Blowing Rock recently hosted its much-anticipated annual State of the Town meeting, a gathering of influential community figures at the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum on August 24th. This event served as a platform for discussing the exciting projects and upcoming events that are set to shape the town's future.
Charles Hardin, the President and CEO of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, took the stage to provide insights into the Chamber's dynamic initiatives for the year 2023. Following the challenges posed by the pandemic, their focus has been on revitalizing events, committees, and chamber initiatives. Key highlights include the rejuvenation of Main Street, the launch of a new website, and the implementation of an enhanced communication database.
Hardin also shared details about the Chamber's flagship events. Art in the Park, occurring monthly from May to October, has returned to full pre-pandemic capacity. The highly anticipated WinterFest is slated for January 25-28, featuring a pet show and a charity wine auction and tasting. Meanwhile, the successful Symphony by the Lake, with a Scottish theme in the pipeline, will begin ticket sales on April 1.
In addition to these events, Hardin announced a series of upcoming activities sponsored by the Chamber, such as the Summer Concert Series following each Art in the Park event, a town council candidate forum scheduled for October 9th, and Community Clean-up Day on October 10th. He also provided updates on changes in the local dining scene, including the transformation of El Rincon into Maria's Mexicana Restaurante, the eagerly awaited reopening of the Famous Toastery in late September, and Subway's resumption of weekday operations until 3 p.m. Unfortunately, he also noted the closure of Wheelies restaurant.
Following Hardin, Cathy Robbins, President of the Village Foundation, shared the organization's accomplishments in 2023. These included assisting the town in recruiting additional police officers to enforce speed limits, improving crosswalk signage and lighting, collaborating with the Blowing Rock Academy to provide childcare for town employees, and continuing efforts to bring 24/7 ambulance service to Blowing Rock.
Tracy Brown, Executive Director of the Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority, then provided an update on tourism in the town. For the 2022-2023 fiscal year, visitors contributed over $85 million to Blowing Rock's economy and over $500 million to Watauga County—a remarkable 7.8% increase from the previous year. However, Brown acknowledged that challenges persist, including parking shortages, staffing issues, and supply chain disruptions.
Concluding the event, Mayor Charlie Sellers and Interim Town Manager Kevin Rothrock shared insights into leadership changes and ongoing town projects. The upcoming town council elections were highlighted, with Sellers running unopposed for re-election, while council seats held by Albert Yount and David Harwood are up for grabs. Harwood is among the contenders, along with newcomers Jamie Dixey, Cat Perry, and Hunt Broyhill.
In the past year, the town experienced a $0.02 tax rate increase per $100, primarily attributed to salary hikes, the addition of five new staff positions, and the funding of the Blowing Rock Academy, among other endeavors. The officials also discussed major town projects, including renovations at Memorial Park, water and sewer upgrades on Main Street, the Mayview lift station, AMI water meters, updates to the comprehensive plan, and improvements to downtown parking facilities.
With a clear vision and a multitude of exciting developments on the horizon, Blowing Rock is poised for a bright future. The annual State of the Town meeting served as a testament to the town's commitment to progress and community well-being.