The people's choir: Ubuntu groups give everyone who loves to sing a voice

art fr“I can’t sing.” 

“Nobody wants to hear my voice.” 

“I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.” 

They’re recognizable refrains, the shield of the perceived non-musical whenever the Christmas carolers come around or it’s time for someone to jump-start a chorus of “Happy Birthday.” 

This must be the place

art theplacePizza. French fry.

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

Mountain Momma

art mtnmommaIf you can eek out the time for a trip to Asheville, here’s a great excursion for the last lingering weeks of fall sunshine before winter puts a damper on outside activities.

Giant LEGO sculptures have put down roots on the grounds of the N.C. Arboretum. An 8-foot tall hummingbird, a 5-foot tall butterfly, a bison, a dragonfly — 27 sculptures in all, made from 500,000 LEGO pieces.

This must be the place

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

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

Mountain Momma

art mtnmommaI’ll admit I’m not the fastest draw in the West when it comes to pop culture fads. I’ve yet to watch an episode of “Glee” — although I’ve concocted a vague idea of what it might be about from overheard snippets between friends. And I still do double-takes when I see someone in skinny jeans, even though this tragic fashion trend has been in our midst for at least a couple of years.

Trick or Treat in Western North Carolina

Bryson City

• Haunted Halls of Havoc and Corn Maze will be from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Oct. 24-27 at Darnell Farms in Bryson City. Haunted house, hayrides and corn maze. $5 per person, with children under age 3 admitted free. 828.488.3167 or 828.488.2376 or 

• The Peanuts Pumpkin Patch Express will ride from Oct. 25-27 at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad depot. Guests will hear narrations of “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.” Characters will be on-site at pumpkin patch. Tickets are $55 per person, $31 for children ages 2-12 and free for children under age 2. 800.872.4681 or 

• Plow Day Festival will be an all-day event Saturday, Oct. 26, at Darnell Farms. Hayrides, corn maze, plowing demonstrations and live bluegrass music. There will also be a pumpkin patch, ice cream and fresh produce. 828.488.2376 or 

• A spooky comedy will be screened at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, at the Marianna Black Library in Bryson City. The film stars Adam Sandler as the Hotel Transylvania owner Dracula. Free. Popcorn provided. 828.488.3030.

• Octoberbest will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, at The Storytelling Center in Bryson City. Celebrate the season with mountain stories, live music by the Dulcimer Duo, cowboy coffee and glazed almonds. $5 for adults, $3 for students. 828.488.5705 or 

• “Downtown Trick or Treat” will be from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31. With the streets closed, children can go trick or treating around to downtown merchants. There will also be a costume contest, with the winner receiving a gift certificate to Soda Pops. Free. 800.867.9246 or 



• The third annual Haunted Cherokee Halloween celebration will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 25-27, 30-31 and Nov. 1-2 at the Mountainside Theater and the Oconolafutee Indian Village. The 5 Little Pumpkins Scare-Free Kids Zone will showcase a magician, obstacle course/maze, hayride and other activities, with tickets at $5 per person. The Haunted Theatre will offer a frightening performance, $10. The Little Dorm of Horrors building presents a “worst nightmare” as creatures try to catch you in their habitat, $8. The Myths and Legends Ghost Walk offers storytelling and characters, $10. The Cherokee Zombie Run fundraiser for the Mountain Discovery Charter School will be from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 2. The celebration is sponsored by the Cherokee Historical Association. Tickets available in advance online or day of at Mountainside Theater Box Office. 828.497.2111 or 



• The “Pumpkin Patch Trail” will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, at the Jackson County Recreation Complex. Trick or treating will be offered throughout the park. Free. 



• Halloween activities will run from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31, in Dillsboro. Children can trick or treat around downtown, with games at Dogwood Crafters and hayrides provided by Jarrett Memorial Church. Free. 



• Fall Hayrides and Haunted Hayrides will be from 4 to 6 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at Parker Meadows. 

• Halloween in the Park will be Thursday, Oct. 31 at the Macon County Recreation Park. 828.349.2090.

• The Fall Festival and Trunk or Treat will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, at the First Christian Church. Cars will be lined up in the parking lot ready to fill candy buckets and bags. There will also be face painting, marshmellow roasting and a hot dog meal. Free. 828.524.6840 or 


Fontana Lake

• The “Hauntober Weekend & Haunted Trail” will be Oct. 25-27 at Fontana Village Resort. The celebration features a variety of activities, crafts, hayrides, campfires and live entertainment. The “Kid’s Hauntober Fun Time” will be from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 26, with a pumpkin carving, face painting and corn hole. The “Haunted Trails” tour will be from 8 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and is $3 per person. 



• The inaugural “Fall Festival” will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28, in the Eckerd Living Center at the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital. Activities include a cakewalk, hayrides, trick or treating, pumpkin decorating contest, face painting, llama petting zoo and other games. Lunch is available for $5. 

• The Halloween “Enchanted Forest” Nature Trail will run every 15 minutes from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, at the Highlands Nature Center. Encounter friendly forest creatures and learn interesting nature facts about each one. Bring a flashlight. $1 per person. 828.526.2623.


Nantahala Gorge

• “NOCtobefest” kicks off at noon Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Events include pumpkin decorating, noon; egg race, 1 p.m.; corn hole tournament, 3 p.m.; with live music from Bear Down Easy, 3:30 p.m. and Playing on the Planet, 7 p.m. The key event will be the “Great Pumpkin Pursuit” at 2:15 p.m., where costumed competitors try to get as many of the 400 pumpkins placed in the river as possible into their kayak. 



• “Treat Street” will be from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26 in downtown. Children can go around trick or treating to local merchants. Free.

• A “Halloween Egg Haunt” will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29, at Mark Watson Park. Costume contest begins at 7 p.m. Free. 



• The fifth annual “Ghosts and Goblets” storytelling and children’s event will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Museum of North Carolina Handicrafts in the Shelton House. The fire circle in front of the barn will feature musicians Anita Pruett and storyteller Lynne Leatherwood. Hugh Burford, Gary Carden, Bob Child and Cliff Hannah will also spin tales in the house. Children are encouraged to dress in costume. Refreshments will be available. Tickets are $10 for ages 12-adult, $5 for ages 5-11 and free for children ages 5 and under. 828.452.1551 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 

• “Treats on the Street” will be from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 31. Children can go around downtown and trick or treat at participating merchants. Free. 



• The “Great Smoky Mountains Railroad Pumpkin Patch” will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, in Whittier. Pumpkin carving, bouncy houses, marshmellow roasting, costume contest, trick or treating, with character appearances by Mickey and Minnie Mouse. $7 per person. 800.872.4681 or 

This must be the place

art theplaceAll I wanted to do was play soccer.

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

Mountain Momma

art mtnmommaWe’re in the Halloween homestretch, but I’d wager at least half of you are still riding the costume rollercoaster, days away from closing in on what your kid wants to be.

Back in the days before — when we actually had to make our own costumes — if you weren’t in the early throes of gathering your wardrobe supplies by this stage in the game, chances were a white sheet with two eye holes was in your forecast.

This must be the place

art theplaceHelp.

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

Rising star redefines country music

art frKacey Musgraves makes me feel like a teenager. Shouts of joy escape my lungs when I find out she’s performing nearby. All my friends grow weary over my constant babbling about her. If there were a life-size poster available, I’d probably buy one — her music is just that good. 

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