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.
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.
28-year-old Demetric Dewayne Michaux of 13th Avenue N.E. in Hickory was served an indictment yesterday (January 14) by Hickory Police on felony counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. The warrant for his arrest was issued in Caldwell County on December 2 of last year.
Michaux was taken into custody without incident at about 5:10 p.m. Tuesday at the Hickory Police Department. He was placed in the Catawba Co. Detention Facility with bond set at $10,000, secured. He was no longer listed as an inmate in Catawba County as of this morning. An appearance in Superior Court was scheduled for March 2 in Lenoir.
29-year-old Donald Simpson of Todd Street N.W. in Lenoir was served bills of indictment by Hickory Police at about 5:40 p.m. yesterday (January 14) on two felony counts of first-degree kidnapping and single felony counts of robbery with firearms or other dangerous weapons and first-degree burglary.
He was arrested in connection to an incident on November 19 of last year when Hickory Police responded to a home invasion and kidnapping at a residence on the 700 block of 7th Avenue Place S.W. The victim, a 26-year-old black female from Hickory, told Police that two black males entered the residence and restrained the victim and a juvenile. During the incident, another victim, a 37-year-old black male from Hickory, returned home and was forced by the suspects to go to a business on the 500 block of 1st Avenue S.E.
While at the 1st Avenue S.E. location, an altercation occurred. The 37-year-old male and another bystander were shot. The suspects fled the scene.
One victim sustained non-life threatening injuries and was treated and released from Frye Regional Medical Center in Hickory. The second victim was transported to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem.
Warrants for Simpson's arrest were issued on January 6. He was taken into custody yesterday at the Hickory Police Department. Simpson was jailed in the Catawba Co. Detention Facility with bond set at $60,000, secured. An appearance in Superior Court was scheduled today in Newton.
On Monday, January 20, Second Street NW will be closed from Trade Alley to First Avenue NW in Hickory for window repairs to the PNC Building. Due to the size and type of equipment that is required to perform the work, the entire roadway needs to be closed to accommodate the work.
The sidewalk on the same side as PNC will also be closed; however, the sidewalk on the west side of Second Street NW will remain open to allow for pedestrian traffic to businesses. This one-day closure will be set up the night of January 19 and removed on January 20, after repairs are complete.
31-year-old Ashley Mae Hicks of SW Jason Place in Lenoir was arrested Tuesday (January 14) by Caldwell County Sheriff's Officers. She's charged with felony probation violation. Hicks was brought to the Caldwell County Detention Center where bond was set at $5,000 secured. A Superior Court appearance is scheduled for February 17.
44-year-old Jose Manuel Flores of McGee Circle in Granite Falls was arrested Tuesday (January 14) by Catawba County Sheriff's Officers. He's charged on a bill of indictment with felony possession of a firearm by a felon. Flores was jailed in the Catawba County Detention Facility under $10,000 bond. A Superior Court appearance is scheduled Friday (January 17).
20-year-old Tommy Joe Browning of Rusty Lane in Lenoir was arrested Tuesday (January 14) by Lenoir Police Officers. He's charged with felony possession of methamphetamine. Browning was brought to the Caldwell County Detention Center where bond was set at $3,000 secured. A District Court appearance was scheduled today (January 15).
26-year-old Joseph Tyler Whisnant was arrested Tuesday (January 14) by authorities in Burke County. He's charged with felony larceny of motor vehicle parts. Whisnant was arrested shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday and placed in jail in Morganton under $7,500 secured bond. No court date was listed.