Archived Arts & Entertainment

This must be the place

art theplaceMary Harper was quite possibly the first real friend I made when I moved to Western North Carolina.

With my apartment a few blocks away from the Water’n Hole Bar & Grill in Waynesville, I ventured down there at night trying to see what was up in this town, trying to make some friends, and trying not to feel alone and isolated in a new place where I was unknown to all who surrounded me. Harper, with her million-dollar smile and swagger, immediately made me feel at home. 


When she found out I was just hired as the features writer for The Smoky Mountain News, we hit it off. She was obsessed with music. I was obsessed with music. She wanted to promote any and all artists either local or passing through the area. I wanted to promote any and all artists either local or passing through the area. Our friendship was forever sealed, and continues to grow each and everyday. She is one of the most sincere and genuine people I’ve ever met. Truly. 

On April 6, Harper was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. She broke ribs, her pelvis and right arm, and was impaled by a tree branch in her left side. She is currently beginning the long road to recovery at a rehabilitation facility in Asheville. Numerous benefits to help offset her medical costs are currently underway.

“Mary has been one of the greatest additions to our staff,” said Becky Robinson, owner of the Water’n Hole. “Her intense passion for music has created a circuit of unique and diverse traveling bands through our area that showcase amazing talent from all across the nation. She has single handedly provided our area with an amazing cultural niche.”

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On top of her work at the Water’n Hole, Mary was also the front-of-house manager for No Name Sports Pub in Sylva. Bringing in musical acts from around the country, her efforts have put the location on the map as one of the premier venues for live music in Western North Carolina.

“She’s extremely diligent, organized, and she cares. She continually wants to learn more, and I think that’s what makes Mary special,” said Gregg Fuller, owner of No Name. “She’s taught me a lot about the people in this area. We have people come from all over the area and outside of the area. People are specially coming here to see bands and Mary is the reason.”

And those sentiments are echoed loud and clear from groups around Southern Appalachia and beyond.

“Mary is a role model for us along with all of the lives she touches every day,” said southern rockers The Corbitt Brothers. “She’s one of those rare loving souls that would truly ‘give the shirt off her back for someone she has never met,’ She has helped our band a countless number of times, along with tons if other bands, all the while raising two amazing kids and working multiple jobs.”

“I love that Mary believes in artists with all her heart and soul. She booked us two nights in a row at No Name and then again at the Water’n Hole without even hearing us play yet. She has faith in the arts and that makes her an incredible person,” said Mekenzie Jackson of the Atlanta-based Americana band Owner of the Sun.

“Mary is a true music lover, which definitely fuels the love she has not just for the music, but also the musicians and the lifestyle that we create within the circle of friends and family locally and on the road,” said musician Christopher Blaylock. “Being a traveling musician myself, I can express the gratitude I have for those that take us in to house, feed and let us shower. Mary has brought in so many amazing bands into lil’ ole Sylva.”

Mary Harper really is the common denominator of Southern Appalachia. A beautiful, one-of-a-kind soul, she is, and will always be, the epitome of southern hospitality and what it means to be a participant in life, and a cultural ambassador for Western North Carolina. 

We miss and love you, Mary. Until next time.


Want to help?

The Mary Harper Benefit Music Festival will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 27, at No Name Sports Pub in Sylva. The all-day event features performances by The Corbitt Brothers, Humps & The Blackouts, Smoke Rise, PMA, Christopher Blaylock “the OMB,” and Tony Poole. Free, with donations accepted. $5 food plates. All proceeds go to Harper’s medical bills. 828.586.2750.

The “Cinco de Beardo” facial hair contest will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, May 5, at Tipping Point Brewing in Waynesville. Beards and moustaches of all kinds invited to attend and compete. Sponsored by the Dixie Beard & Moustache Society. Live music by Caleb Burress and Chris Minnick. Free. Proceeds from donations and bought Pabst Blue Ribbon to go to the medical bills of Mary Harper. 828.246.9230.

Online donations can also be made at



Hot picks

1: Pierce Edens will perform at 8 p.m. May 9 at BearWaters Brewing Company in Waynesville.

2: The film “Nebraska” will be screened at 7:45 p.m. May 2 and 2 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. May 3 at The Strand at 38 Main in Waynesville.

3: The premiere of the skate film “We Live” will be at 7:30 p.m. April 26 at Tipping Point Brewing in Waynesville.

4: The Empty Bowl Fundraiser will be from 4 to 8 p.m. April 25 at The Community Table in Sylva.

5: Metal Night will take place at 9 p.m. April 26 at No Name Sports Pub in Sylva. 

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