Blog :: 11-2012

Extreme kayaking film makes Asheville premier



11/29/2012 - Extreme kayaking film makes Asheville premier
by Karen Chavez - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- Steve Fisher spent a childhood in South Africa hearing deadly tales about the mighty Congo River. For a boy who started kayaking at age 6, the stories were terrifying, yet intriguing.

"I remember hearing about the French expedition in 1985, where eight guys died," said Fisher, 36, professional kayaker and filmmaker. "I considered the Congo impossible to run."

The Inga Rapids on the Congo River are the biggest on the planet -- 100 times mightier than the Colorado River as it runs through the Grand Canyon. Rapids so enormous, they had never been successfully run by humans -- at least none who had ever lived to tell the tale. Until last year.

That's when Fisher and his elite expedition team survived the seemingly insurmountable to not only paddle through the Inga Rapids, but also to film the adventure, which turned into the 80-minute documentary "Congo - The Grand Inga Project."

The film, which chronicles the historic first descent of a 50-mile section of the Congo River, earlier this month won Best Film at the X-Dance Film Festival in Salt Lake City, the world's premiere action sports film festival.

Fisher, who now lives in Seattle, will present the only showing of the film tonight in Asheville at Highland Brewing Co., and will discuss the myriad struggles the team faced in making the film. It started in 2007 with a scouting expedition, which included Fisher's old friend and Asheville videographer, John Grace.

Grace, 36, is the longtime director of the infamous Green River Narrows Race, which lures kayakers from around the world in early November to race the class 5 rapids of the Polk County river.

Although the Green is known as one of the most extreme kayak races in the world, it's practically a puddle compared to running the Congo.

"The Green River at normal flow is 250 cfs (cubic feet per second). At high flow it would be 500 cfs," Grace said. "The Congo is 1.6 million cfs. The rapids are certainly class 6 (the highest class). The only way to really to understand them is to watch this movie. You can't grasp how deep and how much volume of water it has."

Even though the Amazon River has a higher volume of water, the Congo has the bigger rapids, since the river has a much steeper gradient over a shorter stretch to its mouth, Grace said.

Grace, who met Fisher while filming for an IMAX film on the Colorado River in the 1990s, spent a terrifying month with him in 1997 in the civil war-torn Congo - without ever getting into a kayak. They met with local government officials and tribal chiefs to try to ensure the kayakers' safe passage down the river.

"We needed to be able to walk around on the banks, move around freely, have a helicopter, without getting shot," said Grace, who runs AMONGSTiT.TV.

"We were there to look at rapids. We chartered a plane and got an idea of significant points on the river and established contact with all different people in the Congolese government. Then war broke out and it all went to crap. Not only are the rapids daunting, but the political landscape is as bad as anywhere in the world."

The team had to wait four more years to run the river until the fighting danger died down. Although Grace was not able to join the team last summer because he was getting married, Fisher called Grace one of the expedition's early key players.

"In 2002, when I started work as professional kayaker, I was invited on a first descent of the Yarlung Tsangpo River in Tibet," Fisher said. "That was a river considered, until then, impossible, and we did it. That's when I got attached to doing things that seemed impossible. I thought we should have another look at the Congo."

He started pitching to potential sponsors, and after the 2007 reconnaissance trip, armed with photos and permits, Red Bull signed on as the project's main sponsor. Fisher and the team paddled Liquid Logic kayaks, which fittingly were products of the Green River.

"I became so desperate to do the Congo that I couldn't focus on anything else. I'm very relieved I got to achieve a goal I wanted to do for so long," Fisher said. "We were very relieved to make it out to the other side. There were a lot of close calls. We definitely questioned whether it was the smart thing to be doing. We may have survived these rapids, but somehow we feel more humbled than proud."

Grace said that while in this case we know the movie's ending &md ash; Fisher makes it out alive -- it is a must see. "The kayak savvy crowd that will be blown away," Grace said, but it is also for "anyone who has ever been interested in an adventure."

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Greenway planned near downtown Asheville



11/28/2012 - Greenway planned near downtown Asheville
by Mark Barrett - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- A greenway stretching along the crest and western slope of Beaucatcher Mountain could be completed within two years following action by City Council.

On Tuesday, Council approved 6-0 a $310,000 contract with a Raleigh firm to design the greenway, which will provide views of downtown and mountains to the west.

The northern end of the paved greenway path would be near a historic stone bridge over Beaumont Street located a little south of the Interstate 240 cut. It would run south about 1.3 miles to Memorial Stadium and spur trails would lead to Mountainside Park and White Fawn Reservoir.

Parks Director Roderick Simmons told council the city should be able to do the entire job for no more than the $1.2 million already set aside for the project in the city's 2011-12 budget, but that his department is also seeking grant funds.

Some of the city's greenways get heavy use, but city government has been strapped at times to find the money to expand its greenway network.

There may still be a hitch in getting Beaucatcher Greenway built. Some homeowners in the area dispute the city's right to use what City Attorney Bob Oast describes as an unopened right-of-way for the path.

Oast told council Tuesday that the city's ability to build on right-of-way is clear, but that homeowners had hired an attorney.

Simmons and Al Kopf, head of planning for the Parks and Recreation Department, describe the greenway route as a relatively level wooded pathway that was apparently graded for logging or another use decades ago.

"You won't believe you're downtown," Simmons said. "It's hard to believe we have that much forest so close to downtown."

"You feel like you're walking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park but you can see downtown," Kopf said.

In the late 1990s, city government considered tearing down the bridge near the planned greenway's northern terminus because stones and other debris were falling onto Beaumont Street.

Some residents persuaded the city to relent, and city government acquired the bridge in a land swap in 2009.

It's known as Zealandia Bridge, after the historic mansion nearby, or Helen's Bridge and was described in Thomas Wolfe's novel "Look Homeward, Angel." According to a local ghost story, a woman named Helen hanged herself from the bridge after the death of her daughter.

Simmons said it will take the Raleigh-based engineering and landscape architecture company called Stewart about 10 months to design the greenway and construction would take another 10 months.

City Council accepted a grant from the state in 2009 to buy land east of Memorial Stadium and atop Beaucatcher that is now 30-acre Beaucatcher Overlook Park, which the greenway will pass through. The terms of the grant require that the greenway be developed no later than 2014.

Mayor Terry Bellamy was absent Tuesday due to illness.

On other issues, council voted:

o To rezone 13.6 acres near the corner of Airport Road and Hendersonville Road from commercial to residential use.

The action will allow mobile homes to be returned to the property, which is the easternmost portion of Wellington Community Estates, a mobile home park. It had been zoned for commercial use when the city annexed it in 2009 at the request of the owner.

o To spend $60,000 to hire the Raleigh office of a regional law firm to represent the city's interests before the state General Assembly.


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Help plan future of national forests



11/26/2012 - Help plan future of national forests
by Karen Chavez - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- Chris Strout loves mountain biking the gnarly, speedy, single-track trails of the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests near his home.

But the president of Pisgah Area SORBA (Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association) wants to make sure those trails, and the rich and scenic forest resources surrounding them, will be there for his young children when they are grown.

To this end Strout, Pisgah Area SORBA and many others with an interest in plotting the future of Western North Carolina's national forests, will take part in the first phase of the three-phase process of revising the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests Land and Resource Management Plan.

The document, expected to take at least three years to complete, will guide management of Nantahala and Pisgah forests -- some of the country's most highly visited forests -- for about 15 years.

"Membership in Pisgah SORBA has grown 25 percent in the last nine months to about 250 members, and nationally for IMBA membership has grown 30 percent in the past two years," said Strout, who works for Cane Creek Cycling Components and lives in Hendersonville.

"We know that mountain biking is as popular as ever. Pisgah is the most visited Forest Service district outside of the ski areas in Colorado, and a lot of those visitors are mountain bikers and mountain bikers who come from all over the world to ride. We want to work with the Forest Service to optimize their plans for the next 15-20 years for the continuing increase in users."

Mountain bikers weren't even on the map when the last plan for Pisgah and Nantahala national forests was devised in 1987, Strout said. In the past 25 years, the forest landscape and its user profile has changed dramatically, and that is something the new plan will have to address, said Stevin Westcott, U.S. Forest spokesman.

Nantahala and Pisgah -- two of four national forests in North Carolina managed by the U.S. Forest Service, including the Uwharrie and the Croatan -- cover a 1 million-acre swath of the mountainous Western North Carolina. Together, they are among the most visited national forests in the nation, with 6-7 million visitors a year.

Each forest in the country is directed to revise its management plan every 15 years as a blueprint for guiding the agency on how to manage for timber, wildlife, water, recreation and other uses.

Earlier this year, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the release of a new National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule, which will place a greater emphasis on science and watershed protection while promoting multiple uses such as logging and recreation, when developing new forest plans.

The Nantahala and Pisgah Forest Plan will be among the first to be revised under the new planning rule. Taking place over the next three to four years, the plan will have three phases: assessment , which will include data collection on current forest conditions; planning , which will involve analyzing data and determining management practices needed; and monitoring , in which the plan implementation will be monitored until the next plan revision.

Focus on conservation, collaboration

"There are two key components to the plan -- one is using the best available science and the other is collaboration," Westcott said. "We will start having public meetings in all of the districts in February. We will invite stakeholders, scientists, researchers, the public, nonprofits, everyone, to learn more and to share with us what's happening out there on the land."

In the first phase, which is expected to be completed by the fall of 2013, forest service personnel will collect data on the current state of Pisgah and Nanatahala, focusing on what changes are needed to the management plan.

They will be seeking advice from all interested parties, including mountain bikers, hikers, conservation groups, horseback riders, hunters, anglers and scientists, on everything from the state of the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, to the quality of air, soil and water, and conditions of trails and other recreation and cultural resources, Westcott said.

The forest service has a deadline of three years to finish the new management plan -- an enormous task, considering the forests' size and makeup, with communities that vary from dry yellow pines to high-elevation northern hardwoods and spruce-fir forests. They have almost 1,900 types of plants, including about 130 tree species and more than 300 species of vertebrate animals.

The types of f orest uses also vary broadly, from whitewater rafting to camping and picnicking, hiking and mountain biking, horseback riding to off-road vehicle riding and timber harvesting and research.

"When the original plan was drafted in the '80s, timber harvesting was a practice of greater importance, and that's changed quite a bit," Westcott said. "We harvest a fraction of the timber we used to. It has dropped 65 percent in the last 20 years. Now, one of the major issues we will be looking at is recreation. It's probably risen to one of the key issues. Recreation and tourism have increased significantly over the years."

This is where the public comes in, and every voice is crucial, said Brent Martin, regional director for The Wilderness Society, based in Sylva.

"There are elements that drive forest management in a more progressive way than in the past," Martin said. "We will move probably toward an outcome that will be fairly representative of various interest groups in WNC, such as resource extraction, hunting and fishing, conservation and recreation. We'd like to see a plan more reflective of the reality of WNC."

Martin said that when the original forest management plan was devised, the region was not as populated, and it was more resource extraction-based, whereas now it is more recreation-based.

"There's been a huge demographic shift in last 15-20 years," he said.

While recreational activities such as mountain biking and hiking are much more prolific than in the past two decades, and are much larger economic drivers, conservation should also play a bigger role in the new management plan, Martin said.

Some focus areas might include air, water and soil quality, removal of invasive species, protection of endangered species such as the Indiana bats being killed from white-nose syndrome and hemlock trees dying from hemlock woolly adelgid, and reintroduction of the American chestnut tree.

"We all agree on the fact that there's a much bigger demand for stewardship on forest land. Public partnerships are really the future of this forest, and I think we can create public-private partnerships that will really serve the forest and the public," Martin said.

"There will be a different relationship than has historically been on the forest. Groups like the Carolina Mountain Club and groups like The Wilderness Society are going to be increasingly depended upon."

Those partnerships are already starting to emerge, he said, with initiatives such as the Grandfather Restoration Project, a 10-year project designed to restore 40,000 acres of the Grandfather Ranger District in Pisgah National Forest.

The project, which began in March, is restoring fire-adapted forests with controlled burns and other methods to enhance conditions for a variety of native plants and wildlife, controlling non-native species and protecting hemlocks from the invasive adelgid beetles.

Some of the many partners in the project include: Southern Blue Ridge Fire Learning Network, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, N.C. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, Wild South, the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, Trout Unlimited, The Southern Forest Network, Land-of-Sky Regional Council, WNC Alliance, and The Wilderness Society.

The project has reduced hazardous fuels on nearly 4,600 acres of the Grandfather District through prescribed burning, saved some 2,600 hemlock trees; and treated 750 acres to remove invasive land and water species, among other tasks.

Strout, of SORBA, said the mountain biking group has also been working closely with the Forest Service and other user groups, to develop sustainable trails and lessen impact on forest resources.

As far as the first phase of the new management plan, Strout said, "it's now in the public domain. What we as partners with the forest service need to do is convince the public that this next set of public meetings is something that has to get done.

"The public needs to come out and take feedback to the forest service. It's what's best for the forest and what's best for forest users 10 years down the line. My daughter is turning 4 and my son is 1. I want them to know what Pisgah is. It's such an awesome place."

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Whole Foods to open store in Asheville



11/21/2012 - Whole Foods to open store in Asheville
by Jason Sanford - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- Whole Foods Market, a publicly traded natural and organic foods grocery store chain based in Texas, announced Tuesday that it's planning to open a store in a Tunnel Road shopping center that's getting a major makeover.

Whole Foods Market said the planned 35,000-square-foot store, the first Asheville store under the Whole Foods Market brand, is scheduled to open in 2014. The Greenlife Grocey the company owns on Merrimon Avenue will remain open, a company spokeswoman said. The new store will be the company's 11th in North Carolina.

Lyle Darnall, a representative for Edens, the South Carolina-based development company that owns the east Asheville shopping center, said the company plans to invest more than $15 million to remake the location into a retail hub that will attract a variety of sellers and shoppers. The company plans to demolish the building that's home to the center's biggest tenant, Kmart, and build three new structures. Kmart announced last week it will close its Tunnel Road store in January.

"The shopping centers we've put together have a unique design and are a community gathering spot," Darnall said. "When it's all said and done, you won't recognize that shopping center."

Whole Foods Market is a key partner, Darnall said, and will help the center draw a mix of local, regional and national retailers to the shopping center.

"I think it's a good starting point and we will be looking for other retailers who work well with that piece to create a cohesive environment" for shoppers, he said.

Mike Howard, Whole Foods Market's South region vice president, said in a written news release that the company had been looking for location for a new store "for quite some time."

"Asheville is a great city with a lot of interest in natural and organic food, so we are excited to be adding to our roster of stores in the area and to be bringing a new store to the market," Howard said.

The arrival of Whole Foods Market adds another major grocery store chain to the ever -growing list of grocers and specialty food stores moving into Asheville. The specialty food store Trader Joe's announced earlier this year that it will build a store on Merrimon Avenue near another big new grocery store under construction by Harris Teeter.

Whole Foods Market had sales of $12 billion in fiscal 2012. It currently has 343 stores in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. The chain features natural foods free of artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, and preservatives and hydrogenated fats.

Reaction from people at the shopping center Tuesday afternoon was mixed.

Faye Williams, a clerk at the Tuesday Morning store in the center, said her son lives in Austin, Texas, and that she has shopped Whole Foods Market stores there.

"It's very definitely a good thing," Williams said. "We need more of that kind of thing."

Daniel Smith, an instructor at the Crossfit Asheville gym adjacent to the Kmart store, said the new store will mean stiffer competition for existing retailers.

"Asheville loves its healthy food, but it's way too many new stores at once," Smith said.

Representatives from Edens told staff members from the city of Asheville on Monday that the building currently housing Kmart would be demolished. A 35,00-square-foot building, a 30,000-square-foot building and an 8,000-square-foot building will replace the Kmart building.

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'Buy Local' advocates aim to mature Asheville movement



11/19/2012 - 'Buy Local' advocates aim to mature Asheville movement
by Carol Motsinger - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- When Franzi Charen walks by the Go Local or Love Asheville signs or stickers in local storefront windows, she doesn't think about business.

Her thoughts concern community, not commerce.

For the energetic leader of Asheville Grown Business Alliance, Go Local is about "what makes a community, in a true sense."

"It's the difference between consumers and citizens," she said.

In just three years, Charen and the other volunteers behind Asheville Grown -- a grassroots, educational campaign focused on growing Asheville's vibrant economy -- have unified the independent, locally owned business community through creative branding campaigns, innovative partnerships and festive, jam-packed celebrations.

But after a successful first year for the Go Local Card, a project benefiting Asheville Grown and city schools, Charen said a second year of strong sales may provide the time and resources to "evaluate what's next."

"One of the things that we have lacked is a true strategic plan," she said, noting they sold around 1,000 of the Go Local discount cards last year. The new card, which costs $16 online, are on sale now.

"We haven't taken the time to sit back and really do that because we have a limited capacity. We wanted to focus on doing a couple things really well. For us, as a volunteer campaign, we've been concentrating on doing those things well year after year because we decided that was better than expanding into new projects. But if we raise enough money from sales of the Go Local card, we might be able to hire someone to work for the alliance."

Now, Charen runs the organization with the help of an eight-person steering committee. In between chatting with the customers at her Lexington Avenue boutique, Hip Replacements, Charen is typing away on her laptop, answering emails, seeking new research about the importance of a local economy, promoting businesses and events, including May's Big Love Fest that celebrates independent and "unchained" shops.

The concept of supporting handmade and homegrown existed ages before Charen moved to Asheville and the alliance was hatched. Asheville Grown, however, has snared that pervasive spirit, given it a name and face, and released it back into the modern world in a modern way.

"It's woven into the fabric of the community, and has its origins in the Biltmore Industries, Guild Crafts and Black Mountain College ethos," said Brandy Bourne, an organizer of the Big L ove Fest and Big Crafty, a biannual indie craft bazaar.

The Big Crafty will return Dec. 2 to the Asheville Art Museum. Bourne noted she's noticed in other towns that the Buy Local and sister movements "feel abstract."

The alliance "has taken that general sentiment that exists here and turned it into something concrete. They've put a name to it, generated energy around it and channeled that energy into concrete projects, and their efforts are hailed around the nation," she said.

The alliance emerged after Charen received requests for a holiday shopping branding campaign, and answered the call with "Local is the New Black" posters for participating business owners.

The posters will return this year with the season, ushered in by the Black Friday sales push the day after Thanksgiving. The alliance will debut its first Go Local independent business directory in December and online in the next couple weeks, Charen said. The directory is done in partnership with the Mountain Xpress; 28,000 copies of the directory will be available as part of the weekly publication and another 12,000 will be available for distribution elsewhere.

"When we've had strong partners with great ideas, we felt like the work wasn't all on us," Charen said. "Partnerships seem like the thing that has moved forward."

Since that first winter, Asheville Grown's evolution "has been truly driven by the community," Charen said. "When it started, it was just posters for the holidays. And then somebody asked, 'What are you doing for Valentine's Day shopping?' I said, 'I don't know.' But I figured that out, and we just went from there."

A national leader

Local efforts, particularly the Go Local Card discount program benefiting local city schools, garner praise from national leaders in independent business advocacy.

Jeff Milchen, co-director of the American Independent Business Alliance, said he considers Asheville Grown work "really innovative."

"They are opening up new realms of opportunities," he said, particularly noting the Go Local Card partnership with Asheville City Schools Foundation and the Asheville City Schools. "We are frequently referencing their work in our newsletters."

Asheville Grown has also done a "great job of building on what's there" with an individual touch, Milchen said. The organization uses AIBA's educational and research material, but has customized approaches with creative imagery.

Advocacy groups across the country often struggle with developing a local Buy Local concept. In Asheville's case, the iconic and spirited Love Asheville campaign taps into the artistic talent and it's contemporary, casual aesthetic.

The work of Asheville Grown and similar organizations across the country does translate as cash into small-business's registers.

The fifth-annual post-holiday survey of independent businesses by Stacy Mitchell, of the Institute for Local Self Reliance, yielded evidence that pro-local attitudes are growing and local businesses are benefiting from advocacy and awareness campaigns.

The survey tallied responses from 1,768 businesses in 49 states, and found that independent businesses in communities with an active "buy indie/buy local" campaign run by a local business/citizen alliance saw revenues grow 7.2 percent in 2011, compared to 2.6 percent for those in areas without an alliance.

Taking action

The second phase of Asheville Grown, Charen said, has focused on turning awareness into action; sentiment into sales.

The Go Local Card features discounts and services from 360 locally owned, independent businesses, providing ways for local businesses to give back to the alliance and schools, and incentives for shoppers to choose local.

Last year, organizers aimed for 30 participating businesses and signed up 120; sales of the cards raised $10,000 for the schools.

Charen said she believes the Go Local Card has been a success because of its positive, community-oriented benefits.

"The schools are the next generation who is running Asheville," she said. "If we instill in them a value, an understanding of the benefit of local economy and keeping unique, creative avenues for entrepreneurship alive in the this town, we are setting ourselves up for a successful future."

Asheville Grown also organizes the occasional surprise, social spending event called a Ca$hMob. The organization chooses a locally owned business, and "mobsters" are asked to spend $20 at the event, meet three new people, and socialize over drinks later.

In September, about 40 people mobbed, Zapow!, an art and illustration gallery on Battery Park Avenue.

"Being Cashmobbed was a wonderful boon to our business," said co-owner Lauren Patton. "It brought new people into the gallery, and it brought in sales for the artists on a Thursday afternoon in September, which is typically a slow retail time ... It made us feel thankful to be a part of such a wonderful community that wants to support local businesses."

Artist Greg Vineyard's illustrations are featured at Zapow!, and he also operates a ceramic studio in the River Arts District's Curve Studios. On Nov. 10-11, Vineyard participated in the studio stroll, a biannual event that exemplifies that cooperation, rather than competition, defines the district of around 280 artists.

"The diversity is wonderful," Vineyard said. "We support each other. We are aware of each other's work, hours and events. It helps us promote each other ... the philosophy is that if you can't find something in our studio, we hope you find something in the district. And if not there, downtown. Or Asheville. Or Western North Carolina. There is an ever expanding desire to keep business in our expanding circles of community."

What's next, needed

Vineyard noted that although the Buy Local culture and collective energy is strong, he encourages more individuals to volunteer time, whatever time and effort they can, to cultivate further awareness.

For Brandy Bourne, the "moral support" is rich for local businesses, artists, crafters and makers.

"And the better known of that group can do well financially," she said. "It has provided less in the way of infrastructure and opportunities for those just starting out, though programs like Blue Ridge Food Ventures are getting us there."

Charen would like to work more with city officials to determine if there are partnership opportunities for advocacy events or innovative government incentives to encourage small business growth.

"But they can't know what we need unless we tell them," she said.

Charen also noted that the banking and lending system should be shifted to support more start-ups.

So much local money is being "blindly put into Wall Street," she said. "If we could take a fraction of that money that is being invested in pensions, in IRAs, for example, and redirect to local businesses, it would make a huge difference. What if we could select a CD where all of our money would be dedicated to loans for small businesses? There are so many working ideas."

One model: Bank of North Dakota. It's the only state-owned bank in the country, "and instead of acting like a for-profit bank, it acts more like a civic institution and invests back in the state. That's a great model to learn from."

Jeff Milchen agrees that the next Buy Local development will come from statewide cooperation and collaboration. And it's happening in North Carolina: A couple weeks ago, Charen met with fellow advocates across the state in Pittsboro.

Charen, however, wants to also focus on "raising the bar" in her backyard. It"s not just about buying local; that's why last year, Asheville Grown changed the language from "buy local" to "go local."

The idea is to live locally, to incorporate local makers and service providers beyond the products on the store shelves.

"It's fine if you have a business, and you have a Go Local sign in your window," she said. "But as a business owner, hopefully thinking how are you going local behind the scenes? Where are your cleaning products coming from, for example?"

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Asheville parade kicks off holiday season



11/19/2012 - Asheville parade kicks off holiday season
by Barbara Blake - Asheville Citizen Times

While throngs of moms and dads waited eagerly for the Kodak moment when their children would dance/tumble/skate/cheer/wave during the Asheville Holiday Parade, volunteers with the city's Folk Heritage Committee were scanning the crowd for kids holding baby dolls or basketballs.

They weren't plotting to snatch the toys out of a bewildered child's hands. Rather, they hoped that some among the thousands would voluntarily offer some trinkets to brighten the lives of children in the Northeast who no longer have homes, much less lavish wish-lists for Christmas.

The idea of collecting toys for the youngest victims of Superstorm Sandy came from Judy Miller, chair of the Folk Heritage Committee, which produces Shindig on the Green and the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival.

The link between preserving Appalachian mountain culture and providing toys for children in New York and New Jersey isn't as tenuous as one might think.

"Any Saturday night at Shindig we see grandparents, moms, dads and children having a joyful time dancing to the bands and clapping for the cloggers," Miller said. "And at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, families gather in the performers' rooms to give hugs and high-fives after great stage performances.

"The leap from this focus on family to wanting to bring a measure of joy to New York and New Jersey families affected by this devastating storm was not a great one," she said. "When Americans are hurting, other Americans step up -- it's just what we do."

The city stepped up Saturday with dolls, games, stuffed animals, make-up kits, Mr. Potato Heads, tea sets, sports equipment, craft boxes and other gifts that will surely be welcome in the northern cities where the late October storm flattened entire neighborhoods and left thousands homeless.

Carol Sutton, retired after 33 years as a teacher and now a volunteer tutor at Pisgah Elementary School, went shopping immediately after learning of the toy drive from friends and family members involved with the Folk Heritage Committee.

"This is a group that gives of themselves year-round; they're the kind of people when they see or hear of a need, they're going to go in that direction," Sutton said. "And the first thing I thought was that I want to support them."

Sutton likened her reaction to the storm damage to a trip she once took to out west.

"Oh, my goodness gracious," she said. "I went to the Grand Canyon, and it took my breath away. I brought back a book of photos, but then I realized there's no way you can capture what it actually looks like.

"The storm was the same way," Sutton said. "Anytime I see something of that magnitude ... you can see pictures all day long, but I can't even begin to imagine how severe that devastation is."

As a teacher who loves children, though, she can imagine well enough.

"You think about the people up there just trying to make it from day to day, and all the little children ... then it starts being real personal," Sutton said. "The Folk Heritage Committee also has a heart for children, and this was a wonderful opportunity to help in just a very small way."

Once the toys were by collected by volunteers marching in Shindig's unit, the parade continued with its usual assortment of marching bands, dancers and gymnasts, scout and church groups, big trucks and elaborate floats, horses and llamas, color guards and cheerleaders, the occasional beauty queen and adoptable dogs from the Asheville Humane Society.

Santa Claus, of course, is the perennial crowd favorite, suited up this year in traditional red and white with a cheery smile behind his curly white whiskers.

The mysterious and magical St. Nick, by the way, is apparently an American citizen, if Old Glory flying at the tip of the sleigh in front of the reindeer was any indication.

The drumbeats that signaled the approach of the Hillcrest High Steppin' Majorette and Drum Corps immediately changed the energy of the crowd, which whooped and hollered with appreciation as the young performers strutted their stuff.

A similar reaction came with the arrival of the zany LaZoom bus, its trademark naughty nun waving saucily from the top of the purple party on wheels -- a hard act for the unit that followed: a small band of comparably demure New World Celts.

At the end of the route near Clingman Avenue, the parade participants' reactions were varied as their moments in the spotlight c ame to a close, some expressing relief that the march from South Charlotte Street was over, others not so much.

The Asheville High School marching band, reminiscent of the musicians playing in the dying moments of the Titanic, continued valiantly with their tunes even after running into a dead end in a parking lot on Patton Avenue.

On a float that followed, one of the women standing atop it looked around at the sidewalks void of humanity after being surrounded by cheers and music for nearly two hours.

"Oh, no," she said sadly. "It ends with a whimper."

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Asheville Running Tours combines racing, beer, wine



11/15/2012 - Asheville Running Tours combines racing, beer, wine
by Karen Chavez - Asheville Citizen Times

It was a no-brainer that Marty Harwood-Edes and her friend, Lisa Wheeler, couldn't believe had not yet been dreamed up in the entrepreneurial hub of Asheville.

With Asheville's moniker as "Beer City USA" and the swelling number of runners and 5K races splitting the city's seams, the only logical next step was to combine the two passions into one business, which the two women did this summer.

Their new company, Asheville Running Tours, mixes their love of Asheville's culture, history and scenic beauty with running, beer and even wine.

"We like to go on runs and we like to drink craft beer," said Harwood-Edes, founder of Asheville Running Tours with co-owner Wheeler.

"We did a lot of research before starting the business. We looked at what was available, and nobody in the area is doing anything quite like this. We have so many breweries. We're getting two marathons next year. There's a lot of running in Asheville."

Harwood-Edes, 34, a personal trainer and physical education teacher, married to Holly Harwood-Edes, is a marathon runner who leads a women's running group and also does one-on-one marathon training. She likes to travel around the country to run marathons, and on her travels, thought running would be a great way for people to tour cities while on vacation.

She threw the idea around with friend and personal training client Wheeler.

"We thought this would be a great time to bring people here to Asheville and show off what the city has to offer with beer and wine and crafts and history," Harwood-Edes said.

Wheeler, 46, is a former runner who now walks and a physician's assistant specializing in sports medicine, working in healthcare consulting.

"We're always bouncing things off of each other," Wheeler said. "She was looking for other people to co-own and I said 'I'm in.'"

The business launched this summer with a schedule of 5K, or 3.1-mile, Beer Runs. Tours range from one to 12 people, who take in a scenic tour of downtown and the River Arts District, each with a plastic beer mug in hand, and stop to sample at partner businesses including Asheville Brewing, Craggie, Green Man Ales, Lexington Avenue Brewery (LAB), Wedge Brewery and other stops at places such as Beer City Bikes and Second Gear, that are "uniquely Asheville."

Wheeler heads up the walking tours, aka "Wine Waddles," where tours walk from wine bars, such as Sante in the Grove Arcade, to wine shops such as Weinhaus on College Street, tasting wine, and soaking up local culture and flavor along the way, sort of a slower, tastier trolley tour.

"There's such fantastic opportunities with wine bars and cocktail lounges," Wheeler said. "We were thinking, how can you walk around Asheville and make it fun? We'll show you the beautiful places and let you enjoy wine at the same time."

These are no slurp and burp tours. Beer and wine aficionados will be pleasantly surprised to receive as much of an education as they would at any standing-up-only tastings.

Jacque May, of Asheville, who calls herself a serious wine enthusiast, took a Wine Waddle with some friends this summer.

"We began at the Grove Arcade and walked to different partners and wine bars, including Sante and Strada," May said. "The wines we were served were interesting and varied. The partners knew their wine. I was impressed."

May, who has lived in Asheville since 1998, said she was also surprised by how much she learned about the history and nuances of the city along the tour.

Harwood-Edes and Wheeler have set schedules of Beer Runs and Wine Waddles during the summer and fall peak tourist seasons, and have recently added Booty Buster tours with personal trainer Tera Pruett and New Beginnings Fitness, who will take folks looking for high-intensity, non-alcoholic workout runs. The company will also do custom tours, like the recent bachelorette party they hosted.

A group of 10 bridesmaids ranging in age from 27 to 34, with a bride getting married in Raleigh, were looking for a unique, active, stripper- and alcohol-free bachelorette party.

"The bride (Bonnie Scoggins) didn't want to do the typical bar scene," said her maid of honor, Morgan Greene, of Raleigh. "She's a marathon runner and she's super passionate about running."

Greene said the group was thinking about coming to Asheville to have the October party at the Biltmore Estate, but when she started scouring the web, she found Asheville Running Tours and asked if they could do an alcohol-free tour since two bridesmaids were pregnant.

"It was perfect," Greene said. "They did all the planning. We started at the Grove Arcade and ran through the historic neighborhoods in Montford and they told us stories about people who lived there (including an old ghost tale of a man who returned from the dead). We went to a park and stopped at the Basilica."

At each stop, the running guides surprised the bride with a gift, such as a tiara, a sash and a wand. The 5K tour ended with an alcohol-free "champagne" toast and a reservation for breakfast for 10 at Tupelo Honey Cafe.

"It was a unique party, it was very fun and very catered to the bride," Greene said. "They went above and beyond."

So far, glowing reports such as the bridesmaids' have kept ART humming, Harwood-Edes said. They have done little marketing other than an ad on the race registration site and lots of social media. Mayor Terry Bellamy even retweeted a photo of ART's bridal party in front of the Basilica of St. Lawrence a couple of weeks ago, which brought ART more attention.

Women's Running Magazine will feature the business in its January-February edition. But ART tours are not just for women.

"We have a good mix of men and women," Harwood-Edes said. "We run at a social pace -- about a 13-10-minute mile, so people can talk while they run. We try to make it comfortable so you can enjoy your location. There's always two guides -- one at the front and one at back to keep the group together."

Wheeler said the business is safety oriented and all of the contract guides must have CPR and first aid training, and Wheeler is always on call in case of a medical emergency.

"We are very clear about safety," Wheeler said. "Anyone on beer or wine tours must be at least 21 and we emphasize drinking water on the tours."

The women said they had a strong launch and are now in a planning phase. They expect to hold a fund-raising run early next year to benefit Girls on the Run of Western North Carolina, but said they will hold tours throughout the winter if people request them.

"We're excited," Wheeler said. "We were taken aback by the interest we've gotten, in a very positive manner."

"I love the idea of fitness, travel and flavor," Harwood-Edes said, "and this is a way to tie them all together."

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Asheville area holiday events



11/14/2012 - Asheville area holiday events
by Asheville Citizen Times


Nov. 17: Asheville at 11 a.m. (

Nov. 18: Marion at 3 p.m.

Nov. 25: Franklin at 3 p.m. (

Dec. 1: Valdese at 10 a.m. (, Hendersonville at 10:30 a.m. (Five Points to Caswell Street, 692-4179 or visit, Weaverville at 1 p.m. (at North Main Street and Dula Springs Road, visit, Murphy at 2 p.m. (, Brevard at 3 p.m. (, Old Fort at 4 p.m., Cherokee at 5 p.m., Maggie Valley at 6 p.m. (, Bakersville at 6 p.m.

Dec. 3: Waynesville at 6 p.m. (

Dec. 6: Canton at 6 p.m. (

Dec. 8: Fletcher at 10:30 a.m. (, Bryson City at 2 p.m. (, Black Mountain at 4 p.m. (, Cashiers (, Robbinsville at 6 p.m.

Dec. 12: Tryon at 5 p.m. (

Seasonlong events

19th Century Carolina Christmas, Nov. 16-Jan. 4. Smith-McDowell House, 283 Victoria Road, Asheville (on A-B Tech campus). House is decked in Victorian holiday decor. Candlelight tours available by reservation for groups of 12 or more for $15. Admission $10 for adults, $6 for college students, $5 for age 8-18. Call 253-9231 or visit

Holidays for Hospice, Asheville Mall hosts the CarePartners Garden of Memories. For details on memorial ornaments, visit Call 277-4815.

"The Polar Express," Nov. 9-Dec. 29, Bryson City. Read along with the story "The Polar Express" on Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Meet Santa, enjoy caroling, hot cocoa and a treat. Times and dates vary. Tickets start at $39 for adults, $26 for ages 2-12. Visit or call 800-872-4681.

Christmas at Biltmore, Nov. 3-Jan. 1, Biltmore Estate. Regular admission applies until dusk. Additional charge for Candlelight Christmas Evenings, Nov. 9-Dec. 31. Visit

National Gingerbread House Competition: Judging is Nov. 17. Entries on display Nov. 20-Jan. 2 at The Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa, 290 Macon Ave., Asheville. Community viewing recommended Monday-Thursday. Parking $10. Call 800-438-0050, ext. 1281.

Holiday Fest, Nov. 17-Dec. 23, Tom Sawyer's Christmas Tree Farm and Elf Village, 240 Chimney Pond Road, Glenville. Elf Village open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Tree farm open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Free. Kids listen to elf tales, create crafts, write wish lists or tell it to Santa in person, Christmas tree maze. Visit or call 743-5456.

Nov. 13-Dec. 2

"Inspecting Carol," holiday comedy of mistaken identity, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 16-Dec. 2, Asheville Community Theatre, 35 E. Walnut St. 254-1320.

Henderson County Toy Run, Nov. 17, at Fletcher Community Park, Howard Gap Road. Registration starts at 11 a.m., ride at 2 p.m. $10 or new, unwrapped toy.

Christmas Ornament Festival, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 17, Burnsville Town Center. The 10th annual event where local artists showcase work, with many one-of-a-kind items and ornaments available. Visit

Hendersonville Chorale winter concert "Saints and Angels," 3 p.m. Nov 17, First Baptist Church, 312 5th Ave. W. $15. Call 696-4968 or 697-6766.

"Warmth of Home" concert featuring Tom Fisch and Terry Wetton, 7 p.m. Nov. 17, Opportunity House, 1411 Asheville Hwy., Hendersonville. Benefit for Interfaith Assistance Ministry winter heating fund. $12 advance, $15 at door. 697-7029.

Holiday Open House, noon-4 p.m. Nov. 18, downtown Waynesville. Visit

Lorraine Conard Christmas concert, 3 p.m. Nov. 18, Haywood County Public Library, 678 S. Haywood St., Waynesville. Free.

Franklin tree lighting, 7 p.m. Nov. 23. Free music and refreshments. On the square in downtown Franklin. Visit

Hendersonville tree lighting, 7 p.m. Nov. 23 at Downtown Hendersonville Historic Courthouse. Four Seasons' Tree of Lights ceremony honors loved ones with luminaries displaying their names. Visit Call 233-0304.

"Hard Candy Christmas" Fine Art & Craft Show, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 23-24, Ramsey Center at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee. $4, free age 12 and younger. 524-3405 or

Cookies with Santa, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 24, downtown Franklin. Kids are invited to visit with Santa, enjoy cookies and cider and even write their letter to Santa and place in a special mailbox in front of Town Hall. Visit

"In the Nutcracker Mood," 2 p.m. Nov. 24. Asheville Puppetry Alliance presents Mountain Marionettes' holiday production with holiday classics performed by marionettes. At Diana Wortham Theatre. Visit or

Moscow Ballet's "Great Russian Nutcracker," 3 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 24, Harrah's Event Center at Harrah's Cherokee. The ballet celebrates 20 years of touring North America with a cast of 40 dancers. Visit www.harrahscherokee. com.

Ole Timey Christmas, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 24. Christmas wreaths, fresh greenery, crafts, demonstrations, music, carriage rides, more, at Henderson County Curb Market in downtown Hendersonville. Call 692-8012 or visit

Holiday Barn Tour, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 24, Foothills Equestrian Nature Center, 3374 Hunting Country Road, Tryon. Exhibitions of equestrian disciplines and equine breeds available in our foothills. Fox hunting presentation. $15. Barbecue for sale. Following the exhibitions, maps available for ticket holders to go on a self guided tour of three nearby and completely different barns. Area vineyards will be open for tastings and tours. 859-9021 or

Messiah Sing, 3 p.m. Nov. 25, Trinity Presbyterian Church, 900 Blythe St., Hendersonville. 45-piece orchestra and about 100 singers. Singers must bring their own music and paper clips to mark the 12 choruses to be performed. Free. 693-3081.

Franc D'Ambrosio's "Christmas in New York" concert fund raiser, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 26, St. Eugene Catholic Church, 72 Culvern St., Asheville. Franc is best known as the longest running phantom in "The Phantom of the Opera." $35. Call 254-5193 for tickets.

"The Nutcracker," Nov. 28-Dec. 22. Flat Rock Playhouse presents "The Nutcracker" as you've not seen it before in a new interpretation choreographed by Playhouse YouTheatre alumnus Chase Brock. Tickets $40 with discounts available. Visit or call 693-0731.

Biltmore Village Dickens Festival, 5-7 p.m. Nov. 30, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Dec. 1, and 1-5 p.m. Dec. 2, Biltmore Village, Asheville. Storytellers, carolers and entertainers on the stage and streets. Visit

Fletcher tree lighting, 5:30 p.m. Nov. 30 at Fletcher Community Park. Carols by Fletcher Community Chorus, visit from Santa. Free with nonperishable food donations suggested. Visit

Carolina Mountain Christmas Spectacular of "Christmas Time in the City" featuring Denver & The Mile High Orchestra, 7 p.m. Nov. 30 and 1, 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 1, Biltmore Baptist Church, 35 Clayton Road, Arden. $10, $15 reserved seating, $20 gold circle seating. Visit, or call 687-1111.

"A Holiday to Remember," 7 p.m. Nov. 30 and 4 p.m. Dec. 1. Asheville Choral Society performs Rachmaninoff vespers, carols and lullabies from the Southwest, and a singalong of carols, plus a special performance by the Hall Fletcher Elementary School children's percussion choir. Visit or call 232-2060.

Toe River Studio Tour, noon-4 p.m. Nov. 30, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 1-2. Reception 5-7 p.m. Nov. 30 at TRAC Gallery in Spruce Pine. More than 100 studios and galleries open their doors to the public. Showcases the array of creative talent in Yancey and Mitchell counties. The tour is free and self-guided. A 40-page map guide allows folks to chart their own course. Visit or call 682-7215.

"The Return of the Nutcracker and the Mouse King," 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30-Dec. 1, by Asheville Contemporary Dance Theatre at Diana Wortham Theatre at Pack Place, 2 N. Pack Sq. $25, $20 children/students/seniors. 257-4530.

Brevard Twilight Tour, 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Dec. 1, downtown Brevard. The 25th annual merchants' open house with Santa and Christmas parade. Call 884-3278. Visit

Papertown Christmas Craft Fair, 9 a.m-5 p.m. Dec. 1, Canton Armory, 71 Penland St., Canton. Pictures with Santa from 10 a.m.-noon. Handmade quilts, pottery, canned goods, knitting, jewelry, gift baskets and more. Email

Smoky Mountain Toy Run, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 1, motorcycle ride to benefit children. Visit E-mail

Historic 7th Avenue Children's "Polar Express" event, 11:45 a.m.-noon Dec. 1 (immediately following Hendersonville Christmas parade), Historic Train Depot. Experience the reading of the Polar Express story with a live conductor, Santa Claus and refreshments. Children may attend in their pajamas. For age 0-12. Call 674-3067 or visit

Christmas at the Farm, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 1, Historic Johnson Farm, 3345 Haywood Road, Hendersonville. Holiday music, cookies and cider, house tours, wagon rides, more. $5 for adults, $3 for students, free preschoolers and younger. Call 891-6585 or visit

Guild Artists' Holiday Sale, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 1 and 8. Southern Highlands Craft Guild artists sell their work at Folk Art Center, Milepost 382, Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville. Visit

Vance Birthplace Christmas, 4-7 p.m. Dec. 1, Reems Creek Road, Weaverville. Guided candlelight tours and a look at Christmas in the southern Appalachians during the early 1800s. Call 645-6706 or visit

"A Christmas Carol," 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, matinees at 2:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 6-23, Asheville Masonic Temple, 80 Broadway St., Asheville. Montford Park Players present the holiday classic. Visit or call 254-5146 for tickets.

"The Nutcracker" by Ballet Conservatory, 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6, Western Carolina University's Bardo Arts Center, Cullowhee. $10-$25. 255-5777 or

Winter Wonderland, 5-9 p.m. Dec. 7, downtown Franklin. Ice sculpture slide, live music, carriage rides, hot cider and refreshments. Visit

Holly Jolly, 5-9 p.m. Dec. 7, Black Mountain. Refreshments, street music, Santa and more. Shops open late. Free. Visit

Olde Fashion Hendersonville Christmas, 5-8 p.m., Dec. 7, downtown Hendersonville. Merchants host an open house with refreshments, entertainment, carriage rides, a visit from Father Christmas and more. Visit

Dillsboro Festival of Lights and Luminaries, Dec. 7-8 and 14-15, downtown Dillsboro. Live musi c, carolers, holiday treats from merchants, horse and buggy rides (added cost plus tip) and Santa at Town Hall. Starts at dusk. Free. Call 800-962-1911 or visit

Christmas Candlelight Stroll, 6-9 p.m. Dec. 7, downtown Weaverville. Luminaries, entertainment, horse and buggy rides and Santa. Visit

"Music, Mirth and Good Cheer" concert by Blue Ridge Orchestra, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, Colonial Theater, Park Street, Canton. $15 adults, $10 Friend of BRO, $5 students. Visit

Asheville Ballet's "The Nutcracker," 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7-8 and 2:30 p.m. Dec. 8-9, Diana Wortham Theatre, Pack Place, downtown Asheville. Call 257-4530 or visit or

Appalachian Christmas Celebration, Dec. 7-8, Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center. Performances by Lake Junaluska Singers at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7 and 3 p.m. Dec. 8, with Handel's "Messiah" at 8 p.m. Dec. 8. Craft show 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Dec. 8. Visit or call 800-222-4930.

Guild Artists' Holiday Sale, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 8. Southern Highlands Craft Guild artists sell their work at Folk Art Center, Milepost 382, Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville. Visit

Circle of Lights, Dec. 8 after parade. Celebration around Lake Tomahawk in Black Mountain after the parade. Free. Visit

Holiday cookie bake sale, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 8, First Congregational Church, 1735 5th Ave. W., Hendersonville. Call 692-8630.

Christmas at Connemara, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Dec. 8, Carl Sandburg Home, Little River Road, Flat Rock. Holiday decorations and music, musicians and storytellers, cider and cookies. Free with house tour admission of $5 adults, $3 age 62 and older, free age 15 and younger. Free admission for grounds, trails and barn. Call 693-4178 or visit

"A Night Before Christmas," until 9 p.m. Dec. 8, downtown Waynesville. Caroling, storytelling, wagon rides, more. Visit

Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra holiday concert, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8. "A Carolina Christmas" concert with the Greenville Chorale at Blue Ridge Conference Hall. Adults $35, students $5. Visit

Santa on the Chimney, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 8 and 15, Chimney Rock Park. Santa practices on 315-foot Chimney Rock. Regular admission.

Happy Holidays at Echoview Fiber Mill, 78 Jupiter Road, Weaverville. Dec. 8. Breakfast with Santa 9-11 a.m., open house 10 a.m.-1 p.m., free admission. Felt workshop with fiber artist Vicki Bennett 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $95 includes materials and lunch. 855-693-4237 or

Holiday Market at Flat Rock Tailgate Market, 2-5 p.m. Dec. 8, new courtyard in front of Hubba Hubba Smokehouse, Greenville Highway. Live music by Jazzberries. Buy your Christmas tree here. 697-7719.

Holiday Celebration & Art Sale, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 8, Riverside Studios, 174 W. Haywood St., Asheville. 551-5045.

Celebration Singers of Asheville winter concert, 4 p.m. Dec. 9, First Congregational Church, 20 Oak St., Asheville. Donations appreciated. Visit

"Music, Mirth and Good Cheer" concert by Blue Ridge Orchestra, 4 p.m. Dec. 9, Folk Art Center, Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 382, Asheville. $15 adults, $10 Friend of BRO, $5 students. Visit

Laurel Park Tree Lighting, 5:30 p.m. Dec. 9 at Little Laurel Green Park, corner of White Pine and Laurel Highway, Hendersonville.

Holiday Tour of Historic Inns and Cookie Caper, 1-5 p.m. Dec. 9 in Hendersonville. Self-guided tour of six inns. Get a Christmas treat from each inn. $20 per person. Call 697-3088 or visit

Asheville Community Band holiday concert, 3 p.m. Dec. 9, Asheville High School auditorium, McDowell Street. $8. Students accompanied by an adult admitted free. Call 254-2234 or visit

Dec. 10-16

Blue Ridge Ringers handbell concert, 2 p.m. Dec. 10, Fletcher Public Library, 120 Library Road. 692-4910.

Flat Rock Tailgate Christmas Market, 2-5 p.m. Dec. 10, in front of Hubba Hubba Smokehouse, along Little Rainbow Row, Highway 225. Call 697-7719.

"The Nutcracker" by Ballet Conservatory, 6:30 p.m. Dec. 12 and at 5 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13-14, Diana Wortham Theatre at Pack Place, 2 N. Pack Sq., Asheville, 257-4530. $10-$25. 255-5777 or

"Do It Yourself" Messiah, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13, Tryon Fine Arts Center, 34 Melrose Ave., Tryon. Mark Schweizer conducts, Beth Child accompanies as audience performs Handel's masterpiece. 859-8322 or

Hendersonville Children's Choir concert, 6:30 p.m. Dec. 14, Covenant Presbyterian Church, 2101 Kanuga Road. Adults $5, students $2.50. Call 696-4968.

Breakfast with Santa, 9-11 a.m. Dec. 15, Asheville's Fun Depot, 2 Roberts Road, Asheville. Free. Pancakes, orange juice, coffee and Santa. Call 277-2386 or visit

Santa on the Chimney, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 15, Chimney Rock Park. Santa practices on 315-foot Chimney Rock. Regular admission.

Sugar Plumb B&B Cookie Tour, noon-4 p.m. Dec. 15-16, Black Mountain. Tour nine beautifully decorated B&Bs and inns and enjoy their homemade cookies. $15. 669-2300 or

Carolina Concert Choir Christmas concert, 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 and 3 p.m. Dec. 15, St. James Episcopal Church, 766 N. Main St., Hendersonville. Adults $20, students $10. Call 808-2314.

Breakfast with Santa, 9 a.m. Dec. 15, Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center, Robbinsville. For all ages. Visit

Dillsboro Festival of Lights and Luminaries, Dec. 14-15, downtown Dillsboro. Live music, carolers, holiday treats from merchants, horse and buggy rides (added cost plus tip) and Santa at Town Hall. Starts at dusk. Free. Call 800-962-1911 or visit

Holiday Homecoming, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Dec. 15, Oconoluftee Visitor Center, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee. See old-time craft demonstrations, learn about quilting, weaving, basket and doll making, apple cider and butter making, more. Free. Visit

Asheville Symphony: A Classical Christmas, 3 p.m. Dec. 16. Featuring Handel's "Messiah." At Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, in U.S. Cellular Center, downtown Asheville. Call 254-7046 or visit

"A Swannanoa Solstice," 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 16, Diana Wortham Theatre, Pack Place, downtown Asheville. Regular $35; student $30; children 12 and younger $15. Call 257-4530 or visit

Blue Ridge Ringers handbell concert, 4 p.m. Dec. 16, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 22 Fisher Road, Brevard. 692-4910.

"The Night Before Christmas Carol," 3 p.m. Dec. 16, Tryon Fine Arts Center, 34 Melrose Ave., Tryon. History, humor and the holiday come to life in this acclaimed performance. David zum Brunnen portrays Charles Dickens and 17 familiar characters. Tickets $3 and $5. 859-8322 or

Dec. 17-23

Blue Ridge Ringers handbell concert, 2 p.m. Dec. 17, Henderson County Public Library, 301 N. Washington St., Hendersonville. 692-4910.

"Jacob Marley's Christma s Carol," 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19-30, N.C. Stage Company, 15 Stage Lane, Asheville. In this funny and touching holiday play, see Jacob Marley's heroic efforts to save Scrooge's soul and in the process, save his own. Visit or call 239-0263.

Winter Solstice Night Hike, 7-9 p.m. Dec. 21, DuPont State Forest, off U.S. 64, Hendersonville. Meet at Hooker Falls parking area on DuPont Road. Bring flashlights and a warm drink. Call 692-0385 or visit

Dec. 24-31

New Year's Eve celebration, 9 p.m.-midnight Dec. 31, downtown Marion. Visit

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Asheville area literary & book-related events



11/12/2012 - Asheville area literary & book-related events
by Asheville Citizen Times


PATRICK C. GREENE: Local author signs copies of his horror novel, "Progeny," at The Local Joint, 1185B Charlotte Hwy., Asheville, 11 a.m. Email

READER'S THEATER: The Autumn Players present a reading of "Uncle Vanya" by Anton Chekov in the Manheimer Room at UNC: Asheville's Reuter Center, 1 University Heights, Asheville, 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $5. Call 251-6140.

KATHRYN STRIPLING BYER: Former NC poet laureate reads from her newest poetry collection, "Descent," at Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 3 p.m. Call 254-6734.


BOOK DISCUSSION: The Fireside Book Club meets at Fireside Books & Gifts, 111 W. Main St., Forest City, 5:30 p.m. Call 245-5188.

CHRISTAL PRESLEY: Author presents her memoir about wartime post-traumatic stress disorder, "Thirty Days with My Father," at Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 7 p.m. Call 254-6734.

MYSTERY BOOK CLUB: Hosted by Sallie Bissell, the group discusses "Veil of Lies" by Jeri Westerson at Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 7 p.m. Call 254-6734.


TOM BELT: Visiting Cherokee language instructor at Western Carolina University presents a storytelling performance in UNC Asheville's Highsmith University Union, 12:30 p.m. Call 232-2992.

MOUNTAIN WRITERS: Group meets at Blue Ridge Books, 152 S. Main St., Waynesville, 1 p.m. Call 456-6000.

BOOK DISCUSSION: "The Peach Keeper" by Sarah Addison Allen is the subject at the Leicester Library, 1561 Alexander Rd., Leicester, 1 p.m. Call 250-6480.

BOOK DISCUSSION: "The Sense of Paper" by Taylor Holden is the subject of Discussion Bound at the Asheville Art Museum, 2 S. Pack Square, Asheville, 3 p.m. Free with museum admission. Call 253-3227.

BOOK DISCUSSION: "Parrot's Perch" by Michael Rio is the subject at the Albert Carlton-Cashiers Community Library at 249 Frank Allen Rd., Cashiers, 5:30 p.m. Call 743-0215.

 BOOK DISCUSSION: The Educator's Book Club for Rutherford County School employees meets at Fireside Books & Gifts, 111 W. Main St., Forest City, 6 p.m. Call 245-5188.

RON RASH: Award-winning Appalachian author celebrates the paperback release of "The Cove" alongside a book launch of "My Bookstore," an anthology of essays supporting bookshops edited by Ronald Rice, at City Lights Bookstore, 3 E. Jackson St., Sylva, 6:30 p.m. Call 586-9499.

NANCY MARIE BROWN: Author presents "Song of the Vikings," her new book on the Icelandic chieftain who created Norse mythology, at Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 7 p.m. Call 254-6734.

JUDITH TOY: Author and spiritual leader presents her book, "Murder As a Call to Love," at the Black Mountain Library, 105 N. Dougherty St., Black Mountain, 7 p.m. Call 250-4756.

CLIMBING POETREE: Spoken word artists Alixa and Naima present this event in the Lipinsky Auditorium at UNC Asheville, 1 University Heights, Asheville, 8 p.m. Tickets are $15. Call 251-6674.

POETRY SLAM ASHEVILLE: The Magnetic Field hosts this open mic storytelling event at 372 Depot St., Asheville, 8 p.m. Registration begins at 7 p.m. Admission is $5. Call 257-4003.


COOKBOOK EVENT: Author John Batchelor discusses his new book, "Chefs of the Mountains," and chef Sean Ruddy of the High Hampton Inn and Country Club presents a cooking demonstration at Fountainhead Bookstore, 408 N. Main St., Hendersonville, 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 and must be bought in advance. Call 697-1870.

MARC FITTEN: Author presents his newest novel, "Elza's Kitchen," at Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 7 p.m. Call 254-6734.

STRIVERS ROW POETRY SHOW: Bardo Arts Center at Western Carolina University, 1 University Dr., Cullowhee, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5. Call 227-2479.


COFFEE WITH THE POET: WNC poet Rose McLarney pre sents her poetry collection, "The Always Broken Plates of Mountains," at City Lights Bookstore, 3 E. Jackson St., Sylva, 10:30 a.m. Call 586-9499.

BOOK DISCUSSION: "Barbarian Nurseries" by Hector Tobar is the subject at the Skyland Library, 260 Overlook Rd., Asheville, 2:30 p.m. Call 250-6488.

WILLIAM FERRIS: The Joel Williamson Eminent Professor of History at UNC Chapel Hill and co-editor of "The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture," speaks on "New Voyages to Carolina" as the keynote address for the conference The Cultural Roots of North Carolina at the Reuter Center, UNCA, 7 p.m. Call 251-6140.

BOOK DISCUSSION: "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova is the subject at the Fairview Library, 1 Taylor Rd., Fairview, 7 p.m. Call 250-6485.

MARK POWELL: Appalachian author presents his new novel, "The Dark Corner," at Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 7 p.m. Call 254-6734.

MARILYN JODY: Retired WCU professor discusses "Letter to Emily," her memoir on accepting her identity as a lesbian, at the Jackson County Public Library, 310 Keener St., Sylva, 7 p.m. Call 586-2016.

LIARS BENCH: Local performance group presents Gary Carden's play "Birdell" in the Mountain Heritage Center at Western Carolina University, 1 University Dr., Cullowhee, 7 p.m. Call 227-7129.

'LOOK BACK THE MAYTIME DAYS': WCU's English department hosts a performance featuring the prose and poetry by Fred Chappell in the Coulter Building at Western Carolina University, 1 University Dr., Cullowhee, 7:30 p.m. Call 227-7264.


LUNCHTIME POETRY SERIES: The Brown Bag and Books Lunchtime Poetry Series features presentations by five area poets at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts, 225 W. State St., Black Mountain, 12 p.m. Free, but donations are accepted. Call 669-0930.

DAVID LOY: Author discusses his books and radical Buddhism in America at Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 7 p.m. Call 254-6734.


JOE COBB CRAWFORD: Author presents "The Poetry Company," his memoir of working with poultry during the early 1960s, and his novel, "When the Chickens Come Home to Roost," about a woman solving the mystery of two deaths in 1960s Georgia, at City Lights Bookstore, 3 E. Jackson St., Sylva, 1 p.m. Call 586-9499.

AMY WILLOUGHBY-BURLE: Author reads from her award-winning debut story collection, "Out Across Nowhere," at Blue Ridge Books, 152 S. Main St., Waynesville, 3 p.m. Call 456-6000.

TAWNEY SANKEY: Author presents her new fantasy book, "Raising Indigo," at Montford Books & More, 31 Montford Ave., Asheville, 3 p.m. Call 285-8805.

COOKBOOK EVENT: Cookbook authors Fred Thompson, Debbie Moose and Kathleen Purvis present "Southern Sides," "Buttermilk" and "Pecans" at Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, 55 Haywood St., Asheville, 7 p.m. Call 254-6734.

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A Holiday In Asheville, NC



11/8/2012 - A Holiday In Asheville, NC
by Amber DeGrace -

Have you grown weary of how fast-paced the holidays have become? Some stores are playing Christmas music weeks before most of us have even thought about Thanksgiving dinner plans with our families and friends. There are TV commercials trying to convince us that gifting a teenage child with their brand's shoes is a quick way to get the first sign of affection in months.

There are Christmas trees in stores, replete with shiny balls that every toddler wants to pull off and throw. Many of us have at least three houses to visit on one single day so we don't feel guilty about not seeing every family member. This can be a stressful time of year!

It is an excellent idea to hold up a stop sign to the insanity and book tickets to get away for the holidays.

Asheville, NC, is a laid-back mountain town full of beauty, culture and art, world-class food and an award winning craft beer scene. From tapas at Cúrate to champagne and cheese at Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar to tacos at White Duck Taco Shop, there are restaurants for every taste bud and budget. Catch a show at The Orange Peel, stroll through the River Arts District or take an entertaining and educational ride around town on the LaZoom bus.

There are activities in Asheville for every member in your family. If you require something warming to chase away the chill, make a stop or two at one of the many wonderful bars in town, like Highland Brewing Company, Lexington Avenue Brewing Company, Green Man Brewing Company or The Thirsty Monk.

Here are a couple of holiday-specific activities in Asheville, NC that make the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains perfect for this time of year. Make the choice to take a break from the hustle and bustle!

Christmas at Biltmore: The Biltmore is an impressive estate that warrants a future trip just to spend several days exploring the grounds. From November 3 through January 1, the Biltmore comes alive with a truly festive air. Christmas at the Biltmore largely follows tradition, like with the 35-foot Fraser in the grand Banquet Hall and the attention given to kids.

This year, Santa will be visiting with kids in Antler Hill Village, a perfect location for parents because they can sample some of the estate's delicious wine. If you are a crafty type and enjoy DIY projects, take advantage of one (or a few!) of the holiday craft seminars going on in the Conservatory, one of my favorite places at Biltmore. Along with the giant Christmas tree one can view in the Banquet Hall, there are 68 other individually decorated trees throughout the estate.

Along with the daytime activities, there will be Candlelight Christmas Tours with music, an impressively tall 55-foot and brilliantly lit tree on the front lawn and the option to head to Antler Hill Village. Lodging and dining is available on the estate. Other activities include horse and carriage rides and, of course, shopping. For more information, head to Biltmore's website.

Grove Park Inn National Gingerbread House Contest: This gingerbread contest is a staple of holiday celebration at the resplendent Grove Park Inn. There are four categories of entry (Adult, Teen, Youth and Child), and the Adult grand prize includes a $5,000 check along with swank perks at the Inn. You can enter the contest up through November 12, so there is still time for you to get in on the fun!

If viewing art is more your style than creating it, make sure to drop by the Grove Park Inn anytime from November 20 through January 2. After checking out the gingerbread houses, enjoy a romantic dinner at Horizons and consider spending a couple nights right on the property. Everything you may want or need can probably be found right at the Grove Park Inn, making it another wonderful lodging option for your holiday stay in Asheville, NC.

There are various other holiday activities to enjoy in Asheville, NC, like theater performances, art festivals and traditional music around town. For a full list of what is happening, click on Explore Asheville.


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