Smoky Mountain News | May 8, 2024

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passed up millions to close Canton paper mill Page 4

Fireflies are surprisingly diverse Page 30 Western North Carolina’s Source for Weekly News, Entertainment, Arts, and Outdoor Information May 8-14, 2024 Vol. 25 Iss. 50 Pactiv

On the Cover:

Questions have swirled around the environmental impact Canton’s recently closed paper mill may have now that it’s no longer operational. Now, people have somewhat of an answer, as it has been revealed that the EPA has been running two separate clean-up efforts to address two separate spills into the nearby Pigeon River. (Page 6) File photo


Pactiv passed up millions in revenue to close Canton paper mill........................4

Haywood County Schools to bring back middle school academy ......................5

Steps taken to address District Court vacancy..........................................................9

No tax increase proposed in Haywood budget........................................................10

Catamount School will move to WCU campus......................................................12 Cherokee man sentenced for assaults, firearms offense ....................................14 WCU School of Nursing receives $2.1 million ......................................................16 Education briefs..................................................................................................................19


Sorry, fertilized eggs are not living beings..................................................................20 Democrats try to scare voters........................................................................................21


Sure feels good anyway: A conversation with Amy Ray........................................22 Come out to the Whole Bloomin’ Thing Festival......................................................28


Word From the Smokies: Fireflies are surprisingly diverse..................................30 Up Moses Creek: Thinking Like an Empty ................................................................34

D IGITAL MARKETING S PECIALIST Tyler Auffhammer. . . . . .

ADVERTISING SALES: Amanda Bradley. . . .

Maddie Woodard. .

C LASSIFIEDS: Scott Collier.

N EWS E DITOR: Kyle Perrotti. . . .

WRITING: Hannah McLeod. . .

Cory Vaillancourt.

Garret K. Woodward. .


D ISTRIBUTION: Scott Collier. . . . . . .

C ONTRIBUTING: Jeff Minick (writing), Susanna Shetley (writing), Adam Bigelow (writing), Thomas Crowe (writing)


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Paying the price

Pactiv passed up millions in revenue to close Canton paper mill

Amid ongoing restructuring, Pactiv

Evergreen presented its first quarter earnings report on May 2, missing earnings targets and revealing flagging revenue at least partially attributable to the closing of its Canton paper mill last year.

“… Q1 was generally as expected. We reported net revenues of $1.3 billion for the quarter which represents a decrease of about 13% compared to last year,” said John Baksht, Pactiv CFO, during a May 3 earnings call. “The decrease was largely due to the closure of our Canton, North Carolina, mill operations during the second quarter of 2023, lower pricing due to the pass-through of lower material costs and lower sales volume.”

Roughly a thousand Western North Carolina workers lost their goodpaying union jobs when the mill closed last summer, with some of them ending up in a health care coverage gap because Pactiv failed to notify its insurance carrier of the impending closure.

For the first quarter of 2023, Pactiv reported net revenues of $1.431 billion. Management made the closing announcement on March 6 of that year and the 115year-old Canton mill went on to halt produc-

tion late in the second quarter. By the fourth quarter of 2023, net revenue had slipped to $1.274 billion and continued to decrease slightly through the first quarter of 2024 to $1.252 billion — a difference of $179 million compared to the first quarter of 2023.

“Excluding the impact of the Canton mill closure, our revenue is down approximately $95 million or 7%,” Baksht said.

If that’s true, the Canton mill’s absence was responsible for a 6% decrease in Pactiv’s revenue year-over-year for the first quarter of 2024, amounting to approximately $84 million.

ings report was issued, PTVE stock had closed at $15.49 a share, but by 10 a.m. on May 3, after the earnings call had ended, it had dropped more than 15% to $13.16 a share. As of press time on May 8, PTVE was trading at $13.34, off its 52-week high of $15.84 but well above its 52-week low of $6.84 from last June.

When the closing was first announced to employees in a closed-door meeting, management cited market conditions as a big reason for the move. Just eight months after that, Pactiv was being blamed for a milk carton shortage that affected jails, nursing homes and schools. Canton’s production likely could have helped with both the carton shortage and, therefore, the declining revenue in the food and beverage merchandising segment.

Locally, the focus remains on the future of the 185acre mill site, and to a lesser extent, the futures of additional facilities still operating in Waynesville and in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Corporate leaders from Pactiv Evergreen reported company performance and spoke with industry analysts on a May 3 earnings call.

The decrease in revenue accounts for a substantial portion of the $190 million hit Pactiv’s food and beverage merchandising segment took from the first quarter of 2023 to the first quarter of 2024. Net revenues in that segment were down 22% year-over-year, from $850 million to $660 million.

According to a Pactiv presentation accompanying the earnings report, sales volume was down 14%, but excluding the effects of the Canton mill closing, sales volume was down only 4%.

Pactiv stock (NASDAQ: PTVE) dropped sharply on the news. Before the May 2 earn-

Locally, the focus remains on the future of the 185-acre mill site, and to a lesser extent, the futures of additional facilities still operating in Waynesville and in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

During the May 3 earnings call, no mention was made of what Pactiv plans to do with the Canton mill site, but the company’s form 8K, a commonly used reporting document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 2, did say that the company “continued to explore strategic alternatives related to its Pine Bluff, Arkansas mill and Waynesville, North Carolina facility” during the first quarter of 2024.

That statement aligns with a press release issued by Pactiv on March 6, 2023 — hours after the closing of the Canton mill was announced — that said the company would explore “strategic alternatives” for Waynesville and Pine Bluff. That press release also cautioned that the company “has not set a timetable in relation to this process.” Roughly a thousand Western North Carolina workers lost their good-paying union jobs when the mill closed last summer, with some of them ending up in a health care coverage gap because Pactiv failed to notify its insurance carrier of the impending closure. Leaders in state government have been mulling a lawsuit over a 2014 economic development grant, and Pactiv continues to rack up environmental violations at the Canton site, even though it’s now closed. The company’s request for a business personal property tax break on the Canton site was rejected last year, but appeals are ongoing. An agreement dated Feb. 28, 1964 outlines an agreement between Pactiv and Canton for Pactiv to treat Canton’s wastewater at a very minimal cost, but Pactiv could in theory increase those costs at any time. On March 8, 2023, Pactiv filed to terminate that agreement, effective March 9, 2025.

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Pactiv Evergreen photo

Haywood County Schools to bring back middle school academy

The Academy, an alternative service for middle grades students, will return to Haywood County Schools in the coming year as one of the school system’s budget expansion priorities.

“I think there is a great need for it,” said board member Marla Morris. “I do think it will take some pressure off of our middle school teachers and help retain those teachers.”

The Academy offers alternative services and extra support with a smaller teacher-tostudent ratio for students that need special help and attention in school.

“We have, with some creative budgeting, been able to locate dollars within our current expense — our current, current expense, not fund balance or any of that — to fund The Academy for next year,” said Haywood County Schools Superintendent Trevor Putnam.

The school system currently provides a program called Stepping Stones that functions as a way for students to access therapeutic and behavioral health services for kids in public schools.

“Our highest numbers come from middle school aged kids into Stepping Stones,” said Putnam. “So, the need is there greatly for middle school aged students who need an alternative placement for whatever the case may be — things going on at home, mental health support, social anxiety, you name it.”

The Academy had long been a part of Haywood County Schools’ options for middle school students but went away four years ago as part of a budget cut within the school system.

“It has been sorely missed,” Putnam said. “We look at that in a lot of ways. Objective number one being that we have a suitable space for every kid, no matter what they’ve got going on in their life, we’ve got a good place for them to go and learn.”

“But number two, I think that it is hard for a teacher with kids with high needs in a larger classroom, because the teacher has 25 other kids and then this really high-needs kid,” Putnam added. “And it’s hard. Nobody really wins in that situation. The 25 others that are in there, the one that just needs a little something different, or the teacher who’s trying to pull it all together. So, we look at this through the lens of retention as well for middle school educators.”

Putnam presented the plan to restart the program to the school board during its May 3 work session for information. However, restarting the program falls within administrative tasks and no board vote was required.

The school system will fund The Academy with money from federal Title IV funding which provides students with access to a well-rounded education; supports safe and healthy learning environ-

ments and improves the effective use of technology to enhance academic achievement and digital literacy for students. It will also use some state funds to pay for staffing, as well as money from the exceptional children program funding.

“It’s already within pots of money that we have; it’ll be pulling them all together,” Putnam said.

The total recurring budget will be about $310,000, all of which will go toward personnel.

After meeting with all three middle school principals, administration decided the best location for The Academy would be on the campus of Waynesville Middle School, the same place The Academy was located prior to its closure four years ago.

“You have a space there that is physically separate both for bus drop-off, bus pick-up and physical classroom space,” Putnam said.

Canton Middle School does not have the same separate space options, and while Bethel Middle does have an option for separate space, according to school administration, Bethel Middle School typically does not require many slots or students to go to The Academy.

There will be two teachers and three teacher assistants working at The Academy. There might also be the need for additional administrative support due to the higher instances of discipline, but this has not yet been decided.

“Getting the right personnel is critically important,” Putnam told the board. “You have to have the right disposition; you have to understand and be skilled in working with challenged youth.”

Brandi Stephenson, exceptional children program director, will work with principals to help pick staff for the program.

“It takes teachers with a certain gift and connection with those kids,” said school board member Marla Morris.

Without any objection from the board, Putnam said that he and Stephenson would begin posting positions for the Academy to start this fall.

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Bringing in the feds EPA agreement mandates elements of Canton mill cleanup

Surface water spills on the Pigeon River near Canton’s shuttered paper mill have been the EPA’s focus. File photo

Pactiv Evergreen, owner of the shuttered papermill in Canton, has been working to clean up two separate seeps leaking toxic substances into the Pigeon River under an administrative order of consent (AOC) with the Environmental Protection Agency. While the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) has been working with Pactiv to address both seeps, the EPA became involved, in a sense, by happenstance. The AOC notes that the EPA’s Atlanta office was informed by a “citizen” that there were ongoing releases of fuel oil from the site. Ken Rhame, an EPA site coordinator, was in Cruso looking into a relatively small oil sheen on Rattlesnake Branch. Another man noticed his government plates and asked Rhame if he was someone from FEMA working on the recovery from 2021’s catastrophic flood that ravaged the area. Rhame explained his purpose.

“He made the comment, ‘if you think the fuel oil spill is bad, you should see the one at the paper mill,’” Rhame said. Rhame verified the fuel oil seep with NCDEQ and Pactiv and things began to move. In September of last year, the AOC was finalized.

In light of those cleanups, EPA has designated part of the property a Superfund site. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as Superfund, allows the EPA to both clean up a contami-

nated sites and also force the responsible parties to either perform a cleanup or reimburse the government for its cleanup of a site. But while it is technically a Superfund site, it may not be quite what people think of when they hear the term. The largest cleanups, which can be sitewide and take decades, are on the “national priority list,” but that’s not the case for the mill; it is considered a critical removal action, which tend to take only a year or so to finish.

The AOC addresses the seeps of No. 6 fuel oil and black liquor impacting the Pigeon River. Relevant water samples reviewed by the EPA led to the determination that releases of No. 6 fuel oil and black liquor pose a threat to public health and the environment.

The black liquor seep has been a longknown issue that was first reported to NCDEQ in in 1994.

Black liquor is a byproduct from the production of paper. The Canton mill produced paper from both hardwood and softwood using the kraft process. The kraft process is used to convert wood into wood pulp. This involves treatment of wood chips using water, sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfide. This mixture is known as white liquor. The white liquor separates the lignin from the wood fiber, or pulp, from which paper is made. Black liquor is the spent liquor or the byproduct from this process. According to the AOC, prior to the shutdown, the mill hardwood fiberline produced up to 820 tons of paper per day, the softwood fiberline produced up to 640 tons of paper per day,

part of the paper-making process and as an energy source for mill operations. The fuel oil was kept in two massive above-ground tanks and was used until the mill shut down. Like with the black liquor, Pactiv and NCDEQ had already been working on a potential removal plan for the fuel oil prior to EPA’s involvement.

On Jan. 28, 2022, Pactiv notified NCDEQ of a brownish material on the east side of the Pigeon River that remained visible in the streambed for about two weeks. The material was identified as black liquor. Since then, that seep has been a regular cause for NOVs. An email from Pactiv to NCDEQ specifies the severity of the seep.

“Although we do not have a firm estimate of the amount of oil collected and disposed of using this process, PTVE [Pactiv] estimates that the oil/water mixture sent offsite for disposal contains 10-15% oil and that, on average, 2.5-4 gallons of oil are being collected per day,” that email reads. “Overall, PTVE estimates that around 250375 gallons of oil has been collected and sent off site for disposal in 2023 (year to date).”

The first step in the fuel oil cleanup was to pump the remaining oil the tanks and complete an inspection. That inspection confirmed that the oil was leaking into the ground out of holes that had formed in the bottom over the years.

which created a substantial amount of black liquor.

“When Champion sold the Mill in 1999, Champion retained certain obligations and liabilities associated with the black liquor seep,” the AOC reads. “While attempts to recover black liquor in the groundwater were eventually abandoned, International Paper, which purchased Champion in 2000, has been conducting semiannual monitoring at the Mill’s existing well network since 2007.”

The other seep addressed in the AOC involves No. 6 fuel oil, which was stored onsite and used to heat boilers and kilns as

Next, regulators and workers had to figure out how the fuel oil was getting from the soil under the tank into the river. Looking at old schematics from when the mill was constructed, they noticed an abandoned municipal sewer line that ran parallel to the flood control levee before cutting toward the river. Upon investigation, they saw that the old terracotta pipes had been damaged in several places, allowing the fuel oil to enter the sewage line. Next, they used borescopes to inspect the sewer line and discovered that it eventually ran into a manhole from which oily water was recovered and pumped to the sewer plant.

A huge portion of the work on the fuel oil cleanup involved excavation, which one email says amounted to around 10,000 tons of soil from underneath the tanks being hauled off. Once

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 6
In a photo taken in February 2022, black liquor deposits sit in the Pigeon River. AECOM photo

they got to about a foot below the groundwater, even though there was still some indication that there was some contaminated soil left, they had to leave it alone because of the groundwater table. It was agreed upon that the excavated soil, as long as Pactiv could demonstrate that it was non-hazardous, could be brought to the White Oak landfill in western Haywood County.

At this point, the fuel oil cleanup is mostly complete, while the black liquor seep still needs time.

Every element of the project must be coordinated and reported to the EPA, including costs and information on contractors and subcontractors that may be involved in the monitoring or cleanup. On the EPA’s end, that means the on-scene coordinator, which ended up being Rhame, the man who was first told by the citizen about the sheen on the Pigeon River from the fuel oil. Rhame has broad authority, including oversight of Pactiv’s implementation of the work, authority to halt, conduct or direct any work or to direct any other removal action undertaken at the site.

According to the AOC, around the beginning of this year, Pactiv was required to submit a work plan to the EPA that outlined how it would reduce impacts to residential areas, schools, playgrounds, healthcare facilities or recreational public areas during the removal. In addition, it was required to say how it would conduct monitoring in those “community areas of impacts from the implementation of the removal action.” Pactiv is also required to submit quarterly progress reports that describe “all significant developments during the preceding reporting period,” including analytical data obtained and any changes to schedule.

One section of the AOC notes that the EPA has the lead responsibility for implementing “community involvement activities” including a community involvement plan. This could include public meetings. While there haven’t been any such meetings yet, any member of the public could request one.

If the EPA determines that Pactiv has ceased implementation of the work or is otherwise deficient, it can take over the work for up to 60 days. To ensure completion of the work, Pactiv Evergreen had to take out an insurance policy for $1.5 million, something the EPA called “satisfactory.” There are also potential noncompliance penalties outlined in the AOC, ranging from $250 per day to $750 per day, depending on how long the problem persists. There is also a work takeover penalty of $50,000.

There has been a lot of talk about who, if anyone, might purchase the mill property. The AOC addresses a potential sale, as well, noting that transferring the property doesn’t absolve Pactiv of its responsibility.

“… prior to entering into a contract to Transfer any of its property that is part of the Site, or 60 days prior to a Transfer of such property, whichever is earlier, (a) give written notice to the proposed transferee that the property is subject to this Settlement; and (b) give written notice to

EPA of the proposed Transfer, including the name and address of the transferee.”

The AOC stipulates that Pactiv must provide — under penalty of perjury — a final report within 60 days of completion of the work. That report will summarize actions taken and provide specific details, including a list of quantities and types of materials removed from offsite or handled onsite.

This isn’t Pactiv’s only recent brush with the EPA. In October of last year, the regulatory body announced that it had finalized a $2.1 million consent agreement and final order with Evergreen Packaging for alleged Clean Air Act violations tied to the company’s Pine Bluff, Arkansas location.

In a Smoky Mountain News story from earlier this year, Clean Water for North Carolina Executive Director Hope Taylor said that given how long the mill was operational, there could easily be more cleanup needed.

“I suspect that there is a long legacy of pretty toxic chemicals just because the bleaching and heat processes involving chlorine would necessarily have produced a lot of chlorinated hydrocarbons, including dioxin,” she said.

In recent months, Pactiv Evergreen has received notices of violation for several items, including discharge toxicity and high fecal coliform concentrations. Fecal coliform is a group of bacteria that includes

“CAFO alleges that Evergreen failed to control hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) at their facility, did not meet fuel specifications for boilers, and failed to close washer windows/hoods during operation. Evergreen Packaging LLC must pay a civil penalty of $256,973,” a release read.

And the current cleanups at the paper mill site may not be the only involvement the EPA will have there. While it isn’t involved in any other efforts, there are still ongoing monitoring efforts that could lead to more discoveries worthy of EPA intervention.

ment “has been in communication” with mill owner Pactiv Evergreen to address these violations, and that the mill has informed DWR that it installed new chlorination equipment at the head of its wastewater treatment plant to prevent future contamination.

For the EPA to get involved in another cleanup, NCDEQ would have to submit a removal site evaluation. In addition, there’s no guarantee another entity may not file a lawsuit, depending on how the cleanup plays out and what other environmental issues may be discovered.

Either way, even though the removal of the No. 6 fuel oil and black liquor seeps may be completed relatively quickly, it’s still likely that the overall cleanup effort — whether the EPA is involved or not — may still take decades, even if the property is transferred and repurposed.

While sources who spoke with SMN didn’t want to be quoted as they explained the removal process, most noted that since the EPA became involved, Pactiv has done a good job of holding up its end of the bargain. Rhame went ahead and said it on the record.

“Pactiv has been easy to work with and cooperative,” he said.

Before long, the public should be able to gain more extensive insights into the mill’s overall environmental impact. Last September, EnSafe, the contractor Pactiv is partnering with to collect water samples to analyze for chemicals and contaminants, conducted its first major quarterly analysis, and another was completed in January. Additionally, a research project from the N.C. Collaboratory headquartered at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, announced in October that it will investigate contamination levels outside of the mill’s property line.

Folks at the state level are watching the situation closely. NCDEQ Secretary Elisabeth Biser has made some strong statements about her intention to ensure Pactiv Evergreen lives up to its responsibilities.

“The DEQ’s role in this is to hold the responsible party accountable, to make sure that the right steps are taken, prevent further impacts to the town and residents and also first and foremost to make sure that the site is remediated for future productive use,” she said during a May 2 roundtable discussion with local leaders. “We will hold the company accountable for responsible closure.”

Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers said he’s waiting with interest to see how the rest of this plays out.

disease-causing species such as E.coli. While most coliform bacteria do not cause disease, some strains of E.coli cause serious illness. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, swimming, diving or wading in water contaminated with fecal bacteria can result in diarrhea, vomiting, respiratory illness and other health problems. Skin, ear, eye, sinus and wound infections can also be caused by contact with contaminated water. Back in February when the fecal coliform NOV was issued, an N.C. Department of Water Resources spokesperson said the depart-

“I expected that both DEQ and EPA would do exactly what they said they would, that they continue to hold Evergreen to the law and their environmental obligations, and I am appreciative for that,” Smathers said. “As we go forward to the next steps, the responsibility of Evergreen and whoever occupies that site will be to our town, our county and our environment. We know in time that Evergreen will not be here, but our people and the generations after us will be, and we need to give them a Haywood County that is better than we found it.”

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 7
This map depicts where all the sampling wells are at the paper mill site. Pactiv Evergreen map
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With Superior Court seat filled, steps taken to address District Court vacancy

Western North Carolina has seen a substantial shuffle on the judicial bench over the last year. Stock photo

There have been a lot of questions regarding the future of Western North Carolina’s judges over the last year or so, but the final piece may have just fallen into place.

Last Wednesday, May 1, Tessa Sellers, then a District Court Judge, was sworn in as a Superior Court judge, which opened up a vacancy for her former seat on the bench. Last Saturday, the Republican Party held a vote consisting of members of the executive committees of the seven counties comprising the judicial district. That vote came down to two candidates, Swain County’s Kristy Parton and Assistant District Attorney Andy Buckner. Parton ultimately won.

While the vote happened in rapid succession following the vacancy, it had been a long time coming. On Dec. 7 of last year, then-Superior Court Judge William Coward announced his retirement, and on Feb. 1, he made it official, creating an opening on the bench in a position vital to tackling the backlog of cases in the state’s far-west counties. The Superior Court vacancy kicked off a process for the GOP to nominate someone to appear on the November General Election ballot as a Republican for that seat. That process was laid out in a Jan. 13 NCGOP memo that the party provided to The Smoky Mountain News and culminated in the Feb. 24 vote.

Sellers won that vote, and last month, Gov. Roy Cooper appointed her to that seat.

Saturday, after Sellers’ swearing in, the vote was held to see what Republican would appear on the ballot. Parton won, although the final tally wasn’t provided to SMN by the GOP.

“I’m thankful,” Parton said. “I’m very appreciative of the support. I am excited about the possibilities.”

A native of Swain County, Parton said she put her name in for a gubernatorial appointment to a District Court seat 10 years ago, but then Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, ended up appointing Sellers to that seat. Parton said she thought Sellers was ultimately the right choice and that she has gained more experience over this last decade, in particular with family law matters, which end up being some of the most important cases District Court judges hear.

For NC-11 GOP Chair Michele Woodhouse, the vote to put Parton on the ballot was déjà vu. Woodhouse executed the process for the Superior Court vote to replace Coward, and this vote was not much different. For Superior Court, the 45 voters were members of the executive committees from each of the five counties that make up the judicial district; for each county, that was the chair, vice chair, secretary

and treasurer, as well as five at-large members selected during the county conventions held last year. Each county’s total was weighted according to its number of registered Republican voters. This go-round, the vote included, in addition to the five far-west counties, Haywood and Jackson. Following the vote to confirm Sellers, Woodhouse said she was happy with how smooth that process went. She said this most recent one was the same way. It began with Macon County attorney Orville Coward, uncle of former judge Bill Coward, nominating Buckner, and Rep. Mike Clampitt (RSwain) nominating Parton. The candidates spoke, and then the vote was held. Woodhouse said the whole thing took no more than an hour.

“The process went smooth,” she said. “We followed very much the same format as last time, and like last time, prior to the meeting, each candidate hosted a Zoom meeting where they could talk to the executive committees.”

“Both Andy Buckner and Kristy Parton presented themselves incredibly well,” she added.

Woodhouse recalled that the NCGOP called for the vote to fill the Superior Court seat in hopes that it would spur Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to make a quick appointment. Woodhouse noted in a previous SMN story that she was happy with how quickly that happened, and she said last weekend that she hopes to see quick action again. However, in this case, the appointment process is a bit different. Members of the bar from the seven counties that comprise the district will vote to offer up three candidates to Cooper for appointment.

doing what’s best for the state in whatever way.”

Cooper announced Greene’s appointment a couple of months later, and Greene was sworn in in November of last year. The bar making up the seven-county district has not yet voted for its recommendations.

“We have our name that will be submitted to the NCGOP and the state board of elections,” Woodhouse said, referring to Parton.

Woodhouse is hopeful that the bar will provide firm support for Parton’s nomination, as well.

Kristy Parton took a huge step forward toward becoming a District Court Judge.

“In conversations with some folks that are part of the bar who were there (for Saturday’s vote), they’re going to urge that vote to be held quickly and put forward Kristy’s name,” she said.

This process played out recently to fill a vacancy created by the surprise retirement of Judge Kristina Earwood, who left the bench to address an emerging health concern. In that case, the top vote-getter was Democrat Justin Greene, of Swain County, with Vicki Teem, of Graham County, finishing second, and Buckner taking third.

From there, the three nominees met with Cooper for inperson interviews. Greene gave some insight into how his interview went.

“The impression I got from speaking with the governor is that he was someone who was thoughtful in his decision making,” Greene said. “You can tell he really cares about

Parton, should she gain the appointment and win the November election, won’t be the only new judge in Western North Carolina. Last year’s state budget provided funding for a new District Court judge, the first in the judicial district in almost two decades.

The race for the new District Court seat came down to two Republicans, Virginia Hornsby and Assistant District Attorney Andy Buckner. Because there were no Democrats running, their primary decided who would take the new seat on the bench, with Hornsby pulling 52.77% of the vote to come away with the victory. Hornsby will be sworn in at the beginning of next year.

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 9
Donated photo

No tax increase proposed in Haywood budget

With jail expansion debt payments coming on the books and lingering questions about one of the county’s biggest taxpayers, Haywood County Manager Bryant Morehead presented commissioners with a conservative budget that funds some critical needs, but not much else.

“I will say, the budget doesn’t have what people say would be fluff,” Morehead said during a May 6 meeting of the Haywood Board of County Commissioners. “I really call it flexibility. We’ve taken a lot of the flexibility out because we are just funding employee pay and insurance, and debt. This budget meets our needs but it really is a status quo budget.”

As proposed, Morehead’s budget calls for no increase in the county’s property tax rate of 55 cents per $100 in assessed value. Applied to the $10.3 billion of taxable property in the county at a 98.3% collection rate, the current tax rate will generate revenue of $56.5 million, up about 2.6% from $55.1 million last year.

Using those metrics, a one-cent increase or decrease in the property tax rate would equal just over $1 million. The county’s ongoing revaluation process, mandated by state law, won’t affect the proposed budget, so the natural revenue growth will push the general fund from $101 million in the current year to $106 million for next year.

Sales tax collections, which soared during the Coronavirus Pandemic, appear to be settling back down to earth. Morehead projects only a 3% increase next year.

“We’ve had some really significant growth since fiscal year ‘20. For the upcoming year FY 25, and this is not just unique to Haywood County, but statewide collections are coming in at much more modest growth — growth that you would expect before COVID.”

Perhaps the best revenue news this year comes from a substantial 173% increase in investment earnings, from $1 million last year to $2.76 million next year. Without the increase, next year’s proposed budget would have a 1.76-cent hole.

“Inflation I guess in this case is a two-edged sword,” said Commissioner Tommy Long. “It benefitted us greatly by the revenue from our investment returns.”

Morehead explained that in spring 2022, the county’s account with the North Carolina Capital Trust was only earning half a percent in interest. In April 2023, the rate grew to 4.8%. As of April 30, it stood at 5.25%.

“Interest rates, when you’re borrowing money, the high interest rates are really tough to handle,” Morehead said. “But when you have idle cash, and we’re investing it, it’s benefitting us greatly.”

Other fees were projected to be flat, with the exception of sales and services. Due to an increase in staffing for convalescent transport, a $546,000 increase is projected in EMS revenue, roughly 10%.

On the expenditures side, there aren’t many major changes from the current year budget as the county continues to focus on employees, facilities and capital improvements.

Canton sex offender sentenced to 31 years

The U.S. Attorney for Western North Carolina’s office announced that a Canton man, Michael Worley, 51, has been sentenced to over three decades in prison for traveling to Fort Mill, South Carolina, to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor while being a registered sex offender. According to court documents and proceedings, in 2017, Worley was sentenced to 60

The $6.8 million revenue increase will largely be offset by $1.5 million in public safety spending, $1.2 million in central services mainly for information technology needs and $1.1 million in interest-only payments on the $28 million jail expansion financing. Looking at the spending in another way, approximately $3.79 million of the revenue increase will be spent solely on employee salaries and benefits.

Haywood County — along with other municipal governments in the county — has spent no small amount of time and money over the last few years bringing employee compensa-

Haywood County Manager Bryant Morehead presents his proposed budget to Haywood County Commissioners. Haywood County photo

tion back to market rates in order to quell the costly turnover that can result in some employees leaving for higher-paying jobs elsewhere as soon as they’re trained.

The proposed budget again offers a Christmas bonus, 2% merit increase and 3% cost of living adjustment. Morehead said that the current budget contains a 4% COLA, but that the consumer price index is down slightly from this time last year, so the proposed 3% COLA will still maintain the market competitiveness the county has worked hard to create.

After years of stunning rate increases, employee health care coverage costs are projected to increase only slightly next year, from $19,500 to $20,000 each, resulting in a $587,000 increase to $14.1 million. In 2015, the county’s health care coverage bill was just under $6 million.

Morehead cited the county’s various employee wellness programs as a major factor in keeping health care coverages costs in check.

In line with Morehead’s “status quo” budget, there will be no new positions created in the county’s various departments this year. In total, 18 new positions were requested — six from the sheriff’s office, four from EMS, three from the tax assessor, two from HHS and one each from information technology, the library and in economic development. The total cost of the positions, if all were approved, would have been $1.74 million.

months in prison after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography in federal court in the Western District of North Carolina. As part of Worley’s judgement, he was ordered to a lifetime term of supervised release and to register as a sex offender.

Court documents show that in March 2021, the York County Sheriff’s Office began an undercover operation to identify online child predators using social media and other messaging applications to contact minors. On March 12, 2021, Worley began communicating online with under-

New vehicles, however, will be funded, and as with employee salaries, represent progress in staying ahead of the curve with replacements so the county doesn’t fall behind and have to purchase large numbers of new vehicles all at once to catch up with needs. In the current budget year, the county replaced 28 vehicles at a total cost of $1.8 million. Going forward, the county will spend $1.1 million to replace 16 more next year, representing a decrease of $659,000 compared to the current year appropriation. Morehead said he thinks the number of proposed replacements is more in line with what he expects to see each year.

“We spent the last few years realty getting caught up on vehicles. Now we’re in a much better place,” he said.

Vehicles aside, there aren’t many more capital projects slated for next year. The current budget has funded capital projects at the armory, the Russ Avenue EMS base and a new library roof, among other things, but the proposed budget is focused mostly on the jail expansion payments. The expansion is expected to take 24 months to complete, but principal and interest payments will begin after the commissioners will pass a budget in May or June of 2026.

Despite the jail expansion, the county’s non-education debt profile continues to be manageable. In the proposed budget, debt service stands at $2.8 million per year. Next year, those payments will temporarily spike to $3.4 million, slowly dwindling to $2 million over the course of the next two decades.

At the end of Morehead’s presentation, Chairman Kevin Ensley finally addressed the elephant in the room.

“So the Pactiv Evergreen closing, how did that impact our budget?” Ensley asked.

After 115 years of operation, Pactiv Evergreen’s paper mill in Canton was shut down by owners last June, making this year the first full budget year during which the impact of the closure would be reflected. At issue is Pactiv’s contention that its 185-acre parcel, and the business personal property on it, isn’t worth the assessed value assigned by the county as of Jan. 1, 2023. Last May, Pactiv asked for a substantial tax break on the parcel. That request was rejected by the Haywood County Board of Equalization and Review last June, but Pactiv has appealed. If the appeal is successful, both the Town of Canton and Haywood County will not only have to refund more than a million dollars each in taxes Pactiv already paid, but also accept the lower valuation moving forward.

To answer Ensley’s question, Morehead simply said the county was budgeting for the full assessed value of the parcel. Commissioners thanked Morehead and staff for the presentation, with several of them noting that all in all, the county remains on sound financial footing despite the challenges presented.

“We are really in good shape in Haywood County, and that is because of good leadership and paying attention to the future and watching the dollar and being, I don’t want to say tight with the budget, but definitely paying attention to expenditures,” said Commissioner Jennifer Best. “So I appreciate that. It could be way worse.”

cover sheriff deputies posing as a 15-year-old girl. During their communications, Worley expressed his interest in engaging in illicit sexual acts with the underage female, knowing that the female he thought he was communicating with was a minor. Worley also referenced his prior federal conviction and said that he was not supposed to be talking to a minor, that he had been in trouble in the past, and that he did not want to get in trouble again. On March 27, 2021, Worley traveled from Haywood County to Fort Mill for the purpose of engaging in sexual

acts with the minor.

When Worley arrived at the residence in Fort Mill where he thought he was meeting the minor, he was arrested by the York County Sheriff’s Office.

In March, Worley pleaded guilty to attempting to use a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing child pornography. Worley is in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 10
May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 11 T MO M ALEN OF AUNT NT INS J JO A OB FEEST 6 M a T H o r r r

Catamount School will move to WCU campus

The Catamount School, a laboratory school operating on the campus of Smoky Mountain High School, will relocate to the campus of Western Carolina University next school year after Jackson County Public Schools approved a relocation plan due to the need for more space at Smoky Mountain High School.

“This move will allow even more possibilities for Catamount School students as well as the ability for WCU students, faculty and staff to more easily make connections and enrich the academic experience,” said Kim Winter, dean of WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions.


The Catamount School is a laboratory school operating on the campus of Smoky Mountain High School.

In 2016, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law that required the University of North Carolina Board of Governors to establish eight lab schools aimed at improving student performance in low-performing schools. The UNC system then selected universities to utilize their colleges of education to establish and operate these lab schools. The Catamount School in Jackson County is run by Western Carolina University’s College of Education.

The lab school opened in 2017. Although it operates on the campus of SMHS, it is an entirely separate school system from JCPS. Students must apply and be accepted into the school.

During the school board’s March 19 meeting, Superintendent Dana Ayers gave a report on the Catamount School, the need for space at SMHS and the possibilities of relocating the lab school to another JCPS building.

In February, the board of education received information from a facilities study detailing the dire need for classroom space within several of its buildings.


After that March 19 report, JCPS administration met with Kim Winter, dean of WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions, WCU Provost Richard Starnes and a WCU attorney. During that meeting JCPS administration shared its proposed plan for the Catamount School to relocate to the campus of Jackson Community School.

Jackson Community School is the old Scotts Creek School and used to house nearly 400 students. Today, there are 59 students that attend Jackson Community School in the building.

“So, there is more than adequate space there,” Ayers said. The relocation plan involved allocating four classrooms to the Catamount School, the same number it currently occupies at SMHS, and two office spaces. The plan allowed for gym space in the morning when that area was not being used and continued work with JCS Principal Heather Reidinger to accommodate additional office and gym space if possible.

“They also would have access to outdoor space, which they don’t have a tremendous amount of currently at SMHS,” said Ayers.

Transportation was already handled as students who attend Jackson Community School ride the bus to SMHS and then get on a shuttle that takes students to and from JCS. School nutrition was also built into the plan as lunches provided to JCS are transported from Scotts Creek school each day and Catamount School students could be factored into that process.

During that April 12 meeting, JCPS also brought up improvements they would like to see at the Catamount School. One of those being the application process for the lab school which school board members had concerns about

and discussed at their March 19 board meeting.

According to the legislation that created lab schools, students are eligible for admission to a lab school if a student resides in the local school administrative unit where the lab school is located and meets at least one of the following criteria — they are assigned to a low-performing schools, the student did not meet expected growth in the prior school year based on one or more indicators, the student is a sibling of a child who is eligible under the first two criteria or the student is the child of a lab school employee.

“When you look at those requirements, we have many JCPS students who would be eligible for that,” said Ayers.

However, the legislation also states that if a lab school has not reached enrollment capacity in a program, class, grade level or building by March 1, prior to the start of the next school year the lab school can enroll children who reside in the local school administration unit that do not meet the other criteria.

we have,” said Ayers. Ayers presented the relocation plan to the board for action in order to be able to move forward with the relocation process while awaiting a memorandum of agreement, which would come before the board separately in the future.

“What I seek is your approval to continue having these conversations and move forward when we get to that point and then when … there’s an MOA that needs to come it will come at the May 28 board meeting,” said Ayers.


Board members Lynn Dillard and Abigail Clayton both voiced their discontent with the plan, eventually voting against the motion to approve it. They did so not necessarily on the merits of the plan itself but because they wanted to have more communication with WCU and the Catamount School before approving any relocation plan.

“One of the things I wanted you to see is that they have the opportunity to fill the school with students who meet that criteria and if they don’t fill it before March 1, they can take other students who don’t meet those criteria,” Ayers told the board in March.

The Catamount School does not open its application process until March 1, thus allowing the school to accept students without adhering to the criteria set out in the legislation.

“We talked about revising the procedures for enrollment applications prior to March 1 to meet the criteria set forth by legislation,” said Ayers.

JCPS administration said it would also like to see students from Jackson Community School allowed to apply to the Catamount School. Currently they are not listed on the application as eligible.

Last, JCPS and WCU administration discussed collaborating on professional development, having regular meetings between the two administrations and developing strategies that will assist JCPS in filling future EC positions.

“We all know and have heard over the last five years how difficult it is to fill EC positions, so we would like to move forward figuring out how we can address those EC vacancies

“I would not be willing to enter an MOA until everybody is involved, sitting at the table in advance,” said Dillard. “Because what’s in the MOA is, what we’re obligating ourselves to and what we obligated ourselves to last time is exactly what we’re trying to get out of. And to me that’s a matter of trust between us and the university which has been broken down and I would never, ever want to move them unless they were 100% involved in that and ok with it.”

Dillard also voiced concern that the plan involved moving the Catamount school to Jackson Community School, because it is an alternative school, which she said has a negative connotation.

“These kids think that they’re going to a school for bad kids, that’s destructive in and of itself,” said Dillard.

Ayers opposed that perception saying that the students who attend Jackson Community School are not bad children.

“They are great children,” said Ayers.

Chairman Elizabeth Cooper and board members Wes Jamison and Kim Moore voted to approve the plan based on needed classroom space at SMHS to permit for in-person college and career readiness courses offered through Southwestern Community College.

“We have to take into consideration what’s F

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 12
The Catamount School will move from Smoky Mountain High School to WCU this fall. File photo

best for all the kids,” said Jamison. “When you’re presenting us with an opportunity to offer certain classes at the high school that will also benefit Catamount School kids when they get to the high school, I don’t think you can discount that.”

Moore also noted that the plan to move the Catamount School is not intended to be an indictment of any sort on the Catamount School.

“This is nothing personal,” said Moore. “We have to make the right decision — what is best for the kids? What’s best going forward for all of them?”

“I see great things with the Catamount School,” said Cooper. “But I also see that we have the opportunity with Southwestern courses that could tremendously benefit our high school students.”

The board voted 3-2 to approve the JCPS to work with the Catamount School to move forward with a relocation plan; Clayton and Dillard were the dissenting votes.


Despite the approval of the relocation plan by the board of education, in a May 6 press release, WCU said the lab school was “forced out of Jackson County Public Schools,” and that it would relocate to WCU’s campus in the coming year.

“After a tumultuous couple of weeks, Western Carolina university has found a permanent space for the Catamount School. The lab school will be housed in Reid Building on the university’s campus this coming school year,” the release read.

“I see great things with the Catamount School. But I also see that we have the opportunity with Southwestern courses that could tremendously benefit our high school students.”

— Elizabeth Cooper, Chairman, Jackson County Board of Education

“We created the Catamount School in partnership with Jackson County Public Schools and I am disappointed that we were not included in important conversations and the sharing of information about our school,” Winter is quoted as saying. “This led to unfortunate inaccuracies being shared in a public setting with no opportunity for a collaborative discussion.”

During the April 23 board meeting, Ayers said that the reason the discussion about relocation did not happen until the past couple of months is because that is when Southwestern Community College and JCPS were able to finalize plans for college and career readiness courses. Administration brought the discussion to its own board of education prior to


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May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 13 100 Charles St. WAYNESVILLE FREE ESTIMATES

Cherokee man sentenced for assaults, firearms offense

Martin Medina, 32, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison and three years of supervised release for a firearms offense, assaulting federal officers and assault with intent to commit murder.

In addition to the sentence imposed for the weapons and assault convictions, Medina was ordered to serve an additional 30 months in prison for violating the terms of his federal supervised release, for a total sentence of more than 16 years.

Medina was convicted of federal charges in 2012 for abusive sexual contact and related offenses. Medina was sentenced to a term of imprisonment followed by a lifetime of supervised release. As a convicted felon, Medina was prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition. Also, among the conditions of Medina’s supervision were warrantless searches of his person and his residence.

According to court documents and court proceedings, on June 14, 2022, probation officers and a deputy with the Cherokee Indian Police Department (CIPD) arrived at Medina’s residence, located in Swain County within the Qualla Boundary, to conduct a warrantless search. Medina met the law enforcement officers outside, then quickly ran inside his residence. A federal probation officer began to


bringing it up to the Catamount School or WCU administration.

Similar to the way charter schools operate, when a student opts to go to the Catamount School instead of Jackson County Public Schools, the money allotted to them by the state follows them. Jackson County Public Schools must pay the Catamount School for every student that chooses to attend.

negotiate with Medina to come outside, but Medina did not comply. Law enforcement continued to negotiate with Medina, and over the course of the negotiations, law enforcement observed shell casings in the driveway. This led officers to believe that Medina was armed even though he was prohibited from possessing firearms.

A SWAT team was called to the scene. Law enforcement reported potential gunfire coming from inside the residence. Medina continued to refuse to surrender, even after law enforcement deployed non-lethal gas into the residence. After deploying more gas into the home, law enforcement was again met with gunfire. Medina continued to fire at law enforcement, causing one of the officers to sustain a non-fatal injury. Eventually, Medina agreed to surrender.

Court records show that following Medina’s arrest, officers executed a search warrant at Medina’s residence, seizing five firearms, including three shotguns, assorted ammunition, extended magazines loaded to capacity for all weapons, two ballistic vests, a ballistic helmet, night vision goggles, a gas mask, various fixedblade knives, suspected marijuana and several thousand dollars in cash.

Medina remains in federal custody awaiting transfer to the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a facility.

transportation and nutrition services even with the Catamount School located on WCU’s campus.

In its May 6 press release, WCU noted that space was offered at the Jackson Community School but that it was ultimately decided the needs of the lab school and its students would best be met in another location.

“It has been decided that the best relocation site is WCU’s campus as we can offer access to an array of resources. This has been a trying time for our school’s students, staff and parents but we are excited to relocate to

“We already have a comprehensive clubs and enrichment (electives) program but being on campus will allow new partnerships with faculty and students around campus.”
— Kim Winter, dean of WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions

However, while a typical charter school would get the entire per-pupil allotment from the public school system in which it operates, Jackson County Schools retains 30% of the allotment for students attending the Catamount School because JCPS is required by law to provide transportation and student nutrition for the school. That money also offsets costs associated with existing inside SMHS like janitorial services, phones, network access and more.

No plans have been finalized yet, but it is likely that JCPS will still need to provide

WCU in the Reid Building and have a permanent space to call home,” Winter said. “We already have a comprehensive clubs and enrichment (electives) program but being on campus will allow new partnerships with faculty and students around campus. We also began offering athletics last year with great success, so our students will have ample opportunities.”

WCU has created a new memorandum of agreement for the Catamount School which currently is under review. It will likely be presented to the school board at its May meeting.

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 14
May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 15

WCU nursing school receives grant

$2.1 million will launch 'Conway Scholars' initiative

The Western Carolina University School of Nursing in Cullowhee is the recipient of a $2 million contribution from the Bedford Falls Foundation-DAF (“Bedford Falls”) that will provide scholarship support to undergraduate nursing students and enable the hiring of additional faculty to guide them in their clinical experiences.

Bedford Falls, a donor-advised fund that supports a wide range of charitable and educational causes in the eastern U.S., also made an additional $100,000 contribution to WCU’s

educational expenses, promoting more equitable access to nursing education.”

Anderson called the contribution not just an investment in WCU’s School of Nursing, but also an investment in the health and well-being of people across the Western North Carolina region.

“This generous gift will affect students, their families and the patients they will someday serve. It represents a forwardthinking approach to health care education and a commitment to addressing some of the most-pressing challenges in our health care system,” she said. “We are immensely grateful for this support and excited about the positive changes it will bring to our students, the college and the broader region.”

shortage in Appalachian and Indigenous communities requires targeted interventions, including investments in nursing education, support for nursing students from these backgrounds and enhancements to health care infrastructure.”

The gifts have already begun providing financial support to students in both traditional and accelerated bachelor’s degree programs in nursing and will do so through 2027. The average annual award to Conway Scholars is $2,000 for students in WCU’s traditional bachelor’s degree program and $1,250 for those in the accelerated track who have bachelor’s degrees from regionally accredited colleges or universities and are looking to pursue a career in nursing.

“This generous gift will affect students, their families and the patients they will someday serve.”

More than 15% of students in the WCU School of Nursing receive federal Pell Grant support, which is one indicator of financial need but does not reflect all students who have financial need.

With the Bedford Falls gift, the School of Nursing can more than quadruple the number of scholarships awarded and has already more than doubled the total amount of scholarship support for students in the first semester of awards. Every WCU student who is trying to become a nurse is receiving financial support.

Among the inaugural Conway Scholars is Jennifer Chung, a junior from Arden who entered the accelerated nursing track last year and who called the scholarship “a true godsend.”

“I was a CPA but decided to go back to school to study nursing so I can make a tangible difference in people’s lives,” Chung said. “This donation allows me to focus on training to be a competent nurse and not worry about whether I can make my next tuition payment.”

Asheville resident Cameron Klemmons is another secondyear nursing student at WCU who is changing her career path through the accelerated program as a Conway Scholar.

“I received my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work and worked as a social worker for about seven years prior to starting in the ABSN program,” Klemmons said. “The scholarship was greatly appreciated as it helped to take some of the financial burden in regard to the cost of tuition off of my family.”

School of Nursing in memory of philanthropist Joanne Conway, who established Bedford Falls along with husband William “Bill” Conway.

She died Jan. 8, just two weeks after the signing of the gift agreement establishing the Joanne and William Conway Nursing Scholarship at WCU. Scholarship recipients will be known as Conway Scholars.

The $2.1 million total contribution from Bedford Falls represents the single largest donation in the history of WCU’s College of Health and Human Sciences and its School of Nursing, said Lori Anderson, dean of the college.

“Western Carolina University is honored to be a recipient of this support and greatly appreciates the philanthropic gift that the Conways have provided,” Anderson said. “This gift marks a milestone in our commitment to advancing health care education and underscores the generous support of our community partners. This generous gift is transformative and will have a profound impact on our students by significantly reducing financial barriers and allowing them to focus more intently on their studies and clinical training. The scholarship support made possible by this gift will alleviate the burden of

The Bedford Falls contributions to WCU are part of an ongoing effort to help provide more access to nursing education and solve a shortage of qualified nurses, Bill Conway said.

“Joanne was passionate about helping people improve their own lives and their communities,” he said. “We were first attracted to WCU because of its reputation for providing highquality nursing education to the WNC region, which, like many areas of the country, is facing a critical nursing shortage. However, it was hearing the stories of students struggling to balance work and school that deeply moved Joanne and inspired us to action to help.”

The contribution from Bedford Falls will help WCU combat the economic challenges and educational barriers that limit the nursing pipeline of local individuals from communities throughout WNC and reduce workforce diversity and the availability of culturally competent care, said Terri Durbin, director of the School of Nursing.

“Culturally sensitive care is critical to fostering trust and improving health outcomes, yet the need for nurses from or familiar with these communities hinders effective communication and trust-building,” Durbin said. “Addressing the nursing

The Bedford Falls contributions also will provide additional resources to hire part-time and adjunct clinical faculty for continued expansion of enrollment both in Cullowhee and at WCU’s off-campus instructional site at Biltmore Park in Asheville. The gifts come at a critical time for the nursing program at WCU and the profession in general, said Durbin.

“Expanding our faculty is crucial for maintaining highquality education and mentorship, enabling us to accommodate more students and enhance our program offerings,” she said. “The nursing shortage is a pressing issue both regionally and nationally.”

Recent studies reveal that the country is facing a significant shortfall of registered nurses and forecast that tens of thousands of nursing positions will still need to be filled in the coming years. Adding to the nursing shortage is a growing population of aging adults who require more health care services.

“Our initiative aims to mitigate this shortage by preparing more qualified nurses to enter the workforce. The nursing shortage in the United States significantly hampers health care delivery, with pronounced effects in

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 16
Western Carolina University students in the School of Nursing are benefiting from the newly established Conway Scholars program. Donated photo

Appalachian and Indigenous communities in Western North Carolina,” Durbin said. “These regions face substantial barriers to accessing health care services due to the limited availability of facilities and professionals, further aggravated by the nursing shortage.”

Because of the nursing shortage, patients are experiencing fewer health care services, longer wait times and potentially lower quality of care, reducing positive health outcomes and increasing disparities in these underserved populations, she said.

Bill Conway is co-founder of the Carlyle Group, a multinational private equity, alternative asset management and financial services corporation. Joanne Conway was CEO/owner of the Golden Door, a renowned health and wellness resort. She was initially inspired to support nursing students after a waitress at one of her favorite restaurants described the difficulties of being able to afford to go to nursing school.

The Conways, individually and through Bedford Falls and other philanthropic vehicles, have given or committed nearly $400 million

Joanne Conway

to charitable organizations in the mid-Atlantic region, including 15 schools of nursing.

“I know that our School of Nursing in our

Macon County to receive expanded high-speed internet

Efforts are continuing to bring high-speed internet access to communities across North Carolina.

The N.C. Department of Information Technology’s (NCDIT) Division of Broadband and Digital Equity posted Completing Access to Broadband (CAB) program scopes of work to expand high-speed internet access to unserved and underserved homes and businesses in three counties, including Macon.

To date, scopes of work have been posted for 28 counties. Internet service providers that are prequalified to participate in state broadband expansion programs may submit proposals to provide broadband to all or a portion of eligible locations within each county.

College of Health and Human Sciences will embody Joanne’s mission to empower individuals with skills and opportunities that lead to fulfilling employment,” WCU Chancellor Kelli R. Brown said. “We share her passion for and belief in the ability of education to transform lives. I feel buoyed by the knowledge that we will play some small part in helping carry out Joanne’s work and legacy.”

WCU established nursing education in 1969 to help meet a regional need for professional nurses, with the first bachelor’s degrees

in nursing presented in 1973. Enrollment in the program remains strong, with a competitive applicant pool greater than the number of available seats for admission. First-time nursing licensure pass rates are at or near 100%, making WCU graduates highly employable, Anderson said.

The Bedford Falls gift comes as part of WCU’s “Fill the Western Sky” comprehensive fundraising campaign, an effort to raise $75 million for the university’s academic, student engagement and athletics programs. For more information or to make a contribution to the campaign, visit, call 828.227.7124 or email

This public-private partnership will help achieve the goal to close the digital divide and ensure more North Carolinians can access affordable and reliable high-speed internet. Funds come from the Biden-Harris administration’s American Rescue Plan.

The CAB program creates a partnership among state government, county leaders and internet service providers to fund broadband deployment projects with $400 million from the American Rescue Plan. All CAB projects require matching investments from counties, which will be combined with NCDIT’s award and the prequalified service provider’s contribution.

Each county’s scope of work will be posted for 45 days at and will include the evaluation criteria by which an internet service provider will be chosen and the instructions for submitting proposals. For more information about the NCDIT Division of Broadband and Digital Equity, please visit

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Bill Conway
May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 18

HCC construction technology students support the Waynesville Housing Authority

Haywood Community College Construction Technology students recently helped the Waynesville Housing Authority add much-needed storage behind several homes in the Ninevah housing community.

The Waynesville Housing Authority has five areas in town with 100 residential units, and collaborative projects like this help support the housing needs of our community.

Students had to prepare each foundation, which included laying out and leveling blocks and then framing floor systems decked in plywood. This work prepared each site for a premanufactured shed which will be installed later by Waynesville Housing Authority. The onsite exercise was a great fit for the curriculum of the Construction Technology course, which has a focus on residential framing.

As a member of our Construction Skills & Technology Advisory Board, Waynesville Housing Authority Director John Bryson has been working with HCC’s construction program on potential projects that will have our students use the skills they are learning in practical applications. Bryson said this project is the perfect example of community partnerships.

“Waynesville Housing Authority is dedicated to supplying quality and affordable housing to Haywood County and surrounding individuals,” he said. “In doing so, we have decided to make things a little easier for individuals transitioning into subsidized housing by offering affordable storage units on property so that individuals do not have to leave behind any personal items they need whether sentimental or otherwise. We are proud to be collaborating with the construction class at Haywood Community College to get this done. Without them this venture would take much longer to reach realization.”

Classes in the Construction Skills & Technology program start throughout the year, with courses offered in basic construction skills, HVACR, construction technology and plumbing. For more information on the Waynesville Housing Authority, visit For more information about HCC’s Construction classes, visit

SCC honors

high achievers

The highest-achieving students at Southwestern Community College were honored in the annual Academic Awards Ceremony on April 16 in Myers Auditorium on the college’s Jackson Campus in Sylva.  Among the honorees were 74 students who received “high honors” for maintaining a perfect 4.0 cumulative GPA.

Jonathan Mallard, a Franklin resident enrolled in the Associate Degree Nursing —

The following “Students of Distinction” were also honored: Ginger Alfrey, Barnett, Sarah Jane Blackburn, Katlin Bradley, Amber Brown, Whitney Coggins, David Coulter, Tina Cronberger, Elizabeth Crowe, Jacob Eilers, Madilynn Franklin, Ariel Giles, Ashlye Johnson, Dalton Jones, Tazanna Jones, Mark Kaserman, Lauren Kirby, Jessica Koch, Stacey Lindsay, Jo Loewy, Diane Mahoney, Heather Mallard, Jonathan Mallard, Brittany Martin, Michael Sherman, Lindsey Stephens, Kathryn Sumrell and Linneah Taylor.

To qualify for the “Academic Honors” portion of the program, each student had to earn a minimum of 30 semester hours of credit within the last four years by the end of the fall semester at SCC, be enrolled in the spring semester and have a cumulative Grade Point Average of 3.5 or above.

For more information about SCC, call 828.339.4000, visit or drop by your nearest SCC location.

WCU commitment deposit deadline nears

First-year students with an admission offer to Western Carolina University were granted a time extension to secure a spot in the summer or fall 2024 entering class after the Office of Undergraduate Admissions moved the commitment deposit deadline from May 1. However, come May 15, that deadline will pass.

While some of the next steps in the enrollment process require submission of the commitment deposit (e.g., pre-registration, orientation, housing assignment preferences), WCU is extending the deadline for families who face challenges associated with changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

“WCU is seeing an increase in the number of admitted students who have committed for this coming fall,” said Mike Langford, director of undergraduate admission. “Many interested students recognize that WCU is a great institutional choice to help manage college costs. NC Promise helps many families minimize debt and maximize savings. At recent spring open houses, guests shared how the educational value that NC Promise affords attracted them to WCU.”


“WCU eagerly awaits the release of federal and state aid information to finalize financial aid offers,” said Trina Orr, director of financial aid. “Have confidence; our team is working diligently behind the scenes to ensure you receive the support you need. We expect to start sending aid offer notifications by mid-April.”

Contact the Office of Admissions for more information about the commitment deposit and commitment actions steps ( Visit for more information about financial aid or scholarships.wcu.edufor more information about scholarships. To learn more about NC Promise, go to

HCC hosts Bobcat College

Enroll your rising 6th, 7th or 8th grader at Bobcat College June 17-21 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Haywood Community College in Clyde. Students will be emersed in interactive and educational sessions with college instructors including topics of STEM, biology, nursing, virtual reality, forensics, IT, EMS, fiber and more. Students will be able to participate in each opportunity. The day is packed and will keep students engaged all day. They should bring traditional outing items such as sunscreen and weather-appropriate clothing. Students will need to provide their own lunch and water bottle. Cost of the class is $215 per week. Register online at

WCU chancellor again on

Business NC Power List

For the fourth year in a row, Business North Carolina magazine included Western Carolina University Chancellor Kelli R. Brown in its Power List of the state’s most influential leaders.

The recognition comes in the current issue now on newsstands. The magazine made selections based on interviews with businesses and community members, research and reader suggestions, for candidates in categories for education, health care, economic development, finance and others.

RIBN program, was named the N.C. Community College System Academic Excellence award recipient.

The Charles McConnell New Century Scholar Award went to Makahla Chandler of Franklin, and David Coulter of Whittier received the Dallas Herring Achievement Award — given annually in honor of one of the state’s earliest advocates for community colleges.

Glenn Barnett of Robbinsville won the Bob Scott Leadership Award, named after the former N.C. governor who also served as president of the state’s community college system for 12 years.

Langford emphasized that depositing as soon as possible provides more time for students to complete commitment action steps. “If any admitted students are set on coming to WCU, but submission of the $300 nonrefundable deposit poses a challenge right now, those students can reach out to the Office of Admissions, and we’ll assist them with saving a seat in the entering class so that they can proceed to the next steps.”

The Offices of Student Financial Aid and University Scholarships continue prepping to share award information as soon as federal and state aid information become available to WCU. Students and families who haven’t completed the 2024-25 FAFSA are urged to do so quickly because awarding is about to

Brown took office in 2019, making her the first permanent female chancellor of WCU. She has garnered attention for making the top priorities for the university as academic excellence and quality, economic development and regional engagement, and campus diversity and inclusive excellence.

Business North Carolina noted that since her arrival, there’s been a continued studentcentered focus and innovation in teaching.

Brown holds a doctorate in education from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale; a master of science and education in public health degree and bachelor of science degree, both from the University of Toledo in Ohio; and an associate in applied sciences degree in dental hygiene from Michael J. Owens Technical College in Toledo.

Education Smoky Mountain News 19
HCC Construction Technology students build shed platforms for Waynesville HousingAuthority houses. Corey Isbell Photo

Change is coming, and things will change

What happens when the those with the most chips in the game only have a partial stake in it?

In other words, what does a community lose when most of the very large businesses are owned by absentee or corporate entities whose main goal is make money but have little interest in making that place a better place to live?

That question came up recently while I was having lunch with the executive director of a pretty large local tourismrelated business. In Haywood County, we looked back over what has happened in the past 30 years: the hospitals (in the entire region) no longer local, community-owned businesses, Waynesville Country Club no longer locally owned, Pactiv Evergreen (before its closing) just a part of a huge multinational corporation. And then of course there’s the growing number of chain or corporate owned retail, large apartment complexes and accommodations businesses.

I’m not suggesting there’s anything inherently sinister in corporate ownership. No, many of those businesses do their part to encourage employees to take part in community endeavors and they bring money and resources to the region, especially much-needed jobs for those who live here.

But we also lose something when we become more and more beholden to conglomerates whose long-range successes aren’t tied to what happens right here. They aren’t a part of the daily fabric of the place we call home. When profits from large local businesses go to shareholders or owners who don’t

Democrats try to scare voters

To the Editor:

In a letter in SMN’s April 10 edition, a former official of the Haywood County Democratic Party challenged Christians to defend an array of typically awkward Trumpian statements and actions during Holy Week that she characterizes as “unholy.” What is notable about the letter is not what it contains, but what it does not contain, which is any evaluation of how the actions of her party’s current national standard-bearer — indeed how the actions and policy aspirations of her party as a whole — bear even a remote resemblance to genuine Christianity.

There is a good reason for this vacuum: the promotion of pan-sexualism, transgenderism, abortion, unrestricted illegal immigration, falsified history, and radical environmentalism, along with the belittling, demonization and cancellation of anyone who opposes these agenda items does not attract many votes from Christians who actually believe and act on their convictions.

A major component of the Democrats’ strategy is frightening the electorate into voting against their opponents: living in their house of horrors, right next door to “MAGA extremists,” is their latest bugbear, “Christian nationalism” — a term which is never clearly defined lest too many ask, “Hey, wait a minute, what’s the matter with that? Sounds a lot like 1776 and 1787 to us.”

Readers need to realize that the real pur-

even know where Sylva or Waynesville are, we lose something. People who love living in Western North Carolina embrace the small, independent businesses that make up the fabric of our entrepreneurial community. Look closely at any of the towns in the region. You’ll find that many of its leaders are those who own these smaller businesses, and they also support the numerous efforts to improve schools, bolster youth sports leagues, support the arts, work for environmental causes, and volunteer for any number of nonprofits.

In a story last week in Asheville’s Mountain Xpress newspaper, famed Highland Brewing Co. founder Oscar Wong was interviewed about the brewery that is attributed with igniting the craft beer craze in Western North Carolina: “We’d hoped to be as integral to the area as possible. That was our goal — to just be a really good citizen and part of the community.”

That phrase, “be a really good citizen,” demands being and living here. It really can’t happen in absentia.

Or course Asheville is suffering the same fate in terms of corporations moving in, but there’s also several locally owned corporations — Biltmore Estate, Biltmore Farms, Ingles,


pose of letters of this kind is voter suppression. Such writers aim not to persuade traditional Christians (be they Catholic, Orthodox, or Evangelical) to vote for Democrats but to so disillusion the members of this demographic that they will not vote at all. That is not likely to be a winning strategy in 2024 but it is an understandable one since the DNC and its affiliates know that if these Christians actually vote their convictions (even while having to hold their noses in some contests), the party simply cannot win an honest election.

As a Catholic who is (therefore) fully prolife, I could — and did — wish that the GOP nominee were someone other than an imperfectly pro-life Donald Trump, but that does not obscure the reality that the choice presented this year, imperfect though it is, is still binary: when the only genuine alternatives are dim light and all-but-absolute darkness, it is perverse to pick the latter.

Religious tolerance should be celebrated

To the Editor:

“In the beginning God created ….” Do you recognize those famous words? Many people do. They are the first five words of the King James Bible. Sacred to many. Yet, few people have ever taken the time to

Highland Brewing among them — that have local ownership and who proudly wave that banner and walk the walk. That means their leaders are involved in chambers of commerce and economic development, helping to build community and doing their part to make this region such a great place to live and work — because they also live and work here.

We all play a role in this issue. If you love our vibrant small towns and want them to be here as time moves on, support those independent businesses, whether it’s the local gallery or pub or the small tire store or dog bakery.

As Percy Bysshe Shelley put it so poetically in 1816, “Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow; Nought may endure but Mutability.” Change is inevitable and the only constant.

I accept the reality of huge corporations in our capitalistic society. The big get bigger, and some get insanely big. And as the popularity of this region continues to grow, we’re going to get more of those types of businesses. I like a vibrant economy, but ….

… I still remember when I first explored Waynesville’s Main Street in 1992 while interviewing for a job and the impression it made. In the ensuing decades, I have often feared the small businesses and the energy and uniqueness they bring to Sylva, Franklin, Waynesville or Bryson City could one day disappear. I don’t think I’d like this place as much if that ever happened.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at

study what is actually communicated by those words. Remember: King James had them translated from other languages. Let’s look at them.

“In the beginning” is a statement of an unspecific time. There is no claim made that anyone knows just when the beginning was. Next is the introduction of “God.” Once again no one knows when God came to be. He, She, It just happens. The fifth word is “created.” This may be the one word that gives all the others some semblance of credibility. Still,

even ardent Christian believers must admit there are no facts presented by the first five words of the King James Bible. Still, many people who profess to be Christians hold tightly to their religion. I have no objection to that. What I do object to, though, is the insistence by some in the Christian community that America is a Christian nation. Logical thinking leads to the truth that a nation cannot choose to be a Christian. Only individuals can do that.

Opinion Smoky Mountain News 20
Editor Scott McLeod

Sorry, fertilized eggs are not living beings

It is time to have a fact-based discussion about the biology and history of our knowledge about human reproduction. Much of the current discussion does not reflect the reality of human reproduction. Declaring a fertilized egg to be a person is ridiculous from biological, historical and religious perspectives.

Let’s begin with the biological realities. During the natural course of events as many as 40% of fertilized eggs are lost before implantation in the uterus.

Estimates of how many fertilized eggs do not make it to a live birth range from 30% to more than 75%. The fact is that a majority of fertilized eggs may not result in a live birth. This makes Mother Nature — or God if you will — the most prolific abortionist in the world.

IVF (In vitro fertilization) work and other related studies have found that chromosomal anomalies are frequently among the conditions that result in the death or abortion of fertilized eggs. In the early divisions from fertilized egg to embryo, cell division can result in a range of “errors” in the division resulting in something other than the “normal” 46 chromosomes or other genetic anomalies. A range of other factors can result in conditions that make the resulting embryo or fetus to not be viable.

Biologically, it is only after the fetus is viable outside the womb that one could consider it a separate person. Until then the fetus is totally dependent on the mother and cannot survive outside the womb.

The bottom line is that the contention that a fertilized egg should be granted the same “rights” as a woman or man is absolutely ridiculous from a biological per-

Now, Sir Issac Newton proposed that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This idea may even be true when it comes to beliefs. As most people know the argument in America is between Christianity and the theory of evolution. Basically, evolution proposes that everything that exists came to be by natural scientific processes. Of course, no one has ever proved that. Yet, many people around the world tend to believe that evolution is as reasonable as Christianity.

Our Constitutional framers foresaw the

spective. Based on the best science only a fraction of fertilized eggs will ever become a live birth.

Next let’s look at the historical perspective. Not until about 1875 did science discover the fact that human fertilization consisted of joining of egg and sperm. Historically, sperm was believed to contain the complete preformed individual or sufficient essence to develop into a person in the womb. Presumably, the woman’s contribution to the baby’s characteristics would be thorough the environment she provided during gestation.

In the Bible, life for a human begins when God breaths the breath of life into the individual (Genesis 2:7). Essentially, life begins when the individual starts breathing and ends when breathing stops. Biblical writers talk about males having seed that is planted into the female to produce a child. This would seem to be compatible with the aforementioned concept that the semen contains all that is needed to produce a baby.

In Exodus 21: 22-25, a woman has a miscarriage as a result of injuries sustained when she intercedes in a fight. The fetus is treated as a property loss and not a murder. This would be compatible with the concept that life beings with the breath of God and that a fetus is not a person until birth. From both a historical and religious (Christian) perspective there does not seem to be support for life beginning before birth. From a purely biological perspective, a human egg is far from being a person as only a portion reach a viable birth. The “personhood” of a fertilized egg is a ludicrous modern-day invention. Men can legislate all they want, but Mother Nature will continue to be the master abortionist answerable only to God’s laws of nature.

(Norman Hoffman is a doctoral level clinical psychologist with more than 30 years of experience in the assessment of diagnosable conditions. He lives in Waynesville.

need for tolerance because they had seen intolerance first-hand. They wrote: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ….”

Let’s hope that Americans can re-establish tolerance for different beliefs. Down through time too many people have suffered and even died for believing the “wrong thing.” One writer said, “Tolerance of the intolerable may be wiser than meeting rage with rage.”

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News 21 Bring this ad to receive a free bracelet! ra isadt g th Brin r eceive a fr orto eeb reilfeerf-3# s f newsdeskcra ft t
Guest Columnist Norman Hoffman

Sure feels good anyway

A conversation with Amy Ray

A true mark of an artist is how well they age. Not simply by the passing years on the calendar, for that’s a privilege in itself to experience. But, to age gracefully within your craft, always evolving, peeling back layer after layer, mining the depths of your soul, one filled with a never-ending curiosity — this childlike wonder forever residing at the core of all things beautiful and true.  Co-founder of the enormously successful Indigo Girls, singer-songwriter Amy Ray has been a fixture in the music industry for the better part of the last 40 years. And whenever the duo, which includes Emily Saliers, isn’t touring or recording, Ray launched and continues to pursue a bountiful solo career, releasing several albums to much critical acclaim.

Aside from the intricate talents of Ray’s voice, musicianship and stage presence, what remains is a single human being searching for deeper truths and meanings in daily life amid endless interactions with others.

Ray’s latest album, “If It All Goes South,” is a culmination of all her influences and interests. The songs run the gamut of genres, where lines are blurred between Americana, indie rock, bluegrass and folk music. It’s a “kitchen sink” kind of thing, something that encompasses the wild and wondrous nature of Ray herself — one of those beautiful and true souls.

Smoky Mountain News: I was curious about your

mindset as you’ve gotten old, where you might start reflecting on “what it all means”. Amy Ray: Geez, I’ve been doing that since I was 30. (Laughs). I don’t mind aging, but I definitely have an existentialist sort of dilemma all the time of “What does it all mean?”

I feel like I’m a pretty optimistic person. I’m not cynical. And I still believe in engaging and working hard and all those things. But, I don’t like the idea of mortality. So, heading that way is hard because I love life so much — that’s the bottom line really for me.

SMN: Well, getting older is a privilege, too.

AR: Yeah. No doubt about it.

SMN: Sometimes when a musician’s starting out, they get frustrated about trying to fit some formula. But, there comes a point where a song could be whatever you want it to be, because whatever way you present it, that’s actually your voice. Was there a moment like that for you?

AR: I think I’ve always known that to a certain degree. But, I’ve also come to a place where I really like to have the producer be a strong voice in it. I’m not always successful, but I try to stay open to that.

And that kind of gives me even more options, where I’m like, “Oh, I didn’t even think of that.” So, I try to do that. Then, if that doesn’t work, it can be what you want it to be. It’s kind of having that confidence that makes it so you can take a risk in the studio and have to produce — you’re not holding on so tightly.

SMN: You’ve had a lot of success, but, at the same time, it feels like you’re always peeling back new layers, constantly evolving.

AR: Well, there’s always a lot to learn. I guess I’m a student in some ways. It’s not exciting if I just do what I’ve done before — to me, that’s boring. So, that’s why that happens.

And it’s purely for my own short attention span. I grew up with Neil Young doing a different kind of record every year. It’s that “catch me if you can” attitude. I’ve always loved that with certain artists. David Bowie did that, too. I’m going to be who I want to be, you know?

SMN: How do you measure success these days?

AR: Just by happiness, really. Feeling like I’m learning something artistically and not stagnating. That’s success. And to Emily [Saliers], too. That’s the thing that kind of keeps us hanging together — we both agree about that.

SMN: You’ve always been a politically and socially active person. And it feels like a lot of the causes you’ve championed over the years are currently under attack. How do you stay optimistic?

AR: I stay optimistic because a lot of people that I see around me are doing a lot of great work in the community. It gives me hope because activists are just blossoming in the face of really hard stuff.

I think people feel shut down and dismantled, because if you’re an activist, pretty much everything you’ve worked for just got

Want to go?

A celebration of live music and fellowship, the 30th anniversary of The Grey Eagle will take place on Saturday, May 18, at The Outpost, located at 521 Amboy Road in Asheville.

Featuring The Budos Band, Amy Ray Band, Electro Lust and The Greenliners, the all-day gathering will also have food and beverage options available onsite. Doors open at 2 p.m. Music starts at 3 p.m. All ages. Standing room only. Admission is $45 per person, with VIP tickets also available.

For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to

blown out of the water. So, that’s hard. And I felt that way for a while. I was like, “Well, there is another thing we worked on for a long time and now that’s changed.”

But, the thing that gives me hope is that when you see people doing work, on a community level and in small towns, they’re not really letting that stop them from living the way they want to live and creating better circumstances for people, working for the betterment of society. People are still doing that and there’s still great things happening. If the system is not going to be there for us, we’re going to create our own.

SMN: It can be a very daunting thing to think about what one person can do in this world. But, if I can make my own backyard a better place, the hope is that others are doing it in their own place and it all adds up to something.

AR: I agree. That’s the only thing we can do. A long time ago, when Emily and I were working down in Mexico visiting the Zapatistas and Honor The Earth was funding some stuff for them. That was the whole thing that they talked about. They didn’t need everybody to come there and help. They wanted our help financially, but they didn’t need us to give them a map of how to make their place better.

They were like, “You take care of your own backyard and it’s going make the whole world a better place. Go back to where you’re from and make where you’re from a better place and that ultimately serves what we’re trying to do.”

A&E Smoky Mountain News 22
Amy Ray will play Asheville May 18. Sandlin Gaither photo

This must be the place

‘Cast upon a beach town, Winn Dixie cold cuts thieves highway

hand me downs’

Right now, there are a handful of old cardboard boxes in the back of my girlfriend’s car. Inside the boxes are several dusty photo albums of Sarah’s past. Images yellowed with time of long gone relatives and forgotten moments. Faces not walking this earth anymore and faces not heard from or seen in many moons.

Sarah acquired the boxes following the passing of her father this past winter. After his funeral in Goldsboro — at a large church buffering a busy highway, tobacco fields and pork farms in the distance — the time eventually came to head to his house and sort through his possessions, the photos being the most valuable. Priceless, actually.

Like all of us, we each have our own old cardboard boxes filled with dusty photos albums. We have names and faces solely preserved in the photo frame on the fireplace mantle, the front of the refrigerator, hanging in the hallway or simply along the walls of our memory. The photos are meant to remember, to never forget and to cherish.

And with these physical photos surrounding us, I suppose one needs to be reminded, at least from time to time, about where they came from, in an effort to make sense, for good or ill, of where they presently stand and to, perhaps, answer that eternal, universal question that lies within — where to from here?

For myself, anything I ever posed for before the fall of 2004 is either tucked away in a few small boxes in a storage unit just outside of downtown Canton or on the fridge, tacked up in the hallways and atop the fireplace mantle at my parents’ farmhouse in the North Country of Upstate New York. All of which are gathering dust.



of your youth and youthful transgressions. Embed some of your favorite songs in your profile and select certain cronies to be in your “Top 8” section of your friends list, which usually sparked controversy in the hallways of middle/high school when someone would either be added to or dropped from said “Top 8.”

Regardless, when Facebook came onto the scene, it forever changed the landscape of society the world over. It’s a dead horse at this point about the pros and cons of social media in our fast-paced modern era. But, it’s wild to think about the starting gate of it all. Initially, it seemed a harmless realm to connect with others at your college or other institutions. Remember, Facebook was originally only intended for and exclusively used by college students.

Now, almost 20 years since I first joined good ole Facebook, there’s thousands of photos of myself archived in my profile. Two decades of social media posts, tagged images, opinions and “exciting news” shared, dedications to old lovers and new, dedications to those sadly not with us anymore, attempts at making connections to either the greater good or a deeper sense of self. On and on.

Recently, I wandered down the rabbit hole of the archive of my Facebook profile. Images from college of late night keg party

Anything after the fall of 2004, when I was a sophomore in college at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, is on social media. The Fall 2004 semester is when I first signed up and logged into Facebook. Being one of the earliest schools to be exposed to the powers of Facebook, my peers and I clamored to immerse ourselves in this new, fascinating and utterly mesmerizing technology.

Before the advent of Facebook, we had the short-lived precursor to social media that was MySpace. Scanned and uploaded photos

shenanigans. Spring break road trips below the Mason-Dixon Line. My hair wasn’t grey yet, nor were the appearance of well-earned wrinkles. Images of running track and field for Quinnipiac, all before Father Time now has set in with foot and back issues as I approach my 40th birthday next February.

Thousands of moments captured. College graduation in 2007. Working out in the Rocky Mountains post-graduation in 2008 as a rookie reporter. Attending and documenting music festivals from California to Maine and everywhere in-between. Those two excursions to the Black Rock Desert for Burning Man in 2008 and 2009. Living and trying to find stability as a writer for The Smoky Mountain News when I first arrived in Haywood County in 2012.

A flood of memories amid an ocean of


Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts (Franklin) will host Brothers Of The Heart (country/gospel) 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 13.


The 21st annual Whole Bloomin’ Thing Festival will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 11, in the Historic Frog Level District of Waynesville.


Author Ann Miller Woodford will interpret the legacy and culture of Western North Carolina’s African Americans at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 9, at the Pigeon Community Multicultural Development Center in Waynesville.


The Haywood Arts Regional Theatre will open its 40th season with the enchanting Tony Award-winning musical “The Secret Garden,” which will be held at 7:30 p.m. May 10-11, 17-18, 2425, 30-31 and June 1 and 2 p.m. May 12, 19, 26 and June 2 on the Steve Lloyd Stage in Waynesville..


Scotsman (Waynesville) will host Spiro Nicolopoulos Blues Apocalypse (blues/rock) at 8 p.m. Friday, May 10

photos, most of which are pretty much digitally accessed via my Facebook profile. Whatever isn’t on there is either on my laptop, newsroom data bank or my smartphone, the latter holding thousands more images I’ve never posted or have looked at since the instant the subject was snapped.

It’s weird, you know? I just realized I can’t remember the last time I actually framed a photo, let alone developed a roll of film. Flashbacks of handheld cameras and disposable cameras. Visions of developing photos and awaiting their return from the local pharmacy in the days after a high school prom or dance, of teenage athletic competitions and family reunions. Everything is digital and, well, disposable, too, in some oddly ironic fashion.

I can’t remember the last time I opened up a family photo album. Not really sure where many of them are anymore, either. Definitely some at my parents’ farmhouse. Some have landed in the hands of other sentimental relatives. Others disappearing under the sands of time in some poignantly sorrowful gesture of forgetfulness and neglect, for what is time and place, eh?

Alas, I digress from the existential nature of my thoughts and emotions reflecting on the physical and intrinsic nature of the family photo album. Me thinks I need to download and print out some of those digital images, to purchase some frames and hang them up on the wall for old time’s sake, a smile of gratitude emerging when you stand back and take note of the image at-hand. Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News arts & entertainment 23 PM - 7:30 PM 6:00 Thursday, May 9 Ann Miller Woodford TICKETS count. gmdc.or oor or r der nts s le at a dis b for pur aila Series passes av t pc ance a va chase in ad p Si v t the d le a vailab e arTickaets en 12 and un hildror c f Fr or community member orstude d y f $5 s • forsenior $7 i f $10 :
An old image from a dusty photo album. Donated photo

On the beat

• American Legion Post 47 (Waynesville) will host an “Open Mic” 3 p.m. every Tuesday. Free and open to the public. 828.456.8691.

• Balsam Falls Brewing (Sylva) will host an open mic from 8-10 p.m. every Thursday. Free and open to the public. 828.631.1987 or

• Balsam Mountain Inn (Balsam) will host an “Open Jam” 6 p.m. every Tuesday.

• Bevel Bar (Waynesville) will host We Three Swing at 8 p.m. every first Saturday of the month and semi-regular live music on the weekends. For more information, call 828.246.0996, email or go to

• Blue Ridge Beer Hub (Waynesville) will host the Main Street NoTones from 7-9 p.m. every first/third Thursday of the month and semiregular live music on the weekends. Free and open to the public. For more information, go to

• Boojum Brewing (Waynesville) will host Trusty Hucksters Band (rock) May 11 and Hammock Theory (rock/reggae) May 18. All shows begin at 9 p.m. unless otherwise noted. 828.246.0350 or

• Classic Wineseller (Waynesville) will host Mean Mary (singer-songwriter) 7 p.m. May 17. 828.452.6000 or

• Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center (Franklin) will host Zoe & Cloyd (Americana/folk) 6 p.m. May 18. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to

Steve Sutton Memorial Festival

There will be a special concert in memory of late Haywood County banjo great Steve Sutton kicking off at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 19, on the big outdoor stage at Silverados in Black Mountain.

Performers will include Lonesome River Band, Ashley Heath & Her Heathens, Darren Nicholson & Shawn Lane, Whitewater Bluegrass Co., Mountain Tradition Cloggers and J.A.M. All-Stars.

This event is a benefit for the Steve Sutton Memorial Charitable Trust. The trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created to continue Sutton’s legacy of sharing joy and helping others through music. Proceeds from this event will benefit local music scholarships, as well as the International Bluegrass Music Association Trust Fund.

A longtime member of The Darren Nicholson Band and Whitewater Bluegrass Company, Sutton was 60 years old when he passed away in his sleep on May 13, 2017, one day shy of his 61st birthday.

“I basically owe my musical career to

• Currahee Brewing (Franklin) will host Ray Ferrara (singer-songwriter) May 11. All shows begin at 7 p.m. Free and open to the public. 828.634.0078 or

• Folkmoot Friendship Center (Waynesville) will host Smoky Mountain Ukulele Group (free) 7 p.m. May 8. For a full schedule of events and/or to purchase tickets, go to

• Frog Level Brewing (Waynesville) will host its weekly “Tuesday Jazz Series” w/We Three Swing at 5:30 p.m., Alma Russ (Americana/folk) May 8, Rene Russell (singer-songwriter) May 10, Whole Bloomin’ Thing Festival 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 11, Paul Edelman (singer-songwriter) 3 p.m. May 12, Community Drum Circle May 13, Kevin Dolan & Paul Koptak (Americana) May 14, JR Williams (singer-songwriter) May 17, The Dirty French Broads (Americana) May 18 and Syrrup (Americana) 3 p.m. May 19. All shows begin at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.454.5664 or

• Happ’s Place (Glenville) will host Doug Ramsey (singer-songwriter) May 10, JW Band May 11, Charles Walker (singer-songwriter) May 17 and Rock Holler (Americana) May 18. All shows begin at 6 p.m. Free and open to the public. or 828.742.5700.

• Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort (Cherokee) will host Mammoth WVH (rock) 8 p.m. May 10 and Parliament Funkadelic (rock/funk) 9 p.m. May 17. For a full schedule of events and/or to buy tickets,

• Highlander Mountain House (Highlands) will host “Blues & Brews” on Thursday evenings, “Sunday Bluegrass Residency” from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and semi-regular

him,” said mandolinist Darren Nicholson formerly of International Bluegrass Music Association “Entertainer of the Year” bluegrass act Balsam Range, who was Sutton’s best friend and longtime collaborator. “He got me my first professional job, which led to all the relationships that are still relevant in my current career. Steve believed in me so much that he took me to Strains of Music in Waynesville and paid cash for a Gibson mandolin. Steve was kind to everyone he met and helped countless people — he just had a good heart.”

A Grammy-nominated, multiple IBMA award-winner himself, Sutton graduated from Tuscola High School in Waynesville. Upon graduation, he was simultaneously offered gigs with the “Godfather of Bluegrass” Bill Monroe and bluegrass legend Jimmy Martin.

“But, Jimmy offered me something like $10 more a week, so I took it,” Sutton chuckled in a 2015 interview with The Smoky Mountain News.

live music on the weekends. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to

• Innovation Brewing (Sylva) will host “Monday Night Trivia” every week, “Open Mic w/Phil” Wednesdays, Andrew Wakefield (singer-songwriter) May 11 and Jacob Donham (singer-songwriter) May 18. All shows and events begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public.

• Innovation Station (Dillsboro) will host “Music Bingo” on Wednesdays and semi-regular live music on the weekends. All events begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public.

• Lazy Hiker Brewing (Franklin) will host Karaoke on the second/fourth Friday of the month, Old Souls Duo (country/bluegrass) May 11 and Blue Jazz May 18. All shows begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.349.2337 or

In 1974, Sutton joined Martin on the road, kicking off a career that took him across the globe, ultimately gracing the Grand Ole Opry stage numerous times. Sutton also had stints with Alecia Nugent and Rhonda Vincent. And through his lifelong pursuit of bluegrass and mountain music, Sutton also remembered where it all began, alongside late banjo great and Bluegrass Hall of Famer Raymond Fairchild.

“[Steve’s] talent and free-flowing sense of humor constantly fed that professional effort to the highest levels,” said Marc Pruett, Grammy-winning banjoist of Balsam Range. “Steve was a valued, respected member of a heritage-schooled, living culture. He was ‘the real deal,’ and his warm smile and largerthan-life talent leaves a void in our mountains that can’t be filled.”

Tickets to the performance are $35 per person. Gates open at 1 p.m. The show will be all ages. For more information and/to purchase tickets online, go to

• Legends Sports Bar & Grill (Maggie Valley) will host an “Open Mic Night” 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday. Free and open to the public. 828.944.0403 or

• Macon County Public Library (Franklin) will host Marshall Ballew (Americana/blues) 6 p.m. May 16 and Grizzly Mammoth (rock/jam) 7 p.m. May 18. Free and open to the public. 828.524.3600 or

• Marianna Black Library (Bryson City) will host a “Community Music Jam” at 6 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of each month. Free and open to the public. All musicians and music lovers are welcome. 828.488.3030.

• Mountain Layers Brewing (Bryson City) will host an “Open Mic w/Frank Lee” Wednesdays, Mountain Gypsy (Americana) May 10, Shane

• Lazy Hiker Brewing (Sylva) will host “Music Bingo” 6:30 p.m. Mondays, Canon Tyler Trio (bluegrass/folk) May 10 and Alma Russ (Americana/folk) May 17. All shows begin at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.349.2337 or

Bryson City community jam

A community jam will be held from 67:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at the Marianna Black Library in Bryson City. Anyone with a guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, dulcimer or anything unplugged is invited to join. Singers are also welcomed to join in or you can just stop by and listen. The jam is facilitated by Larry Barnett of the Sawmill Creek Porch Band. The community jams offer a chance for musicians of all ages and levels of ability to

share music they have learned over the years or learn old-time mountain songs. The music jams are offered to the public each first and third Thursday of the month — spring, summer, fall. This program received support from the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of North Carolina and the National Endowment of the Arts. For more information, call 828.488.3030.

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News arts & entertainment 24
Steve Sutton was a beloved WNC musician. File photo

Meade (indie/soul) May 11, Wyatt Espalin (singer-songwriter) 5 p.m. May 12, George Ausman (singer-songwriter) May 17, Ron Neill (singer-songwriter) May 18 and The Dirty French Broads (Americana) 5 p.m. May 19. All shows begin at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.538.0115 or

• Otto Community Center (Otto) will host Celtic & Old-Time Music Jam 6 p.m. May 9 and James Thompson (singer-songwriter) 6 p.m. May 17. Bring a beverage and snack of your choice. Free and open to the public. or 770.335.0967

• Pickin’ On The Square (Franklin) will host Jason Passmore (country/southern rock) May 11. All shows begin at 6 p.m. at the Gazebo in downtown. Free and open to the public.

• Pinnacle Relief CBD Wellness Lounge (Sylva) will host Shelly Vogler 4 p.m. May 18. Free and open to the public. or 828.508.3018.

• Scotsman (Waynesville) will host Old Sap (Americana/old-time) May 9 and Spiro Nicolopoulos Blues Apocalypse (blues/rock) May 10. All shows begin at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.246.6292 or

• SlopeSide Tavern (Sapphire) will host ALR Trio May 2. All shows begin at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.743.8655 or

Mother’s Day piano concert

Leonidas Lagrimas will present “Musical Storytellers: A Piano Recital” at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 12, at the First Presbyterian Church in Franklin.

The program features classical works for solo and piano duet, with Dr. Lyn Ellen Burkett, by J.S. Bach, Debussy, Mozart, Ravel and Scarlatti — works that explore music’s ability to tell stories, express emotions and paint pictures through sound.

The Western Carolina University School of Music Assistant Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy, Lagrimas frequently performs guest recitals throughout the region. His collaborative piano highlights include performances with country music superstar Lorrie Morgan, Grammy-winning soprano Hila Plitmann and multiple Carnegie Hall appearances.

He holds National Certification (NCTM) in Piano from MTNA and a Ph.D. in Music Education and Piano Pedagogy from Florida State University.

Indie, folk at Innovation

Singer-songwriter Andrew Wakefield will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 11, at Innovation Brewing in Sylva.

Wakefield is an Asheville artist with an extensive and eclectic catalog of compositions ranging from guitar-driven bluegrass to folk, old-time, newgrass, rock, Americana, and more.

Boasting an exceptional knack for songcraft and a boundless passion for the guitar, Wakefield has fast become a local fixture, while word of his talent continues to spread throughout the Southeast and beyond.

Wakefield is also a contributing member of The Well Drinkers and a former member of Supper Break and Cynefin.

Career highlights include appearing at Merlefest, performing with Molly Tuttle and Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine

He serves as pianist for Christ Anglican Church in Cashiers and maintains a private piano studio.

Burkett, WCU Assistant Professor of Practice in Music, is an accomplished pianist and harpsichordist who especially enjoys performing 20th and 21st century repertoire. She studied piano with Carolyn Bridger, Mary Ann Covert, and Gary Wolf and harpsichord with Elisabeth Wright and Karyl LouwenaarLueck.

She holds a Ph.D. in Music Theory from Indiana University, a Master of Music in Piano Performance from Ithaca College and a Bachelor of Arts from University of Central Florida. Her research has focused on composers and their creative work processes. Her scholarly work has appeared in many publications and has been presented at regional and national conferences.

Admission is by donation. This program is produced by the Arts Council of Macon County. For more information, call 828.524.ARTS or email

Show, members of Billy Strings, Town Mountain, Fireside Collective, Songs From the Road Band, Jon Stickley Trio, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, George Clinton and Jeff Sipe, among others.

The show is free and open to the public. For more information, go to

• Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts (Franklin) will host Brothers Of The Heart (country/gospel) 7:30 p.m. May 13. Tickets start at $32 per person with upgrade options available. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to or 866.273.4615.

• Stecoah Valley Center (Robbinsville) will host a Community Jam 5:30-7:30 p.m. every third Thursday of the month and semi-regular live music on the weekends. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, call 828.479.3364 or go to

• Swain Arts Center (Bryson City) will host The Legacy Motown Revue (R&B/soul) 6 p.m. May 10. Tickets are $10 per person.

• Unplugged Pub (Bryson City) will host Karaoke w/Lori May 9 (free), Carolina Freightshakers (classic rock/country gold) May 10, Second Chance May 11, Mike Cowen (singer-songwriter, free) May 16, Ricky Gunter (country/rock) May 17 and Mile High Band (classic rock/jam) May 18. All shows are $5 at the door unless otherwise noted and begin at 8 p.m. 828.538.2488.

• Yonder Community Market (Franklin) will host David Childers (singer-songwriter) 4 p.m. May 26 and Tommy Stinson (singersongwriter) 7 p.m. May 30. Family friendly, dog friendly. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to

• Find more at

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News arts & entertainment 25 240 Depot Street WAYNESVILLE 828.246.9111 Mon. 10-5 • Tues.-Fri. 10-6 • Sat. 11-6 • Closed Sunday SOULSISTERSDEPOT.COM Find great Mother’s Day gifts here! Join us May 11 th at the Whole Bloomin Thing Festival Attention: Local Artists, craftsmen & vintage dealers vendors needed: to fill Exciting new business venue in Beautiful Maggie Valley Get in on the Ground floor of this all-new venture & Grow with us! 1595 Soco Road Maggie Valley, NC call Bob Polyanchek 828-507-7239
On the beat ALSO:
Andrew Wakefield. File photo Leonidas Lagrimas will play Franklin May 12. Donated photo
May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News arts & entertainment 26

‘Spark of the Eagle Dancer’ at WCU

The exhibit “Spark of the Eagle Dancer: The Collecting Legacy of Lambert Wilson” will run through June 28 in the Fine Art Museum at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee.

The showcase features works of contemporary Native American art from the collection of one of Western North Carolina’s most notable art enthusiasts, the late Lambert Wilson. This exhibition brings together a selection of baskets, pottery, carving, painting, photography and more.

‘Untitled’ by Bernadine Hicks George (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians). Tim Burleson, Frontier Photography

To learn more about the exhibition and reception, visit The Fine Art Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday.

• “Art After Dark” will be held from 6-9 p.m. Friday, June 7, in downtown Waynesville. Each first Friday of the month (MayDecember), Main Street transforms into an evening of art, live music, finger foods, beverages and shopping as artisan studios and galleries keep their doors open later for local residents and visitors alike. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, go to

• “Challenge Me” exhibition will run through June 2 at the Haywood County Arts Council in Waynesville. In the showcase, “Wings are used by animals and in man-made vehicles. They provide lift and propulsion through the air. Artists let their creativity take flight in an exhibit to dazzle and delight us.” The HCAC gallery is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. For more information, go to

• Marianna Black Library (Bryson City) will host an adult arts and crafts program at 1 p.m. every second Thursday of the month. Ages 16 and up. Space is limited to 10 participants. Free and open to the public. To register, call 828.488.3030 or email

• CRE828 (Waynesville) will offer a selection of art classes and workshops at its studio located at 1283 Asheville Road. Workshops will include art journaling, watercoloring, mixed media, acrylic painting and more. For a full list of classes, go to For more information on CRE828, email or call 828.283.0523.

• Gallery Zella (Bryson City) will be hosting an array of artist receptions, exhibits and showcases. The gallery is open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. For

more information, go to or call 517.881.0959.

• Waynesville Photography Club meets at 7 p.m. every third Monday each month on the second floor of the Haywood Regional Health & Fitness Center in Clyde. The club is a nonprofit organization that exists for the enjoyment of photography and the improvement of one’s skills. They welcome photographers of all skill levels to share ideas and images at the monthly meetings. For more information, email or follow them on Facebook: Waynesville Photography Club.

• Haywood County Arts Council (Waynesville) will offer a wide range of classes, events and activities for artisans, locals and visitors. The HCAC gallery is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. For more information and a full schedule, go to

• Jackson County Green Energy Park (Dillsboro) will be offering a slew of classes, events and activities for artisans, locals and visitors. For more information and a full schedule, go to

• Southwestern Community College Swain Arts Center (Bryson City) will host an array of workshops for adults and kids. For more information on the upcoming classes and/or to sign-up, go to

• Dogwood Crafters in Dillsboro will offer a selection of upcoming art classes and workshops. For more information and a full schedule of activities, go to or call 828.586.2248.

• Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center (Franklin) will host semi-regular arts and crafts workshops. For more information, go to

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News arts & entertainment 27
On the wall ALSO:

On the street

Whole Bloomin’ Thing Festival

File photo

The 21st annual Whole Bloomin’ Thing Festival will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 11, in the Historic Frog Level District of Waynesville.

There will be children’s activities, local growers and artisans/crafters, flowering baskets, herbs, outdoor decor, live music and more. Businesses in the district will also be open, including a coffee cafe, brewery, plant shop and art galleries.

The event is free and open to the public. Rain or shine. For more information, visit

Ready for the ‘May Gemboree’?

The “May Gemboree” will be held May 17-19 at the Robert C. Carpenter Community Building in Franklin.

Rough and cut gems, minerals, fine jewelry, supplies, beads, door prizes, dealers, exhibits, demonstrations and more. Doors open at 10 a.m. each day.

Sponsored by the Franklin Chamber of Commerce and the Macon County Gem & Mineral Society. For more information, call 828.369.7831 or visit

A special gem show will be in Franklin May 17-19. File photo

• “G&LW Wholesale Gem Show” will be held May 17-19 at the Watauga Festival Center in Franklin. The trade shows are produced in many major trade centers across the United States for the convenience of wholesale buyers. For decades, G&LW’s multiple show venues continue to be a top gem and mineral buyer destination. Doors open at 10 a.m. each day.

On the table

Do you like strawberries?

The 22nd annual Strawberry Jam festival will be held May 18-19 at Darnell Farms in Bryson City.

The Darnell family celebrates their locally grown strawberry crop. Enjoy local music, local food, fresh fruits and vegetables, craft vendors, plow demonstrations, children’s play area, hayrides, fishing, camping and much more. Gates open at 9 a.m. each day. For more information, go to or call 828.488.2376.

On the stage

HART presents

‘The Secret Garden’

The Haywood Arts Regional Theatre will open its 40th season with the enchanting Tony Award-winning musical “The Secret Garden,” which will be held at 7:30 p.m. May 10-11, 1718, 24-25, 30-31 and June 1 and 2 p.m. May 12, 19, 26 and June 2 on the Steve Lloyd Stage in Waynesville.

Based on the famous 1911 novel and possessing one of the most glorious scores ever to hit Broadway, “The Secret Garden” is a family friendly, yet sophisticated production and one of the most highly anticipated shows of HART’s 2024 season.

This literary classic, brought to life by composer Lucy Simon and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Marsha Norman, tells a compelling tale of forgiveness and renewal. At its core lies the poignant idea that grief, like a garden, must be tended to, lest it overwhelm us.

“The Secret Garden” plants the seed of this symbolic expression of grief from its opening moments, nurturing it until it blossoms into a moving finale of healing and joy.

“This cast is full of powerhouse singers who appreciate the complexity of the overall story and are in tune with one another every step of the way, listening and responding

actively,” Director Kristen Hedberg, herself a veteran of the stage, said of the performers.

“That alone is enough. Combined with the beautiful and intriguing visual elements of the show, this production will transfer the audience’s and characters’ experiences or witnesses of grief to hope and beyond even that, to joy.”

To make reservations, call the HART Box Office at 828.456.6322 or go to HART Box Office hours are Tuesday-Friday from noon to 5 p.m. HART is located at 250 Pigeon St. in Waynesville.

• Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort (Cherokee) will host comedian Rickey Smiley 7:30 p.m. May 11. For a full schedule of events and/or to buy tickets,

• Peacock Performing Arts Center (Hayesville) will host semi-regular stage productions on the weekends. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays unless otherwise noted. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to or call 828.389.ARTS.


‘Conversations with Storytellers Series’

As part of the “Pigeon Community Conversations with Storytellers Series,” author Ann Miller Woodford will interpret the legacy and culture of Western North Carolina’s African Americans at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 9, at the Pigeon Community Multicultural Development Center, located at 450 Pigeon St. in Waynesville.

Upcoming installments of the Pigeon Center series include artist DeWayne Barton (June 13), author/painter Marsha


• “Flights & Bites” will be held starting at 4 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays at Bosu’s Wine Shop in downtown Waynesville. As well, the “Spring Fling” wine dinner will be taking place April 16-17. For more information on upcoming events, wine tastings and special dinners, go to

• “Take A Flight” with four new wines every Friday and Saturdays at the Bryson City Wine Market. Select from a gourmet selection of

Almodovar (July 11) and author Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle (Aug. 8).

Tickets are $10 for community members, $7 for seniors age 65 and older and $5 for students. Children ages 12 and under are free. Purchase tickets in advance at or at the door. Series passes are available at a discount. Refreshments will be available for purchase. Sponsored by Friends of the Haywood County Public Library, The Smoky Mountain News and Janet & Bob Clark.

charcuterie to enjoy with your wines. Educational classes and other events are also available. For more information, call 828.538.0420.

• “Uncorked: Wine & Rail Pairing Experience” will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on select dates at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad in Bryson City. Full service all-adult first class car. Wine pairings with a meal, and more. There will also be a special “Beer Train” on select dates. For more information and/or to register, call 800.872.4681 or go to

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News arts & entertainment
Whole Bloomin’ Thing returns to Waynesville May 11.
‘The Secret Garden’ will play at HART this spring. Donated photo

Good medicine and Mother’s Day — a book, a poem

All of us, to one extent or another, make our way through a world of unexamined phenomena.

into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

It’s a complex world, and we generally glide through it without thinking too much of its parts and machinery. We all carry mini-computers in our pockets, but ask us to explain how we can look at the screen of our phone and read a newspaper from New Delhi, and the best most of us can do is shrug. Ask us how a commercial airliner gets off the ground and flies through the air — the average weight of a Boeing 737, fully loaded and fueled, runs to about 175,000 pounds — and there’s that shrug again.

Most of us know just as little about the very bodies we inhabit. How many chambers make up the human heart? What’s the function of the pancreas? Why do we have two intestines? Where’s the pituitary gland located? Most of us studied human anatomy in a high school health or biology class, or perhaps at college, but what we remember is fragmentary. Again, the shrug.

The same ignorance holds true for diseases. We hear of osteoarthritis, lymphomas, Crohn’s disease and even diabetes, but unless we know someone with these ailments, suffer them ourselves or are in the medical professions, we likely have no real idea of their cause, symptoms or treatment.

Which is where the “Family Health Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Reference Guide to Home Health” (Lorenz Books, 2023, 256 pages) comes to the rescue.

Here two skilled general practitioners, Dr. Peter Fermie and Dr. Stephen Shepherd, clearly explain the workings of the human body and the diseases that afflict it. With hundreds of illustrations and helpful sidebars, the “Family Health Encyclopedia” is a compendium of information on everything from how the endocrine system functions to treatment of the common cold. In addition, there are special sections on the topics of children’s health, caring for the terminally ill and complementary therapies to traditional medicine, like homeopathy and acupuncture.

Some might argue that such the internet has made such a guide unnecessary, that we can find all of these ailments, their prevention and treatment, and when to seek medical help, on our laptops or phones. That’s

true, but only to a degree, for in this one resource is an invaluable big-picture guide to health which if necessary can kick off further research into some topic online.

In their “Introduction,” the authors write, “The more you understand about health and illness, the better you will be able to help both yourself and those closest to you — and

nothing can ever be more rewarding than helping loved ones in potentially difficult situations. The aim of this book is to make that task just a little bit easier.”

In this case, that aim is right on target. Two thumbs up for the “Family Health Encyclopedia.”


Now, changing directions entirely, here’s a poem with some bits of humor for Mother’s Day, “The Lanyard” by Billy Collins, former U.S. poet laureate. One prefatory note: The French novelist mentioned in the second stanza is Marcel Proust, author of “In Search of Lost Time;” the pastry that kickstarted his memory was a madeleine.

The other day I was ricocheting slowly off the blue walls of this room, moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano, from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor, when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist could send one into the past more suddenly — a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp by a deep Adirondack lake learning how to braid long thin plastic strips

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard or wear one, if that’s what you did with them, but that did not keep me from crossing strand over strand again and again until I had made a boxy red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts, and I gave her a lanyard. She nursed me in many a sick room, lifted spoons of medicine to my lips, laid cold face-cloths on my forehead, and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim, and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard. Here are thousands of meals, she said, and here is clothing and a good education. And here is your lanyard, I replied, which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart, strong legs, bones and teeth, and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered, and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp. And here, I wish to say to her now, is a smaller gift — not the worn truth that you can never repay your mother, but the rueful admission that when she took the two-tone lanyard from my hand, I was as sure as a boy could be that this useless, worthless thing I wove out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

End-note: the poet employs the ancient rhetorical device of apophasis, that courtroom trick when an attorney slips a subject into the discussion by denying it. The poem’s message isn’t really about the lanyard, but that we can never repay our mothers.

And here I must disagree. If you were blessed with a good mother, you can repay her by living out the virtues and code of conduct she taught you as a child. If your mom was negligent or abusive, you can take her as your negative example, seek a better way and pay for her mistakes by bringing some good to the world.

We all had a mother. At the very least, we can be grateful that she made us a part of this three-ring circus we call Planet Earth. So, Happy Mother’s Day to all of us! (Jeff Minick reviews books and has written four of his own: two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust On Their Wings,” and two works of nonfiction, “Learning As I Go” and “Movies Make the Man.”

‘And So I Run’ reading in Franklin

Author Anne Jobe will be hosting a special reading at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 15, at the Macon County Public Library in Franklin. Jobe is one of the authors in “Blood Sweat Tears,” a soon to be released collection of short stories by women, hikers and runners about the experience of being in a female body on trail.

During the event, Jobe will be talking and answering questions about these topics. Free and open to the public. 828.524.3600 or

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News arts & entertainment 29 M y *wine optional Q is ear, h e T D f r a & l ’ a s h * ot er G Boo od T me oo uiet u y o ay k e p ill45660 W WOOD A W 428 HAZEL Magazines & Newspap Yoour Ho Y metown Bookstoresince2 00 Ave. v ers 007 9- T MON-FRI 9-5 | SA aynesville • 456-60 a -3 R DINNERS INE & ASTINGS INE AILET VILLE A S W YNE Y N TOW OWN D
On the shelf
Writer Jeff Minick

Word From the Smokies

Fireflies are surprisingly diverse

For many people who grew up in the eastern United States, the soft yellow blink of fireflies drifting over dusky fields and lawns is synonymous with summer, a nostalgic symbol of warmth and childhood. But few would guess that the common eastern firefly (Photinus pyralis) is one of more than two thousand firefly species worldwide.

Of those species, 19 are known to make their home in Great Smoky Mountains National Park—and the true number is likely even higher. For many species, flash patterns from the male fireflies’ courtship displays are key to identification, and each species flashes only in specific locations at specific times of night during a finite period each year.

“In a 500,000-acre park, if you haven’t been to a certain area at 9:30 at night, you might very well miss a different species that could be occurring there,” said Smokies entomologist Becky Nichols.

“In a

Every year, usually in early June, the male fireflies would fly through the forest along the Little River, blinking in unison— five to eight flashes of yellow light, followed by eight to ten seconds of darkness, on repeat—from full dark around 9:30 p.m. until midnight. The display captivated Faust and her family. Over the last three decades, the show has become such a sensation that park officials had to institute a lottery system for visitors wishing to witness the peak display at Elkmont. Otherwise, massive crowds would trample the area and harm the insects they had come to see.

500,000-acre park, if you haven’t been to a certain area at 9:30 at night, you might very well miss a different species that could be occurring there.”

Even the Smokies’ most well-known firefly species, the synchronous firefly (Photinus carolinus), managed to fly under the radar until 1992, when Lynn Faust responded to an article in Science News claiming that there were no synchronous fireflies anywhere in the western hemisphere. Faust, who would go on to become one of the world’s foremost firefly experts, told the scientists named in the article about the light show she’d been enjoying for years at

— Becky Nichols, Smokies entomologist

While people find firefly displays enchanting, for the insects it’s about function, not form. The flashing lights come from the males—a specific pattern designed to let females of their species know that they’re there and would like to mate. Females, typically laying low in the grass or forest floor, offer a weaker light in response, a different pattern from that used by the males, signaling their location to potential partners. Then they mate and lay eggs that hatch into larvae, which will spend the next one or two years underground, eating and growing until it’s time to emerge as adults.

Witnessing a peak display is a “magical” experience, said Jim Costa, an entomologist and professor at Western Carolina University, but most people don’t realize that synchronous fireflies thrive in suitable habitats F

Outdoors Smoky Mountain News 30
her in-laws’ cabin in the Smokies at Elkmont. Male synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) flash in unison, alerting any females in the area that potential mates are present. Michele Sons photo
The common eastern firefly (Photinus pyralis) can be seen at dusk on summer nights, flashing over fields and lawns. Priest photo

Though known for their flashes, fireflies spend most of their lives in larval form, such as this one from the Pyractomena genus. Katja Schulz photo

throughout the Appalachians. While there are “untold gazillions” in pristine places like Elkmont, smaller populations survive “even in somewhat developed areas where there’s still some intact woodland.”

“They can incorporate the chemicals they get from the prey into their own eggs,” she said, “and that helps their eggs, and later their babies, be chemically protected.”

ured insects on the planet, in some ways fireflies remain an enigma.

“We’re still at the level of not even knowing exactly where they are in the US, each species, or the most basic things about their lives,” Faust said.

But we know enough to know that many firefly species are under threat. New development churns up the ground, destroying any larvae living there, and pesticides harm them too.

“A lot of populations are lost in the larval phase, so no one’s even aware of it until the next summer, when there’s nothing flashing,” Faust said.

Nor are synchronous fireflies the only ones that light up the Smoky Mountain night in May and June. There are the blue ghosts (Phausis reticulata), named for the green-blue glow they emit as they cruise the forest floor, tracing a path of ghostly light. Then there’s the candle firefly (Pyractomena angulata), whose appearance is marked by an orange, candle-like flicker above headlevel in the forest. Found in open fields, the Cinco de Mayo firefly, also called the fourflasher (Photuris quadrifulgens), offers its distinctive four-flash pattern, followed by four seconds of darkness. Flashbulbs, Christmas lights, and heebie jeebie fireflies (Photuris versicolor complex) light up the trees.

While flashes in the dark may seem a logical requirement to be considered a firefly, a startling number of firefly species don’t flash at all. Of the 19 firefly species confirmed in the Smokies, only 13 have male lanterns, and thus nighttime displays.

“One definition is fireflies have to glow as larvae,” Faust explained.

For adult fireflies, light pollution is a real problem, preventing males and females from finding each other to mate. People can help, Nichols said, by refraining from excessive use of pesticides, allowing some of their yard to remain undeveloped and unmanicured, and making simple changes to reduce light pollution—using timers, motion detectors, shields that direct lights downward, and amber bulbs instead of bright whiteblue lights. Addressing these threats is important to prevent the loss of a natural marvel, and to protect the ecosystem as a whole.

The winter firefly (Ellychnia corrusca) is one of the six species of Smokies fireflies in which adult males do not flash. Valerie Polk photo

Many fireflies don’t eat at all once they leave the larval stage, devoting their ephemeral adult life to finding a mate. But females of the Photuris genus are “femme fatale” predators, mimicking the flashes of other firefly species to lure in the randy males upon which they prey. A single female Photuris can consume up to five male fireflies per day. But even this behavior likely stems from the instinct to procreate, Faust said. Other firefly species produce certain defensive chemicals that Photuris fireflies don’t.

All firefly larvae can glow, and even in species with no male display, females often emit a dim light. Meanwhile, in other species, both sexes are completely dark. One of these so-called dark fireflies, the winter firefly (Ellychnia corrusca) is among the region’s most abundant. Unlike most of its relatives, which tend to come out in late spring and early summer, adults of this species appear in fall to late winter, and are often found warming themselves on the sunny side of a tree trunk.

“The ones that don’t light up are relying more on what ancestrally they relied on, and what most insects rely on, and that’s pheromones,” said Costa, who directs Highlands Biological Station and is working on an insect field guide soon to be published by Smokies Life. “With those species, you find their eyes tend to be a little smaller and their antennae a bit bigger compared to their relatives that do light up.”

Despite being some of the most treas-

“It’s death by a thousand cuts, these little bits and pieces eating away at the integrity of their populations,” Costa said. “Obviously, we would be far the poorer in an almost spiritual sense if they were gone because we love them, because they’re beautiful. But we don’t really know the magnitude of the detriment to our ecology if we lost them.”

(Holly Kays is the lead writer for the 29,000member Smokies Life, an educational nonprofit partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A synchronous firefly named Pho and a Photuris versicolor, dubbed the Deadly Giant, are main characters in a forthcoming illustrated children’s book, “Pho: A Smokies Firefly Adventure,” written by Mary Arkiszewski, illustrated by Emma Oxford and set for release by Smokies Life later this month. Learn more at and reach the author at

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News outdoors 31 RE/MAX EXECUTIVE 71 North Main St. Waynesville Real Experience. Real Service. Real Results. 828.452.3727
Female fireflies in the Photuris genus are known for mimicking the flash responses of other species’ females and then eating the males they lure in. Katja Schulz photo

Troxler encourages horse owners to vaccinate against mosquito-borne diseases and rabies

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is encouraging equine owners to have their animals vaccinated against Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis and West Nile Virus.

“Mosquito-breeding season in North Carolina lasts from spring until the first frost and horses are at risk if not properly vaccinated,” Troxler said. “EEE is fatal 90% of the time in horses and WNV has a fatality rate of 30 percent. However, both diseases are preventable by vaccination.”

So far this year we have had no cases of EEE or WNV, but last year there were seven cases of EEE, Troxler added.

Mosquitoes can breed in any puddle that lasts for more than four days, so removing any source of standing water can reduce the chance of exposing animals to WNV or EEE. Keeping horses in stalls at night, using insect screens and fans, and turning off lights after dusk can also help reduce exposure to mosquitoes. Insect repellants can be effective if used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Symptoms of EEE include impaired vision, aimless wandering, head pressing, circling, inability to swallow, irregular staggering gait, paralysis, convulsions and death. Once a horse has been bitten by an infected mosquito, it may take three to 10 days for symptoms to appear.

Symptoms of WNV include fever, weakness or paralysis of hind limbs, impaired vision, head pressing, seizures and aimless wandering.

People, horses and birds can become infected from a bite by a mosquito carrying these diseases, but there is no evidence that horses can transmit the viruses to other horses, birds or people through direct contact.

Visit the Extension Master Gardener Booth at Haywood’s Historic Farmers Market

NC State Extension Master Gardener volunteers staff a booth on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month (May through August) at Haywood’s Historic Farmers Market in Waynesville. The booth will have:

• Planting & Pruning calendars

• Pollinator & Native Plant information

• Gardening Publications

• Info about the Extension Master Gardener Plant Clinic

• Soil test kits

• Children’s seed planting and other activities

• Information about programs for NC Cooperative Extension Haywood County Center

Forest Service proposes recreation fee changes

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to change fees at several recreation areas on the Nantahala and Uwharrie National Forests and the public is invited to provide input to proposed fee changes for 60 days beginning on May 3 through July 2, 2024.

The goal of these changes is to improve visitor experiences through site and trail upgrades paid for by the collected fees. These fee changes are only proposed. After public comments are received, the Forest Service will assess the comments and concerns and then present the fee proposals to the Southern Region Recreation Resource Advisory Committee (RRAC) at a future date. Committee members represent a broad array of recreation interest groups to help ensure that the Forest Service is proposing reasonable and publicly acceptable new fees and fee changes.

The proposed fee changes the Forest Service seeks comment on include: Cheoah River Paddle Pass — new $10 annual pass option (existing $2 daily pass remains unchanged) Dry Falls, Whitewater Falls, Whiteside Mountain — increase from $3 to $5/vehicle per day, increase from $15 to $30 for annual pass, Uwharrie Hunt Camp — increase from $5 to $15 per night. The public is invited to comment on the proposed fee changes by July 2, 2024.

For more information visit To provide comments about these fee proposals for the RRAC to consider, comment online at our Recreation Fee Proposal Mapping Tool or contact Logan Free at 828.257.4256, by email at, or by mail to ATTN: Recreation Fee Proposals, 160A Zillicoa Street, Asheville, NC 28801.

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Volunteers boost Appalachian Trail preservation

The Carolina Mountain Club Remote Overnight Crew (ROC) convened near the Walnut Mountain shelter on the Appalachian Trail for a trail enhancement event. The outing drew 19 volunteers, who enjoyed splendid weather while working on various trail improvements. Their efforts were focused on preventing trail creep, installing water diversions, removing invasive roots, and constructing new steps.

This crew included seven individuals new to the Carolina Mountain Club (CMC) trail maintenance, with several attending their first ROC event. The volunteers received support from Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) section maintainers Anne Sentz and Jake Stowe,

underscoring the collaborative nature of these preservation activities.

The CMC encourages individuals with no previous experience to join these trail maintenance efforts, making it accessible to anyone interested in contributing to the preservation of our regional hiking trails. All are welcome.

Upcoming volunteer opportunities include gatherings in the Shining Rock Wilderness from July 20-21 and again on the Appalachian Trail near Walnut Mountain shelter from Oct. 19-20. Interested participants are advised to sign up quickly, as each weekend is capped at 25 attendees to ensure a productive and manageable group size.

For more details and to register for a future trail maintenance weekend, please visit the CMC’s events page at These events play a crucial role in maintaining the natural beauty and functionality of our hiking trails and offer a fulfilling opportunity for teamwork and engagement in the great outdoors.

Clean up the Pigeon River

Come clean up the Pigeon River in Haywood County.

On Saturday, May 18, volunteers will gather at Pigeon River Outfitters in Canton from 9-10 a.m. The cleanup is expected to finish by noon.

The cleanup will take place along the Pigeon River, greenway and around town. Pigeon River Outfitters will provide free shuttles around town or upstream to get you started on your cleanup float. Tubes, kayaks and canoes will be provided free of charge on a first come basis. You are also welcome to bring your own boat. Gloves, trash bags, trash grabbers and safety vests will be provided.

RSVP by May 17 to Christine O’Brien at or 828.476.4667, ext. 1.

Learn all about septic systems

Haywood Waterways Association and the Haywood County Environmental Health Department are hosting a workshop about septic systems.

The event is from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday, May 21, at the Haywood County Agricultural Service Center, 589 Raccoon Road in Waynesville.

Septic systems are efficient but must be maintained for proper treatment of wastewater from toilets, washing machines, dishwashers and showers. If not, failures can occur and if the system is near a river, stream or lake, untreated wastewater can make its way into the waterway causing risks to human health and the environment.

Staff will be on hand to discuss everything there is to know about septic systems - how they work, what are the common problems, what are the solutions and what financial help is available for homeowners having problems. Light refreshments will be provided. The event is free. Please RSVP to Christine O’Brien at (828) 476-4667, ext. 1 or

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News outdoors 33
The enthusiastic group of volunteers enjoyed great weather during the cleanup. Donated photo

Up Moses Creek

Thinking like an empty

Iwas at Lazy Hiker brewpub in Sylva enjoying a meal with Moses Creek friends and talking about the neighborhood trash pick-up that was planned for the morrow — part of Jackson County’s “Cleaning Up the Mountains” campaign — when one of them mentioned another person who lives up the creek and predicted that we’d see his Michelob Ultra empties along the road. My friend had picked up after him more than once.

The next day when the clean-up group started work, the first thing I picked up was a blue Michelob Ultra can. When I bent down to pick up a second one, a Hollywood horror vision suddenly rose before my eyes. I saw the man downing an Ultra six-pack on his way home from work and leaning his arm out the window to toss the empties. N.C. 107 gets the first ones, Caney Fork the next. By the time he blesses Moses Creek too, it’s “Wendy, I’m home!”

tercups, golden ragworts and mayapples. I walked along, orange bag in hand, alternately looking down for garbage and looking up at the Great Balsams. It was fullon spring. Hooper Knob was greening up with early-leafing tulip poplars. Swallowtail butterflies flitted along the roadside and in the meadows. The sight of nature’s beauty reminded me of other kinds of beauty I’d also love to see full-on, like neighborhood amity and care for the land. But those beautiful inner things take thought and nurturing soil. If you’re running on empty, it’s so easy just to give a toss. A few probably even feel a creep’s pleasure in it. “Pick up THAT!”

It’s not just the roadsides that get trashed. Several years back, I hiked up to a mile-high rock pinnacle called Hangover, in the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, and came on three hunters surveying the landscape and eating lunch. Hangover is one of the few natural summits in Western North Carolina that offers a 360degree view. A wild rugged expanse surrounds you, and the Great Smokies dominate the skyline. At night from Hangover, you can see the lights of the valley towns in Tennessee — a kind of earthy Milky Way in the blackness mirroring the Milky Way above. When the men left, I discovered they had littered the summit. I collected their leavings and, walking down the trail, met one of them coming from the other direction. I held out the bag. “You forgot your trash.” “Oh, yeah,” he said, taking it. We were at a trail junction, and he turned off onto the downhill trail. A bit farther on, I passed one of the few small campsites on that rugged ridgeline and saw that he’d just emptied his bowels.

We’ve all heard the retort, “It’s my land and I’ll do what I want with it.” For those who toss garbage and treat campsites like toilet bowls, here’s the unspoken part: “It’s your land and I’ll do what I want with it too.”

Moses Creek sprouted more than beer cans for us to collect. There were glass bottles, plastic drink containers, chip bags, foam cups, cigarette packs, grocery bags, a ripped-up Duke Power bill, a tire and a funeral wreath. To judge by the wreath’s faded plastic flowers, it had rested in peace for several springs among the roadside but-

We picked up five bags of garbage that day, the wreath and the tire. Tellingly, that’s not a lot compared to what’s on other roads. A Caney Forker told me that after his group cleaned up a similar distance a few years earlier, he carried 34 bags of garbage to the dump.

Some claim that the litter blows out of truck beds accidentally. I say, “Bull.” Anyone who tosses trash in the bed of a truck knows the wind is going to whip it away. Besides, on Moses Creek you can’t get up to a speed that’s fast enough for anything to blow out. And beer bottles don’t fly.

Journal entry, June 14, 1986: “While taking a break from hiking on the Slickrock Trail where it parallels Calderwood Lake, I watched a man fishing in his boat. The air was still, the sky blue, and the lake’s surface was like glass. The green walls of the Unicoi and Great Smoky Mountains rose out of the water on either side. The man took out a sandwich, unwrapped it, dropped the paper overboard, and ate. He emptied a can of Vienna sausages and tossed the can, followed that with a candy bar wrapper, finished off a soda and flipped the empty, then threw out the bag that had held it all. He leaned back and watched his line in a halfdoze, the trash floating around him in the mirroring lake.”

May 8-14, 2024 Smoky Mountain News outdoors 34 O S O Puzzles can be found on page 38 These are only the answers.
There were glass bottles, plastic drink containers, chip bags, foam cups, cigarette packs, grocery bags, a ripped-up Duke Power bill, a tire and a funeral wreath. Burt Kornegay photo

WNC events and happenings


• The Jackson Arts Market takes place from 1-5 p.m. every Saturday at 533 West Main St. in Sylva with live music and an array of local artists.

• Cowee School Farmer's Market is held Wednesdays from 3-6 p.m., at 51 Cowee School Drive in Franklin. The market has produce, plant starts, eggs, baked goods, flowers, food trucks and music. For more information or for an application, visit or call 828.369.4080.



• The Pollinators Foundation offers weekly Mindful Movement Qigong classes for all ages to reduce stress and improve health and well-being. Classes take place 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. on Wednesdays at the Folkmoot Center in Waynesville. For more information visit or contact Marga Fripp at 828.4224.1398.

• The Pollinators Foundation and The Share Project host weekly Happy Hour Nature Walks 4:30-5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays at Lake Junaluska. The group meets at the Labyrinth. For more information visit or contact Marga Fripp at 828.4224.1398.

• Mountain Area pregnancy Services and the WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor work together to provide a casual support group for prenatal and breastfeeding individuals from 1-2 p.m. on Tuesdays at Mountain Area Pregnancy Services, 177 N Main St. Waynesville, NC. All are welcome, registration is recommended. For more information, please call 828.558.4550.


• The Western Carolina Cribbage Club meets every Monday at 6 p.m. An eclectic group of young and old, male and female. The group supplies boards, cards, pegs and are always willing to help those still learning the finer points of the game. For more information contact

• Chess 101 takes place 3:30-4:30 p.m. every Friday at the Canton Branch of the Haywood County Library. For more information, email Ashlyn Godleski at or call 828.356.2567.

• The Canton Branch of the Haywood County Public Library Creative Writing Group meets 10:30 a.m. to noon on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month. For more information, email Jennifer at or call 828.356.2561.

• Knit Night takes place at 5:30-7:30 p.m. every sec-

ond Tuesday of the month at The Stecoah Valley Center. The event is free and open to the public. RSVP is recommended: 828.479.3364 or

• A Novel Escape Book Club takes place at 6:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month at the Novel Escape Bookstore (60 E Main St., Franklin). Every other month one book is selected for discussion. On alternate months the meeting is round-table discussion in which participants share what they’ve read lately. For more information call the bookstore at 828.369.9059 or visit

• Silent Book Club takes place at 6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at the Novel Escape Bookstore (60 E Main St, Franklin). Bring your own book and whatever makes you feel cozy and enjoy a quiet, uninterrupted hour of reading amongst friends.


• Lucky LEGO STEAM, a St. Patrick’s Day-themed STEAM edition of LEGO Club will take place at 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, at the Jackson County Library. For more information visit or call 828.586.2016.

• A special "Rain and Rainbows” themed family night will take place at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at the Jackson County Library. There will be light refreshments along with science experiments and activities. For more information visit or call 828.586.2016.

• On Mondays, the Macon County Library will host Lady Violet, a King Charles Spaniel service dog, for children to practice their reading skills. Children who feel nervous reading aloud to an adult tend to feel more comfortable with a pet or a service animal. Sign up for a time to read with Lady Violet or to one of the library’s reading friends at the children’s desk or call 828.524.3600.

• On Tuesdays, Kelly Curtis will offer reading services to families from 3:30 -5:30 p.m. at the Macon County Public Library. Families may sign up for a 30-minute time spot at the children’s desk or by calling 828.524.3600.

• Creative Writing Club will take place at 3:30 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of every month at the Macon County Public Library. The writing club is intended for ages 8-12. For more information visit or call 828.524.3600.

• Move and Groove Storytime takes place 10:30-11 a.m. every Thursday, at the Canton branch of the Haywood County Public Library. Exciting, interactive music and movement story time ideal for children 2-6 years old. For more information contact Ashlyn at or at 828.356.2567.

• Mother Goose Storytime takes place 10:30-11 a.m. every Wednesday, at the Waynesville branch of the Haywood County Public Library. Ideal for children from birth to 2 years old. For more information, contact Lisa at or call 828.356.2511.

• Wiggle Worms Storytime takes place 10:30-11 a.m. every Tuesday, at the Waynesville branch of the Haywood County Public Library. Ideal for children 2-6 years old. For information contact Lisa at or call 828.356.2511.

• Culture Talk takes place at 2 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month at the Macon County Public Library. Travel the world from inside your library. This event features guest speakers and food sampling from the location being discussed. For more information visit or call 828.524.3600.

• Art afternoon takes place at 3:30 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month at the Macon County Public Library. For more information visit or call 828.524.3600.


• Uptown Gallery in Franklin is celebrating Youth Art Month. During the month of March, stop by the gallery to see Macon County Schools K-12 student artwork on display. A reception will be held 3-5 p.m. Saturday, March 9, at Uptown Gallery. For more information visit

• The Pollinators Foundation at Folkmoot offers creative arts playshops to reduce stress and cultivate joy and compassionate connection. More information at, or contact Marga at, or 828.424.1398.

• Trivia Night is hosted 6:30-8:30 p.m. every Thursday evening at the Meadowlark Motel in Maggie Valley. For more information visit

• Paint and Sip at Waynesville Art School will be held every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 7-9:30 p.m. To learn more and register call 828.246.9869 or visit

• Mountain Makers Craft Market will be held from noon to 4 p.m. the first Sunday of each month at 308 North Haywood St. in downtown Waynesville. Over two dozen artisans selling handmade and vintage goods. Special events will be held when scheduled.

• Smoky Mountain Event Center presents Bingo Night with doors opening at 4:30 p.m. and games starting at 6 p.m. on the second Tuesday and fourth Monday of the month. For more information visit

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MarketPlace information:

The Smoky Mountain News Marketplace has a distribution of 16,000 copies across 500 locations in Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties, including the Qualla Boundary and west Buncombe County. Visit to place your ad!


• $15 — Classified ads that are 25 words, 25¢ per word after.

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• $1 — Yard Sale Rain Insurance Yard sale rained out? Call us by 10a.m. Monday for your ad to run again FREE

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Note: Yard sale ads require an address. This location will be displayed on a map on

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Second-to-last king of Egypt 100 Greeting sent online

Emily Dickinson's "Much Madness is -- Sense"

Tropical rabbit lookalike

Shrink back 106 Brings about 107 Finger-paint

108 The Northwest's "City of Trees" 111 Like many allergy sprays 112 Robbie Knievel's father

Remark from the sharp-eared

1950s-'70s baseballer

Perfect choices to fill positions

Stereotypical setting for a brawl

Having a right (to)

In prison, informally

Vardalos of "Connie and Carla"

Toddler bed attachment

Like a truck ascending a steep hill, gear-wise

Silly, like a honking bird 11 The two dots in "naive" or "Bronte"

Fly-catching warblers

Shakespeare work part

Imitated a cat

Small restaurants 16 Lauder of fragrances 17 Lois' partner 18 Its capital is Nairobi 21 Aspiring doc's major 27 Person stashing stuff 30 In the buff

32 Cracked, as a cryptogram

36 Info group to be input

38 "Dagnabbit!"

40 Bee-luring fluids

43 Chief female officiators in sacred rites

44 Gets bigger

45 First division of a 13Down

46 Sparse start of some rounds of applause

47 Utter with a hissing sound

49 Arena relative 51 Crafts' counterparts

54 Apple's Jobs

56 Pop in a blended family

58 Egypt's Nasser

60 Detects like a dog

62 Intertwined

65 Crystal ball gazer, e.g.

67 Neutralized, as a bomb

70 "The Cloister and the Hearth" novelist Charles

72 Planes' first fliers, often

75 Operations

77 Infer (from)

81 Like a district bishop's jurisdiction

83 Faith

86 Difficulty

88 Finisher just under the winner

90 Beach footwear

92 Overalls for hitting the slopes

93 Sci-fi automatons

95 Grand home

96 Purloined

97 Soundboard control knob

98 Mojave plant

99 Northern French city

101 Inflicted upon

105 Actor Bert

109 "Well well!"

110 Fedora, e.g.



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May 8-14, 2024 WNC MarketPlace 38
Offer hush money to
Strip of gear, as a ship 11 Weight unit for a druggist 15 "I am at your -- and call" 19 "Elementary" actor Quinn 20 Sonata, often 22 Many a cruise stopover 23 Unconcealed 24 Customized for 25 Lee of Marvel Comics 26 Like a swine 28 Also-rans 29 Like a diluted drink 31 Parceled out 33 "Haven't -- before?" 34 Shout of discovery 35 Having two hues 37 "It could go either way" 39 Rival of Delta or United 41 Urgent 42 Fire residue 46 Taxpayer's ID 48 Dedicates 50 Fender guitar, for short 52 Ltd. cousin 53 Pot toppers 55 Edits for
Kelly Ripa 64 Gets broader 66 "No outlet" street 68 Always, in music scores 69
instrument 71
time 76 Decongestant brand 78 Legal
property 79 Broke a fast 80 Flimflam 82 Non-PC person? 84 Suffix
Taiwan 85 Bothersome types 87 Boring type 89 Relax after working hard 91
jewelry alloy 94
publication 57
a different
who co-
"Live" with
One of three womb-
73 Florida's Key --
Charges for not paying on
claim on
Removes hair from
Boyer 115 Actress
116 Deck
brief 117 Puts in order 118 City on
Ruhr DOWN 1
trunk 2
crew officer, in
African tree with a very thick
Italian municipality west of Turin
Answers on 34
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