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The results are mixed and trending up — but too many of us are still doubtful or altogether dark on the essential five freedoms of the First Amendment.

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This is important: How well do you know the five freedoms guaranteed you by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution?

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The idea of a barn raising, the collective action of a community to repair or build a barn, is one steeped deep in the tradition of Old Order Mennonite and Amish communities. It’s also one alive today in Watauga County.

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There is rightly a sense of pride when we look for a tag on a product and see the label, “Made in the USA” — words that mean something special to the average American.

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Since its beginning, the Women’s Fund of the Blue Ridge has made more than 1.5 million differences in the High Country, one dollar at a time, by creating positive change for women and girls through collective giving.

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New highways and bridges represent new directions and opportunities for us to travel. Yet, as we begin traveling the Baldridge Bridge — and many of us will, on a daily basis — let’s take a moment to reflect on the road that led us to this Deep Gap junction.

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Sept. 11, 2001, will for most of us be one of those days for which we remember exactly where we were when we first learned the news of terrorism strikes on our nation.

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Thumbs-up: To abundant caution where life is involved on the part of Lees-McRae. After dozens of students reported signs of illness, the college reacted quickly, sending students for medical care and evacuating the affected building even without knowing the cause. Still under investigation, …

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Even as the category 5 hurricane stalled over one of the most vulnerable populations in the world, and even now as the same storm is creeping upon the eastern shore of the United States, the Boone-based nonprofit Christian-relief organization Samaritan’s Purse is ready to assist.

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That Monday marks Labor Day, the unofficial last day of summer, is news that will surprise no one in the High Country. For weeks, leaves have been making their slow descent and there’s been more than one morning where a notch or two up on the thermostat has been in order.

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Although autumn comes early in the High Country, there’s still plenty of summer left — but with it the need to be a bit more cautious as the seasons begin to merge and school buses will again appear on the road.

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With so much polarization within our nation and community — down to the level even of signs and streets — it is refreshing that one compass point showed true north as the High Country joined in solidarity to make a stance against crime on one National Night Out.

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Given the importance of a business’s continued success, the selection of a new CEO is one that merits much weight and consideration.

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Did you look up at the moon Saturday night? Did you gaze in wonder that a quarter of a million miles away, the footprints of Neil Armstrong are still there — and will be for generations and generations after you are gone?

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Ever since Teddy Roosevelt, we’ve found bears adorable, but bears in the High Country — especially those with cubs trailing — are nothing to attract no matter how irresistible the photo op might be.

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Summer in the High Country brings with it many things — picnics, hiking, outdoor gatherings, a marked decrease for the chance of snow and, much more seriously, a shortage of blood donations.

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The track record for the past six years has been faultless — 100 percent community support for the families of students heading back to school who need a bit of a boost.

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Not that there aren’t a plethora of opportunities to view fireworks in the High Country … but we know about family traditions, and home fireworks are a large part of that during this time of the year.

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When Sgt. Dillon Christopher Baldridge was killed June 10, 2017, at the age of 22 in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan, a large part of the High Country died with him.

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Using knowledge to change the world around us — a sentiment not only noble, but attainable and certainly fitting to be heard from the stage as Watauga High School’s Class of 2019 turned their tassels during a graduation ceremony June 14.

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Thumbs-up: to Watauga County Schools Superintendent Scott Elliott, who continues to raise the bar on the success of our school system by earning the honor being named Northwest North Carolina Superintendent of the Year by the Northwest Regional Educational Service Agency. Chosen from among a…

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So much of what it takes to win in today’s world — and each of us has an individual concept of what winning means — can be learned from the playing field. This was again the lesson as the Watauga Democrat co-hosted the Mountain Times Publications Best of Preps Student-Athlete Awards on June 2.

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A significant local anniversary should serve as a significant reminder that the safety of our communities are ever dependent upon the generous sharing of time and experience from our friends and neighbors.

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Children and exercise go together naturally, and that’s especially so in the summer months when the term is painted with broad strokes. But if those strokes are limited to physical activity alone, your canvas is too narrow, according to studies which advocate for the importance of mental act…

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“Words fail when heroes fall.” So said Vice President Mike Pence speaking from Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 27.

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In an increasingly dangerous world of online marketplace transactions, we all could use a bit more safety — and law enforcement in the High Country is making that happen.

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From what one High Country sheriff says are scams ranging from mild aggravations to physical threats and “anything in between,” phishing schemes are blanketing the country, including Watauga and Ashe counties, and the target is often senior citizens.

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Doing almost anything for four decades not only gives you a certain amount of expertise, it gives you a credibility of the type earned by High Country United Way.

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With a North Carolina distracted driving bill, “Hands Free NC” (HB144) now before the Senate, what remains to be seen is if the bill will have the same measure of bipartisan support there as it did in passing the House 92-23 on May 7.

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We do not often comment on these pages on a letter we receive for publication; we typically choose to let the opinions of the writer become part of public discourse without our commentary.

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In North Carolina, a bicycle has the legal bearing of a vehicle — with all the rights and responsibilities. And now that these two-wheeled vehicles are about to begin sharing our High Country roads in earnest with the spring cycling season, it’s important that bicyclists review those rules e…

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That spring showers are a common but unreliable High Country occurrence is one important reason to heed warnings from the N.C. Forest Service. That’s especially so during this time of the year:

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Thumbs-up: to current and ongoing efforts to restore more than half of a mile of eroded banks along the South Fork New River in Boone. Project contractors have been hard at work since last fall — and through the winter — and the first phase is scheduled to be completed this summer. Well done…

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Filling up empty bowls was no problem for the 18th edition of the Hunger & Health Coalition’s annual fundraiser, and that’s a great thing — because that’s how this multi-county nonprofit organization has ever gone about its mission of eradicating hunger in the High Country: one bowl at a time.

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If it’s been awhile — and especially if it’s been a long while — since you’ve visited the Watauga County Public Library or the Western Watauga Branch Library in Sugar Grove, now is a good time to explore everything your publicly funded one-stop information center has to offer.

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The coexistence between public conservation and public progress is important throughout all of North Carolina, but in the mountains it reaches a pinnacle unlike that found in the rest of the state.

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