Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More photos from WNC/Smokies

Seems we've had a lot of Western N.C. content of late. Nothing wrong with that.

Here's a little more. These are from a Citizen-Times online photo gallery of "Historic Photos from the Smokies." Enjoy.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Smokies celebrate a birthday; the Gov. doesn't help blow out the candles

A big event was held over the weekend to celebrate the 75th birthday of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Unfortunately, our governor could not -- or would not -- make it to the shindig.

"Notably absent among the dignitaries gathered for the Governors' Proclamation Ceremony was N.C. Gov. Beverly Perdue," said the Citizen-Times. "She turned down an invitation to the event, citing the expense of traveling more than 300 miles from Raleigh to the site on the North Carolina-Tennessee border, according to Perdue spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson. Perdue sent N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Dee Freeman to represent her.

" 'Gov. Perdue could not be here today and asked me to come and stand for her and to share in this event to celebrate the 75th anniversary of this great park,' he said.

"The governors' proclamation ceremony honored the people of Tennessee, North Carolina and across the nation who paved the way for the creation of what would become the country's most-visited national park. It was also an occasion to look ahead to the park's future.

" 'The thousands of people (who) lobbied for this park and raised the money — some by collecting pennies — to buy this huge tract of land all knew that the park would be a valuable resource, but I think if they were here today I think they would be in disbelief to hear that 10 million visitors from all over the world visit the park every year,'" said Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, who managed to show up.

A mecca for hikers and nature lovers, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has helped pump billions of dollars into the economies of North Carolina and Tennessee. The Smokies have been vital to the economies of what had been a very poor region, Asheville Vice Mayor Jan Davis said.

“We are blessed to have the Smokies and the Blue Ridge Parkway for 75 years,” he said.

“I really ask those here to rededicate themselves to preserving things for future generations,” Bredesen said. “They are fast disappearing in this world of ours, and I hope that this gathering has people of the commitment and the same courage and the same vision that helped make this park possible 75 years ago.”

Perdue spent some time visiting Western North Carolina last month, staying at the Governor's Western Residence in Asheville, but the distance between Raleigh and the western counties appeared too great for her to make another trip.

“The governor was invited and did give serious consideration, but given the length of the trip and the potential travel cost involved, she declined,” Pearson said.

“It is so far out of the way, and we are trying to cut back on travel.”

For Perdue not to attend Friday's event seemed like “a slap in the face,” Davis said.

“For her to recognize that Western North Carolina is here and then to not come to this is not a good thing,” he said.

“The relationship (between North Carolina and) Tennessee is important. This is a very important occasion. It's a disappointment.”


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Some wonderful WNC photos

The good thing about having just a few "Followers" (the list of our readers a little ways down on the right "rail") is that I can tell when there's a new one. Our newest "Follower" is apparently Jason Shortes (hello, Jason!), who also follows some Western North Carolina-related blogs worth checking out.

In short time I have become a HUGE fan of Blue Ridge blog, which is full of some captivating photos. Here are just a few samples of the wonderful snapshots of WNC. Enjoy.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

OBX pier retooling appears to be a win-win-win-win ...

Let's see ...

Restore a treasured landmark?


Create jobs?


Protect the environment?


Not bad.

"Gov. Beverly Perdue says retooling an old Outer Banks landmark will create hundreds of jobs and help visitors learn about North Carolina marine life and nature," says the AP. [Emphasis mine.]

"Perdue signed into law Wednesday a bill to pay for construction of the North Carolina Aquarium Pier at Nags Head, using admissions money at state aquariums and outside sources. The Legislature gave its final OK to the $25 million plan Tuesday. ...

"The bill says the pier's refurbishment could create more than 550 jobs.

"The pier will include a stormwater system designed to protect the sounds and beaches from runoff."

Cherokee groups to reunite

This weekend, in Cleveland, Tenn., the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Cherokee Nation will reuniteat the place where they fought government plans to send them west 171 years ago -- not one of our nation's finest moments.

"The show of solidarity and culture," says the Citizen-Times, "is only the second time the two governments have returned to the place where Cherokee Chief John Ross learned his people would be forced from their homeland.

“ 'It is a good thing for us to come together with the western tribe,' said Shirley Oswalt, who lives in the Snowbird community in Graham County. 'It is like families coming home for a reunion.'

Federal troops in the spring of 1838 rounded up about 17,000 Cherokee and forced them to walk to Oklahoma on what became known as the Trail of Tears. At least 4,000 died along the way.

Red Clay was the Cherokee capital at the time. The government had moved there from its capital city of New Echota in north Georgia after the state outlawed its meetings.

The two nations reunited for the first time at Red Clay in 1984. The events this week start today with a symposium of scholars and cultural demonstrations.

Members of both tribes will run a relay to carry a symbolic eternal flame to Red Clay from Cherokee. Eastern Band Principal Chief Michell Hicks and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith will carry torches to lead the runners into the historic Red Clay Council Grounds.

There, leaders from both governments will meet in a joint council to pass resolutions to symbolize the reunification of the Cherokee Nation. The event ends Saturday with traditional dances, music, storytelling, a stickball game and arts and crafts demonstrations. It is free and open to the public. ...

The Eastern Band has about 12,000 enrolled members and the western Cherokee's rolls contain more than 200,000 names.

Quick hits: PKS plans soundside park and Scottish group proposes special NB tartan

Pine Knoll Shores readies for soundfront park
"The overcast day didn't keep Pine Knoll Shores resident JoAnn Shallcross from seeing the beauty of the surroundings as the town celebrated the start of construction on its new soundfront park.

"Shallcross said a group of egrets can often be found amongst the landscape of the marsh and sound that sits just behind town hall. ...

"Shallcross and other members of the town's Recreation Advisory Committee have helped the town develop plans for Veterans' Park, which will give residents and visitors a way to enjoy the sound in a natural setting," according to the Jacksonville Daily News.

"Plans call for bike parking at Pine Knoll Boulevard, with a path leading from there to an observation deck, or sittum, overlooking the sound on the back side of town hall. From there, a nature trail continues into the maritime forest toward the sound. ..."

Scottish group proposes special tartan to commemorate New Bern's 300th anniversary
"The Scottish Heritage Society of Eastern North Carolina is seeking the city's permission to design and register a special tartan in recognition of New Bern's 300th anniversary in 2010," according to the Sun-Journal.

"Tartans, sometimes referred to as plaids, are woolen cloths woven in patterns of different colors and widths. They are particularly associated with Scottish territory, where many clans adopt their own distinct patterns.

" 'New Bern has a rich heritage of Scots immigrants ... that we feel an official tartan adopted by the city would be a suitable way to recognize that heritage and the city's anniversary,' said Brian Dodds, the vice president of the society. ..."

CB council agrees ... amusement rides would rock

Sorry for the lack of posts. It's been a slow week ... "been" being the operative word.

From the Star-News ...

Carnival rides are coming back to Carolina Beach.

Late Tuesday the town council unanimously approved a conditional-use permit allowing Megerle’s Magic and Hildebrand Rides to operate rides, food stands and games for four months starting in May.

The rides will be set up in empty lots on the south side of the town’s Boardwalk near the Courtyard Marriott hotel. ...

Councilman Alan Gilbert on Wednesday said he was concerned about the carnival draining food and amusement business away from the town’s “brick and mortar” retailers in and around the Boardwalk.

“But my hope is that they will draw so many more people down there that it will be a win-win for everyone,” he said.

Pleasure Island has been without amusement rides since Jubilee Park closed down in 2004.

Among the proposed rides is a 60-feet-tall ferris wheel, overlooking the Atlantic. Nice.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Who knew? (N.C.-related oval stickers)

The other day, our sister blog, RaleighPhiloSociety.blogspot.com, took a look at some Raleigh/Triangle-related European, oval-shaped auto decals (ie: RDU, RAL, APX, etc.). You can check that out here.

The site that got the discussion going was OvalStickers.net -- a cornucopia of these decals. This site has tons of North Carolina-related stickers. Apparently, the fad is so popular in the Old North State that there's even a section just for N.C. towns.

Naturally, the larger cities and towns have their share of stickers. But I must admit, though you see these stickers everywhere now, there were several I had A) never seen or B) thought I would ever see.

I'm a native of this fine state, but I've never heard of Clarks Cove (CLX).

I'm impressed with the cleverness of Ellerbe's sticker ...

... same with Moncure's.

And my buddy from Ruffin was shocked to see this one.

"I bet they're selling tons of those," he quipped.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

'Eastbound' gets the thumbs up from HBO

According to the Star-News, HBO has renewed the filmed-in-Wilmington comedy series “Eastbound & Down” for a second season.

The raunchy, dark series stars Danny McBride as Kenny Powers, who becomes a substitute teacher in his North Carolina hometown after his big mouth and declining fastball knock him out of Major League Baseball. ...

HBO says new episodes will begin production later this year and debut in 2010.

Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commision, said the show's return to Wilmington has not been confirmed, but McBride and co-star Ben Best each told the Star-News in January they hoped to return to the Port City to film more episodes.

The series filmed its pilot episode here in 2007, then returned in fall 2008 to film the five remaining first-season episodes. The show filmed entirely on location, shooting several scenes at Schaeffer BMW on New Centre Drive and at Blue Post Billiards in downtown Wilmington.

Barbara Weetman, co-owner of the Blue Post, said some cast and crew members hung out there even when they weren’t filming and that the wrap party for the pilot episode was held there as well. ...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Carnival in Carolina Beach

There have been a couple of reports about new amusement park-like rides coming to Carolina Beach's boardwalk this summer.

CarolinaBeachToday posted about this, and just today so did the Star-News.

"Carolina Beach visitors may be able to get a stunning view of the ocean from atop a 60-foot Ferris wheel as soon as next month," says the Star-News.

"Local business owners and a Florida-based amusement park operator are joining forces to bring carnival rides and food to the Boardwalk this summer, as part of a rejuvenation effort that's kicked into high gear in the past year.

"A conditional use permit is needed for five parcels along Cape Fear Boulevard to accommodate a 'family-oriented carnival consisting of a series of large mechanical rides, kids' rides, funhouses and food stands,' states the permit application to be reviewed by the planning board on Thursday go before the town council on Tuesday.

"In his application, Robby Megerle of Megerle's Magic and Hildebrand Rides of Gibsonton, Fla., wrote the proposal is made 'with a desire to bring back the Carolina Beach of yesteryear.'

"If all goes well, rides could be up and running as early as May 6, said Brett Keeler, co-owner of Black Horn Bar and Kitchen on the Boardwalk. ..."

(Image from CarolinaBeachToday)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tar Heels claim fifth* national title

Congratulations to the University of North Carolina Tar Heels for winning its fifth national title in men's basketball last night, with a complete and utter thumping of Michigan State -- in Detroit, no less -- 89-72.

And special congrats to Tar Heel big man Tyler Hansbrough, who, love him or hate him, made a courageous decision to come back to school for his senior year just to win a title.

"Sounds like I made a pretty good decision," Hansbrough said after the game. "Nothing beats this feeling right here."

As you might imagine, there was a celebration on Franklin Street. The town of Chapel Hill seems to have a good grasp on how to handle these things.

And, as is the nature of sports, the discussion this morning isn't so much "man, that was great!" but "can they do it again?" and: "who will stay in Chapel Hill?"

In somewhat (not really) related news, this is just further proof of N.C.'s dominance over Michigan.

Michigan native Brian Groesser and his wife live 750 miles away in a new North Carolina home that looks straight off the set of "Gone with the Wind." His brother moved south two years ago; a cousin left Michigan to join them last year [according to the Detroit Free Press].

Between them, they have six college degrees, four high-paying white-collar jobs, and fewer and fewer connections to Michigan.

"Right now," said Groesser, whose North Carolina license plate reads WOLVRINE, "there's nothing that would draw me back to Michigan." ...

The state had a net loss of 18,000 college-educated residents in 2007, according to a Detroit News analysis of Census Bureau data. The loss, the equivalent of half the faculty and staff of the University of Michigan leaving for warmer climates in one year, was second-worst in the nation, behind only New York.

The two fastest-growing landing spots for Michigan expats today are both in North Carolina, with the number moving to Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte almost doubling between 2000 and 2007. Those cities, with comparatively booming economies and reasonable housing prices, are illustrative of the cities now claiming some of Michigan's most upwardly mobile residents. ...

*Six if you count the Helms Foundation one in the 1920s. I don't.

Well that's no fun

I've had to avert my eyes in Aruba and Nice, but never in, say, Atlantic Beach. But apparently nude sunbathing is an issue in the Old North State.

"Sunbathers in Brunswick County may no longer be able to avoid those tan lines," says the Associated Press.

"The Star-News of Wilmington reports that officials are trying to stop sunbathers from flaunting it all on Bird Island. The island near Sunset Beach has long been a gathering place for those who want to bask in the nude.

"A local physician recently complained about the nudity after a sightseeing trip with his children. County Commissioner Marty Cooke says he did some research and found that Bird Island was not an official nude beach and that the full exposure is against state law...."

Plus, it could give you a nasty burn.

Friday, April 03, 2009

This 'Vale of Humility'

With all due respect to our neighbors to the north and south of us, one of my favorite quotes about North Carolina is this one, that our fair state is "A vale of humility between two mountains of conceit."

This quote has been attributed to Civil War-era Gov. Zebulon Vance as well as Alexander Hamilton and John Andrew Rice; however, sources also think it goes back further. (It's also the name of a literary compilation that explores the "lives of plain folk in contemporary North Carolina fiction.")

The meaning of the quote, in this instance, at least, is that -- particularly "back in the day" -- poor old North Carolina was sandwiched between the plantation aristocracy of South Carolina to the south and the "Birthplace of Presidents" (and the most powerful of the young states) Virginia to the north -- the two "mountains of conceit," so to speak.

But in 21st Century North Carolina, does this quote still have meaning?

Charlotte Observer political expert Jack Betts pondered this last year. Wrote Betts:

It's worth remembering that North Carolina until fairly recently was regarded as a poor state, especially in comparison to wealthier plantation-culture states to our north and south. North Carolina was in such a somnolent state at one point that it was derided as "The Rip Van Winkle State" before it began making serious improvements that would boost its fortunes. The prosperity that came in the latter half of the 20th century came as a result of significant investments in higher education, the Research Triangle and a great many other areas.

As to whether the state is still a vale of humility, I dunno. We were often said to be mighty proud of not being proud, but in the modern era I think humility has taken a back seat.

I expect if Winston Churchill were around, he might say, as he did in another context, that North Carolina has much to be humble about.

So what do you think? Does modern North Carolina enjoy or even suffer from any since of humility? Have we, as a state, read our own press clippings and drank the proverbial Kool-Aid about how great we are? Or should we just enjoy this time in the spotlight -- because you don't know how fleeting it can be.

(Monticello image from howstuffworks.com; Charleston image from Dannonline.com; Rip Van Winkle from Elfwood.com)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

'Mayberry' still alluring

It's very easy to assume that everyone in America has as much of a romantic image of Andy Griffith's "Mayberry" (from The Andy Griffith Show) as us North Carolinians do.

Well, apparently they do.

Enjoy ...

In the classic Andy Griffith Show episode "Stranger in Town," a man moved to Mayberry, N.C., because he had heard so many good things about the town.

And in real life, Darrel and Debbie Miles, big fans of The Andy Griffith Show, made the same decision [writes the Winston-Salem Journal].

They are originally from New Albany, Ind., but just over three years ago they decided to make the move to Mount Airy, the town that inspired Mayberry. They opened Mayberry on Main, a store on Main Street that sells memorabilia related to The Andy Griffith Show as well as hot sauces and salsa.

Debbie recalls the first time she found out that there was a real "Mayberry" back in 1992.

"Reruns of the show were always on during dinner time," she recalled. "Like any other family, we'd be getting dinner ready and The Andy Griffith Show would be on. Then one day when I was at work, my oldest daughter, Natalie, called and said, ‘Mom, there really is a Mayberry and Oprah's there!' I said, ‘Well, find out where it is!'"

When they got home, Natalie had written down the name of "Mount Airy, N.C."

"That minute on, we made arrangements to visit," Debbie said. "And then every year at least once a year we could come down." ...

"We found more and more times when we had a few days off, we'd be driving down to Mount Airy," Darrel said. They visited frequently over the course of about 13 years.

And when Darrel retired from the manufacturing company where he had worked for 32 years, they decided to move to Mount Airy.

So, they made the leap. Was "Mayberry" everything they thought it would be?

Russell Hiatt, who runs Floyd's City Barber Shop on Main Street, said that he wasn't surprised when the Mileses decided to move to Mount Airy.

"They had been coming here every year, and always come in to see me," he said. "Then they came in one time and told me they were wanting to move here and go into business ... I was tickled because they were great folks. I helped them find a building." ...

Some visitors think that The Andy Griffith Show was actually filmed in Mount Airy (it was filmed in California). "We try to break it to them gently, this is really Andy's hometown, this is the real place he lived," Debbie said. "We came for Mayberry, but Mount Airy, you fall in love with it. It's the kind of town everybody would want their hometown to be."
(Screenshot from sitcomsonline)

Grandfather 'officially' a state park

"Gov. Bev Perdue has signed legislation that allows Grandfather Mountain to become North Carolina's newest state park," says the Citizen-Times.

"Perdue's signature on Tuesday finalized an agreement to create Grandfather Mountain State Park and protect its nearly 2,500 undeveloped acres. The state will purchase the land from the family of Hugh Morton this spring for $12 million from a pair of state trust funds.

"Morton's heirs will continue operating the Grandfather Mountain tourist attraction, including its nature center and 'mile-high' swinging bridge near Boone. The state also will gain a conservation easement on 749 acres of the property where the attraction is located. ..."

This is fantastic news. Grandfather is a North Carolina treasure.