All that talk of the tourists? True that
True story. My wife Lori and I were enjoying a delicious, refreshing IPA at the Wedge Brewery on Sunday afternoon, rewarding ourselves after a brutal trail run in the mid-day heat at Bent Creek (brutal, at least, by my estimation; Lori and our dog, Django, were just loping along the entire time, well ahead of me). The brewery in the Asheville River Arts District was relatively crowded and the sun was blazing, so we shared a shaded table with a couple about our age who invited us to sit after making friends with Django.
We soon found out they were from the Charleston area, he an engineer with Boeing and she a public school secretary. More interesting, however, is why they decided to come to the mountains for a long weekend: beer.
“We’re here trying to hit all the breweries we can,” he said.
They were staying at a bed and breakfast in Waynesville, the Windover Inn. From that location, they had traveled west to Nantahala Brewery in Byrson City and then had visited all three breweries in Waynesville. They were leaving on Monday, but Sunday afternoon had taken them east to Asheville to partake in a few of the locally crafted beers its breweries had to offer.
We talked about beers and breweries and restaurants, got some tips on beaches and breweries in Charleston, and traded stories about work and children. Very enjoyable afternoon.
The fact that this couple with money and time had chosen to visit our mountains specifically because of its reputation for craft brewers is what really hit home for me. I’ve been hearing people talk about this kind of visitor for a couple of years, touting that craft beer is another leg of the tourism industry that will pay significant benefits. I had always assumed that this was true, that the explosion of breweries in this region and Asheville’s designation for several years as Beer City USA would attract tourists.
But this was the first time I’d sat down at a table and tossed back a cold one with someone who proved these people right. Perhaps there are thousands of other couples just like those I met this past Sunday. That’s a refreshing thought, almost as refreshing as that cold IPA from the Wedge under a sunny summer sky. Almost.
Rolf Kaufman is one of those men I’ve always found fascinating. A German who came to the U.S. as a child, he ran the Wellco shoe company in Waynesville before retiring and is still a civic leader extraordinaire in Haywood County.
Along the way, he became the most dedicated Folkmoot USA board member the festival will ever have. He is both the conscience and the heart of our organization (I have been on Folkmoot USA Board for years), someone all of us who take part in the Folkmoot looks to for inspiration. He speaks several languages, has served on the board of the international organizations of folk dance troupes (CIOFF), travels on his own dime to those conferences to help recruit groups to Folkmoot, is our unofficial historian, and has faithfully attended nearly every board and committee meeting it was possible for him to attend over the last 30-plus years. By any standard it is a remarkable record of dedication.
Those efforts just earned Rolf some well-deserved recognition. The Raleigh News and Observer named him the Tar Heel of the Week. Every Sunday for as long as I can remember, the Raleigh newspaper has chosen someone who has served others to receive this honor. You can read the article about Rolf by plugging this link into your browser: www.newsobserver.com/2014/06/21/3951562/he-helps-folkmoot-take-root-in.html.
On Thursday, June 26, Folkmoot is holding an open house to celebrate taking ownership of the Folkmoot Friendship Center, the old Hazelwood Elementary School. After a couple of years of negotiations and legal legwork — and support from the Haywood County School Board and the Haywood County Commissioners — the building now officially belongs to the festival. The open house is from 4:30 to 8 p.m., and we would love to show off the building to anyone who can attend.
As for me, I’ll be celebrating the school’s acquisition and congratulating Rolf on his recognition by the state’s best newspaper for his decades of service to Folkmoot.