Smoky Mountain News | July 10, 2024

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‘Embrace the ideals America stands for’ Page 14

On the Cover:

As food insecurity, especially as it relates to children, has become more of a focus regionally and nationwide, there has been a push for schools to offer free lunches to all students, regardless of household income. Now, some districts across the mountains are implementing programs to do just that. (Page 4) photo


Woody joins Jackson Board of Education....................................................................5 Mountain Projects: NC Medicaid is not a Welfare Program..................................6 Group pushes for new, strict DWI laws........................................................................7 EBCI reverses stance on ‘hemp shops’........................................................................8 EBCI leaders voice frustration after Braves support unofficial tribes..................9 After deadline, child care funding meets only a fraction of the need................10 Education briefs..................................................................................................................12


Embrace the ideals America stands for......................................................................14 Lessons learned in the wilderness ..............................................................................14


Blurring the Lines: A conversation with Liam Purcell..............................................16 Folkmoot hosts ‘Summer Soirée’..................................................................................20


Word from the Smokies: Towns make ‘bear-safe’ changes................................22 Up Moses Creek: 2 a.m...................................................................................................26 Jack Snyder.


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Ingles Nutrition N



We are coming into peak tomato season in the Southeast comes an abundance of tomatoes in the prrooduce section d gar Ingles Markets as well as backyar rddens. Besides slicin for sandwiches, what can you do with all of those tomatoe 12 ideas for what to do with those extra tomatoes:

• Homemade tomato or pasta sauce.

• T Toomato jam to top your biscuits or meats.

• Add tomatoes, especially grape or cherry tomatoes, to c boards.

• Use cherry or grape tomatoes as a garnish for drinks.

• Pickled tomatoes.

• Snack on cherry or grape tomatoes. Make skewers with cheese and cherry tomato.


• Dehydrate tomato slices (you can do this in a normal ove heat).

• Gazpacho (cold tomato soup)

• Ketchup

• Thread cherry or grape tomatoes onto kebab sticks or p basket and grill along with other vegetables and your meat

• Hollow out larger tomatoes and use as a “bowl” for chick

Leah McGrath, RDN

Ingles Market Corporate


Leah McGrath

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‘What our kids need’: no cost meals in WNC schools

Every student in Haywood and Jackson County Schools can expect no cost breakfast and lunch in the coming school year, and Macon County is not far behind in meeting that mark as well.

“This is what our kids need,” said Jackson County Schools Superintendent Dana Ayers.

During the June 25 meeting of the Jackson County Board of Education, Ayers announced the realization of a goal she and her staff had been working on for some time.

“Over the last couple months, Laura Cabe and I have been working to figure out a way to feed all our kids at no cost,” said Ayers.

In Jackson County, Blue Ridge School, Blue Ridge Early College, Smoky Mountain Elementary, Cullowhee Valley and Jackson Community School all qualify for the Community Eligibility Provision, a nonpricing meal service option for schools in low-income areas.

The CEP program allows schools to serve breakfast and lunch at no cost to all enrolled students without collecting household applications for free and reduced lunch. Instead, schools that adopt CEP are reimbursed using a formula based on the percentage of students categorically eligible for free meals based on their participation in other programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF), or Medicaid benefits, as well as children who are certified for free meals without an application because they are homeless, migrant, enrolled in Head Start or in foster care.

from Smoky Mountain High School to WCU this fall.

“That means every kid in Jackson County will get a no cost breakfast and lunch for the 2024-25 school year,” Ayers said. “I have to say thank you to our commissioners for making this happen. It’s a one-year deal, but we’ll just keep asking for it every single year after that. And we fully expect our numbers for school nutrition to increase.”

JCPS requested the $500,000 necessary to fund meals for non-CEP eligible schools during the county’s budget process. In her request to the commission Ayers noted that several surrounding counties — Buncombe, Henderson,

All students in Haywood and Jackson counties will have access to free lunches this school year. File photo

Transylvania, Haywood, Graham and Swain — provide no cost meals for all their schools.

pointed out that even for families who have been able to afford buying or packing lunch in the past, that situation may be changing.

“Even if it’s not a struggling family, the cost of food has gone up exorbitantly,” said Ayers. “Even my own kid, when I pack lunch, it’s not a three-dollar meal like it used to be… so this would be a true community service opportunity for all of our families.”

In Macon County, all schools except for Highlands School and Franklin High School qualify for the CEP program and thereby receive free lunch and breakfast.

During the school board’s June 27 meeting, board members asked School Nutrition Director David Lightner whether that situation had changed.

“Prior to today, I would have told you no and that it would continue this coming year as it has been this school year,” said Lightner. “But there was a special called meeting this afternoon with the state about a house bill with the grant, incentivizing schools to add additional CEP schools. So, there is still potential, but I need to get some more clarification.”

Macon County Schools does not currently qualify for district wide CEP according to the 2024 Annual Notification of Schools Eligibility Report.

Macon County school board member Hillary Wilkes brought up the case of the Jackson County Commission opting to fund the gap in order to provide free meals to all students.

Any district, group of schools in a district or individual school with 25% or more students participating in these programs qualifies for CEP.

Once a certain school qualifies for the CEP program, thereby allowing all students at the school to access free breakfast and lunch, that school remains in the program and can continue offering no cost meals for a five-year period, after which the school is reassessed.

While those five schools in Jackson County currently qualify for the CEP program and students there were set to receive no-cost meals, Ayers and her staff were concerned for the students at all remaining Jackson County schools.

“We went and advocated to our commissioners and asked for an additional half a million dollars so that we can feed all of our students and they said yes,” Ayers told the school board last month.

The additional funding will cover breakfast and lunch for all Jackson County schools that are not CEP eligible. This will include the Catamount School, a lab school operated by Western Carolina University, which is moving its operation

In Haywood County, Director of School Nutrition Alison Francis said that all schools qualify for and are participating in the CEP program for the 2024-25 school year, as they did during the 2023-24 school year.

“That is the half million-dollar burden that we’re asking you all to support,” Ayers told the commission. “We want to make it equitable for all of our students across the district.”

All five Jackson County commissioners were immediately onboard with the request, noting the importance of school nutrition for low-income families.

“You just don’t realize how many kids don’t have the money,” said Commissioner Todd Bryson.

Commissioner John Smith pointed out that some families fall through the cracks economically.

“They’re living on that edge,” Smith said. “Their parents make a little too much money to qualify for free or reduced lunch, and yet they can’t afford to send food with them.”

Ayers noted that providing no cost meals to all students removes any social stigma or technical barrier associated with free and reduced lunch registration. However, she also

“I’ve had people reach out to me because … in Jackson County they just passed through their county commission to fund the schools that were not covered by the [CEP] grant,” Wilkes told the board. “As we know, it means the world to families to be able to have these meals covered for their kids and a lot of kids, this is where they’re getting their food during the school year.”

Lightner told the board that he would come back to them with an estimate on what it would cost to cover meals for the two schools that don’t qualify for CEP — Highlands School and Franklin High School. The school system is also looking at grant funding to cover the gap.

Lightner later told The Smoky Mountain news that based on the federal reimbursement rates for last school year, the Macon County Schools nutrition program would need about $152,450 to cover lunches for paid students at Franklin High School and Highlands School. However, the actual amount would likely be higher since rates will be different for the 2024-25 school year. Those rates have not yet been released.

“After consultation with our regional consultant, CEP will not be feasible for Franklin High School or Highlands School for the upcoming school year,” Lightner said. “We continue to offer universal free breakfast at these schools and will continue to look for opportunities to feed lunch to these schools at no cost in the future.”

Woody joins Jackson Board of Education

The Jackson County Board of Education will look a little different at its next meeting after Chair Elizabeth Cooper departed and incoming board member Gayle Woody was sworn in last month.

“She has without a doubt been vocal in her role to show her desire for progress and improvement and the betterment of every student and every staff member and even our school buildings,” Superintendent Dana Ayers said of Cooper after her last meeting. “I’m honored to share the experience with her and thankful for her support during my tenure.”

Cooper first joined the Jackson County Board of Education in 2010 but has been a part of Jackson County Schools for much longer.

“I have been here a while,” said Cooper. “They wrote in my church bulletin that Jackson County public schools had me since the day that I walked into smoky mountain elementary school in kindergarten.”

During her tenure on the board, Cooper served as both vice chair, and chair. In 2021 she oversaw the hiring of Superintendent Dana Ayers.

“Having walked into this role as a new superintendent … she really made me feel welcome,” said Ayers. “Elizabeth has been a superb advocate for public education and Jackson County public schools. She shares common goals with educators and is diligent about supporting staff in any capacity no matter what that is.”

Cooper came to the board from a business background, which she said helped with finance and personnel.

“It is a lot, and I don’t think people really truly realize how much it does take to have a successful system, but I think Jackson County does have a very successful system,” Cooper said. “It’s been an adventure, and I will miss it. But I will be around. Thank you very, very much.”

Woody was sworn in as the newest member of the board of education at its June 25 meeting. Woody is a retired educator who spent almost 25 years teaching in Jackson County Schools. She served one term as a county commissioner, volunteers at United Christian Ministries and has served on the Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center Board, as well as the Arts Council. Woody’s husband also worked in Jackson County Schools, and her two children were educated in the system.

Woody won the election to represent district one in March, beating out her opponent Rainy Brake with 61.5% of the vote.

Wes Jamison, current vice chair of the board of education was also up for election this cycle and won his race against challenger Clint Irons to represent district three.

While the race for Jackson County Board of Education currently takes place during the North Carolina Primary Election, there is a push to change the race to the November General Election in order to produce better turnout.

Swain County BOE hosts voter ID seminar

The Swain County Board of Elections host an educational seminar on North Carolina’s photo ID requirement for voting.

The seminar will take place at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, in Room 307 of the Swain County Business Education and Training Center.

Nelson Masinde, a Training Specialist from the North Carolina State Board of Elections, will be the presenter. The seminar will be about an hour and there will be a Q&A session at the end. Swain County voters, especially those who have questions about the ID requirement, are encouraged to attend.

Gayle Woody (center left) was sworn in as the newest member of the board of education on June 25. Hannah McLeod photo

Mountain Projects: NC Medicaid is not a Welfare Program

Since the state expanded Medicaid last December, 479,153 North Carolinians have signed up for full-coverage insurance and are already seeing the benefits.

According to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 600,000 NC residents are newly eligible for Medicaid because of the expansion, which has made healthcare visits and medication more affordable for many families. Roughly 500,000 of that number has taken advantage, but a significant number have not.

“Enrollment reticence” may be a result of a misconception about Medicaid being for low-income people only, which may have discouraged people from applying.

emergency care, mental health, preventive and wellness services, dental care, medicalrelated devices and more. There is no monthly premium payment and copays are never more than $4.

“Everyone has a right to healthcare,” said Plummer, who has been a health insurance navigator with Mountain Projects since 2013. “There is no shame in it, and you really can save a lot of money.”


GetCoveredWNC, a Mountain Projects program, provides free, unbiased information about health insurance options and healthcare resources to the seven westernmost counties of North Carolina.

According to Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, Medicaid has covered more than 1 million prescriptions for new enrollees to treat heart health, diabetes, seizures and other illnesses and has paid for more than $17.9 million in claims for dental services — all since Dec. 1, 2023.

“It’s been lifesaving,” said Plummer. “The gap that we had for so long made it impossible for people to go to the doctor. They may have had healthcare but didn’t have an opportunity to do something that was this affordable. Now people who have not had any kind of preventative care in years can go to the doctor and get the medical treatment they may need.”

Part of what Plummer and her team at GetCoveredWNC do is track Medicaid Unwinding in North Carolina, which is the

“There is a stigma about Medicaid that it’s welfare,” said Jan Plummer, Manager of GetCoveredWNC at Mountain Projects. “It’s not — it’s full coverage insurance with $4 copays and no deductibles. We should have had it 10 years ago.”

Medicaid now covers people ages 19 through 64 years old with higher incomes, which has allowed many to have access to comprehensive healthcare who didn’t qualify previously. This is making healthcare more accessible for many families.

Medicaid is comprehensive healthcare that covers doctor visits, yearly check-ups,

Navigators like Plummer help clients enroll in the HealthCare Marketplace and apply for expanded Medicaid coverage, while providing year-round case management for clients. For Plummer, it has been heartwarming to see the impact expanded Medicaid has made on many of her clients.

“[Our organization has] put our heart and soul into expanding healthcare,” said Plummer. “It has been amazing being able to see Medicaid expansion and what’s done for people who haven’t seen a doctor in years. People who need eye care and dental care are finally getting the care they need.”

huge difference.

Since North Carolina is a “Determination State,” the Healthcare Marketplace is the determining agency for Medicaid expansion eligibility.

This means that applying for insurance at will not only determine if someone is eligible for financial assistance to pay for Marketplace healthcare, it will automatically determine if you qualify for Medicaid.

“If the Marketplace determines you’re eligible for Medicaid, the state has to give it to them,” Plummer said.

Most people can get health care coverage through NC Medicaid if they meet the criteria below. If someone was eligible before, they still are.

To be eligible for Medicaid, a person must live in North Carolina, be a U.S. citizen between the ages of 19-64 and must meet the monthly income requirement for your household size, as shown below:

• Single Adults — $1,732 or less per month

• Family of 2 — $2,351 or less per month

• Family of 3 — $2,970 or less per month

• Family of 4 — $3,588 or less per month

• Family of 5 — $4,207 or less per month

• Family of 6 — $4,826 or less per month

Plummer encourages anyone who thinks they may be eligible for Medicaid to call her office and get expert help in the application process.

Appointments are free and applications for Medicaid can be done any time of the year.

To learn more, visit or call 828.452.1447.

Established in 1965, Medicaid is the primary source of health insurance coverage for low-income and disabled individuals and the largest source of financing for the healthcare services they need. In 2014, about 80 million individuals were enrolled in Medicaid, or 25.9% of the total United States population. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicaid accounted for one-sixth of healthcare spending in the United States during that year.

process in which a state redetermines Medicaid eligibility for people who have not renewed their coverage.

To help prevent their clients from losing their Medicaid coverage, GetCoveredWNC navigators track those who are at risk of losing their coverage and reach out to them before their deadline has expired.

According to Plummer, most disenrollments from Medicaid occur due to procedural reasons, such as a client not renewing coverage within a specific time frame. That’s why having a navigator team like GetCoveredWNC on your side can make a

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) monitors state Medicaid programs and establishes requirements for service delivery, quality, funding and eligibility standards. Medicaid does not provide healthcare directly. Instead, it pays hospitals, physicians, nursing homes, health plans and other healthcare providers for covered services that they deliver to eligible patients.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, also known as Obamacare, provided for the expansion of Medicaid to cover all individuals earning incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which amounted to $16,643 for individuals and $33,948 for a family of four in 2017. A 2012 United States Supreme Court decision made the Medicaid expansion voluntary on the part of the states.

The Mountain Projects GetCoveredWNC team of Healthcare Navigators on the stairs of the Governor’s Mansion in Raleigh at a recent event celebrating Healthcare Navigators Month. Clockwise from top right: Program Manager Jan Plummer, Caitlin Quinnett, Jane Harrison, Susan Rose and Savanna Rickman. Unable to make the trip were Marilyn Tollie and Linda Curtis. Donated photo

Group pushes for strict new DWI laws

estern North Carolina’s regional DWI taskforce has renewed its push to pass several new drunk-driving bills into law during next year’s long session in Raleigh.

The bills were discussed at a meeting in May at the Waynesville Police Department headed up by WNC DWI Taskforce Director Ellen Pitt. A variety of stakeholders attended the meeting, including legislators, law enforcement, judicial candidates, prosecutors, experts and avid volunteers.

Pitt told The Smoky Mountain News that at that meeting, they made a few small changes to the proposed legislation but that the five bills are similar to ones proposed last year. While those bills were never heard, Pitt said she believes the support from law enforcement and the National Transportation Safety Board will be paramount, adding that law enforcement seemed to be particularly interested in one bill.

One bill would lower the legal blood alcohol content of a driver from .08 to .05. While the National Transportation Safety Board recommended this change for all states back in 2012, Utah is the only one so far to adopt the lowered standard.

In addition, right now, if a DWI is charged with a BAC of below .1, that is considered a mitigating factor, meaning it could lessen someone’s sentence. One bill would remove that mitigating factor altogether.

While most of what was talked about involved an increased ability to arrest people for DWIs and further restrictions after they’re charged, one proposed change would make things easier for offenders whose drunk driving didn’t result in any injuries or death that complete DWI treatment court by reinstating their license and paying some of their fees.

“We know when people finish sobriety court it’s an uphill battle and they’re trying to start over,” Pitt said.

One bill would allow people who complete sobriety court and get their license back to receive a continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM) bracelet instead of an ignition interlock.

can install a $500 interlock on a vehicle and it breaks down the next day, all while they’re trying to get back up on their feet.”

Another change involves what is done with the license restoration fees. Before, while the lion’s share would go to the state’s general fund; new legislation would make it to where the majority goes to fund statewide chemical testing and training programs and only 25% would go to the general fund.

“When you put money into the general fund, you don’t know where it goes,” Pitt said.

considering issues they’ve had nailing down an admissible BAC before someone has time for that number to lower prior to doing the admissible intoxilyzer test at the magistrate’s office or having blood drawn at the hospital.

“It’s time-saving and cost-saving,” Pitt said.

While Pitt initially advocated for the inclusion of a provision in that bill that would also enable officers to use an oral testing swab that can determine whether a driver is under the influence of narcotics, that ultimately will not be included in that

One bill would allow the specific reading from a portable breathalyzer test (PBT), also known as the roadside breathalyzer, to be used to develop probable cause to charge a driver with a DWI. It currently can only be used by officers to determine whether there is alcohol present in the bloodstream, but

“I think there will be more education for all the legislators, and there are more groups that have aligned themselves to get those bills heard. We just want to curb people from drinking, take more responsibility and make wiser decisions.”

“We all decided and voted to say take off the interlock; they will wear a CAM bracelet for a period of time,” Pitt said. “We were going to give them the choice between interlock or CAM, but everyone knows the interlock is not feasible in this group. They

— Rep. Mike Clampitt

specific numbers are not to be considered.

The PBT is a handheld device. Inserted into that device is a disposable plastic straw into which a suspected impaired driver blows. Having such a tool at officers’ disposal is a significant advantage, Pitt said,

bill. Rather, the taskforce will push for a pilot program in the next budget that would bring the test to three different prosecutorial districts, one near the coast, one in the Piedmont and one in the mountains, to see how they perform in different climates. It’s likely that the prosecutorial district that would get the pilot program in the mountains would be the 43rd, which includes the states’ seven westernmost counties.

Rep. Mike Clampitt (R-Swain), a member of the public safety appropriations committee, was the primary sponsor of last year’s bills and will be the sponsor of next year’s bills. He said those items are likely to be introduced during the next long session coming up in January 2025. Although the bills weren’t heard last year, Clampitt is now optimistic.

“I think there will be more education for all the legislators, and there are more groups that have aligned themselves to get those bills heard,” he said. “We just want to curb people from drinking, take more responsibility and make wiser decisions.”

Ellen Pitt has spearheaded the effort across the region to curb DWIs. File photo

EBCI reverses stance on ‘hemp shops’

EBCI Tribal Council has reversed its decision to ban “hemp shops” not “wholly owned by the tribe … or one of its wholly owned subsidiaries.”

Any enrolled member of the tribe has 10 days following the passage of an ordinance to submit a protest. In this case, that protest was submitted by Robert Mark “Bertie” Saunooke, who owns two hemp shops in Cherokee.

On June 6, Tribal Council passed the long-awaited ordinance that legalizes the sale of and use of marijuana by any adult over the age of 21 on tribal land. That vote came after a vote last year that saw enrolled members vote overwhelming in favor of that legalization. During that time, Tribal Council also passed two floor amendments that were added to the ordinance — one restricting hemp shops and one allowing medical marijuana card holders who meet certain criteria to grow up to four plants at home.

At the June 6 meeting, Saunooke spoke in opposition to the portion of the ordinance that would have shut down his businesses. Much of what was written in his protest — which was read aloud at the meeting — reflected his prior concerns.

“If my stores are closed, I’ll have great adverse financial consequences,” he wrote,

noting that he would have to lay off employees, cancel contracts, figure out what to do with unused inventory and be unable to afford rent for his retail spaces.

meeting, Rep. Michael Stamper (Painttown) was among the most vocal supporters of the floor amendment to ban the hemp shops, citing their lack of regulation.

Robert Mark “Bertie” Saunooke address Tribal Council following the vote to approve his amendment to the adult marijuana use ordinance. EBCI Communications Facebook photo

Along with filing the protest, Saunooke also put forward his own amendment to the adult-use ordinance that was heard during the June 27 protest hearing, that allowed for privately owned hemp shops to stay open as long as they are regulated by the tribe’s Cannabis Control Board. During the June 6

“[Saunooke’s amendment] speaks to what I was trying to get at, which was the regulatory element of these hemp stores,” he said June 27.

While the hemp shop issue was handled in a way that seemed satisfactory for almost everyone, the floor amendment to

allow medical patients to grow their own marijuana was taken out of the ordinance, and the decision was made to wait to address it, meaning no one under any circumstance is permitted by tribal law to grow their own. EBCI Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources Joey Owle voiced his opposition to that decision in front of Tribal Council.

“That cuts most folks out from being able to grow their own medicine,” he said.

However, EBCI Attorney General Mike McConnell recommended that Tribal Council leave that element out of the ordinance now and address it later, if desired. While Owle made the point that enrolled members voted “overwhelmingly” to legalize adult use, McConnell noted that the vote had to do with the tribe regulating the marijuana market.

“The vote, and I’m talking about the referendum vote back in September, said nothing about growing marijuana in your home,” McConnell said. “From the AG’s perspective, we prefer that, at this time, the Tribe not allow home-grow. I’m coming to that issue from a regulatory and enforcement angle. I’m not making any statement about whether its good for a person or not good for a person.”

Following those discussion, Tribal Council ratified the adult use ordinance as amended.

leaders voice frustration after Braves support unofficial Cherokee tribes

Following the Atlanta Braves’ recognition late last month of several groups in Georgia recognized by that state as Native American, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians officials issued multiple statements decrying the inclusion of multiple Cherokee tribes that are not federally recognized.

The only three federally recognized Cherokee tribes are the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, The Cherokee Nation and The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians.

In a Facebook post on the official Atlanta Braves page, it was also stated that “As part of Georgia Tribe Night, the #Braves are making a donation to support the preservation of historical records for the Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee housed in the Special Collections & Archives at the University of North Georgia.”

Following the recognition of June 29, EBCI’s Atlanta Braves Cultural Committee issued a statement. According to the group’s Facebook page, “The Atlanta Braves Cultural Committee partners with the Atlanta Braves to educate staff and players, ensure any representation of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is culturally appropriate, & the EBCI’s interests are met moving forward.”

tinue to address it at the highest levels,” the statement continued. “It has been determined that we will continue to do our work with the Braves organization. It is imperative that we enhance our educational efforts to bring awareness as to why state recognition of false group is detrimental and delegitimizes federally recognized tribes.”

Shortly thereafter, Principal Chief Michel Hicks, Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley and Tribal Council released a similar statement, noting that they are “deeply concerned” that the Braves organization had given a platform to groups “falsely claiming” to be tribes without adequate verification of their ancestry.

The committee’s statement noted that over the last few years, through its relationship with the Atlanta Braves, it has “achieved numerous impactful changes that have positively influenced our community.”

“However, the ABCC was disappointed by the recent misrepresentation of groups claiming to be Cherokee tribes during an Atlanta Braves game this past weekend,” the statement reads. “This incident highlights the ongoing need for education and awareness at the organization and state level. Following discussions with our executive office and tribal leadership, the ABCC remains steadfast in its commitment to educating the Atlanta Braves organization on critical national issues impacting federally recognized tribal governments.”

“The recent acknowledgement is a serious lack of understanding and undermines our collective efforts,” the statement reads. “For years, the EBCI has fought against fraudulent groups that exploit Indigenous identity for personal gain, detracting from the benefits and resources meant for true Indigenous tribes. Countless groups across the United States have persistently and falsely claimed to be Cherokee. Today, there are only three federally recognized Cherokee tribesthe Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Cherokee Nation, and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee that historically have ongoing relationships with the Federal government through treaties and land rights.”

“As Cherokee, we take immense pride in our culture, our traditions, and the strength and resilience of our people,” it continues. “This recent event highlights the need for a better understanding of who we are and what we stand for. We aim to continue our educational efforts through the Atlanta Braves Cultural Committee, using this as an opportunity to bring to the forefront our decades-long fight against false groups claiming to be a Cherokee Tribe.”

“The recognition of false groups is an issue that the EBCI has long opposed and will con-

The Atlanta Braves did not release any public statements in the wake of the criticism from EBCI leadership. The controversy between EBCI and the Braves’ organization came mere weeks before the team’s EBCI night July 20, tickets for which will be available at noon on June 12.

“For years, the EBCI has fought against fraudulent groups that exploit Indigenous identity for personal gain, detracting from the benefits and resources meant for true Indigenous tribes.”

Multiple statements were released from various Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians leaders condemning the Braves’ recognition of unofficial Native American entities. File photos
Principal Chief Michel Hicks, Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley and ECBI Tribal Council statement

Too little, too late

After deadline, child care funding meets only a fraction of the need

Astopgap measure that will partially fund expired federal grants for child care providers finally found Gov. Roy Cooper’s pen, but advocates maintain that it’s too little, too late — and just kicks the can down the road for another five months.

“All we’re doing is delaying,” said Rep. Lindsey Prather (D-Buncombe). “And it’s not nearly enough — $300 million is what they said they needed, and there’s no plan for what comes next.”

More than six in 10 said they‘d expect difficulty in recruiting and retaining quality child care staff. Almost three in ten said they’d have close immediately, thus eliminating roughly 100,000 of the state’s 400,000 available child care slots.

The child care system as a whole is plagued by high costs, low wages and razorthin profit margins, despite being a critical component of economic development — employers won’t relocate to a place where quality affordable child care isn’t reliable.

a June 18 appropriations committee meeting, including $135 million in non-recurring funds for the Child Care Stabilization grants. Advocates say at least $300 million is needed; in 2022, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, more than $577 million was disbursed.

The North Carolina Child Care Stabilization grants, a component of President Joe Biden’s 2021 American Rescue Plan Act that pumped $1.3 billion into the state’s child care system over three years to spur economic recovery in the wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic, expired on July 1.

Despite knowing about the deadline for three years, the Republican-led General Assembly did nothing to avoid it until a series of unsuccessful last-minute maneuvers at the end of June.

In February, prior to the expiration of the grants, the results of a provider survey promised severe consequences if the funding wasn’t replenished. Nearly nine in 10 respondents said they’d have to increase rates.

Jacqueline Wilson, who owns and operates two child care centers in Waynesville, said the grants helped her continue to provide affordable, quality child care services, but that they still weren’t enough.

“It did help,” she told The Smoky Mountain News last month. “I mean, we need more, but it did help.”

In April, Cooper proposed a $200 million budget adjustment that would have partially replenished the grants.

In June, the right-leaning North Carolina Chamber of Commerce advocated for funding by presenting some shocking statistics — namely, that child care issues cost the state’s economy more than $5.6 billion each year.

House members unanimously approved their proposed changes to the budget during

The Senate’s proposed changes included $300 million for the grants, but when the two chambers failed to agree on a larger budget adjustment bill — House Speaker Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate President Pro Tem Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) have been at odds over the larger bill — North Carolina’s working parents and school-age children came away with nothing.

Senate bill 357 was presented to Cooper on June 28, after the House and Senate agreed on $67.5 million to fund the grants through the end of this calendar year, a fraction of previous funding levels.

When the General Assembly is in session, the governor has 10 days either to sign a ratified bill, to veto it or to do nothing at all. If the governor does nothing, the bill becomes law — the opposite of what happens in the federal government when the President utilizes their F

Although the General Assembly partially funded the child care grants, it’s not a permanent solution. Cory Vaillancourt photo

“pocket veto” power.

Cooper signed the bill on July 8.

“This legislation provides critical but limited grants to help keep childcare centers open for the next few months,” he said in a statement that day. “However legislators need to do much more for parents, businesses and children by extending these grants through 2025, investing in our nationally recognized NC Pre-K and investing more in quality early childhood education. Our children’s future and our economy depend on it.”

The funding, intended for the first two

quarters of the 2024-25 fiscal year, will run out in December, giving the General Assembly another five months to figure out a permanent solution to a problem it couldn’t solve in three years.

Prather said she didn’t have much confidence the General Assembly would be able to avoid another child care crisis by Christmas.

“There seems to be a complete lack of awareness just how pervasive this issue is,” she said. “This impacts every corner of our state, and it just blows my mind that this is not our top priority.”

Red Cross calls for blood and platelet donors amid critical shortage

This July, the American Red Cross continues to stress that blood and platelet donors are critically needed to support lifesaving transfusions this summer. Donors of all blood types are in demand, especially those with type O blood and donors giving platelets.

Here’s a list of upcoming blood donation opportunities in the Smoky Mountain News coverage area this month:


July 11: 12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Cruso Community Development, 13186 Cruso Road

July 15: 1:30-6 p.m., High Street Baptist Church, 73 High St.


July 13: 7:30 a.m. to noon, Crabtree United Methodist Church, 5405 Crabtree Road

July 31: 9 a.m. - 1:30 p.m., Haywood Regional Medical Center, 75 Leroy George Road


July 16: Noon 5 p.m., HART Theatre, 250 Pigeon St.

July 17: 1-6 p.m., First Baptist Church Waynesville, 100 S. Main St.

July 30: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Long’s Chapel, 133 Old Clyde Road

July 31: 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Senior

Resource Center, 81 Elmwood Way


July 18: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Harris Medical Park of Franklin, 55 Holly Springs Park Drive

July 23: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Macon County Library, 149 Siler Farm Road

Bryson City:

July 30: 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., First Citizens Bank, 51 Main St.


July 12: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., The Cherokee Convention Center, 777 Casino Drive

To donate blood, download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit, call 1.800-RED.CROSS (1.800.733.2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information.

A blood donor card, driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.

SCC Foundation sets date for 10th annual fundraising gala

Ten years ago, the Southwestern Community College Foundation launched a bold new effort to create a fundraising event that everyone in Western North Carolina could enjoy and get behind. That first year was a challenge.

“Our inaugural gala at The Village Green in Cashiers was a great event,” recalled Don Tomas, SCC’s President. “The weather didn’t cooperate, but we learned a great deal.”

Fortunately for Southwestern, Brooks Robinson — CEO of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort — sits on the SCC Foundation Board and soon welcomed the gala into a more spacious (and dry) venue.

The move ushered in a new era of success as the gala rebranded itself and has enjoyed record-breaking growth every year since. Last fall’s gala raised more than $150,000 to support student scholarships, and organizers are hoping to once again eclipse the previous year’s success when they hold the 10th annual Boots, Blue Jeans & Bling on Sept. 28 in the Events Center at Harrah’s.

The last two events have sold out with more than 600 community leaders and college supporters attending the festivities in 2023.

The SCC Foundation’s Boots, Blue Jeans & Bling gala has sold out for two years in a row. Tickets are now on sale for the 10th annual event, which is set for Sept. 28 at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort. Donated photo

As in recent years, the 10th gala will feature Asheville-based band “Crocodile Smile.” Guests will enjoy a gourmet meal prepared by Harrah’s chefs. Other activities include a silent auction, wine pull, photo booth and dancing.

Individual tickets cost $175, and table sponsorships range from $1,750 to $5,000.

For more information or to buy tickets or a sponsorship, visit or contact Kathy Posey at 828.339.4227 or

WCU POTM band director Jack Eaddy accepts position with University of Georgia

Jack Eaddy, director of Western Carolina University’s athletic bands and Pride of the Mountains marching band, has accepted a teaching position in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music at the University of Georgia.

Eaddy, who has led POTM since 2021, will step down as the leader of the “Baddest Band in the Land” Aug. 1 before assuming the new role at his alma mater.

During Eaddy’s tenure, POTM went on its first international trip, performing in the 2024 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland.

Eaddy extended his gratitude to the welcoming community to which he and his family became a part of.

“I thank POTM, the university and the community for embracing my family and welcoming us,” he said. “It is hard leaving an organization with such a rich legacy and supportive community. A special thank you to my colleagues who helped me become a part of the Catamount family. POTM members: don’t forget the special entity POTM is. Cherish it and honor the tradition of the Long Purple Line.”

HCC offers seminar for Haywood farmers

The Small Business Center at Haywood Community College is presenting a seminar series specifically geared towards Haywood County farmers. The series, AgriTourism for Working Farms Tours, takes participants on instructional tours of five unique working farms at which the farmers have added agriToursim to increase their farm income.

This tour series is not meant for “tourists” but rather for farmers with working farms seeking to add agritourism to their income stream.

• Smoky Mountain Mangalitsa, Aug. 6, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

• Sustainabillies, Aug. 13, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

• KT’s Orchard, Aug. 20, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

• Jehovah Rah Farm AND Ferguson’s Supply and Glamping, Aug. 27, 5:30-8 p.m.

The tours will take place every Tuesday in August, and attendance is free. To participate, individuals must send an email to and should register for each farm they would like to visit. Once individuals register, the SBC will share tour addresses and other pertinent tour information.

Three dead in alleged Haywood County murder-suicide

The Haywood County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a possible murder in the Panther Creek area of Clyde.

Deputies were dispatched to an address on Panther Creek Road just before 8 a.m. on the morning of Monday, July 8. For a female inside the residence who appeared to be deceased. Upon arrival, deputies located two additional deceased individuals, another female, and a male.

“We have received several questions from the community about rumors of a manhunt,” the sheriff’s office said in a press release. “Sheriff [Bill] Wilke wants the Fines Creek and Panther Creek communities to know they are safe. This was an isolated incident, and there has never been a manhunt nor is there a threat to the community. Our office does still believe the suspect to be one of the deceased.”

Officer-involved shooting in Cherokee leaves one dead

The Charlotte FBI division office announced that the bureau is investigating an officer-involved shooting on the Qualla Boundary that left one person dead.

The deceased are identified as Olivia Stroupe, 49, of Clyde, Robyn Moriarty, 62, of Clyde and originally from Maryland, and Jason Brunner, 42, of Maryland.

This continues to be an active and ongoing investigation and to protect the integrity of this case no further details can be released at this time.

The FBI confirmed that the shooting left the suspect deceased, but no other information was released as of press time.

The FBI investigates all officer-involved shootings on Cherokee land.

Embrace the ideals America stands for

Iknow that many people are so upset with the state of politics and division in our country that they struggled with the idea of celebrating the Fourth of July this year. Patriotism is and always has been a slippery and problematic thing. We’ll get back to that.

Let’s start with this: America is as much an idea as it is a place. I would argue that it is even more so an idea — or a set of ideals — enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which is these days much discussed but little understood.

To understand America is to understand an immutable truth: we have never lived up to these ideals, and yet we have aspired to live up to them and made sure, but jagged progress, toward reaching them.

We live in this tension, which began with the same man who authored the Declaration, a radical document that proposed that all men are created equal. Jefferson was a man who elsewhere wrote passionately about the stain of slavery while during his lifetime owning over 600 slaves.

He was a man who is commonly believed to be a Christian but who was instead a Deist, one who actually rewrote the Bible, removing all of Jesus’ miracles and the story of the Resurrection. Jefferson believed that religion was a private and personal matter between an individual and the creator. His relationship to it was complex, to say the least.

Here’s something else. Jefferson was a genius and a founding father, but he was also a hypocrite and a deeply flawed man. Ironically, so are many pivotal characters in the Bible. We live in this tension between what we are and what we aspire to be. We always have and we still do.

What feels different now is that a large segment of the country has abandoned fealty to these ideals in favor of unwavering loyalty to one man, a man who has over and over demonstrated through his deeds and actions an absolute contempt for these same ideals, a man who references with regularity both the Constitution and the Bible without even the slightest indication that he has ever read, much less under-

stood, a single word in either.

Let’s be clear and specific. What Donald Trump did after losing the election was to attempt a coup d’etat. He not only refused to accept the results of the election, he actively and aggressively attempted to overturn it. There is little one can imagine that is more unconstitutional than that.

Worse still, the Supreme Court judges that he appointed joined with other Republican-appointed judges and ruled this week that the President of the United States has immunity from any action under the sun as long as it is performed in his or her “official” capacity.

To further complicate matters, “official” actions are not clearly defined and will be left for the court to decide, meaning that what one president may be able to get away with could be different from another president, since it will be up to the court to determine what falls under the purview of official and unofficial actions.

As even the most casual student of American history knows, the Supreme Court has gotten it wrong many, many times, throughout our history, but this ruling puts us in a very dangerous and unprecedented place, not to mention a place that is not just in tension with Constitutional ideals, but in direct opposition to them. It effectively undermines the proposition that no one in America is above the law.

What the Supreme Court has done with this ruling is to fashion a throne for a king in the United States of America, seemingly forgetting that we already fought a war over this. The very idea that a man as feckless, corrupt and casually cruel as Donald Trump might sit on this throne with total immunity for whatever he chooses to do should send chills down the spine of every American, regardless of party affiliation.

Lessons learned in the wilderness

My last column was written just before I returned from Wilderness Trail. I’m not sure what propelled me to sign up for this adventure, other than I felt it was time to challenge myself. I’m here today to tell you that spending four nights/five days in the woods of southwest Virginia, disconnecting with everyday life and reconnecting with the natural world and my own inner guide, was very good for my soul.

Although we were in the literal wilderness, this experience also nudged us into the metaphorical wilderness, that spiritual space that’s expansive and welcoming, the space which opens our souls to compassion, creativity and new possibilities. While my body put one foot in front of the other along the earthen ground, my mind and heart were doing their own thing.

To begin with, I realized that living in the pres-

ent is truly a glorious gift. We all cognitively know that being more mindful is the best way to live, but to actually do it is easier said than done. When backpacking, you can only focus on the next thing, even if that’s simply not tripping on rocks or roots, keeping up with the group or tightening a strap on your pack. Then once you get to the campsite, you immediately set up camp, organize materials, prepare to cook food or find a bathroom. Additionally, being disconnected from the noise and overstimulation of regular life helps a person more easily live in the moment. It’s easier to enjoy the natural beauty and lean into sensations such as the breeze across your skin or the sound of birds. I read that boredom can stimulate the production of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter in our brain, but we so rarely let ourselves be bored these days that we forget how beneficial it can be. When backpacking, there is a chunk of time where a person can feel “bored,” but this is when the deep conversations happen, laughter explodes or creativity emerges.

On trail I was also reminded that we need so little. When carrying everything on your back, you have to be strategic about what and how you pack

This is a petty tyrant, a vindictive man who not only stoked the fires for the January 6 attack on the Capitol but has called the participants in that attack “hostages” and promised to set them free if he is elected, along with threatening reprisals against a whole host of his “enemies.”

With our system of checks and balances no longer in place, what is to stop him?

This is what: the American people. It is we who must overcome our despair and cynicism and rise up to meet this threat head on with all the strength and force that is necessary. We must all remember that our loyalty is not to a party or to a politician but to an idea, that all men and women are created equal, that no one is above the law, that we can again unite for the greater good and heal this terrible rift in our country that divides us.

I think most of us, except for the most ardent Trump supporters, would agree that we need two better candidates than we have now. I think most of us would agree that we ought to be able to afford a home in our own hometowns. I think most of us would agree that “live and let live” is still a pretty solid proposition. I think most of us would even agree that the twoparty system is broken and needs to be fixed.

There is much that still unites us, much that we can agree, a real foundation to rebuild on. But cruelty and misinformation have been normalized over the past eight years (and it really goes back further than that). Patriotism has been distorted and has become an intoxicant, an excuse to despise fellow Americans.

We have about five months to get our act together. I can’t bring myself to consider too deeply the alternative.

In the meantime, I urge those in despair to embrace the flag as a symbol for those ideals, freedom and equality for all, no one above the law in these United States of America. The flag belongs to you. Remember that. Because America is still an idea as much as it is a place.

(Chris Cox is a writer and teacher who lives in Haywood County.

it. I didn’t care what I was wearing as long as I was mostly dry. I certainly didn’t wear makeup nor was I concerned with my hair. When functioning in the real world, it’s easy to be overly concerned with appearances and believe more stuff equals more happiness, but in fact, the opposite is true. The more possessions we have to manage, the more suffocated we can feel. I was reminded of this routinely while out in the wilderness.

Part of the mystique of Wilderness Trail is that you’re with people you may not know very well, and there was something really cool about that. When hiking or backpacking with family or close friends, we often talk about the same things we’d talk about in our living rooms or at the dining room table. Being with relative strangers requires you to stretch your social skills and curiosity, and sometimes you or they become more vulnerable and open because there’s less judgment with two people who don't know each other and aren’t affected by the other’s choices. The defensive nature that often exists in everyday life is stripped away when you’re all collectively surviving together in the wilderness.

There was a rainstorm one night while we were in a campsite on a mountaintop. During a break in the rain, one of the girls in my tent needed to find a bathroom. As we stepped out, there were eight or nine wild ponies highlighted under a bright moon. If another person hadn't seen it with me, I would’ve thought it an illusion or part of a dream. It was truly one of the most magical scenes I may ever experience. When I reflect upon this backpacking trip, there is one overarching emotion. Whether it was joking with fellow hikers, frolicking in a chilly creek, patching blisters during a snack break, listening to the comforting cadence of our feet, falling into deep conversation or seeing horses in the moonlight, I will forever look back on my first Wilderness Trail experience with unbridled gratitude.

(Susanna Shetley is a writer, editor and digital media specialist.

There were other lessons learned on trail, but I only have so much space in this column. To try and sum it up, the experience was refreshing, relaxing and challenging all at the same time. I walked away feeling very proud of myself. When we were registering the kids this year, my inner voice told me to sign myself up as well. I’ve been trying to really listen to those nudges because life is zooming by and I don’t want to look back with a lot of “I shouldas” and “wish I wouldas.” I’ve learned that something can feel scary and foreign while also feeling exciting and right.

Chris Cox
Susanna Shetley

Straddling the line between neotraditional and progressive bluegrass, Liam Purcell & Cane Mill Road are a fiercely ambitious and purposely elusive melodic force to be reckoned with in the live music scene of Western North Carolina and beyond.

“I think a lot of it has to do with the amount of expression that acoustic string instruments possess. There’s so much you can do with a four-piece bluegrass group and so many different sounds you can get out of it,” Purcell said. “I find myself thinking less and less about genres, but I also like the bluegrass and Americana world because of the community around it.”

Formed in Deep Gap, also the home turf of the late guitar icon Doc Watson, Cane Mill Road has been rapidly rising through the ranks. With Purcell on mandolin, the band also includes fiddler Ella Jordan, guitarist Rob McCormac, bassist Jacob Smith and banjoist Zack Vickers. As of late, the group resides in Nashville, Tennessee.

A conversation with Liam Purcell

“I started Cane Mill Road out of my love for music and the desire to perform onstage,” Purcell said. “I first put the group together in 2014 and we’ve been playing consistently ever since. Over the first couple years we played locally, then regionally, then started to gig nationally.”

Beyond an appearance early in the band’s career on “David Holt’s State of Music” series on PBS, the outfit has also received several nominations from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), including “Momentum Band of the Year” and “Momentum Instrumentalist of Year” nods.

“There were also a couple years where we just hammered the touring schedule, taking almost every gig that came in so we could build our fan base and develop a reputation,” Purcell said. “And it was really hard to do all

185 King Street

It was just about five years ago when Madeline Magin and her husband, Cody Noble, decided to take the plunge on a longtime dream by opening Noblebrau Brewing in Brevard. The endeavor also included taking over the storied 185 King St. music venue/restaurant housed in the building.

“Our goal is to provide an amazing experience to people — to come and play, and to come and listen,” Magin said. “We want everyone to enjoy the beautiful music of our local artists and

With Cane Mill Road’s 2016 release, “Five Speed,” the album debuted at #9 on the Billboard Bluegrass Album Chart, an impressive feat for such a new group. Earlier this year, Cane Mill Road released its latest album, “Yellow Line,” to acclaim in Americana and bluegrass circles.

“As far as the steps and decisions that led us to where we are, I think original material was a large part of it,” Purcell said. “There are so many bands rehashing the same traditional material that we wanted to stand out and express ourselves through writing.”

In 2019, Cane Mill Road released a live album, “Let’s All Do Some Living,” with that

national touring groups. We’re constantly doing our best to uphold those two goals and continue to grow in the process.”

And in the time since, 185 King St. and the brewery have quickly become a highly sought-after beacon of music, culinary delights and genuine connectivity in the small mountain town — this beehive of commerce, culture and community.

“And it’s the local people who really appreciate having that option to either be inside or outside for a show — it’s them who keep coming and supporting us, who ensure our survival as a business,” Magin said.

“The biggest thing that bluegrass has going for it right now is that almost every band is playing their music because they love it,” Purcell said. “It isn’t like pop music, where an artist gets handed lyrics and a backing track.”

To note, in 2022, Purcell roared through the RockyGrass Instrumental Championships in Colorado, ultimately becoming the only musician to ever win first-place simultaneously in the highly skilled mandolin, banjo and guitar competitions.

“Bluegrass and other traditional music is going through another big resurgence in interest,” Purcell said. “It’s still very hard to make a living on the professional level, but there’s a

tion of modern bands, which is bringing new fans to the style.”

But, even with the musical lines blurred by Cane Mill Road, whether consciously or subconsciously, the tone and textures radiating from the quintet is something to behold. It’s a sound that has echoes of the past, but also of what lies ahead — the future of string music seemingly now in good hands.

“Some bands are playing traditional styles really well and people love it. And some bands are taking progressive to the limit and people love that, too,” Purcell said. “Bluegrass is a genre where live performance still matters most — and that’s a wonderful thing.”

Want to go?

Americana/bluegrass act Liam Purcell & Cane Mill Road will hit the stage at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 18, at 185 King St. in Brevard. Doors open at 4 p.m. Tickets are $7 per person, with two-top tables and couches also available for seated reservation.

For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to and go to the “Events” tab.

Liam Purcell & Cane Mill Road will play Brevard July 18. File photo

This must be the place

‘I’m headed for the Bozeman Round and it’s goodbye to Old Missoula, sleepy town’

Hello from 26,982 feet above Southern Appalachia. Somewhere near southeastern Kentucky. En route to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Over an hour flight delay leaving the Asheville airport. Ground speed is 539 miles per hour. About 760 miles to our destination. One hour and 41 minutes left before touchdown in the Twin Cities.

It’s Sunday evening. And while many folks I know are either relaxing on their couches, prepping work for tomorrow or nursing their Saturday night hangovers — all of which slowly gearing up for the transition into Monday morning — here I am, Seat 24D. Overhead lights have been dimmed. Headrests screens glow with whatever film, TV show or live broadcast we desire.

Since my credit card wasn’t able to connect properly with the Delta inflight Wi-Fi purchase, I’m currently offline, typing away this here column. It’s due tomorrow morning. Might as well hunker down and let the ole fingertips roll along the keyboard and see what may get conjured from the high skies over “The Bluegrass State.”

With no access at the moment to my Spotify account, I suppose I must dig into whatever remains on my very outdated and rarely used Apple music account. Thankfully, there’s some live recordings I downloaded years ago of the now-defunct indie/jazz instrumental trio That Toga Band, formerly based in Burlington, Vermont.

The group was fronted by my high school buddy, Tom, when he was attending the University of Vermont. Circa 2004. We were just 19 or so, but quickly assimilating into adulthood or whatever it was, this rough semblance of a life solely constructed by ourselves for the first time with parents or authority figures saying otherwise.

I haven’t listened to the recordings in a long time. But, I’m immediately taken back to that time and place when I’d be back home from college in Connecticut for the holidays or spring break, when I’d leave my hometown of Rouses Point, New York, and motor over the Lake Champlain bridge to nearby Burlington. In those days, I’d crash on Tom’s couch or the hardwood floor of his quaint apartment a few blocks from Church Street and the heart of downtown Burlington. Midnight shenanigans in cozy New England dive bars. Heavy snowflakes of Christmastime cascading down upon the city. Strings of lights across foggy windows. Hearty conversations about what the future might hold. Fingers crossed. Images of this trip now in progress, in joyous motion from Waynesville to Whitefish, Montana. A trip of business and pleasure, all

while working from the road remotely for this fine publication. Whitefish. Oh, beautiful Whitefish, the land of crystal blue waters, ancient forests and seemingly never-ending blood-orange sunsets.

I’m heading there on assignment for Rolling Stone. Covering the massive Under the Big Sky music festival. Featuring some of the biggest names in Americana and country music, it’ll be my second year in attendance. But, more so, it’s about the adventure, this culmination of thoughts, plans and actions in regards to this trip that have been mulled over for months behind my writing desk.

There’s just something about Montana that makes my heart and soul yearn for it. Ever since I first stepped foot in Big Sky Country when I was seven years old on a family road trip to Glacier National Park, the landscape and its inhabitants happily haunt my dreams.

And this genuine, tightly-held relationship with Montana has remained within my restless existence throughout my life. Between youthful excursions and later working in the Rocky Mountains in Eastern Idaho as a rookie journalist following college graduation in 2007, I’ve ventured to Montana continually, this latest go-round another unwritten chapter unfolding in real time.

Once again, my girlfriend, Sarah, is riding co-pilot. As it stands, the road trip route will be Interstate 94 from Minnesota through North Dakota into Montana, pressing the gas pedal down westward along I-90 through Billing, Bozeman, Butte and Missoula, then an abrupt turn north by Flathead Lake to Whitefish.

It dawned on me that the last time I wandered through North Dakota was September 2008. I was 23 years old and had just left my rookie reporting gig at the Teton Valley News due to hitting my head on the ceiling of the publication. And I thought maybe I’d try my luck back in my native North Country of Upstate New York.

Truth-be-told, the exact day I packed up and left Eastern Idaho was the same damn day Wall Street began to crumble into financial ruin. And all in the middle of an upcoming presidential election, not to mention war raging in the Middle East and tensions across the globe. Nothing’s the same, everything’s the same, as they say.

I remember driving across Wyoming into Montana and then through North Dakota. Below is an excerpt from my dusty road journals:

“Sept. 13, 2008: Highway 12. Western North Dakota. Across the Powder River. Infamous Midwestern rainstorm overhead. Dark clouds and dime-sized raindrops swallowed the horizon.

The desolate route resulted in a cattle run blocking my path. Ranchers, straight out of a Marlboro advertisement, rustling up their crop. They ventured by my field of vision,



A special production of “Footloose” will hit the stage at 7:30 p.m. July 11-13, 18-19, 25-27 and 2 p.m. July 14, 20-21 and 28 at the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville.


The annual “Concerts on the Creek” music series will host classic rock/pop act Tuxedo Junction at 7 p.m. Friday, July 12, at Bridge Park in downtown Sylva.


Boojum Brewing (Waynesville) will host 5000LB Tractor (rock/jam) at 9 p.m. Saturday, July 13.


Marianna Black Library (Bryson City) will host Granny’s Mason Jar (Americana) at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 11.


The Folkmoot “Summer Fundraising Soirée” will take place from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, July 11, at the Folkmoot Friendship Center in Waynesville. j

ultimately through the river and into the endless fields. Faces anonymous under low brimmed hats. Jackets held tightly through the numbing Canadian winds from the north.

Dusty downtowns, empty lots and mangy dogs dotted the forgotten stretch of potholelaced pavement. I crossed the state line at Plevna. Obscure red dirt roads branching off to nowhere. Crosses seemingly every few miles memorializing recent tragedies and loved ones lost long ago.

Crept into Marmarth, a town of complete abandonment on the open range. Scratchy AM radio stations broadcasting religious fervor or the prospects of the local football team in the state playoffs. Gravel streets and cracked foundations of businesses once proudly owned and operated. The winds howled through the empty avenues and streets. Leaves tumbling into the corners of the community. Birds chirping above. Mystic Theater all shuttered up.

Stopped for a beer at the Pastime Bar & Steakhouse. Jukebox filled with Hank Williams, George Jones, Buck Owens and Jim Reeves. The good stuff.

Oil derricks. Wind turbines. Sunflower fields. Ice-cream scoops of dirt on the barren landscape surrounding the bright lights of Lady Luck situated on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

The sun ducked behind never-ending cornfields through northwestern South Dakota. Johnny Cash echoed out the radio. Long stretches of nonexistent humanity. Zigzagging roadways. Beady eyed sheriff deputies setting their sights on my unknown vehicle barreling down Route 83 — the ‘Road to Nowhere.’

Moonlight reflects off the soon-to-be harvested land like a silent pond during a quiet Massachusetts winter. Motel in Plankinton, South Dakota, around midnight.”

Life is beautiful, grasp for it y’all.

On the beat

‘An Appalachian Evening’

The “An Appalachian Evening” series will continue with a performance by The Jeff Little Trio at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 20, in the Lynn L. Shields Auditorium at the Stecoah Valley Center in Robbinsville.

The annual summer concert series offers an ever-changing schedule of bluegrass, folk and old-time mountain music by award-winning artists — quality entertainment for the entire family.

Rich in cultural heritage, the series continues to be a favorite with locals and visitors alike. The concert will be held in the airconditioned Lynn L. Shields Auditorium.

The piano rarely plays a prominent part

‘Concerts on the Creek’

in Appalachian or Americana music and is seldom the lead instrument. Jeff Little is an exception — and a remarkable one.

His distinctive two-handed style, much influenced by the mountain flat-picked guitar tradition, is breathtaking in its speed, precision and clarity. In 2014, Little was inducted into the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $10 for students grade K-12. Dinner will also be available for purchase in the Schoolhouse Cafe starting at 6 p.m.

For more information and/or to purchase tickets, call 828.479.3364 or go to

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/pop act Tuxedo Junction will hit the stage at 7 p.m. Friday, July 12, at Bridge Park in downtown Sylva.

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

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

• Blue Ridge Beer Hub (Waynesville) will host 8Trk Cadillac July 13. 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, 5000LB Tractor (rock/jam) July 13 and Brother Fat July 20. All shows are located in The Gem downstairs taproom and begin at 9 p.m. unless otherwise noted. 828.246.0350 /

• Calvary Road Baptist Church (Maggie Valley) will host Haywood Community Band 6:30 p.m. July 21. Free and open to the public. Donations encouraged, with proceeds helping support music camps and college scholarships for students.

• Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center (Franklin) will host “Open Mic Night” 6 p.m. July 12 and Buncombe Turnpike (Americana/bluegrass) 6 p.m. July 27. 828.369.4080 /

• Farm At Old Edwards (Highlands) will host the “Orchard Sessions” w/ Matt Rogers (singer-songwriter) Aug. 15. All shows begin at 6 p.m. 866.526.8008 /

• Frog Level Brewing (Waynesville) will host Sugar Bomb (funk/jazz) July 11, Muddier Guthrie July 12, The Log Noggins (rock) July 13, Simple Folk Quartet (Americana) 3 p.m. July 14, Adrianne Blanks & The Oracles July 18, The Hi-Hearts July 19, Tuxedo Junction (oldies/pop) July 20 and Syrrup 3 p.m. July 21. All shows begin at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.454.5664 /

• Frog Quarters (Franklin) will host live music from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays w/Ron & Bari (Americana/folk) July 13 and Jim Austin’s Classic Country Band (Americana/country) July 20. Free and open to the public. Located at 573 East Main Street. 828.369.8488 /

writer) 8:30 p.m. July 25 ($45 per person). 828.526.2590 /

• Highlands Performing Arts Center will host Quartet For The End Of Time 5 p.m. July 20. 828.526.9047 /

• Innovation Brewing (Sylva) will host “Monday Night Trivia” every week, “Open Mic w/Phil” Wednesdays, Nate Coffey (singer-songwriter) July 13 and Andrew Danner (singer-songwriter) July 20. 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 Scott Stambaugh (singer-songwriter) July 20. All shows begin at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.349.2337 /

• Lazy Hiker Brewing (Sylva) will host “Music Bingo” 6:30 p.m. Mondays, The Waymores (Americana) July 12 and Scott Stambaugh (singer-songwriter) July 19. All shows begin at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.349.2337 /

• Marianna Black Library (Bryson City) will host a “Community Music Jam” 6 p.m. on the first and third Thursday of each month, Granny’s Mason Jar (Americana) 7 p.m. July 11 and Kelli Dodd (Americana/country) July 25. Free and open to the public. All musicians and music lovers are welcome. 828.488.3030 /

• Mountain Layers Brewing (Bryson City) will host “Open Mic Night” w/Frank Lee every Wednesday and Terry Haughton (singersongwriter) July 12. All shows begin at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public. 828.538.0115 /

Marianna goes Americana

A regional Americana/bluegrass act, Granny’s Mason Jar will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 11, at the Marianna Black Library in Bryson City.

Following in the footsteps of Doc Watson, Norman Blake, Clarence White and Tony Rice, Granny’s Mason Jar brings together the talents of Jared “Blue” Smith (The Blue Revue, Bluegrass Lumber Company) and Aaron Plantenberg (Commonfolk, Big House Radio) — the duo continuing the tradition of flatpicking and other traditional acoustic guitar styles. Free and open to the public. For more information, call 828.488.3030 or go to

• Happ’s Place (Glenville) will host Kayla McKinney (singer-songwriter) July 11, Blue Jazz (blues/jazz) July 12, Doug Ramsey (singer-songwriter) July 13, Kayla McKinney (singer-songwriter) July 18, Macon County Line July 19, The Remnants July 20 and Doug Ramsey (singer-songwriter) July 22. All shows begin at 6 p.m. Free and open to the public. 828.742.5700 /

• Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort (Cherokee) will host Buddy Guy (blues/rock) 7:30 p.m. July 27.

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

• Nantahala Outdoor Center (Nantahala Gorge) will host Christina Chandler (Americana/ folk) 3 p.m. July 11, Eddie Clayton (singer-songwriter) 5 p.m. July 12, Shane Meade (indie/ folk) 2 p.m. July 13, Eddie Clayton (singersongwriter) 5 p.m. July 13, Blue (Americana) 2 p.m. July 14, Cynthia McDermott (singersongwriter) 3 p.m. July 18, Whitney Monge (soul/rock) 5 p.m. July 19, Terry H. (singersongwriter) 2 p.m. July 20, Beer & Loathing (rock/funk) 5 p.m. July 20 and Blue (Americana) 2 p.m. July 21. Free and open to the public. 828.785.5082 /

• Pickin’ In The Park (Canton) will host Running Wolfe (band) & Mountain Tradition (dancers) July 12 and Hill Country (band) & Southern Appalachian (dancers) July 19. Shows are 69 p.m. at the Canton Rec Park located at 77 Penland Street. Free and open to the public.

• Pickin’ On The Square (Franklin) will host The Remnants (rock/pop) July 13 and Run Katie Run (Americana/country) July 27. All

Granny’s Mason Jar will play Bryson City July 11. File photo
Jeff Little Trio will play Stecoah July 20. File photo

On the beat

shows begin at 6 p.m. at the Gazebo in downtown. Free and open to the public.

• Rathskeller Coffee Haus & Pub (Franklin) will host Karaoke 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Trivia Night 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Phillip John (singer-songwriter) 7 p.m. July 13, Michael Kitchens (singer-songwriter) 7 p.m. July 19 and Robby Craig & The Late Bloomers (Americana) 7 p.m. July 20. Free and open to the public. 828.369.6796 /

• Santé Wine Bar (Sylva) will host Syrrup July 14 and Mountain Gypsy (Americana) July 21. All shows begin at 5 p.m. Free and open to the public. 828.631.3075 /

• Saturdays On Pine (Highlands) will host Dive Bar Divas (pop/soul) July 13 and Lazrluvr July 20 at Kelsey-Hutchinson Park on Pine Street. All shows begin at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public.

• Scotsman (Waynesville) will host Hanna & Madge (Americana) July 11, Phil Thomas (Americana/rock) July 18 and Jackson Grimm & The Bull Moose Party (Americana/folk) July 20. All shows begin at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted. Free and open to the public.

On the wall

Experience ‘Textures’ at Haywood Arts

828.246.6292 /

• Stecoah Valley Center (Robbinsville) will host a Community Jam 5:30-7:30 p.m. every third Thursday of the month, Rick Faris (singersongwriter) July 13 ($20 adults, $10 students) and Jeff Little Trio (Americana/indie) July 20 ($25 adults, $10 students). All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. unless otherwise noted. 828.479.3364 /

• Unplugged Pub (Bryson City) will host Karaoke w/Lori (free) July 11, Switchback July 12, Rich Manz Trio (oldies/acoustic) July 13, Cliff Williamson July 17 (free), Blue (Americana/bluegrass) July 18 (free), Blackwater Station July 19 and Carolina Freightshakers (classic rock/country gold) July 20. All shows are $5 at the door unless otherwise noted and begin at 8 p.m. 828.538.2488 /

• Yonder Community Market (Franklin) will host Jim Austin Classic Country Band (Americana/country) 6:30 p.m. every first and third Thursday of the month (free) and Will Kimbrough (singer-songwriter) 4 p.m. July 28 ($20 suggested donation). Admission by encouraged donation unless otherwise noted as a ticketed event. Family friendly, dog friendly. 828.200.2169 /

• Find more at

The Haywood County Arts Council’s (HCAC) latest exhibit, “Textures,” will run through Sept. 1 at the HCAC gallery on Main Street in downtown Waynesville.

Showcasing a rich tapestry of artistic mediums including ceramics, woodwork, felt, mosaic, fabric, macrame, collage and more, this diversified exhibition promises to have something for every art enthusiast. For more information, visit

• Dillsboro Art Walk will be held from 2-7 p.m. Saturday, July 20, along Front Street in downtown Dillsboro. Throughout the town, talented artists will be stationed in front of participating merchants, transforming sidewalks into open-air studios. From cozy restaurants to boutique stores, each venue offers a unique backdrop for artistic exploration. Free and open to the public.

• 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 (MayDecember) 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 (May-December) 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

The popular Chamber Music Society of the Carolinas (CMSC) will perform at 4 p.m. July 14, 21 and 28 at First United Methodist Church in Waynesville.

Featuring the Jasper String Quartet, Tesla Quartet and other talented special guests, performances are creative, joyful, up-close and intimate.

“It’s music that transcends sitting in your seat,” said J Freivogel, founding and current first violinist of the Jasper String Quartet. “Experience the thrilling nature of live performance during the CMSC concerts. Come hear top-notch musicians and see their craft up close. Watch the way they create — and hear the musical ‘conversation’ between instruments.”

Single tickets are $30, with season tickets $100. Students will be admitted free. Donations to the CMSC can be made online and are appreciated to support these performances.

For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to Tickets are also available at the door by cash/check.

ALSO: Chamber music returns to Waynesville

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jasper String Quartet will play in Waynesville in July. Donated photo
Works by Lori Axelrod will be displayed at HCAC. Donated photo

On the stage On the street

• Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts (Franklin) will host a special stage production of “Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at 7 p.m. July 12-13 and 19-20. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, call 866.273.4615 or 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

HART to present


‘Footloose’ will play on select dates in July at HART. Donated photo

A special production of “Footloose” will hit the stage at 7:30 p.m. July 11-13, 18-19, 25-27 and 2 p.m. July 14, 20-21 and 28 at the Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville.

This high-energy musical promises to ignite the stage with unforgettable performances, classic 1980s hits and a compelling story of youthful rebellion and the quest for freedom.

In the small town of Bomont, dancing and loud music are forbidden and the joy of youth is stifled by rigid conformity. Enter Ren McCormack, a spirited teenager from Chicago, who challenges the oppressive norms and ignites a movement that changes the town forever.

Under the direction of HART’s talented team, “Footloose” explores themes of individuality, expression and the transformative power of art.

“‘Footloose’ is not just a nostalgic romp through the neon-lit streets of the 80s,” said HART Artistic Director & Director of Footloose Candice Dickinson. “It’s a testament to the enduring power of art to transcend boundaries and spark revolutions. At its core, Footloose is a rallying cry for individuality, expression and the relentless pursuit of freedom.”

With a cast of 37 performers ranging from seasoned HART veterans to fresh faces making their stage debut, audiences can expect powerhouse performances of iconic 1980’s anthems such as “Holdin’ Out for a Hero,” “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” “Almost Paradise” and “Footloose.”

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 Street in Waynesville.

Ready for Folkmoot’s ‘Summer Soirée’?

The Folkmoot ‘Summer Soirée’ will return to Waynesville July 11. Donated photo

The Folkmoot “Summer Fundraising Soirée” will take place from 7-9 p.m. Thursday, July 11, at the Folkmoot Friendship Center in Waynesville.

At the Summer Soirée, you will have the chance to indulge in a variety of culturally inspired cuisines from different parts of the world. From savory dishes to sweet treats, there will be something for everyone to enjoy.

To top it off, everyone will receive a drink ticket to complement your culinary adventure. As you savor your food, you can tap your feet to live music from local artists and immerse yourself in five culturally inspired rooms.

Patrons will also have the opportunity to participate in a second online auction with unique oneof-a-kind items and experiences up for bid.

Proceeds from this event will help support the future of Folkmoot and its mission to celebrate many cultures and champion arts, education, creative entrepreneurship and tradition.

Tickets are $50 per person. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, go to


legends, lore at Macon Library

A program on Cherokee culture will be presented at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 17, at the Macon County Public Library in Franklin.

Bill Dyar, an educator and lifelong student of Native American culture, will share stories based on Cherokee legends and lore. He will show and demonstrate artifacts and implements in this interactive program geared to youth under age 12. Adults are also welcome to attend. Dyar is a retired Macon County Public Schools teacher, coach and school principal. He

was a teacher/coach of the Tsali Lodge (Western North Carolina’s chapter of the Boy Scout’s Order of the Arrow) four-time national awardwinning Historic Group Dance Team. Produced by the Arts Council, this event is part of the library’s Summer Reading Program. Free and open to the public.

For more information, call the library at 828.524.3600, the Arts Council of Macon County at 828.524.ARTS or email

Dealing with loss, grief, and the balm of love

On the first Saturday of June, my friend John and I were just leaving McKay Used Books in Manassas, Virginia, when I spotted a woman young enough to be my granddaughter seated at a table topped by a couple of piles of books. Having selfpublished five books myself and having hosted author signings for others in my days as a bookseller, I instantly connected with this scene. Before me was a writer who’d doubtless put heart and soul into words on a page, and had gotten up the nerve to share what she had discovered with sidewalk strangers.

One part of “Tethered” that I found amusing as well as educational was Wicka’s portrayal of Cindy Davis, Dani’s mother, a woman of affluence accustomed to getting her way. As Dani says of her life as an only child, “My mother always controlled everything I did when I was growing up. I’m con-

Her name was Aryn Wicka, and her novel, as she explained to me when I inquired, belonged to the genre of romance. Though Nicholas Sparks is about as close as I come to reading that category of fiction, on a whim born of sympathy I purchased a copy of “Tethered” (Mascot Books, 2022, 272 pages).

The story begins with the funeral of Joel Stephensen, a mechanic and husband to Danielle, or Dani as she is called. Their relatively short marriage ends when Joel, an alcoholic and a drug addict, crashes his car, killing not only himself but a teenage driver in the accident. At the funeral we meet Joel’s older brother, Nathan, a middle-school teacher. As we quickly learn, Nathan is much more grounded in his concern for others than Joel ever was. It’s also at the funeral that we receive the first hints of his strong feelings for Dani.

As Dani recovers from her initial shock and grief over Joe’s death, we learn more about her past, how she met Joel at the restaurant where she works, details about him and his family, and details as well about Dani’s strained relationship with her helicopter mother, Cindy, and her emotionally distant father, Greg. We meet Chantal, Dani’s best friend who also works at the restaurant, a 77-year-old customer, Phyllis, whose wisecracks contain a good bit of wisdom, and some of Nathan’s friends, including the despicable lowlife, Paul.

With the passage of time, the affection Nathan has so long felt for his brother’s widow becomes mutual. Dani tries tamping down her feelings for Nathan, mostly because she’s afraid that any connection beyond friendship might scandalize others. Once they do begin dating, Dani insists they keep their relationship a secret, which soon becomes a major source of contention between them. Later in the story, we learn that Nathan has also kept a secret from Dani, which when revealed nearly destroys her love for him.

Now, for some specifics.

genre of romance fiction.

But maybe there’s a better way of depicting intimacy and love. In his novel “A Soldier of the Great War,” for instance, Mark Helprin describes the reunion of Alessandro, an aristocrat and ex-soldier, with the love of his life, Ariane, after a long search has brought them together again. He holds his lover in his arms, naked from her bath, her towel fallen away, their infant son clinging to her as she weeps, overcome with amazement and joy. That scene is as sensuous as any written in literature.

vinced she didn’t really want a daughter as much as she wanted a doll.” For most of the novel, Cindy offers only snark and criticism to her daughter, and so serves as a prime example to grandparents and to parents of grown children of how not to behave. As a father of four married children, and grandfather to a busload of kids ages one to 18, I confess I have many times inserted my foot into my mouth while blathering advice. Unintentionally or not, Wicka reminds us that moderation and restraint go a long way toward maintaining peace between the generations.

Then there are the sex scenes, which puzzled me at first as I wasn’t sure what Wicka intended by them. In both film and literature, most sexual encounters either get in the way of the plot, sometimes humorously so, or act as cheap titillation for the audience. Curious, I explored a bit online and stumbled across an article “Ask the Editor — Sex Scenes in a Romance Novel.” According to editor and writer Shelley Thrasher, descriptive accounts of two people hitting the sheets are highly recommended for the

To be fair, in the case of Dani and Nathan, Wicka may have intended her descriptions of their passion as a comment on their relationship. Most of the bedroom scenes between the two involve makeup sex, a reconciliation after yet another misunderstanding. So perhaps Wicka’s point is that touch and flesh make for better apologies than frail words. Whatever the case, if Dani and Nathan continue their squabbling into old age, they will at least be assured of a lifetime of passionate lovemaking.

That quibble aside, here are the strengths of “Tethered.” Aryn Wicka has created vivid characters. She handles family dynamics well. Her description of Dani’s grief over Joel — not just his death, but the wreckage he brought to their marriage — feels real. Most importantly of all, Wicka kept me coming back to the book, eager to see what might happen next. To my mind, that’s key to any work of fiction worth reading.

Finally, the ending of “Tethered” delighted me. I won’t spoil that final scene for readers, but will only note that Wicka began her story with death and a funeral and concluded with joy and a celebration of life.

Aryn Wicka clearly has talent and knows the meaning of hard work. Put those two ingredients together, mix in a good dose of persistence, and we should expect that one day on that sidewalk table there will be two, three, four, and more books awaiting her fans and readers.

(Jeff Minick reviews books and has written four of his own: two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust On Their Wings,” and two works of nonfiction, “Learning As I Go” and “Movies Make the Man.”

Writer Jeff Minick

Word from the Smokies

Smokies cities make strides toward ensuring bear, human safety with new trash bins

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to an estimated 1,900 black bears — about two per square mile — with more than 14,500 of these iconic mammals roaming the four-state mountain region. Bears share their territory with increasing numbers of human neighbors, which can lead to conflict that turns dangerous for bears and people alike. Gateway communities around the park and initiatives like BearWise are working to address these issues, raising awareness among residents, visitors and businesses about best practices for wildlife conservation.

One such community, the City of Gatlinburg, recently committed $2.8 million to eliminate what had been a dependable smorgasbord for downtown bears. The city is distributing 460 bear-resistant dumpsters to the restaurants, hotels and other businesses spread through its urban core.

“Gatlinburg has eliminated a really large non-natural food source for these bears,” said Janelle Musser, black bear support biologist for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “So that’s really important, because that’s going to keep bears healthier in general, and it’s going to keep people safe too.”

Gatlinburg’s population has exploded dramatically in recent decades, whether tallied in terms of human residents, bears or visitors. Since the early 1990s, the population of black bears in Great Smoky Mountains National Park has roughly tripled, while the number of human residents in Sevier County, where Gatlinburg is located, has doubled. The short-term population has ballooned as well—the park recorded 63 percent more visits in 2023 than it did in 1990.

“That in and of itself is going to create more conflict,” Musser said.

Higher populations mean more chances for humans and bears to cross paths — and more trash luring bears into human communities.

The dumpster program rolling out this year aims to reduce those interactions. Implemented through a September 2023 ordinance from the Gatlinburg City Commission, the program provides $2.8 million for 460 bear-resistant dumpsters, which the city’s sanitation department is now distributing to its cus-

tomers. The city will own and maintain the dumpsters, while customers pay $75 each month for trash collection and maintenance. The switch will be complete by December 31, when the city will stop collecting trash from privately owned dumpsters.

The dumpsters are expensive — about $6,000 apiece — but with a functional design that latches automatically when the door is closed, they’ve proven effective.

“Those dumpsters really are working, and you can see that just by looking at them,” Musser said. “They are covered in muddy pawprints.”

Gatlinburg’s new dumpsters automatically latch in a manner that prevents bears from accessing them. The $2.8 million investment has had an immediate impact on bears’ ability to access human food in the city.

Gatlinburg is not the only Smokies city making strides to secure its garbage. In 2021, the City of Asheville launched a program offering its residents 95-gallon bear-resistant trash carts that automatically lock when the lid is closed. The program costs customers $10 per month with a minimum one-year commitment.

“They have proved so popular, there has been a rotating waiting list since the program was introduced,” said Kim Miller,

communications specialist for the city.

Asheville has distributed more than 1,800 carts so far, purchasing 340 more in 2024 and approving funding for an additional 340 carts in the new fiscal year. The city also works with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to pursue and test third-party options, such as straps to retrofit existing trash carts. Thanks to “in-house” ursine testers at the WNC Nature Center, the city determined that the straps are indeed able to withstand the bears’ attempts to overcome them.

“These locks provide residents with peace of mind knowing that their trash is secure and inaccessible to wildlife, helping to reduce potential conflicts and promote coexistence,” said Sanitation Division Manager Jes Foster.

Additionally, a free food scrap drop-off program operated in partnership with Buncombe County aims to reduce unwanted bear interactions while also cutting waste. It’s available in locations throughout Asheville and Buncombe County.

All these efforts seem to be making a difference. In 2020, the city received 182 bear-related complaints from its residents. In 2023, it logged only 28 such calls.

Keeping bears out of dumpsters may sound like a trivial goal, but it’s critical to preserving the health and safety of both people and bears. Most bears prefer natural foods, like acorns and berries, a much healthier diet than the leftover pizza slices and french fries they might find in a restaurant dumpster. Reliance on trash as a food source can have more immediate, deadly consequences. When bears learn to associate humans with food, they can become aggressive and dangerous—putting humans at risk, but also endangering the bear’s life by diminishing its natural fear of people. When such bears cause property damage and physical injury to people and pets as a result, wildlife professionals are forced to euthanize them.

“The dumpsters have been a huge improvement in guaranteeing that we can coexist with the bears, which is ultimately what everyone in Gatlinburg wants,” said Marlee Montgomery, facilitator for the Smokies BearWise task force.

Montgomery, who in addition to serving as president of the family business Montgomery Amusements is also on the board of directors for the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce, said that the business community seems pleased with the new dumpsters. Musser concurred, saying that restaurant managers she’s spoken with talked about “how fantastic it’s been not to have to clean up trash all the time.”

But the bears of Gatlinburg are used to finding their meals in town, and that expectation won’t change overnight. Thwarted by the new dumpsters, bears are likely to look for unsecured residential trash cans, outdoor grills, birdfeeders, and unlocked cars. Those sources are more hit-and-miss than the dependably full dumpsters, but preventing bears from accessing them is still vital to breaking their reliance on human food. While no hard data is yet available, Montgomery reported an anecdotal increase in bear activity at trash receptacles other than the dumpsters, a “very enlightening” finding pointing to the widespread participation needed to address the issue.

“We thought the main issue was the dumpsters, but in truth, it’s all of the trash,” she said.

Bear management is not a new domain for Gatlinburg’s government. The city has been partnering with TWRA since 1999 to reduce human-bear encounters within city limits. Over the following year, a city ordinance established a zone in which bear-resistant dumpsters and garbage cans were required and a TWRA rule prohibited intentional bear feeding in city limits, as well as within the Chalet Village North Subdivision. Since 2002, Gatlinburg and TWRA have split the cost of a bear management officer position, a trained TWRA wildlife officer who deals with conflict bear issues, educates citizens and visitors, conducts routine garbage can compliance checks, and guides city leaders on how to reduce bear attractants.

When bears learn to rely on unsecured garbage for food, they can become aggressive and dangerous, creating a risky situation for both bears and humans. Sarah Robinette photo
City of Gatlinburg photo

“The city has taken this very seriously for the better part of two, going on three decades,” said Seth Butler, director of operations and communications for the city.

In the past, relocating problem bears has been a go-to management tool for wildlife officials, but the numbers show that’s no longer a viable option. In 2020, for example, TWRA relocated 24 bears from Gatlinburg and euthanized nine, but its call volume for bear-related complaints didn’t change “one bit,” Musser said. Meanwhile, new research has shown that relocation is often a death sentence for bears — a study of 32 GPS-collared bears relocated between 2015 and 2021 showed that 62 percent were harvested, killed on roads or euthanized due to conflict with humans, while 22 percent simply returned to their original home.

Musser said she gets bear-related calls from “pretty much every part of Sevier County,” but Gatlinburg is an epicenter for these issues — in 2023, 14 of the 33 bears TWRA handled and 154 of the 1,230 bear-related calls it received were located there. Five of these bears were relocated, and nine were euthanized.

the same policies and ordinances.”

In response, the city passed the September 2023 ordinance, which in addition to establishing the dumpster program slightly expanded the zone in which these dumpsters must be used.

“We hope that taking the steps we’re taking of trying to be good stewards is going to be something that people can look at and say, ‘Gatlinburg did something good there, to not only make their town better but to make sure the bears are kept safe,’” Butler said.

Musser and Montgomery both applauded Gatlinburg’s efforts but said there is still more to be done to protect bears in the city. The next priority is to ensure that trash receptacles throughout the city are bear-resistant.

Gatlinburg’s location at the busiest entrance to America’s busiest national park, which also holds some of the best black bear habitat in the Appalachians, guarantees that humans and bears will continue to cross paths there. That’s why, when the Smokies BearWise task force relaunched in 2019, it focused its efforts on Gatlinburg. In January 2023, the task force wrote the city a letter requesting action.

Born weighing less than half a pound, black bear cubs typically remain with their mother for about 18 months before striking out on their own. Fred Shaw photo

“Now that the bears can’t find what they’re looking for in the dumpsters, they are much more eager to expand their boundaries,” Musser said.

“For human safety as well as economic stability, and to protect this iconic form of life in the Smokies, we need to stop the intentional and unintentional feeding of black bears in developed areas in park gateway communities,” the letter read. “We therefore request support from the City of Gatlinburg for cityand county-wide programs raising awareness and implementing bear-resistant garbage containers throughout Sevier County. With Gatlinburg leading the way, our hope is that other park gateway communities will adapt


Before advocating for new regulations, Smokies BearWise will explore funding options for trash can purchases. Bear-resistant products are expensive, and requiring their use without offering a program to defray the cost could impose financial hardship on Gatlinburg residents.

Managing interactions between the myriad bears and people flowing through Gatlinburg each day is a never-ending job, but the city is making progress — and leading the way. In May, the Tennessee Department of Transportation installed 80 bear-resistant trash cans along seven scenic byway routes, with 50 deployed to East Tennessee locations. The program is part of an ongoing effort to reduce roadside litter, which is also a magnet for bears.

“That was exciting to see,” Montgomery said. “I know there’s been some reluctance from the surrounding cities and counties to jump on board, but I really think that with what they’ve seen in Gatlinburg and how successful that’s been, the tide is changing.”

Holly Kays is the lead writer for the 29,000member Smokies Life, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the scientific, historical, and interpretive activities of Great Smoky Mountains National Park by providing educational products and services such as this column. Learn more at or reach the author at For more information about safety in bear country, visit

A black bear
out of a Jeep at Chalet Village in Gatlinburg. To prevent bears from breaking in to search for food, drivers should ensure their vehicles stay locked. S. J. Geis photo

Some areas of Western North Carolina are now in a moderate drought. From

Drought worsens throughout state, reaches WNC

With hot and dry conditions persisting across North Carolina, the North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council (DMAC) has expanded its drought classifications across the state, including in some Western North Carolina counties.

Some areas of the state are now classified as being in a severe drought, and parts of Buncombe, Transylvania, Jackson, Swain, Clay, Graham and Cherokee counties are now in a moderate drought. Groundwater and surface water reservoirs typically see higher demand for water during the summer, and the ongoing dry conditions could result in water restrictions. For counties in the D2 classification, the DMAC strongly encourages counties to consider implementing drought response actions, including the implementation of Water Shortage Response Plans, if not already enacted; to participate in regional coordination of water resources; and to eliminate nonessential uses of water, among other recommendations. Those can be found on the DMAC website.

This has been the driest June on record in many locations, according to data from the Southeast Regional Climate Center. It’s also the driest June on record statewide,according to the North Carolina State Climate Office.

LeConte now seeking concessions business

The National Park Service (NPS) issued a prospectus for a concessions contract to provide lodging, food, beverage and retail services at LeConte Lodge within Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Enjoy fitness opportunities in Bryson City

The Marianna Black Library in Bryson City has Fitness Classes each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Fitness is known to build strength and energy, help with focus and assist with weight loss. This program has cardio, stretching, strength training and is fun for participants. It is a workout that allows participants to go at their own speed with no pressure. The class is free and open to ages 16 an up.

Classes begin each day at 1 p.m. at the Marianna Black Library, located in Downtown Bryson City at the corner of Academy and Rector. For more information or driving directions please call the library 828.488.3030.

Highlands lecture on rare bird, habitat

The Highlands Biological Foundation (HBF) invites the community to the next installment of its Zahner Conservation Lecture series at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 18

The lecture, “Fire, Acorns, and Kids that Stay with You Way Too Long: A Natural History of the Threatened Florida Scrub Jay,” will be presented by Sahas Barve, the John W. Fitzpatrick Director of Avian Ecology at Archbold Biological Station. This event is free to attend.

of the Florida Scrub-Jay, a flagship species of the unique upland oak scrub habitats of Florida. Attendees will discover the intricate biology of this rare habitat, the captivating social dynamics of scrub-jays and the numerous threats these charismatic birds face. With his extensive background in avian ecology, Barve promises to provide an insightful and entertaining exploration of these remarkable birds and their environment.

LeConte Lodge, the only overnight lodging facility in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, lies just below Mount LeConte’s summit at 6,360 feet. Accessible only by foot or horseback, the lodge offers a unique experience for its guests.

The prospectus explains the business opportunity and the terms and conditions under which the NPS will award the 10-year concessions contract.   The NPS will hold a site visit for LeConte Lodge on July 11, 2024. Registration is required to attend the site visit. To register, please contact William Gordon, Interior Region 2 Concessions Management Specialist, at 470.445.0625 or

Barve will delve into the fascinating world

HBF’s Zahner lectures will be held at the Highlands Nature Center (930 Horse Cove Road) through Aug. 15th. To preview HBF’s full Zahner lecture lineup, please visit

Jackson County


Hunters host water races

The Jackson County Coon Hunters Association will host a pair of water races this weekend.

The event is open to anyone who has coon hounds.

All offers must be received by the NPS no later than 4 p.m. on Sept. 5, 2024.

The first race will be held the night of Friday, July 12. The deadline for registration for that race will be 9 p.m. that evening. The second race will be Saturday, July 13. The deadline for registration for that race will be 9 a.m. that morning. Following the Saturday race, there will be a bench show, the registration deadline for which is 10 a.m.

The registration fee for both races and the bench show is $20.

LeConte Lodge. File photo

Up Moses Creek

2 a.m.

Asudden, loud crack came through the open bedroom window, startling me out of sleep — “What was THAT?” Then came a cascade of pops and snaps that told me a tree was falling, a big tree, to judge by how long the noise lasted. Some tall wooden thing weighing many tons had just crashed.

I walked out with a flashlight but saw nothing lying in the yard. My light fell on our dog, Barnes. Seventeen years old and nearly deaf, he was curled up in his doghouse, asleep. Some guard dog!

Back inside, I saw that Becky was sleeping soundly too — although her hearing is good. Yesterday afternoon she’d set a box with summer clothes at the foot of the bed, planning to unpack it later. As I got back under the cover, she stirred enough to ask if I’d pushed it across the floor and made a noise. Some guard wife!

I found the toppled tree in the morning, a southern red oak (Quercus falcata). It was in the woods below the house. I knew that particular oak because deer bedded under it, leaving the shape of their forms in the dried leaves around the trunk. To be accurate, my eye was drawn first to where the familiar, sheltering oak no longer was (Quercus nada). The tree had been replaced by a single streak of white, looking like a blaze in the woods. The blaze turned out to be a head-tall splinter of fresh wood still attached to the roots, and it was the only part of the tree still standing. The rest of the tree — trunk and crown — stretched downhill from it in a tangle of branches and leaves on the ground.

The oak had risen 20 feet clear before it forked into two wide-spreading limbs. When the tree came down, the limbs had swept up smaller trees and a pitch pine, which snapped off about waist high. The drawn-out racket at 2 a.m. had

been an armful of trees being broken and uprooted. When a big tree falls, it takes the little ones in its path down with it.

A closer look told me the vertical white splinter had been the one remaining strip of sound wood in the trunk, and the initial crack that woke me up had been when it snapped apart. The sound marked the end of its soundness.

the campsite, so we moved our tents.

The rifle-like pops of ripping wood kept waking us every half-hour or so. The locust leaned a bit more each time, and the white streak widened. But the tree did not fall that night. Two weeks later, hiking that way with another group, I came upon it lying across the campsite.

When the red oak fell at 2 a.m., I

the crown for as long as it did. But when the crown leafed in the spring, the weight must have become unbearable. I imagined one more leaf unfurling from the bud, and with that slight addition, the scales tipped, the last strip of solid wood gave. As goes an oak, so sometimes goes a country.

Even with the rot, the tree still held a winter’s worth of firewood, so I sawed it up

I’d heard the like before. On a backpacking trip I was guiding years earlier in the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, we were relaxed around the campfire one night when a report as loud as a .22 caliber rifle went off, making everyone jump. Our flashlights lit up an exposed streak of fresh wood running up the trunk of an old black locust tree. The tree was leaning toward

walked out with my flashlight under a sky full of stars. No wind or pounding rain had brought it down. The tree had been its own undoing. Rot had slowly spread in the base of its trunk. The only green wood remaining had been the plank-sized strip that still rose from the roots.

I was surprised that such a small support had held up the tree and nourished

and stacked the pieces into a new shape of tree: two cords. We would sleep red-oak warm! Because of the rot in the core, I couldn’t count all the annual growth rings and figure out the year the tree had taken root. All I know for sure is when it fell.

(Burt and Becky Kornegay live in Jackson County. Burt is author of the trail map “A Guide’s Guide to PanthertownValley.”)

A red oak has been turned into a new shape of tree. Burt Kornegay photo

1905 Pigeon Road, W Waaynesville, NC | $1,7

4 bedrooms | 3 full baths | 2

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MarketPlace information:

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


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

• Free — Lost or found pet ads.

• $6 — Residential yard sale ads.*

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

• $375 — Statewide classifieds run in 170 participating newspapers with 1.1+ million circulation. (Limit 25 words or less)

• Boost Online — Have your ad featured at top of category online $4

• Boost in Print

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• Yellow, Green, Pink or Blue Highlight $4

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Note: Highlighted ads automatically generate a border so if you’re placing an ad online and select a highlight color, the “add border” feature will not be available on the screen.

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

p: 828.452.4251 · f:828.452.3585




Case No.24E305

Laura K Dilallo, havingNicholas A Dilallo Sep 19 2024, or

Building Materials

Ancillary Administrator 370 N. Main St., STE 310 Waynesville, NC 28786


Case No.2024 E 000384

James Todd Kinney Oct 10 2024, or Administrator 2183 Belmar St Newton, NC 28658






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