Garret K. Woodward

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moot russiaFor two weeks every July, the old Hazelwood School in Waynesville becomes a mini United Nations. 

Performance groups from around the globe descend on Haywood County and Western North Carolina. They’re dancers, singers and musicians, each proudly representing their faraway native land and culture. And with every group comes a language barrier. Though there are obviously difficulties in not being able to understand someone else, the beauty of sharing cultures comes in finding common ground with that person. 

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A section of Johnson Street in Canton has been closed following complaints that parked vehicles — repair jobs from Blackbear Automotive & Transmission — were creating a traffic hazard. 

“We’re after a safety issue. We’re not trying to close his business, but he seems to think otherwise,”  Jerry Mcfall, a resident living near the area in question, said at a specially called town meeting July 16. “Safety is our primary issue, and that’s what we’re here for.”

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art theplaceThere’s no place like home. Amid my first few weeks living in Western North Carolina, there were times I got homesick. Though I have bounced around the country for many years now, I, too, have moments where I start to miss things familiar to me.

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art frThe 2nd annual United Community Bank Mountain Challenge featuring American tennis legends Andy Roddick and Jim Courier will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, July 26, at the Cedar Creek Racquet Club in Cashiers.

The event will be hosted by the Cashiers Area Chamber of Commerce and benefits the nonprofit organizations Mountain Youth Charities and the Boys & Girls Club of the Plateau.

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moot galaWith a property deed to their headquarters in hand and more than 30 years of cultural performance already in the history books, Folkmoot USA will also be shifting a handful of its signature events around for this year’s festival.

Usually the Folkmoot “Gala Performance & Champagne Reception” private preview event for donors and sponsors was held at the Stompin’ Ground in Maggie Valley on a Thursday kicking off the festival, with the public “Grand Opening” at the same spot on Friday. Though the “Grand Opening” will now officially launch Folkmoot on Friday, July 18, the “Gala Performance & Champagne Reception” has been moved to Monday. July 21. 

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moot openhouseStanding in the hallway of the former Hazelwood Elementary School in Waynesville, amid old furniture, dusty windows and walls with paint peeling, Karen Babcock only sees potential.

“It all fits beautifully,” she smiled. “We hope to bring in local, regional, national and international groups and programs to this facility — we see complete, open opportunities.”

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moot hawaiiFor Joe Ahuna, it’s about one word — “ohana.”

“Ohana means family,” he said. “[We want people] inspired to go home and strengthen their own families.”

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art theplaceI am the human sponge.

As far back as I can remember, into the early days of my youth, I have always wandered, wondered and wished. My senses have been my guide, with maps thrown out the window as I follow intuition and head in the direction my heart leads. 

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A Canton business has recently found itself in the midst of a heated parking debate. Blackbear Automotive & Transmission, located on the corner of Pisgah Drive (N.C. 110) and Johnson Street, is generating traffic concerns from the community.

Those concerns recently bubbled to the surface during a July 10 town board meeting.

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After a firestorm of public outcry over the prospect of a firing range being built in an African-American neighborhood in Canton, town board members appear to have the issue on hold.

“There has been no movement on the project,” said Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss, explaining that the town has no further action planned at this time.

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It’s the soundtrack of my life. Growing up in the Champlain Valley (Upstate New York/Vermont), the music of my native land echoed through the albums of moe. They are North Country boys, whose central blend of rock, jam, funk and jazz coagulated into a unique tone. It’s a seed planted in your head that grows and blossoms with you, becoming a beautiful vine of melodies wrapping around your flourishing soul.

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art frAll is not well at the Uptown Gallery in Franklin.

“It’s pretty bad,” said Sue Weathers. “We’re losing money, and keeping the gallery open is getting pretty hard.”

Co-director of the gallery and a member of the Macon County Art Association, which runs the gallery, Weathers is putting an open call out to the local residents, visitors and greater Western North Carolina that help is needed to ensure the longevity and survival of the 52-year-old nonprofit business.

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fr cantonIt was suppose to be Canton’s wrap-up budget meeting. But community members showed up to voice concerns about a specific item tucked within that budget: a proposed firing range in the Gibsontown neighborhood.

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Though unanimously passed 4-0, Canton town board members approved the 2014-2015 budget with some hesitation. The budget came in at $7,718,836, which is up from $7,085,956 for 2013-2014.

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art theplaceScrew it all.

There have been days, many days, where I’ve found myself sitting in traffic, standing in line, waiting on the phone, ordering something I really don’t want (or need), drinking and eating something that probably isn’t good for me, and think to myself, “Screw it all, I don’t want any part of this — no more.”

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art frNothing says summer more than the Fourth of July, and in Western North Carolina, we celebrate Independence Day with gusto. Between majestic fireworks, sizzling hot dogs and hamburgers, cotton candy, games, live music and craft demonstrations, there’s a little of bit of everything for any and all. So, grab your lawn chair, sunglasses and adventurous spirit and enjoy America’s birthday in Southern Appalachia.

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coverMarc Pruett has won a Grammy and played the Grand Ole Opry stage, but his biggest concern on this day is sinkholes.

“Where is it? Canton?,” he asked a coworker. 

Director of erosion control for Haywood County, Pruett sits at his desk, which is covered in paper, maps and books. After a heavy midday rain, two sinkholes have emerged in downtown Canton. Pruett puts a plan into motion, workers head for the door. 

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art theplaceIt’s a sound that immediately turns your head.

Sitting at a table within the 5 Walnut Wine Bar in downtown Asheville one lazy, sunny Appalachian afternoon, a trio of musicians took to the floor and eased into the subtle ambiance of the cozy space.

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fr D dayRandall E. Murff remembers the guns shooting at him.

“The Germans really could shoot those guns, they were good,” he said. “If you gave them 17 seconds, they’d knock you right down.”

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art theplaceTime sure does fly, eh? It hit me this week that my column recently crossed over the one-year anniversary threshold. How crazy, huh?

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art frWhen the clock struck midnight this past New Year’s Eve, a new North Carolina state tax took effect.

“This isn’t a tax reform, it’s a tax shift,” said Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville. “It’s just part of the shift by the Republican legislature on revenues. They cut taxes on big business, then entertainment, tourism and nonprofits, who do so much with so little, and are the engine of our economy, get taxed while those huge tax breaks are given to those who contribute to the call.” 

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art theplaceWaylon Jennings is alive.

Figuratively. Not literally, folks. Strolling down Haywood Road in West Asheville one evening last summer, I came across the Double Crown, a dive bar of the most enjoyable proportions. And I love dive bars, places where I feel as welcomed as the beer is cold. 

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art frIt all started with a drum solo.

“My mother was of the big band generation, and she’d watch all of these movies when I was a kid with big bands in them,” said Michael Reno Harrell. “I remember seeing Gene Krupa do a drum solo and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

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art theplace“Let’s go back to the 1930s,” said Judy Coker.

Standing underneath a large manmade birch tent in the backwoods of the Cataloochee Ranch last Friday evening, Coker welcomed around 40 people — friends, family and visitors alike — to partake in their inaugural Way Back When dinner.

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art frWith each throw, Scott Medlin is connecting to his ancestors.

“The Scottish Highland Games need to be preserved because most of the gatherings included athletic competitions, with each clan gathered around cheering on their representative of the clan,” the 58-year-old said. “It’s really about the competition and knowing that I too have done this and there’s not many people in the world that can do this.”

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art theplaceIt’s 8:36 a.m. on a Thursday and I’m in Detroit.

Thee Irish Pub at the metro airport to be exact. Besides the usual fast food options I detest, it was the only other place open in Concourse B. And a nice local red ale sounds about right for this moment, especially since this is the beginning of my “vacation.”

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Three Haywood County towns will be used as filming sites for an upcoming feature movie. The film — a Catalyst Pictures project called “Chasing Grace” — is a faith-based thriller.

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art frFrom welcoming backwoods front porches to raucous downtown stages, the music of Western North Carolina weaves together the rich history, passion and camaraderie of Southern Appalachia and its inhabitants. At the heart of this deep love and appreciation for music are the communities that proudly display their heritage by offering weekly performances for residents and visitors alike. 

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art theplaceHe was completely shocked. Standing in front of an empty warehouse in Dillsboro, which will soon be the site of his new brewery, Dieter Kuhn couldn’t believe almost 500 people had shown up at the recent launch party of his new facility. 

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art theplaceShort shorts and a neon orange trucker hat.

Strolling down Main Street in downtown Waynesville, I found myself adorned with those exact pieces of clothing. You see, I was headed to Tipping Point Brewing, and that evening I was going to enter the Cinco de Beardo contest put on by the Dixie Beard & Moustache Society.

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fr libraryKaren Wallace knows the importance of a library. “In a rural area, the library is the single greatest man-made resource offered to residents and tourists,” she said.

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art theplace“Hey, Garret, what’s up, man?” I looked up from my notebook and there standing in front of me was a familiar face. Tony Casey, from the North Country. It was last Saturday evening and I was sitting at a picnic table at White Duck Taco in the River Arts District of Asheville. And there we were, two boys from the Champlain Valley of Upstate New York, crossing paths over a thousand miles from our hometowns.

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art frWhat a difference a year makes.

For the last 12 months, Haywood County group Soldier’s Heart has been roaming Western North Carolina and beyond with their unique Appalachian porch-n-soul tone. 

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art theplaceWhat does a washboard, a bucket and a beard have in common?

They make up the melodic magic that is The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. A three-piece country-blues outfit barreling out of southern Indiana, the group has one foot firmly planted in the rich history of early American music, the other stepping into a future where these sights and sounds are needed now more than ever. 

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art frRunning downhill with a tray of wine glasses, Janelle Trevino had a simple objective: she didn’t want to drop any.

“It was intense,” Trevino said. “It’s a lot harder than it looks. I was pretty nervous.”

A server at Tipping Point Brewing in Waynesville, Trevino and her three teammates participated in The Greater Waynesville Wine Race on April 26. Taking place on Miller Street in downtown Waynesville, the spectacle, put on by the Relay for Life of West Haywood, brought together a handful of local restaurants to raise awareness of cancer through a fun and unique occasion.

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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. 

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art frGregg Fuller can sum up barbeque.

“It’s a southern tradition,” he confidently stated.

Owner of No Name Sports Pub in Sylva, Fuller knows his barbeque. It’s something the establishment specializes in, and aims to perfect when pristine, raw pork rolls in and juicy, fresh barbeque rolls out.

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art theplaceMonday is the new Saturday. Heading down Frazier Street in Waynesville to BearWaters Brewing Company, one can barely find a place to park on a typical Monday evening. For the last couple of months, the location has played host to a weekly open mic event called the Spontaneous CombustJam.

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art frPulling into his steep, gravel driveway, the first thing you notice about Gary Montanari are his numerous pets.

“I hope you like dogs,” he said, as several barks are heard from around the property.

The second thing you notice about Gary Montanari is that he has lived an extraordinary life.

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art theplaceSo, what are you going to ask him?

That was the question constantly asked to me when friends and curious folks alike found out I was interviewing Kevin Costner. Yes, that Kevin Costner. You see the Academy Award-winning actor/director fronts a country/blues band called Modern West. They’ll be performing at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin on April 24. 

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art frStaring into a 2,250-degree furnace, Tadashi Torii sees his passion come to life.

“I’m really calm,” he said. “I try not to be bothered by anything else. I try to create my inner-peace area and then go from there and concentrate.”

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art theplaceKacey Musgraves makes me feel like a teenage boy.

Shouts of joy escape my lungs when I find out she’s performing nearby. All my friends grow weary over my constant babbling about her. If there were a life-size poster available, I’d probably buy one — her music is just that good.

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art frThe ocean is a long way from Rick Miller’s kitchen. The kitchen is a long way from where his journey began.

“Back then I wanted to be a marine biologist,” the 61-year-old smiled. “And I can still give all the Latin names to the fish.”

SEE ALSO: Mélange of the Mountains returns to Haywood County

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fr cantonmanagerCanton Mayor Mike Ray was happy to see it come to an end. Finally, a decision has been made.

“We’ve gone through 80 applications and have worked hard to make a decision for our city, our employees and our residents,” Ray said. 

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art theplaceI went out too fast. I always go out too fast.

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art frA writer looking at a blank page is a like a painter staring at a fresh canvas, a sculptor facing a block of clay or a woodworker holding a chunk of wood. The desire to grab words from thin air and construct them into sentences, notions and ideas comes from an internal fire to describe human emotion and situation. It is a calling, one that picks its creators when the time and place is prime. Writers are messengers, connecting the unknown cosmos to an everyday modern reality.

SEE ALSO: Wordsmiths converge on WCU for Spring Literary Festival

Western Carolina University will be once again play host to an array of writers during the 12th annual Spring Literary Festival, which runs March 31 through April 4. The event is a celebration of the written word, where finely-aged veterans intermingle with the young faces of future generations eager to find their voice. It is a bountiful cross-pollination, one crucial to the perpetuation of the craft.

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fr hartstageThough the process has been long, Steven Lloyd is beginning to see the fruits of his labor.

“I sometimes feel like I’ve pushed a big boulder up a hill and it’ll fall backwards,” he said. “But, the momentum is still going. We’re a proven, successful theatre, and this is going to happen.”

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The Canton town board remains undecided about who will take over as town manager. The board was expected to choose between three finalists at its March 13 meeting, but two members pushed for a delay until at least the next meeting.

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art theplaceThe right place at the right time. We’re all aware of that notion, and most of us have experienced it at one moment or another. For Brad Boulet, it was standing in the mud at the Shaky Knees Music Festival in Atlanta last spring. Beside him in the downpour was Caleb Burress, lead singer of Haywood County Americana outfit Soldier’s Heart. The two began talking and quickly found out they had much more in common than a love for music.

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art frIn a crowded, frenzied gymnasium, Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland was just trying to not embarrass himself.

“I haven’t touched a basketball in years,” he chuckled. “I’m trying to not look as dumb as possible.”

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