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What happens when a smart, talented young man desires to serve God, but is mostly driven by his fear of death and Hell? How is a conflicted heart torn by love and desire? And what happens when that heart finally discovers grace?

The historical movie “Wesley” — about the co-founder of the Methodist Church — will answer those questions and more.

The film will premiere at Western Carolina University in high definition at the Fine and Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27.

The premiere will honor the faculty and students who worked on the independent movie as actors and crew, with proceeds from ticket sales benefitting a fund established to help students in WCU’s Motion Picture and Television Production Program with the cost of producing their senior thesis films. The screening will be introduced by director John Jackman from Foundery Pictures and followed by a panel discussion.

In the historical drama set in the 18th century, John Wesley, played by Burgess Jenkins, grows from a young Anglican priest struggling spiritually into a leader of the Methodism movement and a champion for causes such as prison reform and anti-slavery. Events from Wesley’s life portrayed in the film include his rescue from a house fire, survival of a near shipwreck, struggle with a star-crossed love affair and calm in the face of violent mobs.

“‘Wesley’ is quite a beautiful film with really powerful performances, and the screening at WCU will offer outstanding picture clarity on a jumbo screen, ” said Arledge Armenaki, WCU associate professor of cinematography and director of photography for the movie.

“It’s such a great story, and we all did our very best to make it into a wonderful film,” said Armenaki.

Sixteen WCU students got hands-on experience as crew for “Wesley” during filming on locations in and around Winston-Salem and Morganton for two months in 2007 and two weeks in 2008, including a sold-out red carpet premiere.

With coaching from Armenaki, students served as a unit production manager, assistant directors, construction coordinators, set dressers, carpenters, boom operators, grips, camera assistants, wardrobe managers, office manager and script supervisor.

Kristen Philyaw, a 2008 WCU graduate with a degree in motion picture and television production, said she valued the high-intensity, hands-on experience she gained helping coordinate props for “Wesley.” “It often felt like we did not have enough hands among us or hours in the day to get the sets dressed, props made or pieces coordinated,” said Philyaw, who works at a financial institution in Charlotte and recently co-founded a small production company with her fiance, Robert Cassidy, a WCU alumnus who also worked on “Wesley.”

As crew members, they helped find, manage and build sets fitting for the 18th century and in line with the storybook feel that Armenaki and Jackman wanted to create. Some even helped build a re-creation of the HMS Simmonds ship inside an old gymnasium at Methodist Children’s Home in Winston-Salem, and a 50-by-20-foot blue screen, which required a lot of sewing and lighting, to hang behind it.

“Getting everything ready for a scene was quite a production in itself – like dressing a museum diorama,” said Armenaki.

The students’ assistance was critically important, said Jackman. “We couldn’t have done the movie without them,” he said. “We were trying to accomplish a very ambitious picture while operating on a very restricted budget, and their help was just invaluable.”

WCU students and faculty also were cast in the movie. In addition to Harris, actors with WCU ties in the film included faculty and students who were extras; Peter Savage, visiting lecturer of theater, who played Mr. Williamson, the man betrothed to the woman Wesley loves; and Terry Nienhuis, retired professor of English, who played gardener James Locke. Part of the challenge was researching the history in order to prepare for their roles. When advised to use a rough country Yorkshire dialect, Nienhuis eventually called a fellow faculty member from England for help. “He said, ‘It’s funny you should ask because I have a friend visiting from that area.’ I brought a tape recorder over, asked his friend to read my lines and then studied the recording,” said Nienhuis.

Tickets cost $10 each or $5 each for senior adults at least 60 years old; WCU faculty and staff, students and children; and groups of 15 or more. To purchase tickets, call the box office at 828.227.2479 or visit www.wcu.edu/fapac online.

For more information about the movie, check out the Web site at www.wesleythemovie.com. For more information about the Motion Picture and Television Production Program, contact program director Jack Sholder at 828. 227.2324 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Comment

It could take months or even years for lawsuits over a massive landslide in Maggie Valley to be resolved, leaving affected property owners in limbo over who is financially responsible for the damage to their homes.

The landslide originated from Ghost Town in the Sky, a mountain top amusement park, where a giant system of terraced retaining walls gave way. N.C. Geologist Rick Wooten does not believe the slide was solely due to natural causes, but could not be more specific.

“We are not ready to make any kind of statement on that or jump to any conclusion on that yet,” Wooten said.

The retaining walls have been a source of consternation for Ghost Town over the years, according to those familiar with the amusement park’s history. When the park was built in the 1960s, the top of the mountain was leveled off and dirt pushed over the side. The terraced system attempts to hold that dirt in place.

It has occasionally slumped in places but a major section gave away in 2007. Ghost Town hired an engineer and contractor to make repairs to portions of the terraced slopes.

But some of the old walls — constructed out of railroad ties — were left in place.

Last Friday night, heavy rain exacerbated by melting snow triggered a landslide that started at the retaining wall. The question is whether the old portion of the railroad tie walls or the new walls constructed in 2007 were at fault. The slide took out some of both.

“Obviously there is a responsible party, but I am going to let the engineers and attorneys figure that out,” Ghost Town CEO Steve Shiver said. “We are not going to make any comment about liability.”

Pat Burgin, a local engineer hired by Ghost Town, said the work performed in 2007 was not properly engineered nor constructed by Caroline-A-Contracting of Maggie Valley. The company disputes that, however.

“It is the contractor’s position that there is nothing that they did which resulted in this slide,” said Rusty McLean, a Waynesville attorney providing legal counsel for Caroline-A-Contracting. “They repaired the portion they were hired to repair.”

Ghost Town chose to leave some of the old railroad tie sections in place, “against the recommendation of the company,” McLean said.

Verlin Edwards of Maggie Valley was the engineer for the 2007 work and his son, Colin Edwards, an excavator, performed the work. However, in fall of 2008 they sued Ghost Town for failing to pay the full bill. The suit claimed they were still owed $28,866.

Ghost Town filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a few months later, however, and the suit is on hold pending the result of bankruptcy proceedings.

Meanwhile, Ghost Town filed a counter claim arguing the wall was “not property constructed, designed and compacted,” and, therefore, the company shouldn’t have to pay.

One of the old walls built from railroad ties sat at the top of the mountain. If it failed first, it would naturally take out the newer section below it. But if the newer section failed first, it could have yanked the support out from under the older walls above and caused them to collapse. Photographs of the slide clearly show it started at the retaining wall.

Lawsuits are imminent, ones that will likely pit the insurance companies of Ghost Town, the contractor and the homeowners against each other.

Which section of wall failed first — the old portion or new portion — ultimately might not matter in court, however.

“By general statute, the property owner is ultimately responsible,” said Haywood County Planner Kris Boyd.

A third option is that the landslide will be deemed a natural disaster, known in legal terms as an “act of God,” meaning no one is at fault. It also means that damage to homes in the slide’s path won’t be covered, as homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover natural landslides. No insurance companies offer separate slide policies, either.

“It’s a horrendous problem,” said N.C. Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Mars Hill. Rapp points to an arrangement between the state and insurance companies to provide hurricane coverage for coastal homeowners as a solution for landslides.

“I think if we could do that for property owners on the coast, we should be able to work out a similar package to induce insurers to provide coverage for land movement in the mountains,” Rapp said.

Ghost Town has not made a profit in two years. It hopes to pull through bankruptcy, but has been forced to operate on a lean budget. It has more than $12 million in debt.

“Financially, their hands are tied. It costs a lot of money to move dirt,” said Burgin.

Even after repairing large sections of the retaining wall in 2007, Ghost Town brought in another contractor in 2008 to make more repairs.

“They have been very proactive in trying to deal with it,” Burgin said. “Ghost Town is between a rock and a hard place.”

State codes require a building permit for retaining walls more than four feet high. But it does not appear Ghost Town got a permit when the new portions of wall were built in 2007.

“We could not find any permits directly related to the retaining wall,” said Town Manager Tim Barth, who looked back at building permits from the time period.

Ghost Town CEO Steve Shiver could not say whether they ever got one from the town.

“That would be the responsibility of the contractor,” Shiver said.

However, the state code actually places the onus on property owners to secure necessary permits. Even if Ghost Town had gotten a building permit for the retaining walls in 2007, the permit merely requires the work to be conducted per an engineer’s plan, which was done anyway.

More to come?

The majority of the retaining wall system is still in place.

But the slide undermined the integrity of the remaining sections, making it all vulnerable to another slide, Wooten said.

“There is a lot of unstable material at the top,” Wooten said. “If it should fail in a catastrophic way — which we don’t expect but we have to prepare for it as a contingency — where would it go? For the most part we hope it would follow the path that is there now.”

Meanwhile, residents in the area are advised not to return to their homes. Wooten said it is fortunate there weren’t more homes in the direct path of the slide or the situation could have been far more catastrophic.

Everyone who’s seen the slide — emergency responders, geologists, evacuated residents and even casual observers looking up at the dark swath on the mountain from the valley below — share disbelief that people weren’t killed or injured by the massive wall of fast-moving dirt.

“It is a thousand wonders,” said Marc Pruett, Haywood County Erosion Officer.

Following a major landslide in Macon County in 2004 that killed five people, the state embarked on a major project to map areas vulnerable to landslides. Known as landslide hazard mapping, the state is funding the effort at the pace of two counties per year. If funding remains steady at past levels, Haywood is in the queue for mapping in 2011 or 2012.

It is unclear how helpful the mapping could be to residents in landslide prone areas, however. Wooten, the state geologist, said the mapping is designed to pinpoint areas where the naturally occurring slopes and soil types are landslide prone. But it would not account for sites where excavation and earth-moving have created an artificial risk, Wooten said.

Nonetheless, those who know they live in a vulnerable area could chose to spend the night elsewhere when major rains are forecast.

Comment

A proposed four-lane highway through a mountainous region of Graham County has suffered a setback.

The N.C. Department of Transportation was nearing the final planning stages and hoped to start construction in a few years on what is commonly known as Corridor K. But the project has been sent back to the drawing board to consider whether a two-lane option could achieve the same purpose as a new four-lane highway.

The roadblock has come from the Army Corp of Engineers, which has to sign off on various environmental permits for the highway. The Corp ruled that the DOT did not properly consider all the alternatives, however. The Corps wrote in a letter to the DOT that “upgrading and improving existing two-lane roadways should be given full consideration as a practical alternative.”

The DOT was supposed to weigh the pros and cons of various options in an environmental analysis — as required by federal law for projects of this magnitude — but a two-lane highway relying partially on existing roads was not included in the 2008 study.

“A massive, four-lane highway through the mountains of this region is overkill, both in terms of the price tag and environmental harm. It’s great news the agencies are considering more reasonable alternatives,” said DJ Gerken with the Southern Environmental Law Center in Asheville.

The idea for a four-lane highway through the counties west of Asheville had been on the books for decades and is mostly completed except for a missing link of 17 miles through Graham County — the most remote and rugged stretch.

At public hearing on the road last fall, critics of the new highway far outnumbered supporters. They cited the environmental impacts of a new four-lane highway and loss of historical rural character of Stecoah Valley.

But to supporters, the highway would bring sorely lacking economic development and benefit commerce in a county that currently has no four lanes roads leading in or out.

In North Carolina, the DOT’s own studies show that improvements to existing two-lane highways will easily handle the projected traffic for decades to come.

“They can’t ignore an alternative that costs half as much and avoids paving through an environmental treasure. Federal law is clear on this,” Gerken said.

Only 10 miles of the 17-mile missing link are currently in the planning stages — a section leading north out of Robbinsville over Stecoah Gap. The 10-mile section would cost $378 million and cut a more than half-mile long tunnel under the Snowbird Mountains, requiring excavation of 3 million cubic yards of rock.

“A new four-lane highway through sensitive mountain habitat would have unacceptably destructive impacts to wildlife habitat and water quality,” said Hugh Irwin with the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition in Asheville. “Upgrading existing highways has always made the most sense.”

Chris North with the North Carolina Wildlife Federation cited the impacts to public lands, including trails, trout streams, hunting areas and campgrounds.

Environmental organizations are lauding the Army Corp for not rubber stamping the project but instead requiring due diligence by the DOT.

“We are grateful that the Corps has heard our voice and the voices of others in the region,” said Lucy Bartlett, chairman of WaysSouth, an organization solely focused on reducing the footprint of new highway construction in the mountains.

The DOT could still theoretically get approval for the four-lane highway after going back and analyzing the two-lane option if they can prove the two-lane would not do the job.

Comment

By Karen Dill

The ancient oak tree is bare. It stands majestic in the yard of our old two-story farmhouse. Our house sits on a small knoll and is surrounded by magnolias, dogwoods and mountain laurel, but it is the oak that I see first as I walk up the narrow road from the post office on this cool evening in January. Winter is here and the air is crisp and cold in late afternoon and the sky is grey. I pull my sweater closer and breathe in the clean mountain air.

The mountains are shadowed and silhouetted in shades of charcoal. There’s a hint of snow in the winter air. The old mountain folks watch the birds and listen to the trees when the weather changes. My daddy swore this method of watching and listening was more reliable than the local weatherman with his slicked back hair who came on the six o’clock news. If the crows line the branches of the oak tree like soldiers headed into battle, stoic and silent, and if the surrounding trees appear to huddle together in quiet communion, there is snow on the way.

As I trudge up the hill, I look for signs as I peer down in the small village of Webster, but other than the chill in the air, I’m clueless. I fear that while I may have lost the gift of mountain weather prediction, my respect for the trees and the surrounding landscape of the mountains is neverending. As a native mountain girl, I learned from an early age that our earth is more valuable than progress.

My father was a true mountain man with little formal education, who made it his mission to fight the state highway department in an effort to preserve an old oak tree on the property of my childhood home. It seems a road needed to be built and trees would be sacrificed, but my father, armed with his shotgun, met the offenders on the front porch of our small frame house and proclaimed in no uncertain terms that he was willing to die for the oak tree. I never knew if that was a bluff or not, for the men fled and the oak tree was saved. It had protected the land for generations of mountain dwellers and my father arose and fought for its protection. My father died in 1980, but the oak tree is still there, gnarled and twisted, still protecting the surrounding earth.

The oak tree in our yard is well over 200 hundred old and has protected our family during the 25 years that we have lived in this old farmhouse. It has provided shade for family weddings (my husband and I exchanged vows on a June morning) in our front yard, limbs for tire swings used by our children, and steady companionship during the cold winter months. It stands erect now in the dusk, its long bare limbs reaching for the sky and provides solace in the chill of the evening. I look lovingly at the light from lamps in the windows of our house and long for the warmth of the kitchen and meal ahead.

Winter means a fire burning brightly in the fireplace, heat bellowing from the old furnace in the basement, and the smells of hot food wafting from the kitchen. Tonight I’ve revived an old Southern comfort dish, chicken and dumplings accompanied by winter vegetables and a sweet potato pie. Although the foods are standard fare in the mountains, I try to add distinct flavors to the dishes that I’m preparing.

Chicken and dumplings is a standard mountain dish and tends to warm the body rather than excite the spirit. There’s great debate in the South about the merit of the Civil War, the right to bear arms, and the consistency of the dumpling. Many prefer the soft puffy variety that resembles summer clouds on a warm day; others swear by the flat chewy kind that most resemble flat clouds on a cold and grey winter day. One melts in your mouth, the other requires a bit of work.

My friend and colleague Pat Wishon is most like I imagine a sister could be in my life. We are both only children, were reared in the mountains of North Carolina during the same decades and both had fathers who ran a bit of moonshine in dark moonless nights on dirt mountain roads. We know that we are some sort of soul sisters because we argue about most everything but in the end agree that we are both right, hug, and continue to finish each other’s sentences. We both love to cook, but of course we disagree in the great dumpling debate.

Pat and our mutual friends Ravenna and William will join us tonight for the meal. Pat will bring ingredients for her preferred flat chewy dumplings and I will fix the preferred and better (in my humble opinion) puffy dumplings. We will let our guests decide which they prefer. Pat and I have quietly agreed that this may be the Great Mountain Chicken and Dumpling cook-off. We have also agreed that no matter the outcome, we will all be winners as we will enjoy great food, wine and company.

We decide to make the dumplings together, as the base for the dish contains the pretty much the same ingredients. I’ve stewed a couple of chickens most of the morning with herbs, celery and carrots and have skinned and deboned the bird. These are free-range organic birds purchased from a local grocer (www.greenlifegrocery.com) so all of us animal lovers will hope that prior to our dinner’s demise they led a good life, as much as chickens can have a good life.

Pat and I will prepare our separate dumplings then with separate stock pots containing the same basic broth, we will drop the dumplings in and serve them up separately in the last stage of preparation. I add a couple of extra ingredients to my broth and, in the spirit of sisterly competition, I will not divulge my secrets to Pat. Chicken and dumplings must be served immediately and must be hot. I have prepared some winter turnip greens that continue to grow in our neighbor’s garden year round if they have some protection during freezes. I add turnips stored in our root cellar to the greens as well as some bits of bacon, vinegar and red pepper flakes for warmth.

Greens just can’t be served without a few corn muffins so I mix up batter and pour into the old iron muffin tins. I’ve baked a sweet potato pie with a touch of bourbon for dessert. As a child when money was tight and times were lean in the winters, we would eat some variety of the sweet potato most every day. Sweet potato pancakes, sweet potato biscuits, sweet potato casserole and just the plain old baked or boiled sweet potato with farm fresh butter. It all sounds wonderful now, but trust me, it got old. I learned to avoid them as I grew older as they reminded me of poverty and desperation, but I find now that I enjoy their sweet buttery taste again. A pie with that old winter standby will be a perfect finale for this winter inspired dinner.

We dine comfortably in front of a fire that Tom has built earlier in the evening. We all agree that the dumpling cook-off is a success and because we are all opinionated people, we passionately argue the merits of both the soft and the chewy dumplings. A passerby might think we were discussing politics or religion. But no, it is just the dumpling debate. Our talk turns to mountain tales and I relate the story of the old oak tree still standing in the yard of my childhood home in Bethel. We laugh about the antics of our fathers and other old mountain men who wore pride like armor. We reminisce about the favorite foods of our childhoods: fried chicken, field peas, butter beans, biscuits. I don’t mention the sweet potato. We each recall the favorite trees in the yards of our childhood homes and wonder if they still stand. We also ponder what we might do to protect them from time.

As we sit around the dining room table, watching the dying embers of the fire and enjoying the quiet warmth of good company, I watch the oak tree from the window and feel its protective spirit. Would I arm myself with a weapon (the fire poker perhaps, as we don’t own a shotgun) as my mountain father once did and protect the tree and mountain traditions against the outside demands for growth and development? I most likely would, but tonight I sigh peacefully for the oak tree is safe. Mountain traditions remain and are preserved in the hollows of the hills, in the warmth of our kitchens and in our souls. The food tells the stories of our souls while the trees sway bravely in the cold night with approval, ever protecting us as we will no doubt protect our earth. Ever vigilant.

Comment

By Buffy Queen • Guest Columnist

As the middle school girls trailed out of the classroom one morning last spring, I began packing up my materials after sharing my last “Safe Dates” session at their school. My Safe Dates topic for this fourth, final session had been “How To Avoid Sexual Assault.”

I noticed a folded-up piece of paper on top of my stack of folders. I opened it and began to read a handwritten note that two girls must have passed back and forth during class. The note started out innocently enough and I smiled as I read it, thinking it must have fallen on the floor and someone had picked it up and put it on my folders, believing I must have dropped it.

“What do you think of .... ”

“I think he’s cute. I think he likes you.”

“Really? He talked to me today before school.”

What I read next stunned me, though. This part must have been written during the time we were discussing date rape and how to be safe.

“I was assaulted yesterday. I want to cry.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“I don’t know what to do. I feel terrible.”

“You should tell someone. If you want to talk tonight, my number is ....”

“I won’t be home till eight. You can call me, too. My home number is ....”

“Thanks, I’ll call you later.”

Okay.”

The classroom was now empty. I sat down in one of the student desks and took a deep breath. I realized that it was no accident that someone had put the note where I would find it. I finished packing up and left the classroom, quickly finding the guidance counselor with whom I had been working. After she read the note and I shared with her how I had gotten it, she calmly began to follow through. Although we had no names on the note, the school secretary was able to enter the phone numbers in the school database and matches came up with the names of two of the students who had just been in my class.

Later that day, the counselor told me she had called the two girls into her office and, with great sensitivity and concern, discovered what had happened. She found out that one girl had been molested after school by two boys the afternoon before. She was not raped, but was assaulted. The principal and parents were informed and the boys who committed the alleged abuse were interviewed by the police. I don’t know if they were prosecuted or not, because they were juveniles.

But I do know that the young teen who was assaulted would probably never have had the courage to share her story with a friend, and the friend wouldn’t have had the courage to leave the note for me to “discover,” if the “Safe Dates” class hadn’t been held.

Teen dating violence is a serious, hidden occurrence in our middle and high schools and is receiving special attention by the N.C. Governor’s Crime Commission.

The National Conference of State Legislatures has this posted on their Web site: “The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that destructive relationships during the teen years can lead to life-long unhealthy relationship practices, may disrupt normal development, and can contribute to other unhealthy behaviors in teens that, if left unchecked, can lead to lifelong problems.”

The CDC’s 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System survey indicates that “adolescents who report being physically hurt in a dating relationship were also more likely to report that they engage in risky sexual behavior, binge drink, use drugs, attempt suicide, and participate in physical fights.”

Further on, they added: “Policymakers can play a role in preventing teen dating violence. At least seven states have laws that urge or require school boards to develop curriculum on teen dating violence. States have also adopted teen dating violence awareness weeks or months, in an effort to draw the public’s attention to a national campaign that promotes prevention, safe dating practices and offers information and resources. In 2009, at least five states — Delaware, Hawaii, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Utah — declared a prevention week or month in February.

Twenty percent of 13- to 14-year-olds in relationships said they knew friends and peers who had been kicked, hit, slapped or punched by a boyfriend or girlfriend. If the teen is even aware they can get protection from the abuser by getting a 50B or Domestic Violence Protective Order, they must get an adult to sign it. If the abuser is in school or class with them, it gets very messy changing schools, class schedules, lunch schedules, required classes, etc.

People who use violence with their dating partners as adults often began doing so during adolescence, with the first episode typically occurring by age 15. Young women between the ages of 14 and 17 represent 38 percent of those victimized by date rape. Rapes by acquaintances account for 60 percent of all rapes reported to rape crisis centers.

Across the United States, there are currently seven states that have laws urging or requiring school boards to develop curriculum on teen dating violence. I believe North Carolina should seriously consider that also.

Although my fourth session for these students was “How to Avoid Sexual Assault,” my third session was “How To Help A Friend Who’s Being Abused.” Talk about timing. There’s no way to know what future trauma may have been avoided by the quick intervention of the counselor and principal. It provided the young teen a chance for the healing process to begin. It provided a serious “wake-up” call to the boys. And it provided the teen survivor’s friend with positive recognition for the courageous, compassionate action she showed when she put that note where I would find it.

(Buffy Queen works with REACH of Haywood County as its Community Educator. Feb. 1-6 was National Teen Dating Violence Awareness Week.)

Comment

Chicken and Dumplings:

1 chicken, about 3 pounds

2 Quarts water

1 Teaspoon Salt

1/2 Teaspoon Pepper

2 Cup All-purpose flour

1/2 Teaspoon Baking soda

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

3 Tablespoon Shortening

3/4 Cup Buttermilk

A dash of sherry

Place chicken in a Dutch oven; add water and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour or until tender. Remove chicken and let cool slightly. Bone chicken and cut chicken into bite-size pieces; set aside. Bring broth to a boil; add pepper and a dash of sherry. Combine flour, soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk, stirring with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface, and knead lightly 4 or 5 times.

For drop dumplings, pat dough to 1/4” thickness. Pinch off dough in 1 to 2-inch pieces; drop into boiling broth. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 8 to 10 minutes or to desired consistency, stirring occasionally. Stir in chicken. To make rolled dumplings: Roll dough about 1/4-inch thick. Cut dough into 4- x 1/2-inch dumplings. Drop dumplings, one piece at a time, into boiling broth, carefully stirring after each addition.

Serves 4 to 6.

 

Corn Muffins

1 cup cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup white sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup canola oil

1 cup of buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin pan or line with paper muffin liners. In a large bowl, mix together corn meal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add egg, oil and milk; stir gently to combine. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean.

 

Turnip greens:

Ingredients

* 2 1/2 lbs turnip, collard or mustard greens, washed and chopped into 1-in. pieces

* 3 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

* 2/3 cup chopped onions

* 1 or 2 dashes cider or red wine vinegar

* salt and pepper to taste (start with 1 tablespoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper)

Directions

1. Fry the bacon in a pot large enough to cook the greens.

2. Add the greens along with onions.

3. Cook on low heat, stirring with wooden spoon, until greens are coated with bacon fat (about 2 minutes).

Pour off excess fat.

4. Cover the greens with water and season with salt and pepper.

5. Bring to boil. Cover the pot, reduce heat, and simmer until tender (time will vary, about 1 hour).

Stir occasionally and add water if they threaten to scorch. When done, increase heat to med-high, stir often. Boil off nearly all the cooking liquid.

6. Add vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Serve very hot.

Serves 4

 

Sweet potato pie with bourbon, pecan topping and bourbon sauce

Ingredients:

2 cups mashed sweet potatoes

1/2 cup bourbon

3 eggs

4 tbsp softened butter

1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup of brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 (9-inch) uncooked pie shell

Pecan topping:

1 1/4 cup sugar; 1 1/4 cup dark corn syrup; 3 eggs lightly beaten; 3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened; 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract; 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon; 1 pinch of salt; 1 1/4 cup of chopped pecans

Bourbon Sauce (Optional but yummy):

1 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream; 1 cup of milk; 1package of vanilla pudding mix (4 servings size); 3 tablespoons bourbon; 1 teaspon vanilla extract

Method:

Preheat oven to 325° F. Combine all ingredients. Using a wire whisk, mix ingredients thoroughly. Pour mixture into the pie shell. Top with pecan topping. Bake for 60 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and center is just set. Top with bourbon sauce.

Comment

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy will hand out mini-grants for projects in the region that benefit the long-distance hiking trail.

Grants can include trail work, conservation projects and trail promotion and education. Past projects have included:

• Efforts by the Nantahala Hiking Club to help the town of Franklin become an official “Trail Town.”

• Construction of a trail on the grounds of Cartoogechaye Elementary School in Franklin.

• Construction of a trail on the grounds of Summit Charter School in Cashiers.

• Trail maintenance and improvements to trail shelters.

• Bear cables at backcountry trail shelters.

• Controlling invasive, exotic plant species.

• Eforts to keep the bald on Roan Mountain from growing up, including a roving goat herd.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy will give out $25,000 in grants, not to exceed $5,000 per grant. The grants are funded through proceeds from the specialty AT license plates, which raised $116,000 last year for the AT Conservancy.

Applications are due by March 5. Go to www.appalachiantrail.org/ncgrant.

Comment

Chronic wasting disease, a deadly disease that affects deer, elk and other hoofed animals, has been detected in white-tailed deer in Virginia.

The discovery has ramped up concerns about the disease migrating into North Carolina. Chronic wasting disease is a neurological disorder that affects the brain of deer and elk. It causes the animals to become lethargic, lose weight and eventually die. Chronic wasting disease is now found in 15 states.

It originated on deer farms and is mostly found in Western states. It was detected as close as West Virginia in late 2005 and apparently took four years to migrate into Virginia.

The N.C. Wildlife Commission banned transport of deer, elk and other hoofed animals across state lines in 2002 to reduce chances of the disease spreading into North Carolina. There is no way to test an animal for chronic wasting disease without killing them and getting a tissue sample from the brain stem. It is possible for deer and elk to carry chronic wasting disease without showing signs.

Other than West Virginia and Virginia, the next closest states to have chronic wasting disease are Oklahoma to the west and New York to the north.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission tested about 1,400 free-ranging white-tailed deer for the disease in 2009 and all came up clean.

Taxidermists in the state cannot accept heads for mounts from states where chronic wasting has been detected. Restrictions on transporting deer parts across state lines ban hunters from bringing back any portion of the deer’s head or spinal cord.

Comment

Kituwah is a concept much larger than the mound site proper, which is recorded with the state register of historic places. The name signifies the mothertown of the Cherokee, a kind of original community with which all Cherokees identify.

“The boundaries of Kituwah aren’t confined to the area. It’s intrinsic to the heart and soul of the Cherokee people,” said Tom Belt, a professor of Cherokee Language and Culture at Western Carolina University.

Belt explained Cherokees as far west as Memphis would have identified themselves as Kituwah during the 1600s.

But the tribe lost control of the Kituwah village in the years preceding their forced removal from their ancestral land in Western North Carolina.

During most of the last century and a half, the land has been under agricultural cultivation as part of a tract called Ferguson’s Field.

The Eastern Band bought 309 acres around the mound site in 1996, and an archeological survey the following year discovered a 65-acre village site that confirmed the long term of settlement.

The mound, 170 feet in diameter and five feet tall, formed the base for the council house where the Cherokee conducted some of their most sacred ceremonies.

Belt explained that the concept of the Kituwah mothertown for the Cherokee would encompass the entire area within a day’s walk of the council house. But Belt said the actual valley and its mountains play crucial roles in spiritual ceremonies held on the solstices and in the cosmology that support the tribe’s clan structure.

“On those days if you stand at the mound where the council house was, the very place the light hits first is on the seven peaks on that mountain where the substation will be built,” Belt said.

Comment

The term “off-the-grid” means living in a self-sufficient manner without the services of a public utility. Wikipedia estimates that in 2007 there were around 250,000 off-the-grid households in the U.S. that supplied their own water, electrical and sewer systems.

Living off-the-grid has been characterized by the sustainable living movement as the ultimate step towards reducing energy consumption. It’s more affordable these days than in the past, because of dramatic improvements in wind, water, and solar power mechanics.

In the U.S. “going green” has become increasingly scientific and less and less ideological, but the roots of the environmental movement can be found in the back-to-the-land movement that ran through the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The American back-to-the-land movement was a migration from urban to rural environments that created a blip on the country’s demographic trends in the latter half of the 1960s and the early part of the 1970s. The values of the movement are exemplified in Helen and Scott Nearing’s book Living the Good Life, which chronicles the couple’s self-sufficient lifestyle in a Vermont farmhouse. Published in 1954, the book cites the economic pressures of the Great Depression and the influence of the writings of Henry David Thoreau as driving inspirations.

The back-to-the-land movement drew on both the pragmatic self-sufficiencies celebrated in rural America during the Depression and on the literary and philosophical celebration of the American continent. Also, a growing discontent with government policies and rampant consumerism drove members of the counter culture to search for a divergent set of values, which they found in rural communities that had been resistant to change and maintained closer contact with nature.

Comment

There’ll be a movie for every taste at the third annual Short Circuit Traveling Film Festival this year. The festival’s selections include both fiction and documentaries, with experimental and animated films also in the mix.

This festival is the only one to highlight short films created by filmmakers living and working in the Southeastern United States, The 2010 festival features work by filmmakers from Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee.

Each of the 12 short films is selected for their artistic merit by a panel of esteemed media arts professionals.

Short Circuit Traveling Film Festival is a program of the Southern Arts Federation, a nonprofit regional arts organization making a positive difference in the arts throughout the south since 1975. It is presented locally by the Haywood County Arts Council and Haywood Community College, among others.

The Southern Arts Federation presents, promotes and produces Southern arts and cultural programming; and advocates for the arts and arts education. The organization works in partnership with the state arts agencies of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

For more information on the Southern Arts Federation and its programs, visit www.southarts.org.

For more information about the Haywood County Arts Council’s screening of the Short Circuit Film Festival or other arts programming visit the Arts Council Web site at www.haywoodarts.org or call 828.452.0593.

This project received support from the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Cultural Resources, and the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.

Comment

Back in early January, I found myself waking early to pack for a day-long excursion into the backwoods of Chunky Gal Mountain with a friend who was home from graduate school in Forestry. It was close to 10 degrees up in Cowee Valley where I live in Macon County, and I seriously questioned my judgment as I drove in to Franklin to meet him. However, since he is only in the area about once a year, and being one of the most knowledgeable people I know about forests, I was anxious to go out with him regardless of the weather or my judgment.

We were going out to look for old growth forest, a shared passion that has bonded us for many years, and I knew that I would be pushing through difficult terrain along frozen ground, into the area’s most inaccessible coves — the reason that areas such as these were never cut to begin with.

Chunky Gal Mountain runs roughly north out of the Southern Nantahala Wilderness, along the Clay/Macon county line, with steep western slopes that drain into the Hiwassee River Valley and more gentle eastern slopes that eventually drain into the rugged Nantahala. That there is any old growth at all on this mountain is somewhat of a miracle. Ritter Lumber cut most of the surrounding area in the early 20th century, divesting their cutover and degraded land to the U.S. Forest Service for bargain prices beginning in the 1930s. Though the Forest Service was able to buy most of Chunky Gal mountain during this period with annual appropriations from Congress at established prices ranging from $3 to $10 an acre, they could not quite acquire it all, and a significant 53-acre tract sitting square in the heart of it remained in private ownership until last year when the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee acquired it from a willing seller.

Without this important acquisition, the area could have very well faced a fate similar to the Tusquitee Mountain range just several miles to the west. Private developers there are seeking to build a road into a small in-holding completely surrounded by national forest land, a tract that sits adjacent to the popular Fires Creek Rim trail which is heavily used by hunters, fishermen, and horseback riders. Similarly, the Chunky Gal tract lies directly on the Chunky Gal Trail, an outstanding hiking trail that connects the Appalachian Trail to a larger trail system to the north which includes the Fires Creek Rim trail and other trails around the Tusquitee area.

Fortunately, the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee has an opportunity to protect this area and add it to the Nantahala National Forest through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This fund, established in 1964 and funded through offshore oil leases and royalties, is at long last receiving an increase in funding, and Chunky Gal and three other North Carolina projects of similar importance are the Forest Service’s priorities for the upcoming budget year. Two of these are in Caldwell County and will be added to the Pisgah National Forest, and one is in the piedmont’s Uwharrie National Forest. With support from North Carolina’s congressional delegation these four important places can be permanently protected.

As we bushwhacked our way across the mountain through the Chunky Gal tract at the end of that very cold day, I was able to at least take some comfort in the possibility. Write your congressional representatives today and ask them to support these acquisitions and to support the full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Brent Martin works for The Wilderness Society out of Franklin. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Comment

By Chris Cooper

Kea was a filthy, grease-covered little miscreant when she was found by In Your Ear Music Emporium owner Lauren Calvert some 16 years ago hiding in some random machinery (in the snow, no less). Sixteen years ... that’s enough time to make an impression on some kids that aren’t exactly kids any more. Some of whom wound up on the receiving end of Kea’s — ahem — somewhat notorious lack of patience in regards to unruly children, and still carry the “scars,” if you will. Legend has it that there were actually two cats living at IYE in the early days, one significantly larger than Kea. Apparently, she made it clear — through all manner of fur flinging and claw-flailing butt kickings — that she wasn’t sharing such an ample space with another feline. The other cat, fortunately, found a new home before she got really angry.

At one point, Kea was kidnapped. Yes folks, abducted in an act of revenge by an irate shoplifter that managed to get himself caught. But of course, she was found and brought home.

Before IYE had actual benches out front, there were hay bales that provided a convenient perch for Kea. Sometimes the act of watching Sylva’s passersby got a little boring, so she would head up to Spring Street to see what was happening, inciting a bit of panic in the music store staff.

Whether she was an effective mouser I couldn’t say, but she had an unusual fetish for cardboard (well, paper products in general) and more often than not the morning opening process included sweeping up the remnants of what used to be a box, newspaper, magazine, and so forth.

And so it was: over a decade and a half of morning friskies, gravity-defying leaps onto CD racks and counters, scratches behind the ears from literally thousands of customers, and the earning of a place in the heart of every single IYE employee and many Sylva locals. Tourists would make a point to stop in each year to check on “that little store kitty.” That’s enough time to make anybody with a soft spot for animals decide that immortality is a viable option.

In the five years I spent with Kea, the aging process didn’t seem to kick in until the last year or so. At 11, she acted and looked all of 3. Once she knew you, you were guaranteed a tail flick/grunt greeting almost every day. I had the honor of being one of the few that she let flip over on her back and carry around like, well, a baby I guess. Except that I’m terrified of babies ... but that’s a whole different thing.

Around the end of 2008, things began to go wrong. Kea was diagnosed with a tumor that affected her kidneys. She began to have seizures that started with “mild” and grew to “not so mild.” Her cognitive functions seemed affected by these seizures; she would stare at a spot in the distance for unusual amounts of time, appeared confused and lost in the place that had always been her home. But never was she cranky — the purr motor was functioning perfectly. If the stars were aligned properly and she had the energy, she would go into one of the silliest kitty soccer games ever with a little balled up piece of paper. But her pace was slowing. There was no denying it. Everything that could be done to keep an animal Kea’s age as healthy and happy as possible had been done, but by the beginning of the new year there simply was nothing more we could do.

“Is that a real cat?”

“Is that cat deaf?”

“Did you know she’s got one green eye and one blue eye?”

These were the questions we fielded every day. “Yes, it’s a real cat.” Occasionally, the answer was “No, she’s a robot. I’ve got the remote control right here.” No, Kea was not deaf. She did exhibit a talent for ignoring people that didn’t interest her, however. But cats with differently colored eyes apparently have a propensity for deafness. Who knew?

It’s the next question that’s the hardest to imagine crafting an answer for over the next few weeks,

“Where’s the kitty?”

Little Kea, we’ll miss you terribly. Here’s to hoping there are copious amounts of freeze dried shrimp, plenty of cardboard to keep your claws sharp, an endless supply of gentle scratches on top of the head, and a sunny spot to nap in that never fades ... wherever it is that you are now.

Chris Cooper

In Your Ear Music Emporium

Sylva

Comment

Jackson

The Jackson County board consists of four commissioners and one chairman. This year, the two commissioner seats and chairman are up for election. Commissioners must live within their voting district to seek election, but the county chairman is elected at-large.

After a year of controversy centered on a number of high-profile decisions on the part of the Jackson County board, three key members are up for re-election in November.

Chairman Brian McMahan, Commissioner Tom Massie, and Commissioner William Shelton have all said they will seek re-election.

The commissioners have been dogged by controversy over the past four years — some by their own design but some clearly landing on their doorstep uninvited.

McMahan said his decision to run was based on his desire to solve problems he inherited when he came on the board.

“Obviously we inherited some problems. I wasn’t part of creating those problems, but I will be past of solving those problems,” McMahan said.

The costly Dillsboro Dam fight, a controversial salary raise for top level county administrators, a tug-of-war over the county airport, and ongoing fallout from the implosion of the county’s economic development commission have kept county commissioners in the news.

However, McMahan cited the board’s ability to keep the tax rate among the lowest in the state while accomplishing key capital improvements as a measure of their success.

Some in the development and real estate industry are still angry over the passage of stringent mountainside development regulations four years ago, crafted during a five-month moratorium on new subdivisions. However, pro-development interests failed in their bid to oust Commissioners Mark Jones and Joe Cowan when they were up for election two years ago, suggesting the regulations were supported by the general public.

Commissioner William Shelton ran for his first term on a platform of environmental stewardship and responsible growth. After helping the county develop widely lauded development ordinances, Shelton said the faltering economy and some long-standing issues took center stage.

“I feel like in my first term the board has delved into some growth issues and we need to continue on and finish what we started for when the economy starts to grow again,” Shelton said.

Commissioner Tom Massie said he wants to run again to finish what he started.

“Most of the issues I originally ran on have been completed but not all of them,” Massie said.

Massie said he sees the next term as an opportunity for the board to move past the issues they inherited when they came on four years ago.

“We’re starting to get some things wrapped up and put behind us and now we’ll have some more time for projects that would move the county forward,” Massie said, citing the Jackson greenway and affordable housing.

The current members of the board are all Democrats. Jackson County GOP chair Dodie Allen said the party tried hard to find candidates to run, and thought they had found one, but the person changed their mind. As of now, Allen said there are no Republican challengers for any of the commissioner seats that she knows of.

The county heavily leans Democratic, which means the Democratic primary in May decided the final lineup of the board — which would be especially true if no Republicans even run.

Comment

Cecil Groves, president of Southwestern Community College since 1997, informed the board of trustees and college faculty and staff that he will retire at the end of this academic year.

“As for everything and everyone, there is a season. My season has now come,” Groves said.

Groves thanked the SCC family for its “support, encouragement and, most of all, friendship.”

Before becoming the fourth president of SCC, Groves served as chancellor of the Texas State Technical College System, president of Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs, Colo., president of Austin Community College in Austin, Texas, and executive vice president/provost for Delgado College in New Orleans, La.

Conrad Burrell, Chairman of the SCC Board of Trustees for the past 10 years, put Groves’ career in perspective.

“I’ve enjoyed working with Dr. Groves on college business and as a friend. He has had the full cooperation of the trustees, the faculty and staff and the community, which is very rare for any president. We’ll miss his leadership - and humor- not only on our board, but in the community,” Burrell said.

Burrell said Groves has greatly increased the viability and reputation of the college “which is now established as an institution of the highest quality and recognized for teaching excellence.”

In addressing the faculty and staff about his departure, Groves called the college’s achievement during his tenure a collective effort.

“Collectively, we have accomplished many critical benchmarks important to the future of our institution, our communities and our students,” he said.

Some of those accomplishments include national and statewide recognition for excellence, the expansion of campus facilities throughout the Western North Carolina region, new partnerships with the public schools, innovative and first-of-a-kind degree programs, and recognized leadership in instructional technology and online learning.

“The momentum of the college will not be slowed down during the transition,” Groves said of his departure.

Groves’ last day will be June 30, and the college expects to have a new president in place by Aug. 1.

Comment

• The mill is operating within state pollution limits on most counts. The current permit allows a variance in two areas: temperature and water color. In the new permit, the mill is again seeking a variance for temperature, but not for color.

• The mill proposes to reduce color over the next four years from 42,000 pounds a day allowed under the current permit to 37,000 pounds a day within four years. The state doesn’t have a hard and fast limit on color but uses a subjective measurement, and has deemed that 37,000 pounds is acceptable.

• The improvement is small in comparison to the major reductions made since the late 1980s, when the mill discharged 380,000 pounds of color a day.

• Under the temperature variance, the mill can raise the water temperature by 25 degrees when measured half a mile downstream from the mill compared to upstream temps.

• Water would be sampled and monitored less frequently under the new permit. Evergreen does the monitoring itself and submits the stats to state regulators.

Comment

Haywood Waterways Association recently gave out 2009 stewardship awards to several people and organizations that have worked to protect and improve the waterways of Haywood County.

n Volunteer Organization of the Year went to Mike Gillespie and the Richland Creek Streamkeepers. Gillespie, a local dentist, organized a group of students to adopt a section of Richland Creek around Vance Street Park in Waynesville. The Streamkeepers conducted several cleanups in 2009 and removed over 36 bags of trash.

“It is important to expose our youth to the pollution issues affecting our waterways, not only so they appreciate our water but also understand ways they can help protect it,” Gillespie said.

Other groups participating in Haywood Waterways Adopt-a-Stream program in 2009 were: Best Buy, First Baptist Church of Clyde, Gateway Club, Haywood Community College Wildlife Club, Tom Anspach, Vine of the Mountains Church, Wal-Mart and Waynesville Fly Shop. Anyone interested in adopting a stream should contact 828.627.9589 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

n Partner of the Year went to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Wildlife commission officers help every year with Haywood Waterways’ “Kids in the Creek Program,” a field trip that exposes students to aquatic life and the effect of pollution on water. The Wildlife Commission also helps with education events at the Maggie Valley Trout Festival each year, constructed handicap fishing access piers on Richland Creek in Vance Street Park and on the Pigeon River in Canton, and is a valuable member of the Haywood Waterways Technical Advisory Committee.

The Wildlife Resources Commission is leading the Pigeon River Recovery Project. This project is restoring native fish and mollusk populations downstream of Canton, and is a collaborative effort with many organizations and agencies. They’ve even set up educational aquariums at several local schools.

n The Pigeon River Award went to a state program that eliminates sources of raw sewage going into streams. Failing septic systems and in some cases straight-piping funnel raw sewage from homes into creeks. The program, under the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, helps identify culprits and provides funds to fix the problem when it involves a low-income household.

The program is currently surveying the entire Richland Creek watershed to identify problem spots.

Ed Kelley from Ridge Runner Naturals Gallery and Studio in Waynesville provided the awards for the winners. www.haywoodwaterways.org.

Comment

Ricky Skaggs, the legendary, fourteen-time Grammy-award winning country and bluegrass artist, will be featured at Lake Junaluska’s 10th Annual Appalachian Christmas this December, in addition to two Lake Junaluska Singers concerts and the Christmas Craft Show. Skaggs and his talented family will perform the “Skaggs Family Christmas”, a well-loved show that is entertaining and enjoyable for the entire family.

In addition to claiming his own rightful popularity in the country music world, Ricky Skaggs has performed with such famed artists as Flatt and Scruggs, Emmylou Harris and good friend Keith Whitley, and also led bluegrass group Boone Creek which featured well-known Dobro talent Jerry Douglas. He won the prestigious Entertainer of the Year award from the Country Music Association, one of eight awards received from them in addition to his fourteen Grammy recognitions, eight Academy of Country Music awards, two Dove awards, and eleven International Bluegrass Music Association awards, among others. Skaggs was the youngest member to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1982 when he joined at age 28, after his debut solo album “Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine” topped country charts the previous year. After founding his own record company, Skaggs Family Records, in 1997, Skaggs has continued amazing listeners and peers with award-winning albums, tours, songs, and awards, including Grammys for eight out of the ten albums he produced through the company.

“We are honored to have such a talented and respected musician as Ricky Skaggs joining us for our Appalachian Christmas celebration here at Lake Junaluska,” said Executive Director Jimmy L. Carr. “His and his family’s music has been an inspiration to many for years, and we sincerely look forward to experiencing it here in our own community.”

Lake Junaluska’s Appalachian Christmas weekend will begin Friday evening, December 10, at 7:30 p.m. with the first of two Lake Junaluska Singers’ concerts. Led by Dr. Melodie Galloway, the Singers will perform an entertaining collection of holiday favorites, as well as spiritual songs. On Saturday, December 11, events will include the Christmas Craft Show from 8:30 a.m. to 5:o0 p.m., and another Lake Junaluska Singers concert at 2:30 p.m. The Skaggs Family Christmas concert will take place at 8 p.m., with a special Meet and Greet opportunity at 7 p.m.

Please join us for any or all of our special Christmas events. A detailed schedule and more information about the events and performers can be found at http://www.lakejunaluska.com/christmas . Tickets will be available on August 1, 2010 at www.shop.lakejunaluska.com. Lodging reservations can be made by calling 800-222-4930.

Comment

By Bruce Gardner • Guest Columnist

The Tea Party movement is sweeping the nation and has found its way through the media and into almost everyone’s living room. It is not a political party; it is a frame of mind. It is a grassroots organization unlike anything in our lifetime.

Quoting Richard Viguerie in his editorial in the Investor’s Business daily: “The Tea Party Movement not only brings millions of new people to the political process, it also brings more energy, enthusiasm and excitement to politics than we’ve seen in the last 100 years. I have been working and waiting 50 years for this populist, principled and constitutional groundswell against big government and the quasi-socialistic, crony capitalistic establishment institutions that have been abusing power and trust at the expense of hard-working Americans, their children and their grandchildren. In just one year, the Tea Party has become the fastest growing political movement perhaps in history.”

TEA stands for Taxed Enough Already. It represents the historical dumping of the tea into Boston Harbor in protest of the Stamp Act of 1765. Basically this was a revolution against taxation without representation imposed by the British monarchy of the time. This movement is uniquely American.

Today, people in America are upset with both political parties. They are outraged at the massive spending, oppressive debt, self-serving, arrogant behavior of Congress as well as the current and previous administrations. The Tea Party brings focus to these issues.

Professional politicians in both parties have created careers for themselves by mortgaging future generations to finance their own reelection campaigns through earmarks, closed door dealings and “selling” their votes to party leaders in exchange for re-election campaign funding.

Taxpaying, working Americans are fed up and are now demanding that elected representatives listen to the voices of the people who are paying the bills.

What do the Tea Partiers want? It’s easy to see what political issues they are against, but what are they for? They are for smaller government, substantially lower taxes, term limits, rot reform, individual liberty restoration, less intrusion by government, a fair tax code for everyone, transparency and accountability in government, respect for the Constitution, elimination of earmarks, a balanced budget, a strong defense, elimination of waste and fraud in government, state’s rights as defined by the Constitution, social programs that create independence rather than dependence on the system, and a no nonsense criminal justice system that favors the victim.

At first, the mainstream media ignored the Tea Parties. Now, the national media would have the public believe that this is a radical right wing movement. Look at the list above and ask yourself if anything on that list seems radical to you. The Tea Party is made up of folks that live in every hometown. They are Middle America — not extremists.

The Constitution was written to protect our individual liberties and order the structure of the federal government. The federal government was to be empowered by the states to provide for the states those things that were needed in common such as national defense. Over the years the federal government has expanded its role, enslaving the states through mandates in almost every area of our lives. The expansion of government and the unconscionable spending of the last 10 years have financially crippled our children and all future generations. This expansion has led to the near bankruptcy of our country and the degradation of our dollar around the world. The legacy we are leaving for future generations is the direct result of political greed and a total disconnect from and disregard for the American public.

Much of the strength of the Tea Party movement is in the fact that it is totally decentralized. There is no national leader or common set of talking points. Each group concentrates much of its efforts on local and state issues. These groups are challenging candidates for every elected office that affects their area. It’s all about policy and philosophy. Political party affiliation is of no consequence.

Every area seems to have a different organization with a variety of names. The common thread is the mindset found in the Tea Party movement. In Haywood County, the Tea Party movement is represented by the 9/12 Project. This nonpartisan group has grown tremendously in the past year and is extremely active through monthly meetings, Saturday morning coffee gatherings and events featuring speakers and candidates for office. Contrary to anti-Tea Party sound bites repeated by the national media, the Haywood 9/12 Project is made up of Democrats, Republicans and Independents who feel that government is out of control.

The Haywood 9/12 Project will be announcing an initiative to inform the voting public which candidates best represent the ideals of the Tea Party Movement at all levels: local, state and national. Any candidate for any office belonging to any party will be invited to participate. Watch for additional details or get involved with the 9/12 Project to learn more.

For information about the 9/12 Project and the Tea Party movement in Haywood County, visit the Web site at www.912wnc.com or call 828.506.5007 for meeting information or for ways to get involved.

(Bruce Gardner lives in Haywood County and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

Comment

In a record year for landslides, yet another one struck this week, this time along U.S. 441 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The slide occurred Monday near Newfound Gap, about a mile from the Tennessee state line. One lane of the road is open to traffic. The park hopes to reopen two lanes by commandeering a portion of an overlook parking area for a travel lane.

U.S. 441 between Cherokee and Gatlinburg is one of the only routes between North Carolina and Tennessee that is passable. Three other highways between the two states are closed due to rockslides of their own.

• Interstate 40 has been closed for five months now near the state line.

• U.S. 64, which runs between Murphy and Chattanooga, is also closed due to a rockslide.

• U.S. 129, which leads from Robbinsville to Maryville, Tenn., is also closed due to a rockslide.

There have been four other landslides in the region: a major one in Maggie Valley that forced an evacuation of several homes, one that took out a road and a lot in the Water Dance development in Jackson County, one that took out a road and a lot in the Wildflower development in Macon County, and one in Macon County that could be partly to blame for destabilizing a home foundation.

Moreover, there have been two more rockslides on the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Comment

A conference that connects faith and the environment will be held at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center April 8 through 11.

Caring for Creation, now in its fourth year, imparts a message of stewardship and responsibility for people of faith when it comes to caring for the earth.

The conference offers a series of workshops and talks on a variety of topics, including some big name speakers.

In addition to workshops, on- and off-site tours will include visits to a solar farm, an oil-to-biodiesel conversion facility, a green home, Junaluska Wetlands and Corneille Bryan Native Garden. Guests also have the option of doing a “pre-experience” in which they’ll spend 24 hours in a sustainable environment prior to the conference.

Keynote speakers for the conference include:

• Sen. Marc Basnight, the president pro tem of the N.C. Senate.

• John Hill, director of Economic and Environmental Justice for the General Board of Church and Society.

• Rev. Ms. Pat Call-Beck Harper, editor of God’s Renewed Creation: Call to Hope and Action.

• Rita Harris, organizer for the Sierra Club in Memphis.

• Derek Arndt, monitoring board of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Lake Junaluska joined the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce Green Initiative Project in 2009. As a part of the initiative, Lake Junaluska is focused on being energy efficient, recycling and creating a sustainable environment.

“Lake Junaluska is continually striving to promote environmental awareness,” said Jimmy L. Carr, executive director of Lake Junaluska.

Workshops include:

• Theological Foundations for Creation Care

• Mapping Your Ecological Footprint.

For more information about the conference and workshop schedule, go to www.lakejunaluska.com/caring-for-creation or call 828.454.6656.

Comment

A group of activists arrested for civil disobedience during protests of Duke Energy’s new coal plant last year have been let off the hook for a second time.

Activists were arrested for trespassing in two separate demonstrations last year, one in front of Duke’s headquarters in Charlotte and one in front of N.C. Governor Beverly Perdue’s mansion in Raleigh. Civil disobedience was a planned part of both protests challenging the construction of a new coal plant in WNC by Duke.

One of the organizers behind both events was Avram Friedman of Sylva, the executive director of the Canary Coalition, a statewide air quality advocacy group. Friedman is also waging his second run this year for state political office with a challenge to Rep. Phil Haire, D-Sylva.

Prosecutors this month dismissed the charges stemming from the protest in Raleigh. The charges stemming from the Charlotte protest, which involved 43 people on Earth Day last April, had been dropped as well.

Those arrested were preparing a “necessity defense” to prove their action was justified, Friedman said.

“The ‘necessity defense’ holds that defendants intentionally committed a crime in order to prevent a much greater harm,” Friedman explained. “Duke Energy and cooperating state officials are perpetrating great and unnecessary harm against public health, the environment and the economy of all North Carolinians by constructing a new coal-burning power plant that will produce massive quantities of toxic air and water pollutants for the next 50 years.”

The exonerated defendants maintain that the Cliffside plant is not needed to meet North Carolina’s future energy demand, but is only being constructed to increase Duke Energy’s profits at the expense of the citizens of North Carolina, Friedman said.

Friedman points to expansion by Duke Energy last year outside its core service territory. Duke signed a contract to provide 1,000 megawatts to five energy co-ops in South Carolina and has another contract in the works to provide 600 megawatts outside its service area in South Carolina.

The new coal plant, if completed, will provide only 800 megawatts of capacity. The sale of power outside its service area shows that Duke Energy already has a huge surplus of power and is merely building the new plant to fuel expansion and increase profits, despite the negative economic and health impact of the plant, Friedman said.

North Carolina ratepayers face an increase in their utility bills next year, partially to pay for construction of the new Cliffside power plant.

Friedman is running for office to bring the issue to public light, including complicity of state officials and leaders to allow the plant’s construction.

Comment

It’s a sure sign of spring for Southern Appalachian communities along the Appalachian Trail: hikers loaded down with backpacks hitchhiking to town and back to stock up on supplies, eat that hamburger they’ve been craving, and knock back a few cold beers before hitting the trail again.

They emerge slowly at first, one or two early birds trickling by, and then turn into a steady stream just about now, with dozens a day filtering along the trail on the pilgrimage to Maine.

Last week, The Smoky Mountain News caught up with three thru-hikers who had taken a break in Franklin to refuel and were heading back onto the AT at Winding Stair Gap.

Kate Imp (“Ringleader”), her brother Brandon Imp (“Monkey”), and their friend Emily Ginger (“Lightning”) have set aside their normal lives to walk from Georgia to Maine this year.

“You only have so many chances in life to have big experiences with the people closest to you,” Kate said. “The AT is something known for the community experience more than just the hike itself.”

The three-person team stopped in Franklin for two nights, staying at the Sapphire Inn and eating at Mi Casa and Cody’s Roadhouse before stocking up on fresh food supplies at Ingles. It’s that type of involvement with the town that the Appalachian Trail Community designation was created to encourage.

Kate Imp said knowing that Franklin was a hiker-friendly community made it easier to decide to stop there.

“You’re less on guard. With trail towns there’s the assumption that 99 percent of the people you meet are interested in helping you,” Imp said.

Roughly two weeks into the trail, Franklin is a crucial make-or-break point for thru-hiker hopefuls. They’ve come far enough to realize how tough the journey will be, but not far enough to have developed their “trail legs” or fall into the true rhythm of the trail. The town’s official trail designation recognizes the symbiotic nature of the trail and the town.

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Haywood Community College remains hopeful that the county will increase funding to the college, despite reluctance by the county commissioners to provide what they see as special treatment to HCC amidst across the board budget cuts.

“I view it as an unresolved issue at this point,” said HCC President Rose Johnson.

During the recession, commissioners slashed capital funding to the college and public school system by two-thirds, cut out nonprofits completely and laid off nearly 40 county employees.

The county had previously promised to pay for two new roofs and a major renovation at HCC with the annual contributions. But now, commissioners plan to dip into a special sales tax fund to pay for the projects.

The special sales tax was approved by voters specifically to fund expansions at HCC — not maintenance, according to college leaders. The college wants the county to restore its annual maintenance budget and reserve every penny of sales tax revenue for new construction and expansion.

Johnson met with county commissioners earlier this month to plead the college’s case and plans to meet with the board again soon.

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Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 25, at its office in Waynesville.

The Friends office is still located beside Blue Ridge Osondu Books on Main Street, but an expansion of the bookstore claimed extra space that the Friends of the Smokies wasn’t using. The remodeled office is now accessed by going into the bookstore and heading toward the back left.

The drop-by event is also a chance to meet the new director of the North Carolina office, Holly Demuth, and the Friends President Jim Hart. Visit with park officials and learn about the latest park happenings including the elk, Cataloochee Valley, and the forthcoming Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

“I’m looking forward to meeting more of our members, neighbors, and hopefully a few Friends license plate supporters,” said Demuth. “To help show our thanks to everyone, we’ll offer some refreshments and a few door prizes, too.”

www.FriendsOfTheSmokies.org or 828.452.0720 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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William and Mary Alice Fryar presented the Cashiers Historical Society with the 19th century Zachary family bible earlier this month.

The Bible belonged to one of Cashiers’ early pioneer families, that of Mordecai Zachary. From 1842 until 1852, Zachary constructed the Zachary-Tolbert House located on today’s N.C. 107 South. Included in the Bible are family birth and death records as well as the marriage certificate recognizing the union of Zachary and his wife, Elvira Keener.

Fryar is a direct descendant of Mordecai and Elvira. The Bible is an invaluable gift and will be a wonderful public resource for research into the early years of Cashiers Valley.

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One of the region’s most beloved and authentic cultural traditions, Shindig on the Green, will present “A Celebration of Mountain Traditions” annual fundraiser with headliner Balsam Range plus Laura Boosinger and Bobby Hicks and the Cole Mountain Cloggers at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 20 at the historic Colonial Theatre in downtown Canton for an evening of traditional old-time music and dance.

The March 20th “Celebration of Mountain Traditions” fundraiser is a key element in securing necessary funding for the free and beloved Shindig on the Green summer Saturday evenings in Asheville. After a four-year relocation to make way for the new park construction, Shindig returns to its original location this summer in the heart of downtown Asheville at Pack Square Park’s Roger McGuire Green, on the new Bascom Lamar Lunsford Stage. Dedicated to the celebration and preservation of the region’s rich cultural heritage, Shindig on the Green’s 44th summer season is scheduled for July 3, 10, 17, 31; August 14, 21, 28; and September 4.

The concert has a $6,000 monetary goal, with all of those funds needed to help cover the “free” Shindig’s very real operating costs, which average $6,000 an evening. The Folk Heritage Committee’s produces Shindig on the Green and the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in order to support the preservation and continuation of the traditional music, dance and storytelling heritage of the Southern Appalachian Mountains.

Based in Haywood County, Balsam Range’s members grew up in the rich musical heritage of the Appalachian South, surrounded by culture and heritage steeped in traditions of The Grand Ole Opry, bluegrass, gospel and country music. Featuring Grammy award winner Marc Pruett on banjo, Darren Nicholson on vocals and mandolin, Buddy Melton on fiddle and vocals, Caleb Smith on guitar and vocals, and Tim Surrett on bass and vocals, Balsam Range is celebrating the success of its single, “Last Train To Kitty Hawk,” the title cut from the band’s second album, hitting No. 1 on the national Bluegrass Unlimited Chart in September 2009; the album itself reached No. 5 that same month. The band also recently took the stage for a live television taping of the popular PBS program “Song of the Mountains,” playing alongside Rhonda Vincent and the Rage before a sold-out audience.

Two of Western North Carolina’s more well-known and beloved musicians are pairing up to perform together. Laura Boosinger’s concert performance and recordings have earned her a well-deserved reputation as one of North Carolina’s most talented singers and interpreters of the music of the Southern Appalachians. Conventions, festivals, workshops and family concerts each provide a unique opportunity to showcase her talents as she features a variety of traditional stringed instruments, including old-time banjo, guitar, Appalachian dulcimer and fingerstyle Autoharp. Boosinger is also the Executive Director of the Madison County Arts Council.

Living legend Bobby Hicks is a self-taught fiddler who has played since he was nine years old. Originally hired by Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe in 1954 to play bass, Hicks switched to fiddle when fiddler Gordon Terry was drafted into the military. He joined up with the Ricky Skaggs Band in 1981, and throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s won multiple awards with the Ricky Skaggs Band and with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. Today, whether teaching young fiddlers, making guest appearances all over Western North Carolina, or playing a hot fiddle streak on stage, Bobby Hicks continues to contribute to the enjoyment of fans everywhere.

The Cole Mountain Cloggers, dancers from Buncombe, Madison and Mitchell counties, has won multiple awards, including the Ruth Jewell Trophy for Best Dance Team performance, claiming championship of the 2009 NC State Fair.

Tickets are $20 for adults, and children 12 and younger are $10; group rates (10 or more adults) are $15 per person. For tickets call the Colonial Theatre at 828.235.2760 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday; or to reserve tickets, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information, visit www.folkheritage.org or call the Folk Heritage Info Line: 828.258.6101, x345.

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The Town of Maggie Valley recently transferred the responsibility for building inspections to Haywood County. Now, Maggie is considering handing over soil and erosion control, too.

“We could really become a one-stop shop,” said Maggie planning director Nathan Clark.

Town officials from Maggie Valley and Clyde will meet Tuesday, March 23, with the Haywood County manager to discuss the potential takeover.

Both towns are also interested in exploring the possibility of adopting a county ordinance that regulates construction on steep slopes. Currently, neither town has such a policy.

The joint meeting follows a massive mudslide in Maggie Valley, which traveled 3,000 feet down the mountainside and damaged four homes.

Roads have been cleared, but up to 16,000 tons of unstable material still looms over the Rich Cove community.

Haywood’s steep slope ordinance allows the county government to force a property owner to clear debris from landslides. It can also coerce a landowner into stabilizing a slope that the county engineer deems unsafe.

If the Town of Maggie Valley adopts that ordinance, the county would have authority to deem the Rich Cove area an unstable slope, forcing Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park to take action.

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The town of Franklin has been officially designated an Appalachian Trail Community. A new program of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy will highlight the value of towns along the trail.

Towns are more than waypoints along the trail for hikers to stock up on supplies. The trail can be a driver for sustainable economic development, while the towns serve as agents to help protect the trails complex of recreational, volunteer, educational and environmental resources.

To mark the designation, the Macon County Public Library is partnering with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to present a number of programs and events in the meeting room at the library.

• Monday, March 22, 7 p.m. — Appalachian Trail Conservancy Overview. Learn about the history of the Appalachian Trail and the role the Appalachian Trail Conservancy plays in protecting and maintaining it.

• Wednesday, March 24, 4:30 and 7 p.m. — Documentary: “America’s Wild Spaces – Appalachian Trail,” a National Geographic video highlighting the 2,175-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

• Thursday, March 25, 7 p.m. — “Hiking 101.” Day hiking planning, equipment, and local hiking. Bill Van Horn from the Nantahala Hiking Club will present information on day hiking planning, equipment and local options for hiking.

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In today’s economy, people want to stretch their dollars to the max. What if you could actually double your money? Many in Jackson County are doing just that by contributing to the new Jackson County Public Library building fund at a crucial point in the campaign.

“We are drawing close to 90 percent of our $1.6 million goal and have an unprecedented opportunity,” said Mary Otto Selzer, co-chair of the campaign. “Through individual community members’ donations, we have matched over $185,000 of the $250,000 SECU Foundation grant. The next $65,000 raised will be matched by the Foundation. As has been true throughout the campaign, every dollar counts, but at this point, every dollar counts as two.”

No one realizes the importance of each contribution any more than Michelle Allison, office manager of JCPL. It was her awareness of the impact each dollar can make that inspired her and other employees at the library to create the Wall of Fame.

“We were talking about how we could bring attention to the campaign here in the library, and I thought of a Wall of Fame,” Allison said. “With each contribution someone makes at the library, we give the donor a certificate to post on our walls. We want to fill up all the walls with the certificates.”

“We put a jar on the desk and when people come up, we explain that everyone who puts a contribution in gets a certificate to go on the wall. We’ve gotten donations from a few cents on up.”

According to Dottie Brunette, head librarian, the response has been gratifying. “We really mean it when we say that every dollar counts,” she said. “We’ve had small children come in and contribute their allowances to the building fund, and it’s been so nice to see the pride they have when they mount their certificate on the wall. We’ve had strangers drop in to ask directions to Waynesville or Asheville, see our information about the Wall of Fame, and say, ‘Here, I’ll contribute.’ We’ve had contributions from a dollar and up, and it’s obvious to us that each and every one is from the heart. We really feel so supported by the community through this campaign.”

Of course the Wall of Fame isn’t the only way to contribute. Contributions can be made in person at the Friends of the Library Used Book Store, also on Main Street in Sylva, or mailed to: Friends of the Library, P.O. Box 825, Sylva, N.C., 28779-0825.

For more information call Mary Otto Selzer at 828.293.0074 or 828.507.0476 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee has saved a key tract from development along the Little Tennessee River near Cowee Mound.

The Land Trust bought three acres that were being marketed for an RV park. The low-lying land, which sits between N.C. 28 and the river, has 900 feet of river frontage and lies directly across the river from the Cowee Mound.

“This is a great acquisition that will support a community vision of heritage-based development in this historic landscape,” said LTLT’s Sharon Fouts Taylor. “With some modest investment it can provide a safe place for people to pull of the highway, park, and view the river and the mound.”

The purchase was made possible by a gift from Fred and Alice Stanback of Salisbury, key philanthropists for land preservation in the mountains.

In 2007, Cowee Mound itself was protected by LTLT in partnership with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the state, now augmented by the protection of a near-by parcel.

The ancient Cowee Mound was at the heart of the principal commercial and diplomatic town of the mountain Cherokee in the decades leading up to the American Revolution. A council house on the mound seated hundreds. In the mid-18th century, Cowee was at the geopolitical center of the South due to its position in the principal trade route through the southern mountains into the interior of the continent.

An 1837 map of Cowee shows a bridge crossing the river at the site of LTLT’s new purchase.

“When the river was low during the severe drought two years ago, large squared boulders that must have buttressed that bridge were clearly evident in the river channel between this parcel and the mound on the opposite bank,” said Paul Carlson, LTLT’s Executive Director. “The Little Tennessee River and the largely-intact historic landscape of northern Macon County are the greatest local assets we have for future economic development as well as for enhancing the fine quality of life we enjoy in this area.”

www.ltlt.org or 828.524.2711.

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Fill a bowl, feed a soul, and help fight hunger with a warm heart and a full stomach. The second annual Empty Bowls Dinner is set for Friday, March 12, at Tartan Hall in Franklin. The fundraising event is a great opportunity for people to make a difference both in the community and abroad. It is hosted by Franklin High School’s Interact and Art Clubs, the doors open at 5 p.m., and the food, live music and entertainment will run until 8 p.m.

The basic premise of the dinner is simple: guests are invited to choose from any of several hundred handcrafted ceramic bowls, they are then served a simple meal of soup, bread, and dessert. The guests are asked to keep their bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls around the world. In exchange for the meal and the bowl, guests are suggested to make a minimum donation of $10. All proceeds from the dinner will go towards the effort to end hunger. Like last year, all proceeds will be donated locally to Care Net, and internationally to Partners in Health in Haiti (PIH.org).

As a result of the continuing economic recession, Care Net is under greater strain keeping their pantries stocked than in any previous years. Haiti currently stands as the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, and after the tragic earthquake suffered in January, the people of Haiti are in dire need of support, now more than ever. Empty Bowls offers the opportunity to pitch in a helping hand to real people.

Students in several art classes at the high school have been creating bowls all semester that are dinnerware and dishwasher safe. Parents, community members, and local businesses are making the soups, breads and desserts for the event. FHS’s Jazz Band will be playing throughout the evening, and Danny Antoine will be performing live karate demonstrations as well. There will also be Franklin High students handcrafting pottery bowls on the throwing wheel. In addition, there will be representatives on hand from both of the organizations receiving the donations to provide information about the fight against hunger. There will be disposable bowls available for families that wish to attend the dinner but can’t afford several bowls.

Empty Bowls began in 1990 as an international endeavor to fight hunger. The goals of this project are to raise money to help fight hunger, to raise awareness about the issues of hunger and food security and to help bring about an attitude that will not allow hunger to exist.

Local sponsors include The Noon Time Rotary, Daybreak Rotary, Ronnie Beale, and United. Tartan Hall is located at First Presbyterian Church, 26 Church Street in Franklin. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the nicest bowls go fast!

(Lauren Stenger, a senior at FHS, and I got the Empty Bowls Project underway at Franklin High School in fall 2008. The first Empty Bowls Dinner was a tremendous success, drawing well over two hundred people. With the help of Joan Lansford, FHS art teacher, and several other students, we have been working diligently with high hopes of building upon the success of last year’s event. We are able to accept cash and checks only. But remember that the donations are tax-deductible. Anyone who can’t make it to the dinner but would like to support the cause should contact Joan Lansford at the high school or at 828.506.9318. Checks can be made out to Empty Bowls and sent to the school. )

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Landmark Learning based in Jackson County offers 80 courses a year providing wilderness medical training to 2,000 people across all sectors of the outdoor and medical industry.

Many of the courses are held at their campus in Cullowhee and around Western North Carolina, but they also regularly offer training at sites around the Southeast.

Justin Padgett and his wife, Maurie, launched the wilderness instruction company in the late 1990s as a side venture while they were both in grad school.

“When we stared Landmark, she thought it was a hobby,” Padgett said.

Now they have a sprawling outdoor campus, five full-time employees and a contract pool of 35 instructors.

“We even made an agreement when we started that we were only going to grow to where we had 10 people outside of us. We now have 40 people including us,” Padgett said. “We never wanted to pay insurance to anybody or get real like that, but we’re doing that.”

It takes one entire staff person just to be in charge of gear. They make sure all the equipment is clean and functioning before heading out into the field, and that the right gear gets to the right place at the right time for each course. The program coordinator does everything from scheduling venues for the courses to purchasing plane tickets for the instructors.

Landmark prides itself on the expertise of its instructors.

“Folks teaching wilderness medicine with us are active in the rescue community. They work for fire departments, they work for EMS, or they work in hospital settings. Some of our staff are surgical assistants,” Padgett said. “Our instructors are professionals and dedicated to doing this. This is their living.”

Padgett is a senior paramedic and ambulance driver for WestCare hospital in addition to his work with Landmark.

Landmark is affiliated with NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School. It is the largest NOLS affiliate nationally and the only affiliate in the Eastern U.S. Those who graduate from Landmark have certification bearing the name of NOLS Wilderness Medical Institute.

Landmark has a host of other affiliations and credentials as well.

• N.C. Office of Emergency Medical Services for EMT courses.

• American Canoe Association for swift water rescue and courses for whitewater instructors.

• American Heart Association for First Aid and CPR courses.

• Starfish Aquatics Institute for Lifeguard and Wilderness Lifeguard courses.

• American Mountain Guides Association for Climbing Instructor courses.

www.landmarklearning.org or 828.293.5384.

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Two plays crafted by Sylva writer Gary Carden will be presented at Western Carolina University in March to benefit the new library fund of the Friends of the Jackson County Main Library.

Carden’s “Birdell” will be staged at 7 p.m. Friday, March 12, in the auditorium of WCU’s Coulter Building, while “Nance Dude” will be presented Friday, March 19, at the same time and location. Both presentations will feature actress Elizabeth Westall and are being co-sponsored by WCU’s Mountain Heritage Center and School of Music, the Jackson County Arts Council and the library Friends.

The Friends organization is engaged in a fundraising campaign to raise $1.6 million to purchase the furniture, fixtures and equipment for the new Jackson County Public Library Complex, currently under construction on Courthouse Hill in Sylva. The campaign has collected more than $1.4 million so far, and among the contributions is a $250,000 challenge grant from the State Employees Credit Union Foundation.

Both plays are one-act monologues that portray the authentic voices of Appalachian women. “Birdell” is based on the lives of families who lived on Hazel Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains until the coming of the national park, and is told from the perspective of the fictional character Birdell as she reflects on her long life. Carden based his play “Nance Dude” on the book, “The Legend of Nance Dude” by Maurice Stanley. Both play and book depict a Haywood County woman who was convicted of killing her granddaughter in 1913.

A native of Sylva, Carden earned two degrees at WCU and for more than four decades has presented traditional mountain culture to the public as a teacher, storyteller, novelist, historian, screenwriter and playwright. WCU recognized Carden’s body of work in presenting him with an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 2008.

Westall, a Yancey County native who earned degrees at Berea College and Duke University, taught English and drama before her retirement in 1985. Since then, she has acted and directed in numerous regional productions.

Tickets prices for the shows are $15 for adults, $10 for senior citizens and $5 for students.

Volunteers are needed to help set up, sell tickets, act as ushers and perform other jobs. E-mail Betty Screven at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to sign up. For more information about the March 12 and 19 presentations, contact the Friends of the Library at 828.507.0476.

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A community-wide open house celebration featuring a full day of entertainment and cultural events will mark the 85th anniversary of the historic Rickman Store from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 6.

Festivities begin at 10 a.m. with a Barter Day in remembrance of the first exchange at the store. On March 3, 1925, the store’s first customer, Ms. Eva Bryson, traded three eggs for a spool of thread. Last year’s bartering event was a great success and rekindled the tradition of exchanging goods without money. Everyone is invited to bring items to trade. Included will be a children’s table for youngsters to learn about fair negotiations.

At 11 a.m. the Nikwasi Dulcimer Players will join the celebration. The Nikwasi Players have been among the most dedicated supporters of the Rickman Store.

At noon, stories about area mountain life and traditions will be shared by Gary Carden and Dave Waldrop. Storyteller, playwright, and novelist, Gary Carden has deep roots in the Cowee Community where he spent summers at his grandmother’s farm.

The afternoon will feature even more music at 1:30 p.m. when the band “Deep Woods Frolic” performs and provides a great opening for a Music Jam where everyone is invited to bring an instrument and join in the celebration until 4 p.m.

The T.M. Rickman General Store was built by John Hall in 1895. It was purchased by Tom Rickman in 1925. A year later Tom married Fannie Holbrook who became his partner in business and life until her death in 1982. Tom Rickman continued operating the store until 1992. The store changed hands twice after Mr. Rickman, and in August 2007, The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee purchased the store for preservation.

Located on Cowee Creek Road, seven miles north of Franklin by Hwy NC 28, next to the Cowee Elementary School, the Rickman Store has become a focal point for cultural, educational, and entertainment activities designed to preserve and honor the traditions of the Cowee-West’s Mill Historic District and Cowee Community.

For more information on the celebration and the day’s events, contact Elena Carlson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Vertigo Jazz Project will drop their second full-length studio album on March 12 at Emerald Lounge in Asheville.

VJP’s new disc ‘Paragon’ is almost one year in the making and showcases the band’s expansive growth since their debut on the Southeast’s music scene nearly two years ago. Full of original music, this record is VJP’s first real musical statement as a cohesive unit.

The band features two Waynesville musicians: bass player P.J. Thorstenson and keyboardist Justin W. Powell, who attends Western Carolina University’s jazz program; as well as guitarist Preston Cate and drummer Sean Mason.

VJP tries to bridge the gap between multiple genres of music such as jazz, funk, Latin, rock, jam, avant, classical, world, and country; while always maintaining a distinctively recognizable element of jazz.

Supporting VJP is Tyler Cates’ (formerly of Afromotive) new band Taste. Based in Atlanta, Taste is music born of the ether, and brewed with arpeggiators, distorted guitar wails, fatback drums, and gut rattling bottom end.

Also joining VJP on this night is the always raucous Tennessee Jed. Start with a strong dose of lyrical singer-songwriter acoustic folk. Add a helping of catchy hooks mixed with modern rock arrangements and searing, soulful vocals. Then package everything in a hot-rod Americana string band format featuring some of the Southeast’s finest bluegrass pickers and rockers. The finished product is Tennessee Jed.

Find out more at www.vertigojazzproject.com. Cover for the CD release party is $5.

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When John Miele, co-owner of the Golden Carp, left a social media class recently taught by Western Carolina University students, his Dillsboro business had a new home. Now, visitors can find information such as the store’s hours and location on its official Web site, as well as subscribe to the Golden Carp’s news and updates by becoming a “fan” of the business’s Facebook page.

“I wanted to know what Facebook was all about and how to properly use the media of the moment,” said Miele.

The social media class at WCU was held as part of the Dillsboro-Western Carolina University partnership effort to support community revitalization. At the class, WCU public relations students Lauren Gray, Garrett Richardson and Ashley Funderburk led business owners step-by-step in how to use Facebook pages.

Participants learned to upload photos and business information, create events, set privacy controls and post status updates. In addition, they discussed tools such as email and Twitter, and the effectiveness of using social media tools for marketing.

Miele said it is important for the Golden Carp to have an online presence. He noted that about 75 percent of customers of the 20-year-old business, which specializes in accessories for the home, fine art and unique gifts, are tourists, and many conduct online research when they plan their trips.

In the week after the class, the town of Dillsboro’s fan page on Facebook increased by 63 fans and experienced nearly triple the activity and visits to the page. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828.227.3804.

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For the outdoors lover, stepping into NOC’s Great Outpost in Gatlinburg is like being a kid in a candy shop.

The outdoor gear and paraphernalia is as extensive as that found in major stores like REI or Bass Pro, but has a distinctly mountain feel similar to that found in Mast General Store.

“We wanted to be known as an experiential retailer. We wanted the store to be as much about having an experience in the store as the merchandise itself,” said Sutton Bacon, the CEO of Nantahala Outdoor Center.

Inside the front door, you’re greeted by a two-story climbing wall rigged with ropes and harnesses for the public to try. The layout of the store is well–organized: hiking, camping, fishing, climbing and paddling all have their own sections. There’s an entire floor dedicated to footwear and outdoor apparel from brands like Patagonia, North Face, Columbia and Keen.

The store is designed with kids in mind, too. They can climb through a rock tunnel into a “cave,” and bounce over a swinging bridge strung above the first floor of the store. There’s even a kid’s section for youth outdoor gear and outdoor toys.

A “Base Camp” area offers a passport to outdoor adventure, where you can sign up for rafting trips, learn-to-kayak classes, guided fishing trips and hiking or nature tours. Like an outdoor concierge service, staff can also offer hiking and camping suggestions for those trekking on their own.

“We have folks trained to assist anyone with any question,” said Brian May, NOC’s outreach manager.

It has outdoor gifts and souvenirs, from trinkets like old-fashioned candy and locally made soaps to more substantial finds like a national parks’ version of the Monopoly board game.

The store has quickly become popular with Appalachian Trail hikers. The AT passes through the Smokies at Newfound Gap, about 8 miles from Gatlinburg. The Great Outpost has free shuttle and Internet for hikers, and runs the shuttle three times a day to take hikers back to the trail. The Outpost also serves as a mail drop for hikers — a point along the trail where hikers send themselves care packages stocked with supplies for the next leg of their trek.

It’s fun for other guests at the store to see the hikers coming and going with their full-loaded packs.

“It is connecting us with a very authentic experience in the park,” said May. If hikers happen to stock up on supplies like camping fuel while at the store, all the better, but “It is not a hard sell. They can come in and just hang out,” May said.

NOC has been recently recognized by The New York Times as the “Nation’s Premiere Paddling School,” “The Best Place to Learn” by Outside Magazine, and as “One of the Best Outfitters on Earth” by National Geographic Explorer.

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By Mark Singleton • Guest Columnist

 

Even in times of crisis, we’re called to take the long view to preserve our national heritage — because in doing so we fulfill one of the responsibilities that falls to all of us as Americans, and as inhabitants of this same small planet.

— President Barack Obama, April 16, 2010

 

Over the weekend President Obama took in the sights and tastes of Asheville. Sure is good to see a sitting President vacationing in our region, experiencing the great outdoors and hiking along the AT with the First Lady. They now know what all of us who live here know, that Western North Carolina is one of the last great places where the quality of life and access to the outdoors remain very high.

Aside from remarkable scenic vistas, the outdoors and public lands are an important component of our economy as well. The Outdoor Industry Association, an industry trade group, reports that outdoor recreation contributes $730 billion and 6.5 million jobs to the national economy. In North Carolina alone, outdoor recreation contributes $7.5 billion to the state’s economy and supports 95,000 jobs.

Our national parks, forest service lands, wild and scenic rivers and wilderness areas are all an essential part of our shared national heritage of treasured landscapes. These are the places where millions of Americans connect with nature. Those of us living in Western North Carolina are extremely fortunate to have such quick access to such areas in our backyard.

Ten days ago I had the good fortune to participate in the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors. Four administration officials — Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson and White House Council on Environmental Quality chair Nancy Sutley made statements at the event. Plus, the Commander and Chief himself, President Obama, addressed a mixed group of conservation interests, ranchers, farmers, timber and mining executives, agency staff and recreational users.

In his speech at the Interior Department, President Obama said he intends to build upon “a breathtaking legacy of conservation that still enhances our lives.” He said the tradition began with Theodore Roosevelt, whom he described as “one of my favorite presidents,” although he added “I will probably never shoot a bear.”

In more than 20 years of public policy work on tourism and outdoor recreation issues, I have never heard or seen a sitting President place conservation and stewardship as a priority in the national agenda and challenge such a diverse group to create a collective strategy for our public lands. To launch the initiative, President Obama signed a memorandum outlining policy goals the administration prioritizes over the next few years: forming coalitions with state and local governments as well as the private sector, encouraging outdoor recreation by Americans, and connecting wildlife migration corridors.

Sitting in the chair that I occupy as executive director of a national nonprofit that focuses on river conservation issues, I have a couple of comments on shaping the 21st Century Strategy for America’s Great Outdoors.

First, that conservation and outdoor recreation are mutually dependent. Whether it is catching tadpoles in streams as a child or kayaking rivers as an adult, time spent interacting with nature forms the basis of the American conservation ethic. Outdoor recreationists need natural landscapes, and those landscapes very much need outdoor recreationists to act as stewards of those resources.

Second, public land managers should not alienate visitors in meeting other goals. Recreation is often viewed by agencies as just one more impact to manage; something to be tolerated rather than encouraged. Rules are often inequitably applied in a manner that allows resource extraction but discourages recreational use. As a result, citizens are turned away and small businesses like kayak instructors find it easier to lead trips to other countries than to nearby public lands. Administrative direction in support of agencies encouraging human powered outdoor recreation could improve this problem.

And third, rivers should be universally recognized as valuable open space suitable for human powered recreation. Rivers and streams offer a free, existing and vast network of close-to-home, public, nature-based recreation opportunities. The federal government has authority to regulate and support public recreation on rivers and streams but does not do so.

Increasingly, private landowners are allowed to close rivers to public enjoyment. While a piecemeal approach is now delineating blueways or water trails, simple expression of existing federal rights could assure that every citizen, and every family, has a nearby venue for outdoor recreation.

It’s been exciting to see the President and First Lady in our neck of the woods. What’s even more encouraging is that the First Family seems to be practicing what they preach by taking in the great outdoors as part of an active vacation agenda. Our collective national heritage is too important an issue to get caught up in partisan politics. It’s not an issue based on red or blue. Rather, it’s a question of what you want to leave behind for your grandchildren.

(Singleton is Executive Director of American Whitewater, a national nonprofit river conservation organization headquartered in Sylva. He is also the Chairman of the Outdoor Alliance, a coalition of six national, member-based outdoor recreation organizations unified by a common conservation and stewardship ethic. Organizations include: Access Fund, American Canoe Association, American Hiking Society, American Whitewater, International Mountain Bicycling Association, and Winter Wildlands Alliance. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

Comment

The US. Forest Service has banned alcohol use at 11 recreation sites in the Nantahala National Forest.

The sites include: Balsam Lake Recreation Area, Big Choga Dispersed Camping Sites, Bristol Fields Campground, Cheoah Point Swimming Area, Dry Falls Recreational Area, Fire’s Creek Hunter’s Camp, Fire’s Creek Picnic Area, Jackrabbit Recreation Area, Pine Ridge Dispersed Camping Sites, Wayah Bald Tower and Picnic Area, and Whiteside Mountain Recreation Area. All sites are within the Tusquitee, Cheoah and Nantahala Ranger Districts.

Several sites have been vandalized in association with alcohol consumption. Law enforcement officials have been called out for related incidents. Broken beer bottles in streams pose safety concerns for barefoot children and adults in adjoining creeks. Cheoah Point Swimming Area is the only public, free swimming on Lake Santeetlah and brings large numbers of visitors.

For more information on recreation sites across the forest and Ranger District contact information see the Carolina Connections publication online at www.cs.unca.edu/nfsnc/recreation /connections/Connections2010.pdf or call 828.257.4258.

Comment

North Carolina’s 47th District Senate seat represents Haywood, Madison, Yancey, Mitchell, Avery and McDowell counties. Republican voters will choose between Andy Webb, Ralph Hise, and Tamera Frank in the May 4 primary, and the winner faces incumbent Democrat Joe Sam Queen in the November general election.

 

Andy Webb, McDowell County Commissioner

Experience: Andy Webb is a small business owner and three-term McDowell County Commissioner who served as chairman for six years. Webb is also a trustee of McDowell County Community College. His wife Vicki is an elementary school principal.

Platform: Webb is running on a platform that touts supporting education, preserving jobs, and trimming the state budget by cutting from the top down. He has pledged to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle to change the climate in Raleigh. Webb is a social and fiscal conservative.

“Western North Carolina mountain folks are independent, hard-working, biblical and family-focused community minded, and supportive of their neighbor. Let’s not lose this way of life through a liberal worldview in Raleigh,” Webb said.

 

Ralph Hise, Spruce Pine, mayor

Experience: Ralph Hise is institutional assessment and planning officer at Mayland Community College and the second-term mayor of Spruce Pine. A 33-year-old native of Mitchell County, Hise would be the youngest member serving in the North Carolina Senate. Hise worked for the NC Victory Campaign under the North Carolina Republican Party in the 2004 and 2006 elections. He has served as the chairman and vice chairman of the Mitchell County Republican Party.

Platform: “We need to increase jobs and opportunities by lowering the tax rate, not through the one billion dollars in additional taxes Senator Queen supported this year. The backbone of our economy is small business, and we must create an atmosphere for them to develop and thrive, rather than be taxed to death. We must look to reduce government.”

“I am a strong conservative, and I pledge that bringing jobs and economic opportunities to Western North Carolina will be my greatest priority as your representative in the North Carolina Senate.”

 

Tamera Frank

Experience: Tamera Frank graduated from Mars Hill College and has spent time in the U.S. and overseas as a career Air Force wife. She worked as a waitress, a journalist, an adoptions social worker and an airline agent, among other jobs, before being appointed to the Department of Social Services Board of Directors in 2008.

Platform: Frank is running on a platform of small government and upholding constitutional rights.

“As your senator, I will work for lower taxes, limited government and the preservation of our individual rights...those freedoms given to you and me by God and backed up by the good old Constitution,” said Frank.

A self-styled political outsider, Frank has pledge to bring more jobs to Western North Carolina and bring back what she terms “mountain values.”

“I am, at the very core, a strong, Constitution-loving woman, hard-core on principles and values. I stand tough against political corruption; I am pro-life, pro-God, pro-Constitution, and even own a gun (yes, I believe I ought to be able to carry one and use it if I need to!).”

Comment

Democrats

Donnie Dixon: “I can’t rightfully say he’s done a bad job. It could reflect the commissioners’ doings...I have nothing against the man. I’m not going to point a finger.”

Janice Inabinett said the county must rely on an evaluation system to make sure county employees know what their expectations are.

Judy Miller: “I think that he’s doing a good job, that he’s in a difficult situation and we need to work together to deal with a lot of issues at this point.”

David Monteith said King has been doing an “OK job” with what he’s had to work with, adding that there’s always room for improvement.

Steve Moon: “You can’t please all the people all the time – I’m sure Kevin had ruffled some feathers along the way. If you do your job, you will.”

Raymond Nelson had no comment on Kevin King’s job as county manager.

Robert White said he’s heard more positive comments than criticisms of Kevin King.

Billy Woodard: “I heard he runs the county as he wants to, but I don’t know that because I’m not in there.”

Tommy Woodard: “Most of the time, in the heat of emotion, I’ve had several people say that Kevin King was one of the first people that needed to be fired...It is not any part of my plan to clean house...I’ve been given several different reasons why people think he should go. I’m still in the process of educating myself on everything.”

 

Republicans

John Herrin: “I’m not sure that Mr. King devotes 100 percent, but he’s the manager of a clown show, so he’s doing the best he can...The county manager is a direct reflection of the board of the commissioners. If the county manager is doing a poor job, then the county commissioners are doing a poor job.”

James King said Kevin King is his cousin, and that he should keep his job as long as he fulfills expectations. “I feel like the five commissioners should be running the county and not the county manager.”

Andy Parris: “As a person, I like him. His reputation is horrible. Can I actually point to any specific thing that he’s done? No. He only has the authority that people place in his hands. Any gripe anybody has with them could easily be alleviated by other people stepping up to do their jobs.”

Jerry Shook: “I think as a county manager, he has done a real good job. He tries to stay educated and updated on things.”

Comment

It is past time someone looked closely at just what is going on with the Evergreen Foundation, because apparently those in control of a whole lot of what should be public assets have strayed very far from their original mission.

The nonprofit Evergreen Foundation was established way back in 1977 as a sister organization to the Smoky Mountain Center. Its mission is to bolster mental health and substance abuse services in the mountain region, and it carried that out by being the property holding agency for Smoky Mountain. At that time, state mental health entities like Smoky Mountain could not own property, so the foundation took possession of facilities like the Smoky Mountain Center in Webster and other facilities. It rented them back out to mental health and substance abuse providers.

According to Evergreen officials, the nonprofit has almost $20 million in assets. According to a recent audit, at least $14.5 million in state and county funds have flowed into the foundation over the years.

The Evergreen Foundation has its own board and is led by Executive Director Tom McDevitt. McDevitt was pressured to resign as director of Smoky Mountain in September 2008 amid revelations about his large salary, his family members profiting from work for Smoky Mountain, and because he was earning a salary of $42,000 from Evergreen Foundation while, according to records, performing only eight hours per week work for it.

In March 2009, Evergreen board members told The Smoky Mountain News that on Jan. 1, 2009, McDevitt was awarded a two-and-a-half-year contract of $308,724 to operate the Evergreen Foundation. That amount was for general administration, accounting, budgeting, and investment coordination, as well as overhead. McDevitt’s own salary would comprise most of the budget, but what portion is not clear.

Now, members of the Smoky Mountain Center board and its executive director want answers about what the Foundation is doing with its assets, and they also want the Foundation board members to be appointed by the board of the Smoky Mountain Center. SMC Executive Director Brian Ingraham said: “We are talking about state funds that now exist within an organization that has no affiliation within Smoky Mountain Center and chooses to do so whatever they want with it.”

The SMC board has asked the state attorney general’s office to look into the situation, and county boards in all seven counties in the SMC original coverage area are expected to pass resolutions asking that the Evergreen Foundation come back under the control of the Smoky Mountain Center board. Let’s hope this can happen without a nasty legal battle. It is past time to rein in what has become a renegade foundation.

Comment

The 50th Senate seat represents Jackson, Macon, Swain, Clay, Graham, and Cherokee counties, along with a portion of Haywood. Republican voters will choose between Jim Davis and Jimmy Goodman on the May 4 primary, and the winner will face Democratic incumbent Sen. John Snow in the November general election.

 

Jim Davis, Franklin, dentist/orthodontist

Experience: Jim Davis has practiced as a dentist and orthodontist in Franklin since 1974. He is a sitting Macon County Commissioner representing Franklin and serves as liaison to the Macon County Board of Health. Davis and his wife Judy have two sons. Davis has also served as a deacon and elder in the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Platform: Davis is running on a platform that espouses individual liberty, limited government, free enterprise, and personal responsibility. A fiscal conservative, he is adamant about the need to reduce taxes.

“Your economic well-being is my number one priority and why I want to serve as your senator in the North Carolina Legislature,” Davis said.

He also supports enacting a protection of marriage between man and woman. Davis wants to reduce the state debts and cut out school system bureaucracy.

 

Jimmy Goodman, 51, Franklin, cabinet shop owner

Experience: Jimmy Goodman owns a cabinet shop in Macon County. He served on the Macon County Planning Board for four years. This is Goodman’s first time running for political office, but he successfully lobbied the Macon County board to change its meetings to evening start times so more people could attend. He is a founding member of Freedom Works in Macon County.

Platform: Goodman is running on a platform that emphasizes smaller, more open government. He wants to reduce all types of taxes and eliminate over-regulation. As a small business owner and political outsider, Goodman said his top priority would be increasing jobs in Western North Carolina.

“Are you are fed up with politics as usual, a government that refuses to listen, uncontrolled spending, excessive regulation and taxation, attacks on our Constitution, personal freedoms and rights, politicians who promise one thing until they get elected then fall right in line with the status quo? Well so am I,” Goodman said.

Comment

Early voting began last Thursday, April 15, and runs through noon on Saturday, May 1. As of press time Tuesday, here’s how many people had voted early so far.

 

Haywood

119 voted in the Democratic primary

54 voted in the Republican primary

3 voted in unaffiliated ballot for the judge’s race

176 total early voters

41,717 total registered voters

0.4% early voter turnout

Breakdown of registered voters:

Democrats    20,322

Republicans    11,898

unaffiliated    9,470

Libertarians    27

 

Swain

142 voted in the Democrat primary

29 voted in the Republican primary

171 total early voters

9,434 total registered voters

1.8% early voter turnout

Breakdown of registered voters:

Democrats    4,377

Republicans    2,435

unaffiliated    2,610

Libertarians    12

 

Jackson

157 voted in the Democratic primary

20 voted in the Republican primary

27 voted on unaffiliated ballots

204 total early votes

26,469 total registered voters

.6% early voter turnout

Breakdown of registered voters:

Democrats    11,869

Republicans    6,961

unaffiliated    7,617

Libertarians    22

 

Macon

114 voted in Democratic primary

86 voted in Republican primary

1 voted on an unaffiliated ballot

210 total early votes

24,275 total registered voters

.8% early voter turnout

Breakdown of registered voters

Democrats    8,402

Republicans    9,722

unaffiliated    6,138

Libertarian    13

 

To find out where you can vote early, call the board of election in your county.

Haywood    828.452.6633

Jackson    828.586.7538

Macon    828.349.2034

Swain    828.488.6177

Comment

From buttered trout fillets to a trout race, all things trout will be celebrated during the 21st annual Great Smoky Mountain Trout Festival from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 1, at the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds.

The festival grounds will be filled with vendors selling arts, crafts and other wares, as well as festival food booths. Performing on stage will be the Hominy Valley Boys and the Caribbean Cowboys band.

Other happenings at the festival include:

• An environmental education tent featuring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Haywood Waterways Association, N.C. Wildlife Commission and numerous other environmental agencies and nonprofits.

• Talks by Rob Gudger, a biologist who raises wolves, and by Jim Casada, an expert fly-fisherman and renowned outdoor writer.

• Casting demonstrations and fly-tying demonstrations by the Waynesville Fly Shop.

• Casting contest for ages 16 and up.

• Project Healing Waters, dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled servicemen and veterans through fly-fishing, will have a booth.

• Kids activities and games, like making your own kite.

• Bean bag toss contest for teams of two at 10 a.m.

www.gsmtroutfestival.org or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Free fishing clinics for kids

Two free youth fishing clinics will be held in conjunction with at the Great Smoky Mountain Trout Festival in Maggie Valley May 1.

The CATCH clinics Ñ Caring For Aquatics Through Conservation Habits Ñ are designed to teach young people how, when, and where to fish as well as aquatic ecology, water safety, fishing ethics and respect for the outdoors. Kids will wade in the stream to collect and identify aquatic bugs and test water quality, plus try their hand at fishing..

Program is for ages 6 to 15. Equipment is provided. Kids who have never fished or explored a stream are particularly encouraged to participate. The clinics are sponsored by the HCC Natural Resources Department, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Haywood Waterways Association and the town of Maggie.

The morning clinic will be from 9 a.m. until noon and requires registration. An afternoon clinic will be from 1 to 4 p.m. and will be first-come first-served.

To register, call 828.926.0866, ext. 117.

Comment

Three District Court judge seats are up for election in the seven western counties. The race for judge isn’t partisan, so candidates aren’t distinguished as Republican or Democrat on the ballot.

Candidates have to designate which of the three seats they are running for. The top two candidates for each seat will advance to the November election.

Seat 1

There are only two candidates running for this seat. Both will automatically advance past the primary. In-depth profiles and coverage of these candidates will appear in the run-up to the fall election.

Danya Vanhook, a sitting judge based in Haywood County

Vanhook currently serves as a judge. She was appointed to the seat just last year by Gov. Beverly Perdue to fill a vacancy.

Donna Forga, Waynesville attorney in solo practice

Forga has practiced all manner of law, mostly criminal and family law, including child custody, divorces and the like. She has also worked with Legal Aid, which provides free representation to victims of domestic violence.

Seat 2

Greg Boyer, 60, attorney in Franklin with Jones, Key, Melvin, & Patton

Experience: Boyer hails from Florida originally. He moved to Franklin part-time in 1999. He became a full-time resident and began practicing here five years ago. Boyer has done all types of law: criminal, family “pretty much the things we see in District Court.”

Why run: “I’ve always enjoyed practicing law. I really enjoy it. I love it.”

Boyer is particularly fond of District Court.

“I have always enjoyed that type of practice which is heavy on people and spending a lot of time with different folks ... This past year I started thinking about giving a little bit back.”

Philosophy: “The members of the practicing bar here are good and honest and try very hard to do a good job. If a lawyer said something to me, I could normally trust that. In big cities, there is not that flavor. I appreciate the caliber of the people I get to work with here ... The key thing I have seen is a caring about people in the court system. They aren’t just a number or a cog in the wheel. That is what I really think District Court is about.”

Kris Earwood, 32, Sylva attorney with firm Lay and Earwood

Experience: Earwood went to law school at Regent, Va. She interned with the district attorney’s office for a few months while in school.

Upon graduating, she joined the firm of Frank Lay, where she is now a partner. She focused on criminal defense for three years, then spent two years doing family law with the Department of Social Services. She briefly served as a prosecutor in tribal court in Cherokee.

Lay said in her seven years, she has had vast “in the courtroom” experience.

“I spend more time in District Court than in my office,” she said.

Why run: District courtrooms are regularly packed to the gills with all walks of life, with all manner of violations and every type of dispute imaginable.

“Either you love District Court or you don’t. I really love District Court. There are a lot of attorneys who don’t ... I love the case law. I love the precision of it. I love the statutes. I hope the ultimate goal of any judge is to seek justice.”

Philosophy: “District Court is the place where a judge can really have an impact on someone’s life, whether it is a criminal defendant or a DSS case ... The average voter isn’t well-versed in what goes on in District Court, but it’s where you go if you get a speeding ticket or are getting a divorce. It is the meat and potatoes of our court system.”

What else: Earwood wants to uphold the tradition of even-temperament and sound decisions the 30th judicial bench is known for.

“Everybody we have had up there had common sense life experience and legal experience.”

www.earwoodforjudge.com

Justin Greene, 30, Bryson City attorney with Moody and Brigham law firm

Experience: Greene went to law school at N.C. Central. He did an internship with Moody and Brigham while still in school and came back to his hometown to work at the firm after graduation in 2006. Greene said he has handled the full gamut of case work.

“We are a small firm in a small town so you do what needs doing.”

He has also been an attorney advocate for the guardian ad litem program.

Why run: “I have always had an eye for the bench since I was a little kid.” He remembers a field trip to the local courthouse in second grade. All the students took turns sitting behind the judge’s bench. Ever since, he’s wanted to be a judge.

Philosophy: “I think I can help people. I think I can understand the way people are and what some of the problems are that people in this area have ... I can see both sides of issues. When you can relate to the people you are serving that is a huge help.”

Greene said his youth, or the age of any candidate, isn’t an issue.

“It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” But he admits there are big shoes to fill.

“I have always had great pride about practicing where I practice and being an attorney in WNC. It is the best bench in the state and always has been.”

What else: Unlike the heavy concentration of candidates from Haywood County, Greene hopes “one thing that might set me apart is I am from the western part of the district.”

David Sutton, 34, Waynesville attorney with Kirkpatrick law firm

Experience: Sutton went to law school at N.C. Central. He has practiced law for five years at the firm of James “Kirk” Kirkpatrick.

Sutton has practiced in most areas that come up in District Court, but has done less on criminal and more on the civil side and domestic arena, including family law, divorce, child custody, child support, and the like. He also has done many property disputes, a big item in District Court.

Why run: Sutton was an elementary teacher for two years before he decided to go back to law school. Once in law school, he decided fairly quickly he wanted to be a judge one day.

“One day arrived,” he said.

“The majority of the cases in District Court affect families and children, be it criminal or domestic cases. I think it is a good opportunity to provide a safe, neutral environment for families to resolve their differences.”

Philosophy: “I feel like I can be fair and objective in applying the law. Those who know me in the legal community know I won’t get out of control on the bench and would maintain an even keel, that I am fair I would listen to all sides before making a determination. Those are promises I will make.”

When it is necessary I will not hesitate to send somebody to jail if it ensures the safety of the public.”

What else: Sutton’s father died when he was a baby, and his mother remarried. He grew up in a blended family with half-brothers and sisters and step-brothers and sisters, allowing him to related to the mixed family dynamics of those landing in District Court for domestic issues.

Sutton is active in the Haywood County Democratic Party. While the race is non-partisan, Sutton has used the normal routes within party structures to garner support for his candidacy.

www.suttonforjudge.com

Caleb Rogers, 30, Waynesville attorney in solo practice

Experience: Rogers went to Wake Forest for law school. Upon graduating in 2005, he practiced at the firm Brown and Patten for four years before starting his own practice last year with his wife, who is also an attorney.

Rogers says he has done all the types of cases that would come before the district court bench: criminal and civil, including wills, estates, elderly guardianships, property disputes, and landlord-tenant fights. He has done family law, though not a whole lot. He estimates that he has done hundreds of real estate closings.

Why run: “Being a judge is being a servant. It is one of the highest forms of public service...I can do the job. I have the intellect, the knowledge of the law and strength of character necessary to serve on the bench.”

Philosophy: “A judge must be able to listen to and comprehend the breadth of every case before him and listen to all the facts and treat each case as important and then apply the law in a way that is fair to both sides. That promotes the equality of our system and protects the freedoms we all enjoy.”

Rogers advocates “severity where needed and second chances where appropriate.”

What else: He was valedictorian of his class at Pisgah High School. He is president of the Haywood County Bar Association.

www.rogers4judge.com

Seat 3

Steve Ellis, 60, Waynesville attorney in the firm Brown, Ward and Haynes

Experience: Ellis went to law school at UNC-Chapel Hill. He worked for three years as a prosecutor with the district attorney’s office. He spent several years as an attorney for the Department of Social Services doing all manner of family law, including child custody, child abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, child support, etc.

Why run: “This is as close to the people’s court as we have.”

Whether it is a speeding ticket or divorced couple trying to split their assets, “it is the court that probably affects the lives of more citizens” more than any other realm.

Ellis also wants to help fill a void being left by long-time judges.

“It was clear there would be an enormous change in the court system. I saw a need for an experienced person on the bench ... I have always been drawn to public service. This is a chance to step forward and do that.”

Philosophy: “Be courteous to everybody, starting with the people who come before you as the parties in the case and their attorneys, but also including the clerks, bailiffs, and witnesses.”

Ellis said a judge should not berate those who come before the bench or look down on others in the courtroom.

“If the judge acts courteously toward everybody, it creates an atmosphere for the courtroom.”

What else: Ellis was the top nominee for a vacant judge seat that opened up last year. When there is a vacancy on the bench, all the local attorneys come together and vote for three nominees, whose names are sent on to the governor to make the final selection. Ellis overwhelmingly received the support of attorneys in the seven western counties comprising the judicial district. He got 54 votes, while the attorney who came in second trailed with 25. However, the governor opted for the second runner-up.

“It was puzzling to a lot of people,” Ellis admitted.

Rusty McLean, 63, Waynesville attorney with solo practice

Experience: McLean went to law school at N.C. Central University. He has had law partners over the years, but mostly has operated a solo practice. McLean has 34 years experience in the civil and criminal arena. He says he has tried more than 2,000 criminal and civil jury trials and twice that number of non-jury trials.

“That is a pretty substantial difference from some of the candidates,” McLean said.

Why run: He decided to join the race again this year partly out of concern over the high turnover of experienced judges the bench has seen in the past few years, and with this election in particular. McLean said he is concerned about the level of acumen some of the younger candidates have.

“Judges don’t need to have on the job training.”

McLean said civil experience is just as important as criminal.

“Most people don’t end up in criminal court but they do have business disputes and collection disputes and property disputes, and those issues are important to people all over Western North Carolina.”

Philosophy: “A judge is not an advocate for either side. A judge has the duty and responsibility to listen to both sides and render a decision solely based on the evidence and apply the law correctly.”

What else: McLean ran for judge four years ago but lost in the primary.

McLean said he has taken more than 500 cases to appeal, the grounds for which are perceived mistakes by the judge. McLean said he became so tuned in to detecting potential judicial mistakes when trying cases that he would be less likely to make them himself if he was on the bench.

McLean has taken two cases all the way to the Supreme Court.

Roy Wijewickrama, 34, Waynesville attorney serving as prosecutor in Cherokee

Experience: Wijewickrama went to law school at Cleveland State in Ohio. He was a prosecutor with the district attorney’s office in the seven western counties for seven years. He went into private practice for a year to spend more time at home following the birth of his first child. And for the past two years, he has served as the prosecutor in tribal court run by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

While his expertise is clearly on the criminal side as a prosecutor, his year in private practice gave him experience in family law and civil cases.

“By no means do I consider that to be a lifetime worth of experience handling family law cases, but nevertheless, I am familiar with them and the law surrounding family law.”

Even as a prosecutor, he was involved in family law if allegations of child abuse or domestic violence were a part of the case.

Why run: “Most importantly I feel I will be serving my community, the community I was raised in. But also I feel like given my experience and given the fact that as a prosecutor especially I’ve had to make very difficult decisions, I feel I am well-suited to serve on the bench.”

Those decisions include when to offer a plea bargain, what evidence is admissible, whether charges are likely to stick, and how to deal with cases where children are serving as witnesses.

Philosophy: Wijewickrama said there are two primary qualifications for judge.

“Experience, and by that I mean time spent in court and the number of trials they have taken part in. And also temperament. That is very important.” Judges need to be tough and firm, but they also need to treat people with respect.

What else: Ellis does not see age as a strike against a candidate for judge. The long-time judges stepping down were young themselves when they were seated on the bench.

“We’ve had several judges over the past 25 years that have been appointed in the late 20s and early 30s, and I think they have been outstanding judges and I think the legal community would agree we have been very lucky to have them serving on the bench.”

www.royforjudge.com

Comment

Democratic candidates, pick four

Steve Moon, 59, owner of a tire shop, incumbent

Moon is finishing up his first term as commissioner and has served on the school board for six years. Moon said he’d like to be re-elected to make sure the interest from the North Shore road settlement is used wisely. “I wouldn’t want to hand the reigns over to anybody else.”

Tommy Woodard, 51, owner of construction company

Woodard said his main goal is to represent the interests and desires of Swain County residents. Woodard freely admits that he would like to bring his Christian values and ethics to the board of commissioners. “Whether you agree or disagree, it would only be fair to you that you know where I stand.”

Raymond Nelson, 63, retired U.S. Navy officer

Nelson said politicians should stop pointing fingers and start tackling problems. His main goal is to save taxpayer money through efficient use of county employees and equipment. For example, he’d like to use county engineers and workers to repair a sinkhole in front of the jail rather than paying for private labor.

Donnie Dixon, 64, tool and dye maker/machinist

Dixon was a commissioner for one term in the early ‘90s. He’s running to provide good leadership during tough economic times. Dixon would like to bring high-paying jobs to the county, create a more open government with televised meetings, and focus on setting long-term goals.

Robert White, 70, retired school superintendent

White says he has spent countless hours working on budgets, communicating with both staff and community and creating a strategic plan for Swain’s schools. He would like to create an ad hoc committee of citizens to look at the Swain’s future needs, help create a strategic plan, and guide commissioners in their decisions.

Judy Miller, 62, retired psychotherapist

Miller would like to see staggered terms for county commissioners and the school board race made nonpartisan. Miller advocates creating a long-term plan for the county and closely involving citizens in the process.

Janice Inabinett, 68, retired social worker

Inabinett said her chief goal is to inspire citizens to participate in government. “People are apathetic because they are not asked to participate.” Inabinett says she’s in favor of starting a department of community involvement to create more leaders in Swain.

David Monteith, 63, schoolbus driver, incumbent

Monteith hopes to bring more jobs to Swain County and better promote tourism. Building the North Shore Road would have brought 714 federal jobs to the area, according to Monteith, who was the sole commissioner to vote against the cash settlement. “We need to make sure we do not allow the federal government to continue to take over Swain County.”

Billy Woodard, 63, construction worker and supervisor

Woodard says he will bring much-needed leadership to the county. For Woodard, the biggest issue facing Swain now is the lack of jobs in the area. Woodward’s priority is help citizens establish small businesses in the county.

 

Republican candidates

John Herrin, 49, project manager for construction company

Herrin’s priorities are to establish an open government, create an active job creation program, and provide full support to the school system. Herrin says the county government would stay within budget if it was profit-driven like the private sector.

Andy Parris, 35, insurance agent

Parris hopes to bring a more transparent government to Swain County. “I want to see if we can do business on top of the table instead of under it.” Parris said commissioners seem to do what they want once they’ve been voted in. “I think it’s time that people had a say-so. That’s what a representative does.”

James F. King, 57, owner of a local meat butcher facility

King would like to keep property taxes as low as possible and curb some county spending. “I feel I can help people of the county, maybe address what people of the county wants instead of what the government thinks they need.”

Gerald (Jerry) Shook, 48, delivery driver

Shook would like to quit following the “old partisanship ways” and make choices for the common people of Swain County. Shook also wants to curb waste on the county’s expense accounts and make cuts to the budget.

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Big names in paddling will dish up their best stunts and tricks in the NOC Freestyle Shootout kayak rodeo on the Nantahala River this weekend, April 17 and 18.

Freestyle kayaking, like skateboarding or snowboarding on a half-pipe, involves technical tricks and highly-stylized moves — including spins, turns, cartwheels and flips that often involve the boater going completely airborne.

The NOC Shootout is one of only six events in the country where paddlers can get points toward the USA Freestyle Kayaking national championship series. Paddlers are hoping freestyle will be recognized as an official Olympic sport for the 2012 games.

The NOC competition begins late Saturday morning and runs throughout the afternoon. The top five paddlers in each class advance to finals on Sunday. Awards ceremony is Sunday evening with $10,000 in cash and prizes.

Throughout both days, visitors can enjoy a festival-like atmosphere with DJ Terrence Young. Saturday evening, The River Bottom Nightmare Band featuring members of Asheville’s Firecracker Jazz Band will perform at The Pourover Pub at NOC.

The wave feature on the river will be lit up for an “open surf” on Friday evening, April 16, after which Eric Jackson, founder of Jackson Kayak, will give a talk on the rules, moves and scoring of freestyle kayaking at The Pourover.

noc.com or 800.232.7238.

 

Test the newest boats in the market

Nantahala Outdoor Center’s Demo Days is Saturday, April 17, where more than 60 kayaks and canoes will be available for free test-paddles on the river.

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Democrat candidates, pick three

Raymond L. Brooks, 59, owner of trucking company

Brooks has worked with citizens for more than 30 years as a preacher at Waynesville’s Bible Baptist Church. He wants to reduce the county debt and be more careful with spending. Brooks would also like to bring in more jobs and help the education system.

voteraymondbrooks.com

J.W. “Kirk” Kirkpatrick, 41, attorney, incumbent

Kirkpatrick has served as county commissioner since 2002, and became chairman of the board in 2008. He says his experience will be helpful in successfully managing county funds. Kirkpatrick would also like to continue work on the Wal-Mart renovation project and see good and reasonable use of the Haywood Community College’s quarter-cent sales tax.

John C. McCracken, 66, retired assistant superintendent and finance officer for Haywood County Schools

McCracken wants to hold the line on spending until the economy improves and keep the tax rate as low as possible. He said as a former Board of Education member, he’s already learned a lot about how the county budget operates.

Rhonda Schandevel, 45, dental hygienist

As a parent of a disabled son, Schandevel is a long-time advocate for children with special needs. She wants to work with the economic development commission, tourism development authority and local chambers of commerce to bring jobs with good wages and benefits to Haywood County.

www.facebook.com/pages/VOTE-for-Rhonda-Cole-Schandevel/112728778739407

Michael Sorrells, 53, owner of service station, convenience store and café

Sorrells has served on the Haywood County School Board for six years. He oversaw the construction of a new school in Bethel and flood repairs. No burning issues drove Sorrells to seek office, other than hopes to move Haywood County forward with better leadership.

www.michaeltsorrells.com

Bill Upton, 65, retired superintendent of Haywood County Schools, incumbent

Upton is nearing the end of his first term as county commissioner. Education is his first priority, both in the public school system and at Haywood Community College. Upton vows to keep the tax rate as low as possible, pointing out that 83 of the state’s 100 counties have higher tax rates than Haywood County.

* Frank “Danny” James will appear on the ballot but dropped out from the election last week due to personal reasons.

Republican candidates, pick three

David Bradley, 44, sales

Bradley hopes to create a diverse economy with stable jobs, especially for younger generations. Bradley says Haywood should focus on more than just tourism and create policies that are friendly to entrepreneurs. He hopes to create a strategic plan for the county with specific goals and objectives for the next 15 years.

www.bradleyforcommissioner.com

Tom Freeman, 52, building contractor

Freeman says his children and grandchildren have already been burdened with the commissioners’ out of control spending and the county’s high taxes. As commissioner, Freeman would like to work on getting the county debt-free by slowing down spending and putting an end to borrowing.

Jeanne Sturges Holbrook, 48, self-employed

Holbrook would like to stand up to state lawmakers who push state mandates on counties. She would also like to address the high percentage of the county population dependent on public assistance. Holbrook said she would be independent and objective if elected as commissioner.

www.holbrookforcommissioner.com

Denny King, 52, engineer

King said he decided to run because he believes the commissioners are spending too much money. King is a strong advocate for property rights and running a smaller, constitutional government. He opposes the proposed health board rule, which carries a maximum penalty of a misdemeanor for creating a public health risk by improperly storing trash.

www.dennykingforcommissioner.com

Michael “Hub” Scott, 45, maintenance supervisor for Canton paper mill out on disability

Scott plans to hold down taxes, spending and regulation. He hopes to provide incentives to keep established businesses running and attract new ones. Due to a brain tumor, Scott is now on disability. He promises to donate his salary as commissioner to the community kitchen in Canton.

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