Although myth has it that Bele Chere translates to “beautiful life,” for many locals the three-day festival spelled ambivalence. Of course there are as many who feel otherwise ― not all of those people are from out of town.
Perhaps, like Christmas and adolescence, some experiences are easier to appreciate retrospectively, as a memory. As William Carlos Williams writes in his poem The Descent, “Memory is a kind / of accomplishment / a sort of renewal / even / an initiation, since the spaces it opens are new places / inhabited by hordes / heretofore unrealized.”
But what hordes will replace the festival’s annual inundation now that Bele Chere has become a memory? Unless a private entity adopts the event and sees to its continuation, the last weekend of July 2014 will be the quietest its been in decades.
Read on for a selection of reader responses to Xpress’ coverage, mock obituaries and calls for remembrance. Where do you fall on the Kübler-Ross grief cycle?
At least Bele Chere was old enough to run for president and rent a car in North Carolina. Weird music choices aside, which remaining music festival(s) is/are still megaphone-friendly? Let’s take it back from the Westoboro visitors. Maybe the few remaining local music festivals learn from economic crash landings. It’s about the music, not the “scene.” ― boatrocker
I love Bele Chere. I have lived here many years and gone every year for all three days. I go for the music; I don’t go out to night clubs or bars, so this is a way for me to hear good music. I find the street preachers and opponents to be good theater. I had a friend here last year from Austin, and she could have spent the entire festival at Pritchard Park watching the show. They don’t have that in Austin, and it is a lot weirder than Asheville. She thought it was funny and entertaining. Get over yourself, people, enjoy life for a change. I think the snobs on City Council will figure out how much money this festival is bringing into the city only after it is gone. If you are a business in downtown that does not make money, then you are either incompetent or closed. … I have a friend who has lived in India for many years. and she truly believes in festivals; they have a lot in India. Festivals raise the vibration in an area because people are happy. I can only assume that those who hate Bele Chere are miserable human beings with no hope of happiness. Go protest somewhere else, please. Let those who enjoy life have a good time without you. … ― Mary
Want to see an example of a festival that lost public funding yet still continues? I present to you [Seattle’s] Bumbershoot. ― Raven Ravinoff
Raven, that is interesting. But the success of that festival compared to Bele Chere is that: It costs a minimum of $40 to attend; it is produced in a giant park that is better suited to handle a festival than that of our already cramped downtown atmosphere. I think if an events producer was wanting to see an opportunity, there certainly is one to be had in Asheville. But where would you host it? Street festivals are fun, but I think part of the problem is taking over the successful areas of downtown for so many days. Not sure where would be a suitable area to host such a thing, were it ever to come back around in some other form or fashion. ― Foto-Jennic
“I think the snobs on City Council will figure out how much money this festival is bringing into the city…” Is it really? Especially after the public safety costs (police, fire, street barricades, etc.) are factored in, how much money does this festival REALLY rake in? Does anybody have figures? ― Big Al
All snarkiness aside, Asheville has built an identity and brand which generates more than 1 million visitors each year, based on a multitude of outdoor cultural events. More visitors means more sales-tax income, more hotel tax income, better property values, etc. I say, beware of eliminating street-fair culture/outdoor arts programming. These are elements of community that are essential to the health of any city. Without support of creative thinking, it atrophies and fades away. Good luck, Asheville. ― Jen Gordon
Do not mistake crass commercialism and the circuit-riding festival vendors from all over the nation for anything resembling “community.” Real community has nothing to do with amplification equipment and vast numbers of monetary transactions. In fact, from a sociological perspective, the less of these things a community has, the more likely it is to have strong interpersonal ties and resiliency. There is nothing “community” about a giant street festival. ― Fred Johnson
Having lived in Asheville for all the years of Bele Chere, I enjoyed the first two or three and happily joined the residents of Asheville who used it as a great reason to leave town for a few days. Asheville is hot and humid and at its least comfortable in late July; add tourist drivers, road closures and coupons and you’ve got a great reason to get out of Dodge. I will miss the convenient advertising that signaled me to plan our mid -summer getaway. The beauty of Asheville is the pace [at which] we go about our everyday lives. Bele Chere seemed like a Chamber of Commerce construct that never quite got that. ― William A. Weeks
We will miss Bele Chere. The music lineup was always great and we had lots of fun with our friends! Too bad the local haters bad-mouthed it and made fun of it. Obviously they are not music lovers and are just plain boring folks. ― Douglas P. Ewen
I have never bad mouthed Bele Chere or made fun of it. But I AM boring. ― Mark Noble