A PERSONAL TOUCH: Local businesses around Asheville, such as Dancing Bear Toys (above), play an indispensible role in driving the area’s economy and lending the city its unique ambiance. Through a combination of hands on ingenuity, creative approaches and a strong sense of community, Asheville’s specialty shops and boutiques are a testament to the viability of independent, locally-owned businesses in a world of big box chains and internet megastores. Photo by Max Hunt.

Local businesses drive Asheville vibe

Walk any downtown Asheville street and you’re likely to encounter some quirky storefronts offering unusual products. Together, these “specialty shops” or boutiques, most of them locally owned businesses, are a key component of the city’s distinctive flavor, attracting thousands of tourists each year and helping fuel the economy.

Adam Myerson (front) at the 2016 Cyclocross Nationals. Photo by Joshua Cole

A national coup: How Asheville Cyclocross Nationals went from dream to reality

Racers and organizers both had their fingers crossed as competitors zipped around the often muddied and frozen course on the Biltmore Estate during the 2016 Cyclocross National Championships, Jan. 5-10. In the end, the event drew high praise from all quarters. Adam Myerson, a 30-year-veteran bike racer and pro from New England, wrote: “Nationals course evaluation: best nats course I’ve ever ridden. Maybe best U.S. course ever, period.”

Sunrise on Grandfather Mountain

Holiday events roundup for 12/23 through 12/31

ART/CRAFT FAIRS Caldwell Arts Council 601 College Ave. SW, Lenoir, 754-2486 • Through WE (12/23) – “Satie’s Holiday Sale,” 75 crafters and artists exhibiting. Mon.-Fri.: 9am-6pm. Sat.: 10am-3pm. Free to attend. BENEFITS Dancing, Drums, and Dreams Benefit AshevilleRhythm.org • TH (12/31), 8:30pm – Tickets to this New Year’s Eve celebration with music by Free Planet Radio and Kevin Spears benefit […]

Janet Frye. Photo courtesy of Janet Frye

Asheville florist joins elite team of designers for Rose Bowl Parade

Asheville florist Janet Frye is headed to California later this month to help arrange thousands of flowers on four floats designed by award-winning Charles Meier for the Rose Bowl Parade. Frye was personally invited in September to join a four-person team of florists to work a week preparing the floats for the nationally-televised New Year’s […]

Personal trainer Teah Boswell is known for hauling clients to unorthodox locations for workouts, including the occasional trip to The Wedge, pictured. Now, the fitness enthusiast hopes to set up her own permanent indoor space for cycling training.

Faces in the crowd: WNC crowdfundi­ng initiative­s

Crowdfunding platforms make it possible for individuals and organizations of any size to harness social networks and raise start-up capital for projects that might otherwise fail due to lack of funding. Each week, Xpress highlights notable Western North Carolina crowdsourcing initiatives that may inspire readers to become new faces in the crowd. An indoor studio […]

NEED FOR SPEED: Taylor Earnhardt Putnam has carried on her family's legacy of competition into her own chosen profession in the professional rodeo circuit. She competes this weekend at the WNC Ag Center for the title of "All-Around Cowgirl" in the SRA Finals. Photo by Darrell Stewart Photography.

Racetrack to rodeo: Taylor Earnhardt Putnam carries on family legacy in SRA finals

Putnam comes into this weekend’s Finals competition as the leading “All Around Cowgirl,” having scored more points in multiple categories than her competitors, in addition to being ranked fourth overall in barrel racing and ninth in breakaway roping. True to her family legacy, she has established herself as a top competitor in her chosen sport, translating her heritage of winning and love for speed from the asphalt to the cow-pen.

“My Kickstarter campaign Pirate Mama is about changing the stereotypes of single moms and rewriting my own narrative focused on possibility rather than challenges,” says writer Ky Delaney. To that end, Delaney and her son will soon sail around the Virgin Islands for a month, acting as environmental stewards along the way.

Faces in the crowd: WNC crowdfundi­ng initiative­s

Each week, Xpress highlights notable WNC crowdsourcing initiatives that may inspire readers to become new faces in the crowd. This week features a single mother’s sailing journey toward empowerment, a new hammock that holds 800 pounds worth of loungers and the third episode of Southern Songs and Stories, featuring Tellico.

CHEERS TO THAT: "Ms. Earle coaches cheerleading [for the Asheville Youth Football and Cheerleading League], but she is also really a life coach and mentor for these girls," says Asheville City Schools Foundation executive director Kate Pett. "She tutors many of them, visits their teachers and communicates with their families regularly. She is really a life mentor and cheerleading is just the vehicle that engages these girls who really need someone just like her."

Faces in the crowd: WNC crowdfundi­ng initiative­s

Each week, Xpress highlights notable WNC crowdsourcing initiatives that may inspire readers to become new faces in the crowd. This week features a project to equip a youth cheerleading team with uniforms and other supplies; a local film collective’s contribution to a global project; plus one parent’s quest to improve Oakley Elementary School’s playground.

The Appalachian Trail Game's special edition content has an even tighter focus on stewardship, according to founder and avid hiker Mark Hanf, who was inspired to create the first Thru Hike edition when he found a trashed campsite. He'll donate 5 percent of sales from the board game to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Faces in the crowd: WNC crowdfundi­ng initiative­s

Each week, Xpress highlights notable WNC crowdsourcing initiatives that may inspire readers to become new faces in the crowd. This week features the second edition of Appalachian Trail-inspired board game Thru Hike plus nonprofit literary press Orison Books’ fundraising efforts for three new spiritually-inclined books.

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BridgeCat Alleycat offers different flavor of bicycle racing

  Alleycat racing is a genre of bicycle racing that originated among urban bike messengers in the late 1980s in Toronto, Canada. Alleycat races are in many ways the antithesis of the highly organized gran fondo’s and tours which often dominate the cycling scene in Western North Carolina. Alleycats are at best informal, non-sanctioned events […]