Blog :: 04-2012

Free bus rides to coincide with makeover of Asheville bus system



4/30/2012 - Free bus rides to coincide with makeover of Asheville bus system
by Romando Dixson - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- Forget everything you know about Asheville Transit, even the name.

Beginning May 21, the city transit system will operate as Asheville Redefines Transit and will introduce a new look, new logo, new routes and new rides.

The launch will coincide with free bus rides from May 21-June 8 and highlight the first phase of the system's master plan implementation.

It will also overlap weeklong Strive Not Drive events in which residents are encouraged to walk, bicycle, ride the bus or carpool as opposed to driving alone in a car.

Transit officials announced earlier this month that sweeping changes were on the way. The first of six informational sessions is 4-7 p.m. today at the U.S. Cellular Center banquet hall and designed to help riders with any questions they may have. New schedules and maps will also be available at the sessions.

Mariate Echeverry, transportation planning manager, said every route is changing in some way, even if it's just the schedule. Five other sessions will follow in different parts of the city.

"Everybody will need to look at routes again and make sure they understand what is happening," she said.

The changes will come without an increase in the transit system's $5.7 million budget and without an increase in fares. The frequency of service on major corridors will be increased to twice per hour.

"This is a great change for the system and first of many others," she said. "I think it's going to be great for consistent riders and new riders. It's going to be much more convenient for these two groups. In general, it's going to be a more convenient service."

Money planned for the changes next month was found by cutting routes that are less busy, Echeverry said.

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Asheville's Beer City title on the line



4/30/2012 - Asheville's Beer City title on the line
by Tony Kiss - Asheville Citizen Times

Online voting starts Tuesday for the national Beer City USA Poll, and three-time winner Asheville -- one tie and two solo wins -- has to be considered a strong candidate for a fourth consecutive victory.

 Some local beer leaders are saying it might be time to ease up and let some other place take the crown. Others believe that with Sierra Nevada and New Belgium brewing companies building here, Asheville deserves another win in the poll, conducted by author and beer expert Charlie Palazian. 

 "I've got mixed feelings," said Oscar Wong, owner and founder of Highland Brewing Co., the city's first craft brewery. "We got the number two and number three craft breweries to come here. 

"When we played, we won. Now, let's give someone else a chance."

Julie Atallah, co-owner of the Bruisin' Ales beer store on Broadway Street, said she was undecided on the competition. Winning the Beer City Poll "helped us get these breweries, or at least put us on the map," she said. "How does it get any better than that?"

But Mike Rangel, owner of Asheville Brewing, and Tim Schaller, of Wedge Brewing, have changed their minds about the poll and now believe Asheville should win again.

"If we are in the game, we might as well win," Schaller said.

"Asheville has gained a lot" by winning the poll 2009-11, said Rangel. "With these monster rock stars of Sierra Nevada and New Belgium (building here), it makes us worthy of competing again."

And Barry Bialik, of the Thirsty Monk brewery and pubs, is also ready to make a Beer City charge.

"Asheville is all about local pride," he said. "Whatever the result is, I hope everyone gives the full effort."

The Beer City Poll is an unscientific vote that lets beer fans vote once for their favorite brew town.

Asheville tied with Portland, Ore., in the 2009 poll, but since then Asheville has dominated the voting. The victories have brought the city a lot of attention as a beer destination.

This year, 31 cities are in the running, including first-time entries Charlotte and Raleigh.

While that might lead to a split in North Carolina voting, "It's important to keep in mind that three cities in our beer community made the ballot in the first place," said Win Bassett, executive director of the North Carolina Brewers Guild.

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Asheville area stage productions calendar for the coming weeks



4/27/2012 - Asheville area stage productions calendar for the coming weeks
by Asheville Citizen Times

"Hospitality Suite," 7:30 p.m. today-Saturday, 35below, lower back level, Asheville Community Theatre, 35 E. Walnut St. 254-1320. www.asheville

"As You Like It," by the Montford Park Players, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Masonic Temple, 80 Broadway St. or 254-5146

"Bombs Away Cabaret," 7:30 and 10 and Saturday, The Magnetic Field, 372 Depot St. www.themagnetic

Mars Hill College Theatre Arts Department presents program featuring the Showstoppers and a student scenes showcase at 7:30 p.m. today-Saturday, Owen Theatre. Free admission.

"Say Goodnight Gracie," to May 6, Flat Rock Playhouse Downtown, 125 S. Main St. Hendersonville. Performances at 8 p.m Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Thursday, Saturday, Sunday. 693-0731. www.flatrock

"A Carolina Story," today-Sunday, Patton Auditorium at Blue Ridge Community College, Flat Rock. A celebration of Appalachian life. 694-1849.

"To Kill A Mockingbird," to May 6, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Asheville Community Theatre, 35 E. Walnut St. 254-1320.

Disney's "Beauty and the Beast," 7 p.m. today, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Asheville Christian Academy, 74 Riverwood Road, Swannanoa. $12. 581-2200.

"Endgame," 8 p.m. today-Sunday, Brevard College's Morrison Playhouse in the Porter Center. $5. www.brevard. edu/productions.

Behind The Scenes Tour, 11:30 a.m. today, UNC Asheville's Reuter Center. Charlie Flynn-McIver, actor and artistic director at NC Stage, will share what goes on behind the scenes at Asheville's professional Equity theater. Free. Visit orcall 251-6140.



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Asheville area performing arts calendar for the coming week



4/27/2012 - Asheville area performing arts calendar for the coming week
by Asheville Citizen Times


Washuntara, 7 p.m. Saturday, HeartSong House Concerts. $18. Benefit for Asheville Community Yoga. Call 230-8257 or email for tickets.

Ann Hampton Callaway, 8:30 p.m. Saturday, reception at 7:30 p.m., Diana Wortham Theater, 2 S. Pack Square, Asheville. VIP tickets $75, regular $50. 257-4530 or

Youngs Mountain Music, 8-10 bands featuring mountain music every Saturday 7-11 p.m., Mountain Music Drive (off U.S. 19E), Burnsville. Nonalcoholic facility. 675-4790.

"That Mancini Magic," 3 p.m. Sunday, Western Carolina University's Bardo Performing Arts Center, Cullowhee. Music of renowned composer Henry Mancini. $20, $15 WCU faculty/staff, $10 groups, $5 students. 227-2479 or /fapac.

Original Music Series hosted by Mike Holstein and Justin Watt every Tuesday night, The Altamont, 18 Church St., Asheville. 348-5327 or www.myaltamont. com.

Womansong, 7:30 p.m. May 4-5, Unitarian Universalist Church, 1 Edwin Place, Asheville. $10, $5 children.

The Revue, 8 p.m. May 6, The Grove House's Crystal Room, 11 Grove St., Asheville. Theme of 1930s nightclub. Russ Wilson and Nouveau Passe Orchestra, The Tacky Annies, burlesque by Paige Turner, Tina Foor, and more. $20 in advance, $25 at door.

Billy Jonas & The Billy Jonas Band, 7 p.m. May 6, Flat Rock Playhouse, 2261 Greenville Hwy., Flat Rock. Hendersonville. Begins 5:30 p.m. with dinner by Hot Dog World, ice cream social, face painting, silent auction. Reservations suggested. $25, $15 students. 693-0731.

Yard Sale music project by Taylor Davis, country soul and mountain bugaloo May 8, The Altamont, 18 Church St., Asheville. Part of the Original Music Series hosted by Mike Holstein. 348-5327 or



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Asheville area Outdoors Calendar



4/26/2012 - Asheville area Outdoors Calendar
by Outdoors - Asheville Citizen Times


FRENCH BROAD CLASSIQUE: Paddle race is Saturday and Sunday on the French Broad River from Blantyre to Asheville. Eight-mile fun race from Bent Creek. Registration starts at 8 a.m. both days at Westfeldt Park. Entry fee $10 per person per day. Call Andy Kluge at 231-4794 or visit

JERRY'S BADDLE: Extreme whitewater kayak and road bike race on and around the Green River, starting at noon Saturday. Race in memory of Jerry Beckwith, a kayaker who died in 2006 of ALS, raises money for ALS research. Kayak race is 4 miles down the Green River starting at Big Hungry Creek. Bike leg is a 26-mile loop up the Green River Cove climb. Festival after race is $20 for those not racing. Visit

DIAMOND BRAND PADDLESPORTS DEMO DAY: Watersports enthusiats can try before they buy at Diamond Brand's Demo Day on Lake Julian, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday. Kayak instructors and boat manufacturer reps on site. Chance to win paddlesports prizes. Visit

FRENCH BROAD RIVER FESTIVAL: The 15th annual festival will be May 4-6 at Hot Springs Campground and Spa to benefit American Whitewater, The Mountain Area Child & Family Center and Hot Springs Community Learning Center. Live music, outdoor gear auction, craft vendors, mountain bike and raft races. Visit

MOUNTAIN SAFARI: A wild social adventure, 6-9 p.m. May 31 at the WNC Nature Center. Entertainment, live music, silent auction, close encounters with animals, food, Asheville Brewing Co., limited release bottle of Rufus Red Ale. Tickets $40 for members, $45 for non-members. Visit, or call the Friends of WNC Nature Center at 259-8092.


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Asheville's Dining Out for Life event returns Thursday



4/25/2012 - Asheville's Dining Out for Life event returns Thursday
by Casey Blake - Asheville Citizen Times

 ASHEVILLE -- It was nine years and close to a million dollars ago that Harry Brown brought Dining Out for Life to Asheville, but he still speaks about what he finds in those little donation envelopes as if he's unwrapping presents on Christmas morning.

 Thursday, the 10th occurrence of the popular fundraiser, could be the year the total raised over the years hits the million-dollar mark. The event is the year's largest for the Western North Carolina AIDS Project.

Brown, the special-events coordinator for WNCAP, said he isn't setting that mark as an official goal, but the nonchalance of his "It would be pretty great if it happened" isn't very convincing.

"We are nearing the $1 million mark, having raised $859,000 in the first nine years," Brown said.

"We don't want to set that as a goal this year, but if we can just raise $3,000 more than last year's record-setting total, we would be there," he said. "It's hard not to hope for that."

More than 100 eateries in Asheville, Sylva, Black Mountain, Hendersonville, Saluda, Brevard, Waynesville, Maggie Valley, Weaverville, Woodfin and, this year, Highlands will donate 20 percent of their gross sales Thursday to WNCAP.

The event begins at dawn with breakfast at many restaurants and continues through lunch and dinner on to late-night dining.

WNCAP, which provides resources and support to more than 330 HIV/AIDS patients, as well as coordinating HIV education and prevention, will join groups in 50 other cities across the country and in Canada for today's benefit.

Record amount raised

Last year's Dining Out for Life raised more than $135,000, setting a record for both diner and restaurant donation. More diners participated than ever before.

"At this point we're actually No. 1 for dollars raised per capita of any Dining Out event in the country," he said. "It's a pretty incredible feeling."

A restaurant in Highlands, in Macon County, joined the ranks this year at the suggestion of a WNCAP client from that area, and some restaurants will be "adopted" by other companies that will staff the eateries with their ambassadors.

Keller Williams has already provided 10 agents to work the crowd at Pack's Tavern, for example, and Town & Mountain has adopted Table, among many other volunteers.

Elements of success

Asheville is No. 5 in actual dollars raised among 60 cities across the country and in Canada, beating out cities including San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Miami, Palm Springs, Atlanta and Houston.

Brown said the success has been due in part to Asheville's fabulous food scene, but it also has to do with a generous community of patrons and businesses. He said most cities have participating restaurants sign contracts and jump through legal hoops to ensure the proper donations are funneled correctly.

In Asheville, the business donation model is "handshake."

"Asking people to go out and eat in Asheville is a pretty easy sell in and of itself," Brown said. "But it definitely helps that this is such a handshake kind of business community. People just really want to help."

The event has seven veteran participants whose restaurants have participated every year since its inception almost a decade ago, including Tupelo Honey Café owner Steve Frabitore.

"As a business owner and especially restaurant owner, you have to be careful not to donate yourself out of business in a community where so many causes are really worthy," Frabitore said. "But this has always been one we've wanted to be a part of."

But the event is infused with newcomers each year as well, including the popular new tapas eatery Curaté joining the ranks for this year's event.

"The amazing thing about places like Curaté taking part is that it's not as if they need this event to up their sales that day," Brown said. "They would already be booked even without the bump."

But Curaté owner Elizabeth Button said she was just excited to be a part of the smash fundraiser.

"When I heard how vast this event was, I was on board," she said. "I think it just speaks to how much this community values treating each other as human beings, and we w ant to support what Asheville believes."

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Asheville-area school celebrates national Green Ribbon award



4/25/2012 - Asheville-area school celebrates national Green Ribbon award
by Julie Ball - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- As students unrolled a big banner inside the gym at Evergreen Community Charter School Tuesday morning, they celebrated news that their school was among the nation's first Green Ribbon Schools.

The U.S. Department of Education announced the awards earlier this week. A total of 78 schools earned the Green Ribbon School designation. Evergreen was one of only two in North Carolina to win the award.

"This is amazing," said sixth-grader Molly Schantz. "I really think that our school does deserve it because we are a very environmentally conscious school, and our students learn about the environment and how to take care of it."

The Green Ribbon designation was based on three main areas: the school facilities, health and wellness and the school curriculum. The charter school has about 400 students.

"I am really excited to know that 13 years worth of really hard work and effort toward being an environmental education school has now been recognized. It's an honor," said Susan Gottfried, the school's executive director.

"It wasn't easy," Gottfried said. "I'm reminded a little bit of the Kermit the Frog song, 'It's not easy being green.' It does take a lot to get this award."

Gottfried said environmental awareness is built into everything at the school.

"Every day the kids are involved in composting. Every day the kids are using nondisposable plates and napkins for snacks and lunches. Every day the kids ha ve something about environmental education woven into their curriculum," she said.

"Our kids, they get it. They kind of think in terms of what's best for our environment."

The only other school in North Carolina to win the award was American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro.

Two representatives from each winning school will travel to Washington, D.C., in June for a recognition ceremony.

A celebration

At the school celebration Tuesday, teachers handed out green ribbons to students, and students unveiled the large banner announcing the award.

Radio host Ned Ryan Doyle made the announcement to students gathered in the gym.

"I think Evergreen really deserved it because we really strive to achieve an environmental and healthy school that benefits the community and everyone that is in the school," sixth-grader Graham Dugliss said.

Dugliss and Schantz are both members of the school's "green team," meeting after school on Mondays to learn more about the environment.

"We are a small group that learns specifically about things that can benefit the environment like how there are machines and electronics that suck energy even when you think they are turned off or how to conserve water and not pollute," Dugliss said.

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Ashvegas: Asheville's River Arts District ablaze with activity



4/23/2012 - Ashvegas: Asheville's River Arts District ablaze with activity
by Jason Sanford - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- It's hard to stop talking about all the great things happening in the River Arts District. The strip of Depot Street and Riverside Drive that's home to artists and craftspeople is simply ablaze with activity. And that's despite the big announcement a couple of weeks ago that New Belgium Brewing was planning to spend $175 million to build its new East Coast brewing operation nearby on Craven Street.

Here's a quick look at some of what's going on:

o New businesses: Matthew Logan, the owner of the popular 5 Walnut wine bar downtown, is working on plans to open another in the RAD. I haven't seen his plans yet, but a couple of people who have tell me they're impressed. Asheville Adventure Rentals, to open near Pearson Bridge, will be renting bikes, boats and scheduling chartered fishing trips on the French Broad River starting this summer. And longtime Asheville residents Fur Banks and Kathy Watson have opened Fast Lane Electric Bikes, an electric bike shop that offers service, sales and rentals.

o Hot spots for more development: There are plenty of hot spots for development. The former Dave Steel location at the corner of Clingman Avenue and Roberts Street has been cleaned up and sits vacant for now. But there's no doubt that New Belgium's announcement could give the property owners new confidence to move forward with redevelopment plans. The same is true for Mountain Housing Opportunities, which is still working on getting financing to renovate the old Glen Rock Hotel. The old hotel was supposed to be redeveloped alongside new construction on the Glen Rock Depot, now a thriving mixed-used development of affordable rental units and commercial space.

o Studio strolls expanded: The RAD has been home to twice-a-year studio strolls, huge hits with locals and tourists . Now look for studio strolls every second Saturday from now until December. Yellow pennants outside studios beckon visitors to explore. The original studio strolls will still happen the second Saturdays of June and November.

o New music series: RiverMusic is a new music series planned for the RAD. Look for it this summer. Details are still being worked out, but imagine a local band, a few local food trucks and happy-go-lucky residents hanging out by the river.

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Asheville-area jobs, economy projected to grow



4/23/2012 - Asheville-area jobs, economy projected to grow
by Dale Neal - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- Economics has been dubbed "the dismal science" and more than a few experts always forecast doom and gloom ahead for jobs and business, but economist James. F. Smith remains ever optimistic.

Smith, the chief economist for Parsec Financial Weath Management here, has been a fixture for the past quarter century at UNC Asheville's annual Crystal Ball. Along with David Berson, of The PMI Group, Smith polished his prognosis for the economy Thursday, dismissing the pessimists who see only pain and problems ahead.

"The most basic truth that these pessimists ignore is that the U.S. economy is much more commonly growing than shrinking," Smith wrote in his April outlook. "Almost every economic indicator is pointing to growing strength in the U.S. economy."

That includes job creation, which has been lagging since the Great Recession ended in 2009.

Numbers released Friday by North Carolina's Division of Employment Security support Smith's argument for an improving outlook. The state's unemployment rate dipped from 9.9 percent in February to 9.7 percent in March.

That's down from 10.4 percent in March 2011, and a whole point down from 10.7 percent last September. For the year, the job picture continued to look a little better for Tar Heels, with the private sector adding 37,000 jobs, according to N.C. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Dale Carroll.

Nationally, unemployment was 8.2 percent in March, down from 9.1 percent in August.

"Unemployment is steadily going down, but we have to be patient. We took really big hits (in job losses) in 2008 and 2009," Smith said Thursday. "So, we probably won't get back to where we were then until mid-2014."

Berson said long-term unemployment with workers out of the job market for two or three years does pose problems. Many of those worked in industries that have been hit hard by globalization. "We have to concede that some people have been hurt by free trade, but we've not been very good at helping those workers. The winners in free trade are so much better off, that they should be willing to help the losers become winners as well. We haven't done a good job with that," he said.

Smith projects the economy to grow by 3.4 percent in gross domestic product this year. "That will be exactly double what we experienced in 2011," he said.

Smith doesn't discount the problems ahead. Congress is at a stalemate, faced with expiring taxes in December, cutting Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement, a long delayed highway bill, another fix on the Alternative Minimum Tax, or just passing a federal budget, which the Senate has failed to do for the past three years.

No wonder Congress proves so unpopular in polls. "I saw one poll that showed 9 percent approval of Congress," Smith wisecracked. "I just want to know who are those 9 percent."

Despite those problems, Smith remains sanguine "because they usually work out," he told the 200 people at UNCA's Lipinsky Auditorium.

"Congress can usually be expected to do the right thing after they've tried everything else," he quipped.

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Asheville education project introduces kids to magic of electronic music



4/18/2012 - Asheville education project introduces kids to magic of electronic music
by Barbara Blake - Asheville Citizen Times

Daniel Zuckerman, 4, of Asheville, plays with the eerie science fiction movie sounds of a Theremin during Dr. Bob's SoundSchool at UNC Asheville's Lipinsky Auditorium with a little help from volunteer, Jenna Bryner, and his father, Michael. The Bob Moog Foundation event on Saturday is part of the North Carolina Science Festival. The sessions included two 45 minute interactive presentations and hands on exploration of the science behind electronic music.  Daniel Zuckerman, 4, of Asheville, plays with the eerie science fiction movie sounds of a Theremin during Dr. Bob's SoundSchool at UNC Asheville's Lipinsky Auditorium with a little help from volunteer, Jenna Bryner, and his father, Michael. The Bob Moog Foundation event on Saturday is part of the North Carolina Science Festival. The sessions included two 45 minute interactive presentations and hands on exploration of the science behind electronic music. / John Coutlakis/
ASHEVILLE -- The kids who attended Dr. Bob's SoundSchool on Saturday as part of the North Carolina Science Festival may have been only 10 or 11 years old, but they knew brilliance when they heard it.

 Surrounded by electronic synthesizers invented by Bob Moog to turn electric currents into sound, these youngsters didn't have the opportunity to meet the man who changed the face of electronic music before his death in 2005 at age 71. 

 But Gabriel Baker, 10, a student at Vance Elementary, figured there was some serious brain power going on when Moog, a former professor at UNC Asheville, revolutionized sound with his inventions. 

 "I would think it probably had to take a lot of time, especially the (instruments) that cut off notes, and control the mix," Gabriel said. "It seems really, I would sort of say, genius." 

The organizers of the North Carolina Science Festival apparently agreed, tapping the Asheville-based Bob Moog Foundation to present its Dr. Bob's SoundSchool program during the 16-day festival that is criss-crossing the state with more than 400 science and technology-related events through April 29.

At Saturday's gathering in Lipinsky Auditorium at UNCA, festival director Jonathan Frederick confessed that he "may have stalked" the Moog Foundation to enlist its participation in the science extravaganza, now in its second year.

"We're big fans of what they do," Frederick said, his eyes opening wide as he put on headphones and let an otherworldly melody flow through his ears. "It's like every science fiction movie my dad made me watch."

Dr. Bob's SoundSchool is the Moog Foundation's hallmark educational project, teaching the science of sound through the magic of music. The program is currently being taught to second-graders in Asheville, with hopes of expanding into Buncombe County and, eventually, across the nation.

Saturday's event was an opportunity to open the teaching project to others, said Michelle Moog-Koussa, Moog's daughter and executive director of the Moog Foundation.

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