Smoky Mountain News | June 5, 2024

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Haywood County’s new bike park takes shape Page 22 Western North Carolina’s Source for Weekly News, Entertainment, Arts and Outdoor Information June 5-11, 2024 Vol. 26 Iss. 02 Appeals panel sends Kituwah LLC
back to court Page 6

Mountain ast! This h the WNC m of Canton tioned on 1 ON , estate perfect forome is located in mountains outside n perfectly posi16+ acres bordered erty with m and natura custom bu from eleme with sustain antique recmultiple waterfalls al pools. The rustic uilt home is a natents from the land nable materials (all claimed barn wood, in exposed floors are and ambro floors on the world, Asheville, d areas, main level former wooden osia maple wood the upper level.) but convenient to Brevard, Waynes-


On the Cover:

In an area with a fair amount of coffee shops like Western North Carolina, it can sometimes be hard to break through into the scene, but that’s exactly what musician-turned-roaster Matt King has done with his new Sylva spot, Blue Ridge Bootleg Roastery, a manifestation of a passion that he’s developed over several years. (Page 16) Donated photo


Waynesville Golf Club housing development stymied again..................................4 Waynesville budget will come down to the wire........................................................5

Appeals panel sends Kituwah LLC back to court......................................................6 SCC honors EMS graduates..........................................................................................8

Despite rising costs, new Franklin High School still on track................................9 UNC Board of Governors repeals DEI policy..........................................................11 Pride parade prevails in Waynesville as opposition evaporates..........................12


Looking forward to SMN in 2049................................................................................14


HART presents ‘The Gods of Comedy’......................................................................19 Quick Draw event to benefit local children................................................................20


Racoon Creek Bike Park takes shape........................................................................22

Notes from a Plant Nerd: Respect your elders........................................................26




ART D IRECTOR: Micah McClure.

D ESIGN & PRODUCTION: Jessica Murray. Jack Snyder.



Maddie Woodard.

C LASSIFIEDS: Scott Collier.

N EWS E DITOR: Kyle Perrotti.

WRITING: Hannah McLeod.

Cory Vaillancourt.

Garret K. Woodward.


D ISTRIBUTION: Scott Collier.

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

June 5-11, 2024 Smoky Mountain News 2
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CONTACT WAYNESVILLE | 144 Montgomery, Waynesville, NC 28786 SYLVA | 629 West Main Street, Sylva, NC 28779 P: 828.452.4251 | F: 828.452.3585 I NFO & B ILLING | P.O. Box 629, Waynesville, NC 28786 Copyright 2024 by The Smoky Mountain News.™ Advertising copyright 2024 by The Smoky Mountain News.™ All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. The Smoky Mountain News is available for free in Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain and parts of Buncombe counties. Limit one copy per person. Additional copies may be purchased for $1, payable at the Smoky Mountain News office in advance. No person may, without prior written permission of The Smoky Mountain News, take more than one copy of each issue. S UBSCRIPTIONS SUBSCRIPTION: 1 YEAR $80 | 6 MONTHS $55 | 3 MONTHS $35 16G IHON R N O RT T A W AT T ERS T RAIL ,C ANT O H C AROLINA 28716
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Waynesville Golf Club housing development stymied again

Amid complaints from neighbors, the new owners of the Waynesville Inn and Golf Club once again saw their proposed 12-unit Longview development shot down after Town Council found it to be inconsistent with several aspects of the town’s land management plan.

Earlier this year, Raines Company sought approval for residential development on two tracts adjacent to the historic 165-acre golf club site — 13 custom-built homes on 11 acres off Greenview Drive and 12 units on 3.5 acres off Longview Drive.

On March 18, the Waynesville Planning Board recommended approval of a zoning map amendment for the Greenview project by a vote of 6 to 1. A week later, Council concurred unanimously with the planning board.

The planning board, however, rejected the proposed Longview development at that same meeting.

Raines came back to the town with a new request on May 14. During that public hearing, parties on both sides of the issue spoke, including a number of homeowners who live near the proposed development. Their major concerns included what attorney Clint Cogburn, representing homeowners, called an atypical number of variance requests.


Supporters included a bevy of heavy hitters from the community, including Patrick McDowell, former longtime planning board chair. McDowell noted that other potential uses of the tract would likely be less desirable to homeowners and would require far less effort to gain approval from Council.

“What this is, is about what is allowed in the area [and] what could be allowed in the area,” he said. “I truly believe this is the best use of the area described because additional options are available to the Raines Corporation and not every resident that is nearby understands that. You, as people who understand the zoning in the area, understand what additional options are available for Raines Corporation and could be presented before the board and would need to be approved if they were presented because they meet regulations associated with the Town of Waynesville.”

A map of the Waynesville Inn and Golf Club’s recently renovated course shows two areas, off the 10th and 12th fairways where developers want to build 25 new homes.

Raines Company photo

Matt Haines, vice president of operations for Premier Magnesia, known locally as Giles Chemical, also spoke in favor of the development, saying that the prosperity of WIGC lends itself to the longer-term stability of the town and that denying the request could impact future investments in the town.

Arch unveiled in Waynesville

Generations of locals and visitors will upon arrival to Waynesville be greeted by a handsome decorative arch, just as in generations past.

June 1, 2024, was a historic day for a historic town, as members of Waynesville’s government and the Downtown Waynesville Association were present to unveil a new decorative arch over South Main Street, replacing one torn down more than 50 years ago.

The arch, which was fully funded without the use of taxpayer money, resembles one that stood at the other end of Main Street for nearly 40 years until it fell into disrepair and was torn down in 1972.

“This just means the world to us that so many of you have come out to share this moment with us,” Teresa Pennington told a substantial crowd gathered in the street for the unveiling ceremony. Pennington is an artist, Main Street business owner and chair of the DWA.

Town Council Member Jon Feichter, whose family played an integral role in the establishment of the DWA almost 40 years ago, acknowledged the challenges he and a small group of dedicated citizens faced — including the mistaken belief that such a structure wasn’t allowed, per NCDOT regulations — before the arch could be fabricated and installed.

Chief among them for some neighbors were the lot width, setback and civic space variances, which together could present a greater density than neighbors want to see.

Town Attorney Martha Bradley then offered to meet with Raines and town staff to find a compromise, so the town closed the public hearing and put off a vote until the May 28 meeting.

When that meeting commenced, nine people spoke during the public comment session, including Cogburn, Raines Company Managing Partner Grey Raines and several homeowners who’d previously opposed the vari-

“Historically, our corporate visitors and business associates have stayed and been entertained in Asheville because Waynesville lacked sufficient higher-end traditional hotel accommodations,” Haines said. “Waynesville Inn and Golf Club offered us the opportunity for business guests from all over the country to stay in Waynesville, which can potentially lead to positive impacts well beyond simple food and accommodation sales of the visit.”

Council wasn’t swayed by the testimonials, despite the number of variance requests being whittled down from nine to three, and voted unanimously against the conditional district map amendment.

“Today, we’re celebrating more than just the unveiling of the new gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains arch,” Feichter said. “We’re here to celebrate the power of determination, best illustrated by the old adage, ‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’”

Feichter went on to recount the terrible state of Waynesville’s downtown in the 1980s, before the DWA was formed. After decades of effort, DWA is largely responsible for the streetscaping improvements that give Waynesville’s downtown business district its distinctive appearance.

“As we stand here today, it’s my hope that we will see the arch not just as a gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains but as a symbol of our collective determination and belief that there is nothing we cannot accomplish if we all work together,” he said. “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

Just prior to the unveiling, Pennington presented an award to former longtime DWA Executive Director Buffy Phillips for her years of service. — Cory Vaillancourt, Politics Editor

June 5-11, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 4 100 Charles St. WAYNESVILLE FREE ESTIMATES
Cory Vaillancourt photo

Waynesville budget will come down to the wire

Arare public impasse by Council Members over the Town of Waynesville’s proposed budget will leave things unsettled for the time being, foreshadowing prolonged negotiations over an all-but-certain tax increase.

“I understand the tough times, with the individuals and people in our community facing inflation and things that are going on,” said Council Member Julia Freeman during a May 28 budget presentation.

“Unfortunately, I will not be supporting this budget.”

The budget as presented requests a 3.78cent ad valorem tax increase per $100 in assessed value, which would push the rate from 43.92 cents to 47.7 cents. Each cent on the rate equals around $165,000.

Manager Rob Hites estimated the cost of fulfilling all departmental requests, all at once, could cost as much as 10 cents on the property tax rate.

Inflation has also affected nearly every aspect of town government, including the town’s efforts to retain skilled employees. Nearly 50% of new general fund spending under the proposed budget is to keep the town’s compensation packages competitive with those of other regional employers, including a 2.5% cost-of-living adjustment that will cost $155,000 and a 2.5% increase in the career development program, budgeted at $258,000.

According to Hites’ budget summary, “when an organization loses a well-trained employee, it loses 50% of that positions productivity, while the position is vacant, and as the new employee learns their duties.”

Over the past year, the town has experienced minor revenue growth. Ad valorem tax rolls have increased only 4%, worth $212,000 or 1.28 cents on the rate. A projected $180,000 in sales tax revenues and $100,000 in investment income this coming year will contribute to an estimated $1.59 million increase in general fund revenue necessary to meet rising costs in a number of areas.

A request by the Waynesville Police Department for two additional officers is included in the budget, as is a request for four additional firefighters. Additionally, a new entry-level planner will be responsible for administering the new stormwater fund, which imposes a nominal management fee based on the amount of impervious surface on properties. The fee will be used to provide stormwater management service and to comply with an unfunded mandate from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to inspect all sanitary and stormwater lines in town.

After the Great Recession of 2008, governments across the country adopted conservative approaches to spending, especially on capital items, in response to lagging revenue. Waynesville is still playing a costly game of catch-up. Several years ago, Town

public hearing for its annual

Council Member Chuck Dickson and Mayor Gary Caldwell didn’t comment on the proposed budget during the short discussion, but Council Members Anthony Sutton and Jon Feichter did.

Sutton said he’d like to see the town increase the starting salary of police officers raised from $47,000 to $48,000, something he called a compromise from a previously requested $49,000.

Feichter agreed with Sutton.

“An as entity, the town has worked very hard to attract and retain police officers,” Feichter said. “I’d hate to see all that go to waste.”

Hites said he’d come back to Council with some figures on what the increase would cost. That will happen on June 11, when Waynesville’s Town Council holds its budget public hearing during its regular 6 p.m. meeting.

Per state statute, municipal budgets must be passed no later than June 30 each year. In the event the budget does not pass on June 11, the town has another regular meeting scheduled for June 25.

The town could also call a special meeting, with notice to the public of at least 48 hours, on any day it deems fit, to hold a budget adoption vote.

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Waynesville’s budget will be held on June 11. Cory Vaillancourt photo

Appeals panel sends Kituwah LLC back to court

Lawsuit alleges theft of trade secrets from other tribally owned company

Alawsuit filed against Kituwah LLC that was initially dismissed is heading back to court after the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month that the tribally owned corporation waived its sovereign immunity. The decision both establishes precedent that further limits sovereign immunity and could potentially jeopardize the company’s future.

The suit filed by AQuate, a tribal LLC associated with the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town, alleges that Kituwah stole trade secrets to offer a competitive bid on a lucrative government contract to provide maritime security on a floating ballistic missile detection platform. AQuate had held the contract for a decade. The claim is that Jessica Myers was employed by AQuate prior to taking a job with Kituwah in 2017. The suit alleges that once the contract opened up in early 2022, Myers reached out to AQuate employees on LinkedIn seeking “trade secrets,” while also making conditional job offers contingent on Kituwah earning the contract.

Since its creation in 2018, Kituwah LLC, described as the ”government contracting arm of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians,” has aggressively pursued contracts for ambitious projects, and the tribe has backed those ventures with millions of dollars over the last several years.

At the end of the day, the contract, valued at over $19 million, was awarded to neither AQuate or Kituwah, but rather Global Security Management Agency, a tribally owned entity in Antioch, California. But still, the suit has been moving forward.

The suit

The suit against Kituwah LLC and Myers was filed in the federal court in the Northern District Alabama on March 18, 2022, just after the deadline for proposals for the SBX-1 contract. The suit notes that Meyers worked for AQuate from 2013 through 2017 as the company prepared to win its second bid and that she held several positions “with responsibilities over corporate security and business development.”

“In these positions, Myers had access to and knowledge of AQuate’s SBX-1 contract terms, personnel, and bidding information and strategies,” the suit reads, adding that she “signed multiple agreements governing use and disclosure of confidential, proprietary, and other sensitive information.”

It further states that the nondisclosure agreement remained in effect even after Myers’ termination date.

“Myers resigned from AQuate in September of 2017, and, in violation of her agreements with AQuate, took with her copies of AQuate’s contracts, proposals, personnel, and other security information,” the suit reads.

nally an oil platform from a Norwegian company later outfitted with a propulsion system that makes it seaworthy. It houses an array of radars, including a 280-foot dome in the center, the purpose of which is to identify incoming ballistic missiles and then guide rocket interceptors to neutralize them; it was especially touted for its ability to differentiate between missiles and decoys. It’s known to locals around its home port of Oahu as the “golf ball” and was designed specifically with North Korea in mind.

“If we place it in Chesapeake Bay, we could actually discriminate and track a baseballsized object over San Francisco,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering in a Senate subcommittee on April 25, 2007.

An L.A. Times story from 2015 called attention to issues with the platform, specifically noting that a design flaw led to a “field of vision so narrow that it would be of little use against what experts consider the likeliest attack: a stream of missiles interspersed with decoys.”

In 2017, the Navy claimed the platform had successfully intercepted a mock warhead under “very realistic conditions,” as again reported by The L.A. Times. However, this article notes that the “carefully scripted” test was, in fact, not realistic. As military drills often work, everyone knew what was coming and conditions favored a successful intercept. In a departure from expected combat conditions, the target missile flew along a path where it could be tracked continuously by powerful U.S. radars that provide data to the GMD system, missile defense experts told The Times. In addition, the article claims that the SBX-1 was moved to a particular spot specifically for the test where the radars had good lines of sight.

However, it’s still operational, and in March of 2023, it completed a record 662-day deployment in the Pacific Ocean before

returning to Pearl Harbor for maintenance and repairs.

The contract

In early 2022, the government issued a request for proposals (RFP) for the contract to provide maritime security onboard SBX-1 beginning Oct.22 of that year. That RFP outlines much of what is expected from the security contractor. To begin with, they must provide armed force protection at sea and in port, 24/7, 365 days a year.

“All contractor Security Officers shall be qualified to employ and maintain 9mm handguns, 12-gauge shotguns, M-4 equivalent rifle, deck-mounted and handheld M-240 machine guns, and deck-mounted M-2 machine guns,” the RFP reads, adding that they must also pass physical, mental and psychological evaluations.

According to LinkedIn profiles of several men who currently provide security onboard SBX-1, most are Army, Navy or Marine Corps veterans with decades of security and anti-terrorism experience both in their branch of service and the civilian realm. Although typical salaries aren’t listed for that post, that kind of specialized experience, the ability to deploy for nine weeks at a time and maintaining the required secret clearance doesn’t come cheap.

AQuate, a Huntsville, Alabama company, served as the prime contractor providing armed security services onboard SBX-1 from 2012-2022, fulfilling two five-year contracts. It is a corporation similar in some ways to Kituwah in that it is a tribally owned entity. According to its website, AQuate has contracts with the Army, including the Signal Corps and Corps of Engineers; Department of Defense; Department of Labor; NASA; Navy; Air Force; and Marine Corps for a wide variety of services.

The suit alleges that in 2022 when Kituwah was planning to place a bid for the SBX-1 maritime security contract, Myers contacted current and former AQuate employees involved in performing and pursuing that contract.

“In these communications, Defendants expressly solicited information regarding AQuate’s pricing details and compensation structure for employees under the SBX-1 contract,” the suit states. “In one communication, Myers explicitly acknowledged, ‘I do recall some of the compensation structure from my previous capacity’ at AQuate and indicated Kituwah’s intent to bid for the SBX-1 contract.”

AQuate argued that Myers breached her contract with the company by using trade secrets for purposes other than her job with the company and ultimately claims that Myers and Kituwah violated the Alabama Trade Secrets Act and the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016.

“Kituwah and Myers know that the information they are using constitutes AQuate trade secrets and that the information was obtained by improper means and in breach of confidence,” the suit reads.

The dismissal

On July 25, 2022, the suit was dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge for North Alabama Abdul K. Kallon, who was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009 but resigned from the bench in August 2022 just after the dismissal. The defendants’ motion to dismiss the case made a few arguments, including that AQuate didn’t adequately argue its trade secrets claim, saying that the company made certain things sound worse than they may have been.

“AQuate obviously wants those ‘communications’ [to current employees] to seem mysterious and nefarious, which is why it did not tell the Court that they were all identical LinkedIn messages,” the motion reads, adding that those messages simply asked

June 5-11, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 6
SBX-1 The Sea-Based X- Band Radar (SBX-1) is a $1.5 billion semi-submersible vessel — origi-
The SBX-1 platform features a 280-foot dome in the middle. Wikimedia Commons photos

employees their AQuate salaries; however, in the rebuttal, AQuate notes that Myers was only able to ask that in the context of her prior knowledge of the pay structure.

Kituwah argued that AQuate never alleged that its employees gave Myers any information, much less trade secrets. The motion to dismiss also claimed that because old contract data is not necessarily a trade secret, Kituwah and Myers didn’t violate the Alabama Trade Secrets Act and the Defend Trade Secrets Act, and even if they had, the statute of limitations for both would have already expired.

“Likely because of the statute of limitations issues, AQuate’s misappropriation claims are focused on Myers’ March [2022] communications with AQuate employees when she supposedly solicited AQuate’s trade secrets,” it reads. “Even if someone’s salary information could be a trade secret, simply asking for that information is not a violation under either statute. At a minimum, AQuate must allege (plausibly) that Myers obtained trade secrets from its employees. But it has not done so. The Court cannot reasonably conclude that Myers and Kituwah misappropriated trade secrets that AQuate never adequately alleged to be in their possession.”

AQuate rebutted these claims, not necessarily the facts, but more so how the law should apply to them, specifically stating that incumbent contract data and pricing info are trade secrets, as is “head knowledge.”

A matter of sovereignty

The matter that got the case dismissed regarded sovereign immunity. While Kituwah used sovereign immunity as an argument that the case should be dismissed, AQuate argued that the LLC waived any sovereign immunity since the contract was available only to businesses qualified by the Small Business Administration as participants in the 8(a) program.

The 8(a) program was established in 1978 to “help firms owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals.” This means that companies eligible to participate in the 8(a) program are small businesses owned by “Alaska Native corporations, Community Development Corporations, Indian tribes, and Native Hawaiian organizations.”

“SBA partners with federal agencies to promote maximum utilization of 8(a) program participants to ensure equitable access to contracting opportunities in the federal marketplace,” the SBA website says. “Once certified, 8(a) program participants are eligible to receive federal contracting preferences and receive training and technical assistance designed to strengthen their ability to compete effectively in the American economy.”

The certification qualifies a business as eligible to compete for the sole-source and competitive set-aside contracts, such as the one to provide maritime security for SBX-1. AQuate argued that to participate in the 8(a) program, a company owned by a tribe must waive sovereign immunity which allows the government to recuperate losses if a company fails to fulfill contractual obligations (known as “sue-or-be sued”).

In its reply to AQuate’s argument that it

had waived sovereign immunity, Kituwah claimed it is not an 8(a) entity and therefore has not waived sovereign immunity. However, Kituwah’s website still has a whole page dedicated to explaining the benefits of its 8(a) status that specifically notes that through the program it can receive up to a $100 million award for a Department of Defense contract.

In a formal declaration to the court — under penalty of perjury — Kituwah LLC president Terry Morganson said that isn’t accurate.

“AQuate wrongly assumes that Kituwah is an 8(a). To be clear, Kituwah Global Government Group, LLC is not an 8(a),” the declaration reads. “I realized this weekend that there is language on its website indicating that it previously applied for 8(a) status. That information is incomplete. One of Kituwah’s subsidiaries is an 8(a), and the statement on the website refers to the subsidiary. I will make sure the website is updated.”

Another related issue regarded whether the tribal court of Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town was a legitimate venue. Due to a prior, complicated legal battle, AQuate argued that “no such court exists” while Myers specifically sought to dismiss the case against her on allegations that would have been the only proper venue and not federal court.

A successful appeal

AQuate appealed the dismissal, and on May 1 the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its decision overturning Kallon’s ruling and sending the case back down to U.S. District Court to be heard.

“This case first looks like a run-of-the-mill business dispute — but closer inspection reveals thorny questions of tribal sovereignty and contract interpretation,” the decision reads.

The conclusion of the three-judge panel was that Kituwah had indeed waived sovereign immunity and therefore could be sued in federal court. The decision explained its opinion regarding Kituwah’s 8(a) status and the waiver of sovereign immunity.

express sovereign immunity waiver — also known as a ‘sue and be sued’ clause — designating the United States federal courts as ‘courts of competent jurisdiction for all matters relating to SBA’s programs including, but not limited to, 8(a) BD [Business Development] program participation, loans, and contract performance.’”

“First, as we have already explained, preparing and later submitting a bid for an exclusive 8(a) contract is a form of participation in the 8(a) program, so AQuate’s claim that Kituwah misappropriated trade secrets for that bid is necessarily ‘based on Kituwah’s participation in the 8(a) program,’” it later mentions.

The decision also addresses the validity of Myers’ argument that the case was heard in the wrong venue and should have been heard in the Alabama-Quasarte Tribal Town Court.

AQuate claimed that the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town Court did not exist and that any evidence of the purported court was fabricated by an ousted tribal chief in an effort to retain power.

“AQuate submitted an affidavit from Famous Marshall, the Chairman of Economic Development for the Tribal Town, which stated that the tribe’s constitution did not provide for a court system and that the supposed tribal court was fictitious,” the decision reads.

“Kituwah and Myers, meanwhile, maintained that the Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town court was legitimate. In support, they submitted two orders allegedly from that court. Suspiciously absent, however, was any affidavit verifying that these exhibits were authentic — and the faces of the orders are problematic.”

What it all means

But on the heels of the 11th circuit’s overturning of that ruling, one blog post argued that “Tribally owned government contractors should adjust their operations” based on the key takeaways from the case and broader implications across different types of litigated disputes.

“… although the AQuate suit only involved trade secrets claims, the language used in the decision sweeps broadly,” the post reads.

“Tribally-owned entities that may seek to invoke sovereign immunity in future cases should be wary of advancing immunity arguments unless there is a reasonable and legitimate argument that the plaintiff’s claims do not relate to 8(a) Program participation,” the blog later notes.

While it’s not known exactly what damages AQuate is seeking, given the nature and value of the contract, the number could be substantial, which would be a major blow to the company and thus EBCI. Like with new tribal gaming ventures and the cannabis venture, Kituwah has invested aggressively in a diverse array of projects, from leasing the land for a new Bucee’s in Sevierville to buying Cardinal Homes, a manufactured home company.

“The 8(a) program, at least as a general matter, requires such a waiver from participating tribes,” the decision reads. “So, to take part, a tribally owned business must adopt an

The decision from the 11th Circuit made some waves in the legal community as no other appeals court has offered a comprehensive view of 8(a) sovereign immunity waivers to this point. Ultimately, it means that tribally owned businesses do, in fact, wave sovereign immunity and are therefore subject to lawsuits.

The district court dismissed the suit based on Kituwah’s argument that AQuate’s suit did not “relate to” participation in the program.

However, if a heavy judgment is handed down, those large investments which have not likely had time to yield ample returns could become a burden. To make matters worse, last year’s budget indicated that casino revenue may be flagging. In a meeting last month, former Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy put it bluntly when arguing that recreational adult use of cannabis should be expedited to immediately create revenue, saying “you sure ain’t getting any gaming money, are you?”

While there was no concrete data presented to back up that claim, between the legalization of mobile sports betting in North Carolina and new competition popping up, such as the Catawba Nation’s recent groundbreaking on the $700 million Two Kings Casino Resort, only a couple of hours from Cherokee, relying solely on gaming is clearly a thing of the past.

That same meeting where McCoy spoke, Principal Chief Michele Hicks hinted that other investments may not be panning out.

“We’ve seen examples of rushing into some of our investments that are not paying off…” he said.

About two weeks ago, Kituwah petitioned the circuit court for an en banc hearing — meaning the entire court and not just a threejudge panel would hear the appeal. That petition is still pending, and if it’s denied, the case will continue on in U.S. District Court, as before.

June 5-11, 2024 Smoky Mountain News news 7
Last year’s budget indicated that casino revenue may be flagging. File photo Principal Chief Michell Hicks. File photo

SCC honors EMS graduates

The next generation of professionals who’ll respond to emergency situations were honored with a pinning ceremony during the final week of their two-year program at Southwestern Community College.

Elijah Kennedy of Franklin, Kaitlyn May of Franklin and Kobie Brooks of Sylva all received their pins at the event, which was held on May 15 on Southwestern’s Jackson Campus. Scott Buchanan of Sylva was unable to attend the event, but also graduated from the program and will be entering the profession.

All graduates are eligible to take state and national certification exams, and they can find employment with providers of emergency medical services, fire departments, rescue agencies and a wide range of other employers.

SCC is now accepting applications for prospective EMS students. For more information, contact program coordinator Eric Hester at 828.339.4277 or

Project SEARCH interns celebrate graduation at SCC

A dance party always tends to break out at the end of Project SEARCH commencement ceremonies at Southwestern Community College. It seemed especially appropriate this year

Graduates of Southwestern Community College’s Emergency Medical Science program are pictured here with instructor Eric Hester (far left). From left (standing beside Hester): Elijah Kennedy of Franklin, Kaitlyn May of Franklin and Kobie Brooks of Sylva.

Not pictured: Scott Buchanan of Sylva. Donated photo

considering all four graduates seemed to savor every moment of their studies and internships on Southwestern’s Jackson Campus.

Launched in 2014, SCC’s Project SEARCH program has empowered dozens of students to exceed all expectations — with many securing employment and learning to live more independently. The program allows young men and women (ages 18-30) with disabilities to gain marketable employability skills through classes and hands-on internships.

“Every year, I always look forward to this particular graduation ceremony because of the joy it brings to our graduates and their families,” said Devonne Jimison, SCC’s Director of College & Career Readiness. “This year’s Project SEARCH interns never failed to brighten the day for everyone they came across on our campus,

Ceremony recognizes Radiography graduates’ achievements

Over the past two years, students in Southwestern Community College’s Radiography program have been attending classes and training in clinical settings in preparation for becoming professional medical radiographers.

Earlier this month, family and friends of those nine students attended a pinning ceremony to celebrate their completion of that rigorous program.

and I have no doubt the future will be brighter and more fulfilling for each one of these graduates.”

This year’s graduates were Josiah Bjerkness of Bryson City, Johnathon Collier of Franklin, Kody Kirkland of Sylva and Hope Lafleur of Waynesville.

They served internships in the Business Office, Café ’64, Holt Library, the Public Relations office as well as other departments across campus.

SCC’s Project SEARCH program is made possible through partnerships with WestBridge and Vocational Rehabilitation.

Applications are being accepted now for the 10th class of SCC’s Project SEARCH program. For more information, contact Jimison at

Upon successfully passing their national certification exam, these SCC graduates will be ready to accept employment with area healthcare providers: Nkayla Corry of Hendersonville, Kiara Dewey of Otto, Kameron Duncan of Sylva, Kaitlyn Henry of Franklin, Justin Hussey of Franklin, Emily Liner of Clyde, Blake Robertson of Sylva, Lauren Swann of Cullowhee and Michael Winchester of Bryson City.

“Our program is not easy, and that’s on purpose,” said Meg Rollins Petty, SCC’s Radiography Program Director. “We want our graduates to be ready to succeed on the job from day one, and I am confident we have prepared them the right way. I could not be more grateful to all of the hospitals who allow our students to undergo their clinical rotations in our region, and I’m very proud of these students for all their had work and dedication.”

For more information about the Radiography program at SCC, contact Petty 828.339.4320 or or visit


Around $150 million in capital improvements are on the table in Macon County. File photo

Despite rising costs, new Franklin High School still on track

Despite increasing cost estimates, Macon County is in a good financial position to move forward with both the Franklin High School project and the Highlands School project. A minority of commissioners, still wary of the price tag, were unwilling to vote on key decisions that will keep the projects on schedule.

“My vote is a ‘no’ until I get to the bottom of this,” said Commissioner John Shearl.

Last month County Manager Derek Roland presented the proposed 2024-25 budget to the Macon County Commission, detailing the county’s ability to pay for significant capital improvement projects without the need for a tax increase.

“We’re looking at fiscal year 25 as an opportunity to make approximately $150 million in capital improvements here in Macon County because of this financial position,” Roland reiterated during a joint meeting of the Macon County Commission and Board of Education.

About $146 million of those capital improvements will go toward the new Franklin High School project and the Highlands School project. So far, the county has spent approximately $4.1 million in architect and planning fees for the FHS project, and $200,000 on architect and planning fees for the Highlands School project.

When the commission and the school board convened for their joint meeting last week, there were a couple key votes that needed to take place in order to keep work on the projects on schedule. The boards also needed to come to a consensus agreement about the price ceilings for both projects. Both projects require work over the summer while students are out of school.

“Months ago, on both projects we decided to go with a CM [construction manager] at risk delivery method,” said Roland. “That allowed our architect to pair up with these building contractors, to really get into the numbers, and really get into the plans and establish what they feel to be ceilings for each of these projects.”

Expenditures on the Franklin High School project have increased to a guaranteed maximum price of $137.6 million, or

about $10.6 million above the last estimates in February. The Highlands project has increased about $2.5 million over the last price discussed in February.

“With the $13.2 million increase, while we’re increasing $13.2 million in total expenditures, we’re only going to be borrowing $5.5 million more as we’re going to finance the Highlands project in its entirety from the fund balance revenues that come in the form of that $20 million fund balance transfer,” said Roland. “That will pay for the Highlands project; there is no financing that will be tied to the Highlands project.”

The county will only be financing money for the Franklin High School project. It will have to finance $75.6 million for a term of 20 years. At an interest rate of 3.75% — the rate that the county could get for debt financing as of May — that will be a total debt service of $106 million.

“From now through September, there is market volatility there,” said Roland. “So this rate can fluctuate up, this rate can fluctuate down, but right now in May, if we were to go to market, we’d get 3.75% [interest rate].”

At that rate, the county can pay for the new high school, fund the Highlands project through fund balance and retain a 40% fund balance. The county can absorb up to a 4.2% interest rate without having to deplete capital reserve funds. This financial outlook does not include possible revenues from the proposed quarter-cent sales tax that voters will see on the ballot in November.

“That additional revenue just helps all these pictures,” Roland said. “Should that move forward, all this improves dramatically.”

In order to keep up with the high school construction schedule, during the joint meeting, the boards needed to come to a consensus on the $137.6 million maximum price, approve an amendment to the architectural contract for $238,081 and approve a $411,644 contract for summer work by Carroll Daniels Construction. The boards also needed to approve the $8.5 million ceiling for the Highlands project and an architectural amendment of $16,463 to move forward with summer work.

The Board of Education approved everything necessary to move ahead with work. The county commission approved funding for summer work by Carroll Daniels Construction and the architectural amendment for LS3P by a 3-2 majority with Commissioners Paul Higdon and John Shearl voting against.

The county commission was set to reconvene at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 4 to continue discussion on the projects.

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UNC Board of Governors repeals DEI policy

After the UNC Board of Governors approved a new policy on diversity and inclusion within the University of North Carolina, Western Carolina University will have until Sept. 1 to make a plan for compliance with a policy that could spell the end of some diversity- and inclusion-focused positions.

“Welcoming students from all backgrounds makes our universities better and stronger. We’re a diverse state, and our public universities are here to serve everyone,” the UNC system said in information released about the new policy. “But we’re not here to require everyone to think the same way about race, gender, or any other challenging topic.”

The UNC Board of Governors — the policy-making body charged with “the general determination, control, supervision, management, and governance” of the University of North Carolina — approved the new policy during its May 23 meeting. The board is made up of 24 voting members, elected by the Senate and House of Representatives of the North Carolina General Assembly. Of those 24 members, two voted against the new policy, part of the consent agenda, at the May meeting.

“Our public universities must take a stance of principled neutrality on matters of political controversy,” said Board of Governors President Peter Hans. “It is not the job of the university to decide all the complex and multi-dimensional questions of how to balance and interpret identity.”

The new policy focuses heavily on institutional neutrality. Section VI of the policy states that “campuses shall continue to implement programming or services designed to have a positive effect on the academic performance, retention, or graduation of students from different backgrounds, provided that programming complies with the institutional neutrality specified in Section VII of this policy and/ or other state and federal requirements.”

The policy further states in section VII that “every employing subdivision of the University in both its organization and operation shall adhere to and comply with the strictures of institutional neutrality required by G.S. 116-300 (3a).”

That general statute, related to campus free speech, says that constituent institutions “shall remain neutral, as an institution, on the political controversies of the day.”

The new policy requires that no employment subdivision or employment position within the university be organized, operated, speak on behalf of the university, or contract with third parties to provide training or consulting services regarding matters of contemporary political debate or social action, any prescribed “view of social policy” or “political controversies of the day,” or in furtherance of the concepts listed in G.S. 12614.6(c)(1)-(13).

“We will review the guidance and look for opportunities to strengthen our student support services to ensure an environment that is focused on student success and welcoming to all,” said Chancellor Kelli Brown. “My goal for this process is to sustain and build upon our strategic goals to foster a diverse and inclusive student, faculty and staff community to provide an environment in which all can be successful academically and professionally.”

According to information provided from the UNC system, DEI offices and positions will need to make necessary adjustments to comply with the new policy.

“The goal of this policy is not necessarily to cut jobs but to move our universities away from administrative activism on social and political debates,” the UNC system said. “It is going to take some time to determine how many positions could be modified or discontinued to ensure that institutions are aligning with the revised policy.”

According to a February report on Diversity and Inclusion at Western Carolina University, there are nine positions at the university that devote 100% of their work to diversity and inclusion activities. Those positions cost the university $646,325, plus an additional $134,816 in non-personnel expenditures.

At an April 17 governance committee meeting, the policy was presented by Andrew Tripp, senior vice president and general counsel in the office of legal affairs with the UNC system, and former chief of staff to Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Phi Berger.

The new policy, Equality Within the University of North Carolina, fully replaces the previous policy and regulation on diversity and inclusion within the University of North Carolina. That policy, instituted in 2019, lay the groundwork for university positions responsible for diversity and inclusion as well as metrics and goals for those positions.

According to information provided by the UNC system, the new policy is being implemented because the university, “through its administrative programs and mandates, cannot prescribe a narrow ideology, a single conception of progress and justice in society. The proposed policy requires that university administrators refrain from taking political or social positions and adhere to laws on nondiscrimination and institutional neutrality.”

The policy requires that prior to Sept. 1, and then annually thereafter, the chancellor and the director of student affairs at each university in the North Carolina system certify in writing their university’s compliance with the new rules. They are required to describe the actions taken to achieve compliance and include a report on “reductions in force and spending, along with changes to job titles and position descriptions, undertaken as a result of implementing this policy and how those savings achieved from these actions can be redirected to initiatives related to student success and wellbeing.”

The policy does include language that protects academic freedom and student-led organizations from institutional neutrality.

“The Board of Governors reaffirms that academic freedom is a prerequisite to maintaining and strengthening a world-class university,” the policy reads. “The University of North Carolina shall therefore take no action that would limit the right of academic freedom in its faculty’s pursuit of teaching, research, and service …”

Over the next couple of weeks, the UNC system office will issue guidance to campuses with the intent of implementing any campus-level changes at the beginning of the 2024-25 academic year.

“As we go forward, WCU’s ongoing commitment to inclusive excellence will remain our focus,” said Brown. “We will continue our work to ensure that diverse persons of any background are invited, included, treated equally and have a sense of belonging in our Catamount community.”

Three of those nine positions are within the academic affairs office. The Director and Assistant Director of Accessibility Resources, and Student Services Specialist and Testing Coordinator are responsible for providing accommodations for students with disabilities, as well as training for staff and students to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, among other roles.

Another three of the positions are within the student affairs office. The director, associate director and assistant director of intercultural affairs provide leadership and organization for intercultural affairs programming, student development and retention.

The remaining three positions include a Title IX coordinator and university investigator in the Office of Legal Counsel and Institutional Integrity, and the chief diversity officer in the Chancellor’s Office.

“WCU is reviewing the DEI policy change voted on by the UNC Board of Governors last week,” WCU said in a statement. “Once final guidance is received from the System Office, campus leaders will work to ensure the institution is compliant with the policy.”

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Acontroversial email that led many to bring accusations of homophobia against two local business owners in Frog Level has been repudiated by the owners of one establishment and by workers at the other, but not by everyone who signed it.

“First, we want to apologize for the hurt our initial letter to the town of Waynesville may have caused. Our concerns regarding the Pride on Main event were never about who it celebrates; we are proud LGBTQIA+ allies,” said Brian and Theresa Pierce in a statement to The Smoky Mountain News. “Panacea has been a safe space for diversity and inclusion in Haywood County for close to 22 years. We have

served, recognized, employed, befriended and loved a wide array of people during that time. We are and always have been open and welcoming.”

The apology from Panacea comes after Julia Bonomo, who with her husband Frank owns several buildings in Frog Level and are partners in popular creekside pub Frog Level Brewing, penned what Pride organiz- F

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Frog Level will play host to Haywood County’s first Pride event. Cory Vaillancourt photo

er Tera McIntosh called a “poorly conceived” May 24 email to Waynesville’s government opposing a proposed Pride event that will shut down Commerce Street on June 29.

In the email, Bonomo said that the event was “non-inclusive,” was not set up for success, would have a “negative impact” on businesses and offered “nothing in return for our loss of revenue during this time.”

“We do not wish to be a dumping ground for events that do not directly enhance our area,” Bonomo wrote.

On the bottom of the email are the names of others who endorsed the message — Jim Pierce, owner of the adjacent Panacea coffee shop building, and Theresa and Brian Pierce, who operate the coffee shop.

Bonomo’s comments came as a shock to event organizers; per the permit application, the June 29 Pride on Main Festival has the same format as the horticultural “Whole Bloomin’ Thing Spring Festival” event held on the weekend of May 11 that’s sponsored by the Historic Frog Level Merchants Association, run by Bonomo.

Blake and Amanda Yoder co-own Cultivate Garden Shop in Frog Level with Spencer and Courtney Tetrault and participated in the Whole Bloomin’ Thing festival this year.

“In fact, it was our single best day of the year,” Blake said, adding that he sees no reason Pride on Main will be any different.

“Our position is that festivals in Frog Level that bring pedestrian foot traffic to Frog Level will consequently bring revenue to the businesses in Frog Level. Comparing it to Whole Bloomin’ Thing, we believe Pride has the same potential to uplift the businesses in Frog Level. It’s the first time this fest is coming to Frog Level, and all of the national trends suggest this will be a very good day for business.”

Council meeting where the permit application was to be considered for approval. Three spoke during the public comment session in favor of the event, including McIntosh, who noted the tremendous strides the town has made in promoting inclusivity over the past year.

“As town officials, as business owners, as nonprofit leaders, we all have a due diligence because of our power — whether positional, social, financial — to act in ways that are supportive of our minority populations, and our minority friends, family and neighbors,” she said during the May 28 meeting. “The narrative we create for our youth, for tourists, for LGBTQIA persons and families currently living in our town and rural towns all along the state of North Carolina is being written in the small and big actions right here in town hall.”

Last summer, false allegations leveled on social media accused a trans person of acting improperly in the town-owned recreation center. Parallel investigations were conducted by the town and the police, both of which found no evidence of wrongdoing, but not before vicious and violent social media threats targeted members of the LGBTQ+ community along with town officials, the Waynesville Police Department and the town attorney.

“Comparing it to Whole Bloomin’ Thing, we believe Pride has the same potential to uplift the businesses in Frog Level. It’s the first time this fest is coming to Frog Level, and all of the national trends suggest this will be a very good day for business.”
— Blake Yoder co-owner, Cultivate Garden Shop

Numerous studies have shown that Pride-themed events can have significant impacts on local economies. The University of Minnesota said in 2018 that Twin Cities Pride contributed more than $13 million to local businesses. In Charlotte, the first post-pandemic Pride festival in 2022 brought in $8 million and 200,000 attendees. In 2023, the San Diego Tourism Authority counted $30 million in revenue and 50,000 hotel room bookings after more than 250,000 people from 100 countries attended its Pride festival.

The event, however, does present a particular challenge to Panacea; their vendors show up early in the morning, shortly before customers begin packing the popular coffee and sandwich spot. If the street’s closed, it could lead customers to believe the coffee shop is too. The Pride on Main event, which is expected to draw at least 500 people per the permit application, doesn’t start until 11 a.m.

Bonomo failed to articulate those business-related concerns about the event in the email, so an overflow crowd made up mostly of LGBTQ+ advocates showed up to the May 28 Waynesville Town

Want to go?

Haywood County’s first LGBTQ+ Pride festival will take place across Waynesville on the weekend of June 28. Festivities will begin with a special kickoff on Friday, June 28, at The Water’n Hole Bar and Grill, 796 North Main St., with live music featuring Savannah Paige from 8-9 p.m. and a Pride dance party from 9 p.m. to midnight. On Saturday, June 29, speeches by community leaders will take place beginning at 10 a.m. before a brief parade from Waynesville’s town hall, down North Main Street to Depot

Street and then down to Frog Level. The festival begins in Frog Level at 11 a.m. with various events and musical entertainment scheduled throughout the day, until ending at 4 p.m. Then, beginning at 7 p.m., a drag show will take place at Mad Anthony’s Taproom and Restaurant, 180 Legion Drive. On Sunday, visit Sorrells Street Park for “BYOGB” (Bring Your Own Garlic Bread) with Roll-Up Herbal Bar and Evenstar Yoga, beginning at noon. Vendors, sponsors and volunteers are still being accepted for the festival; for more information, visit

In response, Council endorsed a statement of support for the LGBTQ+ community and vowed to reexamine all of its policies to ensure discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression wasn’t inadvertently present.

No opposition to the Pride on Main event was heard during the May 28 meeting; another speaker, Sam Kearney, operates a small mocktail bar in Frog Level and suggested that Bonomo’s opposition to the Pride on Main event was not the majority opinion of Frog Level business owners.

“I think that there is a mistruth that’s being passed around that every single person who owns a business in Frog Level is against the Pride on Main,” Kearney said. “I just wanted to be on record saying that that is not true. I am one of many businesses that absolutely support this. We see not only the benefit for our community, but let’s just talk numbers — it’s a benefit for our businesses every time there is an event down in Frog Level. Businesses definitely profit and have a great time, and I want to profit and have a great time.”

The permit application approval was placed on the meeting’s consent agenda, which is used by most local governments for items deemed routine, like approval of prior meeting minutes or event applications that conform to town requirements.

Items on the consent agenda can be removed from and placed on the regular agenda for discussion during a meeting by majority vote of Council Members present. Although this does happen occasionally, it’s rare. The consent agenda allows governing boards to approve multiple agenda items in one fell swoop without wasting time discussing each item.

Along with the Pride on Main application, the consent agenda also contained permit applications for the Apple Harvest Festival, a 5K race, a Folkmoot event and another Pride event, slated for HART theater and Shelton Street in October.

Council members approved the consent agenda unanimously.

The Whole Bloomin’ Thing Spring Festival was approved in similar manner back in January.

Sarah Bea, a member of the Pride on Main planning committee, met with Frog Level Brewing employees on the morning of May 31 to discuss the event.

“Monte [Bumbernick, Frog Level’s taproom manager] brought up the language in the email, specifically ‘dumping ground,’ and said that he disagreed with that language,” Bea said. “I got the feeling [the other workers] were all supportive as well.”

Brian and Theresa Pierce reiterated in a May 31 meeting with The Smoky Mountain News that they speak only for themselves.

“We support the LGBTQIA+ community and understand the need to have an event that celebrates this community and brings everyone together,” they said. “We wish pride on Main a successful event and hope the celebration is joyful for everyone involved.”

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Looking forward to SMN in 2049

This week SMN is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a business. As we mark the milestone, this industry is changing so fast it’s dizzying. I’m 64 years old. I’d like to position this company to prosper moving forward in this ever-changing media landscape. I’d love nothing better than to be reading The Smoky Mountain News in some form or fashion on my deathbed, hopefully many years in the future, my dear wife Lori telling me to put the damn newspaper down and talk to her.

Can we make that happen? More importantly, will local media in any form still be alive 25 years from now, in 2049?

Back when this company turned 20 in 2019, I wrote a column detailing the history of this venture called SMN and how we got here. Just five years later I’m much more fixated on the future. I’m convinced local media companies need to survive so that rural towns and small communities can have healthy give-and-take debates on important issues related to taxes, growth, housing, tourism and a host of other topics.

It is a bit unnerving and wonderful, that power and influence that Google, Meta, Apple, Amazon and even Netflix and Spotify and many more have on how we spend our time and how we spend our money. They toss suggestions at us — many of them spot on — for stories to read, products to buy, movies and shows to watch, songs to listen to, videos to play and more and more. They mathematically analyze our habits and choices, and so we get ideas and suggestions we may have never come up with on our own.

We know there is a downside to this — that echo chamber that makes evil ideas and reprehensible behavior seem reasonable, the negative mental health issues suffered by adolescents and children who spend too much time online, the anonymity the internet gives to bad people. Baseless ideas and outright lies are reinforced by some supposed news site whose only intent is to sow mistrust, fear and hatred.

In the old days, it was the editorial board of a newspaper or the producers/editors at television news stations who

Could Trump be a president for all?

Recently Donald Trump spoke at the NRA convention and promised to roll back gun control measures enacted under Biden and fire the head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. He was awarded with a roar of approval. However, in a 2023 survey by Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, there was broad agreement for gun violence prevention policies regardless of political affiliation or gun ownership.

The approved policies include temporary gun restraining orders in domestic violence cases, a family’s ability to remove guns from a relative believed to be at risk of harming self or others, the need to obtain a license before buying a gun, the necessity of locking up guns and ammunition when not in use and the funding of gun violence prevention programs.

While the support for these policies was lowest among Republicans, support ranged from 54-76% among the total group surveyed

determined what news we consumed. At my first newspaper job at the Fayetteville Observer-Times while I was in high school, one of my jobs was to watch the teletype machines when the Associated Press’ list of the top 10 sports stories for the next day would come across. I’d rip it off the machine and hurry it to the sports editor, who would quickly glance at the sheet and mark it up, perhaps confer with the assistant editor, and make decisions about the mix of national, state and local stories to put on the front page of the sports section.

That same sort of decision making happened at papers, television and radio stations around the world, editors making choices about the front page or the overall news mix based on their experience and their knowledge of the local community.

Did those people make better decisions than the algorithms that feed us our news, videos and all types of information? Hard to say, but up until about 25 years the big three — newspapers (and magazines), television and radio — controlled our news and got the vast majority of ad dollars spent around the world. Now, it’s a fragmented news market where even the most powerful content producers — N.Y. Times, Wall Street Journal, the Guardian — and those local entities like us are constantly looking for new ways to deliver information and new ways to land a few more dollars via sponsorships, ad sales, partner content, e-blasts, events, donations, philanthropy and … who knows what’s next.

We all know AI (artificial intelligence) is coming after us and its influence will grow exponentially over the next few years. Just watch. In a nod to this relatively new technology we’re all navigating, I turned to ChatGPT and asked what the future holds for The Smoky Mountain News. Here’s its answer:


by Johns Hopkins. Whose vote was Trump seeking that day?

Regarding abortion, Trump has openly touted his pride in nominating three justices to the Supreme Court who were instrumental in overturning Roe v Wade. Trump has been all over the place regarding policy resulting from that decision. In a recent Time magazine interview, he stated it would be up to individual states to determine what rights the government has to monitor women’s pregnancies and/or punish them for obtaining abortions. His comments allowed for the possibility of this kind of control while not clarifying his position. The same is true for outlawing birth control. Abortion continues to be an issue for Americans with 52% identifying as pro-choice and 44% as pro-life. As to the overturning of Roe v Wade, 38% say it was a good thing, while 62 % regard it as negative. Can Donald Trump be their president?

Another issue broadly touted by the candidate is immigration. Border policy has been outdated for at least the last twenty years, in critical need of updating, yet the most recent

“The future for The Smoky Mountain News in Waynesville, NC, seems promising, poised to continue its legacy as a trusted source of local news. Embracing digital innovation while maintaining its strong community roots will likely be pivotal. Expanding its online presence through interactive platforms and multimedia storytelling could enhance reader engagement. Nurturing partnerships with local businesses and organizations may provide sustainable revenue streams. Adaptation to changing reader preferences and demographics, along with a commitment to journalistic integrity, will be crucial. With dedication to serving its community and strategic evolution, The Smoky Mountain News is positioned to thrive in the ever-evolving media landscape.”

— ChatGPT on Monday, June 3, at 6 a.m.

Help us celebrate our 25th anniversary of The Smoky Mountain News this Friday, 5-7:30 p.m., in our parking lot at 144 Montgomery St. in downtown Waynesville. We’ll have beverages, food trucks and look forward to thanking all of you for reading and supporting our work.

Well, the bots at ChatGPT think we’ll be OK, and the bots and I are thinking along similar lines. What the AI did not mention is the underlying need and growing realization of what we are losing in this digital revolution — an appreciation for the handmade and the personal interaction, the locally curated, the freshly grown, the vigor of a main street and a community where people meet in person, talk, celebrate, share, disagree and debate together.

Local media is needed. It remains to be seen whether the market will support it. I’m an optimist and, like ChatGPT, think we can navigate our way through all this. Only time will tell.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at

by-partisan proposal was torpedoed by Republicans under the direction of Donald Trump. According to the Heritage Foundation’s 2025 Plan, which was created with the assistance of Trump allies, in a second term he would ramp up immigration policies restricting both legal and illegal immigrants. Under the proposed plan people from some Muslim majority countries would be banned from entry, reimposing the refusal of asylum claims. Unauthorized immigrants would be rounded up and deported by the millions, being detained in camps while awaiting deportation flights. To facilitate the policy, in addition to federal police, local police and national guard troops would be deputized. The requirement for due process hearings would be eliminated. As many as 11 million undocumented immigrants would be uprooted after years, or even decades, of settling here.

Views on immigration remain mixed and highly partisan among the U.S. population. According to a 2023 Gallup poll no one is totally satisfied, especially since the bombing of the World Trade Center in 2001 when dissatisfaction was at an all-time high. Since then, dissatisfaction with immigration has

remained steady or increased in older people while it has decreased in younger and middleaged citizens. When queried in an NPR/Marist Poll in 2024, 57% of registered voters believe welcoming others to our country is essential to our national identity. This is down however from 61% in 2021. That positive number is strongly representative of Democrats rather than Republicans, 84% vs 27%. Independents are slightly skewed to welcoming others, 55% vs 44%. Yet immigration policy is aimed at the older 44% of the electorate that is fearful of welcoming the stranger. Are these the people for whom Trump is running to be President?

There are more policy issues we could and should address, including taxation, healthcare for all, inflation and global warming to name a few, that would give us a clue to Trump’s intentions. However, the proposals addressed here, in this letter, and many more put forward in the 2025 Plan, should leave us asking “Does Trump want to be my President?” in addition to “Do I want Trump to be my President?”

Margaret Pickett Highlands

Opinion Smoky Mountain News 14
Editor Scott McLeod
June 5-11, 2024 Smoky Mountain News 15 1,900+ 5-STAR REVIEWS! FOR 5-sta r serv ice 5-star service R DINNERS INE & ASTINGS INE AILET VILLE A S W YNE Y N TOW OWN D

Country coffee

Situated in the heart of downtown Sylva, Blue Ridge Bootleg Roastery is the newest home for coffee drinkers, country music lovers and those looking for a place to work or catch up with a friend.

Upon entering the roastery, you’re greeted with the smell of fresh ground coffee beans, quiet chatter of patrons and a rustic ambiance. It’s also likely your eyes will be immediately drawn to the large stage set for live music.

Soon thereafter, you may notice a man in a cowboy hat either behind the bar brewing coffee or chatting with customers. That man is Blue Ridge Bootleg Roastery owner Matt King.

Born and raised in Hendersonville, King’s entire life involved the mountains of Western North Carolina and the music that called him home, specifically bluegrass. After spending a little time at Appalachian State University in Boone, King dropped out to pursue a career in music. For a year, King commuted from Hendersonville to Nashville, Tennessee.

“Eventually, I realized there’s going to be 20 people that get up every morning that are there and I’m not,” King said of Music City.

“So, I went with $300 and a 1980 Jeep Wagoneer with a hole in the floorboard and I

said, ‘I’m going to make it.’”

Four years later, King signed with his dream label, Atlantic Records. After a few years with Atlantic, King became a staff writer for Warner Chappell Music, where he wrote and produced songs for film and television.

That job ultimately led him to coffee.

“Rather than [write] in the cubicles, which I hated, I would go to this coffee roastery in Nashville,” King said. “I loved to drive [the owner] crazy. I would ask him a million questions about coffee roasting.”

King frequented the roastery so often that eventually the barista let him make his own coffee behind the bar. Coffee had always been an anchor to King, especially during his touring days.

“When you’re on the road constantly, you [need] a sense of normality,” King said. “So, I would stop in every town and look for a bookstore and all the hipsters. If I saw skinny jeans and a hat, I would go, ‘I bet that’s good coffee in there.’”

Much like everyone else, King’s life was put on pause during the COVID Pandemic until his birthday when a new path presented itself.

“My two best friends from California sent me 50 pounds of green coffee and said, ‘See

late May, King has been overwhelmed with positive feedback from customers who have already wandered into the new business.

“Being here and being welcomed by the community, I’m thankful to the community for the opportunity to give back what I’ve been given,” said King.

King aims to create an experience for customers that extends beyond a cup of coffee by combining the best elements of every coffee shop he’s been to around the world and incorporating it at the roastery.

what you can do with this,’” King said. “Ironically, it was the coffee that my [Nashville] buddy used to roast at his roastery.”

King began experimenting and working with the Nashville roaster to perfect his own coffee. To test its success, he sold the coffee on his website. After the Pandemic ended, King began to pick up gigs again.

“I got to play a gig at Castle Ladyhawk. It was just an acoustic night to get out of Tennessee for a night. And I fell in love with Sylva and Cullowhee and the Tuckasegee,” said King. “It was what I always wanted. And I like college towns. They were always my favorite places to play.”

King adopted his own space to roast coffee on the Tuckasegee River and began providing coffee to many Sylva businesses. As King’s venture continued to expand, he was approached about opening a location in Sylva. The stars were aligning.

“When I left [WNC], I said the one thing I want to do is go do music and then bring that back to the mountains and share that through the eyes of music,” King said.” “So, with cof-

fee, I’m getting to do the two things I love the most.”

As an artist, King hopes to make the roastery a place where musicians can share their work.

“It’s always going to be a musical space,” said King. “If you really want to pursue music, I want us to really foster that part of their career and say, ‘You can come here and play.’”

Outside of live music, King also hopes to incorporate different activities to engage with the local community like trivia nights and board games. Since opening the roastery in

In addition, he has ensured that all baristas working at the roastery are certified by the Specialty Coffee Association. King also hopes to eventually offer coffee workshops where anyone interested can learn about coffee through cupping events and by watching it be roasted.

Beyond coffee, King imagines his roastery can become a place where the community can gather. He wants people to utilize the roastery to catch up with friends, host club meetings, study and create their own workshops to hold in the space.

“Both [my wife] and myself feel incredibly fortunate to be able to come here and share, not just our passion for coffee, but for the community,” King said. “We want to create a legacy and we want to be another chapter in this town’s legacy.”

Want to go?

also host live pop-up

The roastery is located at 582 W Main St. in Sylva. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. MondaySaturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

To learn more about Blue Ridge Bootleg Roastery, visit or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

A&E Smoky Mountain News 16
An elevated coffee experience, Blue Ridge Bootleg Roastery & Coffee Shop recently opened in downtown Sylva. Owned and run by Western North Carolina native and country musician Matt King, the business serves coffee roasted by King on the Tuckasegee River. Beyond artisan beverages, the roastery will performances. Blue Ridge Bootleg Roastery opens in Sylva Matt King. Located in Sylva, Blue Ridge Bootleg Roastery & Coffee Shop provides high-quality beans and a delightful atmosphere in the heart of the Jackson County town. Donated photos

This must be the place

Ode to this newspaper, ode to a quarter century

It was just about 12 years ago when I first rolled into Waynesville. After a solo 18-hour, 1,000-mile trek from my native Upstate New York to Western North Carolina, I found myself sitting in an office chair awaiting an inperson interview with Smoky Mountain News publisher/founder Scott McLeod. I didn’t know if I would get the job as the arts/entertainment editor of this newspaper. Even though I’d already made it through three rounds of phone interviews, it was unclear if this journey, literally and figuratively, would somehow land me in Haywood County. I also didn’t know a single soul, just sitting there in the newsroom awaiting a decision on the next possible chapter of my life.

July 2012. After a weekend “trial session,” which found me covering the annual Folkmoot festival in town, I wrote and submitted a couple of on-the-ground articles about the cultural gathering. I was housed at an empty apartment between renters in Hazelwood, my laptop and my body laid over a sleeping bag and a pillow. I don’t even think the shower had a curtain. No matter, I was 27-yearsold and desperate for fulltime work.

Come Monday morning, I returned to the newsroom and sat in Scott’s office (which is now where the burger grill is located at the Church Street Depot). He offered me the gig in a very professional tone. I enthusiastically said yes. I also said I’d return in exactly one week. I just had to go home and get my stuff and start anew.

account. You might balk and say bull. But, I vividly remember looking at that ATM receipt stating $33.

And yet, I didn’t care. I had set up a foundation for the next phase of my existence. Absolutely alone in my latest endeavors. But, the unlimited possibilities of people, places and things was what nourished my curious heart and restless soul. I was a full-time journalist again. After years of freelance work for peanuts, I now was fully employed with an endless sea of story ideas to pursue.

Skip ahead some 12 years to this past Saturday. Cloudy and not as warm as, perhaps, anticipated for the first day of June, two of my best friends (Patrick and Dustin) and my girlfriend, Sarah, decided to grill out and lounge about at Dustin’s parents’ dock on Lake Logan, all with the Cold Mountain Music Festival taking place on the south end of the tranquil body of water and cradling forest.

The four of us sat on the dock. It was too




Jazz/swing duo Russ Wilson & Hank Bones will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 8, at The Classic Wineseller in Waynesville.


The “Concerts on the Creek” music series will present classic rock act the Flashback Band at 7 p.m. Friday, June 7, at Bridge Park in downtown Sylva.


“Art After Dark” will continue its 2024 season from 6-9 p.m. Friday, June 7, in downtown Waynesville.


Nantahala Outdoor Center (Nantahala Gorge) will host Hotdog Sunrise (rock/jam) 5 p.m. Saturday, June 8.


A special stage production of “The Gods of Comedy” will be held at 7:30 p.m. June 7-8, 1415, 21-22, 27-29 and 2 p.m. June 9, 16, 23 and 30 at the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville.

Onward to a 36-hour roundtrip jaunt back above the Mason-Dixon Line to pack my old pickup truck with the bare necessities of life: books, vinyl records, winter jackets, skis, mountain bike, etc. Said goodbye to my parents and hometown cronies. Looked into the rearview mirror as my mother waved farewell, for now at least.

I arrived a couple days later in Waynesville. I also didn’t have enough money to put down on an apartment. So, as I waited for my first paycheck, Scott allowed me to sleep under my desk for a week. I was able to shower at a co-worker’s house. My diet at that time reflected the state of affairs of my bank account: Subway $5-foot-long sandwiches and cheap Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. By the time I paid my rent for the first/last month, got hooked up for electricity and bought enough groceries to put in the ancient apartment refrigerator to last me until the next paycheck, I was left with $33 in my bank

cold out for Sarah and Patrick to jump in the lake, but not for Dustin and I. My North Country blood lives for cold water, the soothing liquid refreshing my inner self. Emerge from the water and towel off. In that moment, visions appeared in my carefree and sentimental thoughts.

The first day on the job for the newspaper when I met Patrick through my co-worker during a post-work celebration beer. Dustin returning to Waynesville several years ago following a decade living and working in Los Angeles, our “brother-from-another” friendship sparked immediately from an initial encounter. And Sarah, who appeared in my life in early 2023 by chance and happenstance. These pillars of my existence, together in the here-and-now.

Visions of the life I’ve been given and have created amid 12 years at The Smoky Mountain News. Interactions with a slew of characters. Too many to count or even remember. Hundreds of articles written.

Thousands of interviews conducted. Moonshiners. Bluegrass musicians. Farmers. Artists. Brewers. Chefs. Executive directors. Nonprofit figures. Athletes. Authors. Politicians. Teachers. Homeless folks. People worth millions. And every single person inbetween.

Coverage of political rallies and rallies for justified causes at the heart of our national dialogue. Coverage of massive achievements by faces in our very backyard. Coverage of nothing and everything, but all of which matters in the grand scheme of things. Coverage of a devastating flood in real time, same for the closing of a paper mill. Coverage of things that matter most to you and me (and you, too).

A quarter-century of The Smoky Mountain News. What started out as a simple idea has grown into a solid brand of news and information for the general public. A single seed planted in 1999 is now a beacon of truth and accountability in an often-blurry and confused society we currently inhabit. The unknowns are seemingly greater these days. But, I will always hold out hope for a better tomorrow, a place of peaceful understanding and compromise.

I’ve always said there’s no such thing as a boring story topic, but there is such a thing as a boring journalist. The key to journalism is to find the essence, mission and passion of a particular subject and to bring that jewel of knowledge and content to the surface for our readers to immerse and, hopefully, appreciate for its merit and value. Our conversation and interaction continues, thankfully. Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.

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Lake Logan in Haywood County. Garret K. Woodward photo

‘Mouth of the South’ returns to Classic Wineseller

Jazz/swing duo Russ Wilson & Hank Bones will perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 8, at The Classic Wineseller in Waynesville.

His voice will stop you in your tracks. Known as the “Mouth of the South,” Wilson is a bridge to an era, a time when style and class were synonymous with musicianship and showmanship.

A beloved crooner in Western North Carolina, Wilson performs in as many different and varied groups as there are days in the week.

One day, Wilson will jump in with an old-time gypsy jazz outfit at a wine lounge playing selections from the 1920s and ‘30s, the next, he’ll be adorned in a tuxedo fronting a 16-piece bigband orchestra onstage playing numbers from the ‘40s and ‘50s.

• 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. 828.246.0996 /


• Blue Ridge Beer Hub (Waynesville) will host “Pub Theology” 6:30 p.m. June 17. All shows begin at 5 p.m. Free and open to the public. 828.246.9320 /

• Boojum Brewing (Waynesville) will host Karaoke Night every Wednesday, Trivia Night 7 p.m. Thursdays, Pleasantly Wild (rock) June 8 and Rossdafareye (Americana/indie) June 15. All shows begin at 9 p.m. unless otherwise noted. 828.246.0350 /

• 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. 828.452.6000 /

• Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center (Franklin) will host The Jacob Jolliff Band (Americana/bluegrass) 6 p.m. June 15. 828.369.4080 /

• Currahee Brewing (Franklin) will host Hunter Blalock (singer-songwriter) June 7 and Phil Thomas (singer-songwriter) June 8. All shows begin at 7 p.m. Free and open to the public. 828.634.0078 /

• Friday Night Live (Highlands) will host The Foxfire Boys (Americana/bluegrass) June 7 and Spare Parts (Americana/bluegrass) June 14 at Town Square on Main Street. All shows begin at 6 p.m. Free and open to the public.

• Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort (Cherokee) will host Chris Botti (jazz/pop) 9 p.m. June 7.

• Highlander Mountain House (Highlands)

Russ Wilson will play Waynesville June 8. File photo

Tickets are $70 per person, which includes music, food, tax and gratuity. Beverages are extra. Limited seating. Reservations required.

For more information and a full menu, call 828.452.6000 or

will host “Blues & Brews” on Thursday evenings, “Sunday Bluegrass Residency” from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and semi-regular live music on the weekends. 828.526.2590 /

• Innovation Brewing (Sylva) will host “Monday Night Trivia” every week, “Open Mic w/Phil” Wednesdays, Adi The Monk (singer-songwriter) June 8 and Rene Russell (singer-songwriter) June 15. All shows and events begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.586.9678/

• Lazy Hiker Brewing (Franklin) will host Karaoke on the second/fourth Friday of the month, Whiskey Mountain Band (rock/blues) June 8 and “Lazy Hiker 9th Anniversary Party” w/The V8s (classic rock) 5 p.m. June 15 and Joe Lasher Jr. & Kaitlin Baker (country/pop) 7 p.m. June 15. All shows begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.349.2337 /

• Macon County Public Library (Franklin) will host Madison Owenby (piano/guitar) 6 p.m. June 5. Free and open to the public. 828.524.3600 /

• Marianna Black Library (Bryson City) will host a “Community Music Jam” at 6 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of each month and Frank Lee (Americana/oldtime) 7 p.m. June 13. Free and open to the public. All musicians and music lovers are welcome. 828.488.3030 /

• Mountain Layers Brewing (Bryson City) will host an “Open Mic w/Frank Lee” Wednesdays, Mountain Gypsy (Americana) June 8, Scott James Stambaugh (singer-songwriter) June 14, Jacob’s Well (Americana) June 15 and Wyatt Espalin (singer-songwriter) 5 p.m. June 16. All shows begin at 6 p.m unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.538.0115 / mountainlayers-

• Pickin’ On The Square (Franklin) will host Paradise 56 (oldies) June 8. All shows begin at 6 p.m. at the Gazebo in downtown. Free and open to the public.

• Scotsman (Waynesville) will host Kevin Dolan & Paul Koptak (Americana/rock) June 6, Carolina Freightshakers (classic rock/country gold) June 7, Heidi Holton (folk/blues) June 13 and Very Jerry Band (Grateful Dead tribute) June 14. All shows begin at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.246.6292 /

• Slanted Window Tasting Station (Franklin) will host Rachel Bellavance (Americana) 6 p.m. June 7, Blue Jazz (blues/jazz) 4 p.m. June 8 and The Water Kickers (Americana) 5 p.m. June 9. 828.276.9463 /

• Unplugged Pub (Bryson City) will host Second Chance (acoustic) June 6, Rock Holler June 7, Macon County Line June 8, Jacob’s Well (Americana, free) June 13, Mile High Band (classic rock/country gold) June 14 and Second Chance June 15. 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 Amos Jackson (Motown/soul) 5:30 p.m. June 7 and Hi-Hearts (singer-songwriter) 5:30 p.m. June 14. Free and open to the public. 828.944.0686 /

• Yonder Community Market (Franklin) will host Erik Koskinen (singer-songwriter) 4 p.m. June 30. Admission by encouraged donation unless otherwise noted as a ticketed event. Family friendly, dog friendly. 828.200.2169 /

• More 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 you can just stop by and listen. The jam is facilitated by Larry Barnett of the Sawmill Creek Porch Band.

The community jams offer a chance for musicians of all ages and levels of ability to share music they have learned over the years or learn old-time mountain songs. The music jams are offered to the public each first and third Thursday of the month — spring, summer, fall.

This program received support from the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency funded by the State of North Carolina and the National Endowment of the Arts.

For more information, call 828.488.3030.

‘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 act the Flashback Band will hit the stage at 7 p.m. Friday, June 7, at Bridge Park in downtown Sylva.

The Asheville-based band specializes in a variety of 1980s arena-rock era tunes, which includes a repertoire of music covering the likes of Journey, Boston, Van Halen, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and more.

“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.

June 5-11, 2024 Smoky Mountain News arts & entertainment 18
On the beat

Folkmoot LIVE! celebrates African culture

Folkmoot USA is pleased to present “An African Cultural Experience,” which will feature Percussion Discussion Afrika and Chinobay at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 13, at the Folkmoot Friendship Center in Waynesville.

Percussion Discussion Afrika is Uganda’s premier folk-pop band. Folkmoot is partnering with World Bridge Foundation making this United States tour possible for Percussion Discussion Afrika.

Chinobay is a Ugandan musician and educator whose original compositions breathe life into the diverse stories of humanity, showcasing his homeland. He will sing and tell stories, all while playing the kora and kalimba.

Doors open at 6 p.m. There will also be a food truck onsite. Donations are welcome. Admission is by the “pay what you can” system. For tickets, go to You can also purchase admission at the door.

To learn more about Folkmoot, go to

On the street

‘Conversations with Storytellers Series’

As part of the “Pigeon Community Conversations with Storytellers Series,” social entrepreneur, veteran and visual and performing artist DeWayne Barton will speak at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 13, at the Pigeon Community Multicultural Development Center, located at 450 Pigeon St. in Waynesville.

Barton uses creative expression and experience to help protect, promote and expand the dreams and goals of neighborhoods in the Affrilachian region

Upcoming installments of the Pigeon Center series include author/painter Marsha Almodovar (July 11) and author Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle (Aug. 8).

Tickets are $10 for community members, $7 for seniors 65 and older and $5 for students. Children ages 12 and under are free. Purchase tickets in advance at or at the door. Series passes are available at a discount. Refreshments will be available for

On the stage

HART presents ‘The Gods of Comedy’

A special stage production of “The Gods of Comedy” will be held at 7:30 p.m. June 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 27-29 and 2 p.m. June 9, 16, 23 and 30 at the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville.

Written by the comedic genius Ken Ludwig behind such plays as “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Moon Over Buffalo,” “The Gods of Comedy” is a modern-day farce that transports the ancient Greek gods to the 21st century with uproarious results. Ludwig’s sharp wit and clever writing guarantee a night full of laughter.


The Smoky

and Janet & Bob Clark.

The Gods of Comedy’ will be at HART through June.

The story follows Daph, a young and nervous classics professor, who accidentally summons Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry and Thalia, the muse of comedy, to help them out of an academic jam.

What ensues is a rollercoaster ride of mistaken identities, magical mishaps and divine intervention that will have you laughing from start to finish. Anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by life’s unexpected twists will find humor and comfort in Daph’s predicament.

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.

• “Improv Jam” will be held at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 9, at the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville. Join the HART Theatre for its free monthly “Improv Jam” All skill levels are welcome. 828.456.6322 or


• The Comedy Zone at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino will host Southern Momma through June 26. 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.

• Highlands Performing Arts Center will host semi-regular stage productions on the weekends. For more information, a full schedule of events and/or to purchase tickets, go to

Cherokee Bonfire & Storytelling

The Cherokee Bonfire & Storytelling will be held from 79 p.m. Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays through Oct. 31 at the Oconaluftee Islands Park in Cherokee. Sit by a bonfire, alongside a river, and listen to some of Cherokee’s best storytellers. The bonfire is free and open to the public.

For more information, call 800.438.1601 or go to

• Taste of Scotland Festival will be held June 14-16 at locations around Franklin. The festival is a celebration of the heritage brought to these mountains, that of the Scots and Scots Irish, along with celebrating the historic relationships with the Cherokee. Scottish foods, music, clan parade, vendors/crafters, Highland Games competition, herding dog demonstrations and more. For a full schedule of events, go to

• “Exploring Scotland 2024,” a visual photo tour by artist Maryellen Tully, will be pre-


sented at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 9, at the Macon County Public Library in Franklin. Tully invites attendees to experience the country through her eyes, driving the winding narrow roads from Edinburgh to Piclockery, exploring and photographing Scotland’s landscapes, culture and food. The free event is open to all. Light refreshments will be served. Donations will be accepted for the Arts Council’s Artists in the Schools Program. This program is produced by the Arts Council of Macon County. 828.524.ARTS or

June 5-11, 2024 Smoky Mountain News arts & entertainment 19
On the beat
Percussion Discussion Afrika will play Waynesville June13. File photo Sponsored by Friends of the Haywood County Public Library, Mountain News DeWayne Barton will speak in Waynesville June 13. File photo Donated photo

On the wall

Art fundraiser for local schools

The annual QuickDraw art fundraiser will once again be held in-person from 4:30-9 p.m. Saturday, June 15, at Laurel Ridge Country Club in Waynesville.

The cocktail social will include an hour-long QuickDraw Challenge, silent auction, refreshments and dinner. Live artists will be working in the public eye, creating timed pieces, which will then be auctioned off.

Proceeds go to art classroom supplies in schools and college scholarships for art-related studies. QuickDraw’s signature auction for art education features several unique items to benefit art education in schools.

• 4:30 p.m. — Cocktail Social. Register your bidder number and watch artists prep before the shotgun start.

• 5-6 p.m. — Artist Stopwatch Challenge. Hour of live creation. Stroll and marvel at the motivated live-action artists painting to beat the clock. Stroll and chat with demonstrator artists using fiber, clay, metals, glass, wood and more,

all process-intensive mediums that enable them to work and talk. Each demo artist offers a finished original work at silent auction while they showcase techniques on a piece in process.

• 6 p.m. — Breather. Snacks and conversation and live music while artists frame the pieces and set up the auction preview. Live music from pianist Craig Summers. Art teachers show off student works.

• 6:30 p.m. — Live Art Auction. Bid on fresh, original art, ready to hang. Become a collector who saw the artist make it. Team with artists to inspire students and creative classrooms, put supplies on teacher shelves and send kids to college.

• 7:45 p.m. — Dinner and cash bar. Meet your artist over delicious food and monitor your silent auction bids.

Tickets are $125 per person. VIP tables and sponsorships are also available. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to or call 828.734.5747.

Waynesville art walk, live music

A cherished gathering of locals and visitors alike, “Art After Dark” will continue its 2024 season from 6-9 p.m. Friday, June 7, in downtown Waynesville.

Each first Friday of the month (May-December), 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

Haywood Arts ‘Pets’ exhibit

The Haywood County Arts Council (HCAC) will unveil its latest exhibit, “Pets,” with an opening reception from 6-9 p.m. Friday, June 7, at the Haywood Handmade Gallery at the HCAC in Waynesville.

This event coincides with the Art After Dark festivities in downtown Waynesville, promising an evening brimming with great local art, refreshments, live music and fellowship.

“Pets” extends a warm invitation to both locals and visitors, inviting them to immerse themselves in the artistic talents on display, with each piece capturing the unique essence of cherished pets.

Generously sponsored by Smoky Mountain Dog Bakery and the Animal Hospital of Waynesville, this exhibit also welcomes community partner Misfit Mountain to the opening reception. Their presence offers

On the table

• Blue Ridge Beer Hub (Waynesville) will host a tap takeover with Hillman Brewing Friday, June 14. 828.246.9320 or

• Classic Wineseller (Waynesville) will host a wine tasting with Orsini at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 15, in Waynesville. Admission is $10 per person. No reservation required. 828.452.6000 or go to

A recent piece by HCAC artist member Rose Hardesty. Donated photo

insight into pet fostering and adoption in our community.

HCAC artist member Nory Lopez will be at the reception as well, demonstrating how she burns designs onto her beautiful hats.

The exhibit and reception are free and open to the public. For more information, 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, there will be a special summer wine tasting w/small plate at 6 p.m. June 12 ($30 per person) and rose wine dinner June 17-18 ($78 per person). For more information on upcoming events, wine tastings and special dinners, go to

• Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center (Franklin) will host its “Maker Series” from 10-11 a.m. Saturday, June 15. Coffee and conversation with local artisans and crafters. For more information, go to

• Nantahala Outdoor Center (Nantahala Gorge) will host a “Summer Artisan Market” from noon to 5 p.m. the second Saturday of the month (May-September). Free and open to the public.

• “Art & Artisan Walk” will be held from 5-8 p.m. every third Thursday of the month (May-December) in Bryson City. 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.

• “Art After Dark” will be held from 6-9 p.m. each first Friday of the month (MayDecember) in downtown Waynesville. 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

• “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. To learn more, 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

• “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.

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

• Gallery Zella (Bryson City) will be hosting an array of artist receptions, exhibits and showcases. The gallery is open from noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, go to or call 517.881.0959.

• Waynesville Photography Club meets at 7 p.m. every third Monday each month on the second floor of the Haywood Regional Health and 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.

• “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

June 5-11, 2024 Smoky Mountain News arts & entertainment 20

A remedy for the spring-time blues

There are always seasons in life when you feel the need to get away from your dayto-day, and I have found myself in just such a season. The new birth of spring makes me pine for one within myself. The rising temperature leads me to long for change. My usual, ordinary surroundings have become heavy and dull and I wish for another window to look out of. I want to have a skip in my step but can only seem to trudge through duties. I need a holiday.

energy into charity work. Her husband is a successful author of racy novels and has grown distant due to his wife’s disapproval of his works. Both are neglected by the other spouse but cannot seem to break through the wall that has come between them. However, Rose does not see her own part to

This mood brought to mind a book I read not too long ago, “The Enchanted April” by Elizabeth von Arnim. Not only is it apropos for this time of year, it gives the perfect remedy to the malaise I’ve fallen into. Filled with depth, humor and buoyancy, I found this book to be such a refreshing, thought-provoking read.

Set in the 1920s, the novel begins in England. Mrs. Lotty Wilkins is perusing the newspaper when she notices an advertisement: a small Italian castle to rent for the month of April. The allure of it impels the quiet, timid Lotty to approach a stranger, Mrs. Rose Arbuthnot, about the ad. Both are wives in unhappy marriages and are victims of the drudgery of daily life. They both have saved their nest eggs. And both decide to sacrifice their savings’ original intended purpose of practicalities for the novelty and change of a European getaway. But aside from that, Lotty and Rose are rather dissimilar characters.

Lotty is a sincere, genuine soul whose quirky awkwardness quickly grows endearing. She has only been married a few years and so the honeymoon phase has faded, leaving Lotty stuck and at a loss as to how to fix it. The Italian oasis seems to have a magical effect on her, transforming her from a plain, quiet girl to a unique, candid young woman. Her natural kindness finds fertile soil in the radiant, floral beauty that surrounds the villa and it rapidly burgeons into an authentic affection for everyone around her.

On the other hand, Rose’s development takes a bit more time. She is a rigidly religious woman who dumps all her love and

hostess and controller of the holiday. But Mrs. Fisher’s unfriendly austerity finds a formidable foe in the ever-growing ebullience of Lotty.

Lady Caroline also makes no attempt to get to know her fellow housemates. She has escaped the hustle and bustle of her social life which she loathes for the overabundance of attention she always receives. While she scoffs at the superficiality and rolls her eyes at the burdensome lifestyle, the quiet of the beautiful Italian scenery is more rattling than restful than she would have suspected.

play in their withdrawal. It’s only by their physical separation that she begins to understand their emotional distance.

An even greater variety of characters is thrown into the mix when Rose and Lotty invite two other women along to help reduce the expense for their Italian villa. Those two women come in the form of the cold, elderly spinster, Mrs. Fisher, and the gorgeous, aloof socialite, Lady Caroline Dester. Mrs. Fisher lives in the past and holds tightly onto her conceptions of Victorian proprieties. She is snobby, pretentious and has no inclination to have any sort of relationship with the other women in the castle except as the head

‘Darwin and the Art of Botany’

I admire von Armin’s magnificent ability to develop such a wide array of characters in such a short amount of time. You see them grow and get insights into each of their inner dialogues, deepening your understanding and allowing for a connection. At the outset I expected this novel to be a simple, enjoyable read and indeed it was. However, I got a bit more than I bargained for. I learned some lessons too. One of them being that opportunities to experience something new are more accessible to me than I generally believe them to be. All it takes is being attentive (perhaps to a newspaper ad) and having the bravery to shift my daydream to a reality.

But for times when caution can’t be thrown to the wind and practicalities are valid obstacles, this book has still taught me the importance of attentiveness. Like Lotty, one can be changed by the simple beauty of the flowers in your own front garden; and that change in yourself can affect others, renewing the people in your own life as well. So when life starts feeling heavy, this book is a great way to lighten your mood and spark some hope.

(Anna Barren teaches fifth grade and is a lifelong lover of books.

Local author Jim Costa will present his new book, “Darwin and the Art of Botany: Observations on the Curious World of Plants,” at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 8, at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva.

Charles Darwin is best known for his work on the evolution of animals, but, in fact, a large part of his contribution to the natural sciences is focused on plants. His observations are crucial to our modern understanding of so much about plant biology, from the amazing pollination process of orchids to plant carnivory to the way that vines climb.

Costa is professor and executive director of the Highlands Biological Station of WCU, where he has taught courses in genetics, entomology, evolution and biogeography since 1996.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call the bookstore at 828.586.9499 or click on

June 5-11, 2024 Smoky Mountain News arts & entertainment 21 Available Now at HOT TITLES IT TIT T T HOTTITLES TLE ITLES F Av A w ow a N Nowat owawat ill456600 W WOOD A W 428 HAZEL Magazines & Newspap Ho Y et Bookst esince2 wn om Yoour 00 Ave. v ers 007 9- T MON-FRI 9-5 | SA aynesville • 456-600 3
On the shelf
Writer Anna Barren

Endless fun

Racoon Creek Bike Park takes shape

For years, the old Francis Farm landfill was just that — a leaky, gassy problem that did little but sap resources from the county charged with maintaining it in perpetuity. Now, after years of environmental stewardship, the 76-acre site is about to be reborn as a free, state-of-the art amenity that will benefit locals, tourists and the region’s growing outdoor economy.

“Raccoon Creek all came to fruition a few years ago when the recreation department was shifting what kind of activities they would be offering by looking into what the community really wanted,”said Elli Flagg, Haywood County’s parks and recreation director. “They had an idea for this space over by the landfill — we don’t really like to use the word ‘landfill’ when we talk about it, but it is where it is — and a bike park came up.”

Atlanta-area native Flagg has been with Haywood County for about three months, holds a degree in recreation, parks and tourism management and came to North Carolina after a stint as recreation director for Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. Despite being new to the job, Flagg has taken it upon herself to pedal the project across the finish line.

In 1973, the Francis Farm landfill began accepting waste until it finally closed in 1995. However, in October 1976, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mandated that solid waste landfills like Francis Farm must henceforth be constructed with an impermeable liner at the bottom. Had that requirement

been issued just a few years earlier, Haywood County taxpayers could have avoided a costly mess.

A $1 million federal grant in 2010 helped pay for methane and groundwater monitoring. About a decade ago, the county purchased additional tracts surrounding the landfill, adding 44 acres to the existing 28. In 2019, environmental surveys found that seepage was under control, and by 2022 a $5.4 million restrictive cover was placed over the landfill to all but eliminate rainwater infiltration that picks up pollution and carries it beyond the confines of the site.

You can help

Mountain biking is a top outdoor activity in Western North Carolina and can also have a significant impact on the regional outdoor economy. Haywood County’s Raccoon Creek Bike Park will soon join Canton’s Chestnut Mountain as a premiere destination for riders of all skill levels, and you can help phase two of Raccoon Creek — backcountry mountain biking trails — become a reality with a donation today. A variety of sponsorship levels are available, some of which include your name engraved on a metal “donor tree” that will be erected at the site. To make a contribution, scan the QR code or email Haywood County Recreation and Parks Director Elli Flagg at

Although the county will continue to monitor conditions at the site, remediation is largely complete. Call it “economic development judo” if you like — making something out of nothing, turning pollution into profits or problems into potential — but Flagg calls it something else.

“Basically, it’s just endless fun,” she said.

The Racoon Creek Bike Park’s soft opening, planned for spring 2025, is still a ways off, but phase one of the project is moving quickly. The 15,000 square-foot pump track, a circular trail with berms and rollers, will take about eight weeks to complete, beginning in July. Other amenities, like bathrooms, a parking lot and pavilion, will have to wait until the spring thaw.

Construction of the track was made possible through a $500,000 grant from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, $100,000 from the North Carolina Trails Committee, matching funds from the county, and $150,000 from the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority as part of its special “one-time” project fund designed to encourage amenities that both serve locals and put heads in hotel beds.

Once complete, the park will complement Canton’s Chestnut Mountain Park and make Haywood County a more attractive destination for riders of all skill levels.

“The really unique thing with ‘adventure tourism’ is, people will go on trips of multiple days to experience a specific activity sport if there’s multiple offerings in an area,” Flagg said. “Look at places like Brevard. It is seriously competing for the number one spot in all of North America for the best F

Outdoors Smoky Mountain News 22
An artist rendering shows what the completed Racoon Creek Bike Park might look like. Haywood County photo

mountain biking. The thing about Chestnut Mountain is, people are probably just going to come in for the day and go ride, but if they’re coming in for a longer amount of time, they’re probably going to other trails in other counties and spending those tourism dollars over there.”

Since the project’s conception, certification of the pump track by energy drink manufacturer Red Bull has been a goal; sponsored events such as the Red Bull Pump Track World Championship draw competitors and tourists, as well as major media coverage. In 2022, Gaston County played host to the event.

A crowdfunding effort is currently underway that will move the project into phase two, the addition of some backcountry mountain biking trails spread across three or four miles of empty space in and around the park. Planning costs are estimated at $25,000, and Flagg said she expects the county to pursue trailmaking grants in furtherance of the addition.

Once everything’s complete, Flagg said that the county could institute activities, classes and programs, especially for middle-school kids.

“I’m really looking forward to getting some use out of our mountain bikes for middle school ages,” she said. “There’s lots of activities for elementary school kids, and high school kids are working. That middle school age is where we lose a lot of kids to maybe not-sofavorable stuff.”

There’s also the possibility of utilizing the

park’s infrastructure to better access nearby Raccoon Creek for other activities.

Haywood County Public Information Officer Dillon Huffman has his hands in many aspects of county government, and from a higher perspective summed up why the county’s so “pumped up” about the park.

The Raccoon Creek Bike Park’s mascot, “Rowdy,” was coined by a student at Lake Junaluska Elementary named Donovan, who won the naming contest. Haywood County photo

“I think this will just be another great attraction that will draw people here. I mean, everybody loves to be outside, right? There’s so much going on, we’ve got a lot of different opportunities for people to be involved and I think this just complements what is already here in Haywood County,” Huffman said. “It just makes everything bigger and better.”

Haywood Rec offers hiking outings

Haywood County Recreation is hosting a series of hikes throughout June. All hikes are subject to cancelation due to harsh weather.

June 6 and 13 — Plant Identification

Join us at the Haywood Community college for a walk on the newly built and very beautiful nature trail during which a guide will point out the different plants.

June 12 — Clingmans Dome to Newfound Gap

This hike is in the Smokies, so a parking pass will be needed. Hikers will meet at 8 a.m. This is a strenuous hike and may be done as a point to point or out and back, so be prepared for a distance up to 10 miles.

June 18 — Hike Preparedness

Know what to always have in a pack and what to do when running out of daylight. Meet at the Standing Rock Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway at 10 a.m. Bring a chair, water, snacks and a hiking pack.

June 19 — Flat Creek Trail to Heintooga Road

This hike is in the Smokies, so a parking pass will be needed. Hikers will meet at 9 a.m. This is an easy to moderate hike of 5.2 miles.

June 29 — Polls Gap to Cove Creek Road

This hike is in the Smokies, so a parking pass will be needed. This is a point-to-point hike of 10 miles and should be considered strenuous. Hikers meet at 8 a.m. Visit to register.

Hit the stream with Haywood Rec

Haywood County Recreation is hosting various fly-fishing expeditions throughout June.

• June 11, 18, and 25 — A local fly fishing expert will be taking a group to local trout streams from 5:30-7 p.m.

• June 6, 13, 20 and 27 — A local fly fishing expert will be taking young anglers to local trout streams from 5:30-6:30 pm.

• June 22 and 29 — A local fly fishing expert will be taking a group to local trout

WHEN: Saturday, June 22nd.

streams from 8-10 a.m.

A fishing license is required for anyone over 16 years of age and boots/waders recommended. Fishing equipment, poles/ties, can be provided upon request. Visit to register.


June 5-11, 2024 Smoky Mountain News outdoors 23 20+ YEARS OF SERVICE S Bklit + m Book online at: 828.456.3585 Haywood Square | 288 N. Haywood St. | Waynesville nclmbe 103
The community is invited to help paint a mural designed by nationally acclaimed artist Kristy McCarthy
Stop by anytime between
Pigeon Community Multicultural Development Center
Pigeon Street,
10am & 2pm WHERE:
Call 828.452.2491 for more information
Everyone is welcome to contribute to this symbolic piece of public art that will be enjoyed by future generations — be sure to wear clothes you don’t mind getting paint on!

Franklin club hosts birding walks

The Franklin Bird Club leads walks along the greenway on Wednesday mornings at 8 a.m. Walks start at alternating locations: Macon County Public Library, Big Bear Park and Salali Lane.

The public is welcome. All walks are weather dependent. Additional information, including directions to each location and a bird club check list can be found at

Schedule for upcoming walks:

• June 12: Meet at Salali Lane.

• June 19: Meet at Macon County Library parking lot.

• June 26: Meet at Big Bear near the playground.

• July 3: Meet at Salali Lane.

Zahner lectures begin June 13

The Highlands Biological Foundation (HBF) announced the kickoff of its annual Zahner Conservation Lecture series.

The 2024 series will begin on June 13 with Dr. Caleb Hickman’s presentation titled “Ecological Sovereignty: Managing Natural Resources from a Cherokee Biologist.” Dr. Hickman, a supervisory biologist for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, will share his insights into how tribes manage natural resources using a blend of traditional knowledge and contemporary science.

HBF welcomes all to join the Zahner Conservation Lecture Series, a perfect opportunity to learn, engage, and be inspired by the natural world. The lectures are every Thursday evening at 6 p.m. from June 13 to Aug. 15 at the Highlands Nature Center (930 Horse Cove Road). To see HBF’s full Zahner lecture lineup, visit The Highlands Nature Center is part of the Highlands Biological Station, a multi-campus center of Western Carolina University.

WayneTown ThrowDown

Due to forecasted inclement weather conditions, the WayneTown ThrowDown Skate Park Competition has been rescheduled to Saturday, June 8, at the Waynesville Skate Park.

Schedule of events includes:

• 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

Youth hiring event planned

The Town of Waynesville, in collaboration with NCWorks Career Center, will host a youth hiring event from 2-5 p.m. Friday, June 14, at the Waynesville Recreation Center.

Employers will be hiring for lifeguards, cashiers, food service, summer camps and grocery stores. Potential vendors that would like to be a part of the event should contact NC Works. Waynesville Parks & Recreation will be giving away one day pool/gym passes to the first 50 job fair attendees.

For more information contact Luke Kinsland, director, at 828.456. 2030.

RE S IDENTIAL BR O KER A SS (828)400-1078



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e . susan . hooper@allentate

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As a real estate professional with an unwaveringcommitmenttocustomer

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I’m dedicated to leveraging my knowledge of the region’s unique characteristics to help you achieve your real estate goals. Don’t hesitate to contact me today to learn more about how I can guide you through the real estate process and make your dream a reality.

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June 5-11, 2024 Smoky Mountain News outdoors 24
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File photo File photo

HCC hosts inaugural Charity disc golf event

The Haywood Community College Foundation is hosting the inaugural Charity Disc Golf Tournament, Discs in the Dogwoods, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Thursday, June 13, on the campus of Haywood Community College in Clyde.

This event is HCC’s version of a golf tournament with food, fun, tee times and hole sponsorships. The 18-hole course allows for players of all abilities to enjoy some time outside on the campus and experience all the fun the sport of disc golf has to offer.

To support the HCC Foundation, entry fees cover the player registration cost, lunch, and includes a donation to the Haywood Strong scholarship which supports mill workers and their families. Entry fees are $50 per person or $200 for a team of four. Prizes will be awarded in each tee time group for men, women, and mixed groups.

Event sponsorships are also available and range from $450 to $1,750. Sponsors will be able to have a presence at the event and may include a team or partial team based on the level chosen.

For more information about this event or to give to the HCC Foundation, please call 828.627.4544 or email or search Discs in the Dogwoods on to purchase your tickets.

June 5-11, 2024 Smoky Mountain News outdoors 25 RE/MAX EXECUTIVE 71 North Main St. Waynesville Real Experience. Real Service. Real Results. 828.452.3727
The tournament will be held at Haywood Community College’s disc golf course. Donated photo

Notes from a Plant Nerd

Respect your elders

Our culture tends to celebrate youth and youthfulness above all other life phases. Growth and vitality are venerated over age and wisdom. This wasn’t always the case. Elders were once held up as knowledge keepers and advice givers, useful members of society. I believe that we who live in this current world of new, go, hustle and bustle could benefit by slowing down, connecting with and respecting our elders.

plant. Elder also spreads by sending out rhizomes that can go through the soil and sprout new plants all around.

Elder has a lot to teach us about health. Many elders I know also show great vigor, vitality and health. I have been lucky to connect with and learn from many people in the world of Botany and Ecology, soaking up every moment I possibly can.

Elder can also teach us about danger and what not to hold onto, or how to honor and celebrate from afar.

Listening to a person tell their stories is a gift, no matter how many times you’ve heard them. We have a lot to learn before many stories are lost. We can also teach our elders and be taught by those younger than us. Education can be circular and reciprocal, blurring the lines between learning and teaching. It is good to be a mentor. It is also good to have mentors who are younger than you.

One of my favorite teachers also happens to be one of my elders, and that is the plant I like to call elder (Sambucus canadensis). Most people know it as elderberry, but I like to call it elder. If I teach about elderberry stems, elderberry leaves, elderberry flowers, I would then have to call the ripe fruits elderberry berries.

And elderberry berry is just ridiculous and redundant, so I call it elder.

I also highly respect and honor the American elder for its beauty in leaf, flower and fruit, and also its ability to grow and spread along creek banks and riparian areas, helping to hold soil in place, keeping soil out of the waterways where it causes harm.

I really appreciate and respect the elders growing around me during cold and flu season or just anytime I’m not feeling well and need a boost. You know that “gosh, I hope I’m not getting sick” feeling a couple of days before getting sick? If I make a tea made from elder flowers, add juice, extract or syrup made from elder berries and drink that at my first sign of symptoms, I won’t get sick. Or, if I do get sick, it won’t be as bad or for as long.

Elder has a lot to teach us about growth and dieback, how to bend to the winds and stresses of life and root for ourselves along the way. One way elder grows so well along a bank is that if one of its stems bends down to touch the soil, it will root and make a new

In the higher elevations of Southern Appalachia grows the red elder (Sambucus racemosa), a different species from the American elder. Instead of a flat pancake of white flowers like the American elder, the red elder has a flower cluster that looks more like an ice cream cone. But it’s no treat, as this elder is toxic to humans. It’s great for birds, insects and other critters — and certainly beautiful — it just won’t keep you from getting sick in the winter like its relative.

Speaking of pancakes, if you want yours extra light, fluffy and delicious, throw some fresh or dried elder flowers, plucked from the stalk, into your next batter. They will be the best pancakes you’ve ever had. Trust me. Even if I’m not older than you and maybe even if I am. Because, who doesn’t love pancakes?

(Adam Bigelow, the Greenman of Cullowhee, leads weekly wildflower walks most Fridays and offers consultations and private group tours through Bigelow’s Botanical Excursions.

June 5-11, 2024 Smoky Mountain News outdoors 26 28 ’Don ’ 2 828452052 120 N ———— Affffaairs f 8 fairsoftheheartnccoaff 6• aynesville . Main St. • W ————— he He of t eart om — 6 • 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 Puzzles can be found on page 30 These are only the answers.
Wisdom can be found all over, as columnist Adam Bigelow points out using “elder” as an example. Adam Bigelow photo
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Case No.24-E-285

Iris Lorraine Schott,

Ancillary Executor of the Estate of Lester Gerald Schott, Jr. County, North Carolina, this is to notify all persons having claims against the Estate to present them before Aug 29 2024, or in bar of their recovery.

Ancillary Executor c/o Thomas M. Caune II 1009 East Boulevard Charlotte, NC 28203


Case No.2024 E 000324

Michael Grosso, havingutor of the Estate of Philip Carmen Grosso

North Carolina, this is to notify all persons having claims against the Estate to present them before Sep 05 2024, or in bar of their recovery.

Executor 32 Amber Drive Horse Shoe, NC 28742



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Mountain News 31
June 5-11, 2024 Smoky Mountain News 32

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