Garret K. Woodward

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fr reynoldsWilliam McDowell remembers when segregation was a reality in Canton.

“When I was a kid we weren’t allowed to sit anywhere but the balcony at the Colonial Theatre in downtown,” he said. “You couldn’t eat in certain restaurants and there were black and white drinking fountains — segregation was really enforced.”

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art theplaceBut, it’s only mid-March?

I’m well aware of that, dear readers. Yes, it is mid-March, but 2014 is hitting the ground running with a slew of incredible musical releases. Normally, I would wait until at least early July or the end of the year to mention some notable albums hitting the shelves, your iPod or stereo. And yet, within these last two months, there’s just too much melodic goodness out there to not share with y’all.

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art frHe was a toddler with tenacity and talent.

At three years old, Seth Taylor picked up his first guitar. Seeing musicians on television and hearing them on the radio sparked something inside of the Bryson City native. Once that instrument was in his hands, it was like two magnets connecting, where it would take all your might to pull them apart.

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coverHeidi Dunkelberg is determined to make hops synonymous with Western North Carolina.

“I’ve got to figure it out,” she said. “There’s just got to be some way, there’s just got to be.”

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art theplacePouring its first pints in October 2013, Innovation Brewing in Sylva was created by Nicole Dexter and Chip Owen. The couple has a deep love for the craft beer, one that developed over the years through various jobs in the industry. 

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art frSitting at her loom, weaver Amy Tromiczak feels right at home.

“It’s an amazing thing. You’re making cloth, and I love it,” the 25-year-old said. “It’s all about the whole process of choosing your fibers, deciding what kind of cloth to make, seeing it laid out on the loom.”

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art theplaceIt was his voice that caught my ear. Turning towards the stage at the Water’n Hole in Waynesville, I was immediately transfixed on the bullfrog-deep vocals echoing from the microphone. Who is that voice?

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art frThe loud pounding echoed from the end of the empty corridor.

Crossing the threshold of the last classroom on the left at Smokey Mountain Elementary School in Whittier, one could see — and hear — that the source of the sound came from the feverish hands of students during their afternoon art class. Like an army of woodpeckers, the pupils each hammered away at copper sheet metal in an effort to make their designs a physical reality.

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From the ashes of a recent fire, Mad Batter Bakery & Café will reopen. But, instead of returning to the campus of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee where it was located for 15 years, the beloved establishment will set up shop in downtown Sylva.

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fr basketballThere is no “I” in team for Jimmy Cleaveland.

“Listen, I don’t know where you’re going with this story,” he modestly said. “But, I sure don’t want this about me. I want it to be about these kids, for sure.”

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fr outhouseSitting on a toilet, Kyle Iezzi is ready for victory.

“The main thing is that I hope we go straight,” the 15-year-old said.

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art theplaceI ski in jeans. There, I said it. And I’ve been doing it for years — as far back as I can remember. Ever since I was a child, when the snowflakes started to drift down from the heavens, I hit the slopes. And this past week, the pickins’ were ripe in Western North Carolina.

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art frSummer McMahan remembers the exact moment her life changed.

“Mountain Heritage Day [at Western Carolina University], 14 years ago,” she said. “I watched the Fiddlin’ Dill Sisters and decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

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art theplaceMy first time was in a navy blue 1991 Toyota Camry.

My first time hearing The Beatles, that is. Like the first time you kissed a loved one, that initial introduction to the Fab Four stopped you in your tracks, where time itself seemed to slow down, and all was clear and right in the world, at least for that moment in your existence.

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art frZach Haney looks at obstacles as opportunities.

“I wasn’t even supposed to walk, but here I am,” he said. 

Guitarist for the Joe Lasher Jr. band, Haney is a 21-year-old Canton native. Born with cerebral palsy, he’s turned whatever adversities he faced into a promising career in music.

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A request to serve keg beer at an event in the Canton Armory prompted a broader discussion of the town’s alcohol policy at public venues it rents.

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fr cantonFree parking has its drawbacks, at least for the Country Music and Dance Parlor in downtown Canton.

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art theplaceWhat does the “K” stand for?

“It stands for Kavanagh,” I told the lady behind the counter. “My mother’s maiden name, now my middle name.”

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art frBecky Seymour can see the bright lights of Hollywood from Haywood County.

“Right now we’re in the major infancy stage, but we want to basically put Haywood on the map in the film and television world,” she said. 

As video marketing manager for the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority, Seymour is leading a charge to tap the niche industry. 

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art theplaceThe end is near.

On Feb. 5, I’ll turn 29 years old — the last official birthday of my young adulthood. I’ve always subscribed to the adage “you’re only as old as you feel,” and though I’ve never been one to really care about age, this damn number seems to stick out to me like some neon sign on the horizon. 

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art frThere’s a buzz going on at the Mahogany House in Waynesville.

Normally, one could attribute that to a woodturning tool, handheld blowtorch or whatever else an artist might need to turn one’s vision into a physical reality. But today, that buzz is hearty conversation about the upcoming exhibit at the Haywood County Arts Council up the road on Main Street.

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art theplaceIf Keith Richards had been born below the Mason-Dixon Line, his name might have been Mike Cooley.

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fr cantonforumWhen Heidi Dunkelberg first entered the town of Canton, she couldn’t imagine ever living there.

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art theplaceHailing from the Green Mountains of Burlington, Vt., The DuPont Brothers have emerged as a breath of fresh air in an often stifling, suffocating music industry. 

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art frWhat started as a backyard game one afternoon has turned into a passionate career for Nathan Lowe.

“I just got addicted to playing cornhole,” the 28-year-old chuckled.

Lowe was at his sister’s college graduation party at North Carolina State in Raleigh. He got teamed up with his father, Randy, to play in a casual cornhole tournament. Though the duo had never tossed previously, they ended up beating everyone that day.

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art theplaceThe train came to a halt. Looking out the foggy window, a cold, snowy landscape awaited me. 

“The current temperature is 10 below zero. Make sure you all bundle up. It’s like Siberia out there,” the conductor said over the loudspeaker. 

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art theplaceEvery Jan. 1, a clean slate arrives. It’s a chance to start over, to push into exciting pursuits where curiosity roams free. The past year is already in the history books. Everyone has returned to square one — a level playing field where the possibilities are endless.

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art frThe real deal is hitting the airwaves.

Blasting out of the backwoods of Robbinsville, My Highway is a crossroads for country, rock-n-roll and mountain music. Led by Josh Beasley and Josh Lane, the quintet has been making names for itself around Western North Carolina and beyond. Performing a variety of original and cover material, the band keeps one foot firmly planted in Appalachia, one stretching to the bright lights of Nashville.

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fr copperpotIt’s about preserving tradition — delicious tradition.

“We live in a small town, and it’s wonderful when you start meeting local farmers and seeing what they’re trying to do, trying to support themselves by living off the land,” said Jessica DeMarco. “It’s appealing, and we want to help support this concept, this way of life.”

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art theplaceWho in the hell is that?

Standing on the porch at Camp Hope in Bethel, I found myself in amazement of the sound echoing from the nearby pavilion. It was the inaugural Shining Rock Riverfest this past September. The voice was that of Indigo Blue Desouza.

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art TPOn Dec. 21, Tipping Point Brewing in downtown Waynesville will be celebrating its third year in operation with a “Customer Appreciation Day.” Starting as a restaurant/tavern, the business has grown into an acclaimed brewery in the bustling Western North Carolina craft beer scene.

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art theplaceNext week will mark my second Christmas in Western North Carolina. And, like last year, I won’t be making it back home to Upstate New York for the festivities. This has also been the case for Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. 

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art frBouncing around her gallery like a rubber ball, the energy of Teri Siewert is contagious.

“The ambiance here is something you can’t buy or make. It’s either there or it’s not, and it’s definitely here,” she said. 

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fr brunetteStanding on the balcony of the historic Jackson County Courthouse and Library, high above downtown Sylva, Dottie Brunette begins pointing.

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art theplaceNamed of the “12 Comics to Watch” for 2013 by LA Weekly, Atlanta-bred comedian Dave Stone has been taking over the stage with his southern flare meets keen observations of modern society.

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art frOn a recent crisp early winter evening, hundreds of folks from around Western North Carolina and beyond converged onto the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin.

“This year, 2013, was a great year for us,” said Paul Garner, manager of the SMCPA. “We’re always going to strive to do better, always step it up, always wanting to treat artists better, always wanting to treat our patrons better. We have a great year planned for 2014.”

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coverDark clouds hung above Cullowhee last Friday morning. And as the rain fell on the mountain community, tears slid down the face of Suzanne Stone.

“I’m numb,” she said. “I rotate between crying and disbelief. It’s like losing your home.”

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art theplaceThe strings of tradition and progress echoed from the back alley. Upon further inspection (and a lone door cracked open), the harmonic tone was radiating from the mandolin of Darren Nicholson.

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art frAs the temperatures drop in Western North Carolina, the fun only heats up. The holiday season here is filled with events and activities aimed at celebrating the best way we know how — with friends, family and visitors alike.

Families can partake in wagon rides, iceless skating, craft sales and art demonstrations, all the while enjoying authentic mountain music, clogging and parades throughout several downtowns. These are just some of the activities happening around the region, with each and every date, time and place found within this section.

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art theplaceCruising up Utah Mountain Road outside Maggie Valley, one begins to get the feeling if they drove any further up the hill their vehicle might just disappear off the face of the earth. 

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In an effort to promote growth and a positive impact on Western North Carolina communities, GroWNC came in front of the Haywood County Economic Development Commission to showcase their project and its goals for the region.

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The Haywood County Economic Development Commission last week listened to a summary of task force reports on how it and the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce could work under the same roof to promote economic development. 

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fr maconschoolsWhat was billed to be a town hall style education forum for the Macon County School System, filled with parents and teachers, was held at an almost empty Franklin High School auditorium. But, that didn’t stop the passionate message being addressed by those onstage and in the crowd. 

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art theplaceEditor’s Note: After receiving a heartfelt letter in the mail recently from an inmate at a North Carolina correctional facility, Garret decided to write back. Here is his response.

Dear A***,

First off, thank you from the bottom of my heart for the letter you sent. It was filled with such kind words. I often wonder myself if anyone actually reads what I put out there, if my words find themselves in the hands of those looking for something that day, whatever that something might be. 

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art theplaceMy ears are still ringing.

From Nov. 1-5, I went and saw nine bands. Yep, that’s nine acts in the matter of five days. It was a musical odyssey, to say the least. If there ever were evidence of my obsession for sound and performance, ideal for my mother to give me that signature puzzled look, you’d find it following me around these last several days. 

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art frExiting your vehicle at Cataloochee Ranch in Maggie Valley, a cold, late fall wind hits you in the face like a frying pan. Standing atop the 5,000-foot mountain retreat, the vastness and endless beauty of Western North Carolina lies below. Heading towards the main building, you reach for the doorknob and enter eagerly. Soon, your body, mind and soul thaw to the sounds of friends, strangers and old-time string music.

“It’s just a different feeling up here; everybody is excited to be part of this,” said Billie Smith, event planner at Cataloochee. “We really open our arms to local musicians and folks from everywhere to come and join in.”

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coverA crisp wind blows through Haywood County. Gazing upward, dark clouds slowly take over the sky while a few ominous raindrops are felt. For many, it may seem to be the official death knell to summer. But for Sally Eason, it’s a sign of great things to come. 

“We love this weather, and we’re probably the only people around here that do,” she chuckled. 

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art theplacePizza. French fry.

Those were the initial instructions I was given the first time I went skiing. I must’ve been around four or five years old. Growing up in the Champlain Valley, surrounded by the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York and the Green Mountains of Vermont, there were innumerable opportunities to hit the slopes and make the most of an unknown weekend.

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art theplaceI sat there, under old copper piping and newly formed spider webs, wondering where the hell my story was.

It was December 2006, and I was in the basement of the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton, Mass. A sit-down, pre-show interview with legendary singer/songwriter Peter Rowan was to be my first feature as a budding journalist. And yet, there I was, waiting outside his drab dressing room, listening to him snore and enjoy a cat nap before his performance in the coming hour.

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coverHeather Brookshire is behind enemy lines. 

“Everybody has been giving me a hard time all day,” she chuckled.

Taking orders and running around DuVall’s Restaurant in Waynesville last Friday morning, Brookshire is sporting a bright red and white shirt with the words “Pisgah Black Bears” emblazoned across it. 

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