Category Archives: News & Events

Mitchell Co Chamber Members Make Vacation Times Magazine List

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Several popular spots in and around Mitchell County made the Vacation Times Magazine’s List of “12 Cool Things to Do in the North Carolina Mountains”.  We are pretty proud of all of these area attractions!

One popular area attraction featured on the list is the Orchard at Altapass .  Vacation Magazine says “The Orchard at AltaPass is along a crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains and everyone can enjoy live mountain music while visiting Wednesdays through Sundays. There are numerous hiking trails, guided walks, children’s activities, a butterfly exhibit, garden, and hayrides complete with stories. Before leaving the orchard, guests may want to stop in the country store to purchase some fudge or a souvenir or two.



Emerald Village in Little Switzerland makes the list with Vacation Times  Magazine telling visitors that they are “only three miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway and people can pan for gold,  search for gems, explore museums, and shop in the quaint little gift shops.”


Hiking the Appalachian Trail also made the list of Cool Things to Do. “The Appalachian Trail is the coolest thing to do in the North Carolina Mountains or any other mountains that it crosses through. The entire trail is 2,160 miles long and only a small portion of that is in North Carolina. Any time a person completes a small section of this trail, they can still say that they have successfully hiked the Appalachian Trail to all of their friends.”


Going into a cave is pretty cool so we understand completely why Linville Caverns made the list. Just up the road from Spruce Pine, Linville Caverns offers visitors a chance to go inside a mountain.  “There may be caverns and caves all over the world, but in North Carolina there is only one cavern. At Linville Caverns, visitors get to explore the natural limestone cavern that features stalactite and stalagmite formations plus an underground stream.”


Another Chamber Member making the list of Coolest Places in the NC Mountains is Mast General Store in Valle Crucis.  “The Mast General Store was established in 1883 and it still sells supplies to those who enter the store. The store is on the National Register of Historic Places, which makes it a must-see destination while in the North Carolina mountain area.”




Mitchell County had nearly half of the cool places on the list, and of course we have many more to visit! Whether a traveler is seeking outdoor recreation, peaceful hikes, cool underground explorations, or family fun…they will find it all here and more!

To read the other NC places making the list visit the article here.


Mitchell Co Member Attractions Make BCBSNC Bucket List

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC has created an extensive list of North Carolina’s fun things to do which they call The Ultimate North Carolina Bucket List.  Not surprisingly, they included a few of our special places on their list.

“Yes, there’s so much to cover when it comes to the Tarheel State. But we thought we’d put together a North Carolina bucket list of our favorite family visits, outdoor adventures, and important locations all across the state.”

The Bucket List includes some of our awesome places such as Emerald Village in Little Switzerland, Linville Caverns, The Orchard at Altapass, and Mt. Mitchell.  Of course we have tons of other places that we would vote on the list and BCBSNC invites you to contact them with your ideas.  Visit their Facebook page at www.facebook/bcbsnc to add your favorite spot and they will add it to the bucket list.

Read the entire list here: The Ultimate North Carolina Bucket List

Penland Instructors Exhibit

ASU’s Turchin Center for the Visual Arts Partners with Penland School of Crafts

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Mitchell County’s Penland School of Crafts highlights instructors in The Penland 9 Exhibit

The Turchin Center for the Visual Arts at Appalachian State University is partnering with the Penland School of Crafts to showcase the nine Penland Studio coordinators and their art.

Located in nearby Spruce Pine, Penland is an international center for craft education dedicated to helping people live creative lives. The school offers intensive workshops in books and paper, clay, drawing, glass, iron, metals, photography, printmaking and letterpress, textiles and wood.

The “Penland 9” exhibition will be housed in the Turchin Center’s Main Gallery Jan. 10 through June 6, 2017. Visitors are invited to this rare opportunity to experience the collective talents and fine craftsmanship of nine artists who are more often guiding the creation of art through their students than being in the spotlight themselves.

Artists participating in the exhibition are Daniel T. Beck, studio coordinator for iron; Betsy DeWitt, studio coordinator for photography; Susan Feagin, studio coordinator for clay, Melanie Finlayson, studio manager; Jay Fox, studio coordinator for books, paper, letterpress and print; Nick Fruin, studio coordinator for glass; Ian Henderson, studio coordinator for metals; Ellie Richards, studio coordinator for wood; Amanda Thatch, studio coordinator for textiles & drawing/painting.

Mary Ann Redding, Currator of the Turchin Center said, “Working together to support the practices of other artists at Penland has given the talented coordinators a remarkable synergy; their artwork is both individually strong and at the same time shows a remarkable compatibility with one another – creating a dynamic and moving installation.”

To learn more about the Penland School of Crafts visit

To learn more about the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, visit

Special Thanks to Mountain Times for permission to share visit Mountain Times


Blacksmith Exhibition Heats Up in Spruce Pine

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On Saturday, April 1, and for the 11th year, the Toe River Arts Council opens its exhibition of blacksmith and metal work from around the country.  Held in conjunction with Fire On The Mountain Festival, the exhibition will give visitors an opportunity to view these metal arts and crafts in a gallery setting and to learn more about the nationally acclaimed smiths.  With seemingly unmovable floor pieces to hold-in-your hand pedestal work to 3-dimensional “how did they hang that” wall pieces, the gallery will be filled with forged, welded, pounded, and pinged copper, iron, steel, bronze. An always-fun free pizza and beer reception will be held at the gallery on the eve of the Festival on Friday,  April 28, from 5 to 7pm. The public is invited to share in the evening and meet these talented artists.

TRAC has been displaying blacksmith work for over a decade and recognizing one master blacksmith each year. This year’s Master Blacksmith is Lee Sauder from Lexington, VA. In his words: “Here’s what I do for a living: I dig up iron ore, and transform it into metal by the ancient and long-forgotten art of bloomery smelting. Then I try to forge something beautiful out of the iron I’ve made.” One could say that Sauder grew up with a lead foot. He began forging when he was 12, back in 1973, with an apprenticeship with Larry Mann. He moved around the world working with well known blacksmiths, finally planting those feet in Lexington, VA, where he operates Germinal Ironworks.

The pieces showcased during the Blacksmith exhibition are of the highest aesthetic caliber, inviting profound artistic contemplation from viewers. Other works bring back to life the hand-made uniqueness of the utilitarian items of past centuries: candlesticks, andirons, tongs, skewers. All the smiths have taken a concept and brought it to completion with unparalled artistry.

Another favorite, Seth Gould, resident at Penland School of Crafts and first place winner of last year’s Blacksmith Exhibition, will be demonstrating and exhibiting some of his newer pieces.

The Annual Blacksmith Exhibition will run from April 1 through the 29th, ending the evening of the Fire on the Mountain Festival. For more information about the Toe River Arts Council exhibition, please call 828.765.0520, or visit the Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:30am to 5pm. The Fire on the Mountain Festival takes place on that last Saturday,  April 29, from 10am to 4pm in downtown Spruce Pine. Please visit for information.

The Toe River Arts Council is a not for profit organization promoting the arts in Mitchell and Yancey Counties, and supported by donations, memberships, local government, grants (including the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, a state agency), and supporters who understand the benefit of art in our community.

Roan Mountain NC Named Best of the Blue Ridge

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The readers of Blue Ridge Outdoor Magazine have spoken! They have chosen Roan Mountain as the Best of the Blue Ridge’s Best Appalachian Trail section.

Appalachian Trail Section

Roan Mountain

“Appalachian Trail thru-hikers often gripe and groan about the “green tunnel” that is the A.T., but Roan Mountain makes up for all of those long canopied miles with its expansive views and grassy balds. Situated on the literal border between North Carolina and Tennessee, the massif is home to a number of peaks 5,500 feet in elevation or higher. Because of this, hiking Roan’s balds is about the closest you can get to an above-treeline alpine trekking experience—spruce fir trees, rhododendron gardens, and ample amounts of snow turn this southern Appalachian anomaly into an arctic-like landscape come wintertime.”

“No matter what visitors like to do, the Roan Highlands can accommodate any kind of adventure seeker,” says Carter County Tourism Coordinator Kayla Carter. So if you’re not a hiker, she says, try, “birding, skiing, disc golf, and some beginner mountain biking trails at Roan Mountain State Park just down the road.” Roan Mountain is a one-stop-shop for adventure.

Thank you to the readers of Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine! We look forward to seeing you on the Roan and in Bakersville NC…the Gateway to the Roan, very soon!

Best of the Blue Ridge


Mitchell County Chamber Recognizes Members at Annual Awards Dinner

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The Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce held its Annual Awards Dinner on Thursday, November 3, 2016 at the Cross Street Center.  Nearly 130 members were in attendance to celebrate the nominees and winners of the Chamber’s Annual Awards.

“We were pleased with such a great turnout for the Annual Awards Dinner and also excited that so many members nominated Chamber businesses and organizations for the awards,” said Patti Jensen of the Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce. “Chamber members are invited to nominate area Chamber member businesses and organizations in eight categories and then vote on the nominees,” said Jensen.

The nominees and winners in each category were announced at the dinner. The winners in each category were: Amazing Customer Service, DT’s Blue Ridge Java; Outstanding Service to the Chamber, Kim Stephenson (SECU); Excellence in Community Support, Spruce Pine Chevrolet; Rookie of the Year, Mike the Fireman Window Cleaning; Non-Profit of the Year, Mitchell County Animal Rescue; Small Business of the Year, Appalachian Eye Associates; Large Business of the Year, Quartz Corporation; and Member of the Year, Becky’s Flowers & Gifts.  The President’s Award was presented by Chamber President Kim Stephenson to Camp Spring Creek.  The Director’s Award was presented to WTOE by Director Patti Jensen.

“We extend our congratulations to the winners and nominees of the 2016 Annual Awards. Our Chamber is fortunate to have such amazing businesses and organizations as members.  They each contribute so much to making our community a great place to live and work,” said Jensen.

Mitchell County’s Bark House at Highland Craftsmen Receives NC Award

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The North Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NCMEP), a public-private operating alliance working to help manufacturing companies become operationally efficient and well positioned to grow profitably,  announced the winners of its 2016 Manufacturing Leadership Awards at mfgCON in Greensboro, North Carolina. The state awards program recognizes manufacturers for their commitment to the North Carolina manufacturing sector, as proven by outstanding performance.

“NCMEP is thrilled to announce this year’s Manufacturing Leadership Award winners and recognize our outstanding ecosystem of manufacturers across the state. This program recognizes manufacturing organizations that have demonstrated excellence in creating exceptional results in developing markets, continuous improvement, innovative technologies, advanced talent management or sustainable manufacturing,” says Phil Mintz, NCMEP Director and Interim Executive Director of NC State’s Industry Expansion Solutions (IES). “As we continue to grow this program, we look for deployed solutions that solve unique business problems through effective, innovative expansion programs or initiatives.”

The Bark House at Highland Craftsmen Inc in Spruce Pine NC received the NCMEP award in the Sustainability category.

Sustainability: The Bark House at Highland Craftsmen Inc., Spruce Pine, North Carolina

The Bark House at Highland Craftsmen Inc. manufactures natural architectural products.  Company founder Marty McCurry innovated a use for an unused by-product of the logging industry—tree bark.  This company is the original manufacturer of beautiful bark wall coverings for the interiors and exteriors of buildings. Its retail clients include Christian Louboutin, Sherber and Rad, Lululemon, Bass Pro Shops; its products have also been used within Parsons New School for Design, the University of Chicago, national sports arenas, medical centers, and many others. Bark House is the only company to receive 10 “Best for the World” awards from B Corp, a nonprofit third-party certification agency, and a PLATINUM level certification from Cradle to Cradle, which measures the sustainability of a product and its manufacturing processes.

John E. Skvarla, III, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, presented the awards.

Mitchell County Offers Help to Those Fleeing Hurricane Matthew

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Local hotels and individuals opening up their homes and rooms for those fleeing Hurricane Matthew. Some Mitchell County locals have offered up their homes, rooms and cabins at no charge for those seeking refuge. If you know of someone fleeing the storm who needs accommodations, please contact our Mitchell County Visitor Center at 828-765-9483. If you have a room or cottage that you would like to make available, please call our Visitor Center. We are also keeping a list of local hotels that will have rooms available. Thank you!

Chamber and NFIB Host Small Business Roundtable

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The Mitchell County Chamber joined with the National Federation of Small Business and Mayland Community College to host a Small Business Roundtable on August 31, 2016. North Carolina Lt. Governor Dan Forest was the special guest speaker.  Small business owners and managers attended the roundtable to hear an update from Lt. Governor Forest and then have a time of question and answer and discussion. Topics of discussion included bank financing for small businesses, HB2, resources for small businesses from the state and crowdfunding for small businesses.

Fall Color Peeking

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October 3, 2016
Excerpts from The Fall Color Guy

Colors have started appearing, almost as if someone had slowly turned up the color saturation on the forests, just like you can do with your digital photos or TV, and during the week, they have become gradually more noticeable. Although green is still the dominant color, we are finally seeing the beginnings of the color that attract all of us to the mountains at this time of the year.

However, we won’t see really wide-spread colors until the next weekend. So, if the weather holds as it has for the past week, with mornings getting down into the 40s and highs in the 70s, this should push forward the color development. As it’s been sunny also, that should bring out the red colors too, meaning we could be set up for a really good fall color season after all, despite the unusually warm and dry weather in August and September. For the next 10 days, the forecast is for highs in the 60s, lows in the 50s and then down to the 40s, possibly 30s at the higher elevations. I wish the morning lows were lower, but at least we’re heading toward ideal fall color weather.

The red maples in town continue to color up – the dominant variety colors from the top down, and we have dozens of trees with red tops and green bottoms, and that’s quite striking. The occasional maple and sourwood have started showing up in the woods too, plus birches, tulip poplars, and hickories are yellowing up now. Virginia creeper, a dominant vine in the southern Appalachians, turns a brilliant red color, and it is showing off now in places.

This coming week is the best time to check out the high elevations on the Parkway, as they peak earlier than lower elevations. The next two weekends will bookend the peak color season, although it could extend into the third week of October in the Boone/Blowing Rock area if the weather doesn’t get much colder. Warm weather tends to delay the onset of colors somewhat.

This week, and next weekend, are the times to check out the high elevations on the Parkway, from Mt. Mitchell, to Craggy Gardens, and Graveyard Fields, all the way to the highest point on the Parkway in the Balsams (at 6,000’). And don’t forget that the Parkway ends in the Smokies, and the drive up to Clingmans Dome is definitely worth it.

I’ll post photos to my Google drive location again, and you can view them here:…/fo…/0BxpSVO5IUz-ET0t5bmo3Wjg0S2M…

Happy Leaf Looking!!


September 21, 2016
Excerpts from The Fall Color Guy

“The weather in the mountains has been above normal in temperature and below normal in terms of rainfall. The NC Climate Office predicts drought will develop throughout the mountains this fall, especially near the Georgia border: (…/expert_as…/season_drought.png). The higher temperatures could slightly delay the onset of fall colors, but only by a few days, so I don’t think you’ll have to change your plans if you’ve already decided on which weekend or weekday that you’ll be coming up to the mountains. However, the drought could have more dramatic impacts, especially on the quality of the display.

One color that defines this time of year is yellow, due to the super abundance of goldenrods (Solidago sp.). There are several species here in the mountains, with some restricted to trails in the woods, and others to sunny locations along roadsides and in old-fields. They are at their peak flowering right now, and are beautiful in their own right, with the yellow flowers making a nice contrast to their dark green foliage. Note goldenrods do NOT make you sneeze, as their pollen is not what causes most people’s allergies at this time of the year. Rather, that is another plant, the giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida). So you can look at goldenrods without stress or discomfort!

Also blooming now are a variety of fall asters (Symphyotrichum sp.) which tend to grow along woodland edges in moist places. Often interspersed with them are gentians, with their deep blue, upright pointing flowers. These diminutive plants, often less than 6” tall, are nonetheless one of the most beautiful, not to mention unusual, flowers at this time of the year.

In conclusion, I predict that starting next weekend, we will start to see noticeable changes on the hillsides at the higher elevations, such as the summit of Grandfather and other high peaks here in the Southern Appalachians, and then it will begin moving downhill and the true fall leaf color season will get into gear! Remember, at an elevation of 3,000’ to about 4,500’, the peak will be early to mid-October, especially in mountains north of Asheville up to the Virginia border. Lower elevations will peak in late October, and below 2,000’, in early November even.”

Read more her:




The much awaited fall color has started to peek in the Mitchell County area and more prominently in the higher elevations.  The ornamental red maples are starting to turn.  The ornamental sugar maples are just starting a few splashes of color yellow or orange on just a branch or two while the rest of the tree remains bright summer green. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is starting to turn its usual deep, burgundy red color. This common vine, which usually grows up tree trunks, can also be a nasty invasive in your garden, where it creeps along the ground (which probably gives the plant its name!) and grows over your shrubs and flowers. However, it does turn a beautiful color and when the tree leaves fall off the tree it is climbing, you get this interesting play of red against the dark gray trunk and deep blue sky. Quite beautiful, especially in the morning when the colors stand out the most.

excerpts from The Fall Color Guy.  Read more here