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Beer has $3.8 billion impact on NC Economy

tapsIn North Carolina, beer accounts for 26,480 “direct economic impact” jobs, which the study breaks into three areas: Brewing, 1,347; distributing, 4,070; and retail sales, 21,063.

North Carolina has 130 breweries with more on the way. The largest N.C. brewery is the MillerCoors plant in Eden which employs 522 persons with an average compensation package of more than $100,000.

On a national level, the U.S. beer industry contributes $252.6 billion in economic output which is equal to about 1.5 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Federal, state and local taxes amounted to more than $48.5 billion in 2014.

Brewers and beer importers directly employ 49,576 Americans. More than 70 percent of brewing jobs are linked to large and mid-sized brewers and beer importers. Meanwhile, the number of distributor jobs has increased by more than 20 percent in the last decade, to more than 131,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

“Independent beer distributors provide significant economic benefits in their communities through local business-to-business commerce, investments in local infrastructure and capital assets, along with tax revenue,” said Tim Kent, executive director of the North Carolina Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association. “Independent beer distributors provide services that improve efficiency for trading partners, especially small brewers and retailers, and they ensure fair prices and a broad selection of products for consumers to enjoy.”

Haywood County Drug Arrest

jillsuddrethOn Thursday, July 23rd 2015, Jill Rebecca Suddreth, 42 years of age, of Monte Vista Road in Candler, North Carolina, was arrested in Waynesville, North Carolina, by DECU Agents (SBI), DEA Tactical Diversion Squad Agents, and members of the Haywood County Multi-Agency Drug Taskforce, The U.N.I.T. Suddreth was employed by, but on leave from employment as, a North Carolina Probation Officer during the commission of the offenses and at the time of arrest. Suddreth was arrested and transported to the Haywood County Sheriff’s Detention Center where she retrieved dosage units of some type pills from a concealed location on her body and attempted to flush them down a toilet at the facility. In addition two other controlled substances were located in her possession. Suddreth was held at the Haywood County Detention Center in lieu of a $25,000.00 secured bond. The investigation is continuing.

Hiking and Waterfall Safety Tips

No preparation is really needed to visit a waterfall if you know where it is. However, for any serious waterfall trek, there are several things to keep in mind to make your trip more productive and enjoyable.

Keep dry – It’s easy to get wet while visiting a waterfall. Be sure to bring a spare pair of shoes and/or socks. If you are really ambitious, you can even bring a change of clothes. Check the list of useful clothing and equipment for more information.
Be safe – Waterfalls are dangerous places. Wet rocks can cause broken bones. Fast currents can cause drownings. High cliffs can…well, you get the point. Check the list of safety tips in order to stay safe as you visit.
Bring your camera – With the changing nature of waterfalls, you never know what you might want to record for all time. There are many photography tips that can help you get memorable records of your trip.
Don’t do to much in one day – If you only have one day to visit waterfalls, don’t rush around trying to get in as many waterfalls as possible. Pick a few and spend your time relaxing near the falls instead of in the car.
Courtesy is next to godliness – Well, maybe not. But remember to be courteous to other waterfall visitors. Most people visit waterfalls for peace and beauty. Swimming, sunbathing, and large groups disrupt that peace and can ruin someone else’s trip. In particular, photographers can go crazy trying to get a shot of a waterfall when people are climbing on or swimming around a waterfall. This is not to say that swimming should not be done. However, be reasonable and aware of others. In addition, smoking ruins the whole “fresh air” bit for many people.

Bring sturdy boots since many waterfall trails are muddy and some require water crossings.
Bring water since it isn’t advisable to drink stream water.
Bring your camera as already noted above.
Bring clothes you don’t mind getting dirty since they WILL get dirty.
Bring food since a waterfall is a perfect place to picnic after a long trip. Make sure to bring your trash back with you, though.
Bring a map or clear directions since there is nothing worse to hiking to waterfall and not being able to find it.
Bring a friend because hiking alone is boring. Well, not always but it is still a good idea from a safety standpoint.

Safety Tips

Be careful when rockhopping because, while fun and sometimes necessary, it’s dangerous and slippery. At the very least, you could get your boots wet.
Don’t climb on the falls unless you are an experienced rock climber. Waterfalls are slippery and the top of a waterfall usually isn’t too special.
Be smart when swimming since cold waters and strong currents can end a life easily. Swimming should only be done in the calm pools below waterfalls and never never NEVER above a waterfall. Stop swimming at the first sign of any problems.
Don’t walk on the ice in the winter unless you are very sure that it is rock solid.
Bring water. Yes, this was under the list of equipment as well, but dehydration is a real danger on long hikes.

Follow the Famous Dog The Road “Max” Traveled to Bring Hollywood Back to the Mountains

Mountain movie-goers are seeing more familiar scenes on the big screen. The film “Max”, now in theatres, tells the story of a dog helping Marines in Afghanistan. Look closely, and you may notice the backdrop for Max’s new mission in the U.S. is North Carolina.

One setting prominently featured is the DuPont State Forest, a short distance off U.S. 64 near Brevard.
“It’s so beautiful. All the different types of areas, the forest, the waterfalls, all the little cities around,” says hiker Kevin Toshner of Greensboro. “It’s got everything you need for a movie.”

Hollywood plots have also made the forest frightening. DuPont was the site of Katniss Everdeen’s first foray into “The Hunger Games”, which led many to discover the scenery for themselves.

“Many times, when these locations are shown, it’s like a commercial for North Carolina and our beautiful sites,” says Guy Gaster, director of the North Carolina Film Office. “You can certainly see a correlation between visitor attendance figures after productions are shown, like we saw with the forest after “The Hunger Games” and Chimney Rock after “Last of the Mohicans” came out.”

There’s a lot of responsibility making the real world look as good as the digitized Hollywood version. It’s a mission accomplished with the help of the state forest service, and the roadside environmental teams of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

“We know visitors come to the mountains expecting them to look as pristine as they’ve seen portrayed, and have the area be as nice as their friends and relatives who vacationed here told them it was,” says Richard Queen, NCDOT Division Roadside Environmental Engineer. “We want to exceed their expectations, from beautiful landscaping to litter-free roadsides.”

Roadside environmental crews from NCDOT’s 14 statewide divisions cultivate award winning wildflower beds, maintain everything growing along the roadways, and protect waterways and animal habitats. Their work plays an important part in a making a good first impression to visitors, as well as filmmakers who drive from shoot locations to their hotels and area restaurants.

“Preserving the natural beauty of North Carolina is so very important,” says Division Roadside Environmental Engineer Jason Joyce, whose crew takes care of N.C. 268 near Elkin. A railroad trestle there at the junction of the Yadkin and Mitchell rivers is also seen in “Max”. “You can’t find scenery like this just anywhere. We’re glad it attracts Hollywood and tourists,” adds Joyce, “but it’s also a big reason a lot of folks want to live here. We’re proud to care for it.”

It’s what keeps bringing stars to the state, and audiences to the box office, from “Dirty Dancing” in Lake Lure to “Dawson’s Creek” in Wilmington and locations in between. Those productions also continue to fuel film tourism for fans. The North Carolina Division of Tourism features links for road trips to scenes used in TV and movies. In addition to “Max”, there are links to tours for “Nights in Roadanthe”, “Under the Dome”, and “The Longest Ride”.

However, the famous locales don’t get treated any differently by NCDOT. “We want everywhere to be “camera ready” all the time,” adds Queen.

Folkmoot International 2015 Parade

North Carolina Gets Failing Grade in National Report on Democracy

Forget the honor roll – North Carolina isn’t making the grade when it comes to the democratic process. That’s the assessment of a national report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “The Health of State Democracies” awarded the Tar Heel State an F when it comes to ballot accessibility, and the fact elected leaders do not always reflect the demographics of their community earned the state a D minus.

Lauren Harmon co-authored the report and says democracy isn’t a partisan issue, “These are really common sense things that most people should agree on, unless their ultimate goal is in fact to impact the outcome of elections either by making it harder to vote or by making it so that money is seen as having the same weight in election as someone’s actual speech. ”

Beginning in 2014, North Carolina eliminated same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting and starting next year will require a government issued photo ID. That law is currently being challenged in court. Overall, North Carolina ranks 42nd in the country in terms of the health of it’s democracy.

Harmon says much of the damage to the state’s democratic process has happened in recent years, “As these voting laws are taking effect, the government just doesn’t look like who’s actually in the state, in terms of people of color and women. We find that districts are being skewed in favor of partisan outcomes. In North Carolina’s case it happens to be Republican outcomes. ”

On a positive note, North Carolina received an A for its accessibility of legislative data for members of the public.

Harrah’s Cherokee Donates $30,000 to MANNA FoodBank

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort donated $30,000 to MANNA FoodBank for the organization’s 2015 fundraising efforts. This is the 17th year Harrah’s Cherokee has supported MANNA’s mission to end hunger.

“When you examine MANNA’s more than 30 years in operation, their success is due to their interest and concern for the people they serve and the relationships they build with their corporate sponsors, volunteers, and generous donors,” Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort Regional SVP and GM Brooks Robinson said. “We proudly support MANNA and their commitment to the communities our employees live in.”

The $30,000 donation from Harrah’s Cherokee was used to fund the Blue Jean Ball and will also support MANNA’s upcoming fundraiser, Empty Bowls in September. The Blue Jean Ball, this year themed “Bowl Full of Soul,” raised enough money to provide more than 283,000 meals to WNC families in need. The sold-out event was attended by 900 guests and was held on the MANNA campus along the banks of the Swannanoa River in Asheville on June 6. Empty Bowls, which will be held at the Doubletree by Hilton at Biltmore, celebrates community, art, and collaboration while bringing awareness to the problem of hunger in Western North Carolina.

“While many families are busy planning vacations, too many families in our region are busy trying to figure out how they will keep food on the table once the school year ends. In some of our rural communities this is especially difficult,” said MANNA FoodBank Executive Director Cindy Threlkeld. “We are especially grateful to Harrah’s for their generous monetary sponsorship and culinary sponsorship of the Blue Jean Ball and Empty Bowls. They bring a large team of culinary professionals to the event each year and provide first-class fare and service.”

The Blue Jean Ball is MANNA’s largest annual fundraising event. Every dollar raised or donated to the food bank provides enough food for 3 meals. Current estimates in Western North Carolina indicate that 107,600 people in the area sought food assistance last year. MANNA partners with 248 agencies throughout the region to get food to those facing hunger. In 2014, MANNA distributed 15 million pounds, or enough food to provide 34,000 meals a day throughout the 16 counties in Western North Carolina.

Amber Alert out for a missing child, Hayleigh Wilson.

hayleigh2As part of its ongoing search, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is asking for the public’s help to locate 14-year-old Hayleigh Wilson.

Hayleigh disappeared from her residence in Surgoinsville, Tennessee, on the night of June 22, 2015. Hayleigh has been spotted at a Walmart in Marion, North Carolina, in the early morning of June 23, 2015.

She was in the company of the listed 41-year-old suspect, who currently has an active warrant for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender out of Georgia.

Hayleigh and Benjamin may be in the Appalachian Mountains area of Smyth/Washington County, Virginia.

Hayleigh is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 150 pounds. Hayleigh has brown eyes and brown hair. She was last seen wearing a sleeveless flowery top with dark colored shorts or a skirt and boots.

Benjamin is 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 175 pounds. Benjamin has blue eyes and brown hair. He has multiple tattoos. He may have shaved off his beard and may have removed his glasses. He was last seen wearing a blue shirt with the letters “Ford” written on it, dark shorts and a camouflage baseball hat.

The public is urged to call 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) with any information concerning the disappearance or current whereabouts of Hayleigh and/or Benjamin.

Calls may be made anonymously.

Observe Safe Food Habits This Summer

Warm weather picnics and cookouts can produce opportunities for food-borne illness if safe food-handling practices are not closely observed, state health officials caution.

“We encourage families to get outside and enjoy our state, but remember to take the necessary steps for food preparation and storage to enjoy healthy meals safely,” said Nicole Lee, the Food-borne Disease Epidemiologist for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health.

Nationally, an estimated one in six Americans, or 48 million people, get sick from unsafe food each year, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from food-borne diseases.

U.S. outbreaks of staphylococcus, salmonella and botulism over the past few years have called attention to the importance of safe food handling practices. Lee recommends taking the following steps to reduce the risk of food contamination and food-borne illness:

Clean – Wash hands, utensils and surfaces before and after food preparation, especially after preparing meat, poultry, eggs or seafood. Keep all countertops and work areas clean.
Cook to Proper Temperature – Read cooking directions on packaging before preparing. Cook food to the proper internal temperature and check the final temperature with a food thermometer.
Chill – Refrigerate properly. Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within two hours. Make sure the refrigerator is set no higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer at zero degrees Fahrenheit.
Separate – Don’t cross-contaminate foods. Keep raw meats, poultry, eggs, and seafood and their juices – and any utensils that may have been in contact with these items – away from ready to eat food.
Leftovers – Heat to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If they appear cloudy, mushy or have an unusual odor, dispose of them.
Time – Once foods are properly prepared, be sure to keep hot foods hot (maintain them at a temperature greater than 140 degrees Fahrenheit) and cold foods cold (maintain them at a temperature of less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit). Foods should not remain in the “Temperature Danger Zone” of 40 F-140 F for more than two hours, and no more than one hour if the temperature is greater than 90 F

Forest Service Releases Draft Decision to Approve Access to Private Property in Clay County

The U.S. Forest Service released a draft decision to issue a special use authorization to the Laurel Creek Property Owners Association providing the association access across National Forest System lands to private property surrounded by National Forest System (NFS) lands located on the Tusquitee Ranger District, Nantahala National Forest.

If finalized, the special use authorization will allow the landowners to construct, at their expense, a road across NFS lands to their 50-acre tract of private property located within the Fires Creek watershed near Hayesville, N.C. The access route, authorized by the Forest Service, will require reconstruction and repair of portions of the Rockhouse Branch Road (Forest Service Road 340A), Phillips Ridge Road (Forest Service Road 340A1) and construction of approximately one-third mile of new road on NFS lands.

Federal regulations require the Forest Service to provide access to private property that is surrounded by Forest Service land so the landowner may experience “reasonable use and enjoyment” of their property (36 CFR 251.54). The Forest Service requires the landowner requesting access across NFS lands to exhaust all alternatives means of access through private property or other rights-of-way before approving access across public lands.

“This draft decision strives to strike a balance between private property rights and protecting valuable forest resources,” said Kristin Bail, Forest Supervisor for the National Forests in North Carolina. “We worked hard to ensure that community members’ concerns with the project were addressed in the draft decision.”

Since 2010, the Forest Service has been conducting an environmental assessment to analyze and disclose the effects to national forest land that could result from the road construction. The environmental assessment considered effects to the environment related to water quality, acidic rock, wildlife habitat, scenery, recreation, heritage and cultural resources, and other issues. As part of the analysis, the Forest Service considered comments from individual citizens and a wide variety of organizations concerning the project.

On June 25, 2015, Forest Supervisor Kristin Bail released a draft decision on this project that authorizes the landowners to construct a road to access their property. In accordance with federal regulations, the Forest Service will offer a 45-day formal objection period on the draft decision, which will begin with a legal notice published in the Asheville Citizen Times. The legal notice is expected to be published on June 25, 2015.

Folkmoot USA 2015 Schedule

Folkmoot USA is proud to present the 32nd annual International Folk Festival, July 16 – 26, 2015. Named by USA Today as one of the Top Twenty Festivals in North Carolina, Folkmoot is a ten-day event featuring more than 200 international performers from ten countries with performances in 12 Western North Carolina communities.

Folkmoot performers are primarily college students who are acting as cultural ambassadors for their home countries. In 2015, Folkmoot is expecting musicians and dancers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Estonia, Puerto Rico, Philippines, Canada, Ecuador, Chile, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee plus several regional bluegrass and clogging groups representing Appalachian culture.

Folkmoot, literally a “meeting of the people” provides programs based on cultural exchange, designed to build global relationships, foster cultural understanding and develop community prosperity. Folkmoot creates opportunities for individuals and communities across the globe to build a deeper sense of connection, mutual respect and shared purpose.
What’s new for 2015? Folkmoot recruits new countries each year. In Folkmoot’s 32-year history, we’ve hosted almost 8,000 performers from more than 200 countries.

“Say Hello” is a new educational and interactive component of Folkmoot performances. In order to enhance and personalize Folkmoot events, emcees and group directors will engage audiences in learning how to pronounce basic greetings in the languages of our performers. Different words and facilitators will be part of each performance and Say Hello will be a feature in our commemorative guidebook.

“Kids by the Carload” is a new event for Folkmoot, held on Thursday, July 23 from 4:00 pm until 8:00 pm at the Haywood County Fairgrounds in Clyde. For just $20, families, church groups, senior centers and others are invited to drive a vehicle full of friends to see and interact with three international performance groups, purchase local and international handicrafts, and enjoy low cost pizza, drinks and ice cream.

Dress in your best cultural regalia for Folkmoot performances! The public is encouraged to join the fun by sharing their own cultural heritage at all Folkmoot events in 2015. As an example, individuals with Scottish heritage are invited to wear a kilt to any Folkmoot performances. At each event, the “best dressed” will be chosen and this audience member will win a Folkmoot t-shirt. Folkmoot will also feature a photo of these individuals on our Instagram and Facebook accounts.

How to get involved?
Folkmoot USA is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that relies upon donations, sponsorships, Friends of Folkmoot members, ticket sales and grants to hold the Folkmoot Festival each year. Everyone can celebrate and support Folkmoot USA programs by becoming a member through the Friends of Folkmoot on our website, www.FolkmootUSA.org. Your donations support community-building events for kids and families and support our international guests during their stay in Waynesville at the Folkmoot Friendship Center. Pick up a brochure at your local Visitor Center or go online to FolkmootUSA.org to learn more.

Volunteers Needed – Volunteer groups are still needed to prepare the Folkmoot Center for the Festival. If you, your company, church or civic group would like to help, please contact Doug Garrett at 828-452-2997 to find out how you can help.

Tickets are now on sale for all performances and can be purchased on the Folkmoot website folkmootusa.org, in person at the Folkmoot Center, or by calling toll free 877-365-5872. A complete schedule can be viewed on Folkmoot’s website. Like us on Facebook: “Folkmoot USA, The “Official” North Carolina International Folk Festival” to take advantage of special ticket promotions.

The festival schedule is as follows:
Festival Event Schedule*
*This schedule is subject to change. Please visit FolkmootUSA.org for additions or cancellations or call the ticket office, 828-452-2997. The number of performance groups are included for each venue.

Thursday, July 16
7:30 pm—Folkmoot Gala Champagne & Dessert Reception, Stompin’ Ground, Maggie Valley. (All Groups) Private event for Friends of Folkmoot, donors and sponsors

Friday, July 17
1:00 pm—Folkmoot Parade of Nations, Waynesville. Beginning on N. Main St. & finishing at Historic Waynesville Court House. (All groups) Free Event
7:30 pm – Folkmoot Grand Opening, Stompin’ Ground, Maggie Valley. (All groups) Reserved seating adults: $30-$25; General admission adults: $20; Students & children: $5

Saturday, July 18
10am- 5pm —International Festival Day, A World-Class Arts Event, Main Street, Waynesville. All Folkmoot groups perform to benefit Haywood County Arts Council. Info@haywoodarts.org or 828-452-0593. (free event)
7:30 – Haywood Community College, Clyde. (All groups) Reserved seating adults: $30-$25, General Admission adults: $20, Students & Children: $5

Sunday, July 19
1:30 pm – Diana Wortham Theatre, Asheville. (All groups) 828-257-4530, General admission adults: $30; Children (12 & under): Half price
7:00 pm – World Friendship Day, Stuart Auditorium, Lake Junaluska. (4 groups) Reserved Seating Adults: $25-$20; General Admission Adults: $15; Students & Children: $5
7:00 pm – SALT Block Auditorium, Hickory. (3 groups) Hickory International Council 828-234-6330. General Admission Adults: $16; Children (12 & under): half price

Monday, July 20
7:30 pm – Franklin High School, Franklin. (3 groups) General Admission Adults: $18; Children (12 & under): half price

Tuesday, July 21
7:30 pm – Colonial Theatre, Canton. (3 groups) General Admission Adults $16; Students & Children $5
7:30 pm – Swain High School, Bryson City. (3 groups) Adults: $16; Children (12 & under): half price

Wednesday, July 22
2:00 pm – Blue Ridge Community College, Flat Rock. (All groups) General Admission: $30; Children (12& under): half price
7:30 pm – Blue Ridge Community College, Flat Rock. (All groups) General Admission: $30; Children (12& under): half price

Thursday, July 23
2:00 pm – Town Center, Burnsville. (2 groups) General Admission Adults: $16; Children (12 & under): half price
4:00 pm – Haywood County Fairgrounds, Waynesville (3 groups) General Admission Carload: $18
7:00 pm – Jewish Community Center, Asheville. 236 Charlotte St., 828-253-0701, (2 groups) General Admission Adults: $18; Children (12 & under): half price

Friday, July 24
2:00 – Extravaganza Matinee, Stompin’ Ground, Maggie Valley. (All groups) Reserved Seating Adults: $30-$25; General Admission Adults: $20; Students & Children: $5
6:30 pm – Folkmoot Group Guest Appearance at Mountain Street Dance, Main Street, Waynesville. Free event
7:30 pm – Extravaganza, Stompin’ Ground, Maggie Valley. (All groups) Reserved Seating Adults: $30-$25; General Admission Adults: $20; Students & Children: $5

Saturday, July 25
3:00 pm – Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds, Cherokee. 800-438-1601, (1 Cherokee and 1 Folkmoot group) General Admission Adults: $10, Students & Children: $5
3:00 pm – Western Carolina University Theater, Cullowhee. (3 groups) Reserved Seating Adults: $16, Students & Children: $5
7:30 pm – Haywood Community College, Clyde. (All Groups) Reserved Seating Adults: $30-$25; General Admission Adults: $20; Students & Children $5

Sunday, July 26
1:30 pm – Diana Wortham Theatre, Asheville, 828-257-4530. (All Groups) General Admission Adults: $30; Children (12 & under): half price
7:00 pm – Candlelight Closing, Stuart Auditorium, Lake Junaluska. (All Groups) Reserved Seating Adults: $30-$25; General Admission Adults: $20; Children (12 & under): half price

Haywood County students are admitted to all performances, except the Grand Opening and Candlelight Closing for $5.

AVL urging passengers to arrive early before flights

Asheville Regional Airport is busier than ever, having served a record number of annual passengers in 2014 and still growing. And not only are there more people traveling, the airlines are flying larger planes, which means there are more people at the airport at the same time. It is important that western North Carolina air travelers remember to arrive the recommended two hours before flights.

“We hear people say how they love to fly from AVL because they can park, check-in and go through security in a very short period of time,” said Tina Kinsey, spokesperson at Asheville Regional Airport. “While this is sometimes the case, passengers should understand that they may arrive at the airport and find a very long line at security. Longer lines are happening, and passengers seem surprised that they have to wait. So, we’re reaching out to educate and help our local passengers be better prepared.”

Passengers are responsible to understand their airline’s rules, and are encouraged to check the rules before traveling. Each airline posts their rules and “frequently asked questions” on their websites. All airlines enforce minimum check-in times – most often no later than 30-45 minutes before departure – in order to allow for baggage processing, security procedures and to help ensure on-time flight departures.

Passengers should plan time to drive to the airport (understanding that traffic delays could occur), time to park and walk to the terminal, time to check-in or check bags, time to wait in the security screening line and go through security, and time to walk to the gate and prepare for boarding. “We encourage passengers to also plan some buffer in their timeline,” said Kinsey. “It’s much better to arrive early, have everything go quickly and smoothly, and then have some time to relax, eat a meal, and have a stress-free experience.”

Traveling from Asheville Regional Airport is still one of the easiest airport experiences available, and the airport staff is committed to doing their part to make the travel experience positive. There is easy, close-by parking, an easy-to-navigate one-level terminal, friendly staff, free wifi, a business center, charging stations, food, beverages, a retail store, rocking chairs and runway views.

“We do everything we can to provide excellent customer service,” said Kinsey. “But passengers should understand that airlines will not hold flights for travelers who are running late, or who are stuck in a long security screening line.” Also, it is against Transportation Security Administration rules to cut ahead of another passenger in the security screening line.

“The best advice we can give is to remember the two-hour rule,” said Kinsey. “Once you’ve reserved your airline ticket, go ahead and subtract two hours from the departure time. That’s when you should arrive at the airport.”

Great Smokies Health Foundation Announces Grants

The window for the first round of the 2015 Thrift Shop Grant Program is now open for applications.  The Great Smokies Health Foundation announced Wednesday that proceeds from the two Thrift Stores  operated by the Foundation will be used to fund one time $5,000.00 grants to non-profits,  government entities, and educational institutions in the specific service area of Jackson and Swain County.  The grants are to used for projects that will impact the health and wellness services in these counties.  The deadline for the applications is July 3, 2015 at 4:00 p.m..

Over the years the Hospital Volunteer Auxiliary has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from Thrift Store sales in Jackson and Swain Counties to fund projects at both Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospitals. As a result of the Hospital sale, they now have a new name “Great Smokies Health Foundation Thrift Shop”  and a new mission “to raise money to support the health needs of our community by selling, at an affordable price, items donated by and sold to our customers. “The 2015 Thrift Shop Grant Program is a way to continue their legacy and make an even bigger difference in the health and wellness of the community,” said Michele Garashi-Ellick, Executive Director of the Great Smokies Health Foundation.

To receive an application or get answers to questions regarding the grant program and application questions, and/or application process contact Michelle Garashi-Ellick, Executive Director of the Foundation at 828-5o7-2270 or email greatsmokieshealth@gmail.com

Arrest Made After Stand Off with Murphy Man

Cherokee County Sheriff Derrick Palmer announced the May 13th, 2015 arrest of 48 year old Wayne Henry Birchfield, who provided a Mableton, Georgia address, following a lengthy standoff with local law enforcement.

Shortly before 9 pm on May 12th, Cherokee County Communications received a call stating that Birchfield was on Sunrise Street in Murphy, North Carolina and was armed with either a firearm or a machete and was creating a disturbance. As members of the Murphy Police Department and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office arrived, Birchfield, who had made threats previously to attack and kill officers retreated into the Sunrise Street residence restating his threats to assault and kill officers. Birchfield then barricaded himself in the Sunrise Street residence.

Additional officers of the Murphy Police Department, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Cherokee Police Department Swat members and the United States Marshals Service responded to the Sunrise Street residence to contain the situation and prevent Birchfield’s escape. During the early morning hours on May 13th, Birchfield exited the residence and then attempted to return. Birchfield was finally apprehended when one of the officers on the scene deployed a taser. Birchfield was given medical attention and transported to the Cherokee County Detention Center.

Birchfield is currently being held at the Cherokee County Detention Center for the United States Marshal’s Service under no bond on federal charges.

Sheriff Palmer stated, “It was great to see the teamwork of all the law enforcement agencies as well as Murphy Fire Department and Cherokee County Emergency Services that were present during this very dangerous situation. During times such as this, it takes all hands working together to bring about a good conclusion like this one. Mr. Birchfield in custody and everybody was able to go home.”

US Forest Service and US Air Force Join Forces to Fight Wildfires

During the week of May 4, 2015, crew and pilots will train and prepare for the 2015 wildfire season in Greenville, SC with practice water drops on several local national forests. Since the 1970’s, the US Air Force and US Forest Service have modified C-130 air tankers with specialized equipment to fight wildfires. During this year’s training, up to 15 practice flights per day will be conducted; in which military C-130s will drop water on 4 target sites identified on the Nantahala National Forest, Pisgah National Forest, Sumter National Forest, and Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Training includes both classroom and flight training for military flight crews, civilian lead plane pilots, and support personnel. The communities of Greenville and Spartanburg should expect to see an increase in C-130 aircraft traffic all week.

The Modular Airborne Firefighting System, or MAFFS for short, was developed to provide precise water or retardant drops in support of wildfire suppression operations. This system has become an important part of the agencies tactics used to reduce the spread of wildfire and protect fire fighters. The Department of Defense provides the C-130 H and J model aircraft, flight crews, and maintenance and support personnel to fly the missions. The US Forest Service provides the MAFFS equipment, ground crews and supplies the retardant.

There are a total of eight MAFFS ready for operational use this year, and each one is installed into an air tanker at the beginning of the season. The Air National Guard units who provide assistance are the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne, Wyoming; the 145th Airlift Wing in Charlotte, North Carolina; the 146th Airlift Wing from Port Hueneme, California; and the 302nd Airlift Wing, Air Force Reserve from Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. The training in Greenville involves the 145th Airlift Wing from Charlotte and the 153rd Airlift Wing from Cheyenne. More than 150 personnel assist in the exercise during the week-long training

New Bridge Planned For Dillsboro

vcsPRAsset_2559318_71914_a97405db-4343-4f0d-9c02-75946d9badeb_0The N.C. Department of Transportation is holding a public information session Thursday, April 30, for a new bridge on U.S. 23 Business just east of downtown Dillsboro.

The current bridge, spanning Scott Creek and the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, was built in 1939 and is considered structurally deficient and functionally obsolete. That means while it remains safe, it is in deteriorating condition and has weight limits restricting the kinds of vehicles able to use it. The new bridge will be built to current design standards and will not have the weight restrictions of the current bridge. The project is part of NCDOT’s overall bridge program to improve the condition of the state’s bridges.

NCDOT representatives will be available from 4 to 7 p.m. at Jarrett Memorial Baptist Church at 18 Church Street in Dillsboro to share information on the project, and get feedback from drivers and residents. Interested parties can stop by any time during the session as there will not be a formal presentation.

Maps and proposals under review are available at the NCDOT public meetings website. Click on the listing for “Replacement of Bridge #27 along U.S. 23 Business over Scott Creek and Great Smoky Mountain Railroad”.

NCDOT will provide auxiliary aids and services under the Americans with Disabilities Act for disabled persons who wish to participate. Anyone requiring special services should contact Ms. Diane Wilson at (919) 707-6073 or by email at pdwilson1@ncdot.gov as early as possible so that arrangements can be made.

MerleFest 2015 – In One Week!

Preparations are well underway for MerleFest 2015, presented by Window World, which officially begins next Thursday, April 23, at 2:30 p.m., and runs through Sunday, April 26, on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

With over 80 acts performing on 13 stages during the four-day festival, attendees should expect the unexpected with special surprises, spontaneous jam sessions and one-of-a-kind musical collaborations.

“It seems our fans are really thrilled about this year’s complete lineup. They always get excited to see Sam Bush, Peter Rowan, Jim Lauderdale, David Holt, The Kruger Brothers, the Nashville Bluegrass Band and others who performed with Doc Watson. And, we are pleased to welcome back Hot Rize, last seen at MerleFest in 2003. This will mark the first MerleFest appearance for Grammy Award-winning The Earls of Leicester,” said Ted Hagaman, festival director. “Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn’s 2015 appearance is creating a lot of buzz as well.

“Of course, we will continue to honor and memorialize Doc, who helped found this festival. Through his guidance and artistic creativity, MerleFest has grown into a world-class festival. MerleFest will always honor the memory and contributions of Doc and his son Merle,” added Hagaman. “As always, we take pride in the diversity presented in our lineup. That is a credit to Doc Watson, who always believed that all genres of music should be celebrated.”

As in previous years, the list of performers fits the “traditional plus” definition originally described by the late Doc Watson. Watson coined this term to describe the unique mix of music found at MerleFest: traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock, “plus whatever other styles we were in the mood to play,” Doc said.

The complete lineup and stage schedules are posted at www.merlefest.org and available on the MerleFest mobile app; festival updates are delivered via Twitter (@MerleFest) and Facebook.

Thursday, April 23, will feature performances by artists that include Trampled By Turtles, Lee Ann Womack, Hot Rize, Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Larry Stephenson Band and others. That afternoon, participants in Pete Wernick’s MerleFest Bluegrass Jam Camp will perform on the Cabin Stage, and the Opening Night Dance with Donna the Buffalo will begin at 10 p.m. at the Dance Stage.

Thursday is also a day for community outreach, with several MerleFest artists visiting and performing at local schools. MerleFest Outreach touches the lives of nearly 11,000 students each year.

On Friday, April 24, fans will hear performances by The Marshall Tucker Band, Jim Lauderdale and North Mississippi Allstars, The Earls of Leicester, the Del McCoury Band performing songs of Woody Guthrie, Sam Bush Band, Bruce Robinson and Kelly Willis, The Kruger Brothers, Spinney Brothers, Chatham County Line, Mipso, Ballie & The Boys, The Honeycutters and others.

Finalists in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest compete on Friday to determine who will win first place and some great surprises, including the opportunity to record a song with Pinecastle Records. The culmination of the contest is Friday evening when contest chairperson Jim Lauderdale announces the winners, and the songwriters perform the winning entries on the Cabin Stage at 8 p.m.

Friday also offers the Doc and Merle Watson Performing Arts Showcase, hosted by Joe Smothers and Bob Hill of Frosty Morn on the Austin Stage. The series is intended as a diverse, eclectic sampling of local and regional talent, allowing festival-goers to see the artists in a more intimate setting. And in what is becoming a “must-do” event, Scythian’s Friday night show at the Dance Stage will start at 10:30 pm – it’s recommended that you get there early!

The lineup for Saturday, April 25, includes performances by The Avett Brothers, Willie Watson, The Gibson Brothers, Peter Rowan, Blue Highway, JOHNNYSWIM, The Jim Lauderdale Band, The Steel Wheels, Front Country, Del Barber, New Country Rehab and Blind Boy Paxton, among others.

In the afternoon, fans can enjoy theDoc Watson Guitar Tribute on the Watson Stage, starting at 1:45 p.m., with host Jack Lawrence and David Holt, T Michael Coleman, The South Carolina Broadcasters, Roy Book Binder, Tim Stafford (Blue Highway), Bill Mize, Stephen Mougin, Uwe Kruger, Adam Lawrence and Jacob Burleson.

Also of note will be several events at the Creekside Stage, including “Memories of Doc and Merle,” hosted by T. Michael Coleman (with many special guests expected) and the always-popular Mando Mania set.

The MerleFest 2015 Band Competition kicks off at the Plaza Stage at 10 a.m. on Saturday, as well. Music fans can watch ten bands perform sets throughout the day, with the winning band earning a coveted performance slot on the Watson Stage at 4:30 pm.

The highly-anticipatedHillside Album Hour – where a revered or iconic album is performed live from start to finish – will once again be hosted by The Waybacks, with many surprise guests joining in the performance, including previously announced guest lead singer Joan Osborne. The Midnight Jam will take place in the Walker Center (separate ticket required and available for purchase by 4-day and 3-day ticket holders and Saturday-only ticket holders). This year’s Jam is presented in partnership with The Bluegrass Situation and hosted by The Steel Wheels. In addition to The Steel Wheels, the Midnight Jam will feature Willie Watson, Jim Lauderdale, The Gibson Brothers, Front Country, Mipso, New Country Rehab, The Honey Dewdrops, Moore Brothers Band and Stephen Mougin, along with a few other surprises.

Sunday, April 26, will feature performances by Dwight Yoakam, Robert Earl Keen, Steep Canyon Rangers, The Kruger Brothers with the Kontras Quartet performing “Lucid Dreamer,” Paul Thorn, The Black Lillies, Shannon Whitworth and others.

In addition to the Sunday Blues with Roy Bookbinder set, featuring Richard Watson, Doug MacLeod, Blind Boy Paxton, Veronika Jackson, Rev. Robert B. Jones and Charles Welch, fans can experience the “Spirit of Sunday” set with the Nashville Bluegrass Band as well as the Gospel Hour with Jim Avett.

Throughout the four-day festival, the Dance Stage will feature various workshops and dance instruction with plenty of opportunities for festival attendees to cut loose with some stellar music performers. Additionally, Mayes Pit/Cohn Auditorium in Thompson Hall at MerleFest is devoted to a wide variety of workshops and demonstrations on Friday and Saturday, where world-class performers share their expertise with attendees. Avid MerleFest fans will be interested in the “History of MerleFest” workshop being presented by “B” Townes, the first director of MerleFest, who worked very closely with Doc Watson to bring MerleFest to life. The Songwriters Showcase Coffeehouse at the Austin Stage in Alumni Hall offers a venue where songwriters can showcase their original songs. The Pickin’ Place is an area for musicians of all levels and genres to meet old friends and make new ones while singing and playing their favorite tunes together.

The Acoustic Kids Showcases will be held: Friday, Austin Stage 5:30-7 p.m.; Saturday, Dance Stage 10-11:30 a.m.; and Saturday, Mayes Pit 3:45-5:15 p.m. Additionally, from among this year’s pool of applicants, several performers will be chosen for a special “Acoustic Kids Ambassadors” performance hosted by Andy May on the Cabin Stage, Saturday 6:20-6:45 p.m. These showcases allow music fans the opportunity hear the next generation of pickers, singers and traditional-style artists.

The Little Pickers Family Area offers children’s activities, crafts and entertainment, as well as performances at the Little Pickers Stage. Children can also meet Flattop, the big raccoon who serves as the MerleFest mascot.

In addition to music, MerleFest offers special activities and shopping, all in a family-friendly atmosphere. The Shoppes at MerleFest is a centrally-located shopping village featuring demonstrating artisans, vendors, convenience foods, official MerleFest memorabilia and services such as first aid, lost and found, and Internet access. Lowes Foods “Raised Right Here,” offering fruit, vegetables and deli-style sandwiches, will be a welcome addition to the expanded list of food vendors that will be at the festival this year.

Also new to MerleFest is the Belk Lounge, which will be located between the Traditional and Americana stages. Festival patrons can relax like a VIP there, as well as register to win prizes, receive special giveaways, and use the lounge’s cellphone charging station.

For those who would like to start their day with a little Downward Facing Dog, a yoga class will be offered at 10 a.m. on Sunday morning at the Dance Stage. Beginners and yogis alike are welcome to attend! Additionally, nature walks of the gardens and forest on the WCC campus will be offered on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

“For those wanting an affordable weekend getaway, MerleFest provides a true value to its customers,” said festival director Ted Hagaman. “The admission prices are extremely reasonable – especially considering that we feature over 80 acts on 13 stages. Also, there are no hidden charges. We provide free parking, a free shuttle that will deliver you to the entrance, a free program guide as you enter, and all children 12 and under are admitted free with a paid adult. In addition, our Little Pickers Family Area for children offers each child the opportunity to make crafts and participate in several interactive exhibits – all free of charge.”

Tickets for MerleFest may be purchased at www.MerleFest.org or by calling 1-800-343-7857. A ticket discount is still available through April 22, 2015, and tickets will be available for purchase at the gate. Fans are encouraged to take advantage of the extended early bird discount.

MerleFest 2015 is presented by Window World. MerleFest is grateful to 90+ sponsors and advertisers for their support in making the event possible, including: Belk, Pepsi, Charlotte and Greensboro area Burger King restaurants, G&B Energy, Tyson, Wilkesboro Tourism Development Authority, The InterFlex Group, Hardee’s, Winston-Salem Journal, WXII 12, the Law Offices of Timothy D. Welborn, Bojangles’, Carolina Ford Dealers, Carolina West Wireless, CenturyLink, Lowes Foods, Wilkes Communications, Wilkes Regional Medical Center, Wells Fargo and Mast General Store. A complete listing of all MerleFest sponsors and additional information about all aspects of the festival can be found at www.MerleFest.org.

MerleFest, considered one of the premier music festivals in the country, is an annual homecoming of musicians and music fans held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the son of the late American music legend Doc Watson, renowned guitarist Eddy Merle Watson. MerleFest is a celebration of “traditional plus” music, a unique mix of music based on the traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock and many other styles. The festival hosts a diverse mix of artists on its 13 stages during the course of the four-day event. The annual event has become the primary fundraiser for the WCC Endowment Corporation, funding scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs.

Sen. Rucho introduces sales tax bill; Critics Say It Would Not Benefit WNC

In a March press conference, Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, released a plan that would shift from a sales tax distribution formula favoring counties where items are purchased to one based solely on a per capita distribution.

Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenberg, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said he agrees with the basic idea of moving to a system that distributes sales tax revenue based on a per-capita basis rather than the current system, which distributes most revenue based on the location of the sale.

But Rucho said the plan put on the table in late March by Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, would have too negative an impact on most cities. An analysis of Brown’s bill by the legislature’s Fiscal Research Division showed that while 93 out of 100 county governments would see an increase, a majority of municipal governments in WNC would see a loss of revenue. Asheville, for instance, would lose roughly $4 million in annual revenue, according to analysis of Brown’s plan.

Rucho said last week his bill, S608, makes the change to per-capita distribution in a way that reduces the hit to cities and the seven counties, including Avery, Buncombe, Macon and Watauga, that stand to lose revenues once the formula changes. Under Ruchos plan, some services that are not currently subject to sales taxes would have to start charging them.

Another sales tax bill introduced in the House would allow counties to raise local sales taxes by 1/4 cent without holding a voter referendum.

Emissions tests not needed in Haywood, Henderson, Rutherford

Emissions tests for cars and trucks are no longer necessary to protect air quality in more than half the counties where state testing is currently required.

That was the conclusion of a study the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources provided the General Assembly last week.

Legislators in 2013 directed DENR to conduct a study on whether all of the counties covered under the motor vehicle emissions testing program are needed to meet and maintain current and proposed federal ozone standards in North Carolina. Cars and trucks collectively are the largest source of emissions that lead to ozone formation in the state.

“North Carolina’s air quality has improved significantly since emissions testing requirements were expanded for motor vehicles in the early 2000s,” said Donald R. van der Vaart, secretary of DENR. “We studied the air quality improvements for this report and concluded that we could eliminate emissions testing for motor vehicles in numerous counties without harming air quality or violating federal standards.”

The elimination of emissions tests would save car owners $16.40 per vehicle each year in counties where tests are currently required after the first three model years, state officials estimate. Safety inspections are still required in all 100 counties, costing owners $13.60 per vehicle each year.

The state currently requires emissions testing in 48 of its 100 counties. The DENR study determined that North Carolina could eliminate testing in 27-to-31 of those counties by Jan. 1, 2016, depending on the level at which the Environmental Protection Agency revises the current national ozone standard.

The EPA proposed a more revised ozone standard in December 2014, and plans to adopt a new standard by Oct. 1, 2015. The current ozone standard is 75 parts per billion (ppb) measured over 8 hours, and the EPA has proposed lowering (or strengthening) the standard to a level in the 65-70 ppb range.

If the EPA sets the standard at 65 ppb, DENR recommends eliminating testing in 27 counties: Brunswick, Burke, Caldwell, Carteret, Catawba, Chatham, Cleveland, Craven, Edgecombe, Franklin, Harnett, Haywood, Henderson, Lee, Lenoir, Moore, Nash, New Hanover, Onslow, Robeson, Rutherford, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Wayne, Wilkes and Wilson. If the standard is set at 70 ppb, the recommendation includes four additional counties: Granville, Orange, Pitt and Rockingham.

Changes to the counties covered by the program would require legislative approval. The report recommends further analyses during the coming year to determine whether additional counties could be removed from the program after 2016.

The department’s report on the auto emissions testing program can be found at: http://www.ncair.org/news/leg/Final_Report_HB_74_IM_Study.pdf.

Wandering Dangers Highlighted During Autism Awareness Month

Nearly half of children on the autism spectrum are believed to engage in wandering, a behavior that can end in tragedy. The U-S Senate is considering a bill known as Avonte’s Law, which would provide funding for police departments to purchase equipment that can help locate people with autism who go missing.

Wendy Fournier with the National Autism Association says those with autism typically wander to something of interest, or they flee an overwhelming environment, “Noises, lights and people and hearing five different conversations at the same time. That kind of stuff can be magnified for people on the spectrum. A lot of times the only thing they can do is run away. That’s the only way they can get any relief from that sensory overload.”

Fournier says due to challenges with communication and safety awareness, children or adults with autism can end up in dangerous situations when they wander. According to the Autism Society of North Carolina, the prevalence rate of autism in North Carolina is higher than the national average and stands at one out of every 58 children – versus one in 68 nationally.

Avonte’s Law is named after a 14-year-old with autism whose body was discovered in a river three months after he ran away from his New York City school. Fournier says the legislation also calls for training for law enforcement agencies to better recognize and respond to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, “It’s really easy for a person with a communication disorder to come across as being uncooperative to the police so the police really need some training to start recognizing autism and other cognitive disorders.”

Fournier says parents are encouraged to implement measures that can prevent wandering, including security alerts on doors and ID bracelets or tracking devices for their child. She says swimming lessons are also crucial, “About 90 percent of the kids who die following a wandering incident die from drowning. Our kids are very, very attracted to water. So we recommend that everybody teach their child, make sure they know how to swim.”

April is Autism Awareness Month.