Friday, September 28, 2007

Fall color at your fingertips

We're getting close to fall foliage-seeking season, and sometimes it's hard to know where in the North Carolina mountains to go to see prime oranges, yellows and browns.

According to the Hendersonville Times-News, however, there are a plethora of websites out there designed to coach you on your fall foliage expeditions.

Among the suggestions is the state's tourism site, "It has put together a comprehensive look at fall color in North Carolina," says the newspaper. "The site includes where to go, an easy to read chart of leaf color for each tree (tree, family, color, location and elevation), driving, hiking and biking trails. ...

" offers a weekly foliage report and forecast, current road conditions, where to see the color, N.C. trees and their color, leaf lodging, leaf peep trips, fun fall events and color for kids."

Here are some other suggested sites, via the Times-News:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

N.C. symbol update: 'Here be suggestions'

We got some great responses in our quest to find a viable symbol for North Carolina. Among the suggestions:

-The shape of the state

-A cardinal

-A dogwood

-A Long Leaf Pine

-And, of course, a pig (you know, for barbecue).

But the one that is perhaps most intriguing was offered by David: Edward Teach's flag (above)

Teach, as most people know, was Blackbeard the Pirate, who ruled the waters of the Eastern coastline in the early 1700s. (Read more about Blackbeard here.)

An interesting symbol for the entire state, perhaps. But there is plenty of N.C.-related aspects to Teach:

-He lived in Bath, the state's oldest town.

-He hid out along the coves of the Carolina coast.

-He was given free reign by then-Governor Charles Eden.

-He was finally killed near Ocracoke.

One interesting aspect of Teach that I had never known until researching him: it's never been proven that he actually killed anyone. In fact, he "got by" with fear alone. A big part of that fear could've been his flag, which was, according to this site, "one of the more unusual flags flown by the pirates. His flag had a skeleton holding an hour glass in one hand to signify that your time was running out. A dagger in the other hand and the heart with three drops of blood signified that blood would be drawn if you did not surrender. Horns and cloven feet on the skeleton signified that he was in league with the devil."

Some other "neat" things about our good friend Mr. Teach: He thwarted the blockade of Charleston and was hunted by the Governor of Virginia. He may have been born in England, but he sounds like a rapscallion North Carolinian to me.

Plus, that flag would no doubt look cool on shirts, hats and belt buckles.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

One more N.C. Emmy

Jaime Pressly ain't the only Tar Heel to win an Emmy recently.

Enfield's Katreese Barnes, co-composer of last year's "Saturday Night Live" Justin Timberlake sensation, "D--- in a Box," recently won a Creative Arts award.

"Thanks to her high-profile success, Barnes has recently been profiled in the New York Post, the New York Daily News, and People magazine, in which she talked about her breast cancer surgery in 2000. She has been cancer-free since 2002 -- thanks, she says, to alternative therapies," writes the News & Observer's Danny Hooley.

"Barnes -- who writes music for all of the show's song spoofs, including the 'Deep House Dish' songs -- says Timberlake was presented with a few other song concepts during a week of rehearsals, but didn't like any of them until he heard the slow pop-funk that would become 'Box' on Thursday. ...

"Barnes, now in her 30s, grew up all over the United States as the daughter of an Army man before her family settled in Enfield, just north of Rocky Mount, when she was a teenager.
Katreese was awarded a music scholarship, and she finished her high school education at the N.C. School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. ..."

Her parents still reside in Halifax County.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tar Heel Traveler

WRAL reporter Scott Mason has a pretty good gig going: Tar Heel Traveler.

Among the places Scott has been recently: Andy Barker's Love Valley (the smallest municipality in the state with a population of less than 50 -- but that's not the real story in Love Valley); "Mayberry"; "Shangri-La"; Wilmington; and Sunset Beach.

All of Scott's pieces come with slideshows. It's definitely worth checking out.

Quick hits: Water woes and water parks

Drought likely here until February
"Last week's rainfall and the soaking showers of Thursday haven't been enough to ease the statewide drought, meaning North Carolinians need to continue conservation measures, Gov. Mike Easley says," writes the News & Observer.

"In the face of plummeting water supplies from a drought expected to last until February, Easley warns that the worst might lie ahead.

" 'The rain last week certainly helped, but forecasters say we need several months of normal to above-normal rainfall before we see any improvement in the drought,' Easley said in a statement Thursday. 'We must do all we can to save water now so we do not face even more severe shortages this fall and winter.' ..."

Concord lands water park, resort
"Great Wolf Resorts has decided to make a $140.million splash in Concord," writes the Charlotte Observer.

"The company will announce today it plans to build its indoor water park and resort in the city, a Cabarrus economic development official said.

"The Wisconsin company also had been considering other sites for its Charlotte-area project, including Fort Mill, S.C., and Charlotte’s University City near where Ikea is being built.

"Great Wolf contacted the Cabarrus Economic Development Corp. Thursday and indicated the company would name Concord as the project site today, said John Cox, the EDC’s chief executive officer.

"The move is welcome news for Concord. The city has been hit hard by the pending loss of all 2,500 jobs at the Philip Morris U.S.A. plant and the purchase of CT Communications by Windstream Corp., which is slashing jobs and selling the local headquarters. ..."

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tavern on the Green, The Lady and Sons, Emeril's ... and Bojangles?

To me, it's perfect tailgating food. For others, it's the quintessential Sunday morning hangover cure. For others still, it is a taste of home.

Believe it or not, Bojangles has become a "destination" restaurant. Heck, I know of friends who have moved away who upon coming back to the Carolinas have hit "the Bo" two or three times in a weekend.

"It started with a simple Cajun-style fried-chicken recipe. Now, 30 years later, Bojangles’ has new owners, a new chief executive and ambitious plans to face growing competition from other restaurants and chicken vendors," writes the Associated Press.

" 'To be a part of Bojangles’ now is exciting,' new chief executive Randy Kibler said. 'Bojangles’ is an incredibly strong brand and has a really good future.' ...

"Bojangles’ was founded by Jack Fulk and Richard Thomas in July 1977. The two men opened their first restaurant at the corner of West Boulevard and South Tryon Street in Charlotte. They saw an opportunity to develop a quick-service restaurant chain, offering made-from-scratch fare with Cajun spices.

"Now the private, Charlotte-based chain has 386 locations in 11 states, Honduras and Mexico, including 27 restaurants in Charlotte.

"It is unclear if the new leadership will maintain such elaborate plans. Executives say that expansion is still on, but they are more concerned about doing it right rather than fast. ...

"Smaller than competitors such as KFC, Chick-fil-A, Popeyes and Boston Market, Bojangles’ found its own niche serving familiar food - scratch-made biscuits, sweet tea and dirty rice - in the growing Southeast.

" 'People know us,' said Tom Lewison, Bojangles’ president and chief operating officer. 'They have come to trust the quality of our food and service.' ...

" 'We’ve become a destination restaurant,' said Chris Bailey, Bojangles’ director of franchise development. 'We need to stay attractive to our customers.' ..."

Cajun-fried chicken. Dirty rice. Boberry Biscuits. And that oh-so-sweet tea. Sounds pretty attractive to me.

Is it lunch time yet?

Monday, September 17, 2007

An Emmy for 'Joy'

Congrats to Kinston's Jaime Pressly on winning an Emmy for her work as Joy "My Name Is Earl." Pressly won for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Lost items at 'The Lost Colony'

Thankfully, the show must go on ...

"Sorrow mixed with relief as staff from the outdoor drama 'The Lost Colony' gathered Tuesday to figure out what was destroyed -- and what was fortuitously saved -- when a fire ripped through the historic Waterside Theatre early Tuesday," writes the News & Observer.

"The blaze was reported at 12:35 a.m. by a resident. It gutted one of the production's most valuable resources, the costume shop containing 70 years of new and vintage costumes, fabrics, designs and memorabilia. Two equipment sheds were also destroyed.

"But the amphitheater and sets were spared, production designer William Ivey Long said in a phone interview Tuesday morning. And some of the most valuable costumes were at other sites. ...

" 'I'm still in the stunned stage,' said Long, a Broadway designer and five-time Tony Award-winner who has worked with the drama for almost 40 years. ..."

Click here for more.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Quick hits: Junior Johnson's running 'shine again; Seagrove potters feeling the pinch

Selling shine!
"Junior Johnson rode into Davidson County on Friday with moonshine in the trunk," writes the Lexington Dispatch.

"Some things never change.

"But this time the former whiskey runner and winning NASCAR driver and team owner was riding shotgun in a loaned late-model Mercedes instead of driving a souped-up 1939 or '40 Ford, and the liquor he was pedaling was legal.

"Johnson visited ABC stores in Lexington and Thomasville to promote Junior Johnson's Midnight Moon, a new product by Piedmont Distillers of Madison.

"'It's my dad's old recipe - we just refined it a little bit,' Johnson said, referring to the moonshine his father, Robert Glen Johnson Sr., made in the hills of Wilkes County. Unlike Midnight Moon, which is 80 proof, the original was 100 proof. ..."

Potters feeling the pinch
"In the beginning, there was just the clay, some of the best clay in America as far as potters are concerned," writes the Greensboro News & Record.

"For more than two centuries, this tiny settlement in southern Randolph County has been known for its pottery and the potters who produce it.

"Each year, thousands of tourists from North Carolina and beyond arrive to buy pottery, browse the shops that line the main street or view artisans at work during the town's fall Pottery Festival.

"It all puts money in the potters' pockets, and more than a few dollars fall to local government.

"But times are lean for Randolph County government, and the commissioners this year excised funds to help foster pottery events. ..."

Joyeux anniversaire, Lafayette

George Washington thought of him almost like a son, and enough Americans thought enough of the passionate Frenchman to name (or re-name) their towns after him. Fayetteville, N.C., was the first town in America to honor the Marquis de Lafayette in this way.

This year marks Lafayette's 250th birthday.

"An outpouring of emotion swept a young nation in 1824 and 1825 when the Marquis de Lafayette toured America as the nation's guest," writes the Associated Press.

"In an age when news traveled by the fastest horse, people hungered for reports of Lafayette's visit and the elaborate celebrations in honor of the Frenchman who fought for America in the Revolutionary War.

"Two centuries later, a touch of Lafayette fever is back. Cities and towns across the country are celebrating his 250th birthday."

Fayetteville is "commemorating Lafayette's visit on March 4, 1825, a whirlwind 24 hours of banquets, military drills and reunions with former comrades such as Isham Blake, Lafayette's fifer and bodyguard at Yorktown.

"It's a birthday party for a man who once said, 'Serving America is to my heart an inexpressible happiness.'

Read here for more about Fayetteville's events.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Parkway among the best scenic fall drives

As we get closer and closer to autumn, one would expect to see more and more "best [fill the in the blank here] to do in the fall" lists. And you can bet that the North Carolina mountains will get plenty of ink in these lists.

One such list already describes the best scenic autumn drives; the Blue Ridge Parkway gets mentioned.

"Fall is the nicest season for rolling down the car windows, taking a drive and enjoying the scenery," writes the Associated Press' Beth J. Harpaz. "Stop along the way to pick pumpkins, visit a winery, or stroll a woodsy trail sparkling with reds and golds. ...

"The Blue Ridge Parkway runs 469 miles from Virginia through the Blue Ridge Mountains to North Carolina, ending at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Take a week to explore the entire parkway, or pick a section for a day trip or an overnight. Highlights include Mount Mitchell State Park, home to the highest peak in the East; scenic Linville Gorge; Roan Mountain; Mount Pisgah; Shining Rock Wilderness Area, and the town of Cherokee, where you'll find the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and Oconaluftee Village. The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area in North Carolina is offering a new multi-attraction pass this season called The Go Blue Ridge Card, which provides discounts and special offers at 35 merchants, attractions and restaurants from the Thomas Wolfe Memorial and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville to Chimney Rock Park, Rockhouse Vineyards and the Swinging Bridge on Grandfather Mountain. The online card price for adults is $79 for two days."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

App makes all of N.C. proud

Sure, we were all quite excited for Appalachian State University when its football team won its first I-AA national championship a couple of years ago. The second one (the very next year) was even more special.

But nothing beats what the Mountaineers did on Saturday. Against Michigan. Fifth-ranked Michigan. In the Big House.

"Even if you’re not a sports fan, you have to feel good for the 'little' school in Boone and what its football team managed to accomplish," writes Winston-Salem Journal columnist Scott Sexton.

"The summer’s sporting news has been filled with headlines and stories that made stomachs turn. ...

"Then along comes the feel-good story of Appalachian beating the 5th-ranked team in college football in one of the most impressive venues in sports. (I know; I once spent a Saturday afternoon in the Big House wedged between a pair of 240-pound, beer-and-brat Midwestern types during a Michigan-Wisconsin game.)

"About the best that even the most rabid ASU alum could hope for was a respectable defeat.

"Yet when the sports ticker crawling across the bottom of ESPN kept showing that Appalachian was putting the wood on Michigan, a funny thing happened. My phone started ringing with updates and people at a Pop Warner midget football game headed to their cars to see if they could find the game on the radio. ...

"When the horn sounded, ASU put Boone squarely on the map for a lot of people.

" 'Nobody knew where Appalachian is. The fans up there couldn’t even pronounce Appalachian right,' [alum] Elizabeth Witt said. 'They kept saying App-a-lay-chian’with the long a instead of App-a-lachian with the short a like it’s supposed to be.'

"It’s a sure bet that the maize-and-blue crowd does now. And it’s equally certain that ASU will bank a lot of name recognition that even back-to-back Division I-AA football championships couldn’t generate."

And's Pat Forde writes, "hats off to Appalachian State, which completed a week like none in school history.

"First came word via 'The Today Show' of a recruiting coup for the little school in the North Carolina mountains. Caitlin Upton, the freshly famous Miss Teen South Carolina, whose dingbat answer to a beauty pageant question became an instant YouTube classic, told Matt Lauer she planned to attend Appalachian State. This might not have dazzled the academic folks on campus, but I guarantee the male students are stoked. ...

"This wasn't a No. 16 seed beating a No. 1 -- that would be an insult to the two-time champions of the Division Formerly Known As I-AA. More than anything else, Appalachian State proved Saturday that the best of the little fellers can play exceptional football. That they must be accorded respect. That they are not as far behind the big boys as we've always assumed.

"But given the difference in stature between the two programs, this is still a Buster Douglas-beats-Mike Tyson upset. It's a 15 beating a 2, at least. ..."