Archive for Local News – Page 2

Mountain State Fair offers new attractions, rides and more

Each year, thousands of visitors flock to the WNC Agricultural Center for the N.C. Mountain State Fair to celebrate the people, agriculture and traditions of Western North Carolina. This year, organizers are adding new rides, attractions and exhibits to the lineup of annual favorites.
“This year, we’ve brought in several new attractions,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We’ve also expanded the footprint of Heritage Circle to highlight even more traditional crafters that continue to add to the region’s rich culture.”

Heritage Circle adds exhibitors

Heritage Circle will feature craftspeople offering daily demonstrations, ranging from molasses making and blacksmithing to pottery and basket weaving. New exhibitors will demonstrate traditional canoe-building techniques and teach fairgoers how to dye fabrics using natural materials. Visitors will have a chance to ask artisans about their crafts and the traditions intertwined with the mountains of North Carolina. In addition, visitors can purchase unique handmade gifts from exhibitors.

New attractions on midway

The midway is one of the more popular draws for many visitors. James H. Drew Exposition will return with a full midway featuring more than 40 rides and carnival games for the whole family. Crowd favorites, such as the chair lift and Seattle wheel, will return along with three new family-friendly attractions:

The Balloon Ferris Wheel, a pint-sized Ferris wheel, has eight enclosed cars that rotate around a smiling sun.
The Lollipop Swing, another miniature version of a popular fair attraction, will send children soaring through the air in seats attached to colorful lollipop arms.
The Black Forest Fun House offers children a unique place to explore and have fun.
Ice Cream Eating Contest

One of the new competitions is the Ice Cream Eating Contest, sponsored by PET and Ingles. The contest will be held in the Davis Event Center at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 15. Anyone 5 and older attending the fair the day of the contest is eligible to participate, but space is limited. Registration will take place the day of the event, and all contestants must be registered by 6 p.m. The competition has five categories: ages 5-7; 8-12; 13-17; 18 and older; and celebrity. Trophies will be awarded to winners, and ribbons will be given to second- and third-place finishers in each category.

New performances aim to educate and dazzle

The fair will have four new performing attractions in 2015:

The Mobile Dairy Classroom teaches children about the dairy industry with the help of a live dairy cow. Instructors demonstrate how to milk a cow, describe how milk gets from the farm to the consumer, and answer questions from the audience.
Horses Horses Horses! is a performance featuring 12 miniature stallions, a Friesian horse and a black Arabian horse. The horses will waltz, dance and perform other tricks to the delight of the crowd.
Hansen’s Spectacular Acrobatic Sensations joins the entertainment lineup with lots of high-flying aerial acts. The act includes juggling, trampoline routines, skating tricks and cloud-swinging.
Rowdy Rooster and his sidekick, Diesel the Weasel, perform an interactive puppet show that’s well-suited for families with small children.
Save money with advance tickets

The 2015 N.C. Mountain State Fair runs Sept. 11-20 at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher. Advance tickets are now available at area Ingles stores, the WNC Agricultural Center and the WNC Farmers Market. Fairgoers can save $2 on admission tickets and 50 percent on ride tickets by purchasing in advance. More information about the fair is available at www.mountainfair.org.

Buncombe Commissioner Holly Jones to run for Lt. Governor

Buncombe County Commissioner Holly Jones announced today that she is entering the race for Lieutenant Governor. Jones, who has spent the last 14 years serving in local government, said she is running because of the General Assembly’s constant meddling in local affairs. She says that Raleigh needs new leaders who better understand and respect the role of local government instead of partisans who just want to score political points.

“As County Commissioner, I’ve seen firsthand the damage these legislators have done to our counties,” Jones said. “In 2011, Buncombe became ground zero for their heavy-handed tactics. They’re playing politics while we’re trying to govern.”
Jones says the legislature redistricted Buncombe County, meddled in airport business, and even tried to seize Asheville’s water supply, a multi-million-dollar asset. She also points to redistricting in Wake County and Greensboro, as well as changing nonpartisan elections to partisan ones in Lee County.

Jones also criticized Republicans for cutting budgets that pass expenses to local governments. She called them unfunded mandates, and said they hurt the state as a whole.

“In their ideological zeal, Republican legislators have slashed public education, leaving our schools underfunded and our teachers underpaid,” said Jones. “They’ve short-changed our children and our future.”

Jones was elected to the Buncombe County Commission in 2008, and before that, spent seven years on the Asheville City Council, including two as Vice Mayor. During her tenure, Asheville and Buncombe County have seen impressive economic growth. In the last five years, Jones and her colleagues have created 2,860 jobs paying an average of $44,667 a year, and Buncombe County has the lowest unemployment rate in the state. They have accomplished this while passing the state’s most ambitious carbon emission reduction goals and awarding teachers among the dozen highest salary supplements of any county.

Jones is the Director of Member Services for YWCA USA. Prior to that, she was the Director of the Southeast Region and Executive Director of the Asheville YWCA. She began her career as a public health educator in Durham after obtaining her B.A. in Public Policy Analysis and a Masters of Public Health from UNC-Chapel Hill. Jones also has a Masters in Divinity from Duke University and spent three years doing mission work.

“I’ve never been one to sit idly by, and I’m certainly not going to now,” Jones said. “I’m ready to fight to put North Carolina back on the right track, and to bring the Buncombe success story to the rest of the state.”
Jones grew up in Wadesboro and Asheboro, the daughter of a public school teacher and a former state senator and county commissioner. For the last 19 years, Jones has made her home in Asheville, where she lives with her husband, Bob Falls, and their daughter, Gabriela.

N.C. wine and grape industry has $1.71-billion impact on state’s economy

Wine lovers may raise a glass to a new report that shows the North Carolina wine and grape industry contributes $1.71 billion to the state’s economy.

“It is encouraging to see continued growth in the wine and grape industry, not only for our wineries, but also for our grape growers,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “More than 77 percent of all wine produced in North Carolina comes from North Carolina grapes.”

The study was commissioned by the N.C. Wine and Grape Council and conducted by Frank, Rimerman + Co. using data from 2013. The firm also conducted the council’s 2009 economic impact study.

The economic impact of the industry grew 33.6 percent from 2009 to 2013.

Tourism accounted for the most significant increase in the study. Between 2009 and 2013, tourism expenditures increased 65 percent, to $257 million. The number of tourists visiting N.C. wineries increased by nearly a half-million people from 2009 to 2013.

“Many of our wineries are opening up their vineyards to wine-related events, private parties, weddings and other special occasions to attract more visitors and diversify their income,” said Whit Winslow, executive director of the Wine and Grape Council. “The new numbers reflect an increase in consumer demand for experiences beyond the tasting room.”

According to the report, North Carolina is home to 130 wineries and 525 commercial grape growers. Winslow said that because of substantial growth over the past two years, North Carolina now has 159 wineries.

There will be plenty of opportunities to visit local wineries in September as the state celebrates North Carolina Wine and Grape Month. The harvest season will be under way, and visitors can participate in grape stomps, wine festivals and other events at many of the state’s wineries. In addition, the N.C. Wine and Grape Council will sponsor Grape Day at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh on Sept. 18. The council also will hold the annual N.C. State Fair Wine Competition for amateur and commercial wine producers. Judging will take place Sept. 2 and 3 in Raleigh.

Death Penalty Recommended in Buncombe County Murder Case

B9316753461Z.1_20150326162017_000_GPSA9M2MN.1-0A Leicester man suspected in the murder and dismemberment of Former Food Network celebrity chef Cristie Codd, her husband Joseph “J.T.” Codd and their unborn child, will face the death penalty if convicted. The Codds went missing in March. Their remains were later found inside a woodstove on Owens’ property. Owens had been hired as a handyman by the Codd’s who were neighbors.

Robert Jason Owens, 37, appeared Buncombe County Superior Court Monday afternoon. District Attorney Todd Williams recommended the case against Owens be punishable by death.

In addition to two counts of first-degree murder, Owens is charged with two counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon, two counts of dismembering human remains and murder of an unborn child.

There are 10 convicted murderers from Buncombe County who were sentenced in the last 25 years and are still sitting on state and federal death rows.

Methamphetamine Trafficking in Macon County

On Friday, July 24, agents of the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office, the Rabun County Sheriff’s Office, the Macon County, Sheriff’s Office, and the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation took action in an ongoing methamphetamine trafficking investigation.

Joseph Anthony Persicketti, 26, of 214 Omega Hills Road, Franklin, was arrested in Clayton, Ga., and charged with trafficking methamphetamine.

Denise Andrews, 35, of 713 Eskona Street, Newland, N.C., was arrested in Franklin, and charged with trafficking methamphetamine.

Karrie Elisa Varner, 33, of 214 Omega Hills Road, Franklin, was arrested in Clayton, Ga., and charged with trafficking methamphetamine.

Rona Burrell Stone, 48, of 192 Omega Hills Drive, Franklin, N.C., was arrested, in Franklin, and charged with trafficking methamphetamine.

Agents executed three search warrants in North Carolina which resulted in the seizure of approximately 11.5 ounces of crystal methamphetamine (street value of $32,890).

These arrests were the result of an extensive investigation into methamphetamine trafficking in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

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