brilliant life and an undying love. John Bayley describes his life with his wife, Iris Murdoch, who has Alzheimer’s.”

“After reading the book, we will view the movie based on the novel. We are also participating in the Paint the Town Purple event, where we decorate everything in shades of purple to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

The Community Book Club meets the fourth Wednesday of the month at 1 p.m. Other events offered by the library include Pages and Petticoats, a romance readers club; Chapters Book Club; Hooked, a crochet and knitting club; also, yoga and tai chi classes.

Find more about the programming offered by visiting:

• A Mount Airy woman was the victim of a weekend assault, according to city police reports.

It occurred in the early morning hours Saturday, when Sidney Cheyenne Butcher of Charlie Norman Road was struck in the face by an unknown suspect while on Franklin Street near Willow Street, causing injury.

• An attempt to enter a local medical facility was discovered Friday at the Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist office on Price Street.

This involved the use of a burglary took in an effort to gain entry to the facility.

While that was unsuccessful, the incident resulted in damage of $400 to two wooden door frames.

• A felonious breaking and entering involving a larceny occurred on July 22 at a residential property on Galloway Street owned by Jennifer Withers of Northwood Drive.

The crime was perpetrated by a known suspect and one unknown individual, police records indicate, which led to a gold lame wallet and a gold pocket watch being taken. The monetary loss was listed as $150.

• Robin Lee Spicer, 33, of Ennice, was arrested in Mount Airy as a fugitive from justice on July 21 after she was encountered in the 2000 block of North Main Street during a traffic crash investigation.

Spicer’s name was found to have been entered in a national crime database due to the woman being wanted in Galax, Virginia, on an unspecified matter.

She was held in the Surry County Jail under a $1,000 secured bond and slated for an Aug. 15 appearance in District Court at Dobson.

One city official is viewing the recent collapse of a building in the heart of downtown Mount Airy as a sign that quick action should be taken regarding another dangerous structure a couple of blocks away.

Commissioner Tom Koch says that if someone happens to get hurt on the so-called Koozies site on Franklin Street, the municipality will be open to a liability lawsuit.

“It will be our fault, because we’ve been dragging our feet,” said Koch, who is retired from the insurance field.

He was speaking during a recent meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners, when Koch and other council members offered observations regarding the collapse of the historic Main Oak Building. That structure on the corner of North Main and West Oak streets fell on July 5, spawning a massive cleanup and restoration effort.

The last council meeting on July 21 marked the first time the city commissioners spoke in a public setting about the Main-Oak incident, which Koch tied in to the Koozies structure.

“The Main-Oak situation brings back to mind the Koozies Building,” he said of a facility bearing the name of a private club once operating there. It formerly was owned by the Quality Mills textile company years before that.

“That has been partially collapsed for quite some time now,” Koch added regarding the Koozies structure that Mount Airy officials targeted for possible demolition on Feb. 17. Owners of it and two other buildings in the same general vicinity were then given 90 days to repair or raze the structures on their own before the city government did so.

The three-month deadline fell in May, and all are still standing, although Mayor Ron Niland recently reported that efforts to mitigate conditions with the other two buildings were underway.

Those include the former Mittman body shop at 109 S. South St. and what is referred to in municipal documents as the “red building” at 600 W. Pine St. beside Worth Honda.

Koch focused on Koozies during the meeting.

“It has a free-standing wall,” the North Ward board member said. “We see the Main-Oak Building already has braces and supports to keep it from collapsing more — the Koozies Building has nothing.”

In calling it a hazard, Koch pointed out that the large structure is bordered by three streets: Franklin, West Pine and North South.

“And that building could collapse anywhere down there,” he said of the area involved. “And it’s heavily traveled.”

Koch said he wants city officials to “start whatever process we have to do” to tear down the Koozies Building, which is owned by an entity in Oklahoma.

He asked City Manager Stan Farmer to begin working on some course of action to achieve that result, which could involve Mount Airy seizing the land left behind to help offset the demolition costs to the municipality.

“And as long as I don’t have to handle the wrecking ball, I’ll be fine.”

After Koch’s remarks. the city manager reminded that the board already had taken the condemnation action back in February to set this in motion.

“If the council wants to take it down, it would come back to council action,” Farmer said of what’s required now to remove the dangerous building.

He said the necessary paperwork for this would be prepared as soon as possible.

The Surry County Agricultural Fair — now in its 75th year — is starting sooner than normal, this week to be exact, but also will run for more days.

Its 2022 version is scheduled to begin Friday and continue through Aug. 14 at Veterans Memorial Park in Mount Airy, its longtime venue. In addition to midway attractions such as rides and games the fair will feature the Majestik Spectacular Motorcycle Show and AIWF Mid-Atlantic Wrestling on multiple days, along with fireworks on selected evenings.

This year’s 10-day edition is rolling out more than a month earlier compared to 2021, when the fair ran from Sept. 11-18, and it has been held during September for as long as anyone can remember.

Park President Doug Joyner says the stepped-up time frame is coinciding with a change this year from Powers and Thomas Midway Entertainment, a Wilmington-based company that provided rides and other attractions at the Surry fair since 2016.

“They dropped us — they broke the contract with us,” Joyner said of Powers and Thomas.

This required scrambling to find a new midway provider, which ended up being the Amusements of America company, which the park president said was the only one fair organizers could get. He also indicated that this also led to the scheduling change from the normal September dates in order to conform to that of the new provider, which lists a busy slate of events on its calendar.

“They’re supposed to have basically the same thing,” Joyner said of the midway offerings from Amusements of America.

“I don’t know much about them — they’re from New York,” he added. “It will be a gamble, more or less.”

Amusements of America is billed as one of the nation’s premier carnival operators. “We are listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest traveling amusement park in the world and currently carry over 100 rides and attractions,” promotional information about the company states .

Among its array of rides are the Giant Wheel, Wave Swinger, Full-Size Crazy Mouse Coaster, Avalanche Coaster and Fire Ball.

The Scheduling Gods did conspire to provide the 10-day run for the fair this year, compared to eight in 2021.

Gates and exhibits will be open from 5 to 11 p.m. Friday when the Surry County Agricultural Fair kicks off, with an opening night fireworks show also planned. Fireworks additionally are slated for Aug. 10 and Aug. 13.

The Majestik Spectacular Motorcycle Show plans two performances each day during the fair’s 10-day run, at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.

AIWF Mid-Atlantic Wrestling is scheduled Saturday, when 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. shows are on tap, and three other days during the fair.

Gates and exhibits will be open Saturday from 1 to 11 p.m. and Sunday, 2 to 10 p.m.

General fair admission will cost $6 (with children 3 and younger to be admitted free with a paying adult) and $3 for seniors (60 and older) with proper identification.

Next Monday will be Carload Night, from 5 to 11 p.m., with one $40 price including gate admission, entertainment and unlimited-ride armbands for a maximum of eight people per vehicle.

Armbands also will be available for $25 on other days during the fair.

On Tuesday of next week, Senior Night is planned, offering free gate admission to persons 60 and older.

Veterans Night is scheduled on Aug. 11, including free gate admission to those with proper military ID and for a family of up to four people.

The 75th anniversary of the event will be celebrated on Aug. 10, when gate admission will cost only 75 cents.

Livestock shows also are planned during the fair.

More information is available at

Surry Central High School student Donte Watson recently was awarded the NAACP Surry County Branch 2022 Scholarship.

The organization’s president, Craig Smith, along with vice president Marie Nicholson, scholarship committee chair Sandra Joyce and vice chair Mary Frances Sawyers. were on hand at the school’s annual awards program earlier this year to present the award.

The $750 scholarship was based on student applicants providing a short essay on the Emancipation Proclamation, their academic report, the financial assistance needed and acceptance into a technical school, college, or university.

“We are happy to be able to provide this scholarship, our first of what we hope to be an annual offering,” Smith said.

Donte will be attending North Carolina State University this fall with plans to major in Life Sciences First Year-Zoology Intent.

© 2018 The Mount Airy News