Asheville Round Up

Filed under: About Asheville, Carolina Bed and Breakfast, History, Restaurants, Things to Do

Irish Band at Asheville's Bele Chere Festival

The Stillwater Hobos perform at Bele Chere

If you didn’t already know it, I broke my ankle July 1.  While it feels a lot better, I am still wearing a big, bulky boot and using crutches to get around.  Needless to say this has curbed my ability to get out and do things this summer.  So this past weekend I sent some emissaries from our Asheville Bed and Breakfast to take pictures and send me stories and information about all that is happening in our town.

Here’s a round-up of some of what is happening in Asheville this week:

Crack in the Blue Ridge Parkway is Short-lived Tourist Attraction:

Just one day after USA Today reported that the 300 foot crack in the Blue Ridge Parkway had become Asheville’s newest tourist attraction, Park Rangers closed all access to the 20 mile stretch.  This section of the Parkway, from just before Craggy Gardens to Mount Mitchell,  has been closed to cars since the crack appeared in the center of the roadway on July 12.  We’ve had record rainfall this July with more than 12 inches as opposed to our normal 3.  While this has made Asheville the nation’s best kept secret for cool weather, it has caused a number of landslides along with flooding problems.  The Parkway was found to have a 300 foot crack running down the middle of it that is several inches wide and several feet deepAnother crack runs along the shoulder which is more than a foot wide in places. The fear is that the road will slide down the mountain!

Closures of the Blue Ridge Parkway are a mixed bag around here. In the winter, it usually means that the road is impassable to cars because of snow and ice.  This is bad for traffic but great for  residents in the area  who take advantage of the long, car-free road to go cross-country skiing or hiking.  It is very unusual for it to be closed in the summer and if I weren’t out of commission I think I would have been tempted to go for a long hike (or run)  there myself.  The Rangers have now  closed it to pedestrians and cyclists because heavy machinery is being moved into the area which presents a hazard.  They assure us it will re-open by Labor Day in time for October Leaf Season.

A Farewell to Bele Chere:

In 1979 downtown Asheville was a dying city.  Stores were shuttered and the large box stores on Tunnel Road were siphoning away traffic and customers.  Out of this, in one of the recurrent strokes of genius which has repeatedly saved our town, Bele Chere was born as a way to revitalize the downtown area.  Bele Chere means “beautiful living” and comes from the ancient Scottish dialect once found in our mountains.  It was Asheville’s version of “The Big Easy”.  The free festival was an immediate success and grew until this year it encompassed 6 sound stages spread over most of downtown Asheville for three days along with an Art Park and countless vendors and street performers. More than 350,000 people came to last year’s Bele Chere which at its best is a delightful explosion of people and the arts coming together in a Patrick Henry (“I may not agree with you but I will defend to the death your right to say it”) style exercise of tolerance.

Inherent in the success of Bele Chere was its demise.  Downtown Asheville is bustling these days and instead of helping business many shops and restaurants close during the festival. Noise ordinances are suspended during the festival to allow for the outdoor concert venues but this also allows proselytizers full rein to use bullhorns for their preaching.  And as the crowds have increased and come from farther away “edgy” sometimes crosses the line. Throw into this mix the North Carolina State legislature’s new budget cuts and restrictions and there was little enthusiasm to continue the festival next year.

It didn’t look like I was going to get up to see any of the festival this year but Meredith Gwynn, an artist friend of Abby’s,  was staying with us and exhibiting her art at the festival so we were able to drive close enough that I didn’t have to walk too far.  The weather was perfect, a little cloudy

Abby's Friend Meredith and her art

and wonderfully cool.  This was a welcome change from previous years.  I did a little tour around the Art Park, a little bit of people watching and then went home.  I really can’t say that it’s a loss to our town.  We have lots and lots of free outdoor concerts (and theater!) during the summer, the Biltmore Village Arts & Crafts Fair (August 3-4 this year) provides a better venue and better art and the people watching is good year round. (And for anyone who is interested, Meredith will be showing her art there at the Biltmore Fair as well).



Up-coming this Week:

So that’s what closing, here’s what happening this week.

Monday James and I have been invited to the Media and Industry opening of a new bar-restaurant in the Grove Park Inn.  The Grove Park has been through a trans-formative few years, first being bought by  a private equity investors fund and more recently by the Omni Hotel Chain.  One of the changes which affected our guests was the loss of the Sunset Terrace as a good spot for a pre-dinner Sunset viewing and a drink. The venue no longer includes a bar. The newly opening Edison Craft Ales & Kitchen promises the view and we will see if it delivers on the food and cocktails.

Wednesday evening will find us at Isis Restaurant and Music Hall where our friend Caine McDonald and His band, Raising Caine,  are performing as special guests at a Jerry Garcia Birthday Concert along with the JGCB.  When not singing and writing music, Caine is best known for having built the addition on the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, along with renovating the kitchen of our bed and breakfast in Asheville.

Caine McDonald, Dry Ridge Builders

Caine McDonald wearing his builder hat

Finally, as if that’s not enough, Thursday night Peter Sagal and Carl Kasell are bringing “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me” to the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in beautiful downtown Asheville.  We’ve spent a lot of hours repainting rooms in the inn and listening to this comic radio news quiz so  we are looking forward to seeing the show live.

So it looks like, in spite of the ankle, I will still have things to write about next week and will not be resorting to another night of Pizza in the hopes of getting James to write his guest blog!



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