Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Federal grant will go toward translation computers for Cherokees

According to the Associated Press, a federal grant will help the Cherokee Indians "maintain a major part of their ancient culture" by purchasing hand-held computers to translate English into Cherokee.

"The effort is meant to help tribe members learn the Cherokee language, which fewer and fewer people speak," said the AP. "Renissa Walker, manager of the Kituwah Preservation and Education Program, said 72 percent of the population fluent in the language is older than 50, and an average of three Cherokee speakers die every two months.

"Since 2004, the Eastern Band has operated two language immersion classrooms where children speak only Cherokee."

Smokies rank high for fall travel

Coming in at No. 2 just behind Florence (that would be Florence, Italy - not South Carolina) are the Great Smokey Mountains in MSN.com's Top 10 Fall Destinations. (And for the record, the Smokies just edge out Marrakesh.)

"Cloaked in a shroud of blue mist, the Great Smoky Mountains are a breathtaking sight all year round but really come into their own come autumn, when the mountain foliage turns to brilliant crimsons, oranges, and purples, for a sight that's nothing short of spectacular," writes MSN. "The most-visited national park in the US, the Smokies boast over 500,000 acres of pristine forest and valleys laced with picturesque rivers, streams, and waterfalls. Nestled between North Carolina and Tennessee—with common entrances through Gatlinburg (TN) and Cherokee (NC)—the park hosts plenty of camping grounds and over 800 hiking trails tailor-made for horseback riding, wildlife viewing, and mountain biking. ..."

Not too bad -- especially when you consider that the other seven selections are Munich, Napa Valley, New England, New York, Provence, San Francisco and Shanghai.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Museum will honor black rescuers on the Outer Banks

Very few know the story of how African-American men patrolled the waters of the Outer Banks between the 1880s and 1947, saving the lives of many shipwreck victims. A living history museum in Manteo hopes to tell their story.

"A weathered cookhouse salvaged from a remote lifesaving station will help preserve the heritage of black lifesavers who once rescued shipwreck victims off the Outer Banks," said the News & Observer.

"The cookhouse will be a focal point for the Pea Island African American Heritage Center in Manteo. ...

" 'It's such a great story that needs to be told,' said Kermit Skinner, Manteo's town manager."

Click here to read more about this fascinating story.

Update: Art of the Vine fest draws a crowd

It appears that Lexington's Art of the Vine festival was a success.

"Hundreds of people strolled through the courtyard at Childress Vineyards Saturday, sipping wine as they admired artwork by local talent at the first Arts United Art of the Vine Festival," according to the Lexington Dispatch.

"Dancers from the High Point Ballet performed to sounds of live jazz as people looked on." ...

"Emily Moore of Greensboro said she attended the festival because she had never been to an event like this. 'I think it's really nice, very pretty,' she said as she sipped one of Childress' white wines. ..."

Read more about the festival here.

Update: Ghost Town spirits rise

From the Asheville Citizen-Times:

Gunfighters swaggered out into the streets for staged shootouts as Ghost Town opened Monday for a sneak peek crowd and for the first time in five years.

Hundreds of people packed the saloon that once showcased cancan dancers to applaud the amusement park’s new owners and regional business leaders for working to reopen the park.

Beyond offering 285 jobs, the park is expected to improve the regional economy with more tourism.

Maggie Valley Mayor Roger McElroy said the packed house, and the estimated 1,000 people who did not get a ride to the hilltop attractions because of problems with a bus, showed how much the park means to his town.

“This is a testimony on how large an impact Ghost Town has had on Maggie Valley,” McElroy said. ...

Click here to read the rest of the article.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Katrina evacuees still calling N.C. home

A year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, many of the storm's evacuees -- who originally relocated to North Carolina -- have decided to remain in the Tar Heel State.

Waldeen Mitchell keeps a scrapbook in her office that she thumbs through when a rare unoccupied minute allows her to reflect on the chaotic journey that tore her from her beloved New Orleans [according to the Associated Press].

The book could be a reminder of loss. Her mold-covered house, the destroyed European clocks collected during her military service, the series of strokes her elderly mother has suffered in the year since Hurricane Katrina changed their lives.

But for Mitchell, a former Marine with an unwavering trust in her divine path, the photographs illustrate a time of healing, growth and education.

"I can tell you 100 bad things that came out of Katrina, but I can probably tell you 102 good things that came out of it," said Mitchell, who now lives in Raleigh and works for the Capital Area Workforce Board helping fellow hurricane evacuees find work and rebuild their lives in North Carolina. ...

Mitchell and her college-bound son are among hundreds of families that have stayed in North Carolina since fleeing the strong Category 3 storm that battered the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines last August.

Thousands sought shelter in North Carolina: More than 5,000 applications from evacuated individuals, couples and families listed a North Carolina address when asking for hurricane-related assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said Renee Hoffman, spokeswoman for the state Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.

The state didn't track how many evacuees came through and it is unclear how many have stayed, though public safety officials guess hundreds remain scattered throughout the state. About 200 families are still living in and around Raleigh, Wake County community health director Gibbie Harris said. ...

In Charlotte, which along with Raleigh took in the bulk of the state's hurricane evacuees, the Red Cross helped about 1,400 displaced families and received about 200,000 hurricane-related calls in the weeks after the storm, Red Cross spokeswoman Elaine Spallone said.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Quick hits: Wine and the Rat

Lexington not just known for pig and, well, pigs
Lexington is well-known for its culinary link to barbecue. The city has also become famous (at least in N.C.) for its "Pigs In the City" art project. However, a new Lexington festival hopes to shine some attention on local vineyards.

"The Barbecue Festival, Richard Childress Racing and fiberglass pigs won't be the only big draws for visitors to Lexington this year," writes the Lexington Dispatch. "Arts United's first Art of the Vine Festival will be Saturday at Childress Vineyards and will feature local artists, wine tasting, food, music and more.

" 'I think as it continues to be an annual event here in Lexington - with the participation from the winery and local artists that we have - I think it can turn into and become a very nice event for Lexington and for Arts United,' said Radford Thomas, president of the Lexington Area Chamber of Commerce. The Lexington Tourism Authority contracts with the chamber to operate its Visitors Center and run administrative operations.

" 'It's always good when we have a partnership formed between two organizations that we consider to be strong attractions for tourists coming into Lexington,' Thomas said. ..."

A Chapel Hill institution re-opens
Chapel Hill's The Rathskellar just re-opened after undergoing some renovations -- just in time for the fall semester to begin at UNC-Chapel Hill.

"It looks great,” Ed Morgan, a waiter at the Rathskeller, told News 14 Carolina. “I love it, especially the Cave."

"Morgan, better known as Squeaky, has worked on and off at the Rathskeller for 40 years, since he was 16," says the station. "When he was younger, he says he would take orders without writing them down.

" 'I can't do it now,' Squeaky said with a smile. 'I go to one table and take the order -- I' ve got to write everything down.' ..."

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Resurrection in Maggie Valley

I'm usually not one to reflect on the "good ol' days" or bemoan the fact that things aren't how they "used to be." Yes, I worry that North Carolina is losing part of its heritage if the beaches lose their piers, if Chimney Rock Park becomes developed, or even when the Myrtle Beach Pavilion goes bye-bye. But I do worry that crying about those things makes me look old, or if nothing else I come off sounding short-sighted.

Having said that, I am thrilled whenever I see things that I remember fondly from my childhood being preserved. In a few cases, such things have come back from the dead. Case in point: the Ghost Town in the Sky amusement park in Maggie Valley.

(Full disclosure: I'm not 100-percent sure that I absolutely loved the park as a kid; but I do have fond memories of it, which should count for something. Chalk it up as selective memory.)

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that the "Dancers, music and staged gunfights silenced in 2001 when Ghost Town in the Sky closed may soon restart, as new owners bought the Maggie Valley property Tuesday and plan to reopen the theme park in May."

David Huskins, managing director of tourism marketing and development organization Smoky Mountain Host, said the opening would create up to 50 full-time and about 235 part-time jobs while also reigniting hope that tourists will again visit the amusement park and pump dollars into the local economy.

“Everything they do there will be an asset to the community,” said Monika Brackett, owner of The Chalet, a nearby motel.

Huskins helped encourage R.B. Coburn to sell the park’s nearly 255 total acres to a group called Ghost Town Partners LLC, for an undisclosed amount. The new ownership group is made up of Allen and Carol Harper, owners of the Bryson City-based Great Smoky Mountains Railroad and two partners in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., and Miami.

None could be reached for comment Tuesday, though Huskins said the group would make a $12 million to $13 million investment in the property over the next two years. That figure includes $4 million needed to refurbish the 99-acre park,
including installing a new chairlift and restoring the incline railway.

Ghost Town was a hokey, tacky part of the Western North Carolina landscape. And like Tweetsie Railroad, it was a destination for thousands of families from not just this state but from all over. Here's a cheer to it being re-opened.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Quick hits: From one end of the state to another

NC 12 needs safe lanes
"North Carolina Highway 12 dually serves as the only route and the main street through Hatteras Island and its eight villages," writes the Outer Banks Sentinel. "For tourists on the Outer Banks, the highway is a favorite, but for pedestrians it teems with danger -- a problem that local residents are vigorously trying to change.

" 'NC 12 is our main street on Hatteras Island and right now, we cannot walk safely through our own towns in order to go to or own post offices, schools and businesses -- and that's not right,' said Mary Helen Goodloe-Murphy, an Outer Banks Scenic Byways Committee member, in a presentation to the Dare County Board of Commissioners.

"According to the committee, a four-foot shoulder on either side of the highway often serves as a means for cars to pass each other and has accumulated large amounts of grass and sand that is never swept or maintained. ...

"The need for paved pathways for pedestrians along NC 12 is a long-standing issue that raised even more concern among residents last summer when two kite-boarding instructors were hit and killed as they made their way home from work.

"According to the NC Department of Transportation there were nine accidents involving pedestrians and eight involving cyclists between 2000 and 2005. ..."

State shows interest in buying Chimney Rock Park
"The state is working to sweeten its proposal to buy Chimney Rock Park after park owners reportedly rejected the first offer to buy the iconic 1,000-acre property in Rutherford County," according to the Asheville Citizen-Times.

" 'We’ve had some discussions with some of our partners in the conservation community — land trusts and conservancies — and we feel that with their help we can come back with a stronger proposal than what the state had in the past,' said Charlie Peek, spokesman for the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation, which is interested in buying the park.

"In July, Chimney Rock Park Co. President Todd Morse announced the company’s plans to put the park on the open market, with an asking price of $55 million. The park’s owners reportedly turned down a state offer of $20 million.

"Asked Monday if the park had fielded any purchase inquiries, Morse said, 'Not that we can really talk about at the moment. We’re still in very open discussions with the state.' ..."

Washington's Wilkins to the Hall of Fame

As I've stated before, basketball is a HUGE part of North Carolina's culture. (You can file that under "Duh!") So it's always a big story when a North Carolinian achieves basketball success.

Washington's Dominique Wilkins will soon be enshrined into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. The fact that it took him two years to earn it should not diminish the achievement for the "Human Highlight Reel."

"The former Washington Pam Pack star, who helped guide the Pack to consecutive state basketball titles in the late 1970s, will be officially inducted into the Hall of Fame during the enshrinement weekend, Sept. 7-9, in Springfield, Mass.," said the Washington Daily News.

“It was long overdue, but it was worth the wait,” Wilkins said in a recent phone interview. “It’s hard to describe in words what it really means. It’s the ultimate tribute to a player on this level.” ...

Current Hall of Fame member Julius “Dr. J” Erving will present Wilkins.

“It’s a great honor for me because I patterned my life after Dr. J,” Wilkins said. “I patterned my life after his during basketball and after basketball. “He’s bringing me into an elite group of basketball players and this only comes around once in a lifetime.”

For more on Wilkins' stellar, Hall of Fame career, read the rest of the story.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Save the piers!

The News & Observer's Mike Zlotnicki wrote a column recently on the fate of North Carolina's coastal piers, and the efforts of some to save them.

"Doug Leister is one of those guys you see a lot on the coast," wrote Zlotnicki. "A self-labeled beach bum, Leister cut his teeth surfing. As he got older, his toys got more expensive. Now, at 54, he enjoys big-game fishing and boating.

"All along, he has treasured a simple pleasure, one with ties to the past, his hangout, his 'home away from home' -- the Sportsman's Pier in Atlantic Beach. Leister doesn't fish much from the wooden structure. Mostly, he sits in the pierhouse, drinking coffee and catching up on local news.
"Not long ago, he found his pleasure threatened -- the pier was going to be sold. He didn't get mad, though; he got active.

"Together with friends Jim Smith of Greenville and Paul Graham of Raleigh, he helped launch an online petition at www.savencpierfishing.com, where pier lovers can sign a cyber petition to save the structures.

" 'It used to be hurricanes. Now it's coastal development,' Leister said from his office at Fort Macon Marine Sales in Morehead City. 'Because of property values, it doesn't make sense for a pier operator to sell $5 tickets.' ..."

To read more, click here.

Update: I will not be making any planned updates next week. Expect more around August 14.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Living like Andy and Opie

Sure, lots of folks long for the "good old days" when the worst thing to happen on TV was Opie Taylor killing a mama bird.

But Marsha Scheuermann REALLY likes the "good old days." And she especially likes "The Andy Griffith Show." (And why shouldn't she?)

Scheuermann, according to the Associated Press, likes the 1960s show, set in Mayberry, N.C., so much that she "retrofitted" her Clear Lake, Wisconsin, living room to look just like Sheriff Andy Taylor's living room.


"Scheuermann met her husband Dave in an Internet chat room where they shared their passion for the 1960s TV sitcom 'The Andy Griffith Show.' Eventually they fell in love and married.
Today, they live in a replica of Sheriff Taylor's home, and they run a bed-and-breakfast there called the Taylor Home Inn." ...

"Guests at the inn are greeted by a 'Welcome to Mayberry' sign on the front door as the show's theme song -- 'The Fishing Hole' with its distinctive whistling -- plays in the background.

"The door opens and there's Andy's front room just like it looked on TV -- the couch and chairs, Look magazines on the coffee table, an RCA Victor black-and-white television, and a bottle of Col. Harvey's Indian Elixir herb formula medicine. (Remember when Aunt Bee bought the tonic for strength and vigor, and got a little tipsy?)

" 'It's all vintage,' Scheuermann said. 'But it's comfy.'"

"Comfy" is a good way of describing "The Andy Griffith Show." It's like an old, worn blanket, or a favorite sweater. It's like home.

For the rest of the article, as well as a photo of the "Andy"-inspired living room, click here.