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A sharper image: adaptive Winterfest
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The Stonedsmiths fashion knives out of recycled railroad spikes and will be conducting a demonstration on Jan. 29 at McCoy Minerals, 537 North Main Street in Blowing Rock, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

BLOWING ROCK — COVID-19 may still be impacting many of the High Country’s special events, but certainly not the creativity of its people.

Railroads have been around in North America since the early 1800s. With the transport of men and equipment during the Civil War and the tying together of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, adoption of rail transportation really took off and proved a major advancement of the Industrial Age.

Thousands of miles of railroad tracks crisscross the U.S. today. Some have been wholly abandoned, but others have been ripped up and replaced as more modern railroad technology put new stresses on the aging infrastructure. What happens to the old stuff?

They call themselves The Stonedsmiths, but not because of any interest in illegal substances. Tanion McCoy and Isaac Turner, a pair of High Country 17-year-olds, share two passions: working with gemstones and metalsmithing. While they are working on ways to integrate the two artisan crafts, the metalsmithing interest has taken them to a recycling solution for railroad spikes: making knives.

Photo submitted 

The Stonedsmiths fashion knives out of recycled railroad spikes and will be conducting a demonstration on Jan. 29 at McCoy Minerals, 537 North Main Street in Blowing Rock, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The young duo will be conducting a demonstration of their handiwork on Jan. 29 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at McCoy Minerals, 537 North Main Street, as part of Blowing Rock’s Winterfest celebration.

“As a mother, I think it is going to be really interesting to see how the boys handle people coming up and asking questions,” said Trina McCoy, who with Randy “Doc” McCoy is co-owner of McCoy Minerals, a business that includes the shop custom jewelry and gemstone shop at 537 North Main Street, as well as Doc’s Rocks and the Appalachian Fossil Museum at Shoppes on the Parkway, the Tanger Outlet Center.

“It will be interesting to hear how they explain how and why they got into this market and the steps to make the railroad spike knives, as well as why they have to go through those steps,” said McCoy.

McCoy said that the boys use standard railroad spikes, about an inch in diameter and 6.5 inches long. The entire knife, including the handle, is fashioned from a single spike.

“There is an environmental benefit to their work, too,” said McCoy. “They are repurposing the spikes, which keeps them out of landfills where it might take centuries for them to biodegrade, if ever.”

McCoy explained that the boys heat the spikes, then pound them out to the desired shapes with polishing and sharpening being the final steps.

“When finished, the knives are between six and eight inches long, including the handle,” said McCoy.

Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce CEO Charles Hardin said that he is really impressed by the way a number of Blowing Rock businesses are stepping up to help make Winterfest even more special, in spite of the adversity of the pandemic.

“With COVID-19, we are not able to have as many of our traditional, indoor events again this year,” said Hardin. “But our members are stepping up with smaller kinds of events, like this knife-making demonstration. These have really helped to maintain Winterfest. We have a number of businesses hosting smaller gatherings.”

Winterfest 2022 runs from Jan. 27-30. More information is available and constantly being updtated at

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Iconic Westglow property up for sale at $14 million
File photo 

Nestled in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains near Blowing Rock, Westglow Resort & Spa has become a year-round destination. In January 2022, it has been put on the market with a list price of $14 million.

BLOWING ROCK — More than 16 years after purchasing and restoring the historic Westglow Resort and Spa, the Schaefer family listed the property for sale. The list price, according to listing agent Steve Price, is $14 million.

What the Schaefers did to renovate and bring to life a property that had fallen on hard times, according to the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce CEO Charles Hardin, is remarkable.

“They had the vision when others didn’t. Some of the buildings were close to falling down, the wood rotted,” Hardin said in recalling the Schaefers’ purchase. “What they created for the property and, really, for Blowing Rock, is an internationally known hospitality business that attracted a special clientele.”

In a letter dated Jan. 10 to “friends of Westglow” informing them of the changes afoot in the new year, the Schaefers themselves marveled at what they accomplished.

File photo 

Manor House, located on U.S. 221 south of Blowing Rock, has been put on the market by the Schaefers, with an asking price of $14 million.

“Westglow has been and will continue to be an amazing success story. Who would have dreamed in 2005 that we would become a Relais & Chateaux property and find ourselves among the top ten resorts in the world in Travel + Leisure magazine (including #1 in 2017) and in the top ten of Conde Nast’s top spa destinations? This could not have been possible without the dedication of our talented staff, our loyal members, and our guests we have had the honor of hosting,” said the letter.

COVID-19, according to the Schaefers, played a significant role in their decision to sell. The resort operations have been largely scaled back since March 2020, including the closure of onsite fine dining venue, Rowland’s restaurant. In their letter, the Schaefer’s also noted their personal health challenges during the pandemic, prompting them to want a simpler life, spending more time with family and friends while continuing their philanthropic endeavors “... and quite simply to ‘smell the roses’.”

The letter notes that the family has engaged the services of The B&B Team, Inn Partners, LLC, to assist them in finding “the right buyer.” It states that “The B&B Team is a nationally recognized firm known for pairing boutique property owners with qualified, committed buyers who share a passion, vision, and ambition for hospitality and have the resources to do so.”

Few properties have gained the kind of popularity and prestigious notoriety that Westglow has captured, almost reminiscent of the Mayview Manor hotel in the early- to mid- 20th century.

“Beyond the resort itself, the Schaefers have been generous and giving benefactors, even partners for so many charitable causes around the High Country,” said Hardin. “The list goes on and on, from Appalachian State University, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, the Jewish synagogue, Symphony by the Lake, Blowing Rock Art & History Museum, the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show, and so much more.”

File photo 

Dining on the porch at sunset is a favorite of guests at Westglow Resort and Spa. On Jan. 10, 2022, the property was listed for sale at $14 million.

Separate from the letter, the Schaefers said in a note to The Blowing Rocket, “We are now proud residents of North Carolina and consider this our home. We will not be selling our residence here and will be staying in Blowing Rock.”

Even with scaling back on resort operations, the Schaefer letter noted that in the last year they have transitioned the lodging portion of the business to the Airbnb and Vrbo platforms, requiring a major restructuring in how they do business.

“The good news is that the demand for our spa and salon services is stronger than ever. Lodging occupancy is at the highest it has ever been and our calendar is quickly filling with weddings for next season. Our membership remains constant even as we continue to gain new valued members,” said the Jan. 10 letter.

Also noting the increases in Blowing Rock real estate values, the Schaefers’ letter points out that a number of prestigious resort properties have sold in the last year, including Canyon Ranch in Woodside, Calif.; Miravel Resorts in Texas, Arizona and Massachusetts); Cranwell Resort in The Berkshires (Massachusetts); and a number of other Relais & Chateaux properties.

“We truly believe this is a unique time in our industry and Westglow is well positioned for new ownership that will maintain the standard of excellence we have created,” said the Schaefers in their Jan. 10 letter. “In recent months we have been quietly approached by several resort owners who have expressed interest in acquiring Westglow. Now is the time to thoroughly evaluate those prospects to find the perfect fit.”

A descriptor from the Westglow website:

Situated on a historic 42-acre estate that looks over Grandfather Mountain and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Westglow is serenely nestled in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain and the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Constructed in 1917, the estate was originally the summer home of famed artist and writer Elliott Daingerfield.

The focal point of the estate is the historic Manor House, built in the Greek Revival style of architecture and featuring many original Daingerfield furnishings and works of art. Westglow remained in the Daingerfield family until 1978 when Glynda Valentine purchased the estate as a private residence.

As a pioneer in fitness and well-being, Glynda first realized the potential of converting Westglow into a retreat for wellness and relaxation, and Westglow Spa was born. Longtime members Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer continued that legacy with their acquisition of the resort in 2006, initiating a massive restoration and renovation to create the world-class resort that became Westglow Resort & Spa.

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Blowing Rock commissioners give green light to new hotel, Broyhill Lake fountain

BLOWING ROCK — With new commissioner Pete Gherini still unable to leave Italy and now veteran commissioner David Harwood sidelined due to illness, January’s regular meeting of town council proved to be an abbreviated, but efficient edition to officially kickoff the new year. The meeting was held via Zoom and simultaneously broadcast on YouTube.

After approving the previous minutes, then deleting or moving around a couple of agenda items, the council was ready to get down to business. Gherini, who missed the December meeting while on vacation in Europe, was to be sworn in at the outset of the Jan. 11 meeting, but that was not possible because of his inability to leave Italy at the moment. COVID-19 was hindering his travel arrangements.

Mayor Charlie Sellers announced at the beginning that the closed session slated for the end of the Jan. 11 open session would be rescheduled. A summary of business items:

  • PRESENTATION: The council members received a representative of the League of Municipalities recognizing the Blowing Rock Police Department for having completed a “Risk Review.”
  • APPROVED: During the only public hearing of the Jan. 11 meeting, the board of commissioners unanimously approved the conditional rezoning of the 0.37 acres between Pine Street and Laurel Lane, for a 14-room hotel. The now vacant lot was formerly the site of the Stone Pillar bed and breakfast fronting the Pine Street side and Snips hair salon, formerly accessible off of Laurel Lane. The planned hotel will have ground level parking with one-way access off of Pine Street and exiting onto Laurel Lane. There will be two floors above the garage, the first with 8 units and 16 bedrooms. The second with 6 units and 6 rooms. The only variance request is for the height in the center portion of the building to be 40 feet, which is beyond 65 feet setback from the streets. The commissioners approved the request conditioned upon agreement with the fire department as to the apparatus required in the event of fire.
  • UPDATE: Parks & Recreation Director Jennifer Brown shared some notes on the process by which the planning committee approached the evaluation of all Blowing Rock parks.
  • APPROVED: The commissioners unanimously approved the installation of new 3-way stop signage at Ransom Street and Henkel Street, recognizing that turning left from Henkel is against a blind curve. Comparisons were drawn with the recently installed 3-way stop signage at the intersection of Green Hill Road and Green Hill Circle. “No traffic study has been done,” said town manager Shane Fox, “but the Green Hill consultant looked at aerial photos of the intersection and agreed that it had similar characteristics. The Ransom Street intersection has more traffic.”
  • APPROVED: The board of commissioners unanimously approved the acceptance of a $6,000 grant from the Village Foundation and a $5,500 expenditure from the general fund to replace the fountain in the middle of Broyhill Lake.

After individual council member comments, the meeting was adjourned at 7:02 p.m.

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STREETWISE: Shredding the Mtn
David Rogers / Photo by David Rogers 

Charlotte-based attorney Zach Jackson and sons Parker, left, and Cooper love coming to Appalachian Ski Mtn every winter to hone their skills.

BLOWING ROCK — You never know who you are going to meet on Blowing Rock’s Main Street or, in this case, during the winter months on Appalachian Ski Mtn.

They ski all over the U.S., but Charlotte-based attorney Zach Jackson and sons Parker (12) and Cooper (6) love coming to Blowing Rock’s Appalachian Ski Mtn.

“We go to Vail (Colo.) every year and we have also skied and snowboarded in a lot of other places, too, from Lake Tahoe and Heavenly Mountain in California to Aspen, Telluride and other slopes in Colorado, but Appalachian Ski Mtn is a phenomenal place to both learn and hone our skills,” said Jackson. “Some world champions, like Luke Winkelmann, have trained here.”

Just like Blowing Rock’s Winkelmann at age 6 — now competing on the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team with Red Bull and snowboard manufacturer Burton, among others, as corporate sponsors — 6-year-old Cooper Jackson has taken to snowboarding along with his older brother, Parker.

A family law and divorce specialist in Charlotte, Jackson said they particularly liked the foggy and cold, rainy days at App Ski Mtn.

“When the weather is not as nice, that means the crowds are a bit smaller, too, and we can get lots of work in. We have been up here since Thursday (Jan. 6) and are staying through the weekend. On Saturday (Jan. 8), including his time on the ‘bunny hill’ for beginners and the next slope up in difficulty, Cooper got close to 100 runs in. We were able to go until about 8:30 in the evening and he got much better as the day progressed. By the end of the day, he was coming down the more advanced slope without falling down and today he is working on the slalom course.”

For older brother Parker, it is all about working on his tricks.

“My favorite tricks are Ollies and 360s,” said Parker. “Ollies are where you are able to jump with the front of the board leading into the air and land with the board level, and 360s are where you spin all the way around in the air.”

Jackson said that the three of them just got back from a week in Vail, but were eager to get back on the slopes this weekend at Appalachian Ski Mtn.

“We love coming to Blowing Rock,” said Jackson. “We’ll come up during the summer every other year or so, but we are up here every year during the winter.”