Around town: Celebrating East End/Valley Street’s past, present and future

BLOCK PARTY: This year's East End/Valley Street Heritage Festival will include a birthday celebration for the neighborhood's longest-living resident, Lottie Mae Poole, center, who is pictured with her daughter, Victoria Poole, right, and her great-granddaughter, Kenzie Robinson. Photo courtesy of Gwen Jones

A parade with majorettes, stilt walkers and a marching band will kick off the 2023 East End/Valley Street Community Heritage Festival at 10 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 26. The fourth annual family-friendly event celebrates the heritage of Asheville’s oldest Black neighborhood.

This year’s theme is Heritage: Past, Present, Future. The parade will begin where Alexander Drive meets Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and will end at the festival site, Martin Luther King Jr. Park. The festival will feature live music, vendors and food trucks until 10 p.m.

The East End/Valley Street Neighborhood Association created the event as a way to preserve, remember and unite the community, says Renée White, who has served as association president for 10 years. “Many Black residents were moved from the area during urban renewal, and families were no longer able to call the community home. This caused a divide in the community, and the feeling of family was lost,” she says. “When I grew up there, we were all one big family.”

She says the festival draws people from all surrounding counties to gather in East End. “People are able to meet, greet, share stories and celebrate a legacy neighborhood. Future generations get to experience and learn about the history, and elders get to share stories and educate people on what it felt like to live in an area that had thriving Black businesses, churches and schools.”

The parade lineup includes the Majorette Dolls of Asheville, a debutante queen and her court, local nonprofit My Daddy Taught Me That, Drums Up Guns Down and more. A variety of food truck vendors will sell treats such as Jamaican cuisine, cupcakes and ice cream. A bounce house, face painting, balloon twister and bubbles will be offered for children until 7 p.m.

The live music schedule is as follows: Asheville Second Line Band (11:30 a.m-12:30 p.m.), Gospel Sensations (12:45-2 p.m.), Lyric Band (2:15-3:30 p.m.), Sweet Dreams Band (3:45-5 p.m.), Updates and Recognitions (5-6 p.m.), Free Flow Band (6-7:45 p.m.) and Uptown Swagga Band (8-10 p.m.).

The festival will also include a special birthday celebration in honor of the neighborhood’s oldest living resident, Lottie Mae Poole — who is 100 years old and still goes out to vote at her local precinct each year.

Alcohol and pets are prohibited at the festival.

Martin Luther King Jr. Park is at 50 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. For more information, visit

Sounds of home

Hendersonville Theatre’s Hometown Sound music series will feature local bluegrass acts Buncombe Turnpike and Holler Choir on Saturday, Aug. 26, at 7:30 p.m.

Lead singer and upright bass player Tom Godleski started Buncombe Turnpike in 1997. The band’s music ranges from traditional and contemporary bluegrass to gospel and originals. Other band members are Korey Warren on guitar, mandolin and vocals; David Hyatt on guitar, mandolin and vocals; George Buckner on banjo; and Don Lewis on fiddle, mandolin and vocals.

Asheville-based Holler Choir, led by Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist Michael Ashworth of Steep Canyon Rangers, is a string band with members Clint Roberts on guitar and vocals, Helena Rose on banjo and vocals, Norbert McGettigan on bass and vocals and Bridger Dunnagan on fiddle — as well as a rotating cast of additional talent. The band debuted a full-length record in 2022, Songs Before They Write Themselves, produced by Jason Richmond and mastered by Kim Rosen.

Concessions and a cash bar will be available.

Hendersonville Theatre is at 229 S. Washington St., Hendersonville. For tickets or more information visit

Symphony season

The third annual Symphony in the Park will mark the beginning of the Asheville Symphony’s 2023-24 season on Sunday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m., in Pack Square Park. The free concert, which has attracted over 7,000 attendees in past years, will be led by symphony Music Director Darko Butorac and will feature selections from classic movie scores by Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, Hans Zimmer, John Williams, James Horner and more.

This will be the first season to take place outside the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium since 1975. The relocation was required due to the auditorium’s 52-year-old HVAC system challenges.

Concerts will instead be held at various locations around the city — including churches, breweries, the Asheville Masonic Temple and music venues such as The Orange Peel. A show featuring the music of Star Wars, held in conjunction with Beer City Comic Con, will take place on Salvage Station’s outdoor stage by the French Broad River on Saturday, Oct. 1. This season also brings the debut of the Asheville Symphony Artist Residency — which will celebrate one instrument and explore its impact on the musical world, in collaboration with a world-renowned artist.

“Featuring Brahms, Copland and Mahler alongside heavy metal, folk and klezmer, and representing everything from Star Wars to soul to immersive projection art … this year is going to be truly wild,” says Asheville Symphony Executive Director Daniel Crupi in a press release. “Our goal is to make the Asheville Symphony resonate with everyone in our community. Our 2023-2024 season takes us one step closer to that goal.”

Pack Square Park is at 80 Court Plaza. For more information, visit

Historic hikes

Learn more about community history through graveyards and associated sites with the Asheville History Museum’s popular Hike with a Historian Cemetery Series, starting Wednesday, Aug. 30, at 10 a.m. The hikes will be led by Trevor Freeman, museum public program director, who says he organized the series to “humanize history.”

“While I know many enjoy the sort of macabre and ‘spooky’ elements of cemeteries and graveyards, I have seen that people also genuinely enjoy the stories of average people who often left only a headstone as a marker to their life — if even that much,” says Freeman. “There are fascinating patterns that emerge in cemeteries and also perhaps a more tangible connection to the past than one might find in a book or an archive.”

The first hike will be to Brittain Church Cemetery and Biggerstaff Hanging Site, near Rutherfordton. The church, founded in 1768, was the first established congregation in the Western North Carolina foothills. Graves include those of Revolutionary War veterans and some of the oldest settler burials in the region. Biggerstaff Farm, a few miles away, was the site where nine British Loyalists were hanged in 1780.

On Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 10 a.m., Freeman will lead a group to the Ashworth Family Cemetery and Sherrill’s Inn. John and Nancy Ashworth, among the first white settlers in the Fairview area, were also some of the first enslavers in the area. In her later years, Nancy was also rumored to be a “granny woman,” or plant healer. The hike will feature a discussion of the spread of slavery into the mountains and the Appalachian mythology of plant healers. (This event is sold out; however, a waitlist option is available at registration.)

The last hike will explore Quaker Meadows, just outside Morganton, which was one of the first plantations established in the WNC foothills on the eve of the American Revolutionary War. A guide from Historic Burke Foundation will share stories of the cemetery, which contains the graves of prominent early settlers and political leaders. Attendees will also have the option to tour the nearby gravesite of Frances “Frankie” Silver, the first woman executed for murder in North Carolina, whose notorious trial and death are the subject of local lore.

Tickets are $10 for museum members and $15 for nonmembers. No-cost, community-funded tickets are also available. Tour research notes and recaps will be posted on the museum’s website following each event.

For more information, visit



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About Andy Hall
Andy Hall graduated from The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. After working at the United States Capitol for ten years, she has returned to her native state to enjoy the mountains — and finally become a writer.

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One thought on “Around town: Celebrating East End/Valley Street’s past, present and future

  1. North Asheville

    ” . . .This will be the first [Asheville Symphony] season to take place outside the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium since 1975. The relocation was required due to the auditorium’s 52-year-old HVAC system challenges. Concerts will instead be held at various locations around the city — including churches, breweries, the Asheville Masonic Temple and music venues such as The Orange Peel. . . .”
    This may be the best thing that’s happened to the Symphony in terms of building broader support.

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