Neighbors draw the line over latest rock quarry expansion

A grassroots effort to halt a mine expansion in west Waynesville jumped its first hurdle last week.

Citizens have convinced a state environmental agency that there’s enough community interest over the rock quarry expansion to hold a formal public hearing on the matter.

In April, Harrison Construction Company applied for a state permit from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to add about 13 acres to its 302-acre quarry on Allens Creek Road.

The company claims it must expand its gravel mining operations to help repair a slide caused by a wall failure inside its existing pit.

The slide sent a 600-foot slab of rock crashing down at the Waynesville rock quarry, which dislodged 480,000 tons of earth and buried a drilling rig.

“It can’t be left the way it is,” said Don Mason, environmental compliance officer for Harrison. “It has to be repaired ... This expansion is a safety act, not a mining act.”

Harrison says it needs to “back up far enough” to replace the quarry’s sheer face with a terraced-system to prevent future slides. While disturbing nearly 12 out of the 13 acres, Harrison plans to leave a hundred-foot-buffer around the perimeter.

Mason said mining more gravel is essential to repairing the slide.

“Are we going there specifically to mine that section? No,” said Mason. “We’re going there to repair the slide.”

But, residents say bringing the quarry that much closer to their doorstep will heighten health hazards by exposing them to more dust, which can cause extreme respiratory problems and even death. They claim blasting at the quarry already rattles their windows and cracks house foundations and walls.

Noise pollution, environmental damage including possible water pollution, and harm to property values are other objections to the expansion.

Mason retorted that the mine complies with strict state and federal regulations, and has never received complaints about structural problems. In reality, DENR records show there has been at least one complaint regarding cracks in a nearby house’s foundation and driveway retaining wall, which may have been caused by blasting.

Resident Nancy McGurdy said she built a cabin only 10 years ago near the quarry, and she’s already discovered a crack in her basement floor.

A petition that is being circulated states that the quarry creates undesirable living conditions for both humans and animals and destroys the natural beauty of the mountains, which is extremely important to residents, tourists, and the local economy.

“You can grow another tree, but you cannot grow another mountain,” said resident John Willis.

Public uproar

According to Judy Wehner, assistant state mining specialist with DENR, the fate of most mining permit applications are decided without a public hearing.

In this case, residents have gathered nearly 200 signatures protesting the mine expansion and demanding a public hearing. It held two community meetings, and solicited support from county commissioners, U.S. Congressman Heath Shuler, Governor Bev Purdue, and at least three state legislators.

More than 30 nearby residents appeared at a recent county board meeting, convincing commissioners to send a letter to DENR requesting a public hearing.

Many at the meeting complained that DENR sent out only six letters informing residents about the permit application, though the state agency was following policy, which states that only those who live 1,000 feet from the affected area must be notified.

“That’s spelled out in the law,” said Wehner.

Public interest turned out to exceed six families, however.

Michael Rogers has lived near the mine for more than 50 years, but this is the first and only time he’s ever been notified by DENR about a potential expansion. Rogers said the state agency would hardly receive the “significant public input” that’s required to hold a public hearing from the six families that were notified.

So he and his neighbors spearheaded an effort to stop Harrison Construction Company in its tracks.

“I know Harrison Construction has an interest in mining gravel, but I think they’ve disturbed enough of the mountain,” said Rogers.

Health concerns are especially significant for Rogers. His neighbor’s three grandchildren all have serious cases of asthma and must regularly go on antibiotics to cure their earaches.

Rogers recalled driving home one day and thinking the mountain was on fire when it was actually dust from rock near the quarry. “It matters which way the wind is blowing,” said Rogers. “It pushes it all right over us.”

Another concern for Rogers is seeing the quarry come as close as four feet to the springhead he shares with two other families.

“If we lose our wells and springs, how are we going to get back drinking water for our property?” asked Rogers.

According to Rogers, three residents have already signed up to file class action suits against Harrison Construction Company, due to mica from dust allegedly killing a family member.

He said he and his neighbors, too, are unafraid to take legal recourse if necessary.

Rogers has little sympathy for Harrison’s claim that it must repair a slide on its property.

“If they’ve had a failure, it ain’t anybody’s fault but their own,” said Rogers. “I think it’s just poor mining practices.”

According to Mason, the slide was caused by a fault in the foundation, which caused a section of the high-wall to fail.

Mason said he has the support of geologists from the state and federal governments when it comes to expanding the mine. He said he invited the neighborhood to attend a question and answer session last week but only four neighbors showed up.

“The information on all this is readily available,” said Mason, adding that few have taken up the company on its offer.

But Rogers said he and his neighbors have contacted Harrison Construction in the past and voiced concerns about the quarry and previous expansions, but they received little attention from the company. This time, they changed strategy and decided to go straight to DENR instead.

The neighborhood group said it would hand out flyers on Election Day to educate the community. It plans to meet again at 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 13, at the Grandview Lodge in Waynesville.

The Naturalist's Corner

Spring in the watershed

The Town of Waynesville’s annual spring pilgrimage to the Waynesville Watershed will be Saturday, April 24. This one will be set up similar to last fall’s event with an early morning birding option. Those who want to look for early Neotropical migrants and lingering winter visitors should meet at the treatment plant at 7 a.m. For directions and details regarding the trip, please go to

Spring migrants are arriving across Western North Carolina. Blue-headed vireos have been in my yard for a couple of weeks now. On a quick trip up around Harmon’s Den last week, Bob Olthoff and I heard black-throated green warbler and Louisiana waterthrush, as well as blue-headed vireo. Brown creepers have also been singing in my yard. I hope we at least get to hear a couple on the 24th – it’s a really cool, musical little ditty.

Other reports from across the mountains of Western North Carolina include northern parulas, black-and-white-warblers, black-throated blue warblers and returning broad-winged hawks. By the 24th of April, we should be able to add scarlet tanager and rose-breasted grosbeak to the list. And one never knows what the reservoir itself might produce. While it’s nowhere near as productive as Lake Junaluska with regards to migrants, waterfowl do find it occasionally and there is generally a belted kingfisher present. We were treated one spring to a brief flyover by an immature bald eagle.

By 9 a.m. birders will be back at the treatment plant and have the option of joining in the day hike or heading for coffee and beignets (I guess that would be doughnuts in this part of the world, what a shame.) Day hikers will split into two groups. I will lead the ambling, looking, listening and sniffing group. We will keep our eyes and ears open for birds, wildlife and spring ephemerals.

The wildflowers should be poppin.’ I have bloodroot, toothwort, trout lily and various violets blooming in the woods around my house now. Other spring wildflowers we could encounter include trailing arbutus, Dutchman’s breeches, squirrel corn, trillium, bellwort, anemone and showy orchis.

Dr. Pete Bates of Western North Carolina University, who has headed a team of scientists and natural resource managers to create a management plan for the Waynesville watershed, will lead the robo-walkers. Pete, who is much more learned and accomplished than I, actually has the ability to walk and talk at the same time. This is a great hike for those who want to stretch their legs as well as their understanding of the ecology of the watershed.

The worst thing that could happen is that you get the opportunity to enjoy a spring morning outdoors, in the middle of this outstanding natural resource that Waynesville town fathers had the foresight to preserve, protect and enhance in perpetuity.

Don Hendershot can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Live-Art fundraiser offers ‘Backstage Pass’ to creation

Looking for a high-energy spring art evening that’ll make your jaw drop, open your eyes and please your palate, give a vantage point to view creation, and make you eager to come back the next year?

It’s time for Waynesville’s ninth annual QuickDraw, giving you front-row access to art in the making. QuickDraw’s lively art-while-you-watch event and benefit auction combines a window on the creative process with a fun way to help art teachers inspire students.

Forty professional artists set up studios in one location to create original art on the spot as guests watch the engineering process.

Half the artists volunteer to race against a 60-minute time clock in a traditional quickdraw challenge, while others create at a more relaxed pace. Following the timed art race, silent auction, and hors d’oeuvres buffet, the art is auctioned to benefit art in schools and fund scholarships.

The event is an annual draw for area visitors and art fans to watch and meet prominent regional artists hailing from Asheville to Andrews.

One-hour challenge artists who create start-to-finish in full view include watercolorist painters Ann Vasilik of Asheville and Gretchen Clasby of Knoxville (formerly of Waynesville). Oil painters include Sarah Sneeden of Cedar Mountain, Luke Allsbrook, and Jo Ridge Kelley of Waynesville. Bob Martin of Canton will paint sumi-e landscape (sansui).

QuickDraw attracts regional fine artists and artisans with a public showcase for their creative techniques, a challenging exercise to create ‘fresh’ work (freed from second-guessing), and a way to visibly show support for art in schools.

Guests gain a rare vantage point to watch artists construct their works from start to finish. ‘One-hour challenge’ artists race the time clock, using watercolor, oils, acrylic, pastels, colored pencil, metal, and mixed media. Artists carefully prepare for the challenge of intense, focused execution within the time window.

“There’s an excitement and energy about the evening that I enjoy. The challenge lies in getting done in an hour, on a painting that would by rights take me hours to do,” said Joyce Schlapkohl, an oil painter and Quick Draw volunteer artist. The first year as a participant, Schlapkohl recalls, onlookers would greet her as she worked. “I tried to talk back,” she said, “but soon realized you needed every minute to paint.”

In preparation for the event, pastel artist and QuickDraw volunteer artist Robbins Richardson sets up her studio space to replicate conditions of the QuickDraw moment.

“The easel on a table, my pastels, my coffee, even my kitchen timer. I chant ‘On your mark, get set, go!’ and I see what happens,” said Richardson. “Hopefully, I get it pretty close. I was still nervous last year; it’s anxiety-producing! Can I do the piece well enough in one hour so that someone will want it to take home at auction?...At the end of QuickDraw, back at home, I’m still vibrating, like my finger’s been stuck in the light socket.”

This year, Sarah Sneeden, oil painter, QD volunteer artist plans to execute a sunflower motif in oils at QuickDraw. She doesn’t mind the distractions of a watching crowd. “I have painted in some of the worst places in the worst times,” she laughed, “one hundred degrees, when they’re tarring roads. I’ve learned to roll past things.”

Alongside, demo artists create in process-intensive media at a less intense pace, letting them converse with strolling QuickDraw guests. Demo artists include metal and clay sculptors, potters, woodcarvers, textile artists and quilters, as well as mixed media, collage, leather, gourd, and basket artisans. After the high-energy hour, artists and patrons break for a reception to wind down, frame the fresh works, bid on silent auction art, and preview the live auction art. As the buffet winds down, the new art is matted and framed, and ready-to-hang. Live artists introduce their art on the auction block, adding humor and a backstory as they describe their marathon to a friendly audience.

At evening’s end, bid winners go home with art they can really talk about, art teachers get supplies on their project shelves, students win new creative outlets, artists have new exposure and new friends, and the audience has a vivid impression of step-by-step creation.


Want to Go?

What: 9th annual QuickDraw live art event & auction. 40 artists work live, including 60-minute race-the-clock challenge

Benefits: art teacher grants and college scholarships

When: Saturday, April 24, 5:30 pm

Where: Waynesville Inn Spa & Golf Resort

Tickets: $50 advance only, order early.

To order by phone, call 828.452.2432. Buy with PayPal at Buy in person with cash or check at these Waynesville and Sylva galleries: It’s by Nature on West Main, Sylva; in downtown Waynesville at Gallery 86, EarthWorks, Leapin’ Frog Gallery, Ridge Runner Naturals, Textures, Cackleberry Mountain, and Twigs & Leaves Gallery.

More Info: Visit or call 828.734.5747.


Quickdraw schedule

5:30 p.m. Terrace Social (cash bar) Get your bid number as artists get ready, get set ...

6:15 p.m. GO! QuickDraw’s Signature Live Hour Race-the-Clock Challenge Silent Auction begins.

7:15 p.m. Heavy Hors d’oeuvres Buffet Live Auction Art Preview. Nosh and chat as artists catch their breath, frame their works. Buy silent auction art, review your Live Auction faves

8:15 p.m. Live Auction The gavel rises on a fun, fast-paced auction, where artists describe the challenge and results.

From searing to sautéing, the competition is hot at Mélange of the Mountains

Foodies can have it all at the sixth annual Mélange of the Mountains culinary gala in Haywood County.

Many of the region’s best chefs will assemble at The Gateway Club in Waynesville to show off their finest fare and engage in head-to-head competition. Attendees can see which restaurant’s chef triumphs in each category as they mill about sampling the finest offerings from area restaurants.

Meanwhile, local chefs will face the challenge of creating extraordinary cuisine with basic kitchen equipment. Judges will determine whose dish triumphs in eight categories, including meat, fowl, seafood, salad, soup, dessert, and vegetarian.

This year, chefs will also concoct their best interpretation of the traditional French crepe, as part of a new category, the Folkmoot Exclusive Dish.

After the heat of competition subsides, the chefs will serve up savory samples directly from the menu of area restaurants. Those who attend can also sneak a peek at the expertly presented winning dishes.

There’ll also be a garde manger, or “keeper of the food,” who’ll prepare hors d’oeuvres and carve fruits and vegetables.

Patrick Tinsley, food and beverage director at The Gateway Club, has competed every year since Mélange started six years ago. But there’s little that’s predictable about the competition.

“I’ve thought ‘That’s the best thing I’ve ever made in my life,’ and it doesn’t win gold,” said Tinsley. Other times, Tinsley creates a dish that he’s less than enthusiastic about, and it wins big.

Last year was a phenomenal year for Tinsley, who placed in seven of the eight categories and won five gold medals.

But there’s no guarantee about this year’s Mélange, and many casual establishments have overtaken fine dining restaurants in the past.

Judges are kept in the dark about which chef created each dish. They base their scores solely on taste and plate presentation.

For Tinsley, the competition isn’t any more stressful than a typical evening in the Gateway Club kitchen.

“Most chefs are used to stress, they’re used to getting things out quickly, used to being judged,” said Tinsley. “Everything you put out is going to be judged.”

What is challenging, however, is crafting an exceptional dish on what basically amounts to camping gear. Cooks have to resort to using butane stoves, though they’ll sometimes also use a toaster oven or microwave.

“It’s not as nice as cooking out of your own kitchen,” said Tinsley.

The medal is well worth the effort, though. Winners stand to gain heavily from the exposure.

“There’s 300 people up there listening to see who won,” said Tinsley.

Chefs who participate in Mélange are naturally competitive, and friendly rivalries have sprung up over the years.

“It’s nice to stare down at Doug at Sweet Onion [Restaurant] and flash the gold,” said Tinsley. “But he’ll also do that back to you when he wins.”

Most restaurants will enter into one category, showcasing a specialty they have, like a decadent cheesecake or a hearty soup.

“I personally think it’s a good, healthy competition,” said Art O’Neil, who owns The Gateway Club. “Most of these chefs are stuck in their kitchen all the time. Nobody gets to see them.”

O’Neil, who helped come up with the event, said the Mélange is a chance to showcase local restaurants and allow Haywood County chefs to meet each other.

“The more we do to support each other, the more likely we’re all going to succeed in our business, and keep people from driving to Franklin, driving to Asheville to find food,” said O’Neil.

Tinsley said the competition also gives food lovers a better idea of who’s in the kitchen crafting their favorite dishes at local eateries.

“People have a certain image in their minds of chefs,” said Tinsley, but not everybody shows up to Mélange dressed in immaculate chef’s pants and coats.

Plans underway for second Waynesville ABC store

Buying alcohol will become a lot more convenient for residents in Haywood County.

For the first time in 43 years, a new ABC store will be constructed in Waynesville.

The second location will be situated behind Hardee’s on South Main Street and will be accessed off the entrance drive into Wal-Mart. It will likely capture traffic from all over the county, snagging a greater share of ABC profits distributed in Haywood County.

For now, the Waynesville ABC board is close to finalizing the deal but is still awaiting approval from the state ABC commission.

“Everything’s looking pretty good right now,” said Waynesville ABC Chairman Earl Clark. “It’s a real ideal spot.”

The property itself will cost between $450,000 and $500,000, according to Clark. The store, which will measure about 5,000 square feet, will cost approximately $500,000 to construct.

Waynesville’s original ABC store was built in 1967 and is far too small, Clark said. The ABC board has been anxious to build a new store for several years.

“Our store is just small,” said Clark. “We have no way of displaying and stocking like a lot of the larger stores do.”

With only two alcohol shipments each month from Raleigh and little storage space, it’s been tough for the store to replenish stock.

The convenience of neighboring Wal-Mart might increase revenues for the ABC board, but the Town of Waynesville and Haywood County might not see a payoff any time soon.

Town Manager Lee Galloway said the additional expenses of debt payment, personnel and utilities will scoop up much of the new revenue generated by the store for years to come.

“I do think because of the cost of the store and the personnel involved, the town’s revenues are going down, not up,” said Galloway.

Local governments will only realize the full benefit of the new store when it is paid off.

The town estimates that it’ll receive $94,000 from ABC profits this year. Last year, the town got $112,000, which was spent on law enforcement and alcohol education.

Alternatively, the Town of Maggie Valley has received no money from ABC’s profits in the last few years. A second ABC store was built on Dellwood Road there in 2009.

“We’ve been allowing them to keep the excess to help pay for the second store,” said Tim Barth, town manager for Maggie Valley.

The town annexed a satellite tract a mile outside town limits to get a parcel close to Waynesville, grabbing customers who’d usually travel to Waynesville’s ABC store.

The ABC board in Maggie set aside money years in advance to buy inventory for the new store and save up for the debt payments.

Maggie’s second store was successful in luring customers away from Waynesville’s ABC store, due to its strategic geographic location that’s closer to Waynesville than Maggie. Sales rose for the Maggie Valley ABC board in 2008-2009, but not enough to save the board from landing in the red.

According to annual reports from the town of Maggie Valley, the ABC board operated at a loss of $5,600 in the ’08-’09 year. In comparison, the board’s income from operations in the 2007-2008 fiscal year was a solid $72,479.

Revenues at both the Maggie Valley and Waynesville ABC stores will likely be adversely affected by alcohol sales at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino. Liquor sales at the casino started in late 2009.


Is privatization on the way?

Talks of privatizing liquor sales in North Carolina may hinder Waynesville’s plans for a second Alcoholic Beverage Control store.

The governor has appointed a committee to study reform of the ABC system, including the possibility of privatizing alcohol sales.

Calls for reform were sounded after it was discovered that two ABC staffers in New Hanover County were being paid a combined $350,000 annually. Meanwhile, liquor industry representatives had treated Mecklenburg County ABC board staffers to multiple lavish meals, with one tab totaling $12,700.

Earl Clark, chairman of the Waynesville ABC board, said his board would be hesitant to build a new store if the state decides to follow through with privatization and end the monopoly of ABC boards.

“There’s no doubt that it would affect us because we don’t want to do something that we’d lose money or the town would lose money,” said Clark.

Clark said though the system could use reform, privatizing the system would prove harmful for local governments that get a cut of the profits.

“I think that it would hurt the town and the county on their distribution,” said Clark

Waynesville on target with sidewalk construction

Waynesville is a leader when it comes walkable communities, according to a consultant hired to develop a long-range pedestrian plan for the town.

“I would like to say this is a unique situation,” Terry Snow with Wilbur Smith Associates told the town board during a meeting last month. “We came into a town that already had a pedestrian plan in place. You are already doing this and doing a great job.”

The town systematically analyzes its sidewalk system for where missing links are needed. It builds new sections each year, gradually building out the network. The town has a short greenway and a master plan to extend it. It even requires commercial developers to build sidewalks as part of new construction, whether it’s Super Wal-Mart or a hair salon.

Mayor Gavin Brown said the town board has placed an emphasis on creating a pedestrian-friendly community.

“We believe it is an important part of the social fabric of our community,” Brown said. “We firmly believe in the concept of ‘build it and they will walk.’”

After a year-long process, Snow presented the finished product of a long-range pedestrian plan to the town board. It outlines immediate sidewalk priorities, plus those five, 10 and 15 years from now.

“I think it is wonderful to have these kind of points out in the future that we need to meet,” said Alderwoman Libba Feichter. “This board is committed to enhancing our walkable community, and I believe this community is committed to that.”

The pedestrian plan was funded with a grant from the N.C. Department of Transportation. Public input was sought at meetings and in surveys.

“There was overwhelming support for having an interconnected system,” Snow said of the public input. People wanted more sidewalks, more greenways and less speeding.

The consultant made just one recommendation: way-finding signage. These customized signs are often mounted on eye-level posts pointing the way to shops, parks and the like.

Not all developers are fans of the town’s sidewalk requirement. Some question why they should build a sidewalk in front of their building when the property to either side doesn’t have one.

“It’s the age-old problem of putting in a sidewalk to nowhere,” Snow said. “But it is harder to build a continuous sidewalk project. It is a lot easier to fill in the gaps.”

The reason is funding, which can be scarce while building sidewalks are expensive.

There has been talk of giving developers the option of paying into a sidewalk kitty, which the town could apply to somewhere else in town if a particular development genuinely doesn’t warrant a sidewalk.

Beating bugs the natural way

It all started with a stranger’s death.

At the time, Carl Hughes was working as a construction supervisor for the oil corporation Chevron in Angola.

A worker came into his office to ask permission to take the afternoon off to bury his daughter, who had died from malaria.

The announcement left Hughes stunned.

While the Waynesville resident has caught malaria a whopping eight times during his years working abroad, he’d always had access to premier medical treatment. For Hughes, malaria was akin to a bad case of the flu.

But others were not so lucky.

For the next few weeks, Hughes racked his brain, trying to come up with a way to help.

“God was thumping on my head,” said Hughes. “I had no idea what to do about it. I knew I needed to do something.”

Hughes began researching insect repellents that could help prevent the deadly mosquito-borne disease. He hoped to formulate an all-natural spray without DEET, despite knowing that those kinds of bug sprays hadn’t found much success.

When Hughes returned to Waynesville for a month-long break, he worked in his garage, toiling to put together a natural bug spray that worked. Hughes went on an all-out mission, devouring all the information he could hunt down on essential oils, their properties, and aromatherapy.

“My wife thought I was nuts,” said Hughes, who had a background in engineering, not chemistry.

The result was Whup-A-Bug, an all-natural insect repellent that has earned national and even worldwide attention.

Hughes hauled cases of the spray back to Africa along with him to hand out for free. A chief in one village told him malaria had been reduced by almost 70 percent as a result of the repellent.

Word of mouth led to higher demand, so Hughes mixed up the solution and sent them to his friends and acquaintances, but never for a profit.

“We weren’t in the business of making insect repellent, we just did it,” said Hughes.

But two years ago, Hughes decided to focus on Whup-A-Bug full-time and quit his job, setting up shop in a Waynesville factory.

Despite the struggles inherent in running a small-business startup targeting a nationwide audience, Hughes has been able to achieve remarkable things.

He’s fought for a U.S. patent for his formula, been knighted by an ancient Christian organization, and recently been contacted by The Discovery Channel for a two-part profile series.

Hughes regularly sends his product to camps for children with blood disorders and other life-ending diseases, like Victory Junction Camp, sponsored by NASCAR.

“For the first time children could go into the woods without fear of getting bitten, on top of their fragile medical condition,” said Hughes.

Hughes occasionally still donates his repellent to villages in Angola, though he says he’s finding it harder to find a messenger who can personally deliver the product.

Reclaiming the

all-natural name

Based on his research, Hughes discovered there was only one reason why all-natural repellents weren’t working well — greed.

According to Hughes, major companies only put enough essential oils in a product to be able to proclaim that it’s all-natural. The measly amounts are not enough to be effective for long, but they save the company money.

“They always include citronella, but only put 1 percent or 3 percent active ingredients in,” said Hughes. “Our product is 15.3 percent active.”

Hughes said everything he needed for his product to be effective could already be found in nature.

“There are oils that insects will not come close to,” said Hughes. “That’s what’s in this product.”

What was revolutionary about Hughes’ insect repellent is how he formulated it.

Hughes used cedarwood, lemongrass, citronella and rosemary, but was first to figure out how to combine those four oils to their maximum strength, so that one oil doesn’t overpower another.

His unique method has resulted in a patent for Whup-A-Bug after 11 months of fighting for it with the U.S. government. Achieving a patent is a major milestone for an all-natural product, according to Hughes.

Still, the cloud of misleading labels on products hangs over Whup-A-Bug, threatening its success. Hughes would like the public to be better educated on the all-natural labeling that’s sometimes slapped on not-so-natural products.

While the Environmental Protection Agency requires companies to register insect repellents, classified as a pesticide, companies have used a loophole to avoid being registered — and regulated.

Companies can bypass registration if their ingredients are “demonstrably” safe for the intended use.

Hughes said companies often break down essential oils into chemical components and use the cheaper chemicals rather than the essential oils in their product.

Meanwhile, Hughes said he hands over $21,000 each year to the EPA to register his product nationwide.

Hughes said the public simply doesn’t know the difference.

“They don’t know all these games that are being played out there,” said Hughes. “The EPA doesn’t have the manpower or the resources to go after all these people.”

Hughes recently served on a group of small business owners who advised the EPA and Small Business Administration on this particular exemption.

Hughes said it’s hard to compete with other insect repellents lining the shelves at stores, claiming to be all-natural just like Whup-A-Bug. But he is positive that Whup-A-Bug is the better value if the customer considers the amount of active ingredients in each bottle.

“The biggest challenge is getting people to try it,” said Hughes. “Once they try it, cost doesn’t become a factor.”

Growing success

Hughes hasn’t had the luxury of millions of dollars to launch an advertising campaign nationwide. But distributors from across the country have somehow taken notice of Whup-A-Bug.

“The only reason this product is where it’s at right now is because of word of mouth,” said Hughes. “That tells me it works.”

The company’s equine products have especially taken off, causing distributers of animal care products to beat on Hughes’ door.

Melissa Fischbach, owner of The Baroque Horse Store in Northern California, found Hughes’ product after launching an extensive search for a bug spray that was not only effective but also environmentally safe and non-toxic to sell at her store.

“I found all these qualities in Whup-A-Bug,” said Fischbach. “All of my customers have been impressed by its effectiveness. I’ve had many repeat customers.”

Beyond insect repellent for humans and horses, Hughes has formulated flea and tick sprays for cats and dogs, and sprays for the home.

Hughes says he has formulated 61 products, though many of them still have to go through Federal Drug Administration testing.

Whup-A-Bug spray is also being used in the mess halls and barracks of Fort Rucker in Alabama, according to Hughes. In addition, the poultry industry is testing the product.

“We’re talking to everybody,” said Hughes, who utilizes everything from e-mails to blogs to publicize his product.

Hughes recently inked a deal with Lebermuth, one of the largest natural oil suppliers in the country. The partnership will greatly boost Whup-A-Bug’s ability to supply major distributors across the United States.

Still, all that did not come without hard work and devotion to the product. Hughes said it has been a daily test of survival to keep the business afloat.

Hughes hopes to someday employ about 20 people in Waynesville. For now, he’s working with the help of two other employees.

While investors have previously come knocking on Hughes’ door seeking to invest $5 million and own a 75 percent share, which is normal for most ventures, Hughes refused.

“As bad as I need money, I said no. I won’t sell control,” said Hughes, who believes the first step the investors will take is to dilute the product back to 1 percent and simply use the Whup-A-Bug name to make profits.

The Discovery Channel recently contacted Hughes to include him on a two-part documentary for its Profiles series.

He hesitated to let them film his story, since he was simply not ready to manufacture on a nationwide scale just yet.

Hughes imagined 20 million people phoning Whup-A-Bug, as he stared at two cases of supply on his shelf.

Now that Hughes has a deal with Lebermuth, he’s ready for The Discovery Channel to come into the picture.

Journey to knighthood

Though Hughes has traveled to about 14 countries in his lifetime, Whup-A-Bug has taken him to places he would never have expected.

Last November, Hughes was knighted at St. John’s Cathedral in New York City and accepted into the Knights of Malta, a worldwide organization that started in the year 1081.

Hughes was knighted along with 20 others, including the former president of Okinawa in Japan. Hughes had been nominated for his humanitarian work preventing cases of malaria in African villages.

It was an unbelievable experience steeped in tradition, Hughes said.

He was booked into a hotel right on Broadway, just a few doors down from Carnegie Hall. A limousine picked Hughes and the other initiates up from the hotel and took them to the old cathedral.

“Everything was just totally awe-inspiring,” said Hughes.

“It’s hard to believe that I was even involved.”

All the officials streamed into the church wearing their robes with the symbolic Maltese cross, as a priest asked the group to stand and give an oath of allegiance. They vowed to dedicate their lives to the purpose of God, and help and protect underprivileged people.

One by one, each new member was called up to be knighted with a sword.

“It was so humbling,” said Hughes.

Despite achieving official knighthood status, Hughes says he doesn’t use the title that goes with it.

“My neighbor calls me Sir Carl all the time,” said Hughes. “A lot of people at the church do it, but I don’t use it.”


Buy some

Whup-A-Bug is sold locally at Ace Hardware Store and Tarheels Guns and Gunsmithing in Waynesville and on the company’s Web site at

HART brings edgy plays to WNC — and succeeds

Any actor or director at Haywood Arts Regional Theater will tell you there’s nothing wrong with “The Sound of Music.” Or “Oklahoma” for that matter.

But that doesn’t mean they want to spend all season shuffling through seasoned classics, singing songs everyone already knows by heart.

Each year, HART gets a whole winter season to experiment and explore, bringing plays that have long intrigued actors and directors to its more intimate, 75-seat Feichter Studio Stage.

Feichter plays in recent years have included “Equus,” a story of a young man who is sexually fascinated by horses; “Wit,” in which an English university professor grapples with a terminal case of ovarian cancer; “The Full Monty,” involving six unemployed men who resort to becoming strippers; and “Coyote on the Fence,” which tells the tale of a racist skinhead on death row.

HART’s latest play, Pulitzer-winning “Doubt: A Parable,” is about a priest suspected of sexually abusing a boy in the ‘60s.

Despite an ending that leaves audiences with more questions than answers, “Doubt” sold out its first weekend and was held over for a second weekend of showings.

A sizeable segment of HART’s audience is clearly enthused by the community theater’s daring spirit. It’s not unusual for the theater to turn away people at the door during its winter season, which has raised the bar for theater-lovers in the area.

“Our audience has come to expect us to not do the same thing,” said Steve Lloyd, HART’s executive director. “Lots of theaters underestimate their audiences and want to play it safe by doing ‘The Sound of Music’ again.”

Audiences aren’t the only pleased party. Community actors and directors are delighted to have the opportunity to tackle more serious projects.

“It’s a great theater for letting actors experiment,” said Suzanne Tinsley, one of the founding members of HART and director of the recent “Doubt.”

Art O’Neil, who has acted with HART for a decade, said he’s had his share of traditional plays.

“I’m beyond it,” said O’Neil. “If I’m going to put the energy into it, pick something that’s going to challenge me.”

O’Neil said he has witnessed a shift in HART’s standing over the years, one that he applauds.

“I think there’s a fairly long line now of plays that are not the traditional small-town community theater plays,” said O’Neil. “Ten years ago, we probably could not have done a play that had a curse word in it.”

Since then, the theater has tackled topics like homosexuality and racism and even the raciness of “Cabaret,” where scantily clad thespians greeted theater-goers right at the door.

But HART isn’t choosing these plays just to stir up controversy. A sincere desire to challenge itself and audiences is at the root of HART’s motives. Plays worthy of city stages are the result.

“I don’t have to go to New York, I don’t have to go to Atlanta to see it,” said O’Neil. “It’s not professional theater, but it comes darn close at times.”

While HART isn’t afraid to go on the cutting edge, it’s not going to force the entire community into joining the journey. Whenever the theater publicizes potentially controversial plays, it affixes a warning about adult content.

And it’s not like HART totally ignores it settings, a few modifications here and there are made.

For example, at the culmination of “The Full Monty,” HART actors actually went through with the striptease, ending up completely naked on stage — but a blinding bright light behind them completely concealed them from the audience.

The play was a huge hit.

In preparing for the stunt, Lloyd and others actually moved through the auditorium, ensuring that the view would only entail a bright light and nothing else, no matter where one was seated.

“It ended up being funny,” said Lloyd. “The audience laughed .... They realized we weren’t going to take people off the deep end.”

For upcoming plays at HART, look no farther than what’s already on Broadway. Lloyd frequently picks up plays that have just become available, like “Chicago,” which was just released to community theaters six months ago.

“I want us to be leading the bandwagon, not following it,” said Lloyd.

For that hard work, HART has won numerous awards, all of which have been handed to plays originating from its smaller stage.

Although its Feichter stage has been successful, there will continue to be a diverse mix of plays at HART with, hopefully, something for everyone.

Lloyd says he compares the theater’s offerings to a dinner menu, making sure to include both hearty and delightful offerings.

“There’s going to be puff pastry, but I’m not going to serve you seven courses of that,” said Lloyd.


Upcoming plays at HART

• “Beyond Therapy” – March 5-7

• “Seussical” – April 23-May 9, weekends

• “Falling in Like” – June 4-13, weekends

• “Chicago” – July 9-Aug. 1, weekends

• “Catfish Moon” – Aug. 27-Sept. 7, weekends

• “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story”– Sept. 24-Oct. 17, weekends.

• “The Little Foxes” – Nov. 5-14, weekends.

Free wireless in downtown Waynesville a hit or miss affair

There’s free wireless up for grabs to anyone ambling down Main Street in Waynesville, but it’s so obscure that even those who work downtown are oblivious to its existence.

When tourists file into stores and restaurants asking where they can find wireless internet access — a common occurrence — employees point them to the few businesses nearby that offer it rather than ask them to simply step back outside and flip their laptops open on the sidewalk.

On the other hand, those who are in the know about the amenity also know that it has worked poorly in the past.

“We actually did have quite a few phone calls that it wasn’t working over the last year,” said Buffy Messer, director of the Downtown Waynesville Association. “Some of the phone calls we received were from frustrated folks.”

Messer said she has seen visitors using the wireless over the summer, but she hesitates to actively publicize it because of its hit-or-miss status.

“My understanding is that it works, but that it does not work particularly well,” said Alison Melnikova, assistant town manager of Waynesville.

“It certainly never developed the way we anticipated,” said Town Manager Lee Galloway.

Meanwhile, the telecommunications company that runs it, Wynncom, said it was unaware of any problems until Smoky Mountain News contacted its headquarters in Lexington. N.C.

“We weren’t aware of that,” said owner Jimmy Wynn. “Nobody had complained about it.”

No one called up the company, because no entity in Waynesville is expressly responsible for ensuring the wireless works — or for that matter, advertising it to the public.

“It’s something that I think the private sector needs to promote rather than the Town of Waynesville,” said Galloway.

The free, public wireless access supposedly went live three years ago. Wynncom offered it as a free bonus to the Town of Waynesville, while bargaining with Haywood County to land a contract to install a fiberoptic line.

That endeavor hasn’t gone well, either. Haywood County filed a lawsuit against Wynncom after it failed to deliver adequate telephone services on the fiberoptic line.

The county recently dropped the suit and bought the fiberoptic line from the company, deciding to go with another telecommunications company for services instead.

Wireless plans originally called for an antennae on the roof of town hall and a repeater on the roof of the historic courthouse to provide coverage the length of Main Street. But the courthouse antennae was never installed, which Wynn blamed on renovations to the historic building over the years.

But David Cotton, Haywood county manager, said Wynncom has never requested access to install any equipment on the courthouse roof.

While Haywood County has expressed interest in independently setting up free wireless inside the courthouse on Main Street, the recession has blocked progress on that goal.

“We definitely want to get wireless Internet access inside the justice center and courthouse,” said Kristy Wood, director of information technology for the county. “That’s been a goal that we’ve had for over a year. Under such tight budget constraints, we haven’t been able to move forward.”

The wireless would be especially useful to journalists covering government meetings and lawyers during court proceedings, Wood said.

Wynncom says it has now fixed the wireless, which is supposed to be accessible along Main Street from the Town of Waynesville building to the Haywood County courthouse. But the signal decidedly loses its strength as users near the courthouse.

The router had been working, but services were still down, Wynn said.


On street only

There is, however, one lingering problem with the wireless: misunderstandings about what it’s for.

Internet junkies who want to hole up inside a building on Main Street perusing the Internet for hours for free are out of luck. The connection is only meant to be accessible outside.

“Nothing more,” said John Howell, a telecommunications consultant in Haywood County who negotiated the contract. “Anything else would have simply been extra.”

It’s aimed to serve visitors — not businesses or apartment dwellers downtown looking for a way around paying for internet service.

“It was not the intent to provide free access to people that can pay for it,” said Wynn. “It was not designed for a company to use for their benefit for nothing.”

Amanda Collier, manager of Ceviches on Main, said she had no idea that free wireless was available outside the restaurant, but she acknowledged the benefits of having the amenity.

For example, tourists could quickly look up directions to nearby attractions by simply jumping on their laptops.

“It’d be a lot easier, a lot more convenient,” said Collier.

But after learning about the wireless, Stuart Smith, an employee at Pheasant Hill, said the service doesn’t make much sense on Main Street. Few would find it convenient to take to the streets with their laptops in tow.

“Unless there’s more café seating, I don’t think it’s very useful,” said Stuart Smith.

Owen Thorp, an O’Malley’s employee, pointed out one other downside of offering wireless outside only: battery life.

“I’d never use battery only lasts a minute and a half,” said Thorp.

Waynesville moves on skate park

Skateboard enthusiasts in Waynesville will be happy to hear the town has been busily preparing for a long-awaited skate park on Vance Street near the recreation center.

The town board recently dropped $28,500 on a California firm called Spohn Ranch Skateparks to design the park, marking notable progress in a process that’s crawled for more than a decade.

The board unanimously agreed it was time to move forward.

“We beat this horse about as much as we can beat it,” said Mayor Gavin Brown.

“I think this is a giant step forward in reaching our goal,” said Rhett Langston, Waynesville’s recreation director.

The town is also applying for a $60,000 state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant to help fund construction.

While the town failed to lock in the same state grant last year, having a concrete design plan in hand might improve their chances this go-around.

“To have this plan in place to show them you really are enthused about doing it, I think it will be help us with the grant,” said Alderman Gary Caldwell, the most ardent supporter of the skate park on the town board.

Even if the town lands the grant, it still faces the challenge of scraping up an equal amount in matching funds and paying for the remainder of the cost.

The town will learn in early May if it has won the coveted grant.

Langston said it is difficult right now to even speculate on the total cost of the skate park. After hiring the design firm, the town has $41,500 remaining of the original $70,000 set aside for the park. It also holds a generous $20,000 grant from the Waynesville Kiwanis Club.

To supplement that sum, the recreation department continues to fundraise by selling bricks with personalized messages for a walkway leading up to the park. So far, they’ve raised $2,900.

Having a conceptual design plan in hand could also aid fundraising efforts, according to town officials.

“If you just tell someone, ‘We want to build a skate park. Will you donate?’ they might. But if you show them, ‘This is what we want to build,’ your chances of getting participation may be a lot better,” said Lee Galloway, Waynesville town manager.

“Local skaters will have something in their hands to show this is what we’re looking for, this is the cause,” said Langston.

The town considers it absolutely essential that skaters throw their two cents in, since it doesn’t want to invest in a skate park that they didn’t like.

“If we’re going to do it, let’s just do it right from the beginning,” said Langston.


More on the park

The Waynesville Kiwanis and Parks and Recreation Skate Park will be located in a fenced-in, outdoor facility on the site of the former horse ring on Vance Street. It will join the sprawling town recreation complex along Richland Creek, where playgrounds, tennis courts, picnic shelters, ball fields, a greenway, a dog park, a track, and the Waynesville Recreation Center are clustered.

The park would be free to use, but skaters would be required to pay a small registration fee so the Parks and Recreation Department can keep track of who is using the facility.

For now, skaters still have to deal with a town ban on skateboards on sidewalks and most town streets. Violators face a $50 fine and the possibility of having their boards confiscated.

Those interested in purchasing a brick, making a donation, or volunteering for the fundraising committee are asked to contact Langston at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828.456.2030.

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