Smoky Mountain News | May 22, 2024

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County horse celebrates 50th birthday Page 4

Lake Logan reflects on history, ponders next step Page 22 Western North Carolina’s Source for Weekly News, Entertainment, Arts, and Outdoor Information May 22-28, 2024 Vol. 25 Iss. 52


On the Cover:

The news broke in the middle of last week that Pactiv Evergreen’s Canton papermill property may soon change hands. The company that signed the letter of intent to purchase the 185-acre parcel is Spirtas Worldwide, a Missouribased operation that specializes in demolition, cleanup and flipping former industrial properties so they can be used again for something else. What that may be will be a lingering question. (Page 6) Max Cooper photo


Spared from slaughter, horse celebrates 50th birthday..........................................4

Crowe receives federal probation for assault..............................................................5

How the sale of Canton’s mill site may impact EPA cleanup efforts ..................7 Macon takes a hard look at floodplain ordinances....................................................8 Macon PULSE program connects students and employers................................10 Quarter-cent sales tax spending options expanded..............................................11

Come out to Swain County Heritage Day................................................................12


Billionaires, public education and vouchers..............................................................14


Bright sunny south: A conversation with Barry Bales............................................16 WOW hosts ‘Queens of Country’ karaoke................................................................20


Lake Logan reflects on rich history, ponders next step..........................................22 Cherokee hosts fishing tournament..............................................................................25

Jack Snyder.



Maddie Woodard.

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D ISTRIBUTION: Scott Collier. .

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


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Spared from slaughter, horse celebrates 50th birthday

Jennie Ratcliff was only 21 years old when she met Jackson, a 16-hand-tall horse with a chestnut coat that matched her own auburn locks. Not much is known about Jackson’s life before he was purchased at auction by a horse trader to prevent him from being slaughtered.

Nineteen years old at the time,Ratcliff sized Jackson up with a trained eye. It was a match made in heaven. She told the trader that she wanted him, took him home for a trial period, and officially purchased Jackson, who she described as gentle and amazing, eight months later.

“He is amazing, and I’m so lucky that God dropped him in my lap,” said Ratcliff.

That was roughly 30 years ago. Over the course of his time with Jennie, he was a trail horse at a children’s camp and competed in three-day event consisting of dressage, cross country and show jumping.

Ratcliff said that cross country was Jackson’s favorite.

“Jackson is a symbol of strength and perseverance, a living testament to the power of love and compassion.”
— Dr. Ann Stuart, board president of Hope for Horses.

“You always try and keep your horses calm before you go cross country,” she said. “We were just chilling, standing in the box and he’s standing there head down and eyes closed. The guy running the box was wondering if he was going to wake up and go. The minute I nudged him out of the box, we were gone. I used to have to do circles out on the cross-country field because he was just going.”

Jackson is a well behaved, calm horse but has a naughty streak that adds to his personality.

When I got there everyone was laughing and he was just standing in the corner and wouldn’t come out of the stall. Naughty didn’t go well for him that time.”

In September 2020, Ratcliff made the difficult decision to surrender Jackson to Hope for Horses after enduring financial hardships. She had purchased a house that needed repairs and was raising her son, Carter, on her own. She also felt that she could neither take care of Jackson on her own nor give him the life he deserved.

“It’s hard to admit that I couldn’t keep him anymore,” said Ratcliff. “It was such an emotional decision, but he is so much better here. I have no doubt that this place is the reason he has lived as long as he has.”

Hope for Horses is a nonprofit, volunteerbased organization founded in 1999 dedicated to the rehabilitation and care of horses whose owners could no longer care for them or horses that had suffered through hardships.

“Jackson is a symbol of strength and perseverance, a living testament to the power of love and compassion,” said Dr. Ann Stuart, board president of Hope for Horses. “Behind every step Jackson takes, there is a team of volunteers devoted to his care.”

Sandie Bagarella, the farm manager of Hope for Horses, is Jackson’s primary caregiver.

“He has brought much peace to our sanctuary and is gentle and kind with all of his horse and human friends,” Bagarella said. “Jackson does not hesitate to make a new friend when he has the opportunity, and he is an absolute love of a horse.”

Jackson celebrated his 50th birthday May 18 in Leicester at Hope for Horses’ 30-acre farm.

When taking on Jackson, the staff believed he may not have much time left, and they were glad to let him live out the rest of his time on the farm.

“He’s such a goofball,” Ratcliff said. “One time, he had heard my truck coming from a ways off and grabbed a broom that they had been cleaning his stall with and he whacked himself right between the eyes with the broom.

“I just can’t thank Hope for Horses enough for giving him the retirement and love that he deserves,” said Ratcliff. “It’s hard to take on an old horse that’s going to eat a whole lot. They are a huge financial burden and they just said that they would come pick him up. I’m so glad he can have the life he deserves here.”

Mackenzie Atkinson is a senior at Western Carolina University majoring in political science and communication.

May 22-28, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 4
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Jennie Ratcliff and Jackson found each other over 30 years ago at a horse trader’s ranch. Mackenzie Atkinson photo

Crowe receives federal probation for assault

Cherokee Tribal Court to hear case next month

After pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault in federal court last August, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council Member Rep. Bo Crowe — who represents Wolfetown — has been sentenced to two years’ probation for an incident that occurred in January 2023.

However, not long after the public came to know of the assault, Crowe’s loved ones lept to his defense, stating that wasn’t whole story. They said Crowe acted to protect his daughter and niece, who were both teenagers.

Though he resigned his seat representing Wolfetown on Tribal Council after the charges were filed, he regained the seat with relative ease in last year’s election.

Crowe is still set to face trial in Cherokee Tribal Court on three charges, two of which are felonies, in connection with the incident.

Bo Crowe was given probation but still awaits trial in

Court documents state that on Jan. 6, 2023, Crowe “initiated” an assault by punching the victim in the valet parking area of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee. Crowe landed “several punches” before he “maneuvered so that he was on the back of” the victim, rendering him “momentarily unconscious.” As a result of the assault, the victim “suffered bodily injury, including bruising, swelling, scratches and other injury,” eventually seeking medical attention.

Highway Patrol promotes safe driving during summer months

An estimated 38 million motorists are expected to travel by roadways this Memorial Day weekend and the State Highway Patrol is working to ensure residents and visitors to our state reach their destinations safely.

As the Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, AAA predicts this holiday period will be one of the busiest in recent history. In response, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol will utilize educational and enforcement efforts to reduce collisions from leading collision factors such as speeding, impaired and distracted driving, as well as reducing the severity of collisions through the enforcement of restraint laws.

The tribal charges carry a maximum combined prison sentence of seven years, and a felony conviction could end Crowe’s political career. Under tribal law, a person who has been convicted of a felony offense is ineligible to run for or hold elected office. Tribal court may grant a petition to reinstate this right following completion of the sentence.

In a previous Smoky Mountain News story, Crowe’s attorney, Caleb Decker, said Crowe plans to maintain his not guilty plea in tribal court. When asked at that time whether a guilty plea in federal court might make it harder to defend against the tribal charges, Decker said he does not believe it will.

“They are technically different crimes,” he said, “and Cherokee will understand that Mr. Crow made a decision to resolve the federal case based on a lot of factors, primarily economic.”

Along with receiving probation, Crowe was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine.

Memorial Day also marks the start of the “100 Deadliest Days” for teen drivers as the summer months historically see an increase in teen driving deaths. The increased free time lends itself to increased time behind the wheel of a vehicle as young drivers are out of school. Parents and teens are encouraged to strictly adhere to North Carolina graduated driving requirements.

Additionally, the State Highway Patrol is partnering with the NC Governor’s Highway Safety Program’s “Click It or Ticket” campaign. This campaign involves two seven-day enforcement periods, with the first being May 20-26 and second week being May 27 through June 2. The campaign emphasis is being placed on seat belt and child restraint violations.

Motorists can report dangerous driving behaviors to the State Highway Patrol by dialing *HP (*47).

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Cherokee Tribal Court. File photo


Tentative mill deal provides a peek at what could be next


On May 24, 2023, Canton Mayor Pro Tem Gail Mull sat on a bench in Sorrels Street Park, waiting to hear the shrill shriek of the steam whistle at Pactiv Evergreen’s century-old paper mill at the heart of town blow for the last time.

For generations, that whistle blew morning, noon and night, summoning workers to their posts or sending them home to their families. Mull had retired from decades of service at the mill and said she’d heard that whistle blow nearly every day of her life. This past year has offered her, and the people of Canton, only silence.

“You get to where you don’t even expect it after you’ve heard it and heard it,” Mull said. “It’s just like a sore that heals.”

A surprise announcement by Pactiv last week about a prospective buyer could be another step in that healing process, but it’s also reopened old wounds inflicted by the company after its shock March 2023 announcement that the mill would close.

With cautious optimism as a salve and the bitter memory of being burned before still smoldering beneath the surface, there’s no guarantee the St. Louis-based demolition and development contractor Spirtas Worldwide will ever control the site, or what the site’s future really looks like. But at least it’s something.

“It seemed like not knowing was worse than knowing something,” Mull said. “We hope we live long enough to see something made out of it. The past year, that was in doubt. I didn’t see a future for it. Now, this company has a solid record, and I’m hopeful.”

That descriptions of the mill’s closing have repeatedly been cloaked in religious terms — Mayor Zeb Smathers compared it to a death in the family and spoke of grief, anger and acceptance — should come as no surprise in this deeply religious small mountain mill town; after Pactiv’s May 15 announcement that it had signed a letter of intent from Spirtas Worldwide was confirmed by Smathers, the town was finally given a glimpse at the afterlife.

“Some religions, they have heaven and hell and purgatory,” Smathers said. “Our people and our government and our economy have been stuck in purgatory with Evergreen for many, many months.”

Shortly after Pactiv’s March 6, 2023, announcement that the mill would close in three months, local officials began closed-door negotiations with the company over the fate of the 185-acre parcel.

The town sought a say — the final say — in what would happen to the sprawling parcel straddling the rapidly recovering Pigeon River, but as those negotiations bore more frus-

tration than fruit, a host of short-, mid- and long-term problems began to arise.

There’s a particular sense of immediacy surrounding the town’s municipal budget, which must be passed by July 1. Officials project a $1.4 million hole against an all-funds budget of around $12 million due to declining revenues and a pending appeal by Pactiv of its property tax bill. Substantial appropriations by the North Carolina General Assembly will help to bridge that gap, but without regaining self-sufficiency soon, Canton’s decline would be slow and painful.

“Yesterday’s announcement did nothing to fix the million dollar or more hole in our budget,” Smathers said May 16. “It did not create any jobs, but the expectation is this will lead not just to economic regrowth on the mill site but I think [it] sends a signal to people across the region, if not farther, about what the future of the mill site is.”

Smathers told The Smoky Mountain News he believes other entities looking to bring jobs and economic development to the Canton area have opted to wait out the uncertainty at the mill site before moving forward, but they may have to hold off a little longer.

On March 9, 2025, Pactiv will cut off wastewater treatment to the town, thereby fulfilling the terms of a 1964 agreement to continue providing the service for two years after a shutdown — if an agreement can’t be reached before then.

Another substantial appropriation from the General Assembly will help pay for a new wastewater treatment plant under the town’s control, but a site hasn’t yet been located. Even if it had been, the town would have had to break ground sometime around 2017 to complete what’s thought to be a five- to seven-year permitting and construction process to get the plant up and running before the impending shutdown.

“Every day, we grow closer and closer to that March deadline,” Smathers said.

The terms of Spirtas’ letter of intent aren’t public because it’s a private transaction between two entities; details are scarce, but Smathers has said he believes there’s a 60-day due diligence period during which Spirtas and Pactiv must come to terms on a sale. If that happens, Spirtas will decide what happens to wastewater treatment. If it doesn’t, the terms of Pactiv’s wastewater treatment service will remain in force.

“As soon as the announcement was made, I received a text from [Spirtas Worldwide president and CEO] Eric Spirtas,” said Smathers. “He is fully aware of the issue and the price tags. As we speak, our town administration is discussing that and other issues with Spirtas. We expect some resolution. We have to have some resolution.”

When Eric Spirtas spoke with SMN on May 15, he said he was aware of the situation and that it would be “town and county first in those types of decisions.”

Spirtas’ company appears well-positioned to handle the multiple challenges on the site, if and when it finally executes a purchase agreement and takes control of the site.

Per the company’s website, Spirtas Worldwide and its affiliated entities can be a turnkey solution — for decommissioning, demolition or repurposing, landfill operations, remediation, real estate development and tenant acquisition all the way up to property management — or it can provide

“We are committed to operating safely and responsibly, and we recognize the site’s importance to the local community.”

those services on an à la carte basis.

Recent projects include demolition work on the David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium at the University of Kansas in Lawrence and the iconic six-story, 121-year-old Imperial Brewing Company in Kansas City. The company’s involvement at the Canton site wouldn’t even be the first time it has dealt with a paper mill. In 2023, an LLC associated with the company’s owner, Eric J. Spirtas, purchased a former paper mill in Lee, Massachusetts.

“Spirtas has extensive experience in industrial redevelopment and environmental cleanup of manufacturing plants and industrial facilities, including multiple former paper mills,” Spirtas told SMN. “We are committed to operating safely and responsibly, and we recognize the site’s importance to the local community. We’ve already met with Town of Canton officials and look forward to a smooth transition as we invest to support the region’s economic development goals.”

As Smathers and other economic development officials in Haywood County continue to engage with Spirtas Worldwide, he’s cognizant that the pivotal choices made in the coming months will have repercussions that reach as far as the sound that old mill whistle once did.

“I think all of us involved in this realize we’re making decisions for something that will last much longer than our lives on this earth — generations,” he said. “And if we do it the correct way, we will not only have sustained economic prosperity, but the ones that come after us will say, ‘Thank God these people did what they did and made the right decisions and worked together.’”

Pactiv Evergreen spokesperson Beth Kelly failed to respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.

May 22-28, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 6

Continuing the cleanup

How the sale of Canton’s mill site may impact EPA efforts

In the hours following the announcement that Pactiv Evergreen’s paper mill property in Canton may have a new owner in the coming months, news came and fast and furious. Plenty of questions remain unanswered, however, including what will happen with the ongoing environmental cleanup at the property.

Last week, Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers confirmed that Spirtas Worldwide, a Missouri company that specializes in demolition, cleanup and repurposing of industrial sites, signed a letter of intent to buy the property. In a conversation with The Smoky Mountain News, CEO Eric Spirtas didn’t offer much information on what role the company will play in the cleanup, stating that it was too early in the 60-day due diligence process to know for sure.

The EPA has become involved in the last year and has designated part of the property a Superfund site. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as  allows the EPA to both clean up contaminated sites and also force the responsible parties to either perform a cleanup or reimburse the government for the cleanup cost. But while the Pactiv site is technically a Superfund site, it isn’t designated as high-priority. Rather, it is considered a critical removal action, which tend to take only a year or so to finish.

to removal and working with us for the foreseeable future for black liquor and fuel oil, as spelled out in the [administrative order of consent], and eventually they’ll transition to the new company if any other issues surface,” Rhame said. “You can’t transfer the liability.”

Likewise, Wilda Cobb, the EPA attorney handling the case, said she spoke with Pactiv about the sale and added that the company may be responsible for future environmen-

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 disease-causing species such as E.coli, which has led to the stench many have noticed recently coming from Pactiv’s wastewater treatment plant, which also treats the town’s sewage. While most coliform bacteria do not cause disease, some strains of E.coli cause serious illness.

And 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

“In my conversation with Pactiv yesterday, once they informed us of intent to sell, they told me they’re committed to removal and working with us for the foreseeable future for black liquor and fuel oil, as spelled out in the [administrative order of consent], and eventually they’ll transition to the new company if any other issues surface.”

could also fall on Spirtas should that company be responsible for a release of a toxic chemical.

The AOC stipulates that the EPA needs to receive written notice ahead of a property transfer.

The administrative order of consent addresses two chemicals that have impacted the Pigeon River — the seeps of No. 6 fuel oil, which was used for heating and energy generation purposes; and black liquor, a byproduct of the papermaking process. Water samples reviewed by the EPA led to the determination there had been releases of both.

Ken Rhame, the on-site coordinator who’s represented the EPA in the cleanup, said that when the letter of intent was signed, he was informed by Pactiv of the potential sale. He said Spirtas can do the work required, but Pactiv knows it maintains liability.

“In my conversation with Pactiv yesterday, once they informed us of intent to sell, they told me they’re committed

“… 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.”

As of late last week, while Cobb said she spoke with Pactiv about the potential transfer, she has not received a formal written notice.

There is a chance that Pactiv or Spirtas may be held liable for future cleanups, too, whether by the EPA or the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. In

partnering with to collect water samples to analyze for chemicals and contaminants, conducted its first major quarterly analysis, and another was completed in January.

A preliminary report from sampling conducted on mill property in June 2023 revealed that one site — a pit dug along the exposed riverbank — had extremely high levels of several toxic metals. Lead levels were 2,796 times higher than the state standard. Copper was 332 times higher, chromium 21 times higher, nickel 17 times higher, zinc five times higher and arsenic nearly four times higher. Beryllium came in more than 30% above the state limit. The results were expected to be representative of the water-saturated soils beneath the riverbed in that area.

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.

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.

May 22-28, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 7
The Pigeon River has been the site of two separate cleanups that involve the EPA. File photo

Macon takes a hard look at floodplain ordinances

Proposed revisions to Macon County’s flood damage prevention, soil erosion and sedimentation control, and water supply watershed protection ordinances have resulted in a flood of input from the public, many of whom cite the deadly Peeks Creek disaster of 2004 as a reason to keep strict restrictions in place.

“These back-to-back hurricanes led to widespread flooding and the catastrophic debris flow on Peeks creek which claimed the life of five people and destroyed 15 houses,” said Jason Love of Mainspring Conservation Trust. “It is not a matter if another flood event of this magnitude strikes Macon County, just a matter of when.”

At the behest of members of the public who came to commissioners with complaints about a few aspects of the three ordinances, commissioners directed the planning board

to review them as they are currently written. The planning board came up with some recommended changes and put the ordinances, as well as the decision to revise them or keep them as they are, back in the hands of the county commission.

“These are not things that I pulled out of thin air, these are real issues that people in the public, people in the community have come to me about over the years,” said Commissioner Josh Young.

After the flooding caused by hurricanes Ivan and Frances in 2004, then Macon County Planning Board underwent a process to tighten restrictions on county ordinances that pertain to its waterways.

The state of North Carolina requires a set of minimum standard guidelines municipalities must abide for such ordinances but allows for a range of more strict protocols as needed. In most cases, Macon County has chosen tighter restrictions than the state


minimums in an effort to preserve safety and the environment. The Town of Franklin, on the other hand, has ordinances that follow the state minimum standards in most cases.

The first of the recommended changes the county is considering involves the soil erosion and sedimentation control ordinance. The state requires county ordinances to stipulate plans for soil and erosion control on any project that disturbs one acre of land or more.

Macon County’s current ordinance is stricter, requiring such plans and restrictions for land disturbances of half an acre or more.

The second possible change would remove the clause that says RV parks are not eligible for Special Non-residential Intensity Allocations (SNIA) in Macon County’s watershed ordinance.

The third change, as currently recommended, removes restrictions on fill material in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA).

Several people attended the May 14 meet-

ing of the Macon County Commission to voice their opinion on the ordinances and recommended changes, seven of whom spoke against the changes, or at the very least counseled caution and consideration before making the changes. David Culpepper, current member of the Franklin Town Council, was the only member of the public to speak in favor of the changes to the ordinances.

“Whatever the intentions of the floodplain ordinance were then, we know that it’s not operating as good as it could,” said Culpepper. “We know that it’s trapping people, we know that landowners are being turned into criminals for things as simple as putting a driveway in. That’s not really fair.”

But other speakers touted the importance of the county ordinances in protecting people and the environment, despite how strict they may be.

“Weakening the floodplain ordinance risks damaging our F

May 22-28, 2024 Smoky Mountain News 8
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unique ecology, our scenic beauty and our cultural heritage surrounding the river,” said Otto resident Sarah Johnson. “Otto has a lot of underrated beauty in its waters. As a kid, I got to see the beautiful but endangered Turquoise Shiners. I want my son to see them too.”

Love said that the floodplain ordinance was strengthened in 2004 as a direct response to the deadly impact of hurricanes Ivan and Frances.

“We’re traditionally not an advocacy organization and rarely wade into state or county issues. However, the issue of weakening the existing floodplain ordinance is too important an issue for us to sit on the sidelines as it impacts our core mission,” said Love. “I’m here on behalf of mainspring to urge you to keep the existing county floodplain ordinance. At the very least I urge you to allow the planning board to do its due diligence and better understand the consequences of allowing fill and associate development into the floodplain so that this information can be relayed to you our commissioners so you can make an informed decision regarding any changes to this.”

Kelly Penland, a local real estate agent urged caution and consideration in making any changes to the floodplain ordinance noting that doing so could create a range of outcomes for citizens requiring flood insurance.

“That’s where I’m coming from as a real estate agent concerned for my clients,” said Penland.

Aquatic conservation biologist Bill McLarney gave commissioners 12 reasons why he thought it best to preserve the floodplain ordinance as it is currently written. Among them public safety, the unique biodiversity of southern Appalachia, preserving floodplain farmland, recreational use, insurance costs and property damage.

“The existing ordinance is the result of an awful lot of hard work by an awful lot of people for a period of months and years — county commissioners, planning board, watershed council, experts of various kinds and ordinary citizens,” said McLarney. “Fortunately, right now, the correct decision is the easy decision. We have been given an excellent tool for managing our floodplains and I think we should retain that rule.”

Angela-Faye Martin of Alarka Expeditions echoed McLarney’s concern for the biodiversity of Macon County waterways if the ordinances are revised and also touted their importance for ecotourism.

“Ecotourism is not a huge industry in

Macon County yet, but I’ll tell you… it’s going to be growing and I want it to be viable in the future for this watershed,”

Martin said. “My favorite thing for tourists who come here that are thinking about moving here is to make them care as deeply as we all do in this room and want to be stewards of this place like you all are stewards … of this beautiful, fragile watershed. We want

“That’s where I’m coming from as a real estate agent concerned for my clients.”
— Kelly Penland

them to care about it and that’s part of why I do what I do.”

Several speakers noted that the state sets minimum requirements so that municipalities can put more strict standards in place as needed to protect individual environments.

“What works in Raleigh does not work in Western North Carolina,” said Lewis Penland, planning board member following the flooding of 2004.

Susan Irving was also on the planning board when the current floodplain ordinance was crafted.

“A sizable portion of our personal property is in the floodplain, and we have stress and mess from existing flooding and would definitely suffer from additional flooding if there is much fill in the floodplain,” said Irving. “The fact that fill raises flood levels is not an opinion, it’s fact. Filling one small piece might not cause problems, but filling many pieces definitely would cause problems.”

Macon County Planning Director Joe Allen offered a similar stance, noting that small changes allowing some fill in the floodplain would not immediately spell disaster.

“We don’t need to say, ‘no you cannot fill in the floodplain.’ I don’t believe that,” Allen said. “But I also don’t believe we need to say ‘you can fill anywhere you want to fill in the floodplain.’ I don’t think we need to be on the extreme of anything. We need to be somewhere in the middle on this thing as a county. I think that’s best for people who want to develop, that’s the best for people who want to protect the environment. Show us that you’re not going to hurt anybody else, we let you do it.”

In order to achieve this ideal middle ground, the commission and the planning board are creating a subcommittee tasked

with examining potential revisions to the floodplain ordinance.

“Heeding the call to establish a subcommittee, we demonstrate our commitment to forcing a collaborative, informed decisionmaking process within our community,” said Penland. “Furthermore, I believe that embracing the proposal put forth by our planning board not only reflects positively on our willingness to engage with stakeholders but also reaffirms our dedication to prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of our residents.”

Members to the committee have not yet been named, but it will likely contain two members of the county commission and two members of the planning board.

In an effort to determine the best and safest revisions to the ordinance, the committee will speak to members of the public on both sides of the issue. Those like McLarney, advocating for the preservation of wildlife, Martin, familiar with the needs and benefits of ecotourism, and Culpepper, calling for increased capacity for development.

“Together we can work towards developing solutions that not only address the immediate concerns raised by our community but also lay the foundation for a more resilient and sustainable future,” said Penland.

The entire process could be a lengthy one. After any final revisions are proposed to the county commission, they must still be reviewed by state flood mapping as well as FEMA. Once the revisions are cleared by those entities the county is required to hold a public hearing before approval.

While revisions to the flood damage prevention ordinance will be considered by the subcommittee, county commissioners did decide to move ahead to public hearing with two revisions to separate ordinances.

Pending approval from state and federal agencies, commissioners will hold a public hearing July 9 to change the soil erosion and sedimentation control ordinance requirement from half an acre to a full acre, reverting to the state minimum requirement. On the same day, also pending state approval, the county will hold a public hearing to follow the state model ordinance and remove the clause that says “RV parks shall not be eligible for SNIA” in the water supply watershed protection ordinance.

Commissioners were unanimous in their support for both the creation of the subcommittee for the flood damage prevention ordinance and moving forward with public hearings for soil erosion and watershed ordinances.

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The Little Tennessee River in Macon County has flooded before, and officials fear it will again. Braulio Fonseca photo

Macon PULSE program connects students and employers

Thanks to a partnership between the Macon County Economic Development Commission and the Career and Technical Education department, Macon County high school students can look forward to the opportunity for paid internships next school year.

“We’re here tonight about an exciting program, not only for our school system, our students, but our workforce in Macon County,” Macon County Economic Development Director Tommy Jenkins told commissioners during their May 14 meeting.

Macon County Schools’ Career and Technical Education department created the PULSE program — Partners United in Learning and Skills Exchange — a few years ago through its public safety classes in order to connect students with Macon County public safety professionals.

Students have been able to do internships and work-based shadowing with EMS, the fire department and 911 dispatch.

“Everyone who’s worked with these kids has been incredibly impressed and wanted more,” said Macon County Schools CTE Director Colleen Strickland.

Now, the program is progressing and staff are requesting funding to allow for paid internships through the PULSE program. Once students become a concentra-

tor, meaning they’ve completed two levels of CTE courses in one area of study, they earn a credential that aligns with the pathway in their concentration area.

Beginning next year, students who are seniors and concentrators will be aligned with business professionals in their pathway. They will be able to spend one semester of their senior year working a paid internship in that career pathway.

“That would consist of 120 hours on site,” said Strickland. “They’d have to have an internship portfolio and a final presentation. There’s a contract with the employer, a contract with the student and then also with the parents.”

Students would also have to do weekly evaluations and reflections, as well as create a presentation for the end of the semester to demonstrate what they’ve learned.

“We know that the internships work, we know that a couple of our students who earned EMT certifications and who’ve been doing ridealongs and who’ve been interning with Macon County Emergency Medical have now been hired,” Strickland said.

With emergency service departments facing staff shortages across the region, this is not the first attempt to try to connect interested students with local employers. Franklin High School recently teamed up with Southwestern Community College to offer courses that put students on a path to earning their EMT certification.

Strickland also noted that the CTE program also recently graduated its first flight student who passed the pilot’s exam and got hired at the Macon County Airport.

“We know that getting kids out into the workforce, working under professionals, learning the skills is successful and it helps us retain talent right here in Macon

an app that works like a time clock that will also be a way for teachers and parents to keep track of students and ensure they are where they’re supposed to be.

“I hope you consider this budget request for the upcoming budget,” said Strickland.

“But the one thing they had that we didn’t have … is they had stipends for the students.”
— Colleen Strickland

But Strickland and Jenkins aren’t the only ones touting the internship opportunity. The Macon County CTE program recently submitted a proposal to the National CTE Best Practices and Innovation Conference and was selected within the top 26 and given the opportunity to present at the conference in Oregon this October.

County,” Strickland said.

The school system modeled its internship program after similar programs that exist in Surry and Yadkin counties, once it saw that it had all the elements already in place.

“We had workforce development, we had the county, we had the Economic Development Commission, we had the school board and our employers,” Strickland said. “But the one thing they had that we didn’t have … is they had stipends for the students.”

Students who participate in the internship program will be eligible for a $1,000 stipend, if the county approves the funding request in its budget process. They will use

“That’s quite an accomplishment to be able to go and share and it’s because of the ecosystem that we have here,” said Strickland.

The Business Advisory Committee together with the school system has reviewed and approved the proposed program.

“As we all know I think there’s two things at play here. We lose a lot of students outside our community when they go out of town to work,” said Jenkins. “This shows them that there are opportunities in our community for gainful employment and careers. It would also improve our workforce dramatically with home grown talent.”

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Quarter-cent sales tax spending options expanded

Macon County Commissioners already decided that the quarter-cent sales tax referendum would be back on the ballot this November, but at its May 14 meeting, the board expanded the opportunities for how that money can be spent if voters approve the measure.

“Sales tax is the fairest tax there is, if there’s such a thing,” said Commissioner John Shearl.

When the Macon County Commission began its budget process earlier this year, commissioners raised the issue of the quartercent sales tax, which is estimated to generate about $2.4 million for the county annually.

“If we get the quarter-cent, we could essentially drop our mill rate by two mills,” said Commissioner Josh Young at the time. “I think it’s a strong point to make to the people that we could collect funds from pass-through revenue and offset our local mill rate by two cents and keep all our CIP [capital improvement plan] fully funded.”

When commissioners first approved the quarter-cent sales tax in March for inclusion on the November ballot, the stated use of any income from the sales tax was for “capital projects of the Macon County School System.”

However, when Chairman Gary Shiels brought the topic up again during the commissioner’s May meeting, it was suggested to change the intended use of income from the tax to “operating expenses” in the school system.

Diedre Breeden was present at the meeting and said the school board was in support of the change.

Chairman Shields serves on the Business Advisory Council and said that they were going to start a marketing campaign for the quarter-cent sales tax.

could turn out to be a negative as people are voting and saying, ‘well, we’ve got enough money out there now you’ve got $62 million,’” Shields said. “We don’t want that to interfere with what we’re trying to do here with the quarter-cent sales tax.”

If approved, the quartercent sales tax would apply to anyone purchasing goods in Macon County — residents, as well as visitors — and would apply to all items other than unprepared food and gas.

However, Commissioner Josh Young argued to change the referendum so that any revenues from the sales tax could be used on both capital and operating expenses in the school system. He noted that while the county did receive a large grant for the high school, the project will still cost over $100 million in total. In addition, the school system also has ongoing capital projects at the Highlands School, the Nantahala School with the sewer treatment plant, the middle shcool track and geological surveying for the Highlands soccer field. There are also needs in the near future for a new East Franklin Elementary School, which is overcrowded and has several maintenance needs.

“$62 million goes a long way, but there’s $200 million in capital needs,” said Young.

“We’re going to do everything to make it work this time,” Shields said. “Last time it didn’t make it but we’re going to work hard this time to market it in such a manner that the public will understand their role in securing more [funds] for the Macon County schools.”

According to Shields, changing the use of future revenues from capital to operating expenses was part of this marketing strategy. Members of the Business Advisory Council in support of the sales tax did not want the $62 million state grant the county received for the new high school project to be a deterrent to people voting for the new sales tax that had previously been intended for use on the same project.

“The rhyme and reason behind that, to leave the word capital out of it is because it

If approved, the quarter-cent sales tax would apply to anyone purchasing goods in Macon County — residents, as well as visitors — and would apply to all items other than unprepared food and gas.

In North Carolina, all counties have the option to levy a quarter-cent sales tax. According to the legislation, the sales tax can be implemented on the first day of any calendar quarter as long as the county gives the N.C. Department of Revenue at least 90 days advance notice. If a referendum is held in November during the General Election and passes, the earliest a county could begin collecting the revenue would be April 1 of the following year, provided it adopts a resolution levying the tax and forwards it to the Department of Revenue prior to Dec. 31.

On a motion made by Young, the commission unanimously approved changing the referendum for the quarter-cent sales tax to allow for use of revenues in both capital and operational needs in the school system.

May 22-28, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 11 100 Charles St. WAYNESVILLE FREE ESTIMATES

Come out to Swain County Heritage Day

This week, Swain County will host its 28th annual Heritage Day Festival.

The Festival began as Bryson City’s Memorial Day weekend event 30 years ago. This year, it will feature gospel music from local favorites including the Barnes Family from Alarka, Brian Burchfield, The Dyer Family Gospels, Turning Home and others at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, May, 24. Then, beginning 10 a.m. on May 25, there will be a firing of the old cannon to open a Memorial Day ceremony, which will be led by local veterans, along with Sons of the Confederacy, Jackson Rangers Camp 1917. The ceremony will include prayer, Pledge of Allegiance and the National

Anthem, Three-Round Volley and performance of Taps.

This year’s Appalachian Heritage Artist and Crafters will include some of the best in the area who will have handmade items available for purchase. There will be an axthrowing activity this year and other children’s activities. Bluegrass and country music will be on the entertainment stage, as well as clogging and folk music. The popular old-time cross-cut log-sawing contest and sack-racing will be held on Saturday at noon.

Business sponsorships are needed and vendor spaces are still available. Those interested can call David Gunter at 828.342.4913 or Charlene Hogue at 828.500.1893; visit the Facebook page “Swain County Heritage Festival” or email

Jackson County hosts rabies vaccination clinics

Come out Cartoogechaye School in Jackson County for a rabies vaccination clinic.

State law requires all dogs, cats and ferrets over the age of 4 to be vaccinated.

Shots for all dogs and cats will be $10 apiece. Cash only.

The event will run from 13 p.m. on May 25.

For more information, call 828.349.2160.

Weatherman, Boliek advance in Republican runoffs

The final two candidates for North Carolina’s Council of State have been chosen by voters after a May 14 runoff election that saw very light turnout — even by runoff standards.

Longtime GOP politico Hal Weatherman defeated Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill handily, with more than 96,000 votes to O’Neill’s 33,000. Weatherman will go on to face Mecklenburg Democrat Sen. Rachel Hunt.

In the state auditor’s race, UNC trustee Dave Boliek bested fellow Republican Jack Clark by a somewhat tighter margin, just under seven percentage points. Boliek will face current auditor and former Democratic Wake County Commissioner Jessica Holmes, who was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper (DRocky Mount) after fellow Democrat Beth Wood resigned in 2023.

In another runoff from outside the Smoky Mountain News coverage area, former federal prosecutor Brad Knott defeated Kelly Daughtry in the 13th Congressional District runoff with nearly 20,000 votes to Daughtry’s nearly 2,000. Daughtry suspended her campaign after former President Trump endorsed Knott in April. Daughtry finished first and ahead of Knott in the March 5 Primary Election by nearly nine points. Knott will face Democrat Frank Pierce in November for the seat currently held by Democrat Wiley Nickel, however the district was recently gerrymandered by the North Carolina General Assembly to ensure a Republican win; Democratic performance from 2016 to 2022 in the new 13th District is just over 41%.

Only 133,000 voters out of a possible 4.8 million cast ballots in the runoff election, compared to 1.8 million who voted in the Republican Primary Election. The General Election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 5. For more information on how register or to vote, visit

— Cory Vaillancourt, Politics Editor

May 22-28, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 12 TractorTir • Alignment • esakBr • esTir • ES A N W Y res VILLE TIR VILLETIR INC. RE, or Tir izedMotorF h Author • 828-456-5387 A 7: ID Y R A F ND YY MO a leetManagemenFl YNESVILLETIR Y A WA W YNESVIL Y 00 • :30-5 tM : tenance RE.COM AZA ain LLE PL
The Swain Heritage Festival celebrates regional culture. Swain Heritage Festival photo
May 22-28, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 13

Billionaires, public education and vouchers

Despite stiff opposition, the N.C. Senate voted this month to double the funding for Opportunity Scholarships to boost enrollment in privately run K-12 schools; more than $200,000,000 is earmarked for kids in high-income families.

Why would Republican leaders do this now when polls show voters oppose tax subsidies for the rich? And when public schools urgently need more funds — North Carolina ranks 48th in per-pupil spending.

The answer is campaign money.

Maybe you’ve heard about Donald Trump telling Big Oil execs that they should give his campaign $1 billion so he can implement their vision of energy policy. In a similar way, GOP leaders are telling billionaire donors who want to privatize public education that the General Assembly will adopt their agenda and take radical steps to ensure that, as one senator said, “North Carolina is at the forefront of school choice and education freedom.”

It’s not about what’s good for children or society. It’s about what brings in the millions to win elections and hold power.

Truth be told, public education has long been warped by the corrupting influence of big money. Generations of North Carolinians suffered because employers profited from an undereducated workforce. Politicians gave pro-education speeches but deliberately underfunded schools — worse in Black communities — effectively pushing students out of classrooms into low-paying jobs.

The mills and tenant farms are largely gone, and there’s

Remember never to forget

To the Editor:

I wish to say something about Memorial Day, which is coming up this Monday.

I know most Americans have big plans for Memorial Day weekend. After all it’s the beginning of the summer season with all the wonderful outdoor activities it brings.

But here’s the reality of Memorial Day. It is not about summer activities. It is not a day to wish every veteran you know “Happy Memorial Day.” It’s a day of mourning, a day of remembrance of those who sacrificed their lives so that we could enjoy the freedoms and liberties this country offers to each of us.

Tonight, I will go to sleep next to my Marine who survived Vietnam, and tomorrow I’ll wake up with him, too. Tomorrow, I get to be annoyed by the mess he leaves around the house, the misunderstandings during our conversations, how loud he turns up the TV or how he spends too much time in front of the computer. Each day I get to experience the knowledge that he is there by my side.

I am incredibly lucky because most of us have family members or friends who aren’t so lucky.

They’d do anything to be able to get into a fight with their spouse again or to suffer their annoying habits. And on Monday morning — just like today, tomorrow, and the day after — they won’t wake up with their spouse lying

now broad support to make real the 1997 N.C. Supreme Court Leandro ruling that our state constitution “guarantee[s] every child of this state the opportunity to receive a sound basic education.”

But an elitist, racist bias against robust public institutions, coupled with a political system tilted to wealthy donors, keeps slowing progress and distorts how legislators address the Leandro mandate.

For example, from 2010 to 2016, an Oregon millionaire named John Bryan contributed $700,000 to dozens of N.C. politicians to gain support for his “school reform” agenda. In 2016, he finally won legislative approval for an “innovative” program to convert low-performing public schools into charter schools, which his corporation would manage for a fee.

The program became a boondoggle, with only one school converted and no academic progress achieved. Bryan said his goal was to “inculcate my belief in the libertarian, free market, early American Founder’s principles” into schools. He died in 2020.

Unfortunately, a host of Bryan-like millionaires are now handing out big checks to encourage politicians to privatize rather than strengthen public education. At the top of the list is Jeffrey Yass, a Pennsylvania billionaire with a passion for gambling and subsidized private schools.


next to them. Instead, they’ll wake up to an emptiness you and I just don’t know.

For them, every day is Memorial Day. But this day, this one day every year, is set aside for all of us to try to be there for them or at the very least remember the sacrifice that those Marines, soldiers, sailors, airmen and the loved ones they left behind made for us.

Enjoy the day with your family and friends, but when you sit down at the table this coming Monday, remember those tables with an empty seat and honor that emptiness. Remember that life.

Memorial Day is all about remembering. Promise to never forget.

Robinson’s comment taken out of context

To the Editor:

I wish to respond to the recent letter from Margaret Pickett of Highlands which she opened with the following statement:

“In North Carolina we have a candidate for governor who is alleged/reputed to have said, ‘I absolutely want to go back to the America where women couldn’t vote … We want to bring back the America where Republicans and principles and true ideas of freedom rule.’

In October 2022, Yass gave an eye-popping $1 million to a committee controlled by N.C. Republican legislative leaders. The next year, the General Assembly legalized sports gambling and vastly expanded Opportunity Scholarships by deleting the income cap for receiving private school vouchers.

Yass is now ramping up his contributions; he’s the nation’s biggest donor to 2024 federal campaigns. He’s teaming up with other donors to bankroll groups and politicians who demonize diversity, promote censorships and attack public schools. He just donated $6 million to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for his voucher plan, plus $3.5 million to elect pro-plan legislators. A Virginia PAC backing GOP legislators got $2 million.

Republican leaders in North Carolina also want large donations from Yass and his ilk — which inspires more radical steps, like the one this month to award vouchers worth millions to wealthy families.

Long range, these steps create a two-tier system: subsidized, costly private schools with little government oversight, geared to middle- and upper-class kids, and under-resourced public schools for the low income and poor who are disproportionately people of color. This is the opposite of the civic commitment to mutual uplift embedded in the Leandro decision.

Republicans will likely get their millions in campaign money from Jeff Yass et al, but at a steep price for the people of North Carolina.

(Bob Hall is a voting-rights organizer and former executive director of Democracy NC.

“There’s a lot to unpack in that statement but what strikes me foremost is what it would mean to women.”

The writer continued with a finely written, personalized history of women’s suffrage. Being curious as to which unnamed candidate she was referring to, and wishing to verify the claim, I performed a quick online search. The result was quite interesting. I found that the now-viral quote came from Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. I also learned that his words were taken out of context, completely changing the point Mr. Robinson was attempting to make.

Here are text excerpts from the report by Charlotte NBC affiliate TV station WCNC in one of their fact-checking segments, published March 7: “VERIFY Fact Check: Mark Robinson saying he ‘wants to go back to the America where women couldn’t vote ’ needs context.

“The comment happened at a (televised) event hosted by the Republican Women of Pitt County. Robinson was running for lieutenant governor at the time.

“We went straight to the source for this one and watched the YouTube video for ourselves. A little snippet of the video, which has now gone viral, needs a lot of context.

“In the 2020 video, Robinson referred to a previous question posed to conservative political commentator Candace Owens, who was asked, ‘Which America would you want to go back to? One where women couldn’t vote or one where Black people were swinging from trees?’

“Robinson then asked himself the same question, and he said he would pick the situation in which women couldn’t vote. He explained by saying America was better then because Republicans ‘fought for real social change.’

“So while Robinson did say he wanted to go back to an America ‘where women couldn’t vote,’ that quote itself is taken out of context in the stories circulating around social media.

“Robinson was using (the quote) to make a point about the Republican Party supporting women’s suffrage.”

The full video of the TV broadcast is available at (Note: The second part of the above quote was not addressed by the WCNC report.)

Ms. Pickett ends her letter saying, “We need to pay attention to what candidates say. If they can think it, if they can say it and if they are given the power, they can do it.”

I agree. But I would add that we need to consider also the context of what politicians and others say. Much of the news and social media are (in)famous for reporting news out of context and/or omitting important facts.  And please remember, folks: Actions speak louder than words!

I sincerely believe that we all would be a little bit calmer if only we would verify claims before writing letters to editors or posting on social media.

Opinion Smoky Mountain News 14
Mark Claxton  Bryson City Guest Columnist Bob Hall
May 22-28, 2024 Smoky Mountain News 15

Want to go?

Bright sunny south

A conversation with Barry Bales

Barry Bales has 15 Grammy Awards and 23 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) honors, including four IBMA “Bass Player of the Year” trophies. But, today, Bales is trying to get all of his farm chores done before an afternoon rainstorm rolls in.

“This farm has been in our family since 1882,” Bales said of his homestead near Greeneville, Tennessee. “I lived in Nashville in the early days [of performing], but I moved back here in 1993. Coming off the road and getting on the tractor, I call that ‘diesel therapy’ — you’re outside, in the sunshine, you have that connection.”

Since 1990, Bales has been a member of Alison Krauss & Union Station, which remains one of the most beloved and successful acts in the bluegrass and country music realms. A blend of intricate acoustic melodies and pop sensibilities, all wrapped around Krauss’ songbird voice, the ensemble became a smash crossover act.

“We’ve always been true to playing music that we want to play,” Bales mused on Union Station. “We’ve never chased anything. We’ve never chased fads or fame. I’ve always been really proud of the music that we’ve made from the standpoint that it’s a group of people that can play anything.”

That rich, vibrant influence of Union Station still reverberates to this very day, ultimately paving the path to where we stand in the bluegrass world with current powerhouse arena performers like Billy Strings, Sierra Hull, Molly Tuttle and Sierra Ferrell.

“When it comes to entertainment, when it comes to an escape, when it comes to music, bluegrass and acoustic music is real.”

Bales said. “And I think one of the main reasons for the popularity [of bluegrass right now] is that — and it may be a cyclical thing — when there’s so much turmoil and heaviness going on in everybody’s lives, people are grasping for something real.”

Within Union Station, the standup bassist teamed up with the legendary Jerry Douglas, the dobro icon later pulling Bales into his Flatt & Scruggs tribute project The Earls of Leicester, the group now a marquee act on the touring circuit.

Smoky Mountain News: Are there any similarities you notice between working and running a farm and running a band and being a musician?

Barry Bales: Well, one of the similarities is that it’s hardly ever 8-to-5 turn the lights out and go home. You always have to be ready for the unexpected and you just have to stay at it until the work is done. If you’re a musi-

cian and you’re rehearsing or you’ve got a snafu in your travel or whatever, you can’t just clock out and go home — you’ve got to put the work in and get the job done.

SMN: Growing up in East Tennessee, you’re talking about a hotbed of bluegrass music. How did you slide into becoming a musician?

BB: My dad was a guitar and mandolin player. And he had a big record collection. He was equal parts the first-generation of bluegrass — Flatt & Scruggs, Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, Mac Wiseman — and then he also had [country gold] — Buck Owens, Bob Wills, Merle Haggard, Ray Price. So, my love of it came through him. When I was about 10 years old, I told him I wanted to play guitar. And he had the wherewithal and the smarts to say, “Okay, well we need to get you real lessons with a real teacher.”

Through that, I got hooked into the scene at a local music store. I was probably about 12 when we started going there on Saturdays. I would take lessons and hang out. And that was where everybody went and hung out and jammed all day. In that same bunch of people hanging out there, I met [guitarist] Tim Stafford, [mandolinist] Adam Steffey, [guitarist] James Allen Shelton — a “who’s who” of East Tennessee musicians and people that would go on to be friends, peers, band mates or all of the above.

I was just very fortunate to get introduced and locked into that scene at a pretty early age. When I was growing up, I mean the number of really good local bands within a 50-mile radius was just staggering.

And of what I know, what I have built on came from just growing up here, it was almost osmosis. You were just always surrounded by bluegrass and great music, whether it was on the radio or you’d go to town on a Saturday and somebody would be having a grand opening of a hardware store or something and there’d be a band playing in there — it was just always around and it was always quality.

SMN: Why the bass? Why was that the instrument you could best express yourself musically? BB: I don’t know why. I started out on guitar, then went to banjo and fooled around with a bunch of different stuff. But, I was always enamored with the bass. Anytime I was at a jam session or somewhere where there was one, if I had the chance, I’d pick it up and fool around with it. And it just seemed like that was home. It came more naturally. It kind of made more sense to me. This is it, I found my instrument — this is what I’m supposed to play.

A&E Smoky Mountain News 16
Barry Bales will perform in Brevard June 1. Donated photo The third annual North Carolina Guitar Celebration concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 1, at the Brevard Music Center. Hosted by guitar legend Bryan Sutton, the performance will include appearances by Del McCoury, Jerry Douglas, Sara and Sean Watkins (of Nickel Creek), Woody Platt, Barry Bales, Jerron
Tickets start at $32 per person with premium seating available. Special discounts will be given to children and college students. To learn more about the event and/or to purchase tickets, go to
Paxton, Kaia Kater, Chris Eldridge, Jake Workman, Courtney Hartman, Michael Daves, Charlotte Carrivick, Casey Driessen and Bennett Sullivan.

This must be the place

‘Of freedom and of pleasure, nothing lasts forever’

It was nearing midnight when my mother finally beat my father, my girlfriend, Sarah, and I at cards, rummy being the game of choice and of tradition in my parents’ household. Most of the snacks had been consumed and I was halfway through a lukewarm Labatt Blue Light when she placed her last card on the pile to claim victory.

My folks’ 1840 farmhouse sits in the rural countryside outside of Plattsburgh, New York. When the card game finished, I walked outside, the screen door slamming behind me. Heading for the barn where the beer fridge is for another cold can of Blue, I could hear the crickets and frogs from the nearby pond in the backyard.

A floodlight on the corner of the barn illuminated the pitch-black property. In the foreground is my mother’s garden where there are fresh flowers for the kitchen table each morning, fresh strawberries for breakfast and fresh herbs for the potato salad served at lunch.

Beyond the garden, I could see two pairs of glaring eyes in the bushes reflecting off the light. It was the two cats who call the farmhouse home. Big ole Scout and the prim and proper looking Banjo Jack. They were hovering next to the pond and woodpile in hopes of ambushing a country mouse. The search continued.

Crack the Blue can. Re-enter the farmhouse, the screen door slamming behind me. My dad was already marching up the stairs, seeing as 5 a.m. comes early and so does his daily responsibilities of feeding the cats and golden retriever (Madison) and getting the coffee pot ready and burping as to bring my mother a cup in bed.

Moseying to the living room to watch late-night TV news, my mom finishes her wine and heads up the stairwell to bed. The tentative plans are to motor over to Vermont via the Lake Champlain ferry for an afternoon at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. Yes, the same Von Trapp family that escaped Nazi persecution during World War II in hopes of heading to the United States to start anew. The lodge property now features a slew of recreation options and a brewery. For now, in the midst of the midnight hour, the farmhouse is quiet. My folks, the cats and dogs are all asleep. Sarah and I are sitting in the back den watching the MeTV channel, happily viewing old reruns of “The Honeymooners” and “The Twilight Zone,” seeing as we don’t have cable in our

Waynesville apartment. Haven’t had it since I first landed in Haywood County 12 years ago this summer.

Odd coincidences with each television program, too. “The Honeymooners” started with Ralph and Norton playing rummy. “The Twilight Zone” episode “Walking Distance” featured Academy Award-winning actor Gig Young, who is actually buried in Green Hill Cemetery in Waynesville. The episode itself is about “going home” and realizing nothing lasts forever. Dusty memories and vivid visions. Time ticks away and doesn’t stop for any of us.

And I felt a lot of eerie solidarity with this seemingly random episode blaring across the glowing box in the corner of the back den. Earlier in the day, Sarah and I wandered up to my hometown of Rouses Point, New York, about 20 minutes or so north of the farmhouse. One mile from the Canadian Border on the shores of Lake Champlain.

Windows rolled down. Sunroof fully opened. Mid-afternoon blazing sunshine. Warmer than normal temperatures for this area in May. In search of a place to go jogging, it was decided to swing into the southern end of the Hayford Road, a one-lane dirt path splitting vast cornfields. Not far from my childhood home, I used to run this section of road all through middle/high school and college.

Now, at age 39, I can still hold a steady pace along the dusty route. Sarah threw down a beach towel and caught some rays next to our parked car. Jogging down the road, visions of those summer days and winter nights trotting along in the same exact footprints as I created on this day, some two decades later. Trot along and remember. Seek perspective and circle back with conclusions about the grand scheme of things. The journey continues, thankfully.

With an hour left before Sarah and I had to be back at the farmhouse for dinner, we wandered around my hometown. Drive by my childhood home and make comments about how much has changed, how much looks the same. The big maple tree that once held court in the front yard is long gone. What does remain is the purple and grey slate roof on the barn, so too is the hedge row on the eastern side of the property where I had my tree fort.

Abandoned buildings in the desolate downtown that were once businesses I

inhabited. Make note to Sarah about points of interest, at least to me and my old soul, sentimental memory. The massive lake bordering the community still smells the same, which remains comforting. A handmade sandwich in-hand from the local gas station en route to sitting by the lake to consume it with gusto.

The Sunday sunshine is fading fast, but not before a quiet visit to the local cemetery to pass respects to dearly missed family members and friends. Kiss your fingers gently and place them on the marble headstones also kissed by the sun’s warmth. Say hello and goodbye all within five minutes. It still remains hard to do so, but one must always pay respects when you’re within vicinity.

“The Twilight Zone” comes to a close and narrator Rod Serling’s iconic voice rumbles into the scene: “Martin Sloan, age 36, vicepresident in charge of media. Successful in most things, but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives — trying to go home again. And also like all men, perhaps there’ll be an occasion — maybe a summer night sometime — when he’ll look up from what he’s doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope, and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of his past. And perhaps across his mind, there’ll flit a little errant wish, that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he’ll smile then, too, because he’ll know that it is just an errant wish, some wisp of memory, not too important really, some laughing ghosts that would cross a man’s mind — that are a part of The Twilight Zone.”

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.



The Tony-winning musical “The Secret Garden” will be held at 7:30 p.m. May 24-25, 30-31 and June 1 and 2 p.m. May 26 and June 2 at the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville.


Jackson County Americana/folk duo Bird in Hand will perform at 6 p.m. Friday, May 24, at Mountain Layers Brewing Company in Bryson City.


The Women of Waynesville (WOW) will host a “Queens of Country” themed karaoke party at 8 p.m. Friday, May 24, at The Gem at Boojum Brewing Company in Waynesville.


The 15th season of the annual “Concerts on the Creek” music series will kick off with classic rock group TLQ+2 at 7 p.m. Friday, May 24, at Bridge Park in downtown Sylva.


Americana/folk singer-songwriter Woolybooger will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 25, at Currahee Brewing in Franklin.

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The Hayford Road in Clinton County, New York. Garret K. Woodward photo

On the beat

‘Queens of Country’ karaoke

The Women of Waynesville (WOW) will host a “Queens of Country” themed karaoke party at 8 p.m. Friday, May 24, at The Gem at Boojum Brewing Company in Waynesville. Dress in your country best. Boots and cowboy/cowgirl hats are strongly encouraged. The event will also feature a Dolly Parton look-alike contest to honor the Queen of Country herself. There will be a $10 entry fee and the winner will get a cash prize. Attendees will be able to vote for their favorite with a donation to WOW. A WOW member will be leading some line-dancing basics on the dance floor while others serenade on stage with country classics. There is a $5 cover at the door.

All proceeds will benefit WOW, an all-volunteer organization with the mission of supporting women and children in Haywood County. Since forming in 2012, WOW has helped raise more than $250,000 for local charities like Habitat for Humanity, Mountain Projects, Haywood Pathways Center, Big Brother Big Sisters, KARE, REACH, Haywood County Schools Foundation and many more.

The funds raised during this event will help WOW replenish its “Stealth Fund,” which is used to help women in emergency situations. The fund has provided women with financial assistance to secure affordable housing, complete car repairs, fuel cards to get to work, past due utility bills and more.

For more information, visit or follow WOW on Facebook at

Bryson City community jam

A community jam will be held from 6 -7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 6, 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 just stop by and listen. The jam is facilitated by Larry Barnett of the Sawmill Creek Porch Band.

• 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 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 8Trk Cadillac May 25 and Paul Koptak (singersongwriter) June 1. All shows begin at 5 p.m. Free and open to the public. For more information, go to

• Boojum Brewing (Waynesville) will host Women Of Waynesville “Queens of Country Music Party” May 24 and Smashing Mouth (alternative/rock) May 25. All shows begin at 9 p.m. unless otherwise noted. 828.246.0350 or

• Classic Wineseller (Waynesville) will host Russ Wilson Duo (swing/jazz) 7 p.m. June 8. Tickets are $70 per person, which includes music, food, tax and gratuity. Beverages are extra. To reserve a table, call 828.452.6000 or

• Concerts On The Creek (Sylva) will host TLQ+2 (classic rock) May 24 and Southern Vantage (classic rock/country gold) May 31. All shows begin at 7 p.m. Everyone is encouraged to bring a chair or blanket. These events are free, but donations are encouraged. 828.586.2155 or

• Farm At Old Edwards (Highlands) will host the “Orchard Sessions” w/Highbeams 6 p.m. May 30. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, call 866.526.8008 or go to

• Friday Night Live (Highlands) will host McClain Family May 24 and Byrds & Crows May 31 at Town Square on Main Street. All shows begin at 6 p.m. Free and open to the public.

• Groovin’ on the Green (Cashiers) will host Darren Nicholson Trio (Americana/bluegrass) May 24 and Kevin Daniel & The Bottom Line May 31. Shows begin at 6 p.m. Free and open to the public. Donations encouraged.

• Happ’s Place (Glenville) will host Dillion & Company May 24, Young Mountain Magic May 25, Jake Matthews (singer-songwriter) May 30 and The Remnants (Americana) May 31. 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 Grand Funk Railroad (classic rock) 9 p.m. May 31. For a full schedule of events and/or to buy tickets,

• Innovation Brewing (Sylva) will host “Monday Night Trivia” every week, “Open Mic w/Phil” Wednesdays, The Knotty G’s May 25 and Tina Collins (singer-songwriter) June 1. All shows and 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, The Log Noggins (rock/blues) May 25 and Ray Ferrara (rock/country) June 1. All shows begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.349.2337 or

• Lazy Hiker Brewing (Sylva) will host “Music Bingo” 6:30 p.m. Mondays, Blue Jazz (soul/jazz) May 24 and Bryan & Al (Americana/rock) May 31. All shows begin at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.349.2337 or

• Mountain Layers Brewing (Bryson City) will host an “Open Mic w/Frank Lee” Wednesdays, Bird In Hand (Americana/indie) May 24, Zip Robertson (singer-songwriter) May 25, Mountain Gypsy (Americana) May 26 and Bridget Gossett (singer-songwriter) May 27. All shows begin at 6 p.m unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.538.0115 or

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.

• Frog Level Brewing (Waynesville) will host Len Graham & Paul Koptak May 22, Color Machine May 24, Bridget Gossett Duo May 25, Krave Amiko 3 p.m. May 26, Malcolm Flavell (singersongwriter) 3 p.m. May 27, Taylor Watkins (singer-songwriter) May 29 and Mitch McConnell & The Senators May 31. All shows begin at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.454.5664 or

• Frog Quarters (Franklin) will host live music from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Free and open to the public. Located at 573 East Main Street. or 828.369.8488.

• Otto Community Center (Otto) will host a Celtic & Old-Time Music Jam 6 p.m. June 13. Bring a beverage and snack of your choice. Free and open to the public. or 770.335.0967

• Peacock Performing Arts Center (Hayesville) will host Gnarly Fingers (Americana/rock) May 25. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to or call 828.389.ARTS.

• Pickin’ On The Square (Franklin) will host The Rusty String Band (bluegrass/gospel) May 25. All shows begin at 6 p.m. at the Gazebo in downtown. Free and open to the public.

May 22-28, 2024 Smoky Mountain News arts & entertainment 18
WOW will host karaoke May 24 in Waynesville. Donated photo

On the beat

‘Concerts on the Creek’

The Town of Sylva, Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department and Jackson County Chamber of Commerce are proud to present the 15th season of the annual “Concerts on the Creek” music series.

Classic rock group TLQ+2 will hit the stage at 7 p.m. Friday, May 24, at Bridge Park in downtown Sylva.

“Concerts on the Creek” are held every Friday night from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Everyone is encouraged to bring a chair or blanket. These events are free, but donations are encouraged. Dogs must be on a leash. No smoking, vaping, coolers or tents are allowed. There will be food trucks on site for this event.

For more information, call the chamber at 828.586.2155, visit or go to the “Concerts on the Creek” Facebook page.

Currahee gets the blues

Americana/folk singer-songwriter Woolybooger will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 25, at Currahee Brewing in Franklin. Dubbed “music to grow your hair out to,” the Murphy musician, whose real name is Gavin Graves, is well-regarded in this region for his mix of blues and roots music into a unique Southern Appalachian tone.

Free and open to the public. 828.634.0078 or

Woolybooger will play Franklin May 25.

File photo

• Rathskeller Coffee Haus & Pub (Franklin) will host Karaoke 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Trivia Night 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Open Mic w/Dirty Dave 6:30 p.m. Fridays, Joe Munoz (singersongwriter) 7 p.m. May 25. Free and open to the public. 828.369.6796.

• Salty Dog’s Seafood & Grill (Maggie Valley) will host “Karaoke w/Russell” every Monday and semi-regular live music on the weekends. Free and open to the public. 828.926.9105.

• Santé Wine Bar (Sylva) will host Ryan Taylor Price (singer-songwriter) May 26 and Shane Meade (indie/soul) June 2. All shows begin at 5 p.m. Free and open to the public. 828.631.3075 or

• Saturdays On Pine (Highlands) will host Southside Station May 25 and High-5 June 1 at Kelsey-Hutchinson Park on Pine Street. All shows begin at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public.

• Scotsman (Waynesville) will Ryan Furstenburg (Americana/folk) May 23. The Borrowed Band (country) May 24, Rick Manz Trio (Americana/rock) May 30 and Nick Mac Duo (rock) May 31. All shows begin at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.246.6292 or

• Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts (Franklin) will host Lee Greenwood (country/oldies) 7:30 p.m. May 24. Tickets start at $28 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

• Unplugged Pub (Bryson City) will host Mountain Gypsy (Americana) May 23,

Americana, folk at Mountain Layers

Jackson County Americana/folk duo Bird in Hand will perform at 6 p.m. Friday, May 24, at Mountain Layers Brewing Company in Bryson City.

Macon County Line May 24, Jon Cox Band (country/rock) May 25 and Outlaw Whiskey (classic rock/country gold) June 1. All shows are $5 at the door unless otherwise noted and begin at 8 p.m. 828.538.2488.

• Valley Cigar & Wine Co. (Waynesville) will host Rick Manz Trio (Americana) 5:30 p.m. May 24. Free and open to the public. 828.944.0686 or

• Whiteside Brewing (Cashiers) will host Seth & Sara (Americana) June 14. All shows begin at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted. 828.743.6000 or

• Yonder Community Market (Franklin) will host David Childers (singer-songwriter) 4 p.m. May 26 and Tommy Stinson (singer-songwriter) 7 p.m. May 31. Family friendly, dog friendly. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to

• Find more at

Cold Mountain Music Festival

The annual Cold Mountain Music Festival will be held on Saturday, June 1, at the Lake Logan Retreat Center in Canton.

The lineup will feature Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters, Toubab Krewe, Darren Nicholson, Grizzly Goat and Townes Council. There will also be a special appearance by the J Creek Cloggers.

CMMF will offer local food and drink vendors, family-friendly activities and more. Lodging is available onsite (cabins/camping), with the lake open throughout the event for recreational use.

The centerpiece of the almost 300-acre property is a mile-long lake surrounded by the Shining Rock Wilderness Area of Pisgah National Forest.

For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to or call 828.646.0095.

The road less traveled has always been the way for husbandand-wife duo Bird in Hand. Bryan and Megan Thurman call the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina home and the region is directly reflected in their music. Bird in Hand is upbeat and new while still rooted in the traditions of American folk.

The two have played all over the Appalachian region, as well as across the country, and share an onstage chemistry that demands attention. They need to be seen live to understand the meaning of “Appalachian Thunder Folk.”

You can find their debut EP, “Due North,” online at The show is free and open to the public. For more information, go to

May 22-28, 2024 Smoky Mountain News arts & entertainment 19
TLQ+2 will play Sylva May 24. File photo Bird in Hand will play Bryson City May 24. File photo Toubab Krewe will play Canton June 1. File photo

‘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.

• “Art & Artisan Walk” will be held from 5-8 p.m. every third Thursday of the month May through December. Stroll the streets in the evening and discover handcrafted items, artwork, jewelry, pottery, antiques and more. Look for the yellow and blue balloons identifying participating businesses hosting artists.

• “May Makers Market” will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 25, in The Lineside at Frog Level Brewing in Waynesville. Local arts/crafts vendors and more. Free and open to the public. 828.454.5664 or

• “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

To learn more about the exhibition and reception, please go to 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.

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

On the stage


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 24-25, 30-31 and June 1 and 2 p.m. May 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.

• The Comedy Zone at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino will host Dale Jones May 22-26, Southern Momma May 28-June 26 and Marc Yaffee May 30-June 5. Doors open at 6 p.m. Dinner and drinks will be served from 6-7:45 p.m. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to

• 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.

On the table

• Classic Wineseller (Waynesville) will host a wine tasting at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 1, in Waynesville. For more information and/or to reserve a table, call 828.452.6000 or go to

• “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 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 22-28, 2024 Smoky Mountain News arts & entertainment 20
the wall
‘Spirits of Siwavaats’ is a work by Cara Romero. Donated photo ‘The Secret Garden’ will play at HART this spring. Donated photo

Building a world beyond

Having just recently written a review for these pages of an anthology made up of multiple writers published in 2023 with a similar title that was edited by Ervin Laszlo, I am taking the liberty to review the much more singular and shorter primer that Laszlo wrote in 2022 prior to putting together his large anthology. I feel that this earlier book of Laszlo’s needs to be highlighted due to its knowledgeable focus and importance at this time in human and planetary history.

Being as Laszlo is a world-renowned philosopher, scientist and musician and based on what I have read of his work in the past, I take his words seriously. In this book, simply titled “The Upshift,” (Waterside Productions, 2022, 127 pages), Laszlo gets right down to business and doesn’t pull any punches in doing so. As he writes in the preface: “The message of this book is an antidote to the pessimism and inaction spreading in today’s world. It shows that we can meet the challenges that face us — the challenges of war and aggression, of climate change and poverty-driven migration, and of a persisting pandemic.”

In what is an inspirational and educational handbook for the future, Laszlo begins in part one of the book titled “Tipping Point,” where he talks of how a crisis can also be an opportunity for shifting up to a better world. He is not shy about pointing out the elements of the crisis with which we are currently confronted, even quoting the Bible: “where there is no vision, the people perish.”

But he is just as quick to then point out the forces that empower us to shift beyond the challenges of our time. In chapter two he focuses on the economy and capitalism and the implications for “business as usual” upon the planet’s essential physical and biological resources and the unsustainable implications this has on other social and political aspects of our lives. In chapter three — titled “The Way Forward” — he focuses


In part two — titled “Your Role in Creating A More Peaceful World” — Laszlo begins writing about “the path to peace” by quoting a Chinese proverb that says “Even the longest journey begins with a first step.” By questioning current practices and beliefs and with an enlightened new perspective, he says we can chart out a path to where we want to go and the kind of world we want to create that includes both cultural and natural diversity rather than a limiting monolithic perspective. He even goes so far as to create a “ten commandments” of living in a world of diversity. More specifically, he continues along this line of thought by focusing on the idea of self-exploration, aesthetic experience and a new and greater awareness related to science.

While outlining in detail the issues we are facing now on the planet, Laszlo focuses on the practical steps that we can take right now regarding our personal and collective destiny. In doing so, he puts out a call for creativity and diversity; for responsibility; and for planetary consciousness.

I’m just going to say it upfront; after reading this book and taking copious notes, my feeling is that its message is “biblical” in its significance. I can see people referring to it and to Laszlo in the distant future as such and as a talisman, a kind of prophet speaking out to the masses in a time of crisis.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, he indicates that we “need to Be the change you want to see in the world.” This all has to do with an upshift in mindset and spirituality. Here, he references the traditional peoples of this continent and the planet who “knew that what was good for them individually was good for their community.” He focuses on priorities that are not only sustainable, but that seek a sense of oneness with each other and the natural world with unconditional love. And so, he goes on to say, “we must work, live and play Together, as One, Unconditionally and with Love, through intuition and enlightenment — which is the only way we are going to avoid and survive what science is calling ‘The Sixth Extinction.’”

In part three “The Vison of a More Peaceful World,” Laszlo talks about “The World in 2050 and Beyond,” where he discusses future lifestyles, morality, social and political organizations and beliefs and insights into creating a better world. Here, he ends his 127-page testament with the quote:

“Collaboration inspired by love is the way to achieve health and well-being for ourselves, and for all the beings with whom we share the planet.”

on “the critical factor: our mindset” and calls for an upshift in consciousness as well as a call for more creativity and diversity in our lives, focusing on the arts and more conscious interaction with all living systems on the planet. Here, he uses the word “evolution,” stating that as a species we are in a situation where we need to make an evolutionary leap in consciousness, behavior and gov-

But I have mainly spoken in generalities, here, about this guidebook and there is much more discussion and clarification of some of the principles I have cited. A more personal and intimate interview concludes the book, which allows us to know Ervin Laszlo a little better and understand his inspirations and reasons for writing this important book. The bottom line? “Remember,” he says, “who we really are and what our mission is in this life.”

(Thomas Crowe is a regular contributor to The Smoky Mountain News and author of the multiaward-winning non-fiction nature memoir “Zoro’s Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods.”)

May 22-28, 2024 Smoky Mountain News arts & entertainment 21 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 Thomas Crowe


Jump right in Lake Logan reflects on rich history, ponders next step

Nearly seven years ago, Laura Elliot first stepped foot on the bucolic grounds of the Lake Logan Retreat Center, cradled by the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was June 2017 and the event onsite was the inaugural Cold Mountain Music Festival.

“Quite simply, I absolutely fell in love with the sheer beauty and tranquility of Lake Logan and knew somehow this was where I was meant to be,” Elliot said. “[And] this has been our family’s summer vacation spot and Sunday afternoon retreat since that time.”

Earlier this year, Elliot accepted the position of executive director at Lake Logan, with the retreat center underneath the banner of the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina. Originally from Rocky Mount, Elliot lived out west for a period, working with children with severe learning differences in Sante Fe, New Mexico, and as a whitewater river guide in Moab, Utah, and Taos, New Mexico.

“[Lake Logan] is a culmination of my outdoor education and recreation background, my nonprofit leadership experience and my lifelong relationship with the Episcopal Church,” Elliot said.

As it stands, the retreat center is a 300-acre property buffering the Shining Rock Wilderness Area of the Pisgah National Forest. This landscape also includes Lake Logan, a mile-long body of water replenished by the West Fork of the Pigeon River.

“Lake Logan truly is a gem of the Smoky Mountains,”

Elliot said. “What we have to offer Haywood County and Western North Carolina is profound and I believe we’re just starting to tap the true potential of this incredible resource.”

The lake was initially constructed as a reservoir for the Champion Fibre Company in 1932 as a way for the vastly expanding business to have a large supply of water readily available for the paper mill in nearby Canton.

“My brother was a forester for the Canton mill for nearly 11 years,” Elliot said. “He’s taught me a lot about the ecology and histories of Haywood County, the Pigeon River, Lake Logan and its role within the Cradle of Forestry — it’s a fascinating story and one that is certainly evolving as we speak.”

The mill closed in 2023, but the lake and its endless recre-

Want to go?

To learn more about all of the recreational and lodging opportunities, day/season visitation passes, upcoming events and a full schedule of activities at the Lake Logan Retreat Center, click on, call 828.646.0095 or email

ational opportunities remains. As does its bountiful resources amid a stunning backdrop of natural beauty.

“Lake Logan has a rich natural history that spans millions of years as part of the oldest mountain chain and one of the most diverse forest ecosystems in the world,” Elliot said.

“Recognizing the depth of our environmental and cultural history, we want to provide interpretive and engaging experiences for lifelong learners of every age.”

In terms of the retreat center itself, it houses numerous cabins, bunkhouses and primitive campsites, all with direct access to the lake and its amenities, including a boathouse.

“I have a very strong connection to this sacred space,” Elliot said. “And an even stronger calling to share and preserve Lake Logan’s important past while leading it toward a sustainable future for generations to come.”

Beyond what’s available on the lake — swimming, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, boating, paddleboarding — there’s also fishing allowed in the river and hiking trails through the Cold Mountain games land and Shining Rock Wilderness.

To access these outdoor amenities, there’s a variety of day passes and an annual membership that the general public can purchase online ( The F

Located just outside of Canton, the Lake Logan Retreat Center has been a place of respite and recreation for many years. File photo Laura Elliot. Donated photo

Cold Mountain Music Festival

The annual Cold Mountain Music Festival will be held on Saturday, June 1, at the Lake Logan Retreat Center in Canton.

The lineup will feature Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters, Toubab Krewe, Darren Nicholson, Grizzly Goat and Townes Council. There will also be a special appearance by the J Creek Cloggers.

CMMF will offer local food and drink vendors, family-friendly activities and more. Lodging is available onsite (cabins/camping), with the lake open throughout the event for recreational use.

The centerpiece of the almost 300-acre property is a mile-long lake surrounded by the Shining Rock Wilderness Area of Pisgah National Forest.

For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to or call 828.646.0095.

property can also be rented for events.

“We’re open to the public in many exciting ways,” Elliot said. “‘Stewardship of God’s creation’ is a core value at Lake Logan and, to that end, I’m really excited about the current development of our Outdoor School. This program is just taking off and already a big hit with school groups from across the Southeast.”

With the annual Cold Mountain Music Festival right around the corner (June 1), Lake Logan is once again gearing up for a jam-packed summer of fun, family, adventure and authenticity, something that’s resided at the property since its inception.

“The sky’s the limit,” Elliot said of the property’s potential. “If someone has a great idea, I’d love for them to come visit and let’s

“We’re open to the public in many exciting ways. Stewardship of God’s creation’ is a core value at Lake Logan and., to that end, I’m really excited about the current development of our Outdoor School. This program is just taking off and already a big hit with school groups from across the Southeast.”

Laura Elliot, Lake Logan Retreat Center

A large part of the Lake Logan experience, Camp Henry will soon kick off its summer season with its family and bilingual camps. There’s also a bevy of recreational/backcountry excursions held throughout the year at the Outdoor School.

“The Diocese of WNC truly believes in the power of summer camp and boasts a strong scholarship program to ensure no kid ever has to miss out on these incredibly fun and formative experiences,” Elliot said. “And now we have the Outdoor School, which offers learning opportunities in one of the most dynamic outdoor learning labs in the country.”

figure out how to make it happen — together.”

For Elliot and the staff at Lake Logan, it’s business as usual in this cultural and ecological touchstone for Haywood County and greater Western North Carolina — memories preserved, memories created.

“There’s no greater reward than hearing stories from folks who are just coming to Lake Logan for the first time or returning year after year,” Elliot said. “There’s a thread that connects each of those stories and it always begins and ends with the transformational power of retreat — in the woods and on the water — at Lake Logan.”

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Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters. File photo
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Volunteers work on Franklin’s Cherokee heritage trail

Local hands are nurturing the Barbara McRae Cherokee Heritage Apple Trail in Franklin.

Macon Early College students have made two trips to the orchard to help tend to the young trees. They have cut limbs and brush, planted strawberries, pulled weeds, spread mulch and planted a new “Junaluska” tree.

The orchard consists of heritage varieties of apples

that were originally developed by Cherokee people who lived along the river prior to their removal on The Trail of Tears. It is located a half-mile downstream of the big bear pavilion.

Juanita Wilson (right) and Bob McCollum, co-chairs of the Nikwasi Initiative, plant a tree along the new Barbara McRae Cherokee Heritage Apple Trail March 7. Holly Kays photo

The Orchard is named for late and beloved, Barbara McRae, who imagined an apple orchard that would honor the original residents of this area and highlight their contribution to modern food and lifestyle. Her dream came to life and now provides all kinds of benefits. Young people help nurture the trees, and the trees nurture everyone who visits.

To make a contribution to the project, visit

Garden light show is May 25

Come out to Macon County May 25 for the Springtime Garden Light and Sounds show.

The projected light show is sponsored by Highland Mediaworks and will be accompanied by friends spinning vinyl in the garden behind the library. Bring a lawn chair, snack and beverage to enjoy some time in the library’s backyard. The event will be held from 8:30-10 p.m. in the Macon County Public Library backyard. Check for changes, including weather-related delays at and or call 828.524.3600.

Cherokee hosts fishing tournament: Registration deadline May 24

Cherokee is hosting a fishing tournament this weekend that offers competitors the chance to vie for $10,000 in tagged fish.

Tagged fish will be specially stocked for this event, and those fish can be redeemed for cash prizes at the Natural Resources Enforcement Office located at 517 Sequoyah Trail off Highway 441. Prize redemption hours are from 2-4 p.m. each tournament day, with a final tag turn in time of 4 p.m. on day two. Open to all ages and for all legal fishing methods.

Register for this tournament anywhere fishing permits are sold in and around Cherokee or online at by Friday, May 24, 2024.

Science program offered for kids

Kids ages 5-13 can become citizen scientists.

EcoEXPLORE will host a herpetology event at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 29, at the Jackson County Public Library.

Kids will learn about the reptiles and amphibians. The program will be in the Community Room of the Jackson County Public Library.

For more information, call Youth Services at the library at 828.586.2016.

May 22-28, 2024 Smoky Mountain News outdoors 25
Competitors can vie for $10,000 in cash prizes. Visit Cherokee photo File photo

Wildlife Commission adopts new rules

Commissioners at the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) have adopted new rules for the 2024-25 seasons effective Aug 1. The new rules, adopted during the Commission’s February business meeting and were approved by the Rules Review Commission in April.

Deer hunting sees a shift in the western blackpowder and gun seasons so that blackpowder season begins two Saturdays before Thanksgiving and runs two weeks until gun season. Gun season will begin the Saturday after Thanksgiving and run through Jan. 1 and shift the timing of the one week and one day blackpowder antlerless seasons to begin the second Saturday of the season. Additionally, Thanksgiving Day and the Friday after Thanksgiving Day will be designated as Youth Days in the western season,

Jackson hosts camping event

Come out to the Ralph J. Andrews Campground on Lake Glenville for a family camping event.

The fee is $85 per family of four with $15 for each extra member up to six total per

Part of greenway trail closed indefinitely

A portion of the Waynesville Greenway is closed to the public starting from the end of Industrial Park Drive on the Asheville Highway side, extending all the way to the end at Lake Junaluska.

This closure is due to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) working on the bridges along the Great Smoky

Thanksgiving Day and the following Friday will be designated as Youth Days in the western season, and youth under 18 can use any lawful weapon, including all firearms, to harvest deer on those days. Stock photo

and youth under 18 can use any lawful weapon, including all firearms, to harvest deer on those days.

The changes also included removing the Wild Trout Waters/Natural Bait Waters classification from Public Mountain Trout Waters.

ThrowDown skateboard competition rescheduled

Due to forecasted inclement weather conditions, the WayneTown ThrowDown Skate Park Competition was postponed.

The makeup day is set for Saturday, June 8, at the Waynesville Skate Park.

Schedule of Events:

Registration opens at 9 a.m. and remains open throughout the day until division starts.

10 a.m. Beginner Division 11:30 a.m. Intermediate Division 1 p.m. Advanced/Open Division 2 p.m. Best Tricks 3:30 p.m. Awards Presentation

campsite. Jackson County Recreation has tents for rent for $10, sleeping bags for $5 and sleeping mats for $2. Friday’s dinner and Saturday’s breakfast will be provided, and there will be kayaking and fishing opportunities Saturday morning.

Check-in is at 5:30 p.m. on June 7 and check-out is at noon June 8.

Mountain Expressway. The greenway path goes under the bridges.

The closure is necessary to ensure the safety of greenway users during the construction period. The NCDOT anticipates that the bridge construction will take approximately two to three years to complete. As a result, the affected portion of the greenway will remain closed until the construction is finished. The public can access and enjoy the greenway from the Waynesville Recreation Park side.

May 22-28, 2024 Smoky Mountain News outdoors 26 oodC 828.45 Salnutt Moon es siness of the M 28W Bu 6.3021 .le W nth: AQ PL 1(844)8983393 le • NC 28786 Waynesvil t • ain S 71 N M u t ec RE/MAX Ex ROGERS, DAVVID ,MEYERS JUDY FISCH, JENNIFER , CERNIGLIA JACKIE A DICK LYN BUSON, MARTIN , ARKCL KEITH MARL RIGHT: TO LEFT FROM BY OVIDEDPR UE e tivve THOMAS TAVVIA A INSON, Puzzles can be found on page 30 These are only the answers.
File photo
May 22-28, 2024 Smoky Mountain News 27


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