Friday, October 31, 2008

Lineups announced for Christmas Jam

You have to hand it to Western North Carolina: it has two of the better and longer-running concert events in America. A lot of people know of Wilkesboro's MerleFest, but perhaps equally impressive is Warren Haynes' annual Christmas Jam in Asheville.

Haynes has mentioned of late that he really wanted to step up the talent for this year's Jam, which will take place Dec. 12-13 at the Asheville Civic Center.

Um, I think he did.

"The Allman Brothers Band, Derek Trucks, Marty Stuart, Travis Tritt and Steve Earle are among the acts playing at this year's Warren Haynes Christmas Jam, event organizers announced," says the Citizen-Times.

But that's not all.

"Also booked are Joan Osborne, Johnny Winter, J.J. Grey, the Del McCoury Band, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, Ruthie Foster, a Michael Franti acoustic show featuring Jay Bowman, Col. Bruce Hampton, Robert Kearns, Kevn Kinney, Eric Krasno and Mickey Raphael. More performers will be announced."

The Jam is a two-night affair this year, with an "invitation-only pre-jam on Dec. 11 at The Orange Peel on Biltmore Avenue."

It is Asheville's single-biggest entertainment event of the year and has raised more than $650,000 for Habitat for Humanity, which works to build affordable housing.

“Warren promised that this year's jam would be the biggest yet, and it looks pretty good to me,” said Rick Rice, announcer at Asheville's Rock 104 radio station. “I think there are three or four acts there that could be headliners.”

The Carolinas Shrine Bowl: America's first all-star high school football game

(Disclosure: I am not a Mason; I came across the information below in searching for this year's Shrine Bowl rosters.)

On December 20 in Spartanburg, S.C., the Tar Heels will take on the Sandlappers in the 72nd Annual Carolinas Shrine Bowl, the all-star game between North and South Carolina high school football players.

The proceeds from the Shrine Bowl - the oldest high school all-star football game in America - go to the Shriners' Hospitals in the Carolinas. I never knew that Pulitzer prize winner Ralph McGill wrote the Shrine Bowl slogan, “Strong men run so weak children may walk" or that Walt Disney drew the Shrine crippled children design and donated it to Oasis Shrine. Nor was I aware that by "1986, the game’s 50th year, 62 million fans tuned in on the Shrine Bowl TV and radio networks. One million had watched from the grandstands." But the most impressive fact is that $28 million had been raised (from projects plus game tickets), far exceeding all other North American Shrine fundraising events.

Not too shabby at all.

Here is the North Carolina roster for this year's Shrine Bowl. I don't say this often (actually, never), but here 'goes ... Go Tar Heels!

OG Nick Allison, Asheville Roberson
OG Whit Barnes, Rocky Mount
LB Hawatha Bell, Charlotte Butler
LB Joseph Blanks, Pembroke Swett
WR Jheranie Boyd, Gastonia Ashbrook
DL Justin Brewington, Richmond County
TE Wesley Carter, North Stanly
OT David Collins, East Forsyth
DL Jamaal Dixon, Gates County
RB Kevin Fogg, Apex
RB Hunter Furr, Winston-Salem Mount Tabor
WR Corey Gattis, Durham Hillside
LB Brandon Grier, West Charlotte
C Taylor Hanson, Wake Forest-Rolesville
C Ty Howle, Bunn
DB Joshua Hunter, Mallard Creek
LB Justin Jackson, Richmond County
LB Perry James, Davie County
DL Jared McAdoo, Chapel Hill
LB Lamer McClendon, Fayetteville Seventy-First
K Matt Millisor, Greensboro Page
QB Brett Mooring, West Craven
DL Donte Moss, Jacksonville Northside
LB Andrew Nallenwag, Erwin
OT Xavier Nixon, Fayetteville Britt
OG Perry Owens, Edenton Holmes
ATH Randy Pressley, North Buncombe
WR Michael Price, New Bern
QB Everett Proctor, Fayettteville Britt
RB Larry Raper, Shelby
DB JaQuan Rucker, West Iredell
DB Marcel Sargent, Charlotte Butler
DB Terry Shankle, South Stanley
FB Tyler Shatley, East Burke
LB Spencer Shuey, South Mecklenburg
TE Perry Simmons, Sanderson
OT Will Simmons, Hertford County
DB Jocquin Smith, Hibriten
DL Andrew Stryffeler, Lee County
RB Damonte Terry, Scotland County
DL Rodney Torain, Chapel Hill
DB Tony Washington, High Point Andrews
WR Reese Wiggins, Southern Durham
DL Pat Worley, South Columbus

Thursday, October 30, 2008

No surprise: UNC preseason national No. 1

Roy Williams' Tar Heels are the unanimous preseason favorite to win the NCAA men's basketball national title.

"North Carolina received all 31 first-place votes as the unanimous No. 1 in the preseason ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll, which was released Thursday," says

"Since ESPN began participating in the coaches' poll in 1997-98 -- USA Today began the poll in 1991 -- the Tar Heels are the first unanimous preseason No. 1. They're also the top-ranked team for the second straight preseason.

"The other Final Four teams from 2008 earned strong rankings. UCLA came in at No. 4 and national runner-up Memphis landed at No. 12. The Tigers and Bruins have been ranked in the coaches' Top 25 for 61 consecutive weeks, the longest active streak."

The Duke Blue Devils are in at fifth place in the preseason poll.

"North Carolina's candidacy as the nation's top-ranked team and national championship favorite got a significant boost last spring when player of the year Tyler Hansbrough announced he would return for his senior season. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 22.6 points and 10.2 rebounds in leading the Tar Heels (36-3) to the winningest season in school history while sweeping the major national player of the year awards.

"Hansbrough already has qualified to become the eighth player in school history to have his jersey retired and can add several more records to his resume in his final season. He will be the first returning Associated Press national player of the year since LSU's Shaquille O'Neal in 1991."

Miami of the ACC is 16th, while Davidson is 20th and Wake Forest 24th.

More Carolina spookiness

Saw this in the Washington (N.C.) Daily News this morning ...

"Imagine a fierce storm blowing in off the Pamlico River, bringing with it wind, rain, thunder and lightening.

"Youngsters huddle on the porch of their family’s home, watching in awe as a mysterious ball of light bounces in the distant.

"Sound far-fetched? Maybe not.

"Just such a phenomenon has been reported for generations in the Beaufort County town of Bath, a place rich in history and in lore and legends.

"The so-called 'Blackbeard’s Lights' reportedly make their appearance during such storms, dancing between Plum Point, where the legendary pirate Blackbeard is said to have lived, and Archbell Point.

" 'Over time, people have said they’ve seen them, but I haven’t ever seen them,' said Bea Latham, interpreter and assistant site manager at Historic Bath. 'It’s interesting that the lights have been described as bouncing from one side to the other.' ..."

Click here for the rest of the story.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Spooky N.C.

One of our most popular posts over the past couple of years (according to FEEDJIT) is our post last Halloween regarding our favorite North Carolina ghost stories.

Some of the my favorite Old North State haunts include the Devil's Tramping Ground, the mysterious footprints in Bath, the Maco Light near Wilmington, the The Little Red Man at Old Salem and, of course, dear, poor Lydia trying to get back home.

Closer to (my) home, the State Capitol is supposedly haunted, as is the governor's mansion.

Now, Virtual Blue Ridge has a list of hauntings along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a good number of which are in North Carolina. Among the haunts are the Biltmore House, the Grove Park Inn (both in Asheville) and the Green Park Inn in Blowing Rock. The site cautions that many "places listed here require special permission to visit or investigate. Many are patrolled by authorities and trespassers could be prosecuted."

I would also add the Lake Lure Inn to the list of Western N.C. haunts. I stayed there a couple of years ago and swear that there was a boy standing at the foot of my bed during the night who quickly vanished. (Of course knowing that the Inn is supposedly haunted BEFORE I went to sleep probably didn't help.)

Among the other western haunts are the Old Battery Park Hotel in Asheville ("It's said that in a private apartment building in downtown Asheville, which used to be known as the Battery Park Hotel in the early to mid 1900's, apparitions can be seen very early in the morning. Individuals who worked the morning shift in the pantry refused to go in alone because a man who was murdered there was known to reveal himself in spirit form to employees.); Appalachian State University in Boone ("East Hall is one of the dormitories for the college and is said to be haunted. Student assistants have reported being followed by unknown footsteps when on their rounds after midnight. People have also claimed that the lights will suddenly turn off in halls and you can feel someone brush against you."); and of course the Brown Mountain Lights in Linville ("At two different places on the Blue Ridge parkway you can see the brown mountain lights. There are three stories to this one. 1) It's said that there was a war between two different Native American tribes. At night when it was safe, the women would go out and look for their husbands with big bright torches, but they were killed too, so now they keep looking forever. 2) It was winter and a little girl had gone missing. Her father looked and looked for her but she died and he died as well. To this day, he continues the search. Scientist have tried to figure out what has been going on for hundreds of years and many people have seen these lights year after year. 3) The spirit of a faithful slave who is in search of his master who was accidentally wounded while hunting.... whatever they are, they appear nightly in the gorge, with no set pattern, they weave in and out of the trees until they reach the edge of the river, then they disappear only to reappear in another spot.")

Happy Halloween!

(Lake Lure Inn photo courtesy of its website)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Quick hits: Wild horses, old piers and Ol' Roy

Study looks at how many wild horses are enough
"A study is being launched to determine what impact wild horses have on the northern Outer Banks of North Carolina, where the animals compete increasingly with visitors for space," says the AP.

"The Corolla Wild Horse Fund estimates the study could cost $800,000 and take up to two years, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported Monday.

"Karen McCalpin, executive director of the fund, said the group plans to commission researchers from N.C. State to examine the effects the horse herd has on marshes and grass.

"The fund and the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge agreed in 1999 to limit the herd to about 60 horses. The herd currently numbers 101 and McCalpin said she thinks a herd of 120 to 130 would be good for long-term health. ..."

N.C. aquarium agency closer on bidding on pier
"The head of North Carolina's aquarium agency says he hopes a rebuilt pier on the Outer Banks will be open for use by 2010," says the AP.

"North Carolina Aquariums director David Griffin said the agency will begin seeking bids this week on the Jennette's Pier project, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported Monday.

"The $15 million project would rebuild the pier to 1,000 feet and design it to withstand hurricanes of 130 mph. The pier would include alternative energy generators and a 200-seat meeting area. ..."

UNC hoops No. 1 in media poll
"For the second straight season, North Carolina was the unanimous pick of media members Sunday to win the ACC in men's basketball," says Ken Tysiac.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Who knew? The etymology of 'bunkum'

Am in the process of reading Bill Bryson's excellent Made In America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States, when I came across an entry on the now-forgotten 1820s congressman Felix Walker (1753-1828).

Walker, it seems, was "accused of speaking drivel" when "he replied that he was speaking to the people of Buncombe, County, North Carolina, his district," Bryson writes. "Almost immediately his congressional colleagues began referring to any political claptrap or bombast as speaking to Buncombe."

Bryson goes on to say that the prhase's use went beyond Washington and morphed to buncombe, bunkum and also just plain bunk.

"Thus with a single fatuous utterance, the forgotten Felix Walker managed to inspire half a page of dictionary entries."

Well done, Congressman Walker.

NFL's Wilson enjoying the 'High Point' of his career

The Winston-Salem Journal's John Delong has a nice piece on Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson, a former NCSU star.

"When Adrian Wilson isn't making big hits as the Arizona Cardinals' strong safety, he can often be found at a designer shoe store that he owns in Scottsdale.

"The name of the store?

"High Point.

"It's partly a tribute to his home town, where he starred at High Point Andrews before going on to N.C. State and ultimately to the Cardinals as a third-round pick in 2001.

" 'Obviously it is a tribute to my home town, but I also said once I got my own business it would be the high point of my career, and the high point of my life. That's how it is and that's pretty much how I want to keep it.' ..."

Wilson is the Cardinals' longest-tenured player on the team. (He's in his eighth season in the NFL, all with 'Zona.) He has been in on 21 tackles this season, despite missing one game and most of another with a hamstring injury, Delong notes. "He got the 17th interception of his career in the Cardinals' season-opening win against San Francisco, and continues to close in on a personal milestone. With three more interceptions and four more sacks, he will become the ninth player in NFL history to record 20 career sacks and 20 interceptions.

"He is also in the NFL record books for having the most sacks by a defensive back in one season, with eight in 2006. He had two 99-yard returns for touchdowns that season, also an NFL record, with a 99-yard interception return against Atlanta and a 99-yard fumble return against Minnesota."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quick hits: New sports channel, interstate for the Carolinas

Fox Sports launches Carolinas network
"After agreeing to televise more Carolina Hurricanes games, landing a deal to carry the Charlotte Bobcats and adding South Carolina to its lineup, Fox Sports South decided it had enough programming to launch a Carolinas network," says the N&O.

"Hence the new Fox Sports Carolinas, to be abbreviated as FSCR in television program listings. You'll be able to get it on the same channel you're using to watch FSN South, for example channel 50 if you subscribe in Raleigh to Time Warner Cable. FSN South will send a more Carolinas-specific feed to Time Warner for viewers in those two states, says Jeff Genthner, senior vice president and general manager of Fox Sports South and FS Carolinas. ...

"FS Carolinas will televise 65 Canes games this year (up from 55), 70 Bobcats games and 43 ACC men's basketball games, including 19 on Sunday nights. The new regional sports network will look for additional opportunities to line up programming of local interest. ..."

New interstate to Myrtle Beach?
"South Carolina is now clear to start buying land for a new interstate to the Grand Strand," says the AP.

"State and federal highway officials signed papers Wednesday in Columbia for the northern stretch of Interstate 73. The action clears the way for buying land for the interstate between I-95 and the North Carolina state line. ...

"Interstate 73 will one day link Myrtle Beach and Michigan. It will provide the first interstate connection to the beach, which is the heart of South Carolina's $16 billion tourism industry. ..."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Quick hits: Another N.C. tree to grace the White House, and more on BBQ bible

White House Christmas tree from North Carolina

"A tree farm in the northwestern corner of North Carolina now knows which tree the White House wants for President Bush's final Christmas in office," says the AP.

"River Ridge Tree Farms in Ashe County won the right to supply the tree in August, when it was named grand champion of the 2008 Christmas Tree Contest of the National Christmas Tree Association. ...

"It's the second straight year an Ashe County tree has been chosen. A tree from neighboring Alleghany County was the White House tree in 2005."

Book chronicles history of N.C. barbecue

"Truth be told, the biggest issue in North Carolina is not deciding between Democrat and Republican.

"Heck, no.

"It's deciding whether Piedmont or Eastern-style barbecue is best," writes the Salisbury Post's Susan Shinn.

"And that's a dispute, my friends, that no election will ever resolve.

"It's a fine problem to have. North Carolina will always be pro-pork. We love our barbecue in the Old North State. ..."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Good news: A game that should be played

It's not Georgia-Florida, Ohio State-Michigan or even N.C. State-North Carolina. Nonetheless, the news that East Carolina and Appalachian State will face on the gridiron next year is great news for college football in the state.

"The Sept. 5 game at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville will mark ECU's first matchup against a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly known as Division I-AA, opponent since 2001.The Mountaineers own a 19-10 lead in the Appalachian series that dates back to 1932 but the two programs haven't met since the Pirates won 38-21 in Boone on Nov. 3, 1979.

" 'Although this is a single-game contract with Appalachian State for the 2009 season only, it is my hope that this game will be a springboard for a great in-state rivalry in the future,' ECU Director of Athletics Terry Holland said. 'The Mountaineers have proven their ability to compete against the very best programs in the area and in the nation.'"

This matchup presents a nice east-versus-west rivalry that both sets of fans can get behind. Hopefully it is a game that will be played quite regularly. It's a game that should be played on a consistent basis, along with N.C. State-Duke (whacky ACC division scheduling has screwed that up), N.C. State/UNC-South Carolina, along with the other border schools (Tennessee and Georgia come to mind), as well as NCSU/UNC-ECU. Of course, if/when UNC Charlotte adds football, the idea of scheduling like this might go out the door.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ridin' the N.C. rails

I had the absolute pleasure -- and I don't use that term lightly -- to take Amtrak's Piedmont train from Raleigh to Charlotte a little over a week ago. It had been a decade since my last Amtrak experience -- a horrid, 18-hour (each way) affair from Raleigh to Fort Lauderdale.

Needless to say, I was cautiously optimistic about what lay before me. My previous experience coupled with the fluid and flawless rail trips in Europe -- and the horror stories of American train trips that I've heard/read about -- made me suspect that not only would the Piedmont not get to the Queen City in the estimated three hours, but that it may be a dirty, smelly and generally unpleasant trip.

How wrong I was, thankfully.

The Piedmont was scheduled to leave Raleigh at 7 a.m. (Truth be told, if there is a building in Raleigh that could use some aesthetic help, it is the downtown Amtrak depot. It doesn't exhude pleasantness.) It left at -- wha-lah! -- 7 a.m. It got to Cary at the scheduled 7:11; Durham at 7:30; and so on and so on. Yes, it lost a minute or two along the way, but I was in Charlotte at roughly 10:15 -- some six minutes after it was supposed to arrive.

The fact that I had ample leg room (made me not ever want to set foot on a plane again), complimentary snacks and drinks, and plenty of time to sit back and read (or nap), made the experience one that I will gladly recreate in the near future. True, the Piedmont and thus the Carolinian don't exactly wind their way through the Alps or France's wine valleys, but you do get to see parts of North Carolina that most folks never do: N.C. State from the windows of the train; Durham's burgeoning downtown; and towns that look like they were built up around the train, like Kannapolis and Cary.

If there is a downside to traveling the train it is that Charlotte's train station is in a "worse" part of town than Raleigh's.

Is train travel conducive all the time? No; one is still better off probably driving to places such as Orlando or, ahem, Fort Lauderdale. But trips to D.C., Philly, Boston, NYC, Charlotte and Atlanta (and, for that matter, Charleston and Savannah) SHOULD be open to efficient train trips.

This trip did nothing but reinforce my belief that trains should be highly invested in as a critical mass transit option --whether for intra- or intercity travel.

Quick hits: Writing about Ocracoke's charms, Appalachia's borders - and honoring those that write

Ocracoke, off-season
"When the seasons cool, we tumble into the car with our dog – Blue – and head to the coast. We've had New Year's at Ocracoke and Christmas at Pawleys Island, S.C. Ocracoke is our family favorite," says the Charlotte Observer.

"The beach seems wider, the sky more blue, and there's quiet in the village except for the wind whispering down Howard Street. There's more room to run, more space to ride bikes, and there's more time to do everything or nothing at all. ..."

Bush redraws boundaries of Appalachia
"Tabbatha Tubbs laughs at the thought of Washington politicians decreeing her hometown Appalachian. After all, there’s not a mountain in sight from this gently rolling countryside best known for its thoroughbred horse farms," says the AP.

"This is picturesque Bluegrass country: Black wooden fences surround grazing thoroughbreds. Golden stalks of tobacco hang from tiered barns. And herds of fat beef cattle mow their way across fields of green grass.

"It’s hardly the heart of Appalachia, the rugged hills where President Lyndon B. Johnson declared war on poverty some 44 years ago. But like it or not, Tubbs and her neighbors are now residents of the impoverished region, at least in the eyes of the federal government. ..."

Writers, historians honored
"Three people were inducted into the N.C. Literary Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon," said the News & Observer.

"Durham poet James Applewhite, Chapel Hill historian William S. Powell and Hillsborough novelist Lee Smith were inducted in a ceremony at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities in Southern Pines. ..."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Small town gets the splotlight for major motion picture

"Like many small towns, Watha is a 'blink and you miss it' kind of place, settled along a crossroads near Burgaw in Pender County," writes the Wilmington Star-News.

"It’s an old railroad town of turn-of-the-century houses, cats lounging on porches, small churches and hog farms. But come this weekend, everyone in the country will be able to see the North Carolina town of 190 people.

" 'The Secret Life of Bees,' the big-budget movie based on the best-selling book by Sue Monk Kidd, filmed in Watha for about three weeks in February. The star-studded film, which opens in theaters Friday, tells the story of a young Lily Owens (played by Dakota Fanning), who leaves behind her father and their South Carolina peach farm. Traveling with her nanny, Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson), Lily encounters the Boatwrights, a trio of beekeeping sisters (Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo), who fold the girl into their strange, secret world."

For the rest of the story, click here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A little N.C. flavor in Copenhagen

"There is a distinctively North Carolina flavor at the American ambassador's home in the Danish capital," writes the Winston-Salem Journal.

"Paintings by artists from the state adorn the walls of 'Rydhave,' a house noted for its beauty and history. And business leaders from North Carolina who recently visited found the state flag flying outside and a meal of barbecue, biscuits and pecan pie imported from the Tarheel state.

"The decor and dishes reflect the heritage of Jim Cain, who grew up in Winston-Salem and uses his home-state's heritage to put the best face on American foreign diplomacy."

Read on for more about Cain, who has worked in Raleigh as an attorney, businessman and even president of the Carolina Hurricanes. (Cain even once used the same Raleigh barber as one certain blogger. Ahem.)

"Public attitudes toward the U.S. have worsened throughout Western Europe since the onset of the Iraq War," said Pete Furia, a professor of political science at Wake Forest University.

"However, official relations between the U.S. and Denmark over the same period have been warmer than those between the U.S. and larger European countries like Germany and France."

Cain has "encouraged Danes to visit his home state," says the paper.

"He helped Danish students spend time in both North Carolina and Winston-Salem through various exchange programs during the past three years. He also came to Winston-Salem with the Danish ambassador to the United States, Friis Petersen, in 2006 to speak to law students at Wake Forest."

Friday, October 10, 2008

'Old North State' pride

Regular contributor James C. sent me this photo that he took the other day, and I felt compelled to post it. What a great shot.

"Hurrah! Hurrah! the Old North State forever!"

(Thanks to James for the photo.)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Autumn colors are on the way

Want to get a head start on seeing the most spectacular fall colors? Then head up the mountains, says the Asheville Citizen-Times' Dale Neal.

"Go high for the best bet at seeing spectacular fall colors over the next week or so," he says.

"With recent rains and a cooling trend, the highest peaks around Western North Carolina could see colorful fall foliage starting this week, said Gary Walker, a biology professor at Appalachian State University.

"Temperature, rainfall, the length of the nights and elevation all factor into the formula of where to expect the best color. ...

"Grandfather Mountain may be nearing its peak color this weekend, with about half the trees above 5,000 feet already turned, park naturalist Jesse Pope said. 'All the maples are in full color and many of the oaks have changed. I think this weekend will be really nice, but we should have good color next weekend and two weeks out.' ..."

Oh, no!

I don't like the sound of this one bit.

"The Associated Press reported earlier this week that the producer of the 1998 movie 'Bull Durham' hopes to start filming a sequel in Durham in late spring 2009."

Why take the chance of tainting one of the best sports movies of all time?

Some people, however, have thought long and hard about this.

"[Durham business owner George] Davis believes he has an idea for a plotline that could work out for a second installment.

" '[Susan] Sarandon and [Tim] Robbins own the team and [Kevin] Costner's to be the coach,' he said. ..."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

One of life's little pleasures: 'Coke' in a glass bottle

I know it's almost heresy to proclaim an allegiance to Coca-Cola when you were born and raised in the state that gave the world both Pepsi and Cheerwine. But there are few better, simple joys in life than a cold "Colcola" in a glass bottle.

But I should note that perhaps part of my love of this drink is because of nostalgia. I can remember going on Saturday mornings with my father to the local barber shop for a haircut. There, in the corner, was an old Coke drink machine, serving out only bottled goodness. They even had Mello Yello in a (green?) bottle. Even the sometimes-incidental knocking of the front teeth against the top of the bottle was worth it.

Even my wife, who is not a fan of sodas, let alone caffeinated ones, agreed the other night that "sometimes there's just nothing better" than a bottle of Coke.

There. I said it. Please don't revoke my Old North State passport. At least Coke is Southern.

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.)

More good news for Chimney Rock Park

The Charlotte Observer's Bruce Henderson reports that a $3.5 million grant and private fundraising will "help protect a landmark mountain in Rutherford County that will likely become part of Chimney Rock State Park."

The state paid $24 million, including a private donation, for the 996-acre Chimney Rock Park tourist attraction in January 2007. The new state park now covers 4,005 acres, largely because of acquisitions by the Nature Conservancy and local land trusts, which have worked for two decades to protect the Hickory Nut Gorge.

The nonprofit group said Tuesday it will buy 357 acres on the flank of Rumbling Bald Mountain, on the gorge's north side and one of its most important undeveloped tracts. The money will come from the state Clean Water Management Trust Fund and a $3.25 million campaign by the conservancy. ...

Rumbling Bald, distinctive for its series of three mounds and high rock cliffs, rises to about 2,800 feet. Oak and hickory forest covers much of the tract, which harbors rare spiders, salamanders and wood rats. Ravens nest in the cliffs and bats hibernate in large fissure caves.

Money to develop a master plan for the new Chimney Rock State Park has been approved, and public meetings will likely be held early next year. When complete, said deputy state parks director Don Reuter, the park “will be a crown jewel in our system.”

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Take the state parks survey

Joe Miller posted on his blog that the N.C. state parks system is seeking feedback.

"Ever complained because a campground wasn't up to snuff? Groused that a hiking trail needed repair? Kvetched over a dearth of recreational opportunities?" he writes. "Think we need more trails to avoid traffic jams such as this one at Eno River State Park (OK, it was during the annual Eno River Association New Year's Day Hike)? Take the State Parks survey and make your voice heard.

"If you've ever done that at a state park, then here's your chance to direct that complaint in the right direction. The N.C. Division of State Parks and Recreation is opening their suggestion box in the form of an online survey. Go to their Web site, click on 'State Park Survey' under 'Items of Interest' in the column on the left, and spend about five minutes rating what you think works and what doesn't and indicating what you'd like to see more of. ..."

The survey will close on Friday, November 7, 2008.

Friday, October 03, 2008

UNC chancellor blogging about the Old North State

Those that know me know I'm not a huge fan of Carolina blue. But I have to commend new UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp for his latest endeavor: blogging about his experiences traveling the state to get to know North Carolina.

His blog,, gives insight to what he sees as he travels across the state.

"As I begin my tenure as Carolina's chancellor, this blog will help me share thoughts, ideas and news about how the university is fulfilling its commitment to our students and to our state," Thorp wrote on the blog.

"Thorp began posting his impressions Monday from a visit to Tom Herndon's authentic research class at Chapel Hill High School," says the News & Observer. "A second post covers stops Tuesday at UNC-Asheville and Jenny Thomas' Advanced Placement chemistry class at Asheville High School."

His most recent involves a visit to Charlotte.

"One of the students asked what made Carolina students so different from students at other universities," he wrote. " I fumbled around with some general statements and then finally said, 'They love the university, and they love each other.'"
(Photo from

Quick hits: Musical bonanza

Pickler's latest will separate her from the country-music pack
"It's hard not to like Albemarle's Kellie Pickler, especially if you're from the Carolinas," says the Charlotte Observer.

"Pickler's down-home charm, unapologetic honesty and humor has helped the former 'American Idol' finalist establish herself as one of country music's rising young female stars. She picked up three CMT Music Awards earlier this year; she'll compete for New Artist of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards on Nov. 12; and her self-titled sophomore album hit stores Tuesday.

"Having recorded her gold-selling debut 'Small Town Girl' while touring with “American Idol,” Pickler took a larger role in crafting her follow-up: She co-wrote half the disc's tracks. ..."

North Carolina Music Hall of Fame ... in Kannapolis?
"What do Earl Scruggs, Thelonious Monk, and Shirley Caesar have in common? They are all Grammy Award Winning Musicians from the state of North Carolina. Earl Scruggs (Shelby), Thelonious Monk (Rocky Mount), along with fellow North Carolinians, John Coltrane (Hamlet) and Doc Watson (Deep Gap) have been honored with the Grammy lifetime achievement award. Shirley Caesar (Durham) has received 11 Grammy awards and 7 Dove Awards throughout her career as a gospel singer. In fact North Carolina has produced some of the finest musicians in the modern world, but surprisingly, very few people are aware of North Carolina’s rich musical heritage.

"North Carolinians have helped shape every category of the music world, from country to rap, indie to pop, and from big band to jug band," writes New Raleigh. "Nina Simone (Tryon), Tori Amos (Newton), Charlie Daniels (Wilmington), George Clinton (Kannapolis), and of course Andy Griffith (Mount Airy), all have received numerous awards for their various contributions to the field, yet where would a person go to be explore this history?

"Many people might believe that the young James Taylor was baptized in the ol’ well at UNC on the day of his birth, although he was actually born in Boston. Both he and Tift Merrit were born outside the state, but graduated from the University of North Carolina.

"But nowhere in the entire state are all of these musicians and their achievements showcased. Why doesn’t North Carolina have a Music History Museum? Also, why is North Carolina creating the NC Music Hall of Fame in Kannapolis? ..."