Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Highland Games slideshow

I was in the Grandfather Mountain area couple of weeks ago, but I arrived right after the Highland Games at Grandfather Mountain were completed. I really hope to make it there some day. (By the way, Johnstone Clan rules!)

Anyway, WRAL.com has a pretty good slideshow from the Highland Games, which you can view here.

(I hope to have some N.C. mountain photos up in the coming days.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Skip Prosser, 1950-2007

Just a horrible, horrible story about Wake Forest's basketball coach, who died on July 26 at age 56.

Winston-Salem Journal sports columnist Lenox Rawlings -- ever so skillful with the quill -- makes the analogy between a basketball season's end and the end of life.

"Seasons always end.

"Seasons seldom end on 10-foot ladders cutting down nets or on makeshift stages hugging trophies.

"Seasons usually end in concrete hallways and dank basements and steamy locker rooms. Seasons usually end with showers dripping and tears dropping and someone moaning in the next room, overwhelmed by swift finality. ...

"Across the far-flung basketball universe yesterday, thousands of people shared Coach Prosser’s seat. They slumped on sofas and leaned on friends in bewildered disbelief.

"They closed their eyes and saw Prosser spinning on his heels in front of the Deacons’ bench, his strawberry hair and coattail blowing in his personal breeze. They saw his right arm gesturing and his lips puckering and his beet-red head shaking defiantly, every ounce of his considerable energy conveying one simple message: You guys missed that call. ...

"Dino Gaudio, a Wake Forest assistant, worked with Prosser at Central Catholic High in Wheeling, W.Va. In the early stages of a season that ended with a state championship, Prosser’s team lost a game in Ohio.

" 'The kids were in the showers in the locker room chatting a little bit,' Gaudio said years later, 'and he felt they weren’t taking the loss hard enough. He walked into the shower. It had a curb on it holding in this much water.'

"Gaudio held his hands 6 inches apart.

" 'I’ll never forget when he walked back out. His shoes were soaked, and so were his pants, up to his ankles, but he got his point across to those kids that we don’t take losing like that. He’s always taken it incredibly, incredibly hard. I think he takes it hard because he always blames himself. You’ll never hear him, anywhere he’s been, blame the kids.'

"Nobody blames anybody today, but lots of people take losing Skip Prosser very, very hard."

Quick hits: Bele Chere and ECU's dental share

Asheville prepares for its biggest party
"Bele Chere, Asheville’s big downtown street party happening this weekend, has always been a game of numbers," writes the Asheville Citizen-Times.

"For Asheville’s festival coordinator Melissa Porter, the number might be 375,000. That’s the estimated number of Bele Chere visits expected over the weekend, starting at lunchtime today, and running through Sunday night.

"Or the number could be four — the average hours of sleep she’ll get each night this weekend. But she’s ready for it. 'This is my 10th Bele Chere and my third as director,' she said. 'Every year is different.' ..."

ECU dental school nets $25 million
"East Carolina University would receive $25 million to build a dental school under a budget deal reached late Wednesday night," writes the Greenville Daily Reflector.

"That amount, if approved by the full General Assembly, would 'certainly get us moving and get us the money we need to move ahead,' said Dr. Greg Chadwick, dean of the ECU dental school.

"As of Thursday night, the Legislature had yet to produce copies of the budget accord. Lead negotiators reached an agreement late Wednesday, the Associated Press reported. Copies of the bill were being drafted Thursday, with votes on it possibly coming this weekend, said Bill Holmes, a spokesman for House Speaker Joe Hackney, D-Orange. ..."

Richard Petty: North Carolinian of the Year

The Associated Press reports that NASCAR legend Richard Petty has been named North Carolinian of the Year by the N.C. Press Association. Petty joins the likes of Billy Graham, Dean Smith and others in receiving the honor.

"Petty, 70, won a record 200 NASCAR Winston Cup races and seven Daytona 500 races," writes the AP. "He won 27 races in 1967 alone, 18 races in 1970 and 21 in 1971. Since 2000, no driver has won more than eight in a season. Only the late Dale Earnhardt matched Petty's seven NASCAR championships. ...

" 'I really appreciate this honor. I'm in there with a bunch of heavy hitters. Those are people North Carolina can be proud of,' Petty said.

"The award started in 1993 and is given to North Carolinians who bring honor and recognition to the state. Besides Graham and Smith, past winners also include Elizabeth Dole, now a senator, banjo-picker Earl Scruggs and Meadowlark Lemon of Harlem Globetrotters fame.

"Those receiving the award are first nominated by the association's sitting president, who this year is Deuce Niven, editor of the Tabor-Loris Tribune in Tabor City. ..."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Child well-being improves, lottery slips

Foster care improving in N.C.
"... The Annie E. Casey Foundation revealed its findings in the 2007 Kids Count Data Book," according to the Asheville Citizen-Times. "Each year, the foundation chooses a topic for an in-depth essay. This year’s essay is 'Lifelong Family Connections: Supporting Permanence for Children in Foster Care.'

"The foundation produces the data book annually, measuring 10 areas of child well-being in each state and ranking the states. North Carolina jumped two places in the ranking this year, from 41st to 39th. Among the categories measured are infant mortality, poverty, teen birth rate and high school dropout rates. The report also compares a number of demographic categories, like the number of children in foster care.

"North Carolina is moving in the right direction on foster care, the report says. The state is better than the nation as a whole in the number of children per 1,000 in foster care: seven, as opposed to 10 nationally. ..."

Lottery sales fall below expectations in first fiscal year
"Ticket sales for the North Carolina lottery's first fiscal year fell well short of expectations, generating about $110 million less in education funds than legislators had projected," according to the Associated Press.

"The North Carolina Education Lottery on Tuesday put another $69.4 million in a dedicated state fund for education, making the final quarterly transfer to the fund for the year ending June 30.

"The Lottery Education Fund has now received $375.3 million since the first tickets were sold in March 2006. Fund money, which is equal to at least 35 percent of net lottery revenues, is earmarked for initiatives such as class-size reduction, preschool programs, school construction and college scholarships for needy students. ..."

Not to be cynical, but how long before the lottery is allowed to really begin marketing via ways that they claimed then never would?

Quick hits: Road rules and BBQ duels

MTV guidebook series to hit the road
"Need some inspiration for your next road trip? Check out the new guidebook 'MTV Roadtrips U.S.A,'" writes the Associated Press.

"The book is divided into regional themes, like 'Retro Roadtrip: Miami to the Outer Banks,' 'A Southern BBQ Roadtrip,' and 'Cool in the Midwest,' with stops in Minneapolis, Kansas City, Denver and Salt Lake City. There is also a chapter on festival season in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic that includes New York City as well as Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., and a West Coast trip starting in San Diego and ending in Seattle. ..."

N.C. BBQ duel set for spring
"North Carolina's barbecue duel has been postponed," according to the News & Observer.

"The Tar Heel Barbecue Classic to settle the debate over which is better, Eastern North Carolina 'cue or Western North Carolina 'cue, had been slated for Oct. 6 and 7 in downtown Raleigh. Planners now aim for spring.

"Tracey Lovejoy, vice president of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, said there were several reasons the event got postponed: The alliance just got a new president who wants to study the event, and the N.C. Barbecue Society was struggling to find vendors who weren't busy that weekend. ..."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

VPI picked to win ACC football in 2007

The Virginia Tech Hokies were picked by the media to finish on top in the upcoming Atlantic Coast Conference football race.

"The Hokies are picked to win the Coastal Division, with Georgia Tech second in the division, Miami third, Virginia fourth, North Carolina fifth and Duke sixth," says WRAL.com. "Tech received 77 first place votes out of the 83 ballots cast for the divisional race, while 69 of the 83 voters chose them to win the ACC Championship Game.

"Florida State is picked to win the Atlantic Division, with Boston College second, Clemson third, Wake Forest fourth, Maryland fifth and N.C. State sixth.

"Wake Forest is the defending ACC champion after last year's surprising run to the title. Miami was picked to win the ACC last season. ..."

However, it should be noted that the Only Team That Matters could surprise some people.

Quick hits: Singers and shrimp

Pickler, Daughtry to appear at N.C. State Fair
"This year's State Fair will have an 'American Idol' feel with several members of the hit show appearing on stage," says WRAL.com.

"Ruben Studdard, the 2003 'American Idol' winner, is scheduled to perform at Oct. 14 while Albemarle native Kellie Pickler will perform hits from her debut album on Oct. 16. Chris Daughtry is scheduled to appear on Oct. 20.

"Other music stars slated to appear are Sara Evans, Josh Turner and Trace Adkins.

"The 2007 festival will provide a flair for Southern food as celebrity chef Paula Deen will bring her Southern charm and savvy on Oct. 17. ..."

Big debate over roadside shrimp
"Shrimp dealers and roadside sellers are squaring off in Brunswick County, prompting county officials to consider regulating the roadside sale of seafood," writes the Wilmington Star-News.

"Selling shrimp out of a cooler in 90 degree-plus weather is a health hazard, Southport shrimper Royce Potter said Saturday as he sat near his business on the Southport Yacht Basin.

"Potter, who catches and sells shrimp and fish for Potter's Seafood in Southport, approached the county commissioners July 16 with concerns about people who sell seafood on the roadside.

"He told the commissioners such unlicensed vendors suffer no repercussions if there are problems with improper food storage and therefore could give all seafood businesses a bad reputation. And it's unfair, he said, that roadside vendors don't have to meet the same standards that businesses like his do.

"Glenn Williams, who sells shrimp off N.C. 211 between Southport and Oak Island, says the real objection is to the competition he presents, and he plans to make his case to the commissioners at their next meeting. ..."

Monday, July 09, 2007

Zoo biz booming with gas prices soaring

Business at the N.C. Zoo in Asheboro is booming, most likely due to high gas prices. (In others words, families are staying close to home this summer.)

"For the fiscal year ending June 30 , the Asheboro zoo's annual attendance reached its highest mark in a decade," writes the Greensboro News & Record.

"Zoo officials credit the boost to a variety of factors, including gas prices that kept travelers closer to home.

"We think gasoline prices have impacted us more positively than anyone else," said Rod Hackney , the zoo's public relations manager . "We think we are getting a lot of people who are staying in the Piedmont instead of going to the beach or mountains. They are using the zoo as a day trip."

Figures for fiscal year 2006-07 show that nearly 747,000 people visited the zoo, an increase of 9.3 percent . That's the fourth-highest annual attendance in the zoo's 33-year history.

The surge came when North Carolina experienced its largest increase in tourism expenditures since 1990. Visitors spent more than $15 billion last year, a jump of 8.3 percent .

But those numbers don't mean all tourist attractions are seeing more visitors. For example, state park visits in the Piedmont fell 8.7 percent last year.

"What a lot of people are seeing is that expenditures are going up more than the (number of) bodies is going up," said Wit Tuttell , public relations director for the N.C. Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development . "Ideally, you want them both to go up."

[Note: I will not be posting for about 10 days or so. Sorry. I know you'll get by. Somehow.]

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Eastern BBQ beats Western (yeah!), but there are more Heels than Wolfpackers (boo!)

A recent poll conducted by Public Policy revealed some interesting (if not earth-shattering) news about North Carolinians.

Most North Carolinians prefer the beach to the mountains when it comes to summer vacation. And more than not prefer Eastern-style barbecue to Western/Lexington.

"Forty-seven percent of respondents expressed a taste for eastern-style barbeque, compared to 29 percent for western-style barbeque," said WRAL.com.

"Survey respondents were also asked about their in-state sport teams loyalties.

"For professional teams, 49 percent chose the Carolina Panthers as their favorite North Carolina team. ...

"Among collegiate schools, 33 percent chose UNC-Chapel Hill as their favorite team. Seventeen percent expressed support for NC State and 12 percent for Duke. ..."

5,400 acres burned in Pisgah, though fire contained

The wildfire in the Burke County section of the Pisgah Forest has now consumed some 5,400 acres, though it is now contained, though the terrain has made it difficult to do so.

"You can't get good footing, you don't have a good escape route, you have thick brush that you can't walk through," John Strom, a U.S. Forest Service ranger from Arkansas, told the Charlotte Observer.

Strom spent 18 days in the Pisgah National Forest, where the blaze began June 8, and said the mulch covering the ground allowed smoke and heat to fester inches below the surface.

"This is pretty dang thick stuff, just a mass of organic matter," Strom said.

The fire consumed 1,900 acres in mid-June, and firefighters thought they had nearly contained it. But 10 days later, it flared up and, in a week, more than doubled to 4,517 acres, officials said. ...

By late Tuesday, crews had the fire 95 percent contained, said Dennis Wahlers, a Forest Service spokesman. He said they hoped to fully contain it by the weekend.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pisgah forest fire takes out almost 5K acres

The Associated Press reported that a wildfire in the Pisgah National Forest has scorched about 4,500 acres since last week.

Some 4,517 acres now have burned in the Shortoff Mountain fire in the Linville Gorge Wilderness, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

"The fire and two others in the same forest were started June 8 by lightning," said the AP. "The fires have burned a total of 5,400 acres and are about 95 percent contained, the service said. ...

"Parts of the Linville Gorge Wilderness were closed but have been reopened to the public."