BEST OF THE BEST Bele CHere artS park HaS itS perkS
phOTO cOUrTEsy jAKy FELIX / IMAGINATION GLASS
By KyLE SHERARD Depending on whom you ask, anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 music, art and street-festival seekers are about to descend on our city. The streets will once again cram with temporary tenements selling everything from jewelry to kabobs. And among the myriad visitors and locals in attendance are dozens of visiting and local artists exhibiting work and wares. Artists get separated into two groups: those who sell from street-side tents, and those in the Arts park, a separate village of sorts, located in the parking lot across the street from the kress building on patton Avenue. As bele chere officials put it, Arts park artists are “the best of the best.” both the street booths and the Arts park will feature photography, paintings, jewelry, pottery and wood, metal and fiber works. Applicants from both groups are selected based on the quality of work and the “attractiveness” of their display. (photos of both must be sent in with an applications.) There’s only one restriction to those seeking space in the Arts park: the works must be handmade by the person selling them on site — no reselling works or representing multiple artists. Of the 43 artists in the Arts park this year, only a fraction are from Asheville and the greater WNc area. Others are coming from as far away as New york, pennsylvania and kentucky. It’s Georgia, though, that sends the most visiting artists — specifically, the Atlanta area. Anna marino will be trekking from monroe, Ga., east of Atlanta, for her first bele chere appearance. “The festival’s so well-known, and I wanted the challenge of getting into such a nationally recognized show,” she says. she’s applied in years past, and this year she was accepted into the Arts park, though she applied for both venues. for Jeff and Jaky felix, the six-and-half-hour drive from a town near montgomery, Ala., has been worth it every time for the past 8 years. As Joyful Imagination Glass, this will be the couple’s fifth year in the Arts park. “The Arts park provides a higher
concentration of quality art works, so it tends to draw the target audience from the crowd,” Jaky says. They also favored the assurance of always having electrical hookups. While power is an option for some of the street venues, it’s not a guarantee. And all things aside, “We use this as our yearly excuse to visit Asheville,” Jaky says. The daily foot traffic is constant, so for many of the artists, the benefits of vending abound. for those with smaller works and moderate prices, it can be hard to have enough work to last the entire weekend. Visitors will likely be downtown for the whole day, so pieces and works that can fit into bags, purses and pockets are easy sales. The weekend is also an exposure marathon, with thousands of eyes falling on every style and variety of artistry. but for many artists, this facet of bele chere can serve as a downside. The hoards of people weaving in and out of tents can come at a cost, namely damaged goods and theft. be it from the clumsy or sticky fingers of oglers with or without a drink in hand, many artists have taken a loss in years past. “I had multiple thefts last year,” says one Asheville-based fiber artist, choosing to remain nameless. “The festival is great; it’s just not as beneficial for myself or my work, as it is for others.” Other artists, such as Tristan and rikki hertz, have found existing outlets to show their work in town during the festival. “We love bele chere,” Tristan says. “you can make more money, but it would take 10 times the amount of setup work.” both of the painters/micro-horticulturalists have participated in bele chere in years past, but have opted this year for the Grove Arcade’s portico market, an open-air table bazaar on the battery park side of the building. bele chere affords local artists the opportunity to compare work with artisans from across the country and to effectively export their own work. repeat vendors have repeat buyers. many form contacts that extend past the festival’s three days and on to further sales throughout the year. some see bele chere as a beast and a burden, others see it as an annual milestone. but either way, art is being sold, and that says enough.
GET yOUR FESTIVAL FOOD ON a FiStFul oF greaSy reaSonS to Head downtown
A bUffET Of sTrEET-fAIr fArE
By MACKENSy LUNSFORD There are some foodies out there who scoff at all things fried and turn up their noses at any sort of what-have-you on a stick. These two staples of the festival food group are exactly what bele chere vendors have in spades, so what’s a gourmand to do? relax. In Asheville, you can have kale and quinoa any day. bele chere, however, is the perfect time to loosen the belt (and diet regime) and get your fried festival food on. both the pritchard park vendors (who travel from such far-off places as ... Indiana) and our Taste of Asheville vendors (located at pack square) offer some of the best bets for guilty pleasures and grease-laden foods that you’re likely to find in downtown Asheville all year. for example, take kettle corn, a snack of (supposedly) pennsylvania Dutch origin that scratches the salty and the sweet itch. Texturally, it manages to offer a slightly greasy and sticky feel at the same time (listen, it’s just not a festival if you’re not wiping your hands on your pants). kettle corn was purportedly cooked in lard in a cast-iron pot by early pioneers, and while the exact original recipe is now lost to the ages, both Comb’s Kettle Corn and our local kettle-corn guys (listed as simply “Kettle Corn“ on bele chere’s localvendor list) eschew the animal fat, at least. We hope that’s not too much of a disappointment to you. combskettlecorn If it’s animal fat that you’re after, consider visiting The Scottish Cottage at the Taste of Asheville, a truly awesome little mobile-food vendor that serves peat-smoked pork paired with the most southern of accompaniments (think slaw and sweet-corn casserole). but it may be the haggis that makes a stop at this cute little cottage on wheels necessary for the daring diner. smoked over imported peat, the dish is very much a scottish-style boudin, stuffed in the cleaned organs of a sheep. sound terrifying? man or woman up. thescottishcottage.com
for some, especially those who blanch at innards, funnel cakes are the holy Grail of festival food. If deep-fried dough gets your blood pumping, then head straight to Hinckley Vending, Rainbo Ice & Funnel Cakes at pritchard park (and don’t forget the Lipitor). Our research tells us that the funnel cake is also of pennsylvania Dutch origin. What is it with the Amish and carnival food? consider asking the Amish Baking Co., a food vendor fresh off the bonnaroo circuit. This booth specializes in fresh, hot, glazed doughnuts, soft pretzels and — wonder of wonders — glazed pretzels, too. yowza. (Located at pritchard park.) should you want a soft pretzel with local appeal, head to Beulah’s Bavarian at Taste of Asheville. beulah’s is a local company that provides local restaurants and breweries with its huge, organic, salty twisted treats. beulahsbavarian.com (Located at Taste of Asheville.) Don’t get us wrong — bele chere isn’t completely all about deep-fat-fried everything. plenty of vendors offer a taste of exotic, cleaner flavors. consider Thai Thai by bangkok Garden (specializing in Thai, clearly) as well as Orient-Bowl Inc., a vendor who brings a taste of Vietnamese to pritchard park. And over in the Taste of Asheville, you’ll find plenty of healthy options, with flavors as diverse as Mela‘s fresh Indian cuisine to the vegetarian and vegan offerings of One world Kitchen. but don’t think it’s all healthy penance for the deep-fried delights you’ve sucked down over at pritchard park — this year, Taste of Asheville welcomes a vendor called Glam Ham Pork Rinds, a business that offers four different types of pork rinds in pre-sealed bags: hot and spicy, barbecue, salt and vinegar and plain. sounds like a party. Don’t forget these other Taste of Asheville vendors: coco moe’s; homeGrown; The Lobster Trap; Nick’s Grill; Neo burrito; Ultimate Ice cream; boca; The corner kitchen; moe’s; Original bar b Que; rita’s Ice.
mountainx.com • BELE CHERE LOVE IT: FESTIVAL GUIDE 19