Mardi Gras Ball to raise money for Haywood schools

Feb 24, 2014
People dance at last year's Mardi Gras Ball held at Laurel Ridge Country Club.

The Haywood County Schools Foundation will hold its sixth annual Mardi Gras Ball, sponsored by Old Town Bank, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 1 at Laurel Ridge Country Club.

This event has raised over $150,000 for the Schools Foundation. Each year the community continues to support and grow the ball. A Mardi Grass King and Queen have been crowned for the past five years. The reigning King is Green Boothroyd and Queen Beth Brown.

The Mardi Gras Court is made up of dedicated citizens of Haywood County who are committed to raising funds for the students, schools and employees of Haywood County Public Schools.

This year the candidates for king are Dr. John Highsmith, Travis Hyatt and Jason Greene. The candidates for queen are Noralynn Grindstaff with Champion Credit Union in Canton and Niki Henry with Old Town Bank.

Each candidate is holding fundraisers and asking people for donations before and during the event. The candidates who raise the most money for the cause are selected as the next king and queen. Funds raised support classroom needs, scholarships and improving morale at all 16 schools in Haywood County. Last year the event raised about $44,000.

Old Town Bank, headquartered in Waynesville, is the lead sponsor of this popular event. Old Town Bank is locally owned and operated and is committed solely to meeting the financial needs of Haywood County.

Tickets cost $100 a person. To make a reservation or to make a donation to the Foundation or to a candidate, contact Executive Director, Jenny Wood at 828-456-2400 or email

Candidate bios

Jason Greene is a native of Haywood County and resides in Lake Junaluska. He and his wife of 22 years, Elise, operate and manage their family-owned business Home Specialty Building Supply in Waynesville. Jason devotes all of his time to his family and their business. He has worked closely with teachers and coaches and has spent many hours working behind the scenes for the vocational department at Tuscola High School.  Jason is an advocate for fitness and dedicated 12 years to coaching in the Clyde and Waynesville Youth Leagues. Jason and Elise have two daughters, Madline and Caroline. Jason, Elise, Madeline are all graduates of Haywood County Schools and Caroline is currently a freshman at Tuscola High School. Jason is the “Working Man’s King” and is happy to give back to the community.


Dr. John Highsmith grew up in Asheville and graduated from Davidson College and the UNC School of Denistry. He settled his private business in Haywood County in 1985 and has never looked back. He is the proud father of Mark, a freshman at Catawba College and Becky, a high school junior. He has been married to Sandra Hayes for 28 years and loves his two dogs, two cats, one gecko and one python. As a pillar of the community, he is a member of The Rotary Club of Haywood County, and has served on many local boards including HART, NCCAT, HAWA, the Hospital Foundation and The Haywood County Schools Foundation.  Dr. Highsmith is an avid photographer and scuba diver.


Noralynn Grindstaff is the marking and communications manager with Champion Credit Union, where she has worked for the past nine years. She is a native of Haywood County and was proudly born and raised in the Cruso community. Noralynn’s commitment to the students and schools is apparent by the many groups she works and partners with. She is a part of the Haywood Chamber of Commerce, Young Professionals of Haywood County, Share the Warmth Initiatives, Relay for Life, Alzheimer’s Association and other projects within the Canton community. Noralynn has a 3-year old daughter, Brooklyn.


Niki Henry is a native of Haywood County and lives in the Bethel Community. Niki is the proud mother of Peyton, Asa and Maycie. All three of her children attended or are attending Haywood County Public Schools. Niki is an original employee of Old Town Bank and loves her job. She has been involved with the Bethel Youth Organization as a cheerleading coach and just finished her first season as the cheerleading coach at Bethel Middle School. Niki enjoys giving back to the community and school system. She is currently an ambassador for the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce. Niki is a dedicated Pisgah Bear!


Travis Hyatt is a recent addition to Haywood County. Travis Hyatt is a Western North Carolina boy through and through. A native of West Candler…near East Canton, Travis left home and headed up the mountain to the beautiful campus of Appalachian State University. Before the ink was dry on his degree in marketing and management, with a new found knowledge and a sense of adventure, he listened to the sage advice of Jimmy Buffett and headed for the coast. Travis is employed with the MB Haynes Corporation. Since 1921, Haynes has been making its mark on Western North Carolina in a variety of trades and was just the type of organization that was grounded enough to help this wanderer put down roots. The roots took hold almost instantly and allowed Travis to branch out. Since his return he has been active in not only the Haywood County Chamber but the Young Professionals as well. Soon the title of Leadership Haywood graduate will be added to his resume. In addition to his work in Haywood County he has mirrored his efforts in Asheville. His early travels have helped to instill a great desire to be an active member of the communities in which he works and lives.  In endeavoring to be the King of Mardi Gras it has come full circle. That wise old Parrothead was right…“We are the people our parents warned us about.”