Blog :: 04-2011

Hot Picks: Asheville area festivals abound this weekend



4/29/2011 - Hot Picks: Asheville area festivals abound this weekend


Festivals fun

 What a great weekend to get outdoors.

o The 14th annual French Broad River Festival happens today through Sunday at the Hot Springs Resort and Campground, just 35 minutes from Asheville. There's music by the Bottle Rockets, Great American Taxi, Snake Oil Medicine Show and many more. Weekend admission is $75.

o The 22nd annual Asheville Herb Festival is cooking 9 a.m.-5 p.m. today and Saturday, and then 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday at the WNC Farmers' Market . Come pick up some basil, rosemary, tomato plants and other good garden stuff.

o The French Broad Garden Club hosts its annual spring plant sale 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday at Clem's Cabin, 1000 Hendersonville Road. Come get an iris or many other flowers and plants.

o The Henderson County BBQ Festival and Expo is serving plenty of tasty barbecue, plus arts and crafts, entertainment and family fun, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at the Hendersonville High School football stadium in Hendersonville.

o Learn about old-time farm life and enjoy music by the Lonesome Road Band and others at the 21st annual Johnson Farm Festival, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at the historic Johnson Farm, 3346 Haywood Road in Hendersonville.

o The Big Love Fest celebrates the local independent business scene 1-8 p.m. Sunday at Pack Square Park. It's free. As part of the fun, the Just Brew It homebrew beer festival is on tap 2-5 p.m. Admission is by a $16 donation to Just Economics of WNC.

Mind over matter

Mentalist Craig Karges has some surprising powers and he's promising to keep you entertained at 8 tonight at Diana Wortham Theatre at Pack Place. Maybe he'll make a table float or reveal your supersecret cell phone number. Tickets are $50, $75 VIPs in this benefit for the theater. Visit the Pack Place box office or call 257-4530.



In the Moog

Moogfest, the music celebration honoring the great Bob Moog, won't be back until fall. But this weekend, Asheville is celebrating "Halfway to Moogfest" with a killer lineup at The Orange Peel, 101 Biltmore Ave. Saturday's show features Madlib (DJ Set) and Washed Out at 9 p.m. ($21 advance, $23 at the door). On Sunday, Rusko and Doorfly play at 9 p.m. ($21 advance, $23 door). A portion of the proceeds goes to the Bob Moog Foundation.



Magnetic theater

The dark "eco-activism" comedy "The Family Tree" gets preview performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and May 6, and opens May 7 at the Magnetic Field theater, 372 Depot St. Performances are announced through May 28. Admission to the previews is $8. Afterwards, tickets are $12 and $14.

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Bluesman Mac Arnold returns for Asheville gig at the Grey Eagle



4/29/2011 - Bluesman Mac Arnold returns for Asheville gig at the Grey Eagle
by Jedd Ferris

ASHEVILLE -- Mac Arnold has been dishing out authentic blues for more than 40 years. The South Carolina native left his old home place in 1965, when he moved to Chicago and landed a coveted gig playing bass for Muddy Waters.

In years following, Arnold played alongside John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Otis Redding and Bill Withers. He then moved to Los Angeles, where he played on the set of "Soul Train" and the comedy hit "Sanford and Son."

Now back at home in the South, Arnold still plays old-school blues the way he learned it from the masters, fronting his own band Plate Full O' Blues.

"We play real blues with a little bit of a twist," says Arnold. "I enjoy it more now, because I'm not a sideman, anymore. Now I'm up-front, and I have to do a lot of thinking to keep things exciting."

Arnold, who won a Blue Music Award last year for his work on the album "Muddy Waters Authorized Bootleg: Live at the Fillmore Auditorium," has become a regular on the Asheville music scene. For the fifth consecutive year he'll be hosting his annual Cornbread & Collard Greens Blues Festival in town at The Grey Eagle tonight. The show is an annual benefit for Arnold's nonprofit I Can Do Anything Foundation.

"We wrote a song called 'I Can Do Anything' to encourage kids to stay in school," he explains. "It's a way to be a part of the community, and based on that, we formed the foundation to support music and arts in public schools."

On Friday, Arnold's band, which includes Danny Keylon on bass and vocals, Austin Brashier on guitar, Max Hightower on keys and harmonica and Mike Whitt on drums, will be joined by Chuck Beattie. The show will also feature opening acts John Hartness and Matt Walsh.

The show is also a CD release party for Arnold's new live album, "The Blues Revival," which was recorded at The Grey Eagle at last year's Cornbread & Collard Greens Blues Festival.

There's a reason food tends to be a running theme in Arnold's musical offerings. When he's not on the road delivering his gritty soulful sounds, he's an organic farmer in Pelzer, S.C., on a farm that's been in his family since 1947.

"I've got corn peeking out of the ground right now," Arnold says.

After his show at The Grey Eagle, Arnold will next perform in the area at the Lake Eden Arts Festival in Black Mountain in May

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Asheville outdoors consignment store climbs to the top



4/26/2011 - Asheville outdoors consignment store climbs to the top
by James Shea

If you're coming to Asheville for some outdoor activities, you're gonna need some gear!  Luckily we have lots of places around town, and particularly this one in West Asheville that can accommodate your needs and get you on your way to a new Asheville adventure!

- Tammy Mansell




ASHEVILLE -- Four partners founded Second Gear with a simple idea -- make outdoor equipment affordable.

The store sells used outdoor equipment on consignment, stocking anything from shoes to kayaks.

The business started slowly but has grown 20-40 percent annually since it was founded in 2004. The store has sold 2,600 items on consignment.

"It's expensive to buy new," Second Gear co-owner Russ Towers said. "That was the genesis of the store. There was so much stuff to do in Asheville (that requires outdoor gear)."

The store started in a small space in West Asheville. It moved across the street into a larger store in 2008 and recently completed an expansion, giving the store a total of 3,550 square feet of retail space.

"We basically maxed out across the street," Towers said. "We maxed out here. We knew we had to expand or go home."

Similar to hunting

Lela Winton, of Asheville, has been shopping at Second Gear since it opened. She is addicted to buying and selling outdoor equipment, always looking for the perfect bargain.

Winton really likes to buy shoes, but she also looks for outdoor gear and jackets, preferring to shop at Second Gear over a traditional outfitter.

"It's more like a hunt," she said.

Winton likes the additional space, and so did her young son. The extra room has allowed Second Gear to set up a tent on the floor. Her son enjoyed himself by crawling in and out of the tent, making it a toy.

"We are going to have to remember to bring a tent when we go to the beach next week," she said with a laugh.

Towers said the store has a loyal customer base. Regulars come into the shop on a weekly or even daily basis and look for new items.

People on vacation also visit the store. Second Gear has fliers in the Chamber of Commerce but also has a strong Web presence.

Chris Mullen from Wisconsin was visiting his aunt. He browsed a rack with bike clothes and selected a shirt that fit.

He plans to participate in an annual bike ride in Iowa over the summer and needs equipment.

Mullen said he was amazed at the selection and prices.

"I like it," Mullen said. "I have not seen anything like it before."

Changing seasons

Towers had business experience and the entrepreneurial drive to open a store. He teamed up with a couple of former Outward Bound instructors. They had the expertise in outdoor gear. The partnership worked.

Shortly after the original store opened, the outdoor community embraced the idea.

But the store evolved. The partners originally figured the store would sell bikes, backpacks and other outdoor equipment. They were surprised that clothing became a huge part of the product mix.

"Think about your closet -- you have a lot more clothes than bikes," Towers said.

The business was cyclical in the early years. The store did really well in the spring and summer, but winters were a slow period for the partners.

"The first couple years were like that," Towers said. "Winters were tough. (But now) we have some solid growth."

The store moves different items onto the store floor as the seasons change. The shorts and T-shirts are out in the spring and summer and winter coats and gloves in the fall and winter. Besides the used consignment items, Second Gear also stocks guidebooks and maps. Towers said the items "fill in gaps" in the merchandise.

Part of the community

Second Gear has three employees besides the partners, who work part time at the store. Towers said Second Gear is more than a business. It is part of the community. The business sponsors numerous events and fundraisers, often providing gift certificates or store credit.

"The mission from day one was not to just make money but to be a part of the community," Towers said. The store expanded for three reasons, Towers said. For starters, the store was packed.

"We had products that we could not get onto the floor," he said.

Also, the space was available and sales growth was strong.

Towers has been pleased with the expansion.

"April is going great," Towers said. "As soon as we opened up there was this rush of stuff."

He added, "It flows, but we still have room to grow."

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The art of craft in Montford in Asheville



4/26/2011 - The art of craft in Montford in Asheville
by Paul Clark

The Montford Historic District was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, making it one of North Carolina's oldest Historic designated neighborhoods.  Few neighborhoods in the state express turn-of-the-century architecture like Montford - and it's difficult to transition new housing into something already so established in the article below, and follow this link to learn more about Historic Montford, Asheville, North Carolina!


- Tammy Mansell




The challenge: Fitting a new house into an old, eccentric neighborhood.

The solution: Building a house less crazy than its cousins. But still filled with character.

Architect Michael McDonough's walks through historic Montford must feel like a stroll around a Monopoly board - from beginning to end, the houses are a jumble of styles and states of repair. A Federal house stands next to a Victorian, which resides next to a regal Queen Anne.

For his family's home, Michael designed something simpler - an Arts & Crafts house, no doubt far simpler than the Victorian that stood on the lot decades ago.

"Victorian is very fussy and busy. Arts & Crafts is more honest," he said. Emerging at the end of the 1800s as the antidote to extravagance, Arts & Crafts was a move toward the beauty of functionality. As Michael sums it up, "the simple art of wood joinery is the working man's elegance."

It's an elegance celebrated in the home Michael shares with sons Corey, 17, and Matthew, 13. Fine woods treated with oils and waxes gleam in the soft light brought in by the house's many windows.

"I like the expression of craft in the building," Michael said. Handy with tools and a lover of wood, he meant "building" as an act of construction, and for him, as an act of love.

Living out back

Michael first saw this lot several years ago when a couple hired him to design their house there. Changing their minds, they offered it to him. He liked its nearness to downtown, and he liked that it had an old cottage and carriage house. He, wife Caroline Yongue (they have since separated) and sons Corey and Matthew lived in the cottage during construction. His office was in the carriage house. About five years ago, they moved into the new house.

Fitting pieces together

Michael loves the living room's wood trim and siding, which came from Appalachian Sustainable Development, a non-profit organization in Abingdon, Va., that supplies forest products (Michael wanted to get materials from local sources). The trim is poplar and the floor - walnut and cherry - is finished with oils and waxes, not polyurethane. The surround around the fireplace is spalted maple, fitted by Asheville craftsman Brian Fireman. Michael scavenged the marble pieces in the fireplace from Mountain Marble "and spent way too much time piecing them together," he said.

Surfacing in the kitchen

Under a tall ceiling, a large bureau-like divider separates the living room and kitchen. Encasing the refrigerator, the oven and a small kitchen office, it stands soldier-straight opposite the soft light coming in from windows above the kitchen sink. To the left of the sink the countertop rises to accommodate the dishwasher beneath (raising the appliance makes it more comfortable to unload). The concrete island is by Mandala Design of Asheville. Benbow & Associates of Asheville did the hickory base and cherry cabinets.

Good morning's greeting

Just off the kitchen is a "true breakfast room," Michael said - a southeast-facing nook that gets morning light. The alcove is surrounded by windows, illuminating two principles of Arts & Crafts construction - having lots of light and bringing the outdoors inside. On the other side of the glass door into the yard is a patio floored with Pennsylvania blue stone slabs. Across the small yard are the cottage and carriage house, which Michael rents.

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Inn Step With Asheville, The Blue Ridge Parkway's Premier Place to Pause



4/26/2011 - Inn Step With Asheville, The Blue Ridge Parkways Premier Place to Pause
by Randy Johnson

It's almost time for a vacation in Asheville!  Check out this recent article on Historic Inns in the Downtown Asheville, Montford Historic District, and surrounding areas and book your stay today!

-Tammy Mansell




Even if you don't explore the Blue Ridge Parkway's miles of easy "leg-stretcher" trails, this meandering, 45-mph-motor-trail delivers the explosive bloom of Appalachian spring right through the windshield. The Parkway's unending curves are the perfect box seat on one of the world's most diverse ecosystems.

For all its winding and weaving, the Parkway is a surprisingly direct route to memorable inns and accommodations in a region blessed with some of the best. Nowhere is that more evident than in Asheville, North Carolina, the single spot where more visitors enter and exit the high road than anywhere else along its 469-mile path.

Of course, there are inns right on the road--from Peaks of Otter Lodge north of Roanoke (Milepost 85.6), to Civilian Conservation Corps-constructed cabins at Rocky Knob south of the city (Milepost 167.1). The Parkway's North Carolina venues are Doughton Park's Bluffs Lodge in the Boone area (Milepost 241.1, though closed this summer due to lack of an operator) and Pisgah Inn south of Asheville (Milepost 408.6). Amenities won't be four-star, but the view will be.

But take one turn off the Parkway at Asheville and you'll find more rarefied accommodations and a nationally significant urban setting that's leading the new lifestyle of the Appalachians.

Destination Downtown

There's a real "there" there in Asheville. This hip, trendy, vibrant small city has the South's greatest concentration of Art-Deco architecture outside of Miami Beach. Attractions like George W. Vanderbilt's Biltmore Estate elevate the city beyond national significance. Biltmore is America's largest private home, an art-filled treasure of an experience. The estate is increasingly a destination for its wines and a growing fine dining scene, much of that fueled by an aggressive use of local, even estate grown foods. If Appalachian Spring is the season you choose, don't miss the estate's Festival of Flowers through May 15th.

Asheville's compact, walkable downtown has its own art walk, the Urban Trail, along with great dining and galleries, including the shops and restaurants at the 1929 Grove Arcade.


No Asheville Inn better represents the appeal of staying close to downtown than The 1900 Inn on Montford, in the Montford Historic District, and one of only six AAA four diamond-rated B&Bs in North Carolina. The inn's great amenities aside, when you leave off-street parking in the courtyard behind the inn, the Wall Street parking deck in downtown is 2 minutes and three easy turns away. Nevertheless, innkeepers Ron and Lynn Carlson plan for the inn to acquire a car for ferrying guests the short distance to and fro.

On your way back from downtown, the left to Asheville's Riverside Cemetery is well-signed. Both Thomas Wolfe (don't miss his boyhood home in downtown) and O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) are buried in Riverside.

The 1900 Inn exemplifies the Arts and Crafts style so visible in Asheville. The inn's Welsh architect, Richard Sharp Smith, was supervising architect at Biltmore House and an influential force in the city's Arts and Crafts community. The house appears in his 1901 publication My Sketchbook and is considered "one of his finest residential commissions," says Inn-keeper Lynn. Lynn and her husband Ron lived in England for 12 years and have furnished the inn elegantly with English and American antiques from 1730 to 1910.

The 1900 Inn has three suites in Griffin Cottage, a new, scrupulously Arts and Crafts style carriage house behind the inn where breakfast is delivered to guests at 9:30. Here, too, the entire upper floor is a suite, called the Cloisters, with two smaller suites on the lower floor. Each suite has a private walled garden. The two lower suites are named the William Morris and Rosetti, (the latter after Dante Gabriel Rosetti), both influential artists in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood who inspired the Arts and Crafts movement. A Pre-Raphaelite etching titled Magnolia Grandiflora hangs in the Inn's radiant sun room.

All the Griffin Cottage suites are pet-friendly. You won't miss the hilariously friendly pet you have to walk past on the way to the cottage (check out the video).

The inn's eight rooms and suites have fireplaces, wireless Internet, and most have whirlpool tubs and showers (four with steam baths). The main inn has four guest rooms on the second floor and an amazing five-room, 1,000-square-foot suite covers the entire third floor. The inn's roofline makes this "aerie" architecturally interesting as well as indulgently luxurious, with a beautifully tiled alcove steam bath and heated bathroom marble floors. Not far from Asheville, the inn also offers two secluded cabins for seriously pampered isolation.

Lynn and Ron invite guests to social hour for wine on the expansive porch (6-7 p.m., with live music on Thursday and Saturday) and delicious, multi-course breakfasts crafted by Ron (at 9 am). There's a popular neighborhood evening eatery just a few blocks away.

Inns Farther Out

Asheville's satellite locations are attractive. Biltmore Village (just outside Biltmore Estate) is an intriguing English-style village of Tudor-style structures (some designed by the 1900 Inn's architect) and home to great galleries, restaurants, and Asheville's new boutique hotel, the Grand Bohemian. The Biltmore Village Inn is a prime lodging location. Built in 1892 by Vanderbilt's attorney, the pristine, historic Victorian is one of the city's most upscale B&Bs.

Set off above the city, the massive Grove Park Inn is an Arts and Crafts icon. The historic heart of the inn, with a massive stone fireplace, has a room once often occupied by F. Scott Fitzgerald that's a favorite with readers. The inn's nationally significant spa is a reason to take your most strenuous hike near Asheville. The adjacent Grovewood Gallery features astoundingly accomplished hand-crafted furniture, art, and crafts.

Inns even farther out have their appeal. The 1847 Blake House Inn is just out of Asheville to the south. Easily accessible from the Parkway, the 1847 Gothic Revival landmark imparts a rare atmosphere that you'd expect in Scotland or England. It's pet friendly and sits on an acre-and-a-half, with a wonderful garden, and towering century-and-a-half old trees.

Weaverville is a north Asheville suburb and the Reynolds Mansion is a memorable way to enjoy it. This is another of the earliest structures that still remain in the city--an imposing, impressive Colonial Revival brick manse from 1844. You'll put the inn's 3,000 square feet of covered porches to good use on Asheville's refreshing summer evenings. Sunset blazes behind a stunning horizon of summits.

The inn was in the Reynolds family for more than 125 years, so style-savvy inn-keepers Michael Griffith and Billy Sanders have smartly chosen to display compelling family portraits and keepsakes, including items from U.S. Senator Robert Rice Reynolds, a local favorite son known as "Buncombe Bob" (this is Buncombe County) duri ng his 1932 to 1945 tenure. (Reynolds' fifth wife owned the Hope diamond.) You'll also notice a few stunning images of Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara. The innkeepers' precocious English bulldogs are named Rhett and Scarlett.

This historic property also has pet-friendly "carriage house" suites available and two guest cottages, all overlooking a beautifully restored 1925 swimming pool that, like the house, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

An off-beat aspect of Reynolds Mansion is Reynolds Village, a retail and residential development being completed this spring below the big rounded hilltop occupied by the inn. Inn guests won't need to drive anywhere with upscale dining and shopping a short stroll away. Not that good eating is far. Just minutes away, Weaverville's eclectic Stoney Knob Cafe and the Bavarian Restaurant and Biergarten are both destinations in themselves.

If Asheville isn't a prime place to pause on your Blue Ridge Parkway adventure, it ought to be.

Randy Johnson is the author of the Parkway's premier trail guides, Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway and Best Easy Day Hikes Blue Ridge Parkway. Check out his Best Easy Day Hikes Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or the best-selling statewide guide, Hiking North Carolina. Visit Randy's web site
or search for his YouTube video channel "randyjohnsonbooks."

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Nantahala Outdoor Center Adventures Arrive at The Grove Park Inn



4/20/2011 - Nantahala Outdoor Center Adventures Arrive at The Grove Park Inn
by PRNewswire

Asheville is home to many outdoor enthusists. There are many activities to get you up and at 'em... Running, climbing, biking, boating...the list is endless. Many resorts and attractions have tapped into the spirit of recreation and are expanding their services to support further building the programs and facilities in WNC. Come to Asheville to relax, or come to challenge yourself, but do come... - Ben Falcon


Outfitter to Provide Activity Concierge and Outdoor Retail in Legendary Hotel

Nantahala Outdoor Center and The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa unveiled plans today for a groundbreaking experiential retail and outdoor activity concept shop called NOC's Basecamp Asheville, solidifying a strategic relationship between two classic Southern travel destinations. It will also be the first LEED-certified retail project in downtown Asheville and one of the first nationally in a historic hotel.

Recognized as "One of the Best Outfitters on Earth" by National Geographic Adventure and Good Morning America's "#1 Vacation with a Splash," NOC's Basecamp Asheville will not only provide an on-site activity concierge for hotel guests, but it will also serve as Asheville's definitive local resource for outdoor trip planning and expert advice for exploring the mountains. The shop's retail offerings will include men's, women's and children's apparel, footwear and accessories from leading outdoor brands such as Patagonia, The North Face, and Keen.  

"A legendary mountain escape meets authentic outdoor adventure, creating a unique vacation experience," says J. Craig Madison, President & CEO of The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa. "Our guests will enjoy the ultimate in accommodations and service coupled with a family-friendly outdoor experience, resulting in a premier mountain vacation."

Grove Park Inn guests will be able to book guided outdoor adventures prior to arrival and on site via NOC's Basecamp Asheville, located immediately off of the Grove Park Inn's Great Hall. Other elements of the alliance also include convenient buttons on all in-room telephones, multi-day adventure packages, and numerous on-premise experiences such as workshops, clinics, and outdoor activities. Some off-site activities will include:

  • Guided rafting trips on seven Southeastern rivers
  • Guided hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains
  • Guided fly-fishing and kayak fishing
  • Ziplines and canopy tours
  • Information on local hiking, biking and paddling
  • Kayaking lessons and tours
  • Mountain bike rentals
  • "do-it-yourself" fun


Charles Conner, NOC's marketing director, comments, "Asheville's visitors seek relaxation and recreation in the mountains. Our new relationship unites the area's experts in both, providing a balanced, surefire vacation option. Conner adds, "Sometimes planning a vacation in advance only adds stress to the daily tasks visitors are trying to escape. Now The Grove Park Inn's guests can wait and let our on-premise experts work out the logistics."

In keeping with The Grove Park Inn's sustainability efforts and NOC's green culture, NOC's Basecamp Asheville has applied for LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the leading and most comprehensive third-party designation for green building. Upon completion, it will become downtown Asheville's first LEED retail project and one of the nation's first LEED renovations within a historic hotel.

NOC's Basecamp Asheville is expected to celebrate its grand opening in early summer 2011.

For a video, click here:

For more information, visit and

About The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa

The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa is a four-diamond resort overlooking Asheville's skyline and the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Built in 1913, the Inn is on the National Register of Historic Places and a member of Historic Hotels of America and among Travel + Leisure's Top five Spa Resorts in the United States. Amenities include a world-class spa, Club Floor, award winning fine dining, Donald Ross golf course, tennis, swimming, sports complex, retail shops, nightly entertainment and childr en's programs. The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa is proud to be the home of The National Gingerbread House Competition.(TM)

About Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC)

Nantahala Outdoor Center is the nation's largest outdoor recreation company. Over a half million guests visit NOC annually to embark on a diverse collection of more than 80 different whitewater rafting and land-based itineraries, learn to kayak at NOC's world-renowned Paddling School, travel to 12 foreign countries with NOC's Adventure Travel program, test the latest outdoor gear and shop at its flagship retail stores or enjoy NOC's resort amenities such as its four restaurants and multi-tiered lodging. A privately-held, employee-owned company, NOC is one of the largest employers in Western North Carolina and 22 Olympians and Olympic coaches have called NOC home. NOC has been recently recognized by The New York Times as the "Nation's Premiere Paddling School," "The Best Place to Learn" by Outside, and as "One of the Best Outfitters on Earth" by National Geographic Adventure.

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Asheville Earth Day festival has fitness theme



4/18/2011 - Asheville Earth Day festival has fitness theme
by Barbara Blake

Asheville is celebrating Earth Day!  This isn't something new for our fair city - Asheville and Buncombe County have always been on the forefront of sustainability and re-use/recycling.  Did you know that Buncombe County was the first county in North Carolina to enact a ban on cardboard disposal - in 1989!  Saturday sounds like a great opportunity for the young - and young at heart - to learn about their roles in the future of our good Earth!


-Tammy Mansell


ASHEVILLE -- There was a lot to learn about environmental sustainability, renewable resources, organic foods and other topics you'd expect to encounter at the city's annual Earth Day celebration Saturday in Pack Square Park.

 But who knew you can get a full-body, cardio workout by using a colorful hoop as a jump rope or spinning it around your waist, arms, neck and legs?

"Hooping is kind of like fitness in disguise," said Melanie MacNeil, founder of Asheville Hoops, which makes and sells hoops and teaches classes and workshops on performance hooping.

"It's fun, but it's definitely core-strengthening, and you can get a great cardio workout depending on where on your body you're hooping," MacNeil said as she watched dozens of children and adults happily gyrating inside their hoops in the Kids Village on the west side of the park.

"It's something families can do outdoors together, and it's universal -- everybody sees a hoop and knows what to do," she said.

The hooping booth was part of the YMCA Healthy Kids celebration, which joined with Earth Day organizers to combine the two events in downtown's newest public gathering spot.

The partnership was a no-brainer, said YMCA membership director Lindsey Sease.

"Our focus is on healthy living, youth development and social responsibility - we're more than just a swim-and-gym," she said.

"What better way to amplify our cause than by affiliating with Earth Day?"

Bethany Johnson brought her 4-year-old son, Ethan, to the two celebrations.

They had a picnic on the green space in front of the courthouse before moving up to the Kids Village for games, face painting and demonstrations of taekwondo, kids ballroom dancing, juggling and other activities to keep children moving.

"He's really active at this age, but I'd like it if he could find some kind of organized thing he likes that he can do as he gets older," Johnson said. "It kind of worries me that as kids get older, they seem to get less active."

The Earth Day celebration, which included a nonstop roster of speakers, live music and rows of vendors and product representatives, drew a diverse crowd that ranged from veteran environmentalists to out-of-town tourists.

Nancy Sellers, of Greenville, S.C., was both.

"I've been a vegetarian for more than 35 years," Sellers said proudly, adding that she is "in my 70s."

She was here visiting a friend for the weekend and came to the Earth Day event to see the new park and the people within it.

"I'm glad to see these kids are catching up," she said with a smile.

Staff members of longtime eco-friendly organizations said events like Earth Day serve to keep sending the message about environmental stewardship and the perils facing the planet, even though change may be slower in coming than they'd like.

"We're not looking for the big payback -- we want people to build stewardship over time, in small increments," said Eric Bradford, clean community coordinator for Asheville GreenWorks, which organized as Quality Forward in 1976.

"If every time we do something like (Earth Day) we reach even one person, we're happy," he said.

Kelly Fain, marketing director for the French Broad Food Co-op, which opened in 1975, said she's happy for any opportunity to bring environmental issues to the forefront, and not just on Earth Day.

"It takes all of us living it every day, not just one day of the year," Fain said. "We've got to walk the talk, every day."

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Local music hits the big screen at Music Video Asheville



4/15/2011 - Local music hits the big screen at Music Video Asheville
by Dane Smith


Live music is a big part of life in Asheville. With so much talent developing in the region, we have a great selection of original artists becoming recognized. Many are expanding to become national and international artists, bringing evermore attention to Asheville and its artistic culture. - Ben Falcon


Local music hit the big screen last night as HATCH Festival kicked off with Music Video Asheville, a screening of "conceptual music video, live performance video and experimental or documentary-style film" at The Fine Arts Theatre.


More than 20 submissions were featured, including videos from Mad Tea Party, Chompin' at the Bit, Jenny Greer, Ten Cent Poetry, Brian McGee and more (view them all here).


Recent Los Angeles transplant Ben Lovett was undoubtedly the most prolific participant with three high-budget submissions, including the CGI-heavy "Eye of the Storm" and "Heartattack," which was filmed at Echo Mountain and features a host of familiar local faces. Prior to intermission, the composer, producer and songwriter, who was the event's featured artist, took the stage for a brief Q&A, offering attendees a glimpse into the motivation and mechanics behind undertaking such ambitious projects (Lovett revealed that post-production for "Eye of the Storm" consumed an entire year).


And while everyone was celebrated, all films are not created equal. Following the screening, various awards were presented, including a Crowd Favorite, Judges Choice and Honorable Mention. Here's a list of the winners:


Kovacs and the Polar Bear, "Skeleton Crew" - Best of MVA Judges Choice Award and Crowd Favorite







Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, "Chase the Rain" - Best of MVA Judges Choice Award Runner-up


Jonathan Scales, "Muddy Vishnu" - Crowd Favorite Runner-up


Jar-e, "Plot" - Honorable Mention


stephaniesid, "Documentary" - Honorable Mention


Juan Holladay, "Seal It Tight" - Honorable Mention

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Spring cookbooks take readers to Asheville



4/14/2011 - Spring cookbooks take readers to Asheville
by Mary Constantine

  They say that Asheville has become a "foodie" town... The many fine restaurants and professionals that have made this a reality come to Asheville for the same reason most everybody does, the quality of life. Come and have a taste of Asheville. Your table is waiting. -Ben Falcon



Tell a friend you took a trip to Asheville, N.C., and inevitably the following questions will be asked: "Did you visit Biltmore Estate? Did you stay at the Grove Park Inn? Did you eat at Tupelo Honey Cafe?"

Given the historic nature of the first two destinations, that puts the 11-year-old restaurant in pretty good company.

Released this month is its first cookbook, "Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville's New South Kitchen," by Elizabeth Sims and Chef Brian Sonoskus (Andrews McMeel Publishing (29.99).

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The book focuses on the region's culinary offerings, featuring 125 recipes, complete with gorgeous color photos of food, farms and fresh produce taken by Brie Williams.

Sprinkled throughout the book are snippets of the area's eclectic history, including a brief profile on Asheville native and author Thomas Wolfe.

Mouth-watering recipes like chicken andouille stir-fry with orange jalapeno glaze, salsa verde pinto beans, peachy grilled chicken salad with pecan vinaigrette, smoked jalapeno sauce and three-berry cream cheese pie are featured in the book.

And giving a nod to the region's large selection of breweries and wineries, most of the recipes include pairings for each.

Here's a sample recipe.

Nutty fried chicken

This nutty fried chicken, featured on the menu at Tupelo Honey Cafe, is soaked in buttermilk before being rolled in Panko bread crumbs and crushed, roasted nuts. Serve with white gravy.

Brie Williams for Tupelo Honey Cafe

This nutty fried chicken, featured on the menu at Tupelo Honey Cafe, is soaked in buttermilk before being rolled in Panko bread crumbs and crushed, roasted nuts. Serve with white gravy.

6 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 cups buttermilk

2 cups Panko bread crumbs

2 cups roasted and salted mixed nuts

2 cups canola oil

Marinate the chicken in buttermilk in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Combine bread crumbs and nuts in a food processor and grind until fine. In a cast-iron skillet, heat the canola oil to 325 degrees or until the oil is bubbling. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk and dredge in the nut mixture until well coated. Fry the chicken in the hot oil for 4-5 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Transfer the chicken to paper towels to drain the excess oil. Serve with sweet potatoes topped with milk gravy.

Note: The sweet potato and gravy recipes are in the cookbook.

Tupelo honey coleslaw

4 cups shredded green cabbage (approximately 1 medium head)

2 cups shredded red cabbage (approximately 1 small head)

1 cup peeled, shredded carrot (about 2 large)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4 1/2 teaspoons ketchup

5 tablespoons sugar

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons stone-ground mustard

1/8 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

4 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup canola oil

Combine green cabbage, red cabbage and carrot in large bowl. In separat e bowl combine vinegar, ketchup and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Put vinegar mixture in food processor and add mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, stone-ground mustard, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire, salt and pepper. Blend and slowly drizzle in canola oil until mixture is emulsified. Combine vegetables with dressing, adding the dressing a little at a time until it suits your personal slaw to dressing ratio. Any leftover dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 1 week. Yield: 4-6 servings.

Source: "Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville's New South Kitchen (Andrews McMeel, $29.99)

Orange cilantro sauce

1 medium tomato

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 4 oranges)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

1 teaspoon minced fresh cilantro

1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter

1 orange, peeled, seeded and segmented

Core and halve the tomato. With a spoon, gently remove the seeds and squeeze out the juice. Cut the tomato into thin strips, about 1/2 cup and refrigerate the rest of the tomato in an airtight container for future use. Place orange juice in small saucepan and boil for about 5 minutes or until juice is reduced by half. Lower the heat to medium and add the salt, white pepper, tomato and cilantro. Add the butter and stir constantly until melted. Remove from the heat and add the orange segments. Serve immediately. Yield: 1 1/2 cups.

Note: This is good served over seafood or chicken.

Source: "Tupelo Honey Cafe: Spirited Recipes from Asheville's New South Kitchen (Andrews McMeel, $29.99)


Flipping through the pages of "A Southerly Course: Recipes and Stories from Close to Home," by Martha Hall Foose (Clarkson Potter, $32.50) will bring back memories of watching your mother prepare a Sunday feast.

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The author has an incredible knack for beckoning memories of bygone days by using the foods of her home state of Mississippi to draw you in.

And just as your mother would share the origin or backstory of a dish, she does the same with most of the recipes featured in this book.

For example, the grilled green onions recipe featured below was inspired by a family wedding reception held at her house at which foods from Texas, New Orleans, Korea and Mississippi were served.

She writes that the fried pan trout recipe reminds her of Estella's Tavern, a place she frequented during her high school years, and that the rum tum tiddy is a dish indigenous to Mississippi that's made with tomato soup, toast and melted cheese, and is fed to children who were too ill to attend school.

Other recipes in the book include Satsuma tart made with Satsuma mandarin oranges grown along the Gulf Coast; Yazoo souffle that includes daylilies as an ingredient; and corn oysters, deep-fried balls of fresh corn breaded and served as a vegetarian po' boy or as a party food.

Anchoring the cookbook are photos by Chris Granger, who will take the reader on a tour of Mississippi neighborhoods, fields and food, and essays by Foose who reminisces about family and traditions.

Her first cookbook "Screen Doors and Sweet Tea," won a 2009 James Beard Award. I suspect this book will be just as successful.

Grilled green onions

Nothing says spring like green onions. These grilled green onions, coated with a Korean-inspired glaze, are included in the cookbook

Chris Granger for "A Southerly Course" Cookbook

Nothing says spring like green onions. These grilled green onions, coated with a Korean-inspired glaze, are included in the cookbook "A Southerly Course."

4 bunches green onions or purple scallions

1 tablespoon sugar

1 small garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup sake

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 cup finely chopped Asian pear or Golden Delicious apple.

Heat grill to low. In food processor pulse together the white part of one of the green on ions with the sugar, garlic, soy sauce, sake, honey and pear. Place remaining green onions on the grill 4-6 inches above low coals or over low flame and brush them with soy sauce mixture. Cook for 5 minutes, turning as needed, or until onions are tender. Remove from heat and brush with more sauce right before serving. Yield: 6 servings.

Source: "A Southerly Course," by Martha Hall Foose (Clarkson Potter, $32.50)

Mexican Co-cola drumsticks

1 (8-ounce) bottle cola (Mexican cola preferred)

1/4 cup chopped white onion

1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed

4 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons ketchup

1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger

1 tablespoon yellow mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon salt

4 pounds chicken drumsticks, trimmed of excess fat

Peanut oil for frying

2 cups chicken broth

Combine cola, onion, brown sugar, garlic, ketchup, ginger, mustard, Worcestershire and salt in a large bowl. Add chicken, toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for one hour. Remove chicken from marinade; set aside. Pat chicken dry. Heat 1 inch of peanut oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat, Reduce temperature to low and add chicken. Simmer 15 minutes, turning once. Transfer chicken to a serving platter. Boil sauce, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until thickened slightly. Pour sauce over chicken. Yield: 6 servings.

Source: "A Southerly Course: Recipes and Stories from Close to Home" (Clarkson Potter, $32.50)

Soybean salad

2 medium cucumbers, peeled, quartered lengthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1 small onion, quartered and sliced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup cooked shelled edamame (soybeans)

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons cottonseed or vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Put cucumber and onion slices in bowl and toss with salt. Allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour. Rinse, drain well in colander and return to bowl. Add edamame, lemon juice, cottonseed oil, sesame oil, sesame seeds and cayenne. Toss well to combine. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Yield: 4 serving

Source: "A Southerly Course: Recipes and Stories from Close to Home" (Clarkson Potter, $32.50)

Mary Constantine may be reached at 865-342-6428. Follow her on twitter @skilletsister.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2011, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.

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Second-home impact focus of UNC Asheville symposium



4/13/2011 - Second-home impact focus of UNC Asheville symposium

Many people vacation in Asheville and year round there are activities in the city and surrounding region that entertain and attract travelers. After experiencing Asheville some decide to move here, others choose to maintain a second home in our lovely city. If it's vacation homes, income properties or seasonal retreats, Asheville is the prime setting... - Ben Falcon

ASHEVILLE -- The Asheville Graduate Center will host the Second Home Development Symposium from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. April 14 at UNC Asheville's Reuter Center. The program is designed for planners, policy-makers, Realtors, developers, bankers, academics, community leaders, non-profit organizations and citizens interested in the policies and issues surrounding second home development. Cost for the daylong event, which will include a panel discussion and small-group sessions, is $25.

Featured speakers will include:

o Mick Ireland, two-term mayor of Aspen, Colorado, who will speak on "Challenges of Maintaining a Community Sense of Place in Mountain Resort Regions."

o Linda Venturoni, president, Venturoni Surveys and Research, Inc., who will speak on "Measuring and Understanding the Impacts of Second Home Development in Mountain Communities."

The facilitator will be Dave Brown, executive director of Asheville HUB, provost emeritus Wake Forest University, and former chancellor of UNC Asheville.

Panelists will include:

o John Ager, part-owner, Hickory Nut Gap Farm; partner, Drovers Road Preserve, sustainable residential community

o Christopher Cooper, director, Public Policy Institute and associate professor of political science, Western Carolina University

o Linda Giltz, regional planner - land use, Land of Sky Regional Council

o Neal Hanks, Jr., president, Beverly-Hanks and Associates

o Gibbs Knotts, associate professor and chair, Political Science and Public Affairs Department, Western Carolina University

o David Kozak, executive vice president and chief lending officer, Asheville Savings Bank

o Leah Mathews, associate professor, economics, UNC Asheville

o Terrence Milstead, assistant professor, geography and planning, Appalachian State University

o Heidi Reiber, director of research, Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce

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