Monday, December 19, 2011

Patrick Sky, folk music legend

Full disclosure: I had probably worked with Patrick Sky for about six years before a co-worker pointed out that the bearded dude with the wicked sense of humor had, at one point, been one of the most respected folks music songwriters of the 1960s. Seriously.

Thankfully, it didn't take long to prove my co-worker correct. (Thank you, Google.) Yes, before he retired became an "IT guy" (he retired just a few years ago), Pat Sky was a legend in Greenwich Village and beyond.

From Wikipedia:

A contemporary of Bob Dylan and others in the Greenwich Village folk boom of the 1960s, following military service Sky released a number of well received albums from 1965 onwards and played with many of the leading performers of the period, particularly Buffy Sainte-Marie, Eric Andersen and the blues singer Mississippi John Hurt (whose Vanguard albums Sky produced). Sky's song "Many A Mile" became a folk club staple, and has been recorded by Sainte-Marie and others.

Becoming increasingly disillusioned with the music business and politically radical, Sky released the controversial and scabrously satirical Songs That Made America Famous in 1973 (the album was recorded in 1971 but rejected by several record companies before it found a home); to this day he claims to have received no royalties for the album. This album featured the earlier known recorded version of the song "Luang Prabang," written by Sky's friend Dave Van Ronk. Patrick Sky had honed his politically charged satire in earlier albums, but Songs That Made America Famous raised the stakes. The Adelphi Records website describes how the content was, indeed, shocking; yet, how several critics encouraged the public to rush to buy these timely and brilliant "explicit lyrics" while it could. Sky gradually moved into the field of Irish traditional music, founding Green Linnet Records in 1973. Today he is recognised as an expert in building and playing the Irish uillean pipes, often performing with his wife, Cathy. He has also published several books on the subject.

The same co-worker today alerted me to this piece from "Around Carolina" that catches up with Pat and his uillean pipe work (both musically and by trade). Glad to see Pat is still involved in the music business.

The decline of Christmas tree sales

This Wall Street Journal piece is interesting on a couple of levels. One, it's about the sale of Christmas trees, which is vital to N.C.'s economy. Secondly, it references research being conducted at N.C. State University, where they are attempting to create the "perfect Christmas tree."

As sales of live trees decline, Christmas tree growers nationwide are increasingly turning to research and marketing to develop and promote the perfect holiday decoration.

In a greenhouse at North Carolina State University, Christmas tree geneticist John Frampton, tests DNA and blends characteristics of trees from around the world in search of the perfect Christmas tree. "We're trying to find a tree that grows faster, is better quality and has pest resistance," he said.

While about 40 percent of US households, or about 37 million of 94 million homes, bought live Christmas trees in 1991, that percentage declined to 23 percent, or 27 million of 118 million homes, last year, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, a trade group.

The reason is partly demographic. Many baby boomers stop buying live trees as they get older. Many people in their 30s and 40s never developed the habit, having grown up in split households or sometimes with artificial trees.

"I don't want to be all doom and gloom because nobody wants to hear that," said Rick Dungey, spokesman for the National Christmas Tree Association. "But we as an industry have some big challenges."

And when consumers do buy real trees in today's tough economy, they're opting for shorter, less expensive ones -- often four feet or smaller -- which are less profitable for growers.

At the same time, sales of artificial trees made in China have skyrocketed, thanks to quality improvements and other demographic shifts, as many city dwellers opt against the hassle of hauling, maintaining and recycling a live tree.

Consumers will spend about $1.01 billion on artificial trees this year, compared to $984 million on real trees, according to a recent Nielsen survey conducted for the American Christmas Tree Association, which represents artificial tree retailers.

To combat the tough headwinds, growers are putting more of their own money into Christmas tree marketing and research, often on their own farms.

Christmas tree growers are a diffuse bunch, ranging from Pacific Northwest magnates to mom-and-pop shops in the Carolinas. But the growers surveyed by the National Christmas Tree Association said they were willing to pay a 15-cent tax per tree for a coordinated marketing and research program, similar to "Got milk?" for the dairy industry.


Friday, December 09, 2011

Email: 'For NC People'

I'm not sure where this originated, but I received this email from my mother (Hi, Mom!) yesterday. It's pretty darn comprehensive about the many things North Carolinians can be proud of. Enjoy.

(My apologies for the font size differential. That's how it came via email.)

North Carolina is one of the most populated (9,250,000) and geographically longest, in the old South. From Manteo in the east to Murphy in the west, North Carolina is 560 miles long, making it the longest state east of the Mississippi . (Measured east west.)

The Biltmore Estate has the largest privately owned home in the United States . The main house, modeled after a French chateau, has 250 rooms and more than 33,000 square feet of living space. Built between 1885 and 1898 by the George Vanderbilt family.

Before Jamestown Va.(1607) or Plymouth Mass.(1620) was even thought of, Fort Raleigh on Roanoke Island became the first English colony (given the impetus by Sir Walter Raleigh) in the new world in 1585. The first American born in the New World of Caucasian parentage and European heritage, a little girl named Virginia Dare, happened here on Roanoke Island at Fort Raleigh . Dare County, in Eastern NC , was named in honor of her.
Pepsi Cola is ours, developed and first served in New Bern NC in 1898 and unless you have had one in a clear ten-ounce glass bottle, with a slight crust of ice on top, you have missed a real treat. Try pouring about half a pack of salted peanuts into one sometime.

North Carolinians , native or adopted, say "ma'am and sir" and call their mothers "mama" and their fathers 'daddy”. They know that 'y'all' is perfectly good English and never means just one person. ‘Fixinto’ is perfectly acceptable, too. 'Didjaeat' is an invitation to lunch or dinner (or supper as we like to call it and y'all can too...if 'yountoo').

And if y'all don't like the way we talk, you can just jump back into your car and I-95, I-85, I-77, and I-40 will take you right back to where ever you may be from.

We have a Long history of developing some of the world's greatest athletes. We gave the world 'Sugar' Ray Leonard, Michael Jordan, David Thompson, Lou Hudson, Bobby Jones, Bob McAdoo, Walt Bellamy, Jim 'Catfish' Hunter, Gaylord Perry, Jim Beatty, Sonny Jurgenson, Roman Gabriel, Wray Carlton, Charlie 'Choo Choo' Justice, 'Meadow Lark' Lemon, Trot Nixon, Enos Slaughter and Josh Hamiliton. If you don't know who these people are, you ought to find out before you go to bed tonight. Just Google'em.

The Golfing Hall of Fame is located in Pinehurst NC , and the greatest and toughest golf courses in US golf are also found there.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame is also newly located in Uptown (or downtown for non-native Charlotteans). The stock car Hall has some fantastic new digs for the recently State approved Sport of Stock Car Racing as North Carolina 's favorite Sport.

The first powered flight by the Wright brothers happened at Kitty Hawk , NC on the outer banks.
Fontana Dam is the tallest dam in the Eastern United States , at 480 feet high just SW of Asheville high in the mountains.

On autumn Saturdays, every Fall, the Carolina blue faithful will gather in Chapel Hill for another rendition of 'What it was, was football' made famous by Andy Griffin while he was a student at UNC. NC State fans gather in Raleigh to see and hear the Wolfpack howl, while Duke and Wake Forest pull their devilous and demon like shenanigans on the gridiron in Durham and Winston-Salem respectively. In the winter, we play and follow College basketball, where between the three of them, UNC , NC State and Duke share 12 national NCAA Championships in the sport of Roundball.

The highest mountaintops east of the Mississippi are found in western NC with Mt. Mitchell at 6,684' being the tallest among many more taller than any other state east of the Mississippi and if all were flattened, NC would be larger than Texas .

Prior to prohibition NC was the nation’s largest wine producer and it is now rebuilding a huge wine industry with wineries from the NC coastal plain to the NC mountains. Here we come, California !

Yes, we are better than California with which we share everything geographically, except for Redwoods, deserts and fault lines. Thank Heaven.

Charlotte with its more than a million and a half people (sometimes called Metrolina) is the leading banking city in the South and second only to New York in the entire US banking industry.

In 1864, Sherman burned parts of Raleigh and North Carolina on his March to Richmond and Washington after waging his war of attrition in his infamous march to the sea through the Deep South .
We're called the " Tar Heel State " because our confederate troops during the Civil War were said to stick in a fight better than other southern troops by none other than Marse Robert E. Lee. The NC Rebel troops were a proud lot that proclaimed they "were the first at Bethel , the farthest north at Gettysburg and the last at Appomattox "! The last Southern Port closed by the North's blockade of the South's Seaports during the Civil War was Wilmington and Fort Fisher at the mouth of the Cape Fear River in 1865. The Battle of Bentonville NC, fought March 19-21, 1865, was the last full-scale action of the Civil War in which a Confederate army was able to mount a tactical offensive campaign against Gen. Sherman on his way through the Carolinas towards Richmond , Va. .
We do produce the most tobacco and cigarettes, not to mention some of the best peanuts, pecans, and poultry found in this country.
The High Point/Thomasville area is a US leader in the production of famous furniture and it hosts the Annual US Furniture Merchandise Mart.

The best pork barbecue in the world comes from our Carolina pits. We are also the leading pork producer in the US . Yes, God intended for iced tea to be served "sweet." And yes, Grits are one of the major food groups. Mustard, Collard and Turnip Greens are too.

Elvis wasn't ours, but other singer/musicians were, Randy Travis, George Hamilton IV, Crash Craddock, Ben E. King, Thelonius Monk, Ronnie Milsap, Donna Fargo, Earl Scruggs, Don Gibson, Stonewall Jackson, Doc Watson and Charlie Daniels are and so is author Thomas Wolf, who wrote 'Look Homeward Angel'. And Scotty McCreery is 2011's American Idol.

And I still miss Andy of Mayberry every day.

Born in Smithfield , Ava Gardner may have been North Carolina 's prettiest and most famous movie star, .

Every North Carolinian and citizen of the USA needs to visit Salem, the sister city of Winston to see how colonial Moravians put their talent and work ethic to work building this early Carolina city into the treasure it is today. This work ethic turned an entire generation of Tar Heel people into the best employers and employees in this great land developing a great textile, tobacco, and seafood and furniture industry.

Because of our extensive coast line of over 300 miles, and even more extensive shore line of over 1,000 miles, sea oats, pelicans, shrimp boats, shrimp and oysters are held high in our thoughts as peculiarly ours even though many states also share these same attributes. In the seafood industry, a type of southern fried seafood served in southern restaurants, is called Calabash Style and is named after the southeastern most NC village of Calabash .
Proud, decent, honest and unpretentious people are our heritage that is reflected in our State Motto, Esse Quam Videri, which means, " To be rather than to seem."
And lastly, North Carolina ain't exactly heaven - but it will do until I get there.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's the most N.C. time of the year

We typically highlight this just about every year on this blog (though we apparently forgot to last year -- sorry!), but right around Thanksgiving is when we start to get into the most N.C. time of the year?

What does that mean?
you ask? Well, first of all, thanks for asking. What it means is as you're digging into turkey and sweet potatoes, and decorating that Christmas tree, you are probably doing some of the best economic support for the Old North State that is possible. And the good news is that families all across the rest of the nation are doing it too.

We published this a few years ago. While the numbers may be off some, they're probably not off by that much.

At that time, the state was the second-largest turkey-producing state after Minnesota. (And probably is still.)

And then there are the sweet potatoes.

North Carolina has been the number one producer of sweet potatoes in the United States, according to the Department of Agriculture. "Today more than 40% of the natinal [sic] supply of sweet potatoes comes from North Carolina."

And, finally, the holiday season closes out with Christmas trees.

"The North Carolina Christmas Tree Industry is ranked second in the nation in number of trees harvested and first in the nation in terms of dollars made per tree," according to the N.C. Christmas Tree Association.

"The North Carolina Fraser fir has been judged the Nation's best through a contest sponsored by the National Christmas Tree Association and chosen for the official White House Christmas tree nine times (more than any other species) 1971, 1973, 1982, 1984, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2005, and 2007 [and 2008]."

Update: According to this article, N.C. is still second for Christmas trees. Damn you, Oregon! We're gunning for ya!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

More 'we talk funny' entries

WRAL's Bill Leslie wrote yesterday about pronunciation issues in the Tar Heel State. Today, just as he promised, he unveiled a "pronunciation primer" for those "furriners" who don't know that Angier is pronounced "AN-juhr," never "an-JEER." Hurumph.

Making Bill's list?

Bahama bah-HAY-ma (not like the islands)

Buies Creek BOO-ees Creek

Chalybeate Springs ka-LIB-ee-ut*

Cherryville CHAIR-ee-vil

Clinton KLINT-un (though some locals insist on KLINN-un)

(*Though I've always heard it pronounced "ka-LIB-ut.")

We did a similar list a while back. On our list were such places like ...

Conetoe (kuh-NEE-tuh)

Concord (CON-CORD -- not CON-kerd)

Etowah (EH-tuh-wuh)

Harnett (HAR-nit)

Mebane (MEB-in -- not muh-BAIN)

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

N.C. gov't. leaders to Big East: Consider ECU

Time (in conference expansion mania) to pull out the big guns.

Three of the state's top elected officials are asking the rapidly changing Big East Conference to invite East Carolina University into the league, according to reports.

Gov. Beverly Perdue's office said Monday she and U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan signed a letter dated Oct. 26 to presidents of Big East schools. The letter said ECU would strengthen the conference by bringing in a school with an ardent fan base, proven Sports record and growing academic reach.

East Carolina currently plays in Conference USA but applied to the Big East in September.

The Big East has been considering some teams for all Sports and others for football only to make up for the departures of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference and West Virginia to the Big 12.

Friday, October 28, 2011

We told you so: 'Iron Man 3' coming to N.C.

You read it here first (well, not really), but it was confirmed that "Iron Man 3" will be filmed in North Carolina.

North Carolina's race to catch up with states that have lured film projects with better financial incentives has paid off with a major motion picture production commitment.

"Iron Man 3," starring Robert Downey Jr. as a comic-book superhero, will be produced from beginning to end in this state, Gov. Bev Perdue announced at EUE/Screen Gems Studios on Thursday.

"My top priority is creating jobs, and this film production will mean high-quality, well-paying jobs for North Carolinians," Perdue said. "I pushed hard to get the revamped film incentive passed, with the help of a number of lawmakers, and now we see that initiative doing exactly what it was designed to do."

Read more from the News & Observer here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

For the famous Scotty McCreery, the OBX is where it's at

Garner's Scotty McCreery is big time. He has the No. 1 country album in America, and last night he sang the national anthem before Game 1 of the World Series.

But he's a North Carolinian through and through. He tuned up for the World Series by singing the anthem at a recent N.C. State football game, and he also recently spoke with Fox News about his favorite vacation destination, the Outer Banks.

Outer Banks, North Carolina is where I spent a lot of my summers growing up. I’ve got a seashell on the top of my dresser to remind me of some of the good times. I think there’s actually a picture in a magazine recently of me, my sister, and my mom and there’s a rainbow behind us in Outer Banks. We’d go down to Jockey’s Ridge, which is a 100-foot tall dune and eat at a lot of cool places.


Fox411: You seem to know the Outer Banks intimately, what activities do you recommend?

McCreery: There’s always a lot of stuff to do. We never went hang gliding. We wanted to do that off Jockey’s Ridge but I think I was a little too scared to do that. But we’re always in the ocean and hanging out.

Fox411: Family seems to be a crucial element for a vacation at Outer Banks for you.

McCreery: My grandma used to have this little place, we called it “the tin can.” She had a little camper type thing and we’d go there for the summers and hang out. It’s not one of those commercial beaches where there are tall buildings behind the beach. It’s just a nice place with cottages, sand and water. The family has been split apart and on different sides of the country. So it’ll be nice to get together and we’ll be heading to the Outer Banks enjoying ourselves, bring the fishing pole and have a good time.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gazetteer fun: V-Z

The highly entertaining and educational North Carolina Gazetteer was recently updated for the first time since it was first published in 1968.

We figured we would highlight some of our favorites from the book every now and then. This version will look at random listings that begin with letters V through Z. (Click here to see some older versions.) There are some 2,ooo-plus listings in the Gazetteer, so feel free to search for your own faves.

Valle Crucis, community in central Watauga County near the junction of Dutch Creek and Watauga River. Est in 1842 as an Episcopal mission. The name, Latin for "Valley of the Cross," was adopted because of the shape of the Watauga River there. The valley has an area of approx. 600 acres. Alt. 3,000.

Whaley, community in n(orth) Avery County. Said to have been named for one Whaley, who became frightened by a screech owl and hid in a hollow log until morning.

Xenia, community in central Duplin County served by post office, 1891-1903. Name derived from Greek word meaning hospitality.

Yadkin College, town in w(estern) Davidson County on Yadkin River. Inc. 1875, but long inactive in municipal affairs. Named for the Methodist Protestant college opened there in 1865, closed in 1924. One college building and the ruins of another remain.

Zeke Island, sandy island in the Cape Fear River opposite Snow Marsh in s(outh)e(ast) Brunswick County.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Firth, Blunt filming in Wilmington

Apparently the bad reviews of the Durham-filmed "Main Street" have not kept Colin Firth out of the Tar Heel State. He and Emily Blunt are currently filming "Arthur Newman" in and around Wilmington, according to the Star-News.

... Firth, dressed in rolled up khakis and a plaid shirt and with a small orange tent in the background, strolled down the beach Thursday afternoon near the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, waded into the surf and tossed his top into the water, revealing a short-sleeve, white T-shirt.

The temperature, elevated by the bright sun and nearly cloudless sky, hovered around 80 and a brisk south-southwest wind blew as "Arthur Newman, Golf Pro" made its Pleasure Island debut.

Before Firth lost his shirt, the crew filmed some boats maneuvering near the shore – a scene meant to simulate a search for Firth's character based on the discovery of his lone piece of clothing floating in the water, said Pat Story, the movie's publicist.

The film planned additional shooting in Carolina Beach on Thursday and Friday nights, when the production is to close off Lake Park Boulevard from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. between Charlotte and Atlanta avenues for low-speed chase scenes.

Academy Award winner Firth and Golden Globe winner Emily Blunt are starring in "Arthur Newman," which opened offices at EUE/Screen Gems Studios last month and will shoot in the area from mid-October to mid-November.

"We couldn't be more excited," said producer Alisa Tager on the set Thursday afternoon. "We needed a place with a certain amount of geographic diversity and architectural diversity, and we found it in the Wilmington area."

Avett Brothers win big at Americana Awards

Just a few days after performing an emotional benefit show in Greensboro, the Avett Brothers, that most "Carolinian" of bands, were honored as Duo/Group of the Year at the Americana Awards. The Concord band held the same title in 2007 and 2010. Seth and Scott Avett (sans bassist Bob Crawford, who is dealing with a family health issue) accepted the award at the 10th Annual Americana Awards and Honors ceremony in Nashville Thursday.

The Avetts were among the night's performers playing "The Once and Future Carpenter." The band continues its fall tour in Dallas Friday.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

'Iron Man 3' to film in Wilmington next summer

The third movie in the "Iron Man" series will begin filming next summer, and the location will be Wilmington, according to Screenrant.

The Old North State apparently beat out Michigan as the filming location.

Shane Black will be directing "Iron Man 3."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gazetteer fun: S-U

The highly entertaining and educational North Carolina Gazetteer was recently updated for the first time since it was first published in 1968.

We figured we would highlight some of our favorites from the book every now and then. This version will look at random listings that begin with letters, S, T and U. (Click here to see some older versions.) There are some 2,ooo-plus listings in the Gazetteer, so feel free to search for your own faves.

Sapphire, community in s(outh)w(est) Transylvania County s(outh) of Horsepasture River. Named because sapphires are found in the vicinity or for the vivid blue of the sky and water.

Toddy, community in w(estern) Pitt County. The community was known as Tugwell and the railroad name was Toddy Station in the early twentieth century. Named for the fact that a drink of whiskey could be had at a local store.

Utah Mountain
, central Haywood County between Snakeden Top and Fulbright Cove. Named for the fact that a band of Mormons lived there in the 1880s and 1890s. Their practice of polygamy made them unpopular with their neighbors, and the Mormons were forced to leave North Carolina. Their houses, barns, fences, and other property were abandoned, and the ruins still exist. Orchards and vineyards, as well as ornamental flowering shrubs, are now growing wild in the vicinity.

Monday, September 12, 2011

New exhibit honors the official state dawg

Wanna learn about the official dog of North Carolina? Let's go to the AP:

The North Carolina Museum of History is showing an exhibit dedicated to the Plott hound, the only dog breed known to have originated in the state and the state dog.The small exhibit is titled "Our State Dog: North Carolina's Plott Hound" and is on display through Sept. 30. The traveling exhibit comes to the museum from Western Carolina University.

The exhibit describes the Plott hound's specific roles in a bear hunt, boar hunt and raccoon hunt. It also highlights five significant breeders of Plott hounds.

The breed originated in Haywood County in the 1800s when the Plott family bred native German dogs to become a distinct breed of animals that would hunt game and protect livestock from predators.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Hardee's embraces N.C. college football

Yes, it has morphed into somewhat of a tacky, sexist company, but ya gotta hand it to Hardee's. The North Carolina-born restaurant is celebrating the just-started 2011 college football season across the state with a special promotion.

Every Tuesday this season, Hardee's restaurants statewide will offer a 5-piece Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders(TM) combo meal for the reduced price of $5, a savings of over $2.

More than 230 Hardee's restaurants statewide will participate in "Team Tender Tuesdays." The promotion begins Tuesday, Sept. 6 and runs the duration of the 2011 regular football season, according to a press release.

Fans throughout North Carolina are encouraged to take advantage of "Team Tender Tuesdays," whether cheering for the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, the East Carolina University Pirates, the North Carolina State University Wolfpack or the Appalachian State University Mountaineers. (What? No Duke? No Wake Forest?)

In addition to "Team Tender Tuesdays," Hardee's will sponsor on-field promotions at three games during the season. At each game a fan will be given the chance to kick a field goal at halftime. If the kick is good, every fan in the stadium will receive a coupon for a free Hand-Breaded Chicken Tender(TM) Wrapper.

"Hardee's was born in North Carolina and we recognize the big role college sports play in the lives of many of our customers here," said Jerry Allsbrook, chief marketing officer for Boddie-Noell Enterprises, the largest Hardee's franchisee in North Carolina and the U.S. "We're looking forward to continuing our tradition of supporting North Carolina's love of football with our 'Team Tender Tuesdays' and on-field kick promotions."

Hardee's Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders are fresh, all-white-meat chicken tenders, hand-dipped in eggs and buttermilk and lightly breaded. The Tenders were added to the menu last year and were introduced to Hardee's by Boddie-Noell who first developed the menu item in the company's North Carolina test kitchens. The 5-piece Hand-Breaded Chicken Tenders combo meal includes Natural-Cut French Fries and a beverage. ...

Monday, August 22, 2011

More red wolves = fewer 'coons = more birds

We've discussed some in the past the terrific work that has gone on to save the red wolf population in North Carolina. It's apparently having a positive effect on birds (but not raccoons, apparently).

"Good news for a wolf is good news for a turkey. At least it is in Eastern North Carolina, where red wolves are making a comeback and helping other animal species along the way," says McClatchy.

Since the wolves were reintroduced in 1987, biologists have watched them rattle all the links in the food chain.

"We've certainly seen turkey come back. We've seen quail populations increase," said David Rabon, coordinator of the Red Wolf Recovery Program.

Wolves' role in helping these ground-nesting birds is well known, Rabon said. Raccoons eat the birds' eggs, and red wolves prey on raccoons. More wolves mean fewer raccoons, and fewer raccoons mean more quail and turkey. Connecting the dots, more wolves mean more birds.

Effects like this aren't unique to Eastern North Carolina. Research from around the globe, compiled in an article in the journal Science last month, shows just how deeply large predators like wolves and cougars are connected to the ecosystems where they live. ...

There are three national wildlife refuges in the red wolves' territory: Alligator River, Pocosin Lakes, and Lake Mattamuskeet. The refuge managers work to create habitat for red wolves and other animals, including waterfowl, bears and alligators.

Other public lands in the area are managed as state game lands, where managers create habitat for species such as turkey, quail, and deer instead of wolves.

Creating a habitat for one animal doesn't necessarily make it harder for another, Rabon stressed. "The higher you go in the food chain, usually the larger the umbrella is for how many other species you also benefit."

But in the years since they've been reintroduced, the red wolves have expanded well beyond public land, where their impact is even less visible.

Much of the territory the wolves occupy is privately owned farmland. That land must be drained for farming, Rabon said, so it's already a very different landscape from the one the wolves might have originally inhabited. Because it's actively maintained for farming, any effect the wolves might have is constantly erased.

Friday, August 05, 2011

'Tar Heel Traveler' does the food tour

WRAL's Scott Mason may have the best gig in the state. He gets to travel all over North Carolina as part of his "Tar Heel Traveler" segments, taking him to interesting locales, meeting unique people and discovering the varieties of culture in this beautiful state.

Mason's most recent "Traveler" was a 25-minute-long exploration of some of Nawth Cackylacky's culinary hotspots. (Although, truth be told, very few of these places are probably recommended by heart doctors.)

Among the places noted in the special are Britt's Donuts in Carolina Beach, the Sunnyside Oyster Bar in Wilson and Flo's Kitchen -- home of the "Cathead Biscuits."

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Heat could be very bad for apple crop

A confession: I've always had this dream of having a large apple orchard in the mountains. It would be my ticket to the "Thomas Jefferson School of Gentlemen Farmers" (sans the other accomplishments, mind you). But now may not be the best time to take a stab at it, according to the Hendersonville Times-News.

“This heat has affected fruit, and a lot of growers are putting materials on to reduce sunburning,” said Marvin Owings, interim director of the N.C. Cooperative Extension Henderson County office.

... Fred Hoots, owner of Fred Hoots Orchard, who has been growing apples full-time since 1966, said last year's and this year's summers are the worst he can remember with regard to hot and dry conditions.

Hoots just finished picking one of the earliest apple varieties of the year — the tasty, semi-sweet ginger gold — and he's been using a product that holds the fruit firm and prevents it from getting too ripe.


Meanwhile, Mark Williams, the county's new agri-business executive director, has been busy in his first month on the job, exploring opportunities for potential new markets for not only apples but other commodities as well, he said.

With the possibility of a couple of new buyers already that Williams has contacted, he's hoping Mother Nature will cooperate.

“The apple crop is looking good,” he said. “We've suffered through some hail storms — there are always those things to contend with, and other challenges that we face — but overall it looks like a good crop, and we're just trying to make it through until we get the apples picked and get them sold. Until that happens, you never know. There's always risk.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tales of the Melungeons?

"Tales of Melungeons are packed with mystery and meaning in the Appalachian region," writes Indiana's The Republic. "Campfire stories about the dark-skinned mountaineers have long swirled through the hills and hollers, largely depicting the Melungeons as secretive, lawless, and even threatening to outsiders."

I'm a native North Carolinian who has NEVER heard of these folks. A conference in Swannanoa "may help unravel the mystery of the Melungeons, including DNA results that show that their dark hair and European features likely came from Arabic and Jewish immigrants centuries ago."

Melungeons have been traced back for more than four centuries in Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, but their unusual appearance and familial closeness often kept them apart from many of their white neighbors.

Phyllis Starnes of southwestern Virginia said she began to probe her Melungeon ancestry a decade ago after she was treated for a bout of stomach and chest pain.

Born and raised in the mountains, Starnes was shocked to hear her doctor diagnose familial Mediterranean fever, a rare hereditary disease passed down by Arabs and Jews,

"My family has been in Appalachia for hundreds of years, so I thought: this doesn't make sense," Starnes said.

Following her own heritage trail led the Fort Blackmore, Va., resident to the Melungeons, a group that had often been stereotyped as less intelligent and lazier than their lighter-skinned neighbors.

"Melungeon ever so long was a dirty word. Nobody wanted to be Melungeon."

But with new research and a renewed interest in ancestry and family backgrounds, the affiliation is taking on a much more positive spin.

"Seems like everybody wants to be Melungeon now," said Starnes, 59.

Autosomal DNA testing, which measures mixed geographic heritage, offers a profile of Melungeons that includes Jewish, Middle Eastern, Egyptian and sometimes Gypsy ancestry. African and Native American heritage also appears. ...

The origin of the term Melungeon is unknown. It first appeared in written form in 1813 church records from Stoney Creek, Va., where someone accused a church member of harboring "them Melungeons."

Some say the term was derived from the French term mélange, meaning mixture.

Melungeon historian Brent Kennedy links arrival of the Melungeons in Appalachia to the Spanish Inquisition, when a half-million Jews and Muslims were exiled from Spain and Portugal in the 16th Century.

Kennedy writes that the exiled people became renowned for their seagoing exploits and sometimes wound up on ships headed for America — either as slaves or galley hands.

An early American historical account tells of British explorers in the 1600s encountering a settlement in the Tennessee Valley where people spoke in a foreign language they referred to as "Portyghee."

Genetics Professor J.P. Evans at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill says it can be useful to combine DNA research with stories such as the one the British told in the 1600s.

"The Portuguese were the first Europeans in the Age of Discovery to start crossing the Atlantic," Evans said. "It would not surprise me at all if some wound up in the mountains of North Carolina or Tennessee." ...

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Parks are cut, but thankfully they are still open

The Raleigh News & Observer/Charlotte Observer (they're essentially the same now, after all) has a nice piece on the impact of the state budget on the state parks. It is significant. Thankfully, the parks are still open and essentially free to visit, though some fees (camping, for example) went up.

"As states struggle with deficits, the nation's parks are under siege. California will close 70 of its 278 parks. Washington state withdrew all its state support. Ohio plans to allow oil and gas drilling in its parks," says the article.

No North Carolina parks or recreation areas are expected to close. But visitors will pay more to camp, swim or picnic, because of fee increases. They'll find fewer rangers and more peeling paint.

"You can only nail, hammer and paint so much," said Shederick Mole, superintendent of Jordan Lake State Recreation Area in Chatham County. ...

As the state park budget is reduced over the next few years, less money will be available for parks to renovate and remodel existing buildings. ...

Legislators diverted $8.4 million from the trust, which gets income from real estate excise taxes, to help balance the state budget. They also took an additional $6 million for park operations. ...

A recent study from N.C. State University found that the cost of installing and staffing fee stations would offset the revenue from a fee. The study also predicted that visits would fall, hurting the parks' $400 million annual contribution to local economies.

Click here for the rest of the article.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Oh, the humanity!

From MyFox8:

Vandals destroyed an iconic sign on the Blue Ridge Parkway near the Haywood-Jackson county line.

Rangers tell the Asheville Citizen-Times that the latest sign to be hit was a 5-foot tall wooden marker indicating the highest point on the parkway near the Haywood-Jackson county line. The sign was pulled off its stone base sometime in the past two weeks.

Seriously? What is this world coming to?

"Officials say the Cold Mountain Outlook sign is frequently stolen. They also have seen an increase in graffiti. ... Park rangers say they are seeing an increase in vandalism along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Rangers say several pieces of large equipment such as tractors and mowers have been damaged."

So folks want to steal a sign referencing an overrated story? (Sorry, I probably shouldn't say that.) That's just weird.

Anyone with information about this incident should call 800-PARK-WATCH or 298-2491.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

N.C. still a great state for business

Our neighbor to the north, the Old Dominion, comes out on top again. But the Old North State has nothing to be ashamed of, according to CNBC's Top States for Business Rankings.

Virginia topped our inaugural study in 2007 with Texas at number two. In 2008, they switched positions and Texas took the title. In 2009, it was Virginia/Texas. In 2010, it was Texas/Virginia.

This year, Virginia powers back to the top spot with the best overall score in the history of our study — 1,660 out of 2,500 points. Texas slips back to number two with a respectable 1,578 points. ...

Our fifth annual study once again puts all 50 states to the test, measuring them on 43 different metrics in 10 key categories of competitiveness. We weight those categories based on how frequently the states use them as selling points to attract business. That way, we hold the states to their own standards, and tell you how they measure up.

This year's categories and weightings, for a total of 2,500 points, are:

• Cost of Doing Business (350 points)

• Workforce (350 points)

• Quality of Life (350 points)

• Infrastructure & Transportation (325 points)

• Economy (300 points)

• Education (225 points)

• Technology & Innovation (225 points)

• Business Friendliness (200 points)

• Access to Capital (100 points)

• Cost of Living (50 points) ...

Top 10 States for Business
1. Virginia
2. Texas
3. North Carolina
4. Georgia
5. Colorado
6. Massachusetts
7. Minnesota
8. Utah
9. Iowa
10. Nebraska

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

And the official state sport is ...?

... if you guess basketball, then you'd be wrong. But if you guessed NASCAR, well, ding ding.

Gov. Bev Perdue is waving the green flag to make stock car racing North Carolina's official sport, says the AP.

Perdue planned to visit Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday and sign a bill that makes official the state's close and longstanding connection with the popular pastime.

Elementary school students urged legislators to place stock car racing on the list of state superlatives — the state bird is already the cardinal, the turtle is the state reptile and the sweet potato the official vegetable. ...

The bill notes that North Carolina's motorsports industry creates more than 20,000 jobs in the state and is home to racing greats such as Richard Petty and Junior Johnson.

Thoughts? Is this appropriate and spot-on? Does it enhance a stereotype? Does it really matter at all?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Quick hits: It really was Blackbeard's boat, and Uwharrie going natural

They're sure now ... it's the Queen Anne's Revenge
"The Raleigh News and Observer is reporting that the State has decided that the remains of a shipwreck off Beaufort, N. C. are in fact those of Blackbeard's flagship the Queen Anne's Revenge a.k.a QAE," writes the Beaufort Observer.

"Now we should say up front that we have no clue whether or not they are correct that this wreck is indeed Blackbeard's ship. What we do have a clue to is why they have declared it to be what they have thought all along it was. Money. ..."

Forest Service wants to return Uwharrie back to native condition

"The U.S. Forest Service wants to restore Uwharrie National Forest to its more natural condition by planting different trees and carrying out selective burning to encourage the growth of rare sun-loving plants," says the Winston-Salem Journal.

"The Forest Service last week released the draft management plan and environmental impact statement for the forest, which covers 51,000 acres in Davidson, Montgomery and Randolph counties. ...

"Plan highlights include reducing the number of loblolly pine plantations in favor of longleaf pine and oak-hickory forests.

"Currently, about 20,000 acres in the national forest are occupied by loblolly and shortleaf pines, mostly the result of past plantings for timber harvesting. ..."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Two N.C.-filmed TV pilots will continue shooting ... in L.A.

According to the reports, two television series that filmed pilots in North Carolina won't be returning to North Carolina to film regular episodes.

The StarNews of Wilmington reports ABC's "Revenge" and The CW's "Hart of Dixie" will film in the Los Angeles area.

EUE/Screen Gems Studios executive vice president Bill Vassar says the stars in the shows wanted to stay on the West Coast to be near their families. Vassar is waiting to hear about a feature film that could open production offices in Wilmington next week.

The HBO comedy series "Eastbound & Down" begins filming a third season in Wilmington in July.

Dr. Beach likes Hatteras

The beach at Cape Hatteras was named the fifth-best beach in the country in an annual survey by Florida International University professor (and NCSU graduate) Steven Leatherman, who is also known by the friendly nickname "Dr. Beach."

Leatherman ranks beaches on 250 criteria, including the look and feel of the sand, water quality, weather, facilities and crowds. A top score is 250.

Leatherman described the beach at Cape Hatteras as "providing some of the best board surfing along the East Coast, as well as the most famous lighthouse in the United States, Cape Hatteras attracts beachgoers to its historic fishing villages."

The best beach in the country is Sarasota's Siesta Beach. ...

San Diego's Coronado Beach was runner-up. Rounding out the top 10 were No. 3, Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii; No. 4, Main Beach, East Hampton, N.Y.; No. 5, Cape Hatteras in North Carolina; No. 6, St. George Island State Park, Florida Panhandle; No. 7, Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, S.C.; No. 8, Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Mass.; No. 9, Waimanalo Bay Beach Park, Oahu, Hawaii, and No. 10, Cape Florida State Park near Miami.

A No. 1 spot on the popular list annual typically brings a 15-to-20-percent boost in visitors for the beach destinations.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scotty wins 'Idol,' continuing N.C. dominance

In case you live under a rock, then you are not aware that Garner's Scotty McCreery won season 10 of "American Idol" last night. Congratulations to the guy that has been described over and over and over again as a wonderfully genuine young man.

McCreery joins High Point's Fantasia Barrino (season three) as winners of the singing contest, while Raleigh's Clay Aiken was runner-up in season two. Others from N.C. that have done well include Chris Daughtry of Lasker (third place in season five), Kellie Pickler from Albemarle (fourth in season five), Bucky Covington from Rockingham (eighth in season five) and Anoop Desai of Chapel Hill (sixth place in season eight).

Needless to say, North Carolina was pretty excited for McCreery, according to WRAL.

More than 8,000 of those fans packed into the RBC Center in Raleigh for a viewing party Wednesday night. They made a thunderous roar when "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest named McCreery as the winner.

Three of his biggest fans – childhood friends and part of the Blue Crew, a student fan club at Garner Magnet High School – were at the RBC Center Wednesday.

The trio was also at the first viewing parties when fewer than 100 people gathered in Garner to watch McCreery at the start of this season of "American Idol."

"From that to last night at the RBC Center, home of the Wolfpack and the Hurricanes, 8,200 people screaming for Scotty – it doesn't get much better than that," Garner High student Colin Perry said.

McCreery's friends said they can't wait to see him again. McCreery has said he doesn't know how his world will change, but he hopes to get home soon.

"I'm going to have some fun and celebrate with my family, and I can't wait to get back to Garner," he said.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

GQ calls Asheville a ‘rad city’

In the May issue of GQ, Stan Parish writes what many North Carolinians already know — Asheville is awesome. | story and photographs

The stickers are everywhere — on the windows of dive bars, used-record stores, head shops, and the omnipresent yoga studios. “Love Asheville,” they read. “Local Is the New Black.” Yes, they’re a little twee. But after a few meals, a few local microbrews, and a rock show or two, you realize that loving Asheville’s basically a reflex. The city of 80,000 is an anomaly in its home state, with its indie-music cred, ambitious restaurants that could hold their own in San Francisco, and a panorama of the Blue Ridge Mountains that will have you turning circles just to take it all in. The locals are too modest and well- mannered to say this themselves, but we’ve got a better slogan for that sticker: “Asheville is the new Austin, with a better view.”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

End of the line coming for 'One Tree Hill'

Full disclosure: I'm a big "One Tree Hill" fan. Haven't always been, but what can I say?

Anyway, it looks like the Wilmington-filmed (and quasi-based) TV series will be wrapping it up in the very near future, according to the Star-News.

The CW announced its new fall schedule today, but “One Tree Hill” wasn’t on it. The locally filmed series will be held for midseason. And according to a CW release, season nine will be the show’s last.

The CW has ordered 13 episodes, and while the release doesn’t specify that the final season will only be that long, it’s unlikely more episodes will be ordered. Though with this show, never say never.

Filming of the new season will start in Wilmington this July. If there are only 13 episodes, and “OTH” doesn’t need to replace any failed new series early, the show will completely wrap filming by the time the ninth season starts.

Here’s what the CW says will happen in the final season: “In season nine, how will Brooke and Julian juggle parenthood and their very young careers? With Nathan traveling more as an agent, how will Haley’s life change with a second child, an increasingly independent Jamie, and a busy café to run? Is a wedding in store for Quinn and Clay? Or Mouth and Millicent? And what’s to become of Alex and Chase and their burgeoning romance? Following a fictional four year jump in time, “One Tree Hill” has now spent four seasons exploring the experiences of twenty-somethings. Season nine will continue to grow and break new ground, as the show approaches the rarified air of 200 episodes.”


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Roanoke River among America's most endangered

From WTVD:

North Carolina made another list Tuesday, but this isn't one we'll brag about. The environmental group American Rivers announced the state is now home to one of the nation's ten most endangered rivers.

The Roanoke River - which flows from Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains to North Carolina’s Outer Banks - slots in at number three. American Rivers says the watershed provides water to more than one million people for drinking, farming, fishing, and boating.

American Rivers said the problem is not what's in the river now, but what could happen if Virginia lifts a ban on uranium mining.

"There's so much we don't know and there's so much we can't control," explained Andrew Lester with the Roanoke River Basin Association.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

'Jack Donaghy' to shoot movie in Triad

According to news sources, Alec Baldwin will be part of a movie being shot in the Triad soon. The movie will be filmed in parts of Guilford, Rockingham and Davidson counties in the coming weeks, according to the Greensboro News & Record.

The movie, "Hick," is slated to be about a Nebraska teen who "gets more than she bargained for when she sets out for Las Vegas, according to"

Also reported to be starring in it is Chloe Moretz, Blake Lively, Juliette Lewis and Rory Culkin.

Some parts of the movie are also slated to be shot in Wilmington.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Editorial: Protect the coast

From the Greenville Daily Reflector:

It was with unintended comedy that three Republican members of the state Senate would hold a press conference calling for offshore drilling in North Carolina on the first anniversary of the BP oil catastrophe. N.C. Sen. Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg County said the timing was ironic, though “tone deaf” may have been a more apt description.

The Gulf states are still reeling from an environmental disaster that showed oil companies capable of drilling holes in the ocean floor lack the skills and equipment needed should things go wrong. That is why a majority of the state opposes a similar risk along the North Carolina coast and why any effort to open the state to drilling should be fiercely resisted. ...

The tone in North Carolina was quite different on Wednesday as three senators called for offshore exploration along the Outer Banks. Claiming that North Carolina stands to gain 6,700 jobs and generate $500 million every year, the sponsors — Rucho, Sen. Harry Brown of Onslow County and Sen. Tommy Tucker of Union County — called for the state to enter a compact with Virginia and South Carolina to create a regional partnership for drilling. ...

They underestimate the people of this state, whose opposition to drilling is well reasoned. The Outer Banks is one of the state's most critical environmental resources and a source of millions in revenue each year. Residents along the gulf can readily attest to the risks of offshore drilling, and North Carolina would be better served to heed their warnings rather than the sponsors of this bill.

Cheerwine going nationwide

Born in the South. Raised in a glass.

That’s part of Cheerwine’s ad campaign as the Salisbury, N.C.-based soft drink expands distribution to all 50 states for its 100th anniversary.

The New York Times has the story.
The Cheerwine parent, the Carolina Beverage Corporation in Salisbury, N.C., has hired Woods Witt Dealy & Sons, a New York agency with a creative reputation, to develop what is being called the brand’s biggest campaign to date.

The campaign has two goals: stimulate interest in Cheerwine among those who have not tried it while at the same time forging stronger ties with fans.

The campaign has a budget for this year estimated at $2 million to $4 million — a hefty amount for a brand that, according to Kantar Media, a unit of WPP, spent $44,000 to advertise in major media in 2009 and only $15,000 last year.

Ads in various venues carry the word “Legend,” followed by this phrase: “Born in the South. Raised in a glass.” ...
As a lifelong drinker of Cheerwine, it’s not important to me that everyone have a taste, but I hope the company doesn’t expand too big too soon like Krispy Kreme, then encounter similar financial troubles.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Chris Hondros (1970-2011), stand-up guy

Paul Woolverton of the Fayetteville Observer writes an appreciation of his friend and former colleague Chris Hondros, an award-winning photojournalist who died Wednesday, when he was struck in the head by shrapnel during intense fighting between rebel and government forces in Misrata, Libya. | story

I already knew about his talent and drive to do great work, to live greatly. To charge ahead with smiles and draw his friends ahead with him. ...

We first met in the late 1980s at N.C. State University’s student newspaper. We became friends when he moved back to Fayetteville in 1996 from Troy, Ohio. He had the talent and drive to go someplace bigger, more prestigious, someplace better-paying. But he told me later that he returned to his hometown to be near his father, who was battling cancer and died in 2000. ...

He loved [New York] city, a vital world capital, and frequently invited friends and friends of friends to stay at his apartment. After a party in April 2004, celebrating several major journalism awards he won that month, his roommates woke to approximately 10 out-of-town house guests.

A few years later, Chris decided he wanted his own place and no roommates. But a friend separated from his wife and needed a place to stay. Chris took him in for at least a year.

Chris Hondros: his work | The News & Observer | Technician | N.C. State

Gazetteer fun: P-R

My apologies for not doing this in a while. Quite honestly, it just slipped my mind.

The highly entertaining and educational North Carolina Gazetteer was recently updated for the first time since it was first published in 1968.

We figured we would highlight some of our favorites from the book every now and then. This version will look at random listings that begin with letters, P, Q and R. (Click here to see some older versions.) There are some 2,ooo-plus listings in the Gazetteer, so feel free to search for your own faves.

Pinch Gut Branch*, rises in e[astern] Surry County and flows s[outh]e[ast] into Stokes County, where it enters Big Creek. Said to have been named by Saura Indians in the vicinity who almost starved because of the scarcity of game.

Quail Roost, community in n[orthern] Durham County. Named for a former hunting club there acquired in 1925 by George Watts Hill of Durham, who turned it into a dairy farm. In 1963 the farm was given to the state of North Carolina by Hill. The large house is used as a conference center by the University of North Carolina; North Carolina State University makes use of the surrounding land, designated as Hill Forest.

Relief, community in w[estern] Mitchell County on Toe River. Alt. 2,092. Named for the patent medicine Hart's Relief, a popular product with a high alcoholic content sold at John Peterson's store there after about 1870.

*There are at least seven Pinch Gut/Pinchgut locations in the state, including Pinch Gut Creek in Anson County, Pinchgut Branch in Duplin County and Pinchgut Creek in Caldwell County, which has the distinction of being named by the same person who named another nearby creek "Coldass."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Civil War: 150 years later

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, the War of Northern Aggression, the Late Unpleasantness -- whatever you want to call it. In short, it was an ugly period in American history. Fortunately, some VERY good things came from it.

Yahoo News has put together a slideshow of rare photos from the time. You can view it here. After all, it was probably the first war to be documented with film.

The war, writes Yahoo News, "is so often described in battles — the Battle of Gettysburg, the Battle of Bull Run, the Battle of Fort Sumter — that it may be easy to forget that the soldiers who fought in the four-year war had a lot of time between fighting."

North Carolina was late to "the game" (actually, the latest of the southern states to get involved) of the War.

"Many North Carolinians, especially yeoman farmers who owned few or no slaves, felt ambivalently about the Confederacy; draft-dodging, desertion, and tax evasion were common during the Civil War years," writes Wikipedia. "However, North Carolina contributed more troops to the Confederacy than any other state. The Union's naval blockade of Southern ports and the breakdown of the Confederate transportation system took a heavy toll on North Carolina residents, as did the runaway inflation of the war years. In the spring of 1863, there were food riots in North Carolina."

In the end, North Carolina gave more resources and men to the Confederate cause than any other state. (That includes you, Virginny.)

Also from Wikipedia: North Carolina "provided an important source of soldiers, supplies, and war materiel to the Confederate States of America ... The city of Wilmington was among the leading ports of the Confederacy, providing a vital lifeline of trade with England and other countries, especially after the Union blockade choked off most other Confederate ports. Large supplies of weapons, ammunition, accoutrements, and military supplies flowed from Wilmington throughout the South.

"Troops from North Carolina played a major role in dozens of major battles, including the Battle of Gettysburg, where Tar Heels were prominent in Pickett's Charge. One of the last remaining major Confederate armies, that of Joseph E. Johnston, surrendered near Bennett Place in North Carolina after the Carolinas Campaign."

As the famous memorial states, North Carolina's troops are remembered as such: "First at Bethel, Farthest at Gettysburg and last at Appomattox."

Friday, April 01, 2011

Twitter: A major motion picture to be shot in Charlotte?

Maybe, according to the Twittersphere.

@Ronnie_Bryant hints that a major announcement is coming soon of a big-budget movie to be shot in the Charlotte region. #pcmtg

That post came from @WCooksey, a member of the Charlotte city council.

Gas prices won't stop vacations

As gasoline prices inch closer to $4 per gallon, tourism officials start wondering if people will just not take vacations.

Not likely, according to this article from Kentucky.

Five years ago, Candy Thompson says, she thought nothing of dropping thousands of dollars for airfare, ferries, restaurants and related expenses for a spring break trip to the British Virgin Islands.

But this year, she, her husband and their fifth-grade daughter will pile into the family car and drive Friday to High Point, N.C., to spend the night with friends before moving on to their final spring break destination in Holden Beach, a North Carolina shore town where relatives live.

With gas, groceries and savings on free lodging, Thompson expects to spend roughly $600 on the trip — which is still more ambitious than last year, when the Prospect, Ky., family stayed home.

"Back in the good old days, we lived like rock stars," said Thompson, a stay-at-home mom whose husband owns a self-storage business. "Now, it is all about the deal. We just don't want to spend the money."

That's common across the nation, as underscored by a recent consumer confidence survey, compiled by the business-funded Conference Board, that found rising food and gasoline prices, combined with the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters in Japan, still are weighing on Americans' outlooks.

Gas prices have been high for months and showed signs of rising further.


Still, more families like the Thompsons are moving back into the spring break travel market this year, with an 8 percent increase in bookings over 2010, according to American Express Consumer Data. Top spring break destinations noted by American Express include Nassau, Bahamas; Barcelona, Spain; Cancun, Mexico; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Orlando, Fla.; and Palm Springs, Calif.

Consumers weary from coping with years of economic turmoil just want to shake loose from the doom and gloom and get away, said Faust, adding that "whether the recession is over or not, people are ready to go somewhere again."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

N.C. historian Tweets the Civil War

Two months before the start of the Civil War, a North Carolina belle named Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston tapped out a frustrated message about her secession-opposing sibling in a tweet to her followers: “Sister Frances is a terrible Unionist!”

She might have tweeted, that is, if Twitter had existed in 1861, writes the Washington Post.

Instead, Edmondston and other long-dead North Carolinians from a bygone era are having their social networking done for them posthumously. A Raleigh-based historian is using the popular service to bring the home front of a war to modern day audiences nearly a century and a half later.

“We’re not imposing any of our words. This is purely from men, women, and even teenagers who stayed at home and fought the war in their own ways,” said LeRae Umfleet, the historian who manages the collections at the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

A very interesting read. If you want to follow Umfleet, follow @CivilianWartime. The tweets are the words of an escaped slave, a woman whose husband owned a plantation and others. The tweets are moving roughly in chronological order along with the war, meaning that so far the messages mostly express the foreboding and uncertainty of people in North Carolina as they watched war clouds build.

“I have just seen the President’s message,” Umfleet tweeted in the March 11, 1861 words of Mary Bethell. “Mr. Lincoln, I think he intends to coerce those seceding States.”

The Twitter account is part of the ongoing effort of the cultural resources department’s ongoing effort to mark the 150th anniversary of the bloodiest conflict in American history. It seeks to highlight the experiences of those who remained at home while others went off to war — a conflict ever more dire as the battles drag on.

“By the end of the war, we will have seen conflict on North Carolina soil, and we’ll have heard from people with firsthand knowledge of that,” Umfleet said.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nothing to fear along N.C. coast

From the Toronto Sun:

Cape Fear. The mere name conjures images of shipwrecks, churning seas and plundering pirates. Indeed, this rugged coastal region of the United States delivers all three, plus more -- an ideal playground for vacationing families.

Located about one hour north of the hustle and kitsch of Myrtle Beach, S.C., North Carolina's Cape Fear coast offers a quieter version of wide beaches and pounding Atlantic surf, paired with an eclectic history of sunken ships, smugglers and genteel southern charm.

Early settlers named the coast for the havoc it wreaked on approaching ships. Shifting sand shoals made it tricky for merchant vessels to navigate the Cape Fear River, which snakes inland from the Atlantic to Wilmington (once a major trading centre), striking fear in the hearts of captains and crews. Pirates in shallow-draft boats took advantage of the wrecks, plundering the ships and selling the pilfered goods in street markets.

One of Cape Fear's most feared pirates was the infamous Stede Bonnet, known as The Gentleman Pirate because of his vast collection of books aboard his pirate ship. Bonnet was hanged for his crimes in 1718, but not before escaping prison at least once dressed as a woman!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

This just in: Tourism is big biz in N.C.

The license plates used to say, "Variety Vacationland" as a tribute to the many vacation spots in North Carolina. (Still not sure why they no longer do, but that's another blog post.) In short, tourism has been big business in this state for a long time.

Turns out, maybe we should really focus on it.

"Visitors to North Carolina spent a record $17 billion in 2010. This is an increase of 9 percent from 2009, according to a report released this week," said the NCNN.

Lynn Minges, the Assistant Secretary of Tourism with the North Carolina Department of Commerce, said tourism is a significant part of the North Carolina economy. "Tourism is generating or pumping everyday $2.6 million into state tax coffers. As our legislature and decision makers are rustling with the state budget, this is an industry that is pumping dollar into the general fund on a daily basis," said Minges.

Visitor spending directly generated a total of more than $1.5 billion in state and local tax revenues. State tax revenues from visitor spending increased 12.6 percent and have increased 16.2 percent since 2007.

Stock car racing could be state sport

I'm certainly no NASCAR fan, but there's no arguing the impact that the sport has had on the state of North Carolina -- or the impact the state has had on the sport.

So it's not surprising that the General Assembly -- in its effort to tab something as the state "sport" -- is thinking of honoring stock car racing. Less surprising is that the effort is coming from the Heart of NASCAR country: Mooresville.

"Two new bills introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly last week came directly from the people — 13 elementary-school students, to be exact," said the Mountain XPress. "The Mooresville self-designated 'pit crew' worked secretly at first on their proposal to make stock-car racing the official state sport, according to 'That’s Racin’' in The Charlotte Observer, so as not to tip off enthusiasts of any other sport. Then they obtained the cooperation of Rep. Gray Mills, Mooresville Republican, who became the primary sponsor of HB 333. Across the aisle, a familiar Western North Carolina racing enthusiast, Buncombe County’s Democract Martin Nesbitt Jr., was joined by Hendersonville Republican Tom Apodaca in introducing a companion bill (SB 322), and the race was on. ..."