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GVFD holds parade, open house

The Galax Volunteer Fire Department held its annual Fire Prevention Week parade on Oct. 11, followed as always by an open house at the fire station on Grayson Street.

The crowd gathered for treats, free helmets for the kids, a chance to meet Sparky the fire dog and to thank the dedicated firefighters for their service to the community.

See Page A2 for more photos.

County gets free signal

INDEPENDENCE — Grayson County has successfully created a new opportunity to send its emergency signals through a new cell tower free of charge.

The Grayson County Board of Supervisors approved a special use permit for Apex Towers to install a cell phone tower and antenna on two parcels of land at Cardinal Road near Galax. The tower’s area will be in a 70-by-70-foot space on the parcels.

The property is owned by Gary and Judith Haines; the parcels together are about 26.5 acres and are not in an opportunity zone. They are classified as rural, and surrounded by zones mostly deemed residential or rural.

Access will be granted by right-of-way agreement from the Haines property to an adjacent one. An additional agreement for a 30-foot right-of-way will be needed to expand access.

According to Jada Black — Grayson County’s director of planning and zoning, who presented the special use request — since the parcel abuts Galax, she had notified the city and received only one comment as to whether there would be any problems with the cell tower in that area.

“I had a visit from Ms. Priscilla Edwards,” Black said. Edwards wanted to make sure that the grading of the roads and other work would not create issues on her property. “The other thing that she wanted to know was what it would look like and when it would start.”

Black said that the 199-foot tower will not be lit, as there are no Federal Aviation Administration requirements for it and it was determined not to be a hazard to air traffic. Vegetation around the tower will screen the view, and it is not expected to negatively affect any neighbors.

“Apex did a phenomenal job… and the Planning Commission did a good job asking about co-location,” said Black, referring to the ability for multiple businesses or agencies to use the same tower.

“Co-locating for county purposes, for emergency services, they do have a policy where it would be approved, at no cost to the county,” said Black.

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Locals help with Florida relief

How do you help clean up after a major disaster strikes?

According to a group of local residents who volunteered to do just that, the answer is one house at a time.

Hurricane Ian hit Florida late last month and left near-historic devastation and property damage in its wake. Labeled a Category 4 storm, it was the worst of its kind since the Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.

While large organizations like the Red Cross took to the scene immediately afterwards to help with those left injured or homeless, other groups came in to offer relief to those whose lives weren’t completely destroyed by Ian, but still needed help.

With that in mind, six volunteers — Mike Ayers and Shannon Carr of the Galax Volunteer Fire Department and Jim Dixon, Mickey Holder, Bobby Bunn and Michael Shaeffer from Christ Chapel Galax — went to Florida from Oct. 5-9, driving down as workers for Samaritan’s Purse, an international evangelical Christian humanitarian organization.

Ayers recounted a brief version of the trip for The Gazette. “We went to Inglewood, Florida, for three days of work,” he said. “One day of travel down, three days’ worth of work, one day of travel back. Working with Samaritan’s Purse, they kind of put you on the front lines a little bit, so you’re doing tree removal from residences. tarping roofs, cutting sheetrock out; you’re also doing debris removal.”

They were sent to work only on residences, he said. Several more volunteers from the fire department and church had expressed interest in going, but for various reasons were unable to make it. He and Carr, he said, were “not going as the fire department; we’re going as individuals who are firefighters.”

Ayers described Samaritan’s Purse by saying “it’s a fantastic ministry opportunity. You’re able to go down and bring hope to folks whose world is upside down.” The organization set them up with a home-base church — Calvary Baptist, in this case — where the group could eat, sleep and operate out of.

“About eight o’clock every morning, you partner with a team lead and you’re gonna go out and take care of families,” Ayers said of the schedule. Each day they were given an agenda.

“So the team got to cut several trees off of houses. We removed a lot of wet sheetrock from some houses, did debris removal, and tarped some roofs that had holes in them. The whole gist of things is to share Christ with them while you’re down there. Each family gets a Samaritan’s Purse Bible, and it’s signed by each team member that worked on their house, so it’s kind of special. It’s rewarding.”

Ayers said that they will actively share the Gospel if asked, but the physical work is the bulk of their ministry.

“While we were down there, it was five days after the disaster,” he continued. “They had 1,100 work orders.” They spent the three days making repairs, which was helpful for the hurricane victims and fulfilling for the volunteers.

“Everybody wants to help,” he said of the volunteers. “You see it on the news and you think, ‘Man, I would love to be there helping search or helping repair,’ and you just want to do something. The value is stepping out of your comfort zone and actually, tangibly, making a difference in someone’s life. You think you are blessing others by doing that, but you’re the one who receives the blessing. You realize, ‘Oh, I can make a little bit of a difference.’ I love facilitating these trips.”

Ayers said that “folks just grow” when given an opportunity to help. “For instance, we had one one teenager who wanted to help. We put her in a backpack to clean up, and had no idea she could do that. She was like 10 feet tall and bulletproof. We had little ladies using sledgehammers and different kinds of tools, and they never thought they could do that.”

Some of the work doesn’t feel like labor, said Ayers. “Just plain and simply being nice and talking to the homeowner. It’s also rewarding when you’re taking care of somebody’s house. But the spiritual growth is much more rewarding and it’s a lot of fun. We have a good time, too, working hard and sweating.”

He encouraged others who are interested to look up Samaritan’s Purse and volunteer, even if they have no special skills. “If you go one time, you’ll go again,” said Ayers. “You’d have a blast.”

For more information about volunteering for disaster relief, visit

Autumn Folk Festival events expand

BAYWOOD — Matthews Living History Farm Museum is adding even more events leading up to its Autumn Folk Festival at the end of the month.

Two new events — a 5K fun run and a scarecrow contest — will fit the theme of a fall “harvest” by collecting donated items for local food banks.

In addition to the main festival on Oct. 29 at the 1900s-era farm near Galax, Museum Director Arwen Cayton said additional events will include a pumpkin-carving night and a pumpkin pie contest.

Scarecrow Contest

The museum is inviting small businesses, non-profits, civic organizations or individuals to make scarecrows and drop them off at the museum from Oct. 25-28. Cayton asks you to contact the museum first for a good time to drop off your scarecrow, and bring a box to hold canned items.

Cayton said she’d love to see the farm’s barn filled with scarecrows.

“Make it fun, make it traditional, make it scary — or even make it look like your business,” she suggested.

Then, on Oct. 29, “we are asking the community to bring a canned good or boxed item with them to vote on the best scarecrow,” with the winner determined by how much food their scarecrow collects, Cayton said. “The following week, we will drop off these items at a local food bank. It’s another way to give back to our community and have a little fun.”

Canned or boxed food items can be dropped off at the museum all day on Oct. 29. All donations will be split between local food banks.

There’s another way the scarecrows can help, Cayton said. When you drop off your scarecrow, you will be asked about putting it up for “adoption” in a silent auction.

“This can either help your non-profit or organization, the museum, or to buy more food to donate” to food banks,” she said. “It is up to you to decide if you want to adopt your scarecrow out.”

For more information, contact the farm museum at or 276-773-3080.

Pumpkin Carving

On Oct. 27, you can come out to the farm to carve pumpkins into Jack O’ Lanterns. “We have always tried to reach our goal of 100 lit Jack O’ Lanterns, and last year we fell short, with only 86,” Cayton said.

The event is from 5-8 p.m., and she hopes the community will come out to help finally achieve 100 Jack O’ Lanterns.

Scare Out Hunger 5K Fun Run

The museum is working with New River Trail Outfitters to organize the inaugural Scare Out Hunger 5K Fun Run, which will kick off the Autumn Folk Festival events on Oct. 29.

“We ask that you bring a canned good or boxed food item as a donation to register,” Cayton said. “It will also be great if you dress as a scarecrow for this run, but not necessary to participate.”

Runners need to be at the museum on Oct. 29 between 7-7:45 a.m. to register. The race will start at 8 a.m.

“All canned goods collected on this day from our 5K and our scarecrow competition will be donated to all three towns — Independence, Galax and Hillsville — to put into their food banks,” Cayton said.

For more information about the 5K, contact the museum at 276-773-3080 or Paul Tilley at New River Trail Outfitters, 276-759-7119.

Autumn Folk Festival

The Autumn Folk Festival on Oct. 29 focuses on German, Scottish and Irish traditions and stories. The first part of the festival is from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

“We will also be having a special guest from the Grayson County Historical Society coming out to talk about the Scot-Irish and German people of Grayson County,” Cayton said.

There will be vendors selling their handmade items and musicians on the woodworking shop porch playing Irish tunes and old-time music. There will be food and drink available throughout the day.

If you didn’t have time to carve a pumpkin on Oct. 27, this is another chance to add a Jack O’ Lantern to the farm’s Light the Porch event.

The Autumn Folk Festival also includes a pumpkin pie contest.

“It needs to be from scratch, both crust and filling,” Cayton said. “Yes, you can use canned pumpkin, but not pumpkin pie canned. We prefer the fresh pumpkin.”

Pie entries will be accepted from 11 a.m.-noon on Oct. 29. Judges will be tasting these desserts at 12:30 p.m. and winners will be announced at 3 p.m. There is a cash prize for first, second and third place. Prizes will be handed out at the workshop’s porch.

There will be demonstrators of heritage skills all around the museum, as well as a demonstration of the German Witches Broom Dance, performed by the Appalachian Mischief Makers at 2:30 p.m.

The daytime part of the festival ends and 3 p.m., and after a two-hour break, the evening part — “Light the Porch” — is from 5-8 p.m.

“We would love for your children to come in their Halloween costumes to join in the fun,” Cayton said. “Bring a carved pumpkin to the event; we plan on lighting up the porches, the cabin and the blacksmith shop.”

The public will be able to vote on the Jack O’ Lanterns, so pumpkins should have the entrant’s name, address, phone number and age attached.

There will be games in the Pavilion, movies in the old cabin and a talk about “The Appalachian Granny Healers of Old” on the porch of the workshop around 5:30 p.m.

Another performance of the German Witches Broom Dance will be held around 6:30 p.m.

“And of course, we will have candy and popcorn,” Cayton added.

Matthews Living History Farm Museum is at 476 White Pine Rd., near Galax. For more information, call 276-773-3080 or email

Carico named Galax's HR director

Susan Carico was recently named the new human resources director for the city of Galax.

The announcement was made at Galax City Council’s Oct. 11 meeting.

Carico comes to the job as someone born and raised in Galax, though she lives just inside of North Carolina now. She is also someone with broad work experience and a bachelor’s degree in human resource management and business administration from Liberty University. The degree normally takes three years to complete; Carico said that she managed in a year and a half.

“I lived in Galax until I was 18, and moved to Yorktown,” she said. While living in the Tidewater area, she worked at Canon — manufacturer of copiers and printers — “and did importing and exporting for them,” she said. Carico went on to work at various manufacturing companies, Woodgrain in Independence and the Carroll County school system.

Galax City Manager Barry Moore found her on Indeed and recruited her. Carico had applied the last time there was an opening, but “I had not gotten my degree yet.”

While the public may not be privy to her day-to-day work, Carico is looking forward to facilitating some anticipated changes in the department’s record-keeping. “One of the things they’re wanting to look at doing is eventually getting the employee files on the server, versus having all those [paper] documents and files for years and years and years,” she said, “so that’s a goal I have to work towards.”

However, Carico noted that even in a relatively small city, her job isn’t limited to record keeping.

“It’s definitely an active position,” she said. “You always work to acclimate your employees to get them where they need to be at work so they’re happy at work. If you’re not happy at work, there’s a problem. You need to be a listening ear, help them solve problems, and find the right people for the positions.”

She concluded, “I’m glad to be serving the City of Galax. I love people! That makes a difference when you’re in human resources, too. I love people and I want to be happy. And I think the world struggles with that now. I don’t like to be part of the problem, I want to be part of the solution.”