Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation Honors Champions at Blue Ridge Music Center

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Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation CEO Carolyn Ward, left, and Board of Trustees Chair John Mitchell, right, present the Blue Ridge Music Center Champion award to Aubrey Arrington.

As part of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s 25th anniversary celebrations, the nonprofit honored seven special members of its community of stewards at a ceremony on Saturday, June 18, at the Blue Ridge Music Center.

“Our 25th anniversary is really a celebration of the people who bring our mission to life through their contributions to the national park they love,” said Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Foundation. “We are fortunate to count these honorees as members of our community of stewards.”

Ian Jordan was honored with the Youth Ambassador award for his contributions to Kids in Parks, a program of the Foundation. Over the past five years, Jordan has visited more than 80 of the program’s TRACK Trail locations, and logged more than 100 miles hiking. He has become a Junior Ranger in 118 national parks and in every North Carolina State Park. He also helped Kids in Parks design, test, and implement a new smartphone-based Junior Ranger activity, creating an opportunity for children across the country to learn about the natural, historical, and cultural resources found in national parks.

W.L.A. Trucking earned the Corporate Champion Award for the company’s support of the Blue Ridge Music Center. The Mount Airy, N.C.,-based business owned by Bobby and Debbie Post has sponsored the summer concert series since 2018, and contributes to special critical projects, including the replacement of aging speakers and other equipment in the amphitheater. Bobby accepted the award on behalf of the company.

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Radio station 88.5 WFDD received the Media Partner Award for its work to spread the word about the venue’s musical programs throughout its 29 county-listening area, including northwest North Carolina and southwest Virginia. The partnership has furthered the Music Center’s mission to celebrate the music and musicians of the mountains. Morning Edition host Neal Charnoff accepted the award.

The Yadkin Arts Council was honored with the Partnership Award. In addition to being a longtime sponsor of the summer concert series, the Yadkin Arts Council has collaborated with the Music Center to present the Sounds of the Mountains concert series each January when the national park venue is closed. This series is hosted by the Yadkin Arts Council at The Willingham Theater in the Yadkin Cultural Arts Center. The partnership has yielded 20 concerts showcasing bluegrass, old-time, gospel, and Americana groups. Yadkin Arts Council board president John Willingham accepted the award.

The musicians who volunteer their time and talents for the daily Midday Mountain Music sessions were honored with the Volunteer Service Award. What started as two musicians — Willard Gayheart and Bobby Patterson — playing tunes for Music Center visitors on Thursday afternoons, blossomed into the Midday Mountain Music sessions offered free for visitors each day. This amounts to about 800 hours of music, and as a group accounts for more than 3,000 volunteer hours during the season. Amy Boucher accepted the award for the Midday Mountain Musicians.

Long-time volunteer Aubrey Arrington’s numerous contributions to the Music Center and Blue Ridge Parkway include providing educational programs, training new seasonal rangers, leading hikes, organizing volunteer clean-up days, performing trail and facility maintenance, and more. For his steadfast support, Arrington was honored with the Blue Ridge Music Center Champion Award.

The National Council for the Traditional Arts was recognized with the Visionary Award for the organization’s work to establish the Music Center, founding the annual concert series that continues today, and opening the Roots of American Music exhibit in 2011.

First Citizens Bank is the premier sponsor of the Foundation’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is the nonprofit fundraising partner for the Blue Ridge Parkway. The organization provides support for initiatives along the 469-mile route, including historical and cultural preservation, environmental protection, visitor amenities, and education and outreach. The Foundation’s work includes programming at the Blue Ridge Music Center, and the award-winning, nationwide Kids in Parks program.

Since 1997, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has provided more than $20 million in support for the Blue Ridge Parkway.  A portion of that funding is made possible by sales of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation specialty license plate in North Carolina. The nonprofit is now accepting preorders for a new Parkway license plate in Virginia that will raise additional funds to enhance the national park. More information is available at GetThePlate.org.