Garret K. Woodward

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fr culpepperOne man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

“Ever since I was kid, I would take home all kinds of stuff, all kinds of random, weird junk, and my parents hated it,” David Culpepper chuckled. “They thought I was crazy, but when you find something rusty and interesting, you bring it home, and I did.”

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art julyfourNothing says summer more than the 4th of July, and in Western North Carolina, we celebrate Independence Day with gusto.

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art garretGetting poison ivy is my official sign summer is here.

Like old men whose knees ache when there’s an impending storm, the symbolic rash and blisters are Mother Nature’s way of telling me spring is over. Ever since I was kid, I always seemed to catch poison ivy at least once during the summer months.

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art frA hundred years of history and community will come together during the Centennial Homecoming Week at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center from June 30 to July 7.

Reunions, dynamic speakers, an impressive lineup of concerts, a golf tournament, a water skiing show, fine art and an antiques “road show,” home and garden tours and historic reenactments are all on tap for the thousands of locals and generations of families who will make the pilgrimage to honor and celebrate Lake Junaluska during this special week.

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coverCharged with stealing, 15-year-old Charles Eason was sentenced to work on a prison chain gang.

It was 1882, and the teenager from Martin County soon found himself side-by-side with other convicts, many two and three times his age. Mostly from the eastern part of the state, the gang was sent to construct the railroad lines in Western North Carolina.

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art garretIt was the reason I came to the South.

Situated in the southeastern corner of Tennessee, the city of Chattanooga is a rapidly growing, bustling hub of culture and commerce in Southern Appalachia. Like Asheville, both cities went through hard times following the end of their manufacturing eras. Each became stagnant, searching for an identity that eventually evolved into prosperous havens for artists, musicians, chefs, craft brewers, etc.

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art frIn Western North Carolina, it seems the two most important things are tradition and family – and nothing incorporates those ideals more than the melodic music of Southern Appalachian.

“Music is a huge part of our heritage and of our lives here,” said musician Caleb Smith. “You go to a barn dance or play on your front porch, it’s something to be proud of. Bluegrass and mountain music may not be the biggest genre, but it’s authentic. It’s music that makes an impact on people.”

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fr buyhaywoodThe “Buy Haywood” initiative is a work-in-progress example of how local businesses benefit by connecting with each other.

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coverHaywood County just got a little sweeter.

Specializing in “handcrafted, locally produced, artisan beverages,” Waynesville Soda Jerks is a new business that has opened at the Waynesville Historic Farmer’s Market. At the center of it all are founders Megan Brown and Chris Allen.

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art garretI had never seen the color green like that before.

Touching down at the Shannon Airport in southwest Ireland, the lush, vibrant green landscape of my ancestors took my breath away. It was August 2005, and I was about to embark on a collegiate semester abroad.  

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art frRonan MacGregor didn’t know where he came from.

He knew he was of Scottish decent, but that was about it. It wasn’t until he moved to Macon County several years ago and wandered into the Scottish Tartans Museum in downtown Franklin that he began digging into his family’s past.

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fr blacksmithDavid Burress wants to live forever.

Not necessarily in the immortal sense though. Burress is an accomplished blacksmith. And for him, it’s all about sharing and perpetuating the sacred traditions of working with the elements of the Earth — fire, water, metal, wind and coal.

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art thisplaceWell, hello there Western North Carolina.

As the arts and entertainment writer at The Smoky Mountain News, I spend my days wandering between art gallery openings, craft beer releases and front porch pickin’ sessions. Each week, I invite you along on the ride as I bring to life all the creative people, places and things that make Southern Appalachia so unique.

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art frYou’ve sung it in the shower, in the car with the windows rolled down, at weddings, in karaoke bars, and perhaps just because you simply can’t get it out of your head.

“All Out of Love” by Air Supply is a melody that’s inescapable. It overtook the world and, decades later, still resonates deeply in those who continue to support the beloved classic soft rock group.

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fr oneloveThis summer, there will be a new scent wafting through Lake Junaluska.

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art frFor Norma Hendrix, it’s all about connecting the dots.

“I love working in a community of artists,” she said. “I really like pulling all of those dots together, where you create a sense of community with the energy of people working side-by-side.”

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coverLights, camera … Haywood County? 

During the past two years, a local reality show has become a phenomenon that’s being broadcast into homes across the country and beyond. The program is “Hillbilly Blood: A Hardscrabble Life,” and it features Western North Carolina outdoor survival experts Spencer Bolejack and Eugene Runkis.

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art frAaron Lewis has always seemed to be on the outside.

Founder and lead singer of hard rock group Staind, Lewis found great success during the last decade with his soulful, heart-wrenching lyrics soaked in razor-sharp guitar chords. Yet, whenever someone tried to categorize the sound, it never seemed to fit anywhere — too hard for mainstream listeners, too mainstream for rock elitists. And thus lies the constant state of affairs for Lewis. 

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art frIt’s the sound of the ancient mountains, the unique people and rich culture of Southern Appalachia.

It’s the sound of Soldier’s Heart.

Filled with the musical attitudes of bluegrass, old-time country and early rock-n-roll, the band is influenced as much by Bill Monroe as The Band, as much by Johnny Cash as The Grateful Dead. It’s about creating something bigger than yourself, about embracing the deep roots of mountain music, incorporating it into modern times, and sharing it with those family and friends you care about most. 

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fr louieStanding next to Louis “Louie” Bing, you’d never know he was homeless.

While waiting for a cup of coffee at City Bakery in Waynesville, the 65-year-old stands patiently alongside tourists, retirees and locals. His clothes, shoes and beard are well kempt.

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art frIn order to have a clear vision of the future, one must cherish the traditions of the past. 

“Southern Appalachian traditions are our heritage,” said Beth Woody. “They made us what we are today. To know who we are now, we need to know who and what we came from.”

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art beerfestAll five North Carolina breweries west of Asheville medaled in the recent Carolinas Championship of Beer during the Hickory Hops Festival.

 

“It’s a testament that we are all in it for the long haul, that we will strive to get better,” said Clark Williams, owner/brewer at Frog Level Brewing in Waynesville. “We felt the pride that all of Western North Carolina should have for this craft. It’s easy to say we all work hard to make great beer.”

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art frIf the litmus test of a community’s health is how strong its art scene is, then, by the looks of it, Waynesville is in tip-top shape.

Hundreds will take to the streets of downtown this Friday evening for the first Art After Dark of the year. For some serious art purveyors, it’s a time to study and muse over the latest works to emerge on gallery walls. For artists, its time to compare notes about the creative process.

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art totalwarWhen finding your artistic voice, it’s about moving forward and not looking back, being true to yourself and refusing to run around in well-worn circles of creativity.

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fr clyderaysIt’s Monday morning, and Mary Lou Rinehart is taking a moment to relax.

Owner of Clyde Ray’s Flower Shop in Waynesville, Rinehart spent most of the weekend putting the final touches on innumerable corsages and arrangements for the two high school proms that were on back-to-back nights.

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out frDana Dowdy raised a razor-sharp axe above her head, let it hover a moment and then slammed into her competition with the first of many swift, deft blows. 

The throngs of cheering people on the sidelines became background noise. The other lumberjills looking on weren’t her concern either. Today, her beef was with the large, stubborn block of wood between her feet.

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fr wheelchairIt was a moment that forever stuck with Don Schoendorfer.

While on vacation in Morocco several years ago, the southern California engineer/inventor witnessed a disabled woman dragging herself across a busy street. She had no wheelchair. Nobody seemed to even notice her, let alone provide her assistance. 

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art melangeHaywood County Chamber of Commerce held their annual “Melange of the Mountains” culinary gala at Laurel Ridge Country Club on April 11. Winners included The Waynesville Inn (soup, fowl), Frogs Leap Public House (Culinary Excellence, salad, seafood, dessert), The Gateway Club (meat, vegetarian) and Harrah’s Cherokee (People’s Choice).

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coverWhen Doug Weaver looks around Haywood County, he sees potential. 

“We’re on the fence, right in the middle of where it’s almost a scene,” he said.

Head chef and co-owner at The Sweet Onion in Waynesville, Weaver is at the forefront of a pioneering movement within the county and greater Western North Carolina to make his backyard a culinary destination.

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fr donalddavisIt’s been said that people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death, but for Donald Davis, he couldn’t imagine doing anything else. 

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art frShowcasing the finest in Southern Appalachian and national writing talent, the Western Carolina University Spring Literary Festival comes into its 20th year with bevy of events, author appearances, readings and talks from April 8-11.

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fr burdsYou get what you pay for, and a haircut is quite possibly the finest example of that timeless concept.

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fr lanceCatapulting classic cars and blowing up helicopters just isn’t enough for Lance Holland.

“You’ve never had fun until you’ve wrecked a freight train,” he chuckled.

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art frWhen he didn’t have the money to purchase a banjo, Joshua Grant took matters into his own hands.

“I couldn’t afford what I wanted, so I decided to build one,” he said.

A native of the Nantahala Gorge, the 31-year-old recently launched Grant Custom Banjos, a business that constructs handmade instruments as unique and full of character as Grant himself. 

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fr clydesIf you want a seat at one of Bobby Harracks’ tables, you better get to Clyde’s Restaurant early.

A steady crowd of customers makes a beeline for Harracks’ section of the mainstay hometown diner in Waynesville, filling in the booths and counter space for a chance to be entertained by the beloved server.

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coverIt was a decade in the making, but its origins are hundreds of years old.

Partnering with the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, the North Carolina Arts Council recently launched its latest initiative – the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina. Encompassing 29 counties in Western North Carolina, the trails were created to preserve, interpret and promote these rich pockets of music and dance that have had a profound impact on American culture and beyond.

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art frIf you build it, they will come. 

If you brew it, they will come and party.

Celebrating the fourth release in their “Trail Magic Ale” series, Nantahala Brewing Company in Bryson City will host a weekend of music and craft beer on March 22-23. The festivities are all in an effort to showcase the adventurous spirit of Southern Appalachia and the mystical ways of the Appalachian Trail that runs through the heart of Western North Carolina.

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news balloonIt’s 20 degrees outside and Spencer Thomas is standing on a Cherokee soccer field holding a balloon.

“Hopefully, everything goes according to plan,” he said.

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art frIt’s a sunny, crisp afternoon in the high hills of Tuckasegee and Thomas Rain Crowe throws another log into the woodstove.

Unwinding into a nearby seat, the renowned Western North Carolina poet is all smiles. As owner/founder of New Native Press, his entire catalogue of printed works — including his own writings and those of others he has published — is currently on display in a glass case at the Jackson County Public Library.

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fr drinknthinkIt’s a room full of strangers, ideas and alcohol.

Still in its infancy yet gaining steam, the Drink-N-Think congregation came together last Wednesday evening at the Mad Batter Bakery & Café in Cullowhee, near the heart of Western Carolina University.

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fr pancakedayIt’s 6:15 a.m., and Woody Griffin is ready.

“It’s the calm before the storm,” he chuckled.

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art frDarkness enveloped the vehicle as soon as it exited Interstate 40.

Cruising around sharp S-curves in the mountain community of Fines Creek in the remote northern reaches of Haywood County, headlights peered across vast fields and by quiet farmhouses where inhabitants were winding down after another bountiful day. A heavy fog rolled into Western North Carolina as distant homes sparkled like far away stars in the sky. Barreling further into the country, and away from any semblance of town, it seemed you could drive off the edge of the earth if you kept pushing any longer.

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art frA cold wind howls through the campus of Western Carolina University as the screams of a young woman echo from a nearby building.

The voice is Stefani Cronley and her attackers are a gang of apes.

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cover2With her hands fluttering like a hummingbird, Dana Claire loops skeins of colored yarn around a large pegboard.

Claire has been interested in fiber crafts her entire life and now, in her retirement years, has she decided to pursue her true passion of working with her hands by going back to school. Offering a nationally recognized professional crafts program, she found herself at Haywood Community College in Clyde. This semester, she’s learning and engaging in the new Creative Arts facility constructed on campus.

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art frRhiannon Giddens is an old soul, but one that embraces modernity.

Vocalist/fiddler of renowned Americana string band the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens is a jack-of-all-trades in not only her instrumentation but also her exploration of the history and evolution of American music.

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fr gunshowEditor’s Note: Given the national debate over gun legislation and controversy swirling around gun shows in particular, The Smoky Mountain News was curious to see just what goes on at a gun show. Join our reporter on a stroll through the exhibit hall of a gun show at the Haywood County Fairgrounds last weekend and meet some of the hobbyists that wheel and deal in collector’s firearms.

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art frTimes may change, but stereotypes tend to linger.

Venturing into the off-color humor and often offensive images of Southern culture portrayed by cartoonists throughout American history, Western Carolina University will address the issue head-on in its newest exhibit opening next week.

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art fr“Once in awhile you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right…”
– Grateful Dead “Scarlet Begonias”

If the Grateful Dead taught us anything through their music, it would be the mere fact that surprises, in all shapes and sizes, can come from the most unexpected of encounters and corners of the universe.

The town of Sylva is one of those corners.

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art frJohn Driskell Hopkins was driving in his truck when it struck him.

It was a song. Radiating from his satellite radio, it sounded like a fond memory he once knew. The voices and melody were familiar, but he hadn’t ever heard it before, and had no idea who wrote it. He looked at the radio. A band name appeared in the digital display: Balsam Range.

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out frIt’s all started with a phone call.

A lifelong thirst for adventure led Ronald R. Cooper to a love of backpacking, where he soon began hiking around the Grand Canyon and beyond. But, he was in search of a new challenge, one that ultimately tied together his Native American ancestry with his own modern existence.

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