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Folkmoot USA, North Carolina’s Official International Festival, has locked down its first presenting sponsor.

Evergreen Packaging has partnered with the Festival as its presenting sponsor for 2010 through 2013, becoming the first international corporation to develop a multiyear relationship with the nonprofit.

Based in Waynesville, Folkmoot USA operates a two-week folklore festival hosting approximately 350 musicians and traditional dancers from all over the world.

“This means a lot to the festival,” said Folkmoot USA Executive Director Karen Babcock. “In tough economic times, it’s good to have someone step up and make a multiyear commitment.”

Revenues from ticket sales do not cover the costs associated with hosting the festival. The nonprofit must pay Folkmoot performers’ room, board, and transportation expenses, as well as cover the cost of renting performance venues.

Evergreen Packaging, with facilities in Canton and Waynesville, employs more than a thousand people in Haywood County, home to Folkmoot USA. Evergreen produces paper and packaging products in operations worldwide.

“The fact that we are an international company made sponsoring this festival a particularly good fit,” said Jody Hanks, Evergreen vice president and general counsel. “We’re looking forward to helping bring people from all over the world to experience being in Western North Carolina.”

The 2010 Folkmoot Festival will take place July 22 – August 1 throughout ten counties in Western North Carolina. Folkmoot has been presented annually longer than any other traditional international folk festival in the U.S. and is considered one of the best festivals of its kind in all of North America.

Grand Opening and Candlelight Closing Tickets are now on sale. Call 828.452.2997 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for tickets.

For more information, visit or call 877.FolkUSA.


By Mark Jamison • Guest Columnist

I’ve spent most of my life minding my own business. I was raised by people who were reticent; reticent in their demeanor and in their culture. My grandfather didn’t have much education, only through the third grade, so even though he was proud of the fact that he taught himself, he was not supremely confident in putting those skills on public display.

I, too, didn’t have much education. That was not because of lack of opportunity or economic hardship — as in the case of my grandfather — but more from an inability to sit still and follow the program. I loved to read and learn because Pappaw loved to read and learn, but perhaps I took the wrong lesson from the circumstances he brought to the table.

So, besides the reticence that can sometimes be embodied in the culture of mountain folks, I found my lack of formal education a source of reticence in speaking up on things.

About 15 years ago I read an article in our local paper, The Sylva Herald, which quoted a newly-elected county commissioner as saying that he wanted to hit the ground running looking for new sources of revenue. The comment struck me in a funny way and over the next couple of weeks, I couldn’t seem to get it out of my head.

I’ve always had a love affair with newspapers. In small towns they tell the comings and goings of local folks. They help connect folks from town or the next cove over. In many places they are the only check on local government, providing the transparency that is critical for democracy to function.

I’ve loved too the writing in newspapers. It is special and different. A well-written lead is a thing of beauty, answering who, what, where, when and why with a precise economy. A good story builds on a good lead to bring facts and information together in a well-wrapped package. And good newspaper writing is neither dry nor boring — columnists like Mencken, Royko, Breslen, Rice, Lippman and Red Smith could bring news and opinion to an art form.

So despite my natural reticence, I decided that I would write a letter to the editor. It was one of the first things I ever wrote, and it went over pretty well. Folks would stop in the post office and say they’d seen it, and whether they agreed with the points I made, they said it made them think and that it was clear. I didn’t change anything, but I got folks to think and that, I thought, was useful.

A few months after my first letter to the editor a controversial local issue arose that affected my community in Speedwell. Folks asked me if I would write something in the paper about it, so I did. What I wrote seemed to articulate a certain sentiment in the community; one thing led to another and folks put me in charge of a committee to fight the issue. That led to more letters to the editor and eventually to more involvement in local issues and local government.

Over the ensuing years, I’ve written about 75 letters to the editor. I’ve tried to be selective and only write when I had something to say, and I’ve tried to recognize that one doesn’t have to have an opinion on everything. The letters have brought me some notoriety in the community — folks come up all the time and say they like or don’t like what I’ve said about this or that. The letters got me involved with a couple of grassroots issues in the county that, in one case, saved a quiet farm community from an industrial quarry.

I don’t consider myself a writer, at least not with a capital “W,” but some of what started as letters to the editor were apparently good enough to become commentaries in the The Smoky Mountain News, Mountain Xpress and some other local papers. Good enough, too, to win a couple of awards, including an N.C. Press Association award, although I have mixed emotions about that — I don’t want to be like the boy who got the medal for being the most humble then had it taken away because he wore it. I’m told I have a style, but it’s not something I’ve tried to craft or culture, I just write down what falls out of my head.

The news today is full of predictions that newspapers are dying. I suppose the advent of new technology and new media makes that inevitable. I have a friend who is curious in a brilliant sort of way. He has a way of researching and learning about obscure and arcane things and a talent for posting some of those things in a blog. When I see the things Perry writes and posts on his blog, I am impressed with the potential for new media. But I also know that what he does can never replace what a newspaper does.

I read two newspapers online every day. I think it’s amazing that I can have access to the New York Times and the Washington Post in that format. The truth though is that, if I could afford them, I would much rather have them spread out on the table in front of me. It seems to me that I can read them better that way. I can scan better, pick and choose what I want to read in detail and actually navigate the media better. I find, too, that reading the paper online actually takes longer — even with a relatively fast internet connection, there is a break in the continuity of my attention as a page loads.

The things I see on the Internet that are supposed to replace the newspaper don’t impress me. What passes for journalism is often just a rehash and combination of other people’s efforts — there seems to be very little actual source reporting. I also see what amounts to a great deal of anonymous opinionating on the Internet. I’m told the Internet is supposed to democratize communication and create broader communities of interest. I don’t really see that. In forums and comments and blogs I see what amounts to anonymous rock throwing and pontificating. It’s easy to be intemperate and wrong from the comfort of one’s own desk at perhaps 3 a.m. in one’s pajamas. There don’t seem to be any consequences for hitting the send button, and there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of real communication.

Good journalism, I think, isabout telling stories well, but it is also about ethics and responsibility, about perfecting craft and establishing bona fides. Good journalism is often about immediacy, getting the story first, but it is also about good clear writing with depth. Twitter reduces things to their most banal and inane basis. Twitter is to writing and journalism what a cell phone picture is to Ansel Adams. Immediacy is important, but when it trumps everything, it is nothing but self-indulgent laziness raised to the level of addiction.

Newspapers may be dying and it may be inevitable that one form of media delivery is ultimately replaced with another, but the thing I find dangerous is that what is also dying is good newspaper journalism. We are learning the wrong lessons from our love affair with the Web. We are fueling our destructive need for instant gratification and our fickleness for attention-grabbing new bells and whistles with our move to new technology. In the process of allowing our eyes to be drawn to spangly candy, we are missing the point because the real value of the Web is its ability to add depth. We have the ultimate fact checker with the quintessential ability to store, sort and assimilate untold depths of information, and we are more interested in creating a democratized Tower of Babble where cacophony trumps all.

Today I found and read a section from John Maynard Keynes’ seminal work The Economic Consequences of the Peace on Google Books. On another archive, I found the work of Olivia Darden, a woman who wrote with a fascinating voice about early 20th century mountain culture. This is what the Internet can do, and we’re missing it.

I hope good newspaper journalism doesn’t die. I think there are benefits to print media that give it lasting value. The time, effort and expense it takes to put something in print is a sorting process that has value. The local paper that comes out every week is a marker of time that is important. It gives a rhythm and pace to our week, it is a parameter of community. I hope there continues to be a place where a reticent, not especially well-educated, fellow can screw up his courage and put something in print that says he thinks a local politician said something that didn’t make sense. The effort in putting those thoughts in order, committing them to paper and seeing them in print where his neighbors and friends can read them and hold the fellow accountable for what he said is fundamentally different than hitting the send button and going to bed.

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


Anna Fariello believes that artifacts — somewhat like windows — can act as passageways to a culture’s soul.

“Material culture can be a window onto the changes that occur in social and cultural history,” said Fariello, an associate professor and chief architect of the Craft Revival Project at Western Carolina University’s Hunter Library.

An author, editor and former research fellow at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Fariello most recently turned her attention to Cherokee basketry, a thousands-year-old tradition, passed from mother to daughter, that she believes is integral to Cherokee culture.

Fariello’s new book, titled Cherokee Basketry: From the Hands of our Elders, studies Cherokee baskets and basket-makers who lived during the first half of the 20th century.

The project reinforced Fariello’s understanding that for Cherokee people, “the making of things is significant to their culture and their identity,” a concept foreign to many people in contemporary, mainstream culture, she said. The Cherokees’ use of natural resources as basket materials gave Fariello an appreciation of the environmental sustainability and ecological balance also inherent in the culture.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians played a significant role in the craft revival, a regional movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that produced a wealth of objects, identified traditional skills, and revitalized handwork production in Western North Carolina.

With a grant from the State Library of North Carolina, Fariello originally set out to expand the information available on the project’s site, which chronicles the movement and its impact on Western North Carolina through text and images.

Fariello worked with the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee with the purpose of making their collections available online.

A grant of $47,000 from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation added a second element to the project: to research and more fully document basketry in those collections.

While the project did not start out as a book, Fariello said it seemed the logical conclusion. “The book takes scattered elements and arranges them for a more complete picture,” she said.

Cherokee Basketry examines specifics about basket-makers themselves, how baskets were made, and what they were used for. Archival photographs illustrate “Cherokee Basketry,” published by The History Press of Charleston, S.C.

“I hope that this book has a broad audience,” Fariello said. “I think it can serve as a classroom text for Cherokee studies or the visual arts, and I also think it will have a broad public appeal for anyone interested in regional culture, especially the influence of the Cherokees on Western North Carolina.”

Fariello presented books to Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Chief Michell Hicks and the Tribal Council. Fariello also gave 200 copies of the book to Cherokee School Superintendent Joyce Dugan for teachers to use in the Eastern Band’s new K-12 school.

The project was a great service to the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, whose permanent collection has more than 100 baskets and continues to grow.

“Before the archive organization, the only recorded information in our permanent collection was a handwritten line about each item,” said Vicki Cruz, manager of the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual.

Now the co-op’s archives are digitized and include contemporary photos, as well as information about dimensions, materials and patterns, and the artists themselves.

Fariello also worked with co-op employees on the care and display of the baskets, and about recordkeeping when a new piece enters the collection.

Cruz said she eventually plans to use her new knowledge to document the work of contemporary basket-makers. “The daughters of basket-makers Agnes Welch and Eva Wolfe, they’re basket-makers too, and now their daughters are starting to weave,” she said.

The basketry book is the first in the “From the Hands of our Elders” series, a three-year project to document Cherokee arts.

The next book, funded with $87,770 from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation, will focus on Cherokee potters and pottery during the first part of the 20th century. A book on Cherokee woodcarving and mask making is scheduled to follow.

For more information about the “From the Hands of our Elders” series or the Craft Revival Web site, contact Fariello at 828.227.2499 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Waynesville’s land-use plan is an ambitious set of ideas adopted during a booming economic era and thus full of the optimism of such times. Now that times are tougher, we hope task force members charged with updating the plan don’t forsake its guiding principles, a pedestrian-friendly new urbanism that is well-suited to meet future challenges.

Waynesville’s regulations guiding development and growth were adopted in 2002 after 29 months of public input. The rules address everything from building placement on lots to landscaping and signs, and the plan is marked by a decidedly liberal mixed-use philosophy that allows contrasting uses in close proximity as long as certain standards are met.

Since its adoption, there have been many flashpoints as town leaders sought to allay the concerns of builders and developers and address flaws in the plan. Finally, the decision was made to appoint a blue-ribbon task force to update the regulations, and that group has been working for months on modifications.

As expected, parking is one most contentious issues. Current regulations guide parking to the rear of buildings, creating a street wall that re-creates a downtown look rather than the traditional setbacks that give parking lots the dominant spot in nearly all commercial development. A big question is whether this look — examples include the CVS pharmacy and McDonald’s on Russ Avenue — forces too many concessions from business owners, and whether it is practical at all as one of the plan’s guiding philosophies.

We think it is. While concessions can be made in certain areas of town and on particular lots, we believe strongly that the pedestrian-guided growth will remain popular. Years fly by fast, and this land-use plan needs to look to the future. We’re not talking about next year or even five years from now, but more like 25 or 30 years down the road.

A couple of decades from now more people will be walking and biking, and we will have more mass transit. More and more people have decided that protecting what’s special about their communities is tied to the personal choices they make. In other words, shopping near one’s home and not being so dependant on the automobile and fossil fuels are important if our small towns are to thrive. This kind of future fits perfectly with the new urbanism land-use model that Waynesville has adopted.

As is always the case, the future depends on what happens now. Waynesville has to modify its land-use plan to fix the flaws, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. The new urbanism model will evolve, but it is growing in popularity for many very important and essential reasons. Communities who get on board early — and stay the course — will reap the benefits in the decades to come.


Melodie G. Galloway will take over as the new musical director for the Lake Junaluska Singers starting Jan. 1.

“Directing the Junaluska Singers represents a lifelong dream for me,” said Galloway. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with this premiere ensemble.”

Galloway’s experience as a conductor and soprano soloist includes opera, oratorio, musical theatre, and a professional vocal ensemble, where she has been a soloist in Russia, Estonia, Ireland, England, and Spain. She is in regional demand as a conductor, clinician, and adjudicator.

Her research work includes two international conference presentations and an article written for the peer-reviewed UK journal, Studies in Musical Theatre, to be published in the January 2010 issue.

Galloway is a Lake Junaluska Singer Alumna, having sung for several seasons. She has also served as a LJS accompanist, soloist, choreographer, and as the agent for orchestra personnel for LJS concerts.

Galloway holds a Master’s degree from Florida State University in Vocal Performance and a Doctor of Musical Arts in Conducting from the University of Greensboro.

Currently, Galloway is an assistant professor in music at UNC-Asheville, directing the University Singers, the Chamber Singers, and Studio 18 - an advanced vocal jazz ensemble, and she is the Coordinator of Vocal Studies.

For a full biography, visit


A cash settlement with the federal government in lieu of the long-promised North Shore Road will reap annual dividends for Swain County for years to come.

The county will put the money in a lockbox and only use the interest each year. In fact, the county couldn’t tap the principal even if it wanted to without permission from a two-thirds majority of all county voters.

Last year, the county created a trust fund to safeguard the pending windfall with the North Carolina State Treasurer. The state will remit interest off the account to Swain County, but the principal cannot be touched unless supported by a supermajority of registered voters in Swain County.

“Since by law only the interest income can be spent, the county will have a source of income forever. Therefore every citizen of Swain County will benefit,” Douthit said.

The government will pay $4 million into the account immediately. The remaining $8.8 million will be released 120 days after a final settlement figure is agreed on.

The state’s investment vehicle has performed well. It reaped an average 6.2 percent interest over the past five years, according to the N.C. State Treasurer.

Interest on the $12.8 million would be close to $800,000 annually, based on the average interest rate of the past five years.


According to the government standards defining poverty in the 1950’s, I was poor. My father did not hold a regular job. My mother took in ironing for neighbors before landing a job in the Bethel School cafeteria washing dishes. We rarely ate meat except for Sunday dinner and my mother sewed all of my clothes. Yet, I never once thought of childhood as deprived. As my father often reminded me, we had food on the table (albeit beans and cornbread) and that was more than he had as a child in the 1920’s.

When December rolled around, the weather became bleak and chilly. My father’s mood matched the weather. Cold weather made his legs — crippled from injuries in the war — ache, and he knew that we had no money for Christmas gifts. My mother tried to put on a happy face but her memories of a bleak childhood in Madison County where holiday joy was considered a sin kept her from truly reveling in the season.

Despite the hardships, I loved December. I had fantasies of Santa Claus arriving at our small frame house and answering all of the requests in the letters that I had meticulously written to him. I would religiously leave cookies and milk by the hearth in hopes of receiving the store-bought items that I longed to own. I wanted Barbie dolls, an Etch-a-Sketch, a Slinky and an Easy Bake oven — all commercial items that I had heard about from my friends. They never came my way, but I was given something far better — gifts from the heart and memories to last a lifetime.

My mother’s homemade clothes were always under the shabby little tree that we found in the woods. When I was older and longed for Go-Go boots and mini-skirts, my mother would sew a small wardrobe of shifts (the kind with pleats on the side) and a-line skirts of a sensible length. My father would construct a toy from wood or simply give me some Indian arrowheads that he had found in the fields near our house. I loved collecting arrowheads and pieces of pottery.

One year he and my mother built a dollhouse for me. My father took an old display case from a general store that he had once owned and with paint and imagination constructed a spectacular house for my meager collection of dolls. He built furniture from scraps of wood and my mother sewed curtains and made small lamps from wooden spools that had once been covered with thread. He even wallpapered the house with remnants from the red velvet wallpaper that he had used to paper the new Red Dog Saloon at Ghost Town. The house with its glass front was truly a work of art — as unique as a Frank Lloyd Wright creation. I don’t think that I’ve felt as rich since.

Thanks to these early lessons, I learned to create gifts from the heart. I made Christmas cards and Valentine cards decorated with pieces of construction paper, left-over lace and stray buttons. I painstakingly copied poems from Leaves of Grass or made up by own messages. My mother and I baked cookies for gifts and my teachers at Bethel Elementary seemed to love them.

When I first married — still a teenager — I was anxious to share my love of home-made gifts with my new in-laws. They worked regular jobs and made more money than my family. They loved to buy expensive store-bought gifts for my husband and me and for some reason, I never felt comfortable around them. My first Christmas with my new family, I wrapped gifts of homemade jams, warm yeast breads, and a host of tacky little crafts that I had made. I painted English walnut shells a bright red, dotted them with black spots, and glued a piece of green felt to the top to create “strawberries.” I placed them in a green plastic tomato basket that I had woven with ribbons. I thought they were lovely but my face still burns with embarrassment as I remember the disdainful looks at my homemade gifts. I never saw the gifts again and they were most likely stashed in the back of a closet.

Fortunately I learned early on that time-intensive gifts made from the heart were not appreciated by everyone. I took to saving Green Stamps, pasting them into the little books and trading them in for store-bought gifts at the Green Stamp store in Canton. The gifts were sterile, lacked any real imagination but were appreciated by my in-laws far more than my cross-stitch samplers and cookies.

When I married my current husband, Tom, I was delighted to learn that his mother baked 50 cakes every Christmas to give to her many friends in the small southern town of Grovetown, Ga. Miss Ginny knew everyone’s favorite — lemon cheesecake, chocolate layer or pound cake — and lined up the cakes on her screened-in porch like soldiers headed for battle. She was locally famous for these cakes and continued this practice well into her ‘90’s. As she sat in her wicker rocker on that wonderful porch, she would greet each recipient of her cakes with heartfelt kindness. Despite her failing eyesight and unpredictable memory, she knew that the best gifts come from the heart, not the pocketbook.

I have tried to continue this tradition with my own children despite the social demands of the teenage years for “mall clothes” and music. I insisted (as I ignored their rolling eyes) that one gift every Christmas had to come from the heart and cost nothing but time and love. It was often a card with misspelled messages, a lopsided ornament, stick-figure drawings of our family or homemade cookies.

Now my children honor the tradition with ideas of their own and love the notion that great gifts can be free and still appreciated. They construct picture collages of themselves because they know that I love family photographs. They write poetry and paint lovely watercolors. They cook wonderful meals for the family and print the recipes.

Each year we love the ritual of planning and cooking a truly spectacular meal for Christmas Eve. I tend to lean toward thematic meals — old English dinners, a Deep-South menu, an Appalachian mountain meal, and recently when we spent a Christmas in Charleston, a low country meal of shrimp and grits. It’s fun to mix it up each year and throw in some surprises.

The preparation of the Christmas Eve meal is a labor of love — a gift of sharing one’s time and energy. We carefully pore over cookbooks to find the perfect recipes. I scour the local stores for table decorations and candles to complement the theme. The little touches often make the meal a success.

This year as we sat at the dining room table after a huge Thanksgiving meal, my children and I began our plans for Christmas Eve. My husband Tom is happy with whichever menu we choose — he is willing to be our gopher and taster — but admits to lacking gourmet tastes. We decide that this year we will have a “Memory of Grandmas” menu. Both my mother and Tom’s mother passed away this past year and it seems to be a good year to cook their favorites. The foods on our special menu will be cooked in honor of these two great ladies and will be our own gifts from the heart to their incredible spirits.

I decided to bake a simple chicken pot pie in honor of my mother. This was her favorite dish. She loved the crunchy pie crust that was filled with chunks of chicken and diced vegetables swimming in gravy. She would hum one of her favorite hymns as she mixed up the pie crust in her mother’s old walnut dough tray. She also loved a fruit salad to accompany the hearty main dish and would usually whip up a bowl of mashed potatoes to help soak up some of the chicken gravy.

My mother-in-law would never be happy with just one vegetable side-dish so we will need to add a bowl of freshly shelled garden peas with pearl onions — one of her favorite side dishes. The dessert will be a couple of the famous “Miss Ginny cakes.” It is hard to imagine that the cakes will be as good as hers or that we will enjoy them as much without her presence. Yet we will try to honor her and remember her loving Southern hospitality and her sweet gentle nature.

In honor of both of our mothers, we will use our best china, a lace tablecloth and fresh flowers on the table — nothing less would suit them on a special occasion. We will serve our food in serving dishes that once graced their Christmas tables. We will light two candles — one for each mother. We will recall wonderful memories of their lives and we will laugh and cry as we tell the stories that defined their lives. They were both remarkable ladies from a time past — a time when cooking a meal and holding a family together were the most important jobs a woman could perform.

As I roll out the dough for the chicken pot pie, I use my mother’s old rolling pin and my grandmother’s dough tray. I remember watching my mother’s worn fingers punching and rolling the flaky pie crust and gently molding it into the baking dish. I remember the sound of the rolling pin on the wooden counter top and her voice as she hummed “Just As I Am” or “What A Friend We Have in Jesus.” I feel her presence in the kitchen with me as I pour the warm chicken pieces, garden vegetables and gravy mixture into the crust. I know that she is delighted to be remembered and to share this meal in spirit with her dear friend, Miss Ginny.

When my mother passed away last year, I gathered stacks of notebooks that she had meticulously filled with Bible verses, hymns, her own words of wisdom, and favorite recipes. This December I have taken the time to open the giant plastic container that has housed these beautiful memories over the past year. Each spiral bound notebook is filled with neat pencil entries. Each line echoes the sound of my mother’s voice. She has listed prayer concerns for her family, her community and her country and her many thanks of gratitude for the gifts that this life has provided her.

Through my tears, I recognize this soulful collection of writings as a gift of love; my mother’s gift from the heart to her daughter and her grandchildren. When I hear a particular hymn or bake a chicken pot pie, I will feel the presence of my beloved mother. When I see a homemade cake and a wicker rocking chair on a southern porch, I will think of Miss Ginny and her gracious kindness. And I will know that these memories embody the power of love — gifts that transcends time and death, gifts from the heart.


Wanda Morris walked into uncharted territory when she started teaching Gaming Management Technology three years ago at Southwestern Community College.

“We were the first community college in the state to offer the program so we took our chances thinking outside the box,” said Morris. “In fact, very few four-year colleges even offer the program.”

At the college’s graduation ceremony Tues., Dec. 15, the first graduates of SCC’s program will receive their certificates.

Gaming is a big business with a certain lure of 24/7 excitement as blackjack tables whirl and slot machines hit jackpot.

To design a college program that accurately represented the professional field, Morris called on experts like Ron Hager, who has more than 25 years experience in the gaming industry. Hager, who came to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino from Caesar’s in Indiana, gave the students an overview of the different games like craps, roulette and cards. Then he took them into Harrah’s training center to practice dealing and playing with professionals.

“I knew if I was going to bring that same sense of excitement to the classroom that the classroom sure wouldn’t be typical,” Morris said.

Harrah’s director of marketing Leeann Bridges-McHattie instructed the class in planning a marketing calendar. Students learned the customer service end from Greg Galloway of Harrah’s. They learned about job descriptions and job analysis from Jo Blaylock and Tina Vaitkus, who talked about how many job descriptions will change as a result of the casino’s ability to serve alcohol.

Other courses in the program dealt with gaming law and regulations, accounting and controls, gaming facility management and social issues in gaming.

For more information, call Thom Brooks, SCC dean of career technologies, at 828.586.4091, ext. 202.


My Mother’s Chicken Pot Pie

• 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves—cubed

• 1 cup sliced carrots

• 1 cup frozen green peas

• 1/2 cup of sliced celery

• 1/3 cup butter

• 1/3 cup chopped onion

• 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

• 1/4 teaspoon celery seed

• 1 3/4 cups chicken broth

• 2/3 cup milk

No Fail Pie Crust:

• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1 cup shortening

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 1 egg

• 1/4 cup cold water

• 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs. Mix egg, water and vinegar together. Pour into flour all at once and blend with a fork until dough forms a ball. Wrap with plastic and chill in refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. In a saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, peas and celery. Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.

Roll out pie crust on floured surface. Divide into two sections—one for the top crust, one for the bottom.

Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Pour hot liquid mixture over. Cover with top crust seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.


Deluxe Mashed Potatoes*

• 4 large potatoes

• 1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

• 1/2 cup sour cream

• 1 tablespoon chopped chives

• 3/4 teaspoon onion salt

• 1/4 teaspoon pepper

• 1 tablespoon butter or margarine

• Paprika

Peel and cube the potatoes; place in a saucepan and cover with water. Cook over medium heat until tender; drain. Mash until smooth (do not add milk or butter). Stir in cream cheese, sour cream, chives, onion salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into a greased 1? quart baking dish. Dot with butter; sprinkle with paprika if desired. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until heated through.

*The potatoes are not my mother’s recipe — she just mashed the boiled potatoes with milk and butter. But I like this mashed potato dish because it can be made ahead of time and heated up in the oven.


Green Peas Supreme

• 4 ounces Canadian bacon, diced (optional)

• 1 tablespoon butter or margarine

• 3 cups frozen peas

• 12 fresh pearl onions, peeled (or just use the canned ones)

• 1/2 cup water

• 1/2 teaspoon sugar

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a large skillet, cook bacon in butter until lightly browned. Add the peas, onions, water, sugar, salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes; drain.


Miss Ginny’s Six Layer Cake

Duncan Hines Butter recipe cake mix

Grease and flour six (yes, six! This is how the cake looks so beautiful on that front porch) cake pans. Mix the cake as directed, divide into six cake pans and bake at 350. Cool, layer and frost. The basic cake can then be iced with any number of frostings. Here are Miss Ginny’s favorites:

Coconut Icing

• 1 package frozen coconut

• 2 cups sugar

• 8 oz. sour cream

Sprinkle sugar over coconut and blend well with fork or fingers. Store in refrigerator overnight. Add sour cream to mixture. Blend and frost tops of layer cake. Keeps well in refrigerator.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing

• 1 stick softened butter or margarine

• 4 oz. softened cream cheese

• 1 box confectioner’s sugar

• 1/3 cup cocoa (or desired amount)

Mix thoroughly with a small amount of milk to blend together nicely.


Miss Ginny’s Lemon Cheese Cake*

• 1 (18.5 ounce) package yellow cake mix

• 1 (3.5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix

• 1 cup milk

• 1/3 cup vegetable oil

• 3 eggs

• 6 egg yolks

• 1 1/2 cups white sugar

• 1 cup butter

• 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

• 1 cup fresh lemon juice

• 4 tablespoons grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake layer pans.

Combine the cake mix, instant vanilla pudding, milk, vegetable oil and the 3 whole eggs. Mix until blended. Pour batter into the prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes or until cakes test done. Set aside cakes to cool.

To make lemon Cheese Filling: in the top half of double boiler combine the egg yolks, white sugar, butter or margarine, flour, grated lemon rind and lemon juice. Cook stirring constantly over medium heat until mixture is thick enough to spread. Let cool before spreading between cooled cake layers.

*I had never heard of this cake until I met Miss Ginny — I thought it would be a lemon-flavored cheese cake (wrong). Apparently it is an old southern favorite and now one of our favorites.


Haywood Regional Medical Center CEO Mike Poore has been named as the new chief executive officer of MedWest Health System following a unanimous vote of the MedWest System Board and the recommendation of Carolinas Heathcare System.

MedWest is the name of the affiliation of Haywood Regional, Harris Regional and Swain County hospitals.

“I’m excited about the challenges of bringing these two organizations together to better serve all of our communities,” Poore said. “With the resources of WestCare, Haywood and Carolinas HealthCare integrated, we’ll be able to enhance further the healthcare of our region,”

As soon as MedWest governing board members were appointed, they faced the tough decision of picking one of two leaders vying for the position of MedWest CEO: Poore, who served as CEO of Haywood Regional Medical Center, and Mark Leonard, CEO of WestCare Health System.

Poore will assume the MedWest CEO position Jan. 1, 2010.

Leonard congratulated Poore on his appointment upon learning the news.

“I would ask the WestCare staff to give Mike the same level of commitment and dedication they have provided me,” said Leonard.

Leonard has chosen to seek other professional opportunities and will be evaluating them in the upcoming weeks and months, according to WestCare spokesman Brian Thomas.

The transitional period will take approximately six months, according to Mark Clasby, chairman of the MedWest board.

“Mike Poore will be very busy over the next few months working with the new organization and with Carolinas HealthCare System as they develop the management action plan to be presented to the MedWest board,” said Clasby.

Before serving as HRMC’s CEO, Poore served as senior vice president and administrator for two hospitals and a nursing facility in Atlanta.

The MedWest Board of Directors is made up of 14 members and has equal representation from both Haywood Regional Hospital and Harris Regional and Swain County Hospitals. Two physicians each from Haywood and WestCare also serve on the board of directors.

Both WestCare and HRMC have experienced financial difficulties over the last two years. HRMC had its Medicaid and Medicare funding yanked after failing inspections. That controversy nearly led to the hospital’s closure and prompted the resignation of former CEO David Rice and the hiring of a new administrative staff. WestCare last year announced a job reduction of up to 90 employees as it struggled to remain financially viable.

The two hospitals announced earlier this year their intention to affiliate under the name MedWest and enter a management contract with Carolinas Healthcare System out of Charlotte. The two hospitals will remain separate and keep their own boards, but Poore will act as CEO of the joint MedWest system.


Despite the daunting road ahead, Franklin High School principal Gary Shields is steering his undocumented students toward the naturalization process. Gaining citizenship would give his students a shot at higher education and better job opportunities.

“They’re not going home, and so we’ve got to find some way that they can make a contribution to our society,” said Shields.

Shields became interested in helping the students after one of his football players came to him for help after being threatened with deportation last summer.

Shields assisted the student in applying for citizenship and decided to do the same for the rest of the undocumented students at his school.

“The students look at me saying, ‘I don’t even know anyone in Mexico, I don’t even know anything about the culture,’” said Shields. “I call them the hip kids. They came here on mama’s hip. They know nothing about their homeland.”

Shields enlisted the help of Saul Olvera, a Macon County Middle School business teacher who brings firsthand experience of the naturalization process.

The duo met with undocumented students and their parents earlier this school year to educate them on the lengthy, expensive procedure.

“Going through the process was tedious, it was expensive, it required many trips,” said Olvera, who said he’s returning the favor after receiving help from his own teachers in the past.

Shields stressed the importance of starting paperwork early since the application procedure can take five to eight years to complete.

A 16-year old junior at Franklin High School said she’s still waiting to hear on a naturalization application that her parents submitted eight years ago.

Despite the long delay, there’s no guarantee that she will become a U.S. citizen. If she doesn’t become a legal resident by the time she turns 18 next December, she will have to restart the entire process.

“I kind of don’t think it’s fair, for the kids,” said the student, who would like to see children prioritized over adults in the naturalization process. “We have more opportunities than they do.”

While she and her fellow undocumented students wait for a decision, they live with an ever-present fear.

“We can’t go out like other people,” the junior said. “We can get deported ... We’re terrified for our parents to get deported.”

Unlike their classmates, undocumented students cannot obtain a driver’s license, check out materials from the public library, or work summer jobs legitimately.

Olvera and Shields have contacted county commissioners and state representatives to point out treatment they see as unfair.

“Most of the students that are in school now did not have the option to come or not,” said Olvera. “That is the poignant disadvantage. Why are children being punished for something they had no control over? ... We’re just trying to make their dreams possible.”


Editor’s note: These articles first appeared in the St. Petersburg Times and are reprinted with permission of the writer.

Lawyers for 13 people who bought land in a controversial Big Ridge subdivision in Cashiers say federal prosecutors in Miami and Pittsburgh, Pa., have opened a criminal investigation into loans obtained from SunTrust Bank.

The 13 buyers have asked a federal judge in North Carolina to delay action in a civil fraud suit filed against them by SunTrust due to the federal probe.

“Defendants understand that they are more than material witnesses in the government’s investigation and have not been ruled out as targets of the criminal investigation and/or potential defendants,’’ lawyers have argued in documents filed in U.S. District Court in Bryson City.

The buyers, from Florida and Pennsylvania, bought lots in the development in 2006 and later obtained construction loan mortgages of more than $1 million a piece from SunTrust. The bank alleges that all of them falsified their income to obtain the money. SunTrust is seeking repayment of more than $19 million.

In an affidavit filed in federal court, Michael P. O’Day Sr., a Pittsburgh lawyer, says he represents one of the 13 defendants in the criminal investigation and has been in contact with federal prosecutors in Miami and Pittsburgh.

O’Day said the SunTrust transactions are part of a broader investigation of the development and “certain individuals’’ involved with it.

“I have been advised that the U.S. Government believes some and/or all of the individuals involved with the development potentially committed criminal acts,’’ O’Day said.

Most work in the development started by Domenic Rabuffo is at a standstill as SunTrust and other banks foreclose on lot after lot. Partially constructed houses sit abandoned on more than 15 lots.

Rabuffo, a native of New York and part time resident of Miami, was convicted of mortgage fraud in New York in the late 1980s.

His onetime business partner, the “fat man,’’ was killed in a 1987 mob hit as he dined at Bravo Sergio, an Italian restaurant in Manhattan.

Rabuffo and his partner were accused of masterminding a $49-million mortgage fraud. Rabuffo pleaded guilty, went into the witness protection program and served a brief prison sentence.

The only recent activity in the development, which was initially named Hampton Springs, occurred last week when workers moved a mobile home from one lot to another after a mortgage foreclosure suit was filed on the lot where the mobile home had been located. The name of the development has since been changed to Spring Ridge Vista.

Foreclosure suits have been brought against owners of most of the lots in the development as well as individual lots Rabuffo purchased in the name of his ex-wife, Mae.

Sylva lawyer Jay Pavey is fighting his own battle with SunTrust, asking a federal judge to quash the bank’s effort to subpoena his files on the land purchases and mortgages he handled for the 13 buyers.

Last month, Federal Magistrate Dennis L. Howell ordered Pavey to surrender some of the documents SunTrust has requested. Pavey said the subpoena is overly broad and would put an undue burden on his law firm.

Lawyers for SunTrust are opposing any effort to delay proceedings in the civil suit and want to question Pavey under oath.

Pavey prepared all of the deeds and mortgages for Rabuffo’s development over the last few years. He says he was not aware of anything improper.


Sims Valley sold in foreclosure

Sims Valley, a pastoral subdivision that was once part of a historic farm, was sold in a foreclosure auction Friday, Nov. 20 at the Jackson County Courthouse.

The Bank of Macon County, holder of a $6.9-million mortgage on the property, offered the only bid — $4.7-million for 225 acres left in the development.

Five houses, a clubhouse and swimming pool, hiking trails, paved roads, underground utilities and other facilities were built by Big Ridge Partners LLC during the past three years. The development is on a farm established in 1898 by pioneers Willis and Laura Sims. It lies at the end of Pilot Knob Road off of Big Ridge Road.

Dennis Ford, project manager for the original developer, has been retained by the bank to keep an eye on the project while attempts are made to find a buyer.

Ford said the development is a victim of current economic conditions.

“My guess is that someone will buy it for speculation and wait until the market improves,’’ Ford said.

Sims Valley has 80 lots, including 19 that sold for prices ranging from $125,000 to $500,000.

Big Ridge Land Partners is owned by Brett and Susan Turner of Richmond Hill, Ga.

(Lucy Morgan is a semi-retired, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter for the St. Petersburg Times. She is a part-year resident of the Cashiers Valley area. Lucy Morgan can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)


A 1,488-acre tract along the Blue Ridge Parkway in McDowell County has been protected from development thanks to a conservation agreement with the landowner, a railroad corporation.

The long, linear tract is owned by CSX, a rail shipping corporation. A rail line on the tract will continue operating, but the property can never be developed or logged. CSX got $3.67 million for placing the property in a conservation agreement with the Conservation Trust of North Carolina. More than half was state money from various conservation trust funds, while the rest was raised privately. Land conservation philanthropists Fred and Alice Stanback and Bill and Nancy Stanback, all of Salisbury, were among the major contributors.

In addition to preserving Parkway views, it contains state Natural Heritage Areas and Catawba River headwater streams. The property also includes about 1.5 miles of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, the route followed by mountain militiamen during the American Revolution on their way to the pivotal Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina.


University students conducting environmental fieldwork and research at the Highlands Biological Station have spent the past semester delving into the ecological diversity of the Southern Appalachians.

The students conducted research and internships in conjunction with several local organizations. This year, the Highlands Biological Station partnered with the Little Tennessee Watershed Association, the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust, the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society, the Wilderness Society, Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory, and the Highlands Plateau Greenway, providing the students experience with professional groups while advancing the conservation and educational initiatives of the organizations.

Student research ranged from field studies looking for rare species of salamanders to the development of environmental curriculum for local schools and citizen science initiatives.

Projects included:

• Developing a plan for revegetating sections of the Highlands Greenway with native plant species.

• Updating the State of the Streams report for the Little Tennessee watershed.

• Looking for trends in the Highlands’ Important Bird Area, recently designated by the Audubon Society, using historic and recent birding records, including archival material from the Biltmore Estate.

• Fish monitoring of the abundance and diversity in the greater Little Tennessee watershed, collected over a 20-year period by Dr. William McLarney of Franklin, in collaboration between the Coweeta Hydrologic Lab, the Little Tennessee Watershed Association, and the Highlands Biological Station with help from the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust.


Want to know more?

UNC-Chapel Hill students who spent the past semester based at the Highlands Biological Station will present their research findings at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 9. The presentations will be held at the newly-renovated Bruce Biodiversity Building, located at 265 N. Sixth Street in Highlands, accessible from the neighboring Nature Center. 828.526.2602.


Satire is one of language’s most powerful weapons, and when used effectively, it can foster meaningful dialogue on important topics.

A recent letter in The Smoky Mountain News brings this point home. Lamar Marshall poked fun at Macon County officials who are lengthening their airport’s runway despite the fact that the project is being built over the remains of a former village that contains burial sites and other artifacts. Marshall belittled the officials who place more value on building the new runway than on any concerns Native Americans may have for the burial grounds of their ancestors. He used biting satire to make his point. Some Native Americans may have been offended, but in reality Marshall was arguing on their behalf.

Read the letters in this week’s edition (below) and you’ll see some of the conversation that letter provoked. Marshall is apologizing for those who may have been offended by his piece, which was criticized last week by two writers. In this edition, Cherokee Chief Michell Hicks weighs in, agreeing with Marshall’s point but questioning the use of a literary device that is often misunderstood.

Taken together, the chief’s letter and Marshall’s from two weeks ago prove the value of satire, in particular, and journalism in general. Marshal’s portrayal of Macon County officials marketing their airport as a great place to land on top of ancient Cherokee graves raised valid points about this issue. How far do we go in the pursuit of economic development and the almighty dollar? How far is too far?

The follow-up to Marshall’s letter has been emotional and, from our perspective, very positive. It has unleashed needed public discussion on an issue that had dropped off the front pages.

We applaud Marshal and those who have written to discuss this important issue, including Chief Hicks. Satire can make us wince, but in this case it has led to a fundamentally important discussion about what our society values.


Three Cherokee Middle School students starred in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park live field broadcast via the web to hundreds of schools across the nation last month.

The rest of Cherokee’s middle school students watched the virtual fieldtrip from the school auditorium. The students watching the video could call or e-mail questions to the park rangers to answer in real time.

The Electronic Field Trip gave middle school students an interactive opportunity to understand how plants and animals depend on one another as part of the same ecosystem. During the educational adventure, students learned how the variety of elevations, abundant rainfall and the presence of old growth forests give the park unusually high level of biodiversity, from black bears to microscopic waterbears, lichens, elk and lungless salamanders.

Southwestern Community College GEAR UP coordinated the three students’ involvement in the experience and the schoolwide viewing of the webcast.


By Joe Cowan • Guest Columnist

Editor’s note: Jackson County Commissioner Joe Cowan made the following comments following a vote last week to stop legal proceedings against Duke Energy over its plan to take down the Dillsboro Dam, the centerpiece of the utility giant’s mitigation for a new license to use water from the Tuckasegee and its tributaries for the next 40 years.


Having observed this all my life, and the power company before Duke — Sylva-Dillsboro Electric Light Company, where my father worked for a few years — I’ve got some attachment to the dam and some interest in the relationships in the past and hopefully the type of relationship we may have in the future with Duke Energy.

I, too, observed the stakeholder meetings that have been referred to many, many times in the past seven years. Those stakeholder meetings, in my honest opinion, were a farce, nothing but a ruse to try and dupe good local people into believing that Duke Energy had the best interest of the people of Jackson County at heart rather than the monetary gain and interests of Duke Energy. That, to me, is a fact.

Greed. That’s the word I hear used frequently when large utility companies are referred to, greed. In my opinion, had it not been for greed, there would not have been seven years of bickering with Duke Energy.

Why did Duke want to take down the Dillsboro Dam? They haven’t said. They said many times in their proceedings that it was a linchpin of their proposal for a settlement, but why did they really want to take it down? It didn’t benefit Duke, didn’t do anything for 20 miles upriver. It’s not going to improve the environment of the river or what lives in it. Matter of fact, there is some evidence just the opposite of that.

Let’s get to why they want it down. Most of the time when an energy or utility corporation is asking to use someone’s water — and that’s what it is, asking to use the water of Jackson County for the next 40 years and make somewhere in the neighborhood of $16 million profit per year — you would think, just as a good neighbor policy, or if nothing else for the good will, the industry would have some desire to give back something to the people from whom this water use is being taken.

This is the thing that burns me up about the whole darn thing. There has been little to no evidence to this date that Duke Energy has been willing to give back even a token to this county for the use of their waterways for the next 40 years. And you multiply $16 million times 40 years, and see what you come up with. You’ll come up with a lot more than two or three hundred thousand dollars, which is the total that Duke offered, the token that Duke has offered.

Duke has had many opportunities to step up and do the right thing as a good neighbor would do. And in many cases others have done that, been good neighbors to Jackson County. Duke has not done that. They have no desire to do it. Thus seven years of bickering back and forth, back and forth.

Why do they want to take the dam down? They did not want to give the county anything, $250,000 or somewhere along there. That’s an insult for the use of the Tuckasegee River and its tributaries to the south for the next 40 years. An insult.

So they came up with this grand scheme: we will take down the dam for you. It reminds me a lot of the elderly lady crossing the street. A Boy Scout was out there helping her. They got to the other side and woman slaps the Boy Scout. A passerby saw her and said, “My God, what happened?” The lady said “I did not want to cross the dam street.”

Well, that’s what we’re dealing with here with Duke taking the dam down. We did not want the dam down, but Duke is going to do us a favor and take the dam down to show good faith to FERC. “Look what we’ve given Jackson County for the use of their water for the next 40 years.” Big deal, I hope Duke knows that.

.... It’s a bum deal. It’s a bum deal. Duke ought to be ashamed of themselves as a large corporation to attempt to pull such a stunt on the intelligent people of this county. I resent the hell out of it, and I think I’ve made that clear. That’s been my involvement in it, and as far as I’m concerned I hope it’s not over yet. We’ve still got 30 days to appeal this thing.


The newest addition to Southwestern Community College’s Oconaluftee Institute of Cultural Arts holds a piece of Cherokee history. OICA will soon obtain a letterpress that will be used to print books in the Cherokee syllabary.

“We are bringing back the Cherokee history in true art form,” said Luzene Hill, OICA progam outreach coordinator.

Through a $68,846 grant from Cherokee Preservation Foundation and a $47,792 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, OICA will purchase a metal press and develop a printmaking studio at its facilities on Bingo Loop Road in Cherokee.

Years ago, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians published a newspaper called Tsa la gi Tsu lehisanunhi, or the Cherokee Phoenix. This first Native American newspaper was printed on a hot-type letterpress in which each word is put together by hand, combining individual metal letters or characters.

“It opens up a whole new craft of book art for us, including printmaking, hand-papermaking and hand-bookbinding,” said Hill. “For our students, book art will blend fine arts with crafts.”

After 12 years, Sequoyah finished developing the Cherokee syllabary in 1821. Each character represents a syllable, instead of one sound, thus the name syllabary.

As in the Phoenix newspaper, the power of the Cherokee language rises through the printed word on the page, transforming from thoughts to art, Hill explained.

“You already feel the power of words but capturing them in a book through individual characters you’ve laid out in hot type and on paper you’ve made from linen or hemp fiber really helps you feel them in an art form, too,” said Hill.

As students learn to produce first the paper and then the books, they will also learn skills such as precision, technique, spacing and artistic layout composition, said Hill, who is consulting with noted instructor Frank Brannon.

Brannon, who runs his own letterpress studio, SpeakEasy Press, in Dillsboro, earned his master of fine arts in Book Arts at the University of Alabama and has recently taught Letterpress at the Penland School of Crafts and Papermaking and Printing at the John C. Campbell Folk School.

“One of Frank’s specialties is the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper,” said Hill. “He has explored and published copies from the original hand impressions of type from the Phoenix, found in a 1954 excavation of the New Echota historic site. He hand printed and hand bound the publications for exhibition.”

“The Phoenix was a bilingual weekly newspaper printed in parallel columns in Cherokee and English and one of its biggest subscribers was the British Library,” said Brannon, who also teaches at Book Works in Asheville.

The first paper that the Phoenix was printed on came from Knoxville by wagon and it took two weeks to arrive, according to Brannon. The last issue was published in 1834, shortly before the Cherokee removal to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.

“Students will learn the Cherokee history right along with the history of the letterpress,” said Hill.

The Cherokee language will also be incorporated into the course since the books can be published in the Cherokee syllabary, she added.

For more information contact Hill at 828.497.3945.


Another rockslide struck along the already closed section of Interstate 40 over the weekend.

The new slide is nothing like the earlier one, but big enough in its own right. It covered both westbound lanes just past exit 7 at Harmon Den. It brought down an estimated 500 cubic yards of rock — the equivalent of about 50 dump truck loads. The pile in the road is about 40 feet long and 50 feet wide, with the largest rocks the size of SUVs.

While the Interstate was already blocked to through traffic, it is still used 24-7 by workers coming and going to the larger slide repair. Luckily the new slide didn’t hurt anyone. It was discovered at 1 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23, by a construction supervisor for Phillips & Jordan, the head contractor over repairs on the larger slide.

The clean up may take as little as three weeks. Additional crews will be brought in, so repairs to the smaller slide should not extend the closure of I-40 any longer than it would be already.

Meanwhile, a rock slide on the Gatlinburg-Pigeon Forge Spur in Tennessee also happened over the weekend. The slide only covered one side of the road. The unaffected lanes were set up to allow two-way traffic, with one lane in each direction.


The Waynesville Public Art Commission recently issued a Call for Artists for its fourth public art project. The proposed art will celebrate the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its historic relationship to Waynesville.

For many years an arched sign hung across Main Street declaring Waynesville the “Eastern Entrance to the Smokies.” Long-time residents will recall that the archway was near the intersection of Main and Depot Streets, near the former First National Bank. This is also the intersection where Franklin D. Roosevelt made his entrance into Waynesville while promoting the development of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1936.

The former bank site is now the location of a town “mini-park” which is scheduled for rehabilitation in 2010. Using funds that have been donated specifically for the improvement of the park, the town plans to revitalize the area by improving access, landscaping, lighting, and encouraging more usage of the mini-park. The existing rock perimeter walls will remain, but must be brought into proper code adherence by the installation of a railing along Depot Street. This provides an opportunity to meet functional needs in an aesthetic manner.

The Public Art Commission has requested that interested artists submit designs for a 69-foot railing that will incorporate artistic elements relating to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its historical connection to Waynesville. The artist must reside in either North Carolina or Tennessee, the two states contiguous with the Park, and must submit a portfolio of past works for review. The Call for Artists and other public art information can be viewed on the Town’s website at

Three artists will be chosen from the applicants to make a presentation of their finalized plans to an advisory panel of 35-40 community and arts supporters. After reviewing comments of the panel, the Public Art Commission will decide on a finalist to receive the commission of $20,000.

The $20,000 commission will be raised from private sources, and the public is invited to make a donation to the Public Art Fund. Checks should be made payable to the Town of Waynesville Public Art Fund, and should be mailed to P.O. Box 1409, Waynesville, NC 28786 in care of Downtown Waynesville Association. Donations may be tax deductible.

The other works commissioned by the Public Art Commission include “Old Time Music,” the paver project in front of the new police station, and “Celebrating Folkmoot.”

The installation will coincide with the refurbishment of the park and should be completed by fall 2010. For more information, contact 828.627.0928.


Producer, editor and videographer John Kenyon of Waynesville has been selected to receive the Award of Excellence in the slide and multimedia programs category by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education for District III.

Kenyon was cited by CASE for his role as producer, editor, and videographer for the multimedia video “Musical Theatre Program.” The video was produced in March 2009 as a promotional video for Western Carolina University’s musical theatre program.

The recent honor marks Kenyon’s second consecutive award in the annual CASE District III competition in the multimedia category. He also received an award last year for his work on a production titled “What is a Catamount?,” a historical retrospective of WCU athletics.

A 1992 graduate of East Carolina University, Kenyon has won a total of five awards from CASE in the past 10 years in the video and multimedia production categories.

CASE is the leading education association for professionals in the field of institutional advancement.

Terrance Mann, WCU’s Carolyn Plemmons Phillips and Ben R. Phillips Distinguished Professor in Musical Theatre, provided narration for the latest video.

The objective of the video was to illustrate the advantages of WCU’s musical theatre program in a smooth, low-key fashion. The video feature dress rehearsal footage of some of the university’s biggest musical theatre productions, as well as images of workshops featuring Broadway professionals. It also includes mountain scenery images that are unique to the university’s location.

The award will be presented Feb. 23 as part of the CASE District III conference in Tampa, Fla.


It’s a slogan even the slickest New York ad firm couldn’t top if it tried: “Real Beef. Raised Right. Around Here.”

It would be equally hard to find a cattle ranch better suited to the motto than Brasstown Beef, a family farm on 1,000 acres between Hayesville and Murphy.

Steve Whitmire, owner of Ridgefield Farm, recently launched a new line of high-end Brasstown Beef products marketed to local restaurants and butchers. The new venture compliments his long-standing commercial cattle operation, but may replace it one day as Whitmire looks for new ways to keep farming viable in the mountains.

Whitmire raises a line of Braunvieh cattle, an ancient breed originating in the high mountains of Switzerland and known for exceptional flavor. Whitmire has embraced new technology with his cattle operations, like radio frequency ID tags and genetic analysis to select for the most desirable characteristics when breeding his herd.

“The ranch has to make a profit to survive,” said Whitmire. “But you have to have a product that people can afford. To do that I have completely changed the way we raise our cattle.”

Brasstown Beef even has its own ultrasound technician, Cathy Richburg. As a cow approaches harvest time, Richburg uses an ultrasound device to figure out how big the ribeye area is, how much marbling it has and the amount of back fat. After plugging the data into a special computer program, Richburg predicts the ideal day for harvest.

Last month, Whitmire invited executive chefs and restaurateurs, along with butchers from across the region, to tour the savvy operations and get up close and personal with the living versions of the steaks and chops and hamburgers they prepare for their customers every day. Several of the restaurant owners and chefs in attendance were so impressed they said they would switch exclusively to Brasstown Beef products.

“My customers love the taste,” said Paul Crisp, owner of The Hometown Diner in Murphy. “They tell me it’s the best hamburger they’ve ever had. Now even my wife won’t cook anything else at home.”

As added customer service, Whitmire brought in a university researcher and grad student to school the butchers in the crowd on techniques to maximize their cuts of meat.

High-tech methods aren’t the only appealing aspects about the Brasstown Beef operation. Whitmire’s love for his cattle are apparent: freedom to range over the 1,100-acre ranch and shelter from the elements. He’s even installed “spa rocks,” giant boulders that the cattle love to use as back scratchers.

Whitmire doesn’t use growth hormones and antibiotics common to the industry, placing him in the coveted category of all-natural, free range, hormone and antibiotic free.

When Whitmire recently began raising pigs, he bought his start-up load from a Missouri farmer with hormone and antibiotic free stock. The Missouri farmer had previously made the switch, letting every animal in his herd die that could not make it without antibiotics, then rebuilding a much hardier stock from the survivors. The pigs have their babies in custom designed shelters that allow the females to come and go as they please, and other than a six-week weaning period, all of the pigs remain free to roam in pastures.

Ultimately, however, it’s taste that makes the difference, Whitmire said.

“Being local, humane and producing all natural meat is important. However, in actuality, if it doesn’t taste better to the consumer, you will never sell enough meat to stay in business,” said Whitmire.

To that end, Whitmire employs a final step that most beef producers skip, saying it’s too costly and time-consuming. It takes four-weeks to dry-age beef in coolers, requiring more labor, expensive overhead and a longer turnaround time between slaughter and sale. But the method is far superior than traditional aging.

”Dry aging has the dual benefit of vastly improving flavor and making the meat more tender,” said Whitmire. “It reduces the moisture content in the meat, which concentrates the flavor. That means that not only do your hamburgers and steaks taste better, but they won’t shrink nearly as much on the grill. This makes a huge difference to restaurants, retailers and the consumer.”

To find out where you can buy Brasstown Beef or for restaurants that serve it, like the Frog & Owl Bistro in Franklin, go to and click on “retail locations” across the top.

This article was contributed by the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee.


Workers on the rockslide slope are laboring around the clock. There’s a day crew and a night crew, ranging from 15 to 25 men per shift. They labor for 10 hours at a stretch on the side of a steep, towering rock face.

“If you need anything you take it up with you. They don’t come back down,” said Mike Patton, the lead DOT inspector on the site.

That goes not just for food, but using the bathroom, too.

“Once you get up there it is every man for himself,” Patton said.

During the first two months, when work primarily focused on busting up and hauling off the major pile of boulders at the base of the slide, there were dozens of equipment operators and dump truck drivers coming and going to the site. Workers would often call in a massive order of hamburgers to a diner in Hartford, Tenn., and a woman who worked there would deliver them. One entrepreneuer set up a Philly Cheese Steak concession stand near the worksite and became known as Hotdog Willie. He even made a turkey dinner for workers laboring on Thanksgiving Day.

But once the pile was carted away and work shifted to the mountainside overhead, there weren’t enough workers on the ground to support the hot lunch spot and he closed up shop, although his stand is still parked at the staging area.

Now, the remaining ground crews, as well as those on the slope, must pack sandwiches and sundry snacks to sustain themselves during the long work days and cold, dark nights in the remote Pigeon River Gorge.

Staying warm is a challenge in the shadow of the tall, narrow walls of the gorge, which block the sun for all but the middle part of the day. Shane Cook, a worker for the main contractor on the job, Phillips and Jordan, knows exactly what time the sun crests the ridge and the first patch of pavement where it hits.

“About 9 o’clock in the morning it comes across that ridge and about 2:30 it goes behind that one, so you don’t get but about 5 hours,” Cook said.

Ground crews and inspectors sometimes pack into the contractor’s trailers for quick warm ups during the day, but mostly resort to climbing in and out of their trucks and blasting the heater to dethaw. Needless to say, they call come to work with a full tank of gas. Some on the night shift bring an extra five gallon gas can.

They wear extra pants, two pairs of gloves, fleece caps with ear flaps under their hardhats and bring an extra pair of socks to change into in case the ones they have get wet.

But those high above on the rock have no truck to climb into to stay warm and can’t work when too encumberd by layers. During the worst of Janurary’s extreme cold, when lows dipped into single digits repeatedly night after night, work was suspended.


Get ready to hit the slopes and participate in meaningful worship at Lake Junaluska’s Ministries with Young People (MYP) annual THAW President’s Day Weekend, February 12 – 15, 2010.

MYP at Lake Junaluska offers Christian youth ski weekends packed with worship, fellowship, skiing and tubing. While attending THAW President’s Day Weekend, youth will be able to experience live worship bands Esterlyn and Eddie Willis and the Narrow Path. Worship will be led by Andy Lambert, who has a passion to reach youth for Christ, yet his preaching connects intergenerationally and cross-culturally.

Esterlyn is a four-piece independent Christian band that is described as a “melodic indie rock effort reminiscent of The Classic Crime, Ruth, This Beautiful Republic, and Sanctus Real.” Eddie Willis and The Narrow Path is led by Pastor Eddie Willis and his wife, Allyson. Eddie’s music is best described as Garfunkel, Taylor, and Chris Rice in the youth and college retreat setting.

“Our Christian youth ski retreats, known as THAW, include relevant contemporary spiritual messages and awesome Christian music concerts,” said Rev. Carolyn Poling, Director of Ministries with Young People at Lake Junaluska. “I’m looking forward to being a part of those moments that happen on retreats that sustain youth and their ministers. President’s Day Weekend promises to be an exciting and enriching experience for Christian youth.”

MYP at Lake Junaluska has already begun getting registrations for President’s Day Weekend, so get your registrations in early! Packages start as low as $159 per person for 2 night’s lodging and 1 day of ski at Cataloochee Ski Area or Wolf Ridge Ski Resort. Local youth leaders searching for productive and fun Christian youth ski trips should visit or call 800-222-4930.


Fire code violations, compromised client confidentiality, leaking roofs, freezing pipes, lack of energy efficiency, severely limited space, windows that won’t close...

The problems with the current DSS and health department facilities would take pages to list.

And the issues have not escaped unnoticed by the 12,000 residents — 20 percent of the Haywood County population — receiving services at DSS and nearly 10,000 residents regularly making their way to the health department each year.

Whether it’s the client whose confidential health information is heard by everyone nearby or those who routinely get stuck in ancient elevators, these flaws are no secret.

That’s especially the case now that the worsened economy has lead to increased usage of these county services.

Ira Dove, director of social services, asked commissioners last week if they would want to work in such a building or feel safe having their mother riding its broken-down elevator.

The current DSS building, located on the Old Asheville Highway between downtown and the roundabout, was originally a county hospital built in 1927. The portion that the DSS uses was added on in 1950.

Meanwhile the health department, found a mile further down the Old Asheville Highway across from Junaluska Elementary, is housed in a 54-year-old building.

Both facilities have difficulty keeping up with modern technology due to when they were built.

“Back when there was no computer — only typewriters,” said Dale Burris, the county’s facilities maintenance director.

Most commissioners have visited the facility and have found they could easily justify the need for action to taxpayers.

“I’d like to invite the public to come out and see that facility out there,” said Commissioner Skeeter Curtis.

The challenges of renovating the DSS building are many. An extensive renovation would be necessary. It would involve stripping down the interior to its structural skeleton and reworking the space to create efficiency.

DSS has no need for the old hospital’s wide corridors. And the old patient rooms are too big for one social service worker, yet too small for two.

Architects estimate the staff would have to be moved for an entire year as renovation took place.

The county would also face the added expense of dealing with the structure’s asbestos and lead-based paint issues.

The low ceilings would present major challenges for installing modern heating, venting and air conditioning.

An additional 15,000 to 20,000 square feet of space would be required to comply with state requirements.

The health department has insufficient parking for clients, especially during times of mass vaccinations, like flu shots.

“I think this is a lesson that all of us should learn,” said Curtis. “The better you take care of your facilities and your belongings, the better off you’re going to be in the long run.”


NOTE: Gracie Mayer won the Building Small Essay Contest held in conjunction with the N.C. Arboretum's Building Small exhibit and sponsored by Smoky Mountain Living. Here is her winning entry:

If you’re wondering what it’s like to live in a church, then you’ve come to the right place. Unless you want a human to tell you, of course. I am a mouse named Jack. Now let’s begin the discussion ...

Every Wednesday and Sunday, this place is busy. Music, singing, I mean everything! Good news though! One word ... communion! Bread and grape juice are my all time favorite snacks. On the flip side, it’s hard getting around on Sunday and Wednesday. Though no one sees me, in the tunnels, it’s dark. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you – Well, if you see a hole in the wall, it’s not the first. You see, there is a hole in every room where the tunnel ends. But the main one is in the narthex. You know, the room in front of the sanctuary? And only the acolytes know about me. My house has lost things like watches, handkerchiefs, cotton, broken glass, gloves, etc. And my diet is ...

1. cheese

2. bread

3. grape juice

4. crackers

5. things acolytes feed me

At Christmas, I take a branch off the Chrismas tree and take popcorn and glass and string it on my tree.

If you think it’s lonely, you’re wrong! I have mouse friends like Sam, Lola, and Ben. They all live with me and play with me. Which brings me to the most exciting part! Are ya’ ready? O.K. Well once, it was only Ben, Lola, and me. (Sam was sick). We were making him a card. So we went around looking for things. When all of a sudden ... a door creaked open and then a giant hissss! We investigated, and we saw the minister’s cat slinking in the office. We screamed and ran, but Lola noticed a special thing; it was a box with tiny jewels we could glue on the card. Lola had saved the day and Sam loved the card. He said it was the best one ever!

Well, that is all I have to tell ya’ ... thanks for coming!!! And I almost forgot to tell you ... if you ever want to drop by, just check the narthex and I’ll be there. And that was Jack the Church Mouse talkin’!


A beekeepers association has formed in Haywood County.

The club meets at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month at the N.C. Cooperative Extension Office in Waynesville off Raccoon Road.

The club has seen a huge level of interest since forming last fall, with as many as 60 people at the meetings.

“The importance of having an association is that everyone who is interested in bees can talk and share their experiences, their problems and their excitement,” said Kathy Taylor, one of the founders of the new club. “Anyone who is interested in beekeeping or learning about bees is welcome to come.”

Bees are vital to pollination of crops, but the wild bee population is declining, making the role of hobby beekeepers more important than ever.

“When I was growing up every farmer had two or three hives,” Taylor said.

Allen Blanton is also a founder of the club.

For more information, contact Taylor at 828.648.0700 or Blanton at 828.400.1735.


Haywood County commissioners are joining a burgeoning nationwide movement that is making use of abandoned Wal-Marts and foresaken strip malls in creative ways.

Deserted Wal-Marts across the country have been reworked into a library, a mega-church, an indoor flea market, an early childhood center, a go-kart track, and even a museum devoted to spam in Minnesota.

Haywood isn’t even the first county to house its Department of Social Services in a Wal-Mart. Orange County and Person County, both in North Carolina, have already taken that step.

Local governments have increasingly taken the reins after locking down replacement retailers for these behemoth stores proved fruitless.

Countless municipalities across the U.S. have experienced the flightiness of corporate giants that plant then quickly uproot their businesses to build bigger and newer somewhere else — leaving the blight of a forlorn big-box strip mall in their wake.

Wal-Mart and Lowe’s seem to be the biggest offenders, according to Meg Ryan O’Donnell, former advisor to a N.C. smart growth commission. O’Donnell dubs the trend “big-box syndrome.”

Those who have gone before

Just like Haywood, Orange County needed a new home for its aged social services building, which had limited space, security and privacy.

“We needed, instead of just a patchwork arrangement, something that would give us a little bit of room to meet needs and be able to expand,” said Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs.

The abandoned Wal-Mart in Orange County sat vacant for a number of years with no takers. A worsened economy certainly didn’t help sell the property.

“There was no movement,” said Jacobs. “It was an eyesore and a drain for the retail establishments that were nearby.”

The county added energy efficient fixtures and windows, and even skylights to the space.

At first Orange County toyed with the idea of converting the old Wal-Mart to a community college before settling instead on DSS as its new occupant.

Jacobs said the county might move the health department there as well, to create a one-stop facility for residents.

Haywood County Manager David Cotton said utilizing the old Wal-Mart would already be an environmentally friendly move.

Renovating the aged DSS building or building a new facility from scratch would lead to much more waste being hauled off to the landfill, Cotton said.

And Haywood hopes to pursue even more green benefits, including a pitched roof, energy-efficient heating and cooling units, solar panels and even roof mounted compact wind turbines.

Jacobs warned that making the structure more durable would be one challenge looming ahead.

“The problem with those buildings, they’re not built to last,” said Jacobs. “They’re just shells with a roof ... In our society, we’re too ready to throw things away.”

Nevertheless, Haywood Commissioner Mark Swanger is strongly in favor of moving into the old Wal-Mart.

“This is the best and highest use for these types of construction,” said Swanger.

What neighbors have to say

Haywood County officials seem confident that the new DSS and health department would bring significant traffic to surrounding businesses, whether it’s from its 200 employees or clients.

“Albeit it’s not going to be the financial economic anchor that Wal-Mart served, but I think it would serve as an anchor for businesses that are there,” said David Cotton, county manager for Haywood.

For example, clients could make one trip to pick up food stamps then head a few doors down to a grocery store to use them, Cotton said.

Cathy McBride, manager at Dollar Tree in the same shopping complex as the abandon Wal-Mart, said her business had actually improved after the giant left town.

But McBride looks forward to Haywood County taking over the vacant space.

“It’ll bring more business to us,” said McBride. “I think it’s good for the area. It looks bad, sitting there empty.”

McBride said she’d appreciate the security of once again walking out to a lit up parking lot at night.

Debra Surrett, an employee at nearby Food Lion, said she also supports Haywood’s move.

“If anyone’s ever been to DSS, it’s old,” said Surrett. “There’s a lot of people coming in there. They need a nicer building.”

Surrett has definitely noticed a decline in customers at the grocery store after Wal-Mart picked up and left. She expects more customers after the county moves in.

“It’s really gonna boost everything in this shopping center,” said Surrett.

While Surrett has heard opponents complain about the county yanking the business out of the tax rolls by taking it over, she said DSS and health department employees deserve a new space.

“Sure it takes taxpayer money, but they serve the county,” said Surrett.


Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park received a record $385,000 from drivers sporting the special “black bear” license plate program in 2009 — the park’s 75th anniversary year.

Support from North Carolinians for the Smokies’ license plates increased $46,720 over 2008, an impressive 12 percent gain.

“Every person who goes to their local license plate agency office and purchases a Smokies plate is helping the park,” said Holly Demuth, the new director of the North Carolina office of Friends of the Smokies. “The support for the Smokies from North Carolinians is robust. Everywhere you look, you see the bear tag.”

Of the extra $30 annual fee for the specialty tag, $20 goes to Friends of the Smokies to support projects and programs on the North Carolina side of the park. Launched in 1999, the Smokies license plate has now raised a grand total of more than $1.8 million.

With these funds, Friends of the Smokies is supporting a wide variety of significant projects and programs in 2009:

• Providing educational programs for local schoolchildren

• Protecting the park’s hemlock forests from the deadly hemlock woolly adelgid.

• Supporting the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center near Maggie Valley.

• Interpreting the area’s cultural history through new exhibits at the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center.

• Creating a permanent legacy of improvements to trails through the Trails Forever endowment.

“Great Smoky Mountains National Park is fortunate to have such strong support from its neighboring states,” said Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. “The specialty license plates are one of the most visible signs of this affinity. After 75 years, the park still has much work to do with conservation, education, trail improvements, and more. We hope people will continue to contribute one plate at a time.” or 828.452.0720.


With so many unknowns ahead, it’s comforting there are proven solutions to one big challenge — the aging of the population. From research, and experience, experts have identified factors for remaining independent, resilient and happy as we grow older. Key among them: nutritious meals; regular exercise; and the opportunity to engage meaningfully with friends and with the broader community.

Obvious, right? So it should be easy to integrate those components into programs and policies. Except for the fact that we’ve organized American life to make them tough to implement at any age.

We’ve grown fat on processed food and little exercise. We’ve abandoned the oldest traditions of community life in villages and towns and sprawled into the countryside. The move has isolated us from one another and exiled us to hours in automobiles commuting to every aspect of our daily lives. As a result, when we get older, we’re often stuck with habits that threaten our health and with environments that inhibit mobility and opportunities for maintaining the connections we need to avoid hospitals and nursing homes.

Demographics and economics are forcing us to take the problem seriously. Between 2000 and 2050, the U.S. population is expected to grow by 48 percent. Over the same period, the demographic category of folks aged 65 to 84 is expected to grow by 114 percent; and the percentage growth of the 85-plus group is projected at 389 percent. In North Carolina, by 2029, 17.2 percent of the population is expected to be 65 or older, compared to 12.2 percent in 2008.

Public agencies and nonprofits at all levels want to ramp up to meet the challenge. But the gap between demand and funding support is huge and getting huger, first because of the sheer numbers, and now because of the economic downturn. So it’s time for individuals and communities to start thinking of do-it-yourself strategies that build on what works for a growing senior population.

For policymakers, the most senior-friendly strategy is to help villages and towns renew walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods with diverse housing choices that serve people of all ages. For those of us who plan to get old, it’s time to take charge of this stage of our lives. If we want the infrastructure, emergency services, and amenities of in-town living, let’s build or redevelop neighborhoods in towns instead of insisting developers and county governments deliver town-like services in remote places.

For those with a gift for organization, there’s a growing movement of senior “co-housing” in which potential neighbors come together before there’s a physical neighborhood. They decide on elements of the environment they want, then hire design and construction teams to build it. Cohousing neighborhoods already exist in Asheville and throughout North Carolina. New groups are forming all the time. The idea aligns perfectly with what is already a strong desire for more alternatives for town living and with innovative developers’ projects that tap into the best tradition of compact, connected neighborhoods.

(Ben Brown is a Franklin-based writer and communications consultant who works with private sector clients and governments on Smart Growth planning. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)


Area music fans will have a unique opportunity to help make history as a bluegrass/gospel music legend celebrates the 30th anniversary of his solo career with a live DVD recording session and concert at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts.

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver will take the stage with cameras rolling at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15, in the 1,500-seat center in Franklin.

Lawson’s distinguished career spans more than 40 years and 40 albums. Along with his band Quicksilver, he’s earned numerous industry awards including seven consecutive “Vocal Group of the Year” awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association. He’s also received several Grammy nominations and four Dove Award nominations over the last decade.

The National Endowment for the Arts honored Lawson in 2006 with a prestigious National Heritage Fellowship at its annual ceremony in Washington, D.C. It’s the country’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, putting Lawson among a select group of performers including Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, and Doc Watson, among others.

Rounder records recently released Lawson’s latest album “Lonely Street,” which marked the 30th anniversary of his solo career, but he’s been a professional musician for nearly 50 years.

“The adventure is still unfolding and nowhere near complete, but if the story of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver were a novel, it would be hailed as a masterpiece,” according to The site called Lonely Street a “razor-sharp display of bluegrass virtuosity.”

The August 2009 cover story on Web site calls Lawson “one of the most revered artists on the contemporary bluegrass scene.”

For videos and music downloads, visit or

$15 per ticket at, 828.273.4615, or at 1028 Georgia Road in Franklin.


A failed megadevelopment in the Lake Lure area around Chimney Rock has been conserved at a fire sale price, but a state budget crunch is leaving a local land trust with a big fundraising goal to pay for the conservation effort.

Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy purchased a 1,527-acre tract north of Lake Lure in Rutherford County that was once part of the 4000-acre “Grey Rock at Lake Lure” residential subdivision. The developer, Orlando-based Land Resources, filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and abandoned the development.

“It is relatively rare for tracts of this size and significance to become available for conservation,” said CMLC Executive Director Kieran Roe. “I believe the community will look back in coming years and feel very gratified that conservationists stepped up and acquired this gem for the enjoyment of present and future generations.”

The conservancy purchased the land for $2.29 million, or $1,500 per acre — which is one-third the $4,500 per acre value established in a recent property appraisal.

A gift of $620,000 from a North Carolina philanthropist provided a down payment, but Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy had to take out $1.95 million in loans to finance the purchase of the tract, known as Weed Patch Mountain.

“We simply couldn’t afford to put Weed Patch in the ‘gone forever’ column,” says David Efird, Lake Lure resident and CMLC trustee. “Weed Patch will be huge in terms of recreation and preserved green space in the area. A win for everybody.”

The nonprofit now has a steep road ahead, however, to raise the money need to pay off the loans, which were made by Conservation Trust for North Carolina and the Norcross Wildlife Foundation.

Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy would like to transfer the property to the state for inclusion in Chimney Rock State Park.

However, state revenue shortfalls have placed a strain on public sources of conservation funding such as the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund and Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.

“There is a possibility the land will be added to Chimney Rock State Park, but with the state revenue situation, the state can’t commit itself right now,” Roe said. “Even if it is never added to the park, the Weed Patch Mountain tract will continue to protect views from the park and provide a buffer of conserved green space.”

A corridor of protected property around Chimney Rock State Park has been expanding exponentially in recent years thanks to a combination of state funding, private philanthropists and the work of land trusts in finding new properties.

Fast action by the private conservation groups allowed the tracts to be saved from development when the opportunity arose and until the state could earmark funds for the acquisition.

To date, 4,320 acres have been set aside for the park. Additional property in the area is privately owned but protected through a conservation agreement between the landowner and a land trust or owned by a land trust itself.

“Conservation of Weed Patch Mountain adds another protected emerald to the crown of conserved land near Chimney Rock State Park,” said says Lynn Carnes Pitts, CMLC vice president.

The tract provides an essential link for the “Six Summits Trail,” a network of trails envisioned by local hikers that could one-day circumnavigate Lake Lure.

The tract is home to scenic ridges, distinctive rock outcrops, dense hardwood forests and abundant trout streams.

The property, a state-designated Significant Natural Heritage Area, is home to rare species such as the green salamander. The low elevation cliff and rock outcrops on the property have been identified in the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission’s State Wildlife Action Plan as critical habitats for several rare birds and amphibians.

“If homes were to start popping up on Weed Patch, it would not only take away a beautiful vista, but more importantly it would disturb the ground, increase muddy runoff and make it harder for water to penetrate the bedrock that refreshes Lake Lure,” Pitts said. or call 828.697.5777.


What to say about 2009? How about this: it ended on a high note for the overall economy, and that is good for the citizens of this country and this region.

Here’s a sampling of the business news that bodes well for the coming year. A report released Jan. 4 from the Commerce Department shows that the U.S. manufacturing sector grew in November at its fastest pace in four years. That was the fifth consecutive month of growth for the U.S. manufacturing sector.

Overall, the economy is beginning to grow. Fourth quarter figures are not tabulated yet, but the U.S. economy grew by 2.2 percent in the third quarter (July through September 2009). That news came on the heels of four consecutive quarters of a shrinking economy, the worst four-quarter performance since the 1930s.

We’re still losing jobs, but that may end soon. Economists expect data released this week to show that about 8,000 jobs were lost in December after 11,000 were eliminated in November. In the first quarter of 2009, the U.S. economy was shedding about 500,000 jobs a month, so businesses large and small seem to have reached their new employment level.

Although there are still many weak areas — particularly construction spending, which has fallen to its lowest level since July 2003 — overall this economy feels like it is moving forward. In Haywood County, four of the last five months have seen an increase in the number of houses sold — year over year — and an increase in the dollar value of those homes. As houses move and the backlog of available properties decreases, that should lead to a corresponding increase in construction spending. Similar increases, slight though some of them are, are being reported in other Western North Carolina counties.

The stock market is making up for the losses of the last couple of years, and the Federal Reserve has made a point of saying interest rates are going to remain low.

Here’s why the economic news is good for everyone. First, families and individuals will feel the benefit as the rising tide lifts almost all ships. As those still employed feel more secure in their jobs and as some employers even make new hires, these people can plan ahead for their family’s well being rather than continue living paycheck to paycheck. Those who have dropped health insurance or quit saving for their retirement or their kids’ college can once again look to the future and put a few bucks away.

Small businesses, brutalized over the last couple of years, may finally have the funds to begin making purchases and getting caught up on the debt accumulated from just staying alive. The economic benefits from these small companies becoming confident can lift entire communities.

And as families and small businesses get better off, tax revenues to local, state and federal coffers will increase. Many detest taxes of every kind, but we also believe that quality public schools, community colleges and universities, well-maintained law enforcement and rescue departments, the continued delivery of social services and public healthcare services, and a strong public sector make for a stronger economy and stronger communities. Government at all levels needs money, and as the business climate brightens so do the prospects for government workers and all the public services that help make this country such a unique place.

We don’t want a return to the falsely inflated economy of two years ago. What we need is a slow, steady turnaround that rewards those with good habits, fosters a healthy business climate and provides opportunity for those willing to work for it. The beginning of 2010 points to just such a scenario.


The stunning beauty that surrounds U.S. 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park outside Cherokee draws thousands of tourists each year who come to enjoy the cool mountain summers or marvel at the vivid fall foliage along the route.

But come winter, the crowds fall away and a layer of peace and quiet descends over the peaks and valleys — making this season the perfect time to enjoy a serene experience on the state’s newest Scenic Byway.

The 17-mile Smoky Mountain Scenic Byway begins at the foot of the Blue Ridge Parkway outside Cherokee and snakes north through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park until it hits the Tennessee border. Also known as Newfound Gap Road, the byway possesses an abundance of scenic views, historical spots and recreational opportunities to enjoy during the winter months.

The road begins next to the Oconaluftee Visitors Center, open year-round, which features a bookstore and exhibits dedicated to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. An on-duty park ranger is available here to provide information about the Park and the people who once lived there. Don’t miss the Mountain Farm Museum next door, comprised of pioneer buildings.

A half mile further down the road is Mingus Mill, an 1886 water turbine mill that for more than 50 years ground corn into meal and wheat for the Mingus community.

Past the mill, the byway starts its ascent, eventually climbing a total of about 3,000 feet. The lack of foliage on the trees only serves to enhance the spectacular mountain vistas along the drive, and clearer visibility during the winter months allows visitors to see a further distance than at any other time of year.

Take in the view about 11.5 miles up the road at the Webb Overlook, named for Sen. Charles Webb of North Carolina, a staunch supporter of the park’s establishment. Or journey another two miles up the road to the Oconaluftee Valley Overlook, which boasts spectacular views of the Oconaluftee River Valley below.

The Smoky Mountain Scenic Byway culminates at Newfound Gap, an evergreen spruce-fir forest that straddles the border of North Carolina and Tennessee at an elevation of 5,046 feet. It was here that President Franklin D. Roosevelt officially dedicated the park in 1940. The location is now the site of the Rockefeller Memorial, built to memorialize the support and $5 million donated by the Rockefeller family to help establish the park.

At Newfound Gap, a seven-mile spur road winding up to Clingmans Dome is closed in the winter, but provides a venue for walking and cross-country skiing. Hiking opportunities can also be found at several other points along the byway.

Fewer crowds and bare trees make winter the perfect season to admire the stunning backdrop of the Smoky Mountain Scenic Byway.

This article was written by Julia Merchant, a former reporter at the Smoky Mountain News, who now works as a communications officer for the N.C. Department of Transportation in Raleigh.


Through the park

While U.S. 441 through the Smokies isn’t the official detour around the I-40 rockslide, it could be the best bet depending on where you are heading in Tennessee.

Snow does fall in the Smokies during the winter and sometimes results in road closures. Visitors should check weather and road conditions prior to making the trip by calling the National Park Service hotline at 865.436.1200.


Loaded guns are now legal in national parks.

The new rule is two years in the making. Previously, guns had to be unloaded and stowed in the trunks of vehicles when traveling through a park. While hunting or firing a gun in a park is still illegal, visitors can now tote loaded guns freely per the firearm rules of neighboring states. Locally, that means the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

A move to lift the ban on guns in parks was pushed by the Bush Administration during its final months in power, but was staved off by lawsuits.

The Obama Administration then inherited the issue. It was tabled for study along with a host of other regulations left as a parting gift by the outgoing Bush administration, which is typical of outgoing administrations.

Before the Obama Administration could take up the issue and before the lawsuits played out, Congress passed a law lifting the ban on guns in parks. That trumped any debate over the rule change by simply making it law. The vote was last summer, but the law went into effect Feb. 22.

The law received stiff opposition from the national park traveling public, environmental groups and various park ranger associations, including the U.S. Park Rangers Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police.

“This law is a very bad idea,” said Bill Wade, chair for the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees.

Loaded guns increases the likelihood of opportunistic shooting at wildlife, or pot shots at everything from park signs to historic landmarks. A camper startled by a bear might pull out their gun and fire indiscriminately, posing a risk to campers nearby.

“Visitors will not only be more at risk, but will now see national parks as places where they need to be more suspicious and wary of others carrying guns, rather than safe and at peace in the solitude and sanctuary that parks have always provided. It is a sad chapter in the history of America’s premier heritage area system,” Wade said.

Hunting is still illegal in national parks. Sometimes hunters on adjacent land have to cross into a national park to retrieve hunting dogs gone astray. They typically hide their guns in the leaves or under a bush or take them back to their vehicles first.

Despite the new law, that’s still the best course of action, said Bob Miller, spokesperson for the Smokies. Wandering about the park with a shotgun in hunting gear during hunting season looks a lot like illegally hunting in the park, and could result in a ticket, Miller said.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is cautioning visitors to make sure they can legally possess a firearm under local, state and federal laws, which is a criteria for carrying one in a national park.

“Our goal is to provide safe, enjoyable park visits for everyone, and to preserve this very special place for people today and future generations,” said Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis.


There are three district court judge seats up for election this year. Candidates must designate which seat they are running for. The race is non-partisan. Two candidates for each seat will advance past the May primary to the general election in November.


Seat 1

• Danya Vanhook, 31, Waynesville*

• Donna Forga, 46, Waynesville


Seat 2

• Caleb Rogers, 29, Waynesville

• Kris Earwood, 32, Sylva

• David Sutton, 34, Waynesville

• Justin Greene, 30, Bryson City

• Greg Boyer, 60, Franklin


Seat 3

• Steve Ellis, 60, Waynesville

• Roy Wijewickrama, 34, Waynesville


*Vanhook currently holds this seat after being appointed to a vacancy last year.


The starting salary for a judge is $109,000, but can climb much higher for judges with a long tenure thanks to cost of living raises plus a bump in pay for every five years spent on the bench.

Judge Steve Bryant now makes $132,000 a year.

“There are certainly lawyers making more than that and certainly lawyers making less than that,” Bryant said.

These days, however, with the recession taking its toll on the legal profession, there are far more lawyers below that figure than there used to be. Candidates have to plunk down $1,094 to run — 1 percent of the salary.

The job isn’t a cakewalk. While attorneys who labor 10 hours a day envy the judge that strolls up to the bench at 9:30 a.m. to start court, breaks for lunch between 12:30 and 2, then knocks off at 5, it’s not what it appears.

“I think people have the perception that everything you do takes place on the bench,” Bryant said.

But Bryant regularly takes work home to research case files and legal precedent, working nights and weekends.

And that doesn’t count the driving time. In a judicial district that spans seven counties — a more than two-hour drive from tip to tip — judges travel from courthouse to courthouse wherever they are needed.

“You can’t just decide to take a day off because there are 400 people waiting on you,” Judge Danny Davis said.

The district was so large and unwieldy — and had grown so much in case volume — that an additional judge’s seat was added four years ago, bringing the total to six seats.


The recession has been good news for landfills.

Due to the economic downturn, less trash was thrown in landfills in North Carolina last year than any year in the past two decades. The biggest reduction in trash came from the construction industry, which is a significant contributor to landfills.

Trash in landfills amounted to 1.07 tons per capita in 2008-09 — a sharp decline from the previous year and the lowest disposal rate since 1995, according to the “North Carolina Solid Waste Management Annual Report.”

The report also found that:

More glass, plastic and aluminum were recycled than ever before. One reason for the uptick in recycling could be the new state law that went into effect in 2008 requiring any restaurant with an ABC permit to serve beer or alcohol must recycle.

Curbside recycling programs had better numbers than recycling at drop-off centers. The report recommends increasing state oversight to prevent banned materials from making it into landfills, including aluminum cans and plastic bottles.


A bill before Congress could help save views along the Blue Ridge Parkway by setting aside $75 million over five years to buy adjacent land threatened by development.

Blue Ridge Parkway Protection Act was introduced in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Parkway this year, and out of growing recognition that the disappearing viewsheds along the Parkway are undermining what makes the scenic journey special.

“The Blue Ridge Parkway offers some of the most spectacular mountain views in the nation, and this legislation will preserve those views for our children and grandchildren,” U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, said.

Shuler cited the important role of the Parkway for locals, who use it to reach recreational outposts and favorite outdoor spots, as well as its source of tourism revenue.

“It is imperative that we protect it,” Shuler said.

The funding should be enough to protect 50,000 acres. Land would only be bought from willing sellers, allowing the Parkway to buy land when it goes up for sale rather than seeing it get snatched up by developers.

An economic study by professors at Warren Wilson and UNC-Asheville directly linked declining views with a drop in Parkway visitation, and in turn a loss of dollars for communities along the Parkway’s route. The Parkway is an economic driver for the region, generating about $2.3 billion in economic activity in both states annually.

“This legislation calls for a wise investment in the long-term health of the Parkway and the tourism economies of communities near this national treasure,” said Reid Wilson, executive director of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, which works to protect land along the Parkway.

The act was supported in the Senate by Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan of North Carolina, as well as a Virginia delegation and other House representatives from both states as well.


A group of Christians paid a visit to Haywood County commissioners Monday night to urge them to pray to Jesus when opening each meeting.

Commissioner Kevin Ensley, the sole commissioner who referred to Jesus during invocations, decided in late January to refrain from praying at all since he couldn’t legally mention the word “Jesus” while leading public prayer.

Ensley’s decision was prompted by a recent court ruling in Forsyth County that struck down overt Christian prayers by commissioners. Generic prayer, however, is fully acceptable by legal standards.

The Forsyth ruling was not revolutionary. It has been widely established that prayers by government officials during public meetings specifically referring to “Jesus” violate the First Amendment, which holds that the state cannot endorse any one religion.

Speakers urged Haywood commissioners to engage in civil disobedience, arguing that there are some principles worth fighting for.

They vehemently opposed praying to an unknown God to satisfy the minority and called for a vote by citizens on the issue.

“The majority’s with the believers, with the Christians,” said one speaker, emphasizing that he only votes for conservative, Christian leaders.

“Prayer in any other name other than the name of Jesus is an empty prayer,” said Reverend Roy Kilby, who asked commissioners if they are Christians. All five of them raised their hands.

Shortly after the public comment period ended, Ensley said he had changed his mind and wanted to be included in the prayer rotation for meetings again. He said he would recite the opening and closing lines of the Lord’s Prayer, which does not expressly mention “Jesus” but still implies Christianity.

Ensley said he understood that folks were upset, but that he was glad that he helped revive the tradition of a prayer to open commissioner meetings shortly after he was elected.

“I’m glad we at least have it,” said Ensley.

Most commissioners indicated their devotion to Christianity, but said they must respect the separation of church and state.

Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick stated he went to one of the few Christian law schools in the country, while Commissioner Skeeter Curtis said he’d only stop praying when Washington did.

Commissioner Bill Upton emphasized that he doesn’t have to use “Jesus” to validate his prayer.

“I know who I’m talking to. That’s the important thing,” said Upton. “I know who the Heavenly Father is, and I don’t back up from that.”


The 3rd Annual Youth Art Festival will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18, at the Jackson County Green Energy Park.

Opportunities abound for hands-on art activities such as sidewalk chalk, mural painting, tile mosaics, paper weaving, hand-building with clay and tile painting. Experience professional artists demonstrating their abilities with hot glass, basket-weaving, pottery, blacksmithing, painting, drawing and more.

New this year, there will be a stage with entertainment throughout the day. Guest performing artists include a Mexican Mariachi band, Cherokee traditional dancers, a jazz quintet, numerous local musicians and performing artists, a dancing trash dragon, and Western Carolina University’s esteemed Gamelan group.

“The festival is a great opportunity for local youth to get creative themselves while they watch artists and entertainers perform and demonstrate,” said Carrie Blaskowski with the Jackson County Green Energy Park. “We hope to see many families come out and take advantage of the opportunity.”

Blaskowski said the event wouldn’t be possible without the support of Western Carolina University and Southwestern Community College.

“Many of the participants, entertainers, volunteers and artists are students, faculty and staff from the university and from SCC. It has been a great collaborative effort,” Blaskowski  said.

This event is free and open to the public. The Green Energy Park is located off Haywood Road near the Huddle House in Dillsboro. Free shuttle and overflow parking runs every 10 minutes from the Monteith Park near downtown Dillsboro.



The second annual Sept. 11 “Never Forget” tribute and candlelight memorial will honor first responders who serve every day to protect the citizens of Haywood County. The tribute begins at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 11 at the historic Haywood Country Courthouse in Waynesville.  

The “Rolling Parade” of service vehicles begins on Main Street at 6:30 p.m. and will include vehicles from the fire departments, police station, sheriff’s office and EMS from across the county.

Two of the large ladder trucks will be set up on Depot Street to display the enormous American flag across the courthouse lawn.

Presentations will begin at 7 p.m. and will include live music and patriotic songs. It will close with a candlelight memorial for those first responders that lost their lives on 9/11 as well as at other times.


Assessing suicide risk is the topic of a daylong professional development workshop to be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10, at Western Carolina University. Lunch is included.

“Assessing and Managing Suicide Risk” will include lectures, exercises, journaling and group discussion.

Participants also will watch a video and receive a training manual. They will gain knowledge in maintaining an effective attitude and approach; collecting accurate assessment information; formulating risk; developing a treatment and services plan; and managing care.

Glen Martin of Counseling and Wellness Services at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will lead the workshop.

Registration required. Contact Susan Fouts at 828.227.3688 or visit


Grace Episcopal Church in Waynesville again will devote all the proceeds from its annual parish fair to mission outreach grants. The church invites local non-profit service agencies and organizations to submit applications by Sept. 15.

Last year the church awarded more than $8,500 to local service providers. Most grants are $500 or less. Greater consideration is given to applications that would aid a specific project rather than simply add to ordinary operating funds.

Forms for the applications may be picked up at the church office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Applicants should mail the information to the Mission Outreach Committee, Grace Church in the Mountains, 394 N. Haywood St., Waynesville. Additional information is available at the church office, 828.456.6029.


Haywood County resident and Lake Junaluska Peace Conference Committee Chairman Garland Young and United Methodist Bishop Ken Carder will appear on UNC TV’s “North Carolina People” with Dr. Bill Friday at 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 10, and at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 12.

Dr. Friday, Young and Carder discussed the upcoming Lake Junaluska Peace Conference, which focuses on Peace for the World’s Children. Almost 200 persons will participate in this event, including children, youth, and adults.

The Lake Junaluska Peace Conference features Dr. Marian Wright Edleman, the president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund, along with Dr. Jeni Stepanek, a noted advocate for children’s and families’ needs in health and education, Bishop Carder, and Dr. Luther E. Smith of the Candler School of Theology, Emory University.

For more information about the Peace Conference, visit or call 828.454.6656.


Conservative candidates running for the Jackson County commission, state legislative offices and judgeships will be speaking at a “Meet Conservative Candidates” event from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 9, at the Savannah Community Center in Jackson Country. The Jackson County GOP is sponsoring the event and will be providing refreshments.

Voters interested in hearing the candidate platforms are urged to attend. Additional candidate events are scheduled for September 23 in Cullowhee, October 7 in Qualla, and October 21 in Sylva. Locations for the September and October events are to be announced. Contact Ralph Slaughter, 828.586.9895 or 828.743.6491.


“The New Model for Youth Basketball” camp, led by former ASU and Georgia Tech Coach Kevin Cantwell, will take place at Waynesville Recreation Center from Sept. 13 through Oct. 26.

Cantwell is the current head basketball coach of Carolina Day School and former coach of UNC Asheville, Appalachian State and Georgia Tech. He has been in nine NCAA Tournaments, one Final Four, three ACC Championships, two NIT Tournaments and 15 in-season tournament championships. He also has coached and recruited a total of 24 NBA players.

The camp will held from 6 to 7 p.m. for grades four through six and from 7 to 8 p.m. for grades seven and eight on Monday and Tuesday nights. Space is limited. The cost is $125 per player for 14 sessions.

Register at For information contact the Waynesville Recreation Center at 456.2030 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Dr. Kate Queen will address “Building Better Balance” during a lunch and learn session from noon to 1 p.m. Monday, Sept. 27, at on the second floor of Haywood Regional Health & Fitness Center. She will be joined by a team of professionals from the rehabilitation department who provide balance services.

Queen is a physician at Mountain Medical Associates in Clyde, specializing in rheumatology. She diagnoses and treats diseases and disorders of the joints and bones, and problems associated with arthritis diseases.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 828.452.8881.


The Haywood County Board of Realtors is organizing a Build Day for Habitat for Humanity on Sept. 16 at Barefoot Ridge in Clyde.

Realtors and others who would like to take part in the event should be ready to work from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lot 8 in Barefoot Ridge. Workers will help with the foundation of the house. Lunch will be provided.

To volunteer, contact Margie MacDonald at 828.734.9265 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina will raffle off a Smoky Mountain cabin to benefit its efforts to recruit, screen, train and support caring adults who want to make a difference in the life of a child.

The two-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot log cabin is in the Deep Creek area outside Bryson City. Tickets are available until Oct. 7 at and the grand prize drawing will be held Oct. 14.

The Smoky Mountain Cabin Raffle will include bonus drawings on a one-week stay at a cabin provided by Hidden Creek Cabins, a whitewater rafting trip down the legendary Nantahala River provided by Paddle Inn Rafting and a $1,000 cash prize drawing.


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