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Part of the crowd in front of Avery County Courthouse on July 30.
Photo courtesy Michael Hardy

Originally published: 2011-12-30 10:09:10
Last modified: 2011-12-30 10:23:20

Centennial Spotlight: 2011 – A great year for Avery County history

Michael Hardy / (

Every week in 2011, The Avery Journal-Times is celebrating the 100th birthdays of Avery County and Banner Elk with a Centennial Spotlight compiled by members of the local community. This week, we continue to provide answers to the 100 questions about Avery County posed in our print editions in January and February. 

You only get to celebrate your 100th birthday once, and Avery County seems to have done it right. 
Avery County's actual birthday took place last February. Given the temperamental weather the High Country usually experiences in February, event planners decided early in their preparations that the focus should be on summertime events, events that would involve those of us who make Avery County home year-round, as well as those who call Avery County home in the warmer months. 
Avery County Historical Society and Museum initiated the Centennial programming. The group began meeting in 2009 to organize a very special anniversary for the county. Soon thereafter, Avery County Chamber of Commerce became involved, and several large committee meetings were held at Avery Morrison Public Library in Newland. 

Instead of sponsoring one large event, planners determined on an event theme of 100 days for North Carolina's 100th county. Thus, the celebration would last longer and provide multiple opportunities to showcase Avery County's history and people. The spring-summer-fall lineup was scheduled to kick off with the annual Avery County Heritage festival the first Saturday of June. The Heritage festival, sponsored by Avery Historical Society and Museum, has been an annual event for more than a decade. For the past several years, the festival has moved around from community, visiting Linville, Crossnore, Plumtree and Montezuma. The festival returned to Newland in 2011 in honor of the Centennial. 

Of course, there was a host of other special events. A Ladies Tea was held for special Avery County ladies who have had their own fair share of birthdays: All the guests were at least 80 years old. Other events included a program on Avery County and the Civil War and a gospel sing. Many of our annual events, like Singing on the Mountain, Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, Riverwalk Concert Series in Newland, Arts Festival and Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk were also tied into the yearlong celebration. 

Several authors, like Avery County-native Gloria Houston, and Watauga County resident Peggy Poe Stern, visited the area. Local radio station 1130 WECR AM ran a series of Centennial Minutes, developed by Mayland Community College. The Avery Journal-Times began running the “Centennial Spotlight,” a popular series that explores the various facets of the unique history of a distinctive area. The highlight of the yearlong Centennial festivities was the three-day Centennial bash held in Newland the last week of July. There were plenty of festivities for everyone. These included a classic car cruz-in; an extremely well-attended concert by The Tams; and an all-day festival on Saturday, July 30. This festival included music by Watauga County Community Band, a parade with various floats from different parts of the community and living historians from the Revolutionary War time period, the Civil War time period and World War II. There were various family tents set up, along with local vendors.

The best part of the day was the ceremony held in honor of 10 very special Avery County citizens who have each made significant contributions to the history of the county: Martha Guy, Bertie Burleson, Addie Banner, Juanita Shoemaker, Rachel Deal, Sam Cartner, Sam Ray, Sherman Pritchard, John Blackburn and Tommy Burleson. Each honoree was presented with a plaque. 

The following Sunday, a special gospel sing was held at Riverwalk in Newland. While the precise total number of people who attended the three-day event is unknown, up to 4,000 people alone attended the concert on Friday night. 

On Feb. 23, 2012, the official end of the Centennial year of Avery County's founding will come to a close. But the festivities will continue. The Town of Newland celebrates its own Centennial in 2012, and Avery County Courthouse, along with the old Avery County Jail, which houses Avery County Historical Museum, celebrates its Centennial in 2013. Avery County will still have much to celebrate every year.

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