After a truly magical, if not very dry, summer in Ashe County, we should all take a moment to reflect, recognize and thank the groups and hundreds of volunteers, business owners, and a few public officials, that made it one to remember.
This summer was marked by the culmination of a loosely-coordinated effort to recognize and leverage the increasing number of people who consider Ashe County a top destination choice, a place to get away from it all.
We use “loosely-coordinated” to describe the numerous events that peppered the calendar this summer, not because they weren’t properly planned, but because there was no single group insuring there was bevvy of activities on tap. It was a community effort, and a successful one.
This summer’s dozens of events, that were held from one end of this county to the other, offered every resident and visitor something affordable — often free — to do nearly every weekend. It was a remarkable achievement.
It’s hard to name everyone, but a few organizations need to be recognized for a job well done.
The Ashe County Arts Council. The amount of quality entertainment, education and just plain fun they offer the people of Ashe County and our visitors is astonishing. Every weekend this summer, the committed staff and volunteers of the ACAC had something going.
The Todd Community Preservation Organization. Free music was offered all summer in one of Ashe County’s most enchanting locations. All anyone had to do was show up with a blanket or lawn chair, sit back and enjoy some of the region’s finest musicians.
The West Jefferson Community Partnership. The “free” Backstreet Concert Series in downtown West Jefferson was a hit all summer long and when the last act walked off the stage two weeks ago, there was something comforting when the MC said, “we’ll see you next summer.”
There is also the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce, the Ashe County Farmers’ Market, the Lansing Farmers’ Market, and the Olde Towne Jefferson Business Association (which is building positive momentum), just to name the heavy hitters.
We would be remiss to fail to mention the numerous educational and entertaining — again, often free — programs offered by the Mount Jefferson, Elk Knob and New River State Parks and the Ashe County Public Library.
And the county’s churches and volunteer fire departments are always hosting events that welcome community and visitor involvement. The Lansing Volunteer Fire Department’s “Music in the Park” series booked live acts in Lansing Creeper Trail Park every Saturday evening this season, with food concessions to boot.
The Post’s weekly community calendar lists all the upcoming programs for each of them.
The Town of West Jefferson must also be recognized. Its downtown is having what can only be described as a Renaissance.
The decision by town officials to spend tax and grant dollars to remodel the streetscape and replace the downtown street lights was smart and forward thinking.
While these projects did have their critics and detractors in the beginning, in the end nobody is begrudging the final product: downtown West Jefferson is one of the most attractive, and entertaining, downtowns in N.C., and West Jefferson officials and taxpayers should be applauded for making that happen.
Ashe County is in an economic transition. The manufacturing companies that provided employment for thousands of county residents over the last 50 years have migrated to other areas of the country and overseas, but the fine folks who call Ashe County home haven’t. And they need jobs.
A tourism-based economy is, in the short-term at least, the county’s best shot at providing jobs for its residents.
But for those jobs to be created, the infrastructure for that tourism economy must also be developed.
Fortunately, this is happening, and it was evident this summer, despite persistent rain. Here’s hoping the fall will be just as successful.