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51-year-old Jesse Lynn Ethridge was arrested Wednesday (January 15) by authorities in Burke County. He's charged with felony counts of burglary, larceny of property, and receiving or possessing stolen goods. Ethridge was arrested just before 5 p.m. Wednesday. He was being held in jail in Morganton under a total bond of $170,500 secured on various charges. He has a Superior Court appearance scheduled March 2.

35-year-old Matthew Meenou Yang of Rhoney School Road in Hickory was arrested by Alcohol Law Enforcement Officers. He's charged with felony possession of methamphetamine. In addition, Yang is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of stolen goods, driving while license revoked, and four counts of failure to appear. He was placed in the Catawba County Detention Facility this morning (January 17) under $32,000 bond. District Court dates were scheduled today and February 18.

24-year-old Samantha Leanne McLean of McDuffy Road in Connelly Springs was arrested Thursday (January 16) by Lenoir Police Officers. She's charged with felony possession with intent to sell and deliver schedule II controlled substance and misdemeanor maintaining a vehicle, dwelling, or place to keep controlled substance. McLean was jailed in the Caldwell County Detention Center under $100,000 secured bond. A District Court appearance was scheduled Thursday.

The Red, White and Blue Festival, formerly known as the Red, White and Bluegrass Festival, will not return to Catawba Meadows Park in Morganton this year. The City decided to cancel the Red, White and Blue Festival after several years of declining attendance and revenue. At its peak, the festival made at least 60 percent of its expenses back in ticket and vending sales. By 2019, the festival was making back only 20 percent of the money it cost to put on.

City officials say there will still be plenty of summer festivities to enjoy. The City will hold its annual free July 4th celebration featuring music, food, activities for kids, and a fireworks show at Catawba Meadows Park.

“We recognize and appreciate the artistic value and significance the Red, White and Blue festival provided over the course of more than 15 years,” said Parks and Recreation Director Rob Winkler. “Unfortunately, attendance numbers have been falling since 2013. We could not justify committing limited public resources to this event. We are looking forward to continuing to provide our annual free July 4th celebration.”

The Red, White and Blue Festival began as the Red, White and Bluegrass Festival in 2004. It featured local and regional bluegrass acts, celebrating the bluegrass music of the Appalachian region. The festival started small, being held in the parking lot of the Collett Street Recreation Center outdoor pool, and grew in size until it had to be moved to Catawba Meadows Park.

Weather drove down attendance at back to back festivals in 2013 and 2014. One year saw heavy rains flood Catawba Meadows Park, causing many campers to become stuck in the park. The next year brought extreme heat, making it unpleasant to attend the outdoor festival. After this, attendance numbers declined steadily each year. Festival attendance did not recover from these back-to-back weather events that prevented many people from attending.

Over the years, the festival drew big bluegrass and country acts such as Diamond Rio, The Cleverlys, Balsam Range, Larry Sparks the Steep Canyon Rangers, and more. Regardless of these popular acts performing, attendance kept falling. After markedly low attendance at the 2018 Red, White and Bluegrass Festival, the City revamped the festival into the Red, White and Blue Festival in 2019.

The revamped version included a wider variety of musical acts on two different stages; substantially cheaper ticket prices; free activities throughout the park including inflatables for children, volleyball games, hay rides, train rides, cornhole games; access to the Beanstalk playground; and, for the first time ever, festival-goers were able to purchase alcohol. Attendance still did not increase, and instead continued to fall, despite these changes.

“We made these changes in an effort to attract more people and appeal to a wider audience. We tried everything we could,” Winkler said. “We were happy to offer a lot of musical variety, and are glad we were able to attract a more diverse audience. Unfortunately, attendance still declined. In the final analysis, we were investing more and more taxpayer money in an event that was drawing small crowds and returning little revenue. Being responsible with taxpayer funds is important, and ultimately it is what affords us the opportunity to offer services and experiences for our community to enjoy.”

The annual recreation department Fourth of July festival began in the early 1980s as a town fireworks show on the campus of Western Piedmont Community College. But then it grew — to the point where the campus just couldn’t hold the crowds anymore. In 2004, the tradition morphed into the first Red, White and Bluegrass Festival.

Musical acts and more details about this year’s annual July 4th celebration at Catawba Meadows Park will be announced at a later date.

Thursday, 16 January 2020 05:32

Caldwell County Fire Considered Suspicious

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A Caldwell County house fire that is considered suspicious is under investigation. According to information released Wednesday, on Sunday (January 12) firefighters from Little River Fire Department, with mutual aid from Hudson, Sawmills, Grace Chapel, and Kings Creek Fire Departments, responded to a structure fire at 5341 Sheriff’s Road in the Little River Community of Caldwell County.

Firefighters arrived at 7:46 a.m. to find a single-family dwelling partially involved in fire, and quickly placed the fire under control by 8:15 a.m. Investigators from the Caldwell County Fire Marshal’s Office have determined the cause of the fire to be suspicious in nature. The home was vacant at the time of the fire, the owner has been identified by authorities, however there were no tenants currently. The property did not have working smoke alarms at the time of the fire and the residence was not monitored by an alarm company.

There was significant damage to portions of the home, and smoke damage throughout. The home was deemed uninhabitable and a complete loss. There was one injury reported, a firefighter was transported to the hospital after injuring his leg while fighting the blaze. The firefighter has since been released and is expected to make a full recovery.

The fire is currently under investigation by the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office and Caldwell County Fire Marshal’s Office. Anyone with any information concerning this fire is asked to call the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office at 828-758-2324.

38-year-old Michael Dale McLean, Jr. was arrested Wednesday by authorities in Burke County. He's charged with felony larceny of motor vehicle parts. McLean was arrested at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. He was being held in jail in Morganton under a total bond of $78,500 secured on multiple charges. He has District Court dates scheduled for February 11 and March 24 and a Superior Court appearance March 2.

28-year-old Roger Desmond Burns III of Fort Mill, SC, was arrested Wednesday (January 15) by Troopers with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. He's charged with felony speeding to elude arrest, driving while impaired, possession of drug paraphernalia, no operators license, and felony parole violation.

According to published reports, Burns allegedly fled the scene of a hit and run in Burke County and led officers on a chase into Catawba County. Burns reportedly wrecked, then fled on foot before being arrested in Hickory.

He was jailed in the Catawba County Detention Facility under $8,500 bond. District Court dates were scheduled today (January 16) and January 27.

39-year-old Winter Ruth Wells of Prospect Street in Lenoir was arrested Wednesday (January 15) by Lenoir Police Officers. She's charged with felony counts of possession with intent to manufacture, sell, and deliver methamphetamine, heroin, and MDPV, maintaining a vehicle, dwelling, or place to keep controlled substance, manufacture, sell, deliver, or possess controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a park and within 1,000 feet of a school. Wells is also charged with misdemeanor counts of simple possession of schedule II controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Wells was incarcerated in the Caldwell County Detention Center under $150,000 secured bond. A District Court appearance was scheduled today (January 16).

49-year-old Tammy Montgomery and 37-year-old Jonathon Lee Earwood, both of Cartersville, Georgia, were arrested by Catawba County Sheriff's Officers. Both suspects are charged with felony counts of trafficking in methamphetamine and possession of meth. Montgomery is additionally charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and Earwood is also charged with resisting a public officer. WHKY previously reported on Earwood's arrest.

According to information released Wednesday (January 15), the two suspects were arrested Sunday (January 12) at approximately 12:30 p.m. The arrests were made by Sheriff’s Office Special Enforcement Group Investigators following a traffic stop along Buffalo Shoals Road. A trafficking amount of methamphetamine, narcotics paraphernalia and $2,660 in US currency were reportedly seized by officers.

During the traffic stop, Earwood allegedly gave officers a false name, leading to the resisting an officer charge. WHKY's previous report on his arrest states his name as Perry Charles Earwood, which was the name initially listed on the Catawba County Who's In Jail website. Bond for each suspect was set at $50,000 secured. Earwood remained in the Catawba County Detention Facility as of earlier today (January 16), Montgomery was not listed as an inmate. Both suspects are scheduled to appear in District Court in Newton February 3.

At about 12:05 this afternoon (January 15), the N.C. State Highway Patrol responded to a fatal collision in Catawba County on the Greedy Highway at the Jacob’s Fork River. The deceased is 62-year-old Virginia Faye Rose of Hickory.

The accident occurred when a 2003 Ford Escape traveling east on the Greedy Highway ran off the road to the right and crashed into the end of the bridge. The vehicle then crossed the centerline, struck the bridge guardrail, flipped over it, and landed upside down in the river.

Ms. Rose, who was the driver, died at the scene. She was not restrained by a seatbelt. The Highway Patrol says excessive speed is believed to be a factor.

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