LOS ANGELES — Local business owner Justin Davis stood in front of millions of viewers as he introduced Luke Combs’ first performance at the 2023 Grammys Sunday night.
Davis — the owner of the Town Tavern in Blowing Rock, co-owner of River Street Ale House in Boone and co-owner of the Town Tavern in Morganton — told the crowd about a former employee who used to work as a bouncer — none other than country superstar Luke Combs.
“Luke was a student then, living upstairs at the bar, and from the first night he came down — just him and an old guitar — and played for us, he truly had us in the palm of his hand. Now, Luke is playing the biggest stages in the world, including this one here tonight,” Davis said. “I’m so proud the entire world now gets to witness what we witnessed night after night with a crowd of just 75 people at my tavern.”
He also joked about how Combs was as an employee when he was a student.
“Luke wasn’t the best bouncer because he was just way too nice,” Davis said. “I’m sure Luke never spotted a fake ID.”
Before he introduced Combs, comedian Trevor Noah introduced Davis, saying “please welcome his boss from back when he was a bouncer, Justin Davis.”
Combs went on to perform “Going, Going, Gone” for the audience. Combs was nominated for — but did not win — three Grammys this year, including Best County Duo/Group Performance for “Outrunnin’ Your Memory” with Miranda Lambert, Best County Song for “Doin’ This” and Best County Album for his 2022 album “Growin’ Up.”
Combs first started his country music career playing local Boone music venues while at App State. He’s gone on the perform all over, but has made sure to stick to his roots with a show at Kidd Brewer Stadium and even a few shows at App State’s Valborg Theatre back in 2018.
He most recently appeared back on App State’s campus when he appeared on College GameDay in September during the show’s episode Boone.
WATAUGA — The Watauga Education Foundation awarded 35 teachers in the county a total of $27,000 in grants to fund projects that promote innovative learning.
The Classroom Grants program is the nonprofit’s largest allocation each year and represents all of the schools in the county.
Teachers submit applications for grants in the fall for their project ideas to benefit students through creative, hands-on teaching methods. WEF President Erika Hudspeth said without the grants, the projects may not be funded.
“This is such an exciting time for our foundation, knowing that the money given directly impacts students and typically provides benefits for many years,” Hudspeth said. “These recipients are so inspiring! They are truly improving our schools in small ways that provide great impact. Our organization is proud to support the dedicated, hard-working teachers of this county and we’re grateful for their commitment to our students and the community.”
Corrie Freeman and Jessie Presnell of Hardin Park for “Around the World in 30 Books” — This project will expose 5th grade students to a variety of cultures while building their vocabulary, comprehension and writing skills. Reading stories of children from all around the world encourages a deeper understanding of other ways of life, while mastering grade level demands.
Danielle Stewart of Mabel School for “Miracle of Math Manipulatives in Middle School Math” — This project provides multiple differentiated materials to help middle school students further understand the concepts and standards they are being taught. These hands-on materials and “fun games” help them understand the “why” in math.
Natasha Lyons of Valle Crucis School for “STEM After Hours” — This project provides enrichment opportunities for middle school students to explore all they can do with STEM topics. Funds will be used for the creation of an after school STEM Club that gives students an opportunity to explore their natural curiosity in the world of STEM and see how what they are learning in math and science has application to the world outside of the formal classroom environment.
Jane Brown of Valle Crucis School for “Promoting Positive Behavior and Self-Awareness through Literature” — This project promotes social emotional learning, which helps students develop constructive habits and values and is as vitally important to their lifelong success as their academic learning. Grant funds will purchase a collection of books to help students (PreK-8) learn and help teachers teach the Positive Behavior Framework expectations, and will benefit the school for many years.
Dacia Trethewey of Watauga High School for “Dynamic Digital Drawing & Design” — This project empowers students to express their creative ideas through original, individual and collaborative digital drawing/video projects. Funds will purchase an iPad Air 5 and accessories that will push students’ traditional drawing skills further into the 21st century through projects including digital drawing, painting & animation.
Courtney Capazzoli of Watauga High School for “Envirothon Champs!” — This grant will support the development of a team to compete in the regional Envirothon competition and the purchase of a composting worm hotel and aquarium to study and observe biochemical processes, allowing students to apply their learning to a real world scenario.
Savannah Libassi for “It’s Time for Take Off with Orff!” — This grant will allow the purchase of xylophones and drums to be able to better teach the Orff method. This method of teaching music focuses on improvisation, creation and play as a form of learning for young children. This will impact students at Hardin Park grades K-8.
Candice Trexler for Watauga County Schools Battle of the Books — This grant will purchase titles on the Elementary, Middle and High School North Carolina Battle of the Books lists. These books will be provided to all the county schools and will impact 275 students in grades 4-12.
Brittany Bolick for “Ping Pong Playtime” - This grant will allow the purchase of Ping Pong tables to introduce Ping Pong to students at Blowing Rock. This allows the students to be exposed to lifelong physical activities, requiring social interaction, working with small groups, hand-eye coordination and activity. This will impact 350 students.
Amanda Ormsby for “Social Learning at Mabel School” — This grant will allow the purchase of The Social Emotional Learning Curriculum All-in-One Bundle/Detective and Superflex Series by Social Thinking. The material includes books for children, curriculum guides for professionals, and interactive guides. Children will learn how to transform themselves into a Social Detective as well as their own “Superflex” superhero that looks just like them. These lessons are structured to encourage students to pretend to manage imaginary characters called the UnthinkableBots and in later lessons, engage their Thinkable powers.
Adrienne Stumb for “Capturing Student Journalism” — This grant will allow the purchase of a camera for the journalism program at Watauga High School. This program has grown from five students in 2019 to 30 students in 2022. The camera will help meet the expectation of high quality scholastic journalism.
Genal West for “License to Print” — This will allow the purchase of supplies to introduce arts foundations students to relief printmaking with professional quality printing materials used by real world working artists. This will impact 68 students at Watauga High School.
Lindsey Postlethwait for “Amazing Animals in Art” — The funds for this project will allow the purchase of art materials to produce 2D and 3D art. This will impact 450 K-8 students at Bethel and Valle Crucis.
JB Byrne for “Sensory Relief Kits for Super-Awesome Autism Students” — This grant will allow the purchase of 20 AFO Sensory Kits for Autistic classrooms at Hardin Park and Watauga High School. Each kit will include items like noise-canceling headphones, weighted blankets and communication cards to help students gain self-regulation during difficult moments of the day.
Trevor Owens of Parkway After School for “Comfort for Learning” — This grant will provide four Flex-Space Premium Floor Seats to create a better learning environment for 68 K-5 students in the After School program at Parkway.
Megan Scott of Hardin Park School for “How Egg-Citing….From Egg to Chick!” — This grant will purchase an incubator kit to be used by second grade students to learn about the life cycle of a chicken through first-hand experience observing the process of eggs being incubated and hatched.
Dana Lowery of Watauga High School for “Heroes Haven” — This grant will expand existing graphic novel services and programs at the WHS Library by purchasing additional graphic novels. Graphic novels help develop reading skills by reinforcing skills like inferencing, demonstrate punctuation and grammar rules, and explain figurative language. These books really particularly aid those with learning differences.
Scott Evans of Watauga High School for “Digital Microscope Cameras for Biology Students” — This grant will purchase a digital camera that can attach to microscopes. This will allow students to work collaboratively on microscopy. This will allow students to work together on viewing, labeling and identifying specimens.
Carol Critcher of Blowing Rock School for “Let’s build a Bristle Bot and Run Through the Keva Maze: Empowering students to build and explore creativity through STEM projects” — This grant will purchase a Bristle Bot making kit and Keva Bot Mazes to introduce students to engineering concepts and the design process, thereby strengthening problem-solving skills, collaboration and creativity.
Erik Mortensen and Dustin Ford for “Keep on Truckin” — With the funds from this grant, students at Watauga High School will build a Food Truck to take to the SkillsUSA Transportation Showcase. The Food Truck that they build will also be used in fundraising efforts to raise money for their trip to the competition. They also plan to utilize this food truck in future fundraising efforts for the school.
Olivia Boudwin of Bethel School for Future Architects — This project will enhance the materials in the Pre-K block space which encourages play that utilizes students’ fine motor and gross motor skills with imagination and problem solving.
Lauren Nichols, Miranda Higginbotham, Savannah Libassi and Andrew Chapman for “All County Chorus Event” — This project will fund the purchase of sheet music and a guest conductor for ensemble performances by students from all K-8 schools. This will build interest in the music program while allowing them to have a memorable middle school experience that gives them the opportunity to connect with students from other K-8 schools before attending high school.
Laurie Gill of Blowing Rock School for “Putting the ‘Science of Reading’ into Students’ Hands” — These funds will be used to purchase decodable text sets to address the pivotal areas in learning-to-read for K-3 students. Teachers can weave the decodable books into small group instruction tuned to the phonics concepts, giving students the chance for students to apply their phonics skills.
Carly Mize and Kirbi Bell of Green Valley for “When Stars are Scattered” — Grant funds will purchase a set of graphic novels that teach 5th graders about perseverance, grit and overcoming obstacles. Reading novels like this in a safe and positive environment allows students to study perspective, point of view and to learn about global awareness.
Gwendolyn Reeves of Green Valley for “Interactive Learning with Manipulatives” — This project will provide easy access to manipulatives within the EC classroom. The funds will purchase math manipulatives to reinforce the understanding of key concepts in math and to make reading comprehension more interactive through the use hands-on activities.
Kelly Pierce, Crystal Norris and Ashlyn Yates of Hardin Park for “Books For All — Decodable Chapter Books For Older Readers” — This project will add high interest, low readability books to the reading room library for older students that still need to work on foundational reading skills. These books will help students who are still struggling to read practice pertinent skills and gain confidence while being able to enjoy the books they are reading.
BOONE — The town of Boone unveiled a historical marker downtown to honor the history of the area’s first post office: Councill’s Store.
The Councill’s Store marker was placed at the intersection of Grand Boulevard and West King Street across from the Jones House on Feb. 3.
The historic marker was approved by the town council in February 2022 after Boone’s Historic Preservation Commission completed a report showing the location’s impact on the community today. According to the HPC, the marker was placed where the Councill’s Store was moved after being acquired by Daniel B. Dougherty in the 1880s.
According to the HPC, Councill’s Store was the area’s first post office. It was established by Jordan Councill Jr. in 1823. The “prominent merchant, livestock trader and slaveholder” was appointed to serve as one of three commissioners tasked with “laying out the town of Boone” by the North Carolina legislature in 1849, shortly after the establishment of Watauga County. This appointment likely came due to Councill donating land to the forming town.
“On Jan. 27, 1849, the North Carolina legislature approved a bill to establish a new county from portions of Ashe, Wilkes, Caldwell and Yancey Counties, and two days later, the legislature passed a subsequent bill establishing guidelines for the governance of the new county and location of the new county seat,” the HPC’s report states. “The commissioners likely completed the 1849/1850 map of the town of Boone sometime in mid-1849, since they were advertising the sale of town lots in the new town... this advertisement specified that the new county seat was located “near Councill’s Store”... the location of the new county seat so close to Councill’s Store no doubt reflected Jordan Councill, Jr.’s outsized influence in the community.”
Official incorporation of Boone as its own governmental entity would not take place for another 23 years after it was first laid out on Jan. 23, 1872.
Councill served as the local postmaster from 1823 to 1859 and consented to the changing of the post office name to Boone in 1850, according to the HPC. By the 1880s, Dougherty acquired the Councill’s Store building and moved it, converting it into his residence. Dougherty’s sons sold the property in 1904 to the Greene family, who operated the Greene Inn.
HPC Chair Eric Plaag said it is important to recognize the impact Councill had on the forming of the town, both positive and negative. Plagg said Councill enslaved people and participated in the “human trafficking” of the time.
“It is only through such frank and nuanced discussions about our past that we can begin to understand how we got here and how to make better decisions about our future,” Plaag said.
Some of those enslaved by Councill became the first residents of the Junaluska Community, according to the HPC.
For more information about the history of Councill’s Store, visit tinyurl.com/4wy82cnh.
BOONE — The Boone Police Department has started its first Citizens Police Academy for community members.
“For many years now, we’ve been doing single-day events that we’ve called ‘Coffee With A Cop,’” BPD Chief Andy Le Beau said. “That was just really designed to just open the department up, make ourselves available to the community, to just develop relationships. It was their opportunity to have access to us.”
Le Beau said community members would have questions on various topics related to the police department. So a few years ago, they did a Coffee With A Cop series, which was a little bit like the Citizens Police Academy but more informal.
“Every month, we would do a 30-minute or an hour-long lesson plan to explain the various aspects of policing,” Le Beau said. “We covered stuff like our body cameras, use of force stuff. I think we did six or seven of them through the year. They were pretty well attended. So, you know, our next thought process and the evolution of where this is going was like a Citizens Police Academy where it’s much more formal.”
Le Beau reached out to a former coworker from the Hickory Police Department who had developed the Citizens Police Academy there. He gave them some advice on how to best go about forming the Boone Police program. That’s how the seven-week program was created.
The first one was held on Jan. 26. Attendees learned about the police department and about leadership philosophies from Le Beau, and Sgt. Geoff Hayes presented information about the Downtown Community Resource Unit.
The second session, held on Feb. 2, walked attendees through the Axon body cameras worn by BPD officers and the policies/procedures related to use of force by the department.
Other aspects of the department the group will learn about during the program include the K-9 officers at BPD, SWAT, criminal investigations, an overview on the patrol division and community policing. The sixth week will see the attendees go through some shoot, don’t shoot scenarios on a simulator.
The final class will be similar to a graduation day along with a course evaluation and discussion.
“What I’m asking this group to do is to take some time — maybe continue to do another meeting or two or however long they want to — to give us meaningful feedback,” Le Beau said. “’We’re educating them about 'here’s what we do, here’s our policies and procedures and what it looks like.' Then at the end, we’re saying, ‘OK, what do you see? Are there any areas that we’re missing that you think we could do a better job?’ I’m going to ask them to present their ideas at one of our council meetings with whatever they come up with so we can be discussing how we can continually get better because that should be the goal for every organization, or business or person.”
Le Beau said the goal is to conduct at least two of the programs a year. For the next one, they will open up applications to the public to apply for it. He said they will also try to target some sessions to have a Spanish translator to help open it up to more of the community.
For the first program, Le Beau said they wanted to have a diversity of people attending the program. He said they weren’t just looking for people who were “police department cheerleaders.” He said they worked with App State professors to recommend people who wanted to learn more about the department and help it get better.
“We didn’t want an echo chamber,” Le Beau said.
After the academy is over, Le Beau said the attendees will have the power of knowledge on how BPD operates. He made it clear that those attendees do not have any police power as the program is more a way to connect with the community, build trust and legitimacy, and be accessible.
A Citizens Police Academy is how Le Beau got started in policing. When he lived in Daytona Beach, he was 18 and wondering what to do with his life. When the city offered a Citizens Police Academy, he went. He said he went from knowing nothing at all to getting to know police officers and learning about what they do, and the values of that particular police department.
Overall Le Beau is looking forward to working with the community and showing them what BPD is all about.
Le Beau also thanked Lt. David Osborne, who has taken all the concepts they have talked about and helped create the lesson plans and made it into an organized program. Other BPD staff will also present during each of the lessons.
For more information on BPD, visit www.townofboone.net/206/Police.