Around town: Day of the Dead

HOMAGE TO ANCESTORS: Sister Cities Asheville visited Mexico last year to participate and learn about Day of the Dead traditions. Photo by Cathy Peerless

Asheville Sister Cities presents Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, on Sunday, Oct. 29, 4-8 p.m., at the Weaverville Community Center. The celebration is a fundraiser for the nonprofit organization’s committees for San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, and Valladolid, Yucatan.

The event will educate community members on the Mexican holiday, which memorializes dead ancestors. Usually observed on Nov. 1 and 2, it has complex roots combining Mayan and Aztec as well as Catholic customs.

Traditional food and drinks will be served, including mole negro, Yucatán-style barbecued pork, vegetarian tamales, pan de muertos (Mexican bread of the dead) and Mexican hot chocolate. There will be a face-painting booth, and headdresses will be available for purchase. Costumes are encouraged. Raices, a cultural youth organization from the Emma neighborhood of West Asheville, will perform traditional Chiapan and Sinaloan dances in costume.

For the altar and procession, guests are invited to bring a picture of a deceased loved one — including pets. A candlelight procession will occur at sunset.

“It’s really about respect for our ancestors and others who have passed on,” says Ken Nelson, vice president of Sister Cities. “We thought it would be good to do an educational event … since we have such a high Mexican population in the area.”

A nine-person delegation from sister city San Cristóbal will attend the event and spend the week in the area learning about local ways of life as well as certain city operations.

The Weaverville Community Center is at 60 Lakeshore Drive, Weaverville. For more information and tickets, visit

Celebrating the year in song

Beginning in early November, Asheville-based folklorist Saro Lynch-Thomason will launch “Singing the Wheel of the Year,” a nine-month course celebrating Pagan folk traditions in a modern context — through song.

Attendees will learn the historical background of traditional and modern songs from Pagan holidays and then will use those songs to participate in ritual together. Some holidays will be familiar but may have unfamiliar names. Halloween, for instance, was originally known as Samhain.

With Halloween approaching, Lynch-Thomason shares some of the holiday’s history and traditions. “In folklore that emerges from the 18th century onwards,” she says in a press release, “we know that in many Celtic-influenced parts of England, Ireland and Scotland, this was a time when the spirits and beings of the otherworld were particularly active, so people had to take special precautions to protect themselves from the spirits of the fairies and the dead. They would leave out food and water for passing spirits in order to appease them and even bless their animals on Halloween night, using charms and prayers.”

The course’s in-person cohort will meet at Weaving Rainbows, 62 Wall St. For more information and to register, visit

Full moon paddle

On Saturday, Oct. 28, a group of kayakers wearing witch hats will be floating down the French Broad River in Asheville.

Beginning at 7:30 p.m., Canton resident Becca Ploener, owner of Wild Woman Coaching and Kayak Instruction, will lead the moonlit paddle from French Broad Outfitters at Pearson Bridge to Hominy Creek.

Ploener, who teaches whitewater kayaking during warmer months, also helps people who are feeling overworked reintroduce adventure and play into their lives. She says the event’s purpose is threefold: to promote wellness, to kayak as a group and to celebrate the spooky season.

Before the float, Ploener will conduct a full moon intention circle.

Glowsticks and witch hats will be provided for each participant, and headlamps — as well as costumes — are encouraged.

For more information and course listings, visit

The Sirkus is back in town

On Saturday, Oct. 28, 1-10 p.m., the 13th annual Surreal Sirkus Arts Festival will return to Pack Square Park, featuring magic, art installations, live music, vendors and a special sunset performance.

Surreal Sirkus started in 1996 with the goal of generating interest in a community arts center. What happened instead was the birth of an annual arts festival with staged productions and circus performances, which became the hallmark of the underground art scene of the 1990s and 2000s.

In 2005, Surreal Sirkus held a Viking-style funeral and “passed away.” But in 2021 on its 25th anniversary, Arts 2 People brought it back to life as an annual Halloween festival. The organization also created SurReal Estate, which offers performances and tours at a mysterious mansion.

This event is free, open to the public and appropriate for all ages. For more information, visit

Finding Elisha Mitchell

The Search for Elisha Mitchell will be brought to life onstage on Friday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m., at the Mountain Heritage High School auditorium in Burnsville.

Local playwright Dylan Wilson, who has studied the true story for decades, will share how a search party found the missing professor in July 1857 on what is now Mount Mitchell.

The cast members are all direct descendants of the search party and are intimately familiar with the story from family lore.

Mountain Heritage High School is at 333 Mountain Heritage High School Road, Burnsville. For tickets visit

Author writes about being adopted

There are many titles to describe Valerie Naiman: goat mother, apiarist, environmental activist, adoptee, a founder of Earthaven Ecovillage — and now, author. In her new memoir, Mystic Masquerade: An Adoptee’s Search for Truth, she shares her venture to discover her heritage and natural family, as well as bumps in the road along the way.

“From playing make-believe as a child to becoming an actress, I didn’t know I was in search of my identity,” she says in a press release. “When theatrical illusion didn’t serve me anymore, I blazed a trail to find myself. The journey catapulted me beyond the question of ‘Who am I?’ to a profound inquiry of who are we as a species.” The journey took over six decades, navigating both mysticism and legalities, and took Naiman across the world.

Twenty percent of book sales go to the Spirit Foundation, a nonprofit that supports disenfranchised children.

For more information, visit

Cultural center wins state award

Hendersonville-based Center for Cultural Preservation, a nonprofit that is home to almost 500 recorded oral histories, was awarded a $20,000 grant from N.C. Humanities earlier this month. The grant will support the center’s new project to create a searchable database.

“This grant will allow the world access to an astounding collection of oral histories from moonshiners, molasses makers, basket weavers, textile workers, farmers and so much more,” says David Weintraub, executive director and filmmaker, in a press release. “As our elders always say, ‘How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you come from?’ This wealth of history and culture will better connect all of us to the rich world of Southern Appalachian culture.”

The Center for Cultural Preservation is at 711 S. Grove St., Hendersonville. For more information, visit

– Andy Hall, with additional reporting from Murryn Payne


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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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