Monday, April 30, 2007

'Dirty Dancing' still resonates with Lake Lure

The setting for the movie was supposed to be the Catskills in New York. But 20 years later, fans of the movie "Dirty Dancing" continue to flock (make a pilgrimage?) to the actual spot(s) where the movie was filmed: the beautiful area around Lake Lure, N.C.

Yours truly wrote a couple of years ago for a trade publication about Lake Lure: there "are still fans of the movies [including "Last of the Mohicans"] that associate the setting with the films. And while those fans may be disappointed to find out that the employee cabins from 'Dirty Dancing' are nowhere to be found, they will not go away completely disappointed for Lake Lure remains an appealing, beautiful setting."

To whit: "Nearly every day, someone makes a pilgrimage to the old boys camp here where much of the movie 'Dirty Dancing' was filmed," writes the Asheville Citizen-Times.

" 'They say they just want to see the site,' said John Cloud, who is developing the property into a luxury residential community. 'I’m just stunned. It takes work on their part to find out (the locations) where the movie was shot.'"

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Lionsgate will screen a 20th anniversary edition of the movie that includes interviews with the people who made the film and why it’s made such an impact on American pop culture. The film will be shown only those two days and only in 300 theaters nationwide.

Sometimes called “the ‘Star Wars’ for girls,” the romantic movie is more popular than the two lead actors it made stars out of — Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.

Grey played innocent 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman, who in the summer of 1963 vacations with her parents in the Catskills. She meets Johnny Castle (played by Swayze), the hotel dance instructor, and is mesmerized by him, as well as his dance style. She soon becomes his pupil in dance and falls in love.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Quick hits: Nice rest stops and more on elk in W.N.C.

Carry me out of old Virginia
"Say what you will about North Carolina's underfunded and deteriorating highway system, we still have great rest stops," writes an editorial in the Wilmington Star-News.

"A trip to the Shenandoah Valley will remind you of the difference between North Carolina's and those of the beautiful commonwealth to the north.

"Along I-64, a sign for an upcoming rest stop warns of 'temporary toilets.' Along I-95, a quaintly colonial rest stop looks as if hasn't been freshened up since it was used by the Army of North Virginia. ..."

Program that moves bears temporarily helps elk herd in Smokies
"An elk herd in western North Carolina has grown since the first animals were released into the wild in 2001 and 2002," writes the Associated Press.

"Now there are 75 elk in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and wildlife experts say there needs to be 100 before the herd can be self-sustaining.

"The herd has grown recently because more elk newborns survive due to a program that moves bears out of the nursery areas. By the time the bears return the elk calves have grown enough so they can stay with the safety of the herd. ..."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Quick hits: Sandburg, smoking and (a hit to) sippers

Carl Sandburg's Flat Rock home listed as one of '10 Great Places'
"Take the fork in the road and see the landscapes that inspired some of America's best-loved poets," writes USA Today online. "April is National Poetry Month, a good time to visit the homes of some of the nation's most renowned poets. J. D. McClatchy, poet, editor of the Yale Review and author of American Writers at Home, shares his recommendations with Kathy Baruffi for USA Today."

One those homes is Carl Sandburg's home in Flat Rock, N.C. (pictured).

" 'The son of Swedish immigrants, Sandburg (1878-1967) was born in Illinois and made his name with poems about Chicago (Hog Butcher of the World). He won the Pulitzer Prize twice, was friendly with presidents and movie stars, but he never forgot his humble beginnings,' McClatchy says. Hence, his somewhat baronial estate, 30 miles from Asheville, N.C., may seem out of character to some visitors. A herd of goats is a reminder of the dairy farm his wife once ran here. ..."

Weakened statewide smoking ban passes House committee -- again"A ban on smoking across North Carolina, bounced back from the House floor in a dispute over business owners' rights, again won the support of a House committee Tuesday in a weakened form that put much of the onus for restrictions on local governments," writes

"The modified bill would still ban smoking statewide in restaurants, hotels and state government office buildings. However, it would specifically exclude restaurant-bars that are age-restricted and smoking-designated hotel rooms.

"Local governments would have the authority to override those exceptions and to bar or restrict smoking in public places, workplaces, local government buildings, public transportation and schools. ..."

Frost turns grapes and vintners blue
"Peaches and apples weren't the only crops hurt by the Easter weekend freeze," writes the Charlotte Observer.

"Across North Carolina's young wine industry, grape growers and wine makers are assessing damage to their fields -- and waiting to see how bad it gets when warm temperatures return and vines begin to grow again.

"Agriculture agents in grape-growing counties, particularly around the Yadkin Valley, report heavy losses in white-wine grapes such as chardonnay, pinot gris, viognier and riesling. Those vines break into buds early, and warm temperatures before the freeze pushed them as much as two weeks ahead.

"Red-wine grapes, particularly cabernet sauvignon, are hardier and break bud later, so they sustained less damage. ..."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Positive press for Pickler, Covington

None of this year's finalists on "American Idol" show an "affinity" for singing country music, which is a shame, according to USA Today.

"Four finalists — Gracin, Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood and last season's Kellie Pickler and Bucky Covington — have made the trek to Nashville. All have met with some measure of success, providing a few bright spots for a genre that has seen sluggish sales so far this year," the paper writes.

Pickler and Covington are, of course, from North Carolina -- joining a long line of Carolinians to do well on the show, including Clay Aiken and Chris Daughtry. They all, by the way, have done quite well for themselves.

"Pickler's Small Town Girl, released in October, could become the second-best-selling album from Season 5, behind Chris Daughtry's Daughtry," says USA Today. "Covington's self-titled debut, featuring his single A Different World, arrives today."

Update: OK, I blew it. How did I forget Fantasia!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tweetsie gets a reprieve

We've discussed the evaporation of "Americana" before. The good news is that at least one vestige will remain -- at least through 2010: Tweetsie Railroad.

"A landmark Wild West theme park nestled in the mountains of Western North Carolina will remain open through 2010, despite skyrocketing land prices that threatened to shutter its doors," writes the Associated Press.

"The Tweetsie Railroad theme park was up against a 2007 deadline to renew land leases or close, but owners negotiated deals so the family-run park could operate for at least a few more years at its current location in Blowing Rock. The park will celebrate its 50th season of entertaining families when it opens May 4. ...

"The park has identified and secured a site in neighboring Wilkes County for possible relocation if additional long-term agreements on the current leases don't work out. ...

"About 250,000 visitors are expected at the park this year. ...

"The park also has historical roots in the mountains. Tweetsie No. 12, one of two steam engines used on the excursion railroad, is the last surviving engine from the 50-mile, narrow-gauge Eastern Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad that ran through the mountains from Boone to Johnson City, Tenn., beginning in the late 19th century.

"Locals named the train the 'Tweetsie,' after the shrill steam whistles that echoed through the hills."

Personally, I'm pleased to read this. I've got a 4-month old; I've always looked forward to taking my kid(s) to Tweetsie. Now, I may just get that chance.

Drivers will be seeing red -- again

For the first time in a quarter-century, most North Carolina cars will sport a new license plate. Unfortunately, the change is not that drastic, though it's anything but subtle.

The plates will look pretty much the same as they have since 1982, save for red numerals and letters instead of blue. (Apparently the blue ones were fading. Yeah; 25 years will do that.)

" The 1980s lettering of 'North Carolina,' the Wright brothers' plane and faint sea grass will remain as the background," wrote the News & Observer.

"Any change is a big change for a state with the same license plate since 1982. North Carolina has had the same standard plate for longer than any other state except Delaware, which uses a 1962 design.

" 'It does go back,' said Marge Howell, spokeswoman for N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles in Raleigh.

"In North Carolina, some drivers have had the same plate on their cars for more than 20 years, Howell said. ...

"Though many states use plate designs to present new, memorable snapshots of their states, North Carolina's change is purely a pragmatic one to ensure the old plates are taken out of circulation, Howell said. ..."

For those of us old enough to remember, these plates sound (and look) oddly familiar. Above is a WRAL image of the new ones; below is one for sale on eBay from the early 1980s.

Way to go out on a limb, North Carolina!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Wilmington to boast first 'urban' scenic byway in the state

When one thinks of scenic byways, the images of winding country roads, mountain views or battlefields come to mind. But Wilmington now has the state's first "urban" scenic byway.

The Cape Fear Historic Byway "zigzags right through the downtown Wilmington area, making it the first 'urban' byway in the state," writes the Wilmington Star-News.

The N.C. Department of Transportation initiated the program in 1990 to highlight routes with unique historical, cultural or scenic appeal and raise awareness for their preservation.

The Cape Fear Historic Byway was adopted by state transportation officials last week, just in time for this year's N.C. Azalea Festival. It allows local transportation planners to apply for grants for improvements along the route, such as benches, public restrooms and other amenities.

Starting on North Third Street near the Isabel Holmes Bridge, the byway includes about 7 miles of streets in the downtown Wilmington area. By mid-summer, signs will be put up to guide visitors around it.

Monday, April 09, 2007

'You wanna get off the island? Yeah, it'll take about a day'

If a hurricane is heading to North Carolina's Outer Banks, and you want to get off, you may, uh, want to leave yesterday.

"The time it takes to clear tourists off the Outer Banks in the face of a hurricane is getting longer and longer, according to a study by the state Department of Transportation," writes the Associated Press.

"Currently, it is estimated to take 21 hours to evacuate the barrier islands if traffic is headed on U.S. Highway 64 west to Columbia and 30 hour on U.S. 158 into Currituck County.

"By 2030, the study estimated the evacuation times - from the minute the first car leaves until the last one exits - would increase to 31 hours via Columbia in Tyrell County and 46 hours on U.S. 158. ...

"On a July 4 weekend, more than 200,000 visitors can be on the Outer Banks and traffic backs up without an evacuation order."

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Barbecue battle hits the legislature

This one has been discussed ad nauseum, so I'll just link to this article and leave it at that. (After all, we all know eastern 'cue is the best! Ahem. Sorry. Couldn't control myself.)

"There is food, and then there is 'cue. One sustains life, the other is more important, at least according to Tar Heels.

"So, imagine the angst caused by a bill to name the Lexington Barbecue Festival the official state food festival," wrote the Greensboro News & Record.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Quick hits: Elk return to Western N.C., last call for Ghost Town

Elk return to Cataloochee
"Down in this valley, nestled among 6,000-foot mountain peaks along the eastern end of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, wildlife lovers are witnessing sights unseen for 150 years," writes the Hendersonville Times-News. ...

"Once nothing more than an entry in the history books, elk have returned to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They're not the eastern elk, driven into extinction by overhunting and habitat loss in the 1800s, leaving behind no trace other than namesakes -- Banner Elk, Elk Park. ..."

Ghost Town's last leg
"Today is the last day of auditions for Ghost Town in the Sky, the mountaintop Western theme park scheduled to reopen this summer," wrote the Asheville Citizen-Times on April 1.

"Park officials are auditioning country, gospel and blues musicians today beginning at 1 p.m. in the Welcome Center on Soco Road (the A-frame building in the parking lot). ..."