Garret K. Woodward

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art theplaceAll I wanted to do was play soccer.

In the summer of 1997, I was 12 years old and ready to enter seventh grade in upstate New York. Until that point, I had attended a small Catholic elementary school. Now, I was finally entering public school, middle school no less, where a whole new world awaited me.

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art frKacey Musgraves makes me feel like a teenager. 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 theplaceHelp.

That’s what was texted to me a couple weeks ago. It was my co-worker at the newspaper, stuck in mud somewhere in the backwoods of Maggie Valley. Normally, I would finally get to sleep in on a Saturday morning, but not this time. I pulled myself out of bed, cranked my pickup truck and headed out of Waynesville.

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art theplaceI needed to make an escape.

Last Tuesday morning, my cell phone vibrated incessantly on the nightstand. It was 8 a.m., and the sender was my news editor. My eyes creaked open like a rusted cellar door. The message informed me that the government shutdown had taken effect. Thus, we needed to scrap our original cover story while going to press that day and do a whole new feature on the closures in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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art duvergerStanding in his basement workshop, furniture maker Roy DuVerger looks around the cluttered, dusty space. It may look like chaos to some, but to him, it’s the sign of a busy man doing what he loves.

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art frRichard Miller can’t believe the Church Street Art & Craft Show is 30 years old.

“I don’t know how it got that old, and I didn’t get any older,” he chuckled. “I can’t figure that out.”

Alongside artist Teresa Pennington, Miller founded the festival in 1983. At that time, there were very few shows of its kind in the region, if any. Whereas today there’s seemingly a festival every weekend somewhere in Western North Carolina, Church Street started as a risky idea to get visitors and local residents alike to wander that part of downtown Waynesville. This year’s event will take place on Oct. 12.

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I like to get lost.

Though my sense of direction is as strong as a dog’s sense of smell, I purposely wander into destinations unknown. If there’s two ways to a location, I’ll take the one I have yet to traverse. I want to cross paths with people, places and things either unnoticed by a rushed society or forgotten by the sands of time. Plenty of these things are old, some new, with many hovering somewhere in between. 

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art frGeneral Grant knew from a young age he was an artist.

“I was gifted, it was a gift from The Creator,” he said. “He gave me multiple talents and I was not afraid to experiment with them. Through my experimentation, I’ve become very good at this and have able to make a living doing it.”

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coverWhen Joe and Dolly Parker approached the entrance of the Deep Creek campground Tuesday morning, the sign read “Office Closed.”

“We can’t believe this,” Dolly said.

A retired couple from Key Largo, Fla., the Parkers spend upwards of five months each year traveling and camping around the country. Joe rides his motorcycle, with Dolly following behind in their campervan. Amid of all their stops, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of their favorites. 

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art theplaceI know a lot about nothing.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated with everything. How many dimples are there on a golf ball? — Ranging from 330-500, depending on model. What’s the deepest point in the Pacific Ocean? — Mariana Trench at 35,797 feet.

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art muralDillsboro will soon be graced with a large mural depicting the cultural heritage of the village, its key landmarks and its natural setting.

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art frAmy Ammons Garza has always looked out for her little sister, Doreyl Ammons Cain.

“Make sure you mention when the mural will be unveiled,” Garza said. “She’s always forgetting things.”

“I am not,” Cain countered with a laugh. “Ever since we were kids, she’s made sure everything I needed is taken care of.”

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coverSunshine spills into Jackson County. The warm late summer rays cascade down into the mountains, ultimately flowing into the fields of Balsam Gardens. A handful of figures are seen wandering the mystical property, picking some of the freshest and finest produce found in Western North Carolina.

“Being able to remake my own little piece of society in the way that I want to with my hands is what keeps me going,” said Steven Beltram. 

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art theplaceI was born half-fish.

No, not the mermaid kind, but close. As a kid, I grew up on Lake Champlain, a 125-mile long body of water sandwiched between New York, Vermont and the Canadian province of Quebec. Pristine waters flow from the Adirondack Mountains to the west and the Green Mountains to the east, ultimately heading north and merging with the majestic Saint Lawrence Seaway.

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He slinked by, turned and glanced at me.

“Well, hey there, you must be Jack, eh?” I said to him.

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art frFrom blockbuster Broadway musicals to the obscure art of throat singing to politically-charged documentaries on Iranian oppression, Western Carolina University is filling the stage and screen with an impressive line-up of shows, acts and film screenings over the coming year.

Entertaining, thought-provoking and cultural enlightening, WCU has three different performance series plus a film series. Act now to get season tickets to any of the series, or clip and save the line-up for upcoming shows you won’t want to miss.

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fr culpepperKristi Culpepper knows knives. 

Browsing the wide selection of specialized hunting, hobby and kitchen cutlery at Old School Knife Works on U.S. 441 in Otto, Culpepper is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the tradition, history and modern innovations of all things sharp and decorative.

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art theplaceIt’s like losing your virginity and seeing the Apocalypse at the same time.

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art frA fiery inferno blasts through the sheet metal like a hot knife through butter. The screeching sound of a grinder echoes down into the valley surrounding Waynesville. Flipping up her face shield, metal sculptor Grace Cathey wipes her brow, smiles momentarily then shuts the mask back down. She’s in the midst of her creation and all focus is on the task at hand.

“I’ve been an artist in this area for over 32 years and I’ve had so much support from the community. It’s overwhelming and I feel so blessed,” she said. “I chose this community because I knew this would be a great place to live, and it has been.”

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art publicartA new public art sculpture will be unveiled in downtown Waynesville this week by renowned Western North Carolina metal sculptor Grace Cathey.

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kayak paradeA cacophony of voices and cheers echoed across Bryson City as a sea of humanity overtook the small town, a wall-to-wall crowd churning and pressing their way through downtown with excitement radiating from each face.

kayak whatisfreestyleCombining an array of difficult tricks, precision paddling and finely tuned choreography, freestyle kayaking can be described as aquatic gymnastics.

kayak competitorsPeter Csonka

Age: 28

Country: Slovakia

Awards: 2012 World Cup Champion

Day job: Kayak retailer

I was 12 when I started paddling. We had a group of kids doing canoe sports, traveling around and doing competitions. It was really nice to have those trips together. At that time, we all were just starting to race and do rafting, doing small competitions, sometimes winning, sometimes losing.

kayak mainA destination for paddlers around the world, the Nantahala River is known for its complexity of rapids and consistent waters levels, ensuring a level of competition that can’t be found anywhere else in the United States. The world’s top paddlers will descend on the river for a week of competition, camaraderie and cold water during the 2013 International Canoe Federation’s (ICF) Freestyle World Championships Sept. 2-8. 

art theplaceI had never heard anything like that before.

Sitting on the porch of my grandfather’s camp on Lake Champlain, a voice echoed from the small portable tape player covered with paint specks and years of winter storage dust.

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art beerfestThe inaugural Waynesville Craft Beer Festival will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at the American Legion baseball field in Waynesville.

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art frDuring the last 20 years, the Western North Carolina craft beer scene has exploded. 

While Asheville’s nearly 20 breweries earned it the “Beer City USA” title, a loud rumble has also echoed out of the small towns west of the metropolis. Waynesville, Sylva and Bryson City have all thrown their hats into the craft beer ring.

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art balsamrangeRenowned Western North Carolina bluegrass/gospel band Balsam Range received seven nominations for the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Awards.

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art placeThe floor below me began to shake.

For a moment, the idea of the structure collapsing seemed plausible. All around me, thousands of people were screaming, thrashing their arms wildly with manic looks on their faces. It was Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., and I was partaking in my first Southeastern Conference (SEC) football game.

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art frA loud roar echoed from the back of the building. The deafening sound is terrifying, yet captivating, heightened by the smell of oil and gasoline. A cloud of smoke wafted through the air, evoking the power and intrigue of a mechanical performance about to unfold.

“It’s more than the sound,” Dale Walksler said, straddling a 1928 Harley-Davidson Hillclimber. “It’s also the sight, smell and taste. Starting this motorcycle up achieves all of your sensitivities.”

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art placeThis might get loud.

I tend to say that to anyone who finds themselves in the passenger’s seat of my rusty pickup truck. I live and die for rock-n-roll.

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art frDon’t mess with a mountain girl, especially one on roller skates.

“We’re a tough bunch, and we stick together,” said Krista Robb.

Aka “Butternut Squash,” the 28-year-old Robb is a star player on the Smoky Mountain Roller Girls, a nonprofit sports organization rallying folks from all corners of Southern Appalachia. 

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out frSitting at a picnic table alongside the Nantahala River, Charles Conner watches the fast moving water. It’s may be a peaceful sunny morning at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, but it’s the calm before the storm.

“Right now, we’re really excited but anxious because there’s so much left to do,” he said. 

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fr gearingupworldsBatten down the hatches, the 2013 ICF Canoe Freestyle World Championships are coming.

“This event shows how this tiny town can come together and work together,” said Joe Rowland. “Everybody involved has invested a lot of time and energy into making a natural connection between Bryson City and the Nantahala Gorge.”

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art placeI was afraid of getting caught.

As a teenager, I found myself sneaking into the back door of my grandfather’s garage. Amid the darkness, I stepped over firewood, fishing gear and forgotten storage boxes layered in dust. Sliding past his couch-on-wheels Ford Crown Victoria, I located the refrigerator and reached for the handle. Opening the door, the bright light illuminated the interior of the garage. Squinting my eyes, I found what I was in search of – a cold can of Coors Light.

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art placeI wanted to be close to the source.

When I was 20 years old, I decided to become a writer. Standing in the mud at Bonnaroo 2005, I realized all I wanted to do what talk to strangers and write about them. It’s a fascination that will never subside, a thirst that will never be quenched.

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coverIt was the only thing he knew how to do. It was the only thing he wanted to do. 

Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton was a moonshiner, through and through. Meandering the thick woods surrounding Maggie Valley, and points beyond in Southern Appalachia, Sutton gained a reputation throughout the Southeast as the maker of the finest ‘shine ever created. For decades, he kept making liquor even after being caught on a handful of occasions. 

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art thisplaceDon’t go in there.

As long as I can remember, I’ve been told this. From my parents, teachers, friends or just strangers in general. It’s a phrase that can refer to a dangerous spot in the woods, front yards with vicious canines, disgusting restaurants or mismanaged places of business. But, mostly, it’s been applied to certain bars.

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art frLegendary American tennis stars Andy Roddick and Jim Courier will battle it out in a charity exhibition match in Cashiers this Saturday, hopefully raising as much as $200,000 to support and expand a wide variety of youth programs in the area.

“This is a once in a lifetime experience,” said William McKee, the chairman for the United Community Bank Mountain Challenge. “These are two of the most highly regarded players in their sport, and it’s incredible to have two world-class athletes donate their time. Both of these guys do philanthropy around the country, and to have them come to this little village is a huge treat for us all.”

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moot martiniqueIt was a phone call Rolf Kaufman will never forget.

The year was 1983, and on the other end of the line was the voice of Dr. Clinton Border, a Waynesville surgeon and Kaufman’s neighbor.

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moot hostpartyThe house is silent, but soon, it will be overflowing with voices, faces, words and languages known and unknown. Awaiting her guests, Jay MacDonald stands in the kitchen of her home in downtown Waynesville.

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art frIt all started with an email. 

Last July, I was at a crossroads. Being a freelance writer for a few years, my usual summer work dried up before the warm weather even arrived. The publications I was contributing to in Upstate New York were losing money, rapidly, with their freelance budgets being the first casualty of a haphazard newspaper industry.

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coverBringing together world culture and Southern Appalachia traditions, Folkmoot USA transcends any and all barriers.

Whether it’s language, physical boundaries or appearance, the art of live performance found at this international dance and music festival erases any differences by creating an ambiance that’s as embracing as it is unique. Entering its 30th year, the festival has solidified itself in the landscape of Western North Carolina.  

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fr icecreamI scream, you scream, Western North Carolina screams for ice cream. 

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art theplaceIt’s the question I get asked the most.

“Is there any music around tonight?”

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art frKnown as the finest showcase of native traditions, the ninth annual Festival of Native Peoples will take place July 12-13 at Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds. The event features a variety of traditional dance, storytelling and song performances honoring the collected history, culture, tradition and wisdom of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. 

“An array of entertainment as diverse as the tribes that provide it ensures visitors to Cherokee will be impressed,” said Howard Wahnetah, event supervisor for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. “The tribes are so different, and when we come together to celebrate our collective native heritage, we gain a better understanding of our own history and customs.”

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fr bigfootwarBigfoot is alive and well in Haywood County, at least through the pages of Eric S. Brown. 

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It had been 10 years.

I kept thinking those words while boarding a plane in Charlotte this past weekend, bound for my hometown. Tucked far away in the northeast, awaiting my arrival was a 10-year high school reunion. 

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art frStanding in an empty field, Martin Cook has a vision. 

Founder of the renowned Western North Carolina gospel group The Inspirations, Cook looks around the band’s 29-acre property (dubbed “Inspiration Park”) just east of Bryson City. The beauty and grandeur spills far and wide, and that’s just the backdrop he enjoys sharing each year during their “Singing In The Smokies” festival, which runs July 4-6.

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