Blog :: 2013

After 25-plus years, Christmas Jam rocks on

 

From: Asheville SCENE

Tony Kiss - Asheville Citizen Times

 

Warren Haynes will again host his popular Christmas Jam which is expanding to two nights this year in honor of its 25 year run. / John Coutlakis/jcoutlakis@citizen-times.com

Warren Haynes will again host his popular Christmas Jam which is expanding to two nights this year in honor of its 25 year run. / John Coutlakis/jcoutlakis@citizen-times.com

ASHEVILLE -- In a year that saw the demise of such long-running entertainment events as the Bele Chere festival, the iconic Warren Haynes Christmas Jam is stronger than ever.

Every ticket is sold for this year's two-night jam, Friday-Saturday at the U.S. Cellular Center arena. That's about 7,200 admissions each night. Hundreds more will crowd three local music rooms for Jam by Day shows, for which tickets are still available. It all benefits Habitat for Humanity, which has received $1.3 million from the concerts.

As usual, Haynes and unannounced guests will also play the annual pre-jam radio concert on WNCW-FM, starting at 6 p.m Thursday broadcast from The Orange Peel.

The main arena concerts are loaded with A-list talent from Phil Lesh to Widespread Panic, Gregg Allman, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, John Scofield and many more. "I feel really confident that this is the strongest lineup that we have had," said Haynes, a Grammy-winning blues rock guitarist who grew up here. Haynes will perform with his blues rock band Gov't Mule.

"It's a great opportunity to raise money for the cause," he said.

Haynes will be home early this week to attend a Thursday christening of the 2013 Christmas Jam House at Habitat's Swannanoa neighborhood and to celebrate volunteers who have worked at the site.

The Jam's gift to Habitat "has not only built houses, it has changed lives," Habitat spokesman Ariane Kjellquist said. "Home ownership positively impacts the current generation as well as future generations, and Habitat is eternally grateful" for the support, she said.

The jam -- which expands to two nights this year in honor of its 25th anniversary -- actually began Dec. 22, 1988, at the old 45 Cherry nightclub on Cherry Street, where local rockers gathered to play and celebrate the season. The Christmas Jam, as the show was called then, featured such local acts as Crystal Zoo and the McBad Brothers.

"We were trying to get everyone together and play music and hang out at the only time when all the musicians were in town," Haynes said. "It was a very unpretentious event."

Guitarist Rick Phillips was part of the debut jam. "I didn't know who would show up that night," he said. "But everyone found out about it." He has continued the original tradition with the Hometown Holiday Jam, which will be presented Wednesday at The Orange Peel.

Mike Barnes also played that first jam and has appeared at almost every Haynes since and also performs at the Hometown Holiday Jam. Barnes and Haynes are lifelong friends.

"Man, that was so long ago," he said. "I would have never imagined where Warren's career would take him, or that (the jam) would be as big as it is now. I just knew that we would always get together around Christmas to play. I'm blessed and flattered that he has asked me to be part of it every year."

The jam quickly outgrew 45 Cherry, then moved to a spot on Lexington Avenue, then to the Be Here Now music hall on Biltmore Avenue, then to Thomas Wolfe Auditorium and finally the arena.

Haynes has brushed aside suggestions that it move to a bigger city and a larger venue, preferring to keep this an Asheville event.

Producing the Christmas Jam involves preparation for much of the year. Haynes reaches out to musicians he has met about playing and schedules are juggled to make it all work.

The days of the concerts "are the busiest days of the year for me," Haynes said. "They start early and go late. But it's all cool, it's all part of the overall experience. I enjoy the opportunity to do it."

 

Asheville jobless rate hits 5-year-low

By:  Dale Neal - Asheville Citizen-Times

 

The Asheville metro boasted the lowest unemployment rate in the state at 5.6 percent in October -- the region's best showing in five years.

The metro area posted 5.8 percent unemployment in September, a drop from 7.0 percent for the area a year ago, according to datareleased Thursday by the N.C. Commerce Department.

The four-county area of Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties has added 4,500 jobs in the past year, with the labor market growing at a 2.6 percent annualized clip.

"That's well above our normal historic rate of about 1.5 percent," said Tom Tveidt, an independent analyst with SYNEVA Economics.

The region's workforce reached 178,000 in October, just 400 jobs shy of the peak in October 2007, before the Great Recession.

The Asheville area leisure and hospitality sector, which includes restaurants and hotels, added the bulk of those new jobs, with an estimated 2,200 positions in the past 12 months, growing at a 9.2 percent annual rate.

The tourism industry has reached a record as part of the local economy with 26,000 positions. Retail still leads in the metro with 34,600 workers, closely followed by the 33,800 workers in health care. Manufacturing, which still pays the highest wages on average, remained flat at about 18,000 workers.

Polk County boasted Western North Carolina's lowest jobless rate at 5.2 percent in October. At 5.5 percent, Buncombe and Henderson county shared in some the state's lowest jobless figures. Chatham County had the state's lowest rate at 4.7 percent.

Graham and Swain counties saw unemployment rates actually go up from September to October. Graham's jobless rate was 11.5 percent, up from 11.4 percent, while Swain's unemployment went from 8.3 percent to 9.3 percent.

Statewide, North Carolina saw unemployment drop to 8 percent in October, the lowest rate of joblessness in five years.

The local jobs reports for September and October were delayed with this fall's federal government shutdown, which delayed research from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Asheville area home sales coming back strong

houses

 

Realtors, builders in area closing more deals, prices rising

By: John Boyle - Asheville Citizen-Times

ASHEVILLE -- When it comes to home sales, "normal" has never sounded so sweet.

After a major plummet during and after the Great Recession of 2008-09, home sales are back at a level real estate professionals and builders consider much more average -- but also very sustainable -- for the Asheville region.

The inventory of houses on the market is down, which is a good indicator, sales are up significantly and the average sales price is creeping back up.

That's good news for homebuilder Tim Wright. His business survived the downturn with a combination of new builds and remodeling jobs, but he's glad to see the market return to pre-crash levels.

"It has been a very good year, and 2012 was a very good year -- people are surprised when I tell them that," said Wright, owner of Wright Family Custom Homes. "And we're already looking really good for 2014."

He'll be constructing four or five homes next year, and that's a full slate.

While Wright builds homes, existing home sales also are strong. Through October in Buncombe County, 2,873 home sales took place, compared with 2,278 in the same nine-month span in 2012, a 26 percent increase, according to Don Davies, whose company Realsearch tracks real estate trends in the region.

The average time a home remained on the market decreased from 11.2 months to 7.4, a 34 percent drop. A six-month window is considered extremely healthy for buyers and sellers, Davies said.

"As far as turning the corner, I don't know if you can exactly say that, per se, but we're in the best shape, from a low inventory number, that we've been in since 2007," Davies said. "My thinking more than 'we've turned the corner' is I think we've finally hit the balance. If we're going to stay successful and not have too many ups and down, that's something we can sustain."

This year's model -- inventory levels in a 6-7-month range, with average selling price in the neighborhood of $250,000-$259,000 -- is sustainable and would be good for long-term market health, Davies said.

"We're really probably about where we'd have been if we hadn't super-heated then super-cooled off," he said.

When houses don't sell, the supply gets too high, dropping prices. For the third quarter of this year, the supply of houses in seven mountain counties (Buncombe, Henderson, Madison, Polk, Rutherford, Haywood and Transylvania) totaled 6,520, down from 7,155 for the same quarter last year.

Sales haven't roared back, but they have steadily risen. From 2007-12, the average sales per month for Buncombe was 214, a number that increased to 289 a month in 2013, according to Realsearch. In October, it jumped to 336.

The average selling price for the home and land just this year is $259,000, compared with $262,136 over the longer period, indicating prices are returning to more normal levels.

Skip Dillingham, president of Century 21 Mountain Lifestyles, said his three offices have seen a sales increase of 38 percent this year, totaling 200 sales. The hottest price range has been the $150,00-$300,000 market, with the average sales price coming in the $210,000 range.

Before the recession, that average hovered around $260,000-$270,000, so it "takes more numbers of sales to makes up what it was in the dollar amount," Dillingham said. His offices employ 19 people.

Debbie Williams, an executive vice president with Beverly Hands & Associates, said their five offices in the region, which employ 250 people, also have seen strong increases in sales.

"There's no question the market has stabilized," Williams said. "The word I use more often than any these days is 'normal.' We're in a much more normal market. For years, we had a (home value appreciation) of 3.6 percent, but during the boom it was up to 8 percent and during the bust it was down about 5 percent. That's nationally. Now, we're back around 4 percent."

Williams said 84 percent of local sales fall under the $400,000 mark, another indication home buyers scaled back from the extravagance of the early part of the last decade.

For Wright, his company is building homes of varying sizes, but he's noticed the downsizing trend, too. For example, his company is building a 2,000 square foot cottage-style house in the Ramble, an upscale neighborhood in south Buncombe.

"My buzzword for it is 'responsible building.' It's just smarter building," Wright said. "It's smart space. You don't see people being wasteful. They're green and efficient homes, and the space is used wisely."

Higher-dollar home sales are still healthy, though. Davies said Buncombe had 34 sales of homes in the $500,000-$750,000 for July.

"That was a record for any year I've tracked since 2001," he said. "That kind of says maybe the luxury home market didn't go away, because the average house price of all houses over $500,000 was $1,024,232. That's the highest average going all the way back to 2008, so this year the luxury house market has not suffered. That could be an indication people came out of their shells."

West Asheville still hot As far as where homes sales are hot, Williams said the Ramble and other new home communities in the Beverly-Hanks portfolio "have bounced back." This year, they've sold 17 properties in the Ramble, 22 home sites in the Southcliff in the Fairview community and 40 properties in Biltmore Lake in Enka.

West Asheville, known for its walkable neighborhoods and trendy restaurants and bars, also has enjoyed strong sales, Dillingham said. Driven by popular arts and crafts style cottages, selling prices there are coming in at $161-$162 a square foot, meaning a 1,500 square foot home and the lot would go for about $242,000.

"Back in the height of new construction, it was $150-$160 a square foot," Dillingham said. "The rest of the market is averaging around $120-$130 a square foot."

Asheville and environs are seeing the best sales in the region, Davies said. Outlying counties are seeing a slower return to strong sales, but sales in Asheville and Buncombe are stronger than anywhere in the state except for the Outer Banks.

In general, urban areas have returned to normal sales levels much quicker than rural areas, Davies said.

"Asheville draws a lot of people," he said. "It's eclectic, and some people will pay more to be in Asheville than other places. Asheville buyers are able to pay more than any place except the Outer Banks."

Future looks good No real estate expert has a crystal ball, and after 2008 they're leery about getting gung-ho, but Davies, Williams, Wright and Dillingham are upbeat about 2014.

"Before the downturn, about 60 percent of our market came from out-of-town buyers," Dillingham said. "That's starting to come back. Asheville is still a destination point for a lot of people in the country. What held that up the last five years is the economy, and once the economy picks up a little more that's going to take off. The problem is we're not going to have those homes being built."

Davies suspects builders like Wright, as well as developers, will be getting busy. Land sales, he said, "probably had the best year since 2008.

"They've been averaging about 30 sales a month since 2008, out of about 2,000 pieces of land for sale," Davies said. "So, we've had years of land inventory sitting on the market. This year, we're down to an average of 1,778 pieces of raw (residential) property."

In 2007, before the crash, land sales totaled 710 parcels. This year the number is 462, which sounds low until you consider the total was 335 for all of last year. The average price for those land sales was $101,622, compared with $163,550, so it's taking a while for land prices to recover.

But Davies expects prices to continue to climb as sales go up.

"That is an indication that people are beginning to say, 'Look, there are not enough homes on the market. For some of us to get what we want, we have to build it.'"

 

Asheville restaurants bring concept to other cities

By: Mackensy Lunsford, Asheville Citizen-Times

 

Michael Files and Meherwan Irani in the kitchen of their downtown restaurant Chai Pani. / Bill Sanders / wsanders@citizen-times.com

Michael Files and Meherwan Irani in the kitchen of their downtown restaurant Chai Pani. / Bill Sanders wsanders@citizen-times.com

Asheville's restaurant scene is becoming so popular that it's spilling into other cities.

Tupelo Honey Cafe led the charge. Besides its two restaurants in Asheville, Tupelo also has locations in Knoxville, Greenville, S.C., and Chattanooga, Tenn. A Charlotte location will open in December, and a Johnson City, Tenn., eatery is slated to open next spring.

Chai Pani has recently gotten into the expansion game. The restaurant opened a location in Decatur, Ga., this spring and plans are in place for a second Atlanta restaurant, which owner Meherwan Irani said might happen by next summer or fall.

White Duck Taco Shop, which opened in the River Arts District just three years ago, will open another location outside of Charleston, S.C., on James Island's Folly Road by early next year. And there are plans for further expansion.

What's the common thread among all of these entrepreneurs? The owners of both Chai Pani and White Duck say a good staff is everything -- and a fistful of national press doesn't hurt, either.

From Asheville to Atlanta Irani, who opened the first location of Chai Pani in downtown Asheville in 2009, said the reaction in Atlanta to his street-food style Indian restaurant has been "everything one could hope for, and then some more."

When targeting Atlanta for expansion, Irani said that Chai Pani's -- and Asheville's -- reputation preceded him.

"We were fortunate that we had a good amount of national press at Chai Pani," he said. "But the press wasn't just about us, it was about Asheville, and we were kind of profiled as one of the cool places there."

The New York Times and GQ Magazine both covered Chai Pani, and New York Magazine called the restaurant "a star in downtown's dining scene." The Huffington Post put Chai Pani on a "Top 10 Cheap Eats in the U.S." list. Since opening in Decatur, Chai Pani has been named by Atlanta Magazine as one of the 10 best new restaurants in the city.

"We were able to leverage both our brand and also, in no small means, leverage the fact that Asheville's a cool brand, too," Irani said.

As many as 700 people file into Chai Pani Decatur on a busy day. That's a lot of people to keep happy, particularly when the owner can't always be present. Irani said that a well-oiled restaurant machine is dependent on something much more boring than panache and big, TV-worthy personalities.

In the four years Chai Pani has been open, Irani has learned it's all about effectively creating systems while avoiding a corporatemindset.

"The cliche is that you need a good team and good people and, to take it a step further, you need a good system so people can work within a framework," he said. "I think we've found a happy medium by creating protocols and checklists and standardizing a lot of our recipes -- not in the McDonald's way but in the way that people want consistency and want everything to taste amazing every time."

Do the duck Just three years after opening what became a wildly popular restaurant in a previously abandoned building in the River Arts District, Ben Mixson started dropping the F-bomb.

"Franchise" is a word Mixson, who with his wife Laura owns the White Duck Taco Shop and Pizza Pura, is reluctant to use. But that's exactly what's happening. The first franchise location will be owned by Andrew Pannell, who lives in Charleston. According to Mixson, there are others in development -- and he might might not be done growing the business in Asheville, either.

"Asheville's been very supportive of the White Duck," said Mixson. "It's literally unbelievable how much the business has grown year over year."

National press has been kind to White Duck, too. For Garden and Gun Magazine, food writer John T. Edge called the what the taco shop serves "a better brand of fusion." Southern Living magazine said the duck taco with mole at the restaurant was one of Asheville's "Best Bites." Martha Stewart Living, Amex Departures and Bon Appetit magazines have all profiled the eatery.

Though "franchise" is the technically correct term for White Duck's expansion, Mixson chafes at the word -- or rather the reaction it tends to provoke in locally focused Asheville.

"The White Duck is a different thing," he said. "It's not like we want to set up in a 6,000-square-foot space and have $6 million in sales and run a huge army of employees around. It's me and Laura. That's what we're talking about here."

And according to Mixson, there are plenty of offers on the table to facilitate faster expansion. But rapid growth isn't exactly in the cards.

"We get all kinds of offers -- it's not uncommon for a restaurant group to grow at all," he said. "The question is what's the right way to do it? Do you have a restaurant group with partners all over the place and just travel all over the place? That's not really what we're interested in."

According to Mixson, his current pet project is developing his people. And he makes it abundantly clear that he and his wife are more than aware of the role his employees play in keeping a restaurant afloat -- especially one that can see as many as 1,000 people on a peak-season day.

"These are the people who have helped make Laura and my success possible," he said. "And we know it and see it. And I know how hard it is to work at the White Duck Taco Shop."

Which is why Mixson claims his passion for expansion is rooted in his desire to provide a leg up for the people working for him.

"In the restaurant industry, as a cook it's so hard to get ahead (both) career-wise and financially in Asheville," he said. "A big part of what we're doing is trying to create career opportunities and growth opportunities."

Sharing is caring Mixson's no slouch in the world of business. From start-up to franchise in three quick years is uncommonly quick. And behind his meteoric rise, at least in the restaurant world, is human capital.

The secret to success? "You have to genuinely care," said Mixson. And your employees do, too. But according to Mixson, you can't force caring -- not even with rent money.

"Some people just genuinely care about quality and consistency and customer experience," he said. "And some people just want a job. And we find out eventually if our employees care or not. It usually takes two rent cycles to find out."

But turning genuinely caring staff into a business model is a tall order, especially with a business that's targeting for expansion places that are too far away for daily personal monitoring. But that's precisely why Mixson isn't hurriedly opening dozens of White Ducks in the wake of demand.

"(The franchisee) has to be someone there who cares about food, who understands food, and cares about and understands people," he said. "If you don't have that, that person is not the right fit of our system. To get into our system, you have to have a bunch of traits and characteristics. And a bunch of money isn't one of them -- well, it's probably one of five."

That White Duck will expand beyond Asheville and Charleston, is "certain" said Mixson. He also revealed that another restaurant in Asheville is in the works -- and this one isn't a White Duck. "We live here and we want to add to the variety here," Mixson said.

But Asheville is going to have to wait.

"Growth is great and all," said Mixson, "But it's hard, and it takes a lot out of you. That's another reason why it's so important to develop our people, is to kind of relieve some of that for us."

On Files Michael Files is one restaurant worker who has benefited from his bosses' interest in employee development.

In 2009, Files, fresh from India where he was working in an art gallery in Mumbai, ran into Meherwan and Molly Irani, who were in need of help pulling Chai Pani Asheville together.

In the early days of Chai Pani, Files helped the Iranis clean and renovate the Asheville space, then waited tables when the restaurant opened. Now he's a partner, creative director and the ownership presence on the ground in Decatur.

Few people go into the restaurant business to scrape paint and haul furniture for $10 an hour, expecting some day to become a partner.

"When I jumped in, it was just making $10 an hour, having fun and helping some friends as they put something together," Files said.

But the Iranis knew a good thing when they saw one.

"Meherwan realized he didn't want me to go and that I was valuable to the brand and to just what we were doing, so he offered me a partnership share in the business where I could earn equity," Files said.

Now, Files is still doing many of the things he started out doing in the beginning. "Anything and everything that needs to be done," he said. "But now it's more that I'm invested in this business and I have my heart in it with them and we're growing together."

Files thinks that one of the Iranis' strengths as founders of Chai Pani is their talent for finding good people and their habits of rewarding employees who "take ownership" of the eatery with profit sharing and opportunities for personal growth.

Files thinks that nurturing relationships in that way helps businesses do better in the long run.

"That's what attracted my to Meherwan and Molly's whole approach from the very beginning," he said. "(They're) creating a local environment and really connecting with Asheville -- and now Decatur."

"Meherwan has a vision of bringing awesome street food to the masses; there's definitely a vision for growth there. It takes the spirit of Asheville, that spirit of community -- we'd just like to do that in multiple places."

 

Pedestrian bridge for Asheville greenway opens

act pedestrian bridge

 

By:

Clarke Morrison  - Asheville Citizen-Times

ASHEVILLE -- The completion of an unusual bridge allowing pedestrians and cyclists to cross a creek that feeds into the French Broad River also provides a crucial link in the future Wilma Dykeman greenway.

Ten students of architecture, planning and building science designed and constructed the bridge connecting Jean Webb Park to a piece of city-owned property off Riverside Drive, said Chris Joyell, executive director of the Asheville Design Center.

"We wanted to create a unique structure, something that would make people really sit up and take notice," he said. "It serves as more than just a bridge. We feel it's a real destination in and of itself."

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m. today to officially open the bridge.

Joyell said city officials approached the Design Center in February about designing and building the bridge. Through its DesignBuild Studio program, the center recruited students from across the country for the project under the direction of instructor Luke Perry.

"They came in and we basically posed the challenge to them that we had this 20-foot-wide ravine to cross," Joyell said. "This bridge represents the first piece of infrastructure for the Wilma Dykeman greenway."

The bridge measures 40 feet by 18 feet and incorporates four steel beams and handrails milled from locust trees cut down at the site.

"There's a beautiful bench built into the bridge," he said. "People can sit and take in the river view. It's reflective of the artistic talent that we find throughout the River Arts District."

Joyell said one of the biggest challenges in building the bridge was a state Department of Transportation requirement that it be able to accommodate a 6-ton ambulance for responding to emergency medical issues on the greenway.

"We had to build a fully engineered bridge," he said. "That kind of raised the bar for the class."

After it was finished, the bridge sat in the Jean Webb Park parking lot for two months until an encroachment agreement was reached with DOT allowing the pouring of footers for the structure. Two weeks ago a crane lifted the 10-ton bridge and lowered it into onto the footers.

"Now it's in its final resting place," he said.

The city provided $25,000 in funding. The free labor, design work and donated materials allowed the construction of a bridge valued at an estimated $125,000, Joyell said.

"That's a five-time rate of return on investment," he said.

 

The 67th Annual Asheville Holiday Parade is Saturday, Nov. 23

webheader
When: Saturday, Nov 23, 2013 11:00 am - Nov 23, 2013 4:00 pm
Where: Downtown Asheville
Event Details:IF YOU ARE IN THE PARADE AND HAVEN'T RECEIVED YOUR INFO PACKET WITH ALL DETAILS BY FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8, PLEASE EMAIL  INFO@ASHEVILLEDOWNTOWN.ORG

The holiday season in Asheville officially kicks off the week before Thanksgiving.

On Saturday, November 23 at 11am, the 67th Annual Asheville Holiday Parade, presented by Bojangles, rolls, marches and dances through downtown to dazzle and entertain for about an hour and a half. This year's theme is "A Star is Born" and our Parade Grand Marshals will be some of the many talented dancers, painters, singers, actors and artists that reside and perform in our community.

Directly after the parade, head on over to Pack Square Park for JingleFest to continue the fun with activities until 4 pm. JingleFest will kick off with a mini concert by Trinity Baptist Jubilee Choir at 1 pm. After that enjoy non-stop entertainment on the stage hosted by Asheville Actor/comedian Tom Chalmers. You'll see some of the best acts from the parade. Kids can play on the giant inflatables while they are waiting for Santa to make his way back from the Parade. Once Santa arrives (about 2 pm), kids can get their photo taken for free. At 3 pm, don't miss the special holiday concert by Asheville Choral Society. There will be games and giveaways, and it's all free!

Then you might head over to The Grove Arcade for more festivities. Definitely plan on spending Saturday, November 23rd in Asheville when families from Western North Carolina can enjoy an entire day of free festive fun. If you miss Santa on parade day, he will be at the Grove Arcade every Saturday in December (until Christmas) so don't miss him there.

On Thursday, December 5, the winners of the Downtown Holiday Windows Contest will be selected and a walking tour of decorated windows will be available for download. Windows will be decorated until the end of the year.

Of course, downtown Asheville will be a great destination to experience the beautiful decorations and festivities of the holiday season through the end of the year. Check back for updates.

To find out more about sponsoring The Asheville Holiday Parade and/or JingleFest, click here.

Local schools pass state with higher standards

school crossing

from the Asheville Citizen-Times:

ASHEVILLE -- Schools across the state have been anxiously awaiting a bad report card today, though local schools have had a better showing than most across North Carolina.

The state officially released each district's performance scores from tests taken during the 2012-13 school year today, with the expectation that higher standards would mean significantly lower scores across the board.

Nearly 72 percent of schools in Buncombe County earned higher performance composites than the state average, and 79 percent of Buncombe schools either met or exceeded growth projections established by the state.

Buncombe County Schools as a system exceeded the individual state performance averages for reading by 8 percent, math by 7 percent and science with 5 percent higher scores.

At the high school level, Buncombe schools exceeded state averages in math I by 5 percent, and English II by 2 percent, but fell a percentage point below in Biology.

One hundred percent of Asheville City Schools met or exceeded academic growth expectations in the 2012-13 school year compared to 71 percent of North Carolina public schools, according to the first READY Accountability report presented today to the State Board of Education. As expected, test scores dropped significantly in the first year of more rigorous standards.

Although Asheville City's scores also declined from the previous year, district students outpaced the state in all six testing components.

Adopted in throughout North Carolina in 2010, the Common Core State Standards is a state-led effort to establish a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics.

"Students are now expected to master more difficult material earlier in their school career," interim superintendent Bobbie Short said on Wednesday. "Consequently, we expected lower scores. But we are pleased with how well our students performed in this first year of a much more rigorous curriculum and standards. That's a tribute to our teachers, administrators and parents."

 

 

Mountain Oasis Festival Big Success

Mountain Oasis on the streets
Mountain Oasis on the streets: Scene writer Carol Motsinger hits the streets Friday to take the pulse of the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit, which runs through Sunday, October 27th. 10/25/13. Robert Bradley
Written by
Tony Kiss
One of the many shows during Day Two of the Mountain Oasis electronic music festival. / Dillon Deaton / Special to the Citizen-Times

 

ASHEVILLE -- The party is over at Asheville's new Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit, but the buzz and impact from the festival is likely to linger a while.

Attendance was about 7,000-8,000 people on each of three nights, beginning Friday, promoter and event creator Ashley Capps said Sunday. About that half that crowd came from North Carolina and surrounding states and the remainder traveled to Asheville from across the country and as far away as Europe, South America, Japan and Mexico, he said.

On what was already been a busy weekend for leaf-looking tourists, downtown restaurants, clubs and breweries were pubs were also packed with festival-goers, some in colorful costumes.

Shows were held at the the ExploreAsheville.com Arena, Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, Diana Wortham Theatre, Orange Peel, Asheville Music Hall, Emerald Lounge, Mill Room and Lexington Avenue Brewery.

"Business was phenomenal," said Adam Charnack, co-owner of Hi-Wire Brewing on Hilliard Avenue.

At the Lexington Avenue Brewery and restaurant, the festival generated a lot of traffic, said co-owner Mike Healy. "We got a great little bump from that crowd," he said. "We are right in the middle of it. I am very happy about the weekend."

The Wicked Weed on Biltmore Avenue was also busy, said brewer Walt Dickinson. Mountain Oasis "was another boost to our numbers," he said. "We went through a ton of beer."

Capps, who also promotes the big Bonnaroo festival in Manchester, Tenn., and who has booked many bands in Asheville, was pleased with the overall vibe. "The whole experienceof everyone coming together for a great weekend is really fulfilling and inspiring to me," he said.

Capps is already planning the 2014 edition of Mountain Oasis. "You can't get too far ahead on these things," he said.

Mountain Oasis closely resembled the Moogfest electronic music festival that Capps promoted from 2010-12. This year, Moog Music of Asheville chose to take a break and will revive Moogfest with a different promoter in April.

Mountain Oasis featured acts including Nine Inch Nails, Bassnectar, electronic music pioneer Gary Numan, Sparks and, on Sunday, British superstar singer Jessie Ware and the Australian electronic rock band Cut Copy, among many others.

Many festival-goers were dressed in wild Halloween outfits and hundreds wore the glowing red devil horns handed out to the crowd.

For Echo Mountain Recording studios manager Jessica Tomasin, "a lot of the fun was discovering something new," she said. "I don't have a vast knowledge of electronic music."

Mark Conti, of Asheville, was hot on Nine Inch Nails' late Saturday night set. "Those boys are on point and the light show was well planned," he said. "And Bassnectar was great."

And Doug Riley, of Asheville, was big on the Chromatics and their Saturday set at Wolfe Auditorium. "It was a great weekend," he said. "And I'm still going."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Day event to promote sustainability, better food policies

By Gina Smith on 10/21/2013 08:46 AM TAGS: Food, blogwire, environment, sustainability, News, family, festival, north asheville tailgate market, family events, family fun, food policy,

Press release

This Saturday, residents of Asheville and surrounding areas can celebrate Food Day--the nationwide celebration and movement of healthy, affordable, sustainably produced food and a grassroots campaign for better food policies--with a family-friendly event at the North Asheville Tailgate Market. The market is open 8 a.m.-noon and located on the campus of UNC-Asheville.

The third annual Food Day will see thousands of events in all 50 states aimed at promoting healthy, affordable, and sustainably produced food. One special focus of Food Day 2013 will be to encourage children to cook--and to encourage adults who can cook to pass on their skills. All year round, Food Day is devoted to mobilizing support for policies that advance healthier diets, promote sustainable and organic agriculture, reduce hunger, reform factory farms, and support fair working conditions for food and farm workers.

Local growers are providing fresh ingredients for the Asheville Food Day event. Many of these growers will be part of the Food Day hourly farmer's market tour, so event attendees can learn about each farm, purchase produce and participate in discussions of the importance of sustainable agriculture. Other activities include sample recipe tasting, free recipes, cooking tips and a kids' corner with plenty of Food Day crafts.

"We are excited to provide the backdrop within our fall festival celebration for the Asheville Food Day to let people know about what local agriculture does for the community," said Shay Amber, North Asheville Tailgate Market director. "Food Day is not just a day-long event, but an opportunity to make a permanent change that supports a more sustainable and healthy future in our community and globally."

For more information, contact Lauren Brady, MS, RD, LDN local Food Day coordinator at 828-289-7086, lauren.brady@lr.edu or visit the official Food Day website www.FoodDay.org.

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