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Whitewater clubs from across the Southeast will have their final showdown for the Canoe Club Cup at the Nantahala Outdoor Center Saturday, August 14.

A downriver race starts at 10 a.m.

Going into the final race of the three-race series, the Atlanta Whitewater Club is slightly ahead of the Carolina Canoe Club in the contest for first place. The winning club gets a Jackson Kayak Villain.

Meanwhile, the slalom course set up between the bridges at Nantahala Outdoor Center is open to anyone for a “first timer friendly” slalom course race. Boaters can go through the course as many times as they want between 4 and 6 p.m. with only their best time counting. Unlike pro races, there are no penalties for hitting a gate, but paddlers must go through each gate in the correct order. NOC will give out prizes such as free gear or gift cards to paddlers with the best time, most runs, etc.

Live music and awards will be at 8 p.m. at The Pourover.

800.232.7238 or www.noc.com/noccom/festivals-a-events/canoe-club-challenge.

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Mary J. Messer, author of the newly published Appalachian memoir Moonshiner’s Daughter, will be at Blue Ridge Books at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14.

In the book, Messer wrote about her memories growing up in the Smokies during the ‘40s and ‘50s. 

“It’s not always a comfortable story to read, but it is truly uplifting because she was able to survive and overcome the poverty and abuse that she experienced as a child,” said Allison Best-Teague, co-owner of Blue Ridge Books.  

Messer is donating a portion of the sales of Moonshiner’s Daughter to REACH of Haywood to support their mission of intervention-prevention of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse.

828.456.6000 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. www.moonshinersdaughter.com.

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A special children’s storytime (adults are welcome) devoted to the elk of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14, at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva.

In attendance will be Patty Davis and Esther Blakely, volunteers with the Park’s Bugle Corps that tracks the elk population and educates the public about these animals that were re-introduced to the Smokies. They will bring a wealth of “visual aids” to teach children and adults about the elk.

For more information contact City Lights at 828.586.9499.

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By Kirkwood Callahan • Guest Columnist

Haywood County Commissioners on Aug. 16 will conduct a public hearing on a $12 million, 15-year loan request by Haywood Community College. Most of the loan would finance a new creative arts building on the main campus.

Haywood taxpayers would be wise to follow this final chapter in a protracted effort to build a $10.3 million structure whose design symbolizes a faith in green technology. Citizen focus should not only be on the high costs — up to $293 a square foot (* see below), more than double the cost of  replacing a middle school building in the county — but also  the problematic issues the collegiate planners must confront to bring their green aspirations to fruition.

First some background.

In a May 2008 referendum Haywood voters approved a quarter cent sales tax that the sitting county commission had earmarked for capital projects at the college prior to the referendum. Under state law the county is obligated to fund the college’s construction costs. However, state legislators and bureaucrats set construction standards for public colleges that exceed those required of private sector buildings. An example is a 2008 law that requires energy efficiency to exceed code by more than 30 percent. Indoor water consumption efficiency must exceed code by at least 20 percent.    

Every time someone flushes at the ne building, government will be keeping score. Water and energy uses will be verified by metering. (See www.haywood.edu/, click on “About HCC,” click on Creative Arts Building)    

All aspects of the 36,000-square-foot building are affected by the desire to be “green.” A much greater extensive plumbing architecture is required for the reuse of rainwater in lavatories, urinals and sinks, and green technology extends to walls, slabs, roofing, and solar absorption cooling and thermal panels.

I spoke via phone with Mike Nicklas, president of Innovative Design of Raleigh, the building’s architects. Nicklas is an engaging advocate of solar and other green technology. He states that a “life cycle cost analysis” was performed early in the design process. The rainwater re-use systems will have 7 to 8 year pay backs, he says. (see www.innovativedesign.net/ )

Nicklas stakes hopes for great savings on a “solar developer approach” approved recently in a split 6-5 decision by the college’s Board of Trustees. The board also selected FLS Energy for contract negotiations. The objective is to have FLS install and maintain the solar thermal heating/cooling system and photovoltaic cells, one source of the building’s power. FLS as a private entity could receive many state and federal credits for solar energy while leasing the system from the college. The designer says the lease payments can be used to buy the system in seven years. He predicts eventual positive cash flow, energy savings of 69 percent, and substantial upfront reduction in constructions costs. Excess power could be sold to utilities.

But it is the certainty of these high front-end costs with future paybacks dependent upon complex contractual relationships that raises great concerns.   Commissioner Kevin Ensley has been the most vocal critic on the Haywood county board. He has pointed repeatedly to the project’s high construction costs, and voiced his willingness to vote against the loan request.

Similar “green” aspirations for academic buildings are not without their critics elsewhere. Last August the Civitas Review (Civitas Institute of Raleigh) published a strong rebuttal to the building of green schools in the state and nation, including its findings that, “Whatever savings accrue, however, are offset by higher building costs.”  

Though conclusions may vary about the cost benefits of green technology, one reality dominates my analysis. Significant financial uncertainties remain in the case of the proposed HCC building. Good green outcomes can not be guaranteed by yet to be demonstrated contractual relationships. The county would be taking great risks to achieve 69 percent energy savings — 39 percent (** see below) more than that required by state law — with design costs of the proposed building close to $1 million.

There is one contractual relationship that is certain — that between the county and the taxpayers who pay HCC’s construction bills. That relationship is under stress. While the 15-year loan may require most if not all of the quarter cent sales tax proceeds, HCC president Dr. Rose Johnson seeks additional county money for capital improvements.

Those who are eager to spend more on HCC should consider the recession battered Haywood taxpayers. Since the passage of the quarter cent sales tax for the college, the state has increased sales tax another full cent so that Haywood citizens now pay a 8 percent rate on most purchases. The state and nation face dire fiscal problems. County commissioners should say no to the loan request and make certain that future construction planning is guided by clear and certain cost guidelines.

Put the Haywood taxpayer first.

(Kirkwood Callahan is retired and lives in Waynesville. He has taught government and public administration at four southern universities. He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

* The $293 per square foot calculation is based on total project cost, which includes parking lot construction and demolition of an existing building on the site. It also excludes certain areas of the building that are covered but not heated, such as outdoor kilns, dye and woodworking areas.

** This number includes solar panels, however those are considered optional and are not included in the construction costs. Factoring these out, the building exceeds state standards by 20 percent.

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To the Editor:

The standing-room-only Aug. 2 public hearing of the Franklin Town Board of Alderman regarding the development of a Wal-Mart Supercenter was an object lesson in how politics trumps reason at every turn. It’s bad enough when partisan politics and posturing rear their ugly heads in Washington, but when it shows up on our own doorstep, then it’s time for local government officials to take a good hard look in the mirror. Hopefully, they can see their reflection.

If news reports covering the hearing are accurate, what transpired that evening was nothing more than a preordained exercise in folly starting with Mayor Joe Collins condescendingly grabbing a Bible to remind the congregation that their opinions on the subject were irrelevant.

Add to the general silliness the fact that Alderman Bob Scott was forced to recuse himself from the proceedings because he, perish the thought, conducted a survey on the issue to gauge the public’s feelings on the matter. How’s that for a footprint, Mr. Scott?

Then came another big surprise when real estate developer Marty Kimsey, spoke in favor of the project using the hackneyed argument that somehow a Super Wal-Mart will magically help ease the job woes of the local citizenry. Mr. Kimsey’s insinuation that a “bottom line” of economic despair may ensue if the project is rejected was nothing more than fear mongering, a tactic no doubt appreciated by the Wal-Mart developers sitting nearby. Sorry Mr. Kimsey, but the only bottom line in this equation is Wal-Mart’s share price.

But let’s not point fingers at our hard-working aldermen who voted unanimously to approve the special use permit despite a chorus of public opposition during the meeting. Instead, let’s examine some well-established, indisputable facts about the impact Wal-Mart makes on small communities like Franklin.

First, Wal-Mart does not lead to net retail job creation. Second, small businesses are particularly hurt by Wal-Mart’s entry, causing “a substantial reduction in net employment growth at smaller retailers,” according to a 2009 study by the U.S. Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies.

Third, Wal-Mart stores generate a significant amount of traffic congestion. In fact, the average-size Wal-Mart Supercenter will generate nearly 10,000 car trips per day. Fourth, Wal-Mart abandons stores throughout the country. Wal-Mart’s own realty website lists almost 200 abandoned stores. Abandoned stores and vast parking lots are a haven for crime and vandalism.

Franklin government officials have spent hours of taxpayer time trying to figure out how to make this area a “destination location.” Why they foolishly believe a Super Wal-Mart will better enhance Franklin’s appeal for visitors is a mystery. What makes a destination desirable today is focusing on what makes it unique, not what makes it redundant. To use Mayor Collins’ expression, that’s a no-brainer. Too bad it’s a no-brainer he and the Franklin aldermen have failed to embrace.

Carol J. Ramsey

Cowee

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To the Editor:

In response to Jim McCarthy’s Aug. 3 letter, “County pay raises gone afoul,” I want to thank him for his diligence into this matter and support him and the Jackson County Citizen Action Group in their request for an investigation to determine if intentional misconduct was carried out by county personnel in implementing raises.

As a former county employee, I was present when the Mercer’s report was implemented. As each of us had spoken to Mercer representatives and had filled out questionnaires, many employees were curious about the results of the report. However, we were not given copies of the Mercer report. 

When county salaries were listed in local newspapers, county employees were shocked by the huge raises that were given at the middle and top of the pay scale. Most employees at the bottom of the pay scale received raises near and even less than they would have received if the previous step raises and cost-of-living raises had been maintained.

I want to believe that our elected commissioners knew nothing about the way the Mercer report was implemented. If it is their belief that the report was used legitimately, then they need to address this matter. 

However, if commissioners suspect the report was twisted to benefit upper management, they need to do something about it. Either way, do something.

Commissioners advocated that the Mercer raises would make county positions more competitive, especially starting salaries. However, the Mercer report stated that mid-point and maximum salaries were already well above the surrounding average and that only minimum salaries needed adjustment.

Those at the bottom of the pay scale work long hours, performing the work that upper management wouldn’t consider doing. They are good people, and making around $20,000 a year, they are living from paycheck to paycheck like most Americans. These employees have no human resources department and a human resources manual that is a joke. Taking advantage of them is wrong — on so many levels.

Deidre Parris,

Sylva

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Editor’s note: Margaret Osondu’s bookstore was bought out by a competitor, Blue Ridge Books and News. Osondu remained on staff for a few months after the merger, but the bookstore was sold again and Osondu’s position was eliminated. She now works for Grateful Steps Publishing House in Asheville, which will soon be opening a retail bookstore to compliment the publishing business. Osondu continues to live in Waynesville.

To the Editor:

I want to thank all the staff at The Smoky Mountain News for their support of Osondu Bookseller. I was wise to come to Waynesville to have a book business. I did not know it when I first got here, but I learned quickly.

From the first day people in Haywood County welcomed me. When all the books were falling off the shelves and I could not figure it out, John Gernandt came down and explained what I needed to do. People came and supported Osondu Booksellers by purchasing books and teaching us their interests so we could better provide for our readers.

In Waynesville, I had volunteers working in my store. Imagine a community where a bookstore is important enough for folks to volunteer to help support the shop. Without all of them, we would have been less than who we were. We were a community bookstore not just because of me but also because of the community’s commitment to literature, to authors, and to each other.

It was a fantastic experience and one that I will cherish always. I learned much about books and though I knew I loved books, I had no idea how deep that passion was until I actually was there day in and day out thinking, reading, talking and playing all about books. Bookworld, as I say, is my passion.

Thank you all.

Margaret Osondu

Waynesville

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Haywood Community College will offer Medical Office Assistant, Nurse Aide I, and Phlebotomy courses in August through the JobsNOW Program.

Students in the programs can obtain a certificate in less than six months that includes workplace readiness skills and completion of a Career Readiness Certificate.

The Medical Office Assistant certificate will run Aug. 16 to Dec. 14. Graduates qualify for employment in medical and dental offices, hospitals, insurance companies, laboratories, medical supply companies, and other health care related organizations.

The Nurse Aide I course will run Aug. 23 to Dec. 29. The course prepares students to provide care and perform basic nursing skills for the elderly and other adults.

The Phlebotomy course will run Aug. 18 to Oct. 1. The course includes classroom, lab, and clinical practice.

Call Rinda Green 828.565.4243.

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Lake Junaluska Assembly will hold its African-American Clergy Health Summit September 27 to 28. Participants will participate in a self-care covenant workshop designed specifically for African-American clergy, which reflects the health summit’s theme, “Wanting to Heal and Be Healed,” John 5: 1-9.

The Self-Care Covenant workshop is an interactive session where attendees can evaluate personal dimensions of health and well-being related to their daily life and work. Each workshop is planned and led by trainers within the annual conferences, and will provide a structured opportunity for individuals to examine their current choices within the areas of mental and emotional health, physical health, social health, and spiritual health.

Early registration open until Aug. 31. www.lakejunaluska.com/health-summit or call 828.454.6656.

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Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western North Carolina will hold the 1st Annual Smoky Mountain Cabin Raffle to benefit its efforts to recruit, screen, train and support caring adults who want to make a difference in the life of a child.

Tickets are available for purchase until Oct. 7 at www.LogCabinRaffle.org 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.

www.bbbswnc.org  and  www.LogCabinRaffle.org.

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Neighbor to Family, a nonprofit aimed at improving foster care by keeping siblings together, is offering free classes to potential foster parents.

Classes will be held at the Neighbor to Family office beginning with an orientation class at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 30 at 256 North Main Street, Waynesville. An orientation class will also be offered at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 13 in Henderson County, location to be determined. 828.452.0729.

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An eight-week grief support group will meet from noon to 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays from Aug. 24 to Oct. 12 in the second floor classroom at Haywood Regional Health & Fitness Center. The group sessions will be facilitated by Dan Yearick, a licensed counselor, and Robin Minick, Western Carolina University counseling graduate student. The sessions are designed for those who has lost a person close to them. Groups are limited to 12 participants. Registration is required. Call 828.452.8811 for details.

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Glenville residents are working to preserve the area’s rich history. Woody Hayes is leading a group of community members as they record and transcribe interviews of prominent residents. Residents will be asked for recollections, photos, drawings and other documents.

In 1827, state records show 11 families lived in Glenville with the addition of nine more by 1854. Anyone who has historical information to contribute should contact Woody Haynes at 803.225.0327 or Carol Adams at 828.743.1658.

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The 30th Judicial District Domestic Violence-Sexual Assault Alliance is working to end elder abuse by offering training sessions across the far western counties of North Carolina.

Statistics from the National Center for Elder Abuse state that between one and two million Americans 65 or older have been injured, exploited or otherwise mistreated by someone on whom they depended for care or protection.

In January 2008, Det. Jeff Haynes of the Waynesville Police Department began working on a federal elder abuse grant with Sybil Mann, an assistant district attorney in the 30th Judicial District. Since that time, Haynes and Muse have trained numerous groups, including law enforcement, medical personnel, victim advocate groups and others who wanted to know more about the problem of elder abuse.

Call the 30th Alliance at 828.452.2122 or the Elder Safe Hotline at 866.496.5406 for help.

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MedWest Health System invites the community to meet several new physicians who have recently joined the medical staff at its Sylva campus 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 16, in the lobby of Harris Regional Hospital.

A reception for the new physicians at the Clyde campus will be held from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 24, in the classrooms at Haywood Regional’s fitness center.

The MedWest medical staff consists of 230 physicians practicing at Haywood Regional Medical Center, Harris Regional Hospital, Swain County Hospital and the outpatient medical park in Franklin. The MedWest Physician Network currently owns 13 physician practices and employs 50 physicians.

828.631.8891.

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The Haywood Regional Medical Center Foundation will host the 19th Annual Charitable Classic Golf & Gala Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. This year, the fundraiser will include a third golf course and offer two chances to win a new car.

Last year’s Golf & Gala attracted 176 sponsors, 364 golfers, 79 volunteers and 478 Gala participants. It raised $171,000 for the new hospice building and digital mammography equipment.

The ladies’ tournament will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 31, and the men’s Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. The Gala celebration, featuring The Reality Show Band, will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 1 at the Waynesville Inn Golf Resort & Spa.

Individual golf slots, which include one gala ticket, are $150. Individual gala tickets $50. Register by Aug. 17. 828.452.8343 or www.haymed.org.

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The Buy Haywood Project is bringing farmers and chefs from Haywood County and surrounding counties together for the third in a series of meetings aimed at connecting local farmers and chefs. The meeting, which will feature a panel of local and regional food distributors, who each play a critical role in collecting local farm products and delivering them to local restaurants, will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 16, at Laurel Ridge Country Club in Waynesville.

The Buy Haywood project receives support from the Golden LEAF Foundation and is managed by the Haywood County Economic Development Commission.

Register by Aug. 13. For info, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828.683.5560.

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The Highlands-Cashiers Hospital and its Board of Directors is offering area physicians, active and retired, the opportunity to attend a continuing educational seminar beginning 8 a.m. Aug. 13 at the Jane Woodruff Clinic, Suite 103. The seminar will focus on “Advances in Cardiology” and “Evolving Treatments of Breast Cancer.”  

On the agenda for the seminar is Dr. Byron Williams, Jr., Chief of Medicine at Emory University Hospital, who will discuss the latest information involving advances in Cardiology and Dr. Edward Copeland, Retired Chief of Surgery at the University of Florida, will discuss evolving treatments of breast cancer.

RSVP to 828.526.1434.

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Harris Medical Park, the newly-constructed medical office building adjacent to Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva, is now open, providing patients with outpatient care and lab services.

The three-story, 45,000 sq. ft. medical office building is home to Sylva Medical Center, WNC Pediatric & Adolescent Care, and Mountain Valley Surgery, which have welcomed a total of five new physicians, one physician assistant and two nurse practitioners to their practices in the last two years. Harris Regional Hospital’s outpatient lab has also relocated to the new building.

Harris Medical Park was developed by Colony Development Partners on land owned by the hospital and its space is leased to the tenants. The building includes technological innovations, including a fiberoptic network for voice and data communications and wireless Internet.

In addition to its cutting edge features, the walls of Harris Medical Park serve as gallery space to local artists. The Jackson County Visual Arts Association, partially funded by the Jackson County Arts Council and the N.C. Arts Council, has provided art for the building.

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When the Bryson City and Sylva ABC boards hammered out a profit-sharing agreement for liquor orders from Harrah’s Casino, there was widespread speculation the new revenue source would bring in big money.

But the reality, so far, has been different.

“It’s not doing anywhere near what people thought it was going to do,” said Bryson City ABC store manager David Maynard.

The Bryson City store does the ordering and records the revenue on its books, then passes along a share of profits to the Sylva ABC board since the Cherokee reservation lies in both Swain and Jackson.

Harrah’s Cherokee opened its first full service bar in May, placing a start-up order with the ABC store that bumped its monthly sales numbers up 50 percent from the year before.

But since then, mixed beverages sales to the casino have averaged between $6,000 and $8,000 per week.

“That sounds like a lot of money, but the state takes a good chunk of it. We thought it was going to be a whole lot more money as far as sales. I think everybody did,” said Maynard.

With the state, the Sylva ABC board, and the tribe all involved in the formula of alcohol sales to the casino, sales don’t exactly turn directly into profit.

“It has help us make an increase from last year as far as sales, but it hasn’t helped out the profits yet,” Maynard said.

 

By the numbers

A spike in the volume of liquor passing through the Bryson City ABC store is a direct reflection on the bottles of booze headed for Harrah’s Casino since alcohol was legalized there.


May 2010

Walk-in customers    $124,192

Sales to retail outlets    $91,857

Total Sales    $216,049


May 2009

Walk-in customers    $129,134

Sales to retail outlets    $11,965

Total Sales    $141,099

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The Sawmill Creek Porch Band will reunite for a free performance at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 12, on the front lawn of the Marianna Black Library in Bryson City.

Sawmill Creek Porch Band was one of the mainstay bluegrass bands in Bryson City until its breakup in 2008. Larry Barnett (banjo, fiddle and vocals), Bradley Adams (mandolin and vocals) and Aaron Plantenberg (guitar and vocals) played together as Sawmill Creek Porch Band, recording two CDs and playing area venues constantly for almost a decade.

The concert is part of a summer series of music at the library. The Friends of the Marianna Black Library will provide refreshments.

828.488.3030 or fontanalib.org/brysoncity.

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The New North Carolina Ramblers will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, at the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center. The New North Carolina Ramblers perform old-time string music in the fashion of the original North Carolina Ramblers formed in the 1920s.

The concert is part of “An Appalachian Evening,” which includes a traditional Appalachian dinner and bluegrass, folk, or old-time music every Saturday evening through Aug. 28. The remaining shows are the Jeff Little Trio on Aug. 21 and the Farewell Drifters on Aug. 28. Dinners are served family-style in two seatings at 5 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. Reservations required. Tickets can be purchased at the Stecoah Gallery, by calling 828.479.3364, or at www.stecoahvalleycenter.com.

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Soprano Lisa Odom and pianist Fabio Parrini will perform at the annual Classics and Chocolate concert at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21, at the Performing Arts Center, 250 Pigeon Street in Waynesville. The annual concert pairs the highest quality live musical performance with a sumptuous all-chocolate reception.

The duo will include favorite Gershwin songs like “Summertime,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “Someone To Watch Over Me,” as well as solo piano featuring Gershwin “Preludes,” plus much more.

For a sneak preview of the concert, listen to Lisa Odom and Fabio Parrini on WCQS Radio with host Dick Kowal at 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 13.

Concert tickets are $15 per person with a limited number of free student tickets available.

www.haywoodarts.org.

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Three of country music’s fastest rising stars are performing on Thursday, Aug 26, at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort Event Center to raise funds for the Development Foundation of the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

Performances by Jason Michael Carroll, Josh Thompson and Lee Brice will begin at 9 p.m. with doors opening at 8:30 p.m. All three have had songs on the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart.

Singer/songwriter Jason Michael Carroll’s 2009 album, “Growing Up Is Getting Old,” holds the hit single, “Hurry Home,” still in regular play. Carroll’s first album, “Waitin’ In the Country” went straight to number one with fan favorites like “Alyssa Lies” and “Livin’ Our Love Song.”

Josh Thompson’s debut album, “Way Out Here,” started climbing the charts as soon as it was released in February. The title track became an immediate hit, joining his 2009 single, “Beer on the Table,” on the Billboard charts.

The latest single from Lee Brice and the title track to his CD, “Love Like Crazy,” is in regular play and has hit the top ten. Brice shares writing credits with the likes of Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw.

Joyce Dugan, director of education for the Cherokee Central School System and a current board member of NCCAT’s Development Foundation, said the concert will benefit one of the region’s greatest assets for teacher education and development.

“NCCAT does so much to keep our teachers at their peak, so they in turn can help our students reach theirs,” said Dugan.

In addition to the concert, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel employees are collecting school supplies and cash gifts for the Development Foundation of NCCAT, which will distribute the supplies to public schools in western North Carolina.

Concertgoers should print out their tickets because there will be drawings for door prizes throughout the evening.

Sponsorship opportunities are still available: 828.293.5202 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

To learn more, visit www.nccat.org/benefitconcert.

Tickers are $9.99 plus a convenience fee, and are available at www.ticketmaster.com. Ages 21 and over only. Parking is free in the Casino Parking Garage or main parking lot. Shuttle service will be provided from the lot.

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Patrons and visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the woodcarving artistry of intarsia at a program to be held at the Jackson County Public Library. Lebern Dills, an experienced intarsia artist and resident of Cullowhee, will show some of his work and share his techniques at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 17.

Dills uses patterns to carve and all of his pieces are hand-finished without using power tools.

Intarsia is a woodworking technique that uses varied shapes, sizes and species of wood that are fitted together to create a 3-dimensional, mosaic-like picture.

Intarsia is created through the selection of different types of wood, using their natural grain pattern and color to create variations in the pattern. After selecting the specific woods to be used within the pattern, each piece of wood is then individually cut, shaped, and sanded. Once the individual pieces are finished, they are fit together like a jigsaw puzzle and glued to a piece of wood backing.

Intarsia dates back to the 17th century and has its European origins in crafted rocks and stones.

The program is free to the public.

828.586.2016.

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Join Mary O’Shannon of Spiritsong as she shares how to tap into the beneficial energies of the planets during “Connecting with Your Celestial Guides: Your Allies in These Times of Change!” at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 13, at The Creative Thought Center in Waynesville.

Spiritsong is an intuitive astrologer, healing facilitator, musician and metaphysical minister living in Asheville.

Join Spiritsong for a fun and interactive evening, filled with a lot of spirit and a bit of song.  

Bring your individual natal chart or email Mary your name and birth information to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ahead of time and she will bring a birth chart for you.

The program is part of the People of Wisdom series at The Creative Thought Center. A $10 love offering is suggested but no one will be turned away.  

For reservations, 828.456.9697 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Volkswagen devotees make their way to Cherokee, Aug. 13 - 15 for the second annual VW Show at the Cherokee Event Center on Aquoni Road. Volkswagens of all makes and models will be on display, and all registered vehicles are eligible to win cash prizes and may compete for Best of Show in the best van, best car, best three wheeler and best dune buggy as well as a People’s Choice categories. Deal of Asheville, Asheville’s area Volkswagen dealer, will be on hand all weekend to demo Volkswagen’s latest offerings, answer questions, and share in some vintage VW tales.

“This year we’re asking all participants to bring a daisy or two to the VW Show. We will collect the daisies, make an obviously enormous bouquet and deliver it to Ambassador Said T. Jawad of the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington D.C. as a symbol to encourage peace among all people of the world,” said Mary Jane Ferguson, director of marketing for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Members of Cherokee’s Travel and Promotion Department will collect the flowers at the Cherokee Event Center throughout the weekend, preserve them and prepare the bouquet for shipping to Washington D.C.

Gates open Fri., Aug. 13 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to noon, with the awards program at 11 a.m. Vehicle registration is $10 and includes two free passes to the show. All registered vehicles are eligible to participate in the cash drawings on Saturday and Best in Show competition on Sunday. General admission is $5 daily. Vendors are welcome, and may register for a 10 x 20 space for $50. More information and registration forms are available online at www.cherokee-nc.com/vw.

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The all-male Land of the Sky Chorus will sing classics in “Schtick to Singing,” a concert held 3 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 15, in Tartan Hall at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Franklin.

With more than thirty members, Land of Sky sings lively a cappella renditions of old-time and contemporary favorites in four-part harmony. The upcoming program features hits like “Make ‘em Laugh,” “It’s Only A Paper Moon,” “That’s An Irish Lullaby,” and “Somewhere” from “West Side Story,” with costumes and props to enliven the show, and a heavy sprinkling of rib-tickling humor. Complimentary ice cream sundaes will be served.

Land of the Sky Chorus is a chapter of SPEBSQSA, Inc., one of about 800 society chapters in North America. The chorus is based in Asheville and has performed for audiences throughout the region and beyond.

Suggested donation is $5. Doors open at 2:30.

This program is sponsored by the Arts Council of Macon County. 828.524.7683 or www.artscouncilofmacon.org.

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The Highlands Cashiers Players’ production “Dearly Departed” runs Aug. 19 through 22 and Aug. 27 through 29 with two performances scheduled for Sunday Aug. 29 at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. All evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m., the matinees at 2:30 p.m.

“Dearly Departed” follows the tribulations of the Turpin family as they prepare for the funeral of the Daddy Bud. The large cast includes eight family members and seven other colorful Southern characters. Add to that the eight Joy of Life Singers, who will perform during the preacher’s radio broadcast and sing a medley of old fashioned hymns before the play begins.

The group will be accompanied on keyboard by Tom Wyse, who has also agreed to play the part of Merline, the irascible pianist for Depew’s Funeral home where Daddy Bud is resting in peace.

All these characters add up to a hilarious comedy and the actors playing the Turpin family and friends are uniquely suited to their roles, according to director Virginia Talbot. “You wouldn’t think the subject of a funeral would be funny,” says Talbot, “But the laughs are almost continuous as these all-too-human characters struggle with their problems and relationships. Some may even remind you of some of your own family members.”

“Dearly Departed” is the first play of HCP’s sixteenth season. This production marks the third time the Players have produced the popular comedy.

The other three plays coming up are “Life With Father,” in October, “You Know I Can’t Hear You When The Water’s Running” in February, and “Leading Ladies” in May.

Season subscriptions are now on sale at a cost of $65, a fifteen dollars savings over the per ticket price of $20.

“Dearly Departed” is sponsored in part by Building Technology Services of Highlands and Cashiers.

Call 828.526.8084 starting Aug. 12 and 13 for season subscribers, Aug. 14 for individual tickets.

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Tired of heating up your kitchen this hot summer? The Stecoah Valley Food Ventures Kitchen is offering a cooking class from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14 focusing on cool recipes to break the heat. 

Participants will make and eat cantaloupe soup, vichyssoise (fancy name for cold potato soup), and gazpacho. Other recipes will be used to teach new variations on classic favorites such as cucumber sandwiches, potato, and pasta salad. The cost of the workshop is $55 and includes all supplies and a lunch that you prepare along with instructor, Darryl Talley. The class requires pre-registration by calling the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center at 828.479.3364.

The Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center is a non-profit corporation that serves the people of Stecoah and Graham County through programs and services that benefit all members of the community, by preserving and promoting the Southern Appalachian mountain culture and through the restoration of the historic old Stecoah School to its original role as the center of the community.

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Expect mouth-watering BBQ accompanied by great mountain music at the 2nd Annual Mountain High BBQ & Music Festival, where the bluegrass band Rye Holler Boys will perform. The festival runs 10:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 13, and 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, at the Macon County Fair Grounds. www.mountainhighbbqfestival.com.

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Balsam Range will play Sylva’s Concerts on the Creek Friday, Aug. 13.

The free concert takes place from 7-9 p.m. at the pavilion in the Bridge Park in downtown Sylva.

Balsam Range has produced two CDs, Marching Home (2007) and Last Train to Kitty Hawk (2009). This year the band has performed at Merlefest in April and the Country Music Awards Festival in Nashville in June. The band has also played bluegrass festivals in Dillard, Ga., Naperville, Ill., and Kodak, Tenn. Most recently, they performed at Asheville’s Bele Chere Festival.

The band is comprised of Marc Pruett on banjo, Caleb Smith on guitar, Darren Nicholson on mandolin, Tim Surrett on bass and Buddy Melton on fiddle.

Concerts on the Creek are co-produced by the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, Jackson Country Travel & Tourism, Downtown Sylva Association, Jackson County Parks & Recreation, and the Town of Sylva.

For information about the concerts call 800.962.1911, or go to: www.mountainlovers.com.

Balsam Range plays benefit for HART

Balsam Range will play live at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, at a special benefit concert at Eaglenest Entertainment in Maggie Valley.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre and the Performing Arts Center at the Shelton House.

Tickets are $15 general admission and can be purchased on line at www.harttheatre.com or at Eaglenest on Soco Road in Maggie Valley.

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The Smoky Mountain Quilters Guild will present its 2010 quilt show, “Quilting New Trails” Aug. 19-21 at the Community Facilities building in Franklin.

Established in 1983, the guild is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to stimulate an intelligent interest in the art of quilting in the community and to provide opportunities for the exchange of ideas, instruction and the presentation of pertinent information among members of the guild.

Every two years the guild sponsors a quilt show featuring local and national quilts, judged by an NQA (National Quilter’s Association ) accredited judge. There will be cash prizes and ribbons awarded. There is a silent auction featuring small wall hangings made by members of the guild, vendors booths, a Member’s Boutique where items made by guild members can be bought, and raffle tickets for the guild’s scholarship fund.

The dates are Aug. 19, 20, and 21. Thursday and Friday hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 per day or $10 unlimited access. For more information call 828.369.2125 or visit www.smokymtnquilters.org.

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Catch the Spirit of Appalachia is producing its “Traditional Heritage Walk” at Gateway Flea Market in Whittier from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 14.

With their mission of “keeping heritage” alive, the local nonprofit is presenting vendors who will be demonstrating their crafts, sharing their knowledge with those who come to this third annual Heritage Day.

“We’re going to have a great time,” says Gail Stillwell Cooper, owner of the Shops at Gateway. “My regular dealers here in the market are joining in the fun, wearing heritage clothing, demonstrating and showcasing their wares. They are as excited as I am about the upcoming festive celebration for Gateway. With Catch the Spirit of Appalachia here with their demonstrators, it makes all of us want to pull up a chair, do a little whittling and tell our heritage stories.”

Among the demonstrators this year are the Ammons siblings, David F. Ammons and Doreyl Ammons Cain. David will be demonstrating chair caning. His skill with weaving strips of cane and white oak was learned at the foot of his grandfather, Tom Ammons from Cullowhee Mountain, and practiced for 30 years. Doreyl, an artist who once had her artwork tour with the Smithsonian, will share a mural demonstration entitled “Cakewalk,” and selling limited edition prints.  

Nan and Ron Smith  will be among those in attendance. Nan will be demonstrating crocheting, while husband Ron will have his guitar, sharing his music with all. There will be a book booth where local authors will be autographing and selling their books. Other crafters will be sell handmade wooden birdhouses, pottery, and more.

Call 828.497.9664 more information.

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Craving information about a family heirloom or a quilt purchased at a flea market or antique shop? A Bed Turning event will help solve those mysteries.

It will be held from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21, at the Historic Shelton House Barn behind the museum. The event is part of a continuing series of educational and entertaining events scheduled for 2010 to commemorate the 30th year merger of the North Carolina Handicrafts Museum with the Historic Shelton House in Waynesville.

In bed turning, woven and quilted bed covers are placed on a bed or table and turned, front and back, to determine various aspects of the piece’s history. Quilt and coverlet specialist Suzanne McDowell will oversee the evaluation of 20 quilts and/or coverlets while simultaneously instructing participants and observers about the quilting or weaving style, design, category, materials, dyes, age, location of origin, and unique qualities about each quilt and coverlet.

Last year’s event involved 20 bed coverlets and quilts and proved to be popular with observers as well as those desiring detailed information about their own particular piece of handiwork.

For example, McDowell determined that Jackie Spenser’s quilt, a variation of the Lone Star pattern, was created in the late 1800s and was made using Turkey red dye, with accompanying green on white.

828.452.1551 to reserve a space. $10 for one quilt/coverlet and $15 for 2. Observers may enter for free.

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Country music recording artist Matt Stillwell returns for the third annual Shinefest Friday, Aug. 13, through Saturday, Aug. 14, at the Fontana Village Resort. The event features live concerts on both Friday and Saturday evening with a lake party at Fontana Marina on Saturday afternoon.

Stillwell will be accompanied by other Nashville recording artists and friends including Lynn Hutton, Mickey Jack Cones, Lance Stinson, David Borne, Jason Sellers, Rachel Farley, Ira Dean and Lauren Briant.

The My Highway band from Robbinsville opens the Friday night performance at 6 p.m. with Stillwell and friends taking the stage at 8 p.m. The Saturday afternoon lake party at Fontana Marina begins at noon with Lance Stinson, David Borne and Matt Stillwell performing.

The Saturday night concert begins with performances by Big House Radio at 7 p.m., Rachel Farley, Lauren Briant and Ira Dean at 8 p.m. and Hoss Howard at 9 p.m. Matt Stillwell will take the stage at 10 p.m.

For more information or tickets call 828.498.2211 or 800.849.2258.

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I had my first introduction to plants in the Hibiscus genus when I was a boy. Rose-of-Sharon was a common dooryard shrub in the piedmont region of Virginia where I grew up, just as it is here in Western North Carolina.

In mid-summer, my cousins and I would amuse ourselves by trapping large bumblebees in the flowers. No problem: just wait for a bee to penetrate the back part of the blossom and then seal the petals shut with your fingertips. We must not have had a lot amusement options back then, since we spent a lot of our time harassing bumblebees in this manner.

Even then, I noticed the peculiar structure of the rose-of-Sharon blossoms, but it wasn’t until later on that I bothered to find out more about them and the other members of the Hibiscus genus, which belong to the mallow family of plants.

All mallows display five petals, within which the male stamen parts are united to form a long tube (or “staminal column”) that surrounds the female parts. Nectar is produced at the base of the petals that attracts pollinators deep into the flower and thereby into contact with the sexual parts.

Rose-of-Sharon is the only shrub in the Hibiscus genus that’s hardy in our region. Sometimes called Althaea by gardeners, the plant is native to Asia but was introduced into the British Isles over 250 years ago; indeed, it has been a part of our floral heritage for so long that it no longer seems “foreign” at all. It’s not uncommon to spot naturalized plants growing near old home sites that have “escaped” and made themselves at home with the rest of our native plants.

Which common garden plant displays the most striking blossoms? To my eye okra is the hands-down winner. The plant is a Hibiscus genus member native to the Old World tropics.

Another Hibiscus genus plants that has come to live with us — this time from Europe — is flower-of-an-hour (H. trionum), which has lovely sulphur-yellow petals and a purplish-black “eye.” As the common name indicates, the flowers last only a few hours. Unfortunately, it is more common in the Piedmont region of the state than here in the Smokies region, being reported from only Jackson and Watauga counties in Western North Carolina.

That brings us to the lone native Hibiscus species found in the Smokies region. But if we have to just have one Hibiscus of our very own, few wildflower enthusiasts would choose another in its stead.

That species is the swamp rose mallow (H. moshcheutos), which grows in moist woods, meadows, and marshes. Some authorities treat the pink-flowered variety and the white-flowered variety as separate species, but the current thought is that they are subspecies.

Here in the westernmost counties of North Carolina swamp rose mallow has been reported from Cherokee, Swain, Macon, and Haywood counties. To my knowledge, all of these represent reports of the whitish subspecies. No plant is more stunning when encountered in the wild. They lend a sub-tropical touch to our upland landscape.

The large deep-red rose mallows that put on late summer and early fall shows in yards throughout the region are derived from horticultural strains such as the “Hibiscus Southern Belle” types offered by many seed companies.

George Ellison wrote the biographical introductions for the reissues of two Appalachian classics: Horace Kephart’s Our Southern Highlanders and James Mooney’s History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees. In June 2005, a selection of his Back Then columns was published by The History Press in Charleston as Mountain Passages: Natural and Cultural History of Western North Carolina and the Great Smoky Mountains. Readers can contact him at P.O. Box 1262, Bryson City, N.C., 28713, or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Too hot to road bike? Why not try a spinning class.

While pedaling a stationary bike might not sound like the most exciting workout, the instructor in a spinning class leads the group through various drills and visualizations on the cycle.

The instructor may call out, “you are climbing a long hill and you are almost at the top!” Participants are asked to vary their pace, sometimes pedaling as fast as they can, other times cranking up the tension and pedaling from a standing position, said Kyle Smith, fitness coordinator at the Haywood Regional Health and Fitness Center.

“Spinning is an excellent exercise class for a number of reasons. Spinning burns serious calories, sometimes as many as 450 calories in a 45-minute class,” Smith said. “It is also a wonderful cardiovascular workout. You can really feel you heart working.”

The tension knob of each bike can be adjusted individually, allowing the beginner to keep up with more advanced cyclists by toning it down a few notches, or the pros to get a better workout by cranking it up.

Due to the popularity of spinning, Haywood Regional Health and Fitness Center has added 15 state-of-the-art spin bikes that displays RPMs, resistance, distance and heart rate.

• The Haywood Regional Health and Fitness Center offers spin classes 828.452.8097.

• The Jackson County Fitness Center in Cullowhee holds spinning classes at 4:!5 p.m. Tuesdays, 5:45 p.m. Thursdays, 6:30 a.m. Fridays 828.293.3053 or rec.jacksonnc.org.

• The Franklin Health and Fitness Center holds spin classes at Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 a.m. and Friday at 5:30 p.m. 828.369.5608.

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A new Great Smoky Mountains chapter of the National Audubon Society formed just a few months ago but can already claims a few hundred members in its ranks.

The Great Smoky Mountains Audubon Society meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month at the Maggie Valley Pavilion. A program on creating “Backyard Habitats” will be featured at the next meeting, held on Tuesday, Aug. 10. Sara Martin, biology instructor at the Haywood Community College and volunteer for the National Wildlife Federation, is the presenter.

The chapter will offer a venue for birding and wildlife education, guest speakers and birding excursions in the area.

The Great Smoky Mountains Audubon chapter is a part of a larger birding initiative to turn Maggie into a bird sanctuary.

“Over a year ago, I envisioned Maggie Valley as a real bird sanctuary and birding community,” said Kathleen Klawitter, a Maggie Valley resident, who spearheaded the club’s creation and the Maggie Valley Bird Sanctuary Birding Project.

Last week, a N.C. Birding Trail sign was placed at Lake Junaluska, a point on the birding trail with support and donation of materials from Joey’s Pancake House, Haywood Builders Supply, Maggie Mountaineer Crafts, Legends Sports Grill, and The Bird Place.

For more information, go to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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A celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7, at the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center between Balsam and Maggie Valley.

The festivities, called “Blue Ridge Parkway: 75 Years of Heritage and Communities” will have a variety of free, ongoing craft demonstrations throughout the day as entertainment.

The entertainment lineup includes Cherokee Dancers at 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., Old Time Appalachian Music by the Bean Town Boys at 11 a.m., Ammon sisters storytelling at noon and the Francis Family Bluegrass band at 2 p.m.

Demonstrations will include potters, blacksmith, woodcarvers, quilting and yarn spinning. David Brewin will have Nannie the Plott Hound on display and will talk about the famed state dog bred for hunting bears.

Food will be available for purchase from Soul Infusion Tea House & Bistro.

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Cool off with a snorkeling trip on the Little Tennessee River on Saturday, Aug. 14, while gaining a new perspective on aquatic life.

Snorkeling reveals a whole new world of fish, mussels, salamanders and the like that live below the surface. The outing is being hosted jointly by the Western North Carolina Alliance, the Little Tennessee Watershed Association and the Land Trust for the Little Tennessee.

Dr. Bill McLarney, an aquatic biologist who has dedicated his life to studying the Little Tennessee, will lead the trip, sharing his vast knowledge of the ecology of the river, the creatures in the river, and threats to the watershed.

Snorkels, masks and wetsuits will be provided for those who need them. Cost is $5 for members of any of the three organizations or $10 for nonmembers. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828.369.6402.

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Hundreds of children will line the banks of the Oconaluftee River in Cherokee this weekend for the annual Talking Trees Children’s Trout Derby.

The trout derby — held from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7, at Island Park in the heart of Cherokee — exposes children under 11 to the world of fishing. Kids are provided fishing polls and bait, and volunteers are on hand to help first-timers. Kids get a T-shirt, breakfast and lunch all for free.

Registration runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 6, at the Cherokee fairgrounds. Festivities at the fairgrounds include fly-tying exhibitions, music and games.

Registration is limited to the first 2,000 kids. If there are any slots still left by Saturday, children can register the day of the derby at Island Park.

828.497.1898 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or www.cherokeetroutderby.com.

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Upcoming free workshops at Blue Ridge Books in Waynesville will offer writers behind-the-scenes tips on getting published and provide guidance to women writers over 50.

• “Don’t murder your mystery — or any other manuscript,” will be led by seasoned book editor Chris Roerden from 10 a.m. until noon on Saturday, Aug. 7 at the bookstore.

Writers will learn how submissions are really evaluated by agents and editors. In a two-hour workshop, explore the techniques that reveal your “writer’s voice” to a pro. Have your questions answered about the most effective ways to get published. Registration not required.

Chris Roerden has been a hands-on book editor for 44 years. A former university instructor of writing, she leads workshops for writers throughout North America. http://www.writersinfo.info

• “Women’s Lives, Women’s Wisdom: using the writing process to review our struggles, resistance, and wisdom” will be led by Nancy Werking Poling from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7.

The workshop is designed for women over fifty, but younger women are welcome. Participants will be guided through a process of examining their lives through writing. Ground rules will work toward encouraging everyone to share stories and insights that are appropriate for a room of neighbors and strangers.

Poling’s most recent publication is Out of the Pumpkin Shell, a novel bringing together the themes of aging angst, female friendship, and domestic violence. In the late ‘90s, she edited and helped six authors write of their experiences of abuse in Victim to Survivor: Women Recovering from Clergy Sexual Abuse. To register, 828.456.6000 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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To the Editor:

In early 2008, Jackson County commissioners approved a study to be done of comparative public sector employees’ pay plans in southwestern North Carolina by a company called the Mercer Group Inc. out of Atlanta, Ga., at a cost of $25,000.

The Mercer Group study showed:

1. Current minimum pay ranges  are approximately 7 percent below market average.

2. Current midpoint pay ranges are approximately 12 percent above market average.

3. Current maximum pay ranges are approximately 25 percent above market average.

Therefore, because the minimum pay ranges/grades, actually called pay grades of the rank and file employees, were below norm, the Mercer study recommended the following (from page 11 of the report): “The new pay plans were developed to place the county in a more competitive position with minimum salaries” — not mid or max ranges.

The Mercer plan was to bring the low-end minimum pay range/grade employees up to parity to the market average in two stages during a two-year period. That never happened. A switch was made. Instead, the overpaid midpoint pay ranges/grades and the maximum pay ranges/grades that the Mercer study showed were already above the market average by 12 and 25 percent received the bulk of the raises, just the opposite of what Mercer recommended. How was it done? Several ways, but basically by not following the Mercer report.

The county has a “pay grade system.” It goes from grade one up to 40. Forty being the top grade where the manager sits. Twenty and above are usually reserved for supervisors and managerial personnel. Below grade 20 is where one would find the rank and file or “minimum salaried” employees that Mercer earmarked for competitive raises.

While grades are separated by 5 percent in pay, steps are separated by 2 percent. Raises in the 5 percents grades were not given. Instead, 2 percent step raises were given, similar to the 2 percent annual longevity pay employees receive for years served.

Here is where raises went wrong. The vast majority of employees above pay range grade 20 (those in midpoint and maximum range grades) received multiple pay steps above the minimum salaried employees who are below pay range grade 20.

Our outside independent accountants compilation analysis of the Jackson County Approved Payroll Budget for FY 2009-2010 showed 101 general employees received three or more pay steps increases, and the majority of these were above pay range-grade 20. Again they were the midpoint and maximum pay ranges of the Mercer report. We and the public believe that these parity raises went to the wrong group. The Mercer report backs that up.

How did the county manager get to pay step 29? The sheriff is at pay step 28 because he has been with the county for 28 years, earning every year he got. The manager will have 9 years in August of this year (2010). Who gave him 20 years of longevity? Himself? Is this 20-year gift an (E-RIP) Early Retirement Incentive Program to get him to leave?

There are too many examples of impropriety and mis-management during the years here to turn a blind eye to. Giving himself 20 years seniority is just one of them. Giving himself an 8-step pay increase when he only gave most of his minimum salaried employees a one-step raise is unconscionable.

Another problem with the raises is the extra unapproved money given to the manager above his 16 percent (8 step) raise. Somebody is doing bad math here. A 16 percent raise added to his old $123,163.04 salary would be an additional $19,706.08, bringing him to $142,869.12. Instead he is getting $21,141.90 on top of $123,163.04, bringing him to his present salary of $144,304.94. That’s a 17.12 percent increase, not the approved 16 percent, thus giving the manager an extra unauthorized $1,436. That’s wrong!

Which begs the question, who’s doing the math for Jackson County?

Also, in our accountant’s “Payroll Reconciliation” report, these “percentage overpayments” continued in all of the 101 employee positions that were reviewed. Again, most of the larger percentage overpayments went to the higher grades, i.e., department heads, etc.

Because of the discrepancies found already with the county’s payroll budget, we strongly recommend that all management employee raises more than the last two stages of the Mercer recommended implementation where found to be flawed with overpayments be totaled and divided equally among the minimum salaried employees, the ones Mercer showed to be below the market average.

Jackson County now has the unique distinction of having the highest paid ($144,304.94) per capita county manager and the highest paid ($16,189.75) per capita part-time county board chairman in North Carolina. (Source: N.C. School of Gov.; Payroll Budget)

The state governor makes $5,000 less a year ($139,001) than this manager, and she draws her salary from 100 counties, while this highest paid manager in this state draws his salary from only one county and a comparatively small one at that.

Is his job more important than the governor? If salary is an indicator, it must be.

Now adding insult to injury comes when the county chairman is pushing a staff administrative plan for additional raises for which he, you guessed it, and the manager would be in line for more pay. Ok, it’s only one step at 2 percent, and it will start at the bottom, right?

Doesn’t this manager and chairman know that 15 percent of Jackson County citizens are below the poverty line and that one in 10 of its citizens is still out of work, that other public sector employees haven’t had a salary raise in years and have suffered furrloughs and have taken cuts in pay? People are still losing their homes to foreclosures.

What’s being told in this report should have been told by the county, but the county doesn’t like to tell on itself, so there goes the open and honest transparency in government and the leaders exclaim to its citizens: “Why don’t you trust us?”

We’ll tell you why. You have a finance director, paid $118,890.20, the second highest paid employee in Jackson County and in the finance department. All three (minimum salaried) employees at pay grade 18 in the finance department only received a one-step (2 percent) increase. But the director, along with all other employees above grade 20, received four steps, and the “Benefits Specialist,” who apparently knows how to benefit, received a six-step or 12 percent increase.

Why were the peons held to only one step increase to the discrimination of the higher grades who received multiple steps? The Mercer study recommended competitive raises for these “minimum salaries” only. Didn’t the finance director know that? As a former public sector Labor-Management Consultant, I view this as management “stacking-the-deck” in management’s favor.

But how did the commissioners get duped into approving the raises for the wrong people?

Budgets come out of the finance department, and they look pretty generic until one starts to peel the onion. In this case, I believe the commissioners let the manager and the finance director peel the onion for them. Unfortunately, they didn’t peel as deep as we or our accountant did, and commissioners did not have full information from staff.

I would like to believe that if the majority of commissioners had full and accurate information the Mercer report would have gone as planned and approved and the public would not be in such a uproar today.

The Finance Director Darlene Fox and her boss, County Manager Ken Westmoreland, were the persons-in-charge of all salaries and/or raises. As the county’s two chief financial officers, they were instrumental in county employee raises and therefore have a responsibility to the taxpayers who are now paying for their salary raises and to explain what happened, how it happened and why.

We the people would respectfully ask our elected officials to conduct an open and honest review by an unattached outside independent consultant to conduct a complete review and summation of the latest county employee salary raises pursuant to the recommendations of the Mercer Group report. Then make the findings and results available to the public without cost. We have already paid.

I want to thank those who helped with this report and comments. Especially county employees who will definitely remain anonymous. All the letters to the editor and the editorials that kept bringing it to the public’s attention and those tenacious “gadflies” who stood alone at the commissioners podium expounding on the wrongs of the raises, the N.C. School of Government, the Sunshine Center of Elon University, the Mercer Group, the labor and employment council that came pro bono and for the calls that encouraged me to action when I wanted to go flyfishing.

Jim McCarthy

Jackson County Citizen Action Group

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

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To the Editor:

First, I’d like to thank all the folks who support PAWS, Swain County’s privately run no-kill animal shelter. We so appreciate all the donations we receive, be they actual cash, donations of time at the shelter — PAWS to Shop Thrift Store — helping out at our various events throughout the year or the many items donated to the Thrift Store. It takes all of these things to keep PAWS doors open, which brings me to the point of this letter.

PAWS Thrift Store is many things to this community: It provides a large part of the funding necessary to keep the shelter operating; it offers gently used goods for resale to folks so that they can stretch their dollar a bit further; it brings in tax revenue to the county from the sale of those items; and it offers a place for folks to donate those gently used items for reuse to someone else, getting the most of out of reduce, reuse and recycle.

The Thrift Store asks that folks wanting to donate items please bring them by the store during business hours which are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. We realize that this might be an inconvenience to some but our reason is so that we can make the most of those donated items.

What I’m going to say next may come as a surprise to some. When folks do drop off items after hours they don’t always make it in the door for us to resale. There’s a person or persons that has been helping themselves to these items left on our porch. That’s right, someone is stealing these generous donations that are meant as a gift to help PAWS.

We’ve struggled with ideas of how to come up with a donation box that would work but haven’t found a good solution yet. So, we are asking everyone to please make the extra effort and find a way that works for all. Perhaps there is a friend or neighbor who gets to town during our business hours who would be willing to help you get those donations to us. PAWS desperately needs every donation to count, and we are sure you feel the same way.

If you would like to find out more ways you can help PAWS, visit our website at www.pawsbrysoncity.com or call us at 828.333.4267. Help us celebrate 20 years of being the small shelter that focuses on quality of life by helping the stray, abandoned, abused and neglected cats and dogs in Swain County. Thanks again for helping in whatever way you can.

Ramelle Smith

PAWS Board member

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To the Editor:

HandMade in America fully supports Haywood Community College’s new Creative Arts Center to expand a program that contributes creatively, professionally and economically to our region. The Professional Crafts Program at HCC is recognized internationally for education and entrepreneurial teaching of the crafts industry. HCC students exhibit professionalism and creativity that enable them to be successful.

HandMade continues to partner successfully with HCC in building entrepreneurial skills and markets for craft makers throughout Western North Carolina. In 2007 HandMade worked with HCC on an Economic Impact Study of the Professional Craft Industry in WNC, demonstrating how students of HCC’s Professional Crafts Program positively impact our local economy. The professional crafts industry contributes $206.5 million every year in our region.

Because of this important economic and cultural impact, HandMade supports HCC-CAC’s critical need for expansion. Current facilities, now beyond repair must be rebuilt to address existing waiting’s lists for this program. The new Creative Arts Center will make it possible for HCC to additionally serve 100 students annually and 380 continuing education students.

Bill Lehnert, Chairman

Elizabeth Russell, Interim Director

Handmade in America,

Asheville

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To the Editor:

Your article “County health rankings yield mixed results” in the July 14 issue was well-researched, well-written and informative as one expects from your newspaper; still it left me uneasy. 

Statistics tell a whole lot, but they leave much out. I don’t know if it was really Mark Twain who said it, but it’s good: “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.”   So if statistics tell us that “99 percent of the members of the Nazi party like to eat carrots,” then are we to conclude that eating carrots makes one a Nazi?  

I’m sure the good people of the University of Wisconsin were very thorough and thoughtful and used the latest research and the best statistical methods to perform their study, but they couldn’t have measured the intangibles, like what it means to go to a Swain County physician who has chosen to settle in Swain County, to educate his or her children there, to attend church and serve on local boards there, to coach the kid’s soccer team, or to give free physical exams to the high school athletes. They are devoted to improving the lives of the people of Swain County, dedicated to their patients, maybe settling for fewer exciting cutting-edge medical technologies available in Asheville or Durham, but outstanding practitioners of their art.

I could say the same thing for the nurses and other supporting staff of Swain County Hospital, Swain Medical Center and the Swain County Health Department. As for the Swain County Health Department, Linda White may be the most dedicated director in the state, and, as your article noted, one of the lowest paid. 

Why do these good people work in Swain County?  Because they want to make it a healthy place to live, because they love it. I speak as one who worked as a physician at Swain Medical Center and Swain County Hospital from 1998 to 2007 and was the physician representative on the Swain County Health Department Board of Directors. The people of Swain County can be certain that the health care provided in Swain County is truly excellent.

Steve Crider, MD

Waynesville

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To help offset the impact of budget cuts recently authorized by the N.C. General Assembly, Western Carolina University will raise in-state undergraduate tuition and fees by 17.5 percent effective for the fall semester.

University of North Carolina system President Erskine Bowles approved the plan Wednesday, July 14. A special provision of the state budget allows UNC campuses to increase tuition by as much as $750 for the 2010-11 academic year, a measure intended to help address a $70 million cut to the UNC system’s budget.

Western Carolina’s plan would raise tuition by $572.80 for 2010-11, in addition to a $137 increase in campus-initiated tuition previously approved by the UNC Board of Governors.

The tuition increase will maintain a quality student academic experience at WCU and will generate about $3.8 million, said Chuck Wooten, vice chancellor for administration and finance.

Eighty percent of the increase – or $3.1 million – will be used to prevent the loss of 32.2 faculty positions at WCU.

Another 20 percent will go to need-based financial aid, Wooten said.

But WCU is not alone in tuition increases. All campuses in the UNC system are raising tuition.

UNC Chapel Hill and N.C. State University both had supplemental tuition increases of $750 in addition to campus initiated tuition increases.

Bowles said additional tuition charges are the only way the system can maintain quality.

“I have long prided myself in being a ‘low-tuition guy.’ A supplemental tuition increase of up to $750 certainly flies in the face of that,” Bowles said. “Nonetheless, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that low tuition without high quality is no bargain for anyone – not our students, their future employers or the state taxpayers. To compete successfully for the jobs of tomorrow, North Carolina must have a highly trained, highly skilled workforce.”

A comparison to public peer institutions nationally, conducted using the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, ranked WCU as having the lowest tuition and fees for resident undergraduate and graduate students in 2009-10.

“This is a difficult decision,” WCU Chancellor John W. Bardo said. “However, even with this increase, our overall tuition rates will be low compared to our public peer institutions and other UNC campuses similar to us in size and mission.”

In response to budget cuts and reversions last year, Western Carolina eliminated or froze 94 positions – primarily in administrative areas, Bardo said.

“It is critical that we preserve our core programs, retain our outstanding faculty members, minimize the impact of cuts on class size and class availability, and provide critical student support,” Bardo said.

Typically, students would begin receiving bills for the fall semester later this week. Because of the recent changes, billing for fall 2010 semester will be delayed to allow time for adjustments in financial aid packages, said Nancy S. Brendell, WCU bursar.

Electronic notifications for billing will be sent on Friday, July 23. Students should make full payment by Aug. 13 to guarantee their class schedules.

For more information, visit tuitionfees.wcu.edu.

Comment

The Haywood County Meals on Wheels is hosting a Tennis Tournament at 9 a.m., Aug. 5 to 7 at the Waynesville Recreation Center Tennis Courts on West Marshall Street. Cost is $20 per person and $40 for Doubles. Categories include Men’s and Women’s Singles and Doubles and Mixed Doubles and 50 Plus Singles and Doubles and Mixed Doubles. Registration required. 828.356.2442.

Comment

The public is invited to watch 15 hours of raw video that will take viewers back 20 years to experience the stories and see the land of North Shore residents who had their property seized by the government in the 1940s in order to create Lake Fontana.

The films will be shown 2 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 7, and Sunday, Aug. 8, at the Swain County Center for the Arts located on the Swain County High School campus in Bryson City.

The film was shot twenty years ago by an award-winning Associated Press reporter who spent an entire summer with a CBS news crew shooting video while visiting cemeteries in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He explored the religious and cultural tradition of cemetery decoration and interviewed people who watched the government take their land then failed to fulfill its promise of building a road to their ancestral cemeteries. Eight two-hour DVDs will be for sale.

This event is hosted by the Fontana Historical Association.

Contact Linda Hogue at 828.488.9488 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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