Around Town: Deck the Trees brings holiday spirit and community relief

HOW LOVELY ARE YOUR BRANCHES: The annual Deck the Trees event will feature more than 40 decorated holiday trees at locations throughout Black Mountain. Photos courtesy of Deck the Trees

Deck the Trees, Black Mountain’s annual Christmas celebration, began modestly in 2011 with about a dozen decorated trees in the lobby of the newly renovated Monte Vista Hotel. Local gallery owner Cappi Macsherry spearheaded the event with hopes of bringing some holiday cheer to the town.

Macsherry has since moved, but Deck the Trees has grown to include more than 20 local businesses and has raised nearly $200,000 for the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry fuel fund.

This year’s event, which runs from Thursday, Dec. 1-Monday, Jan. 2, features 21 decorated trees at the Monte Vista and 20 more at businesses throughout Black Mountain. The theme is “Let Heaven and Nature Sing.”

“When people see the trees, I hope they are filled with the joy and awe of a child at Christmas,” says Libba Fairleigh, chair of the Deck the Trees committee. “Black Mountain is blessed with talented people who share their talents by creating Christmas trees that are works of art, whimsy and delight.”

Since 2012, Deck the Trees has served as fundraiser for the SVCM fuel fund, which provides heating assistance to local households during the winter months. Money is raised through paid sponsorships of about 20 local businesses, as well as individual donations.

“Our intention was to rotate the giving to the various nonprofits in town,” Fairleigh explains. “However, when we considered the greatest need in the community, it seemed helping people to keep warm during the winter months was the largest need. If we could assist with that need, this would free up more money for the other needs addressed by SVCM.”

In 2021, the event raised $41,330, a number organizers hope to surpass this year. As Fairleigh points out, the cost of a 100-gallon fuel tank has doubled in the last two years to about $600.

“Families who are struggling to keep their homes warm do not love the winter season,” she says. “To be cold and to have no hope for warmth has to be beyond frightening.”

The Monte Vista Hotel is at 308 W. State St., Black Mountain. For a list of where you can see all the trees, visit To donate to the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry fuel fund, go to

Handmade for the holidays

It’s time to do some Christmas shopping, Southern-style.

The Folk Art Center will host the Southern Highland Craft Guild’s annual Holiday Seconds Sales on consecutive Saturdays, Dec. 3 and 10, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

The event, now in its 10th year, is like a miniature version of the guild’s twice-annual Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands, says Millie Davis, marketing director. Over the two weeks, more than 60 artists will sell discounted handmade gifts, apparel, jewelry, pottery, decor and more.

“We encourage those who attend to connect with the makers and invest their holiday money in local and regional businesses, where high quality is the standard,” she says. “There really is something special about learning the story of a handmade object that goes hand in hand with the holiday spirit.”

The shops of the guild rarely discount work, so the Holiday Seconds Sales represent a rare opportunity for visitors to find guild-quality items for a bargain, she says.

“This event is important to the guild, but is more important for the artists, as they have an opportunity to clear out their studios of 2022 designs and begin the new year with a fresh start,” she explains.

The Folk Art Center is at Milepost 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in East Asheville. Admission is free. For more information, including a list of artists for both dates, go to

Helping Ukraine

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Asheville artist Brigitte Knauf felt she needed to do something. Having previously helped MANNA FoodBank by donating watercolor paintings for an auction, she decided to try that approach again.

So Knauf put some paintings up for sale to people she knew, with the proceeds earmarked for various charities supporting the Ukrainian people. “The generosity of my friends and neighbors was an incredible surprise,” she says.

Now she is having another sale of her work, with hopes of reaching a broader audience. Knauf will hold an open house Saturday, Dec. 3, and Sunday, Dec. 4, 2-5 p.m. at her home, 30 Hibriten Drive. Prices will range from $4 for a single note card to $50 for larger paintings.

All proceeds will go to charitable groups who are working in Ukraine, including World Central Kitchen and Doctors Without Borders.

“It would be such a privilege to be able to make just a little dent in all the misery war causes,” she says.

Sing out loud

The NewSong Music Performance & Songwriting Competition will welcome eight finalists to Citizen Vinyl Saturday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.

The finalists were selected from online submissions. A panel of music industry judges will select one grand prize winner who will receive a fully funded six-song EP, recorded and mixed at Citizen Studios, plus 500 vinyl records pressed at Citizen Vinyl. The winner also will do  a paid performance at Arts Brookfield’s Summer Concert Series in New York in 2023.

The finalists are Rachel Garcia and Thu Tran; Oakland, Calif.; Cozi and Ezra Vancil, Dallas; AC Sapphire, Portland, Ore.; Indus Adams, San Antonio; Mikalyn, Guelph, Ontario; Justin Cross, Pelham, Ala.; Lua Flora, fronted by Evan Button, Weaverville; and Kristian Phillip Valentino, Asheville.

Citizen Vinyl is at 14 O. Henry Ave. Tickets to the finals showcase are $50 for general admissions and $125 for the VIP package. To learn more, visit

World AIDS Day

The Western North Carolina AIDS Project will partner with Visual AIDS for Day With(out) Art at the Asheville Art Museum on World AIDS Day, Thursday, Dec. 1, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

A new film, Being & Belonging, will be shown on a continuous loop in the museum’s multipurpose space on level 1. The film features seven short videos about the experiences of people throughout the world who are living with HIV.

Additionally, five posters located throughout the atrium will share HIV-related statistics and data. Each of the posters contain a QR codes that links to audio recordings of conversations between HIV-positive individuals living in Western North Carolina.

The poster exhibit will run through Sunday, Dec. 4. Museum hours for Friday-Dec. 2- Sunday, Dec. 4 will be 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

The Asheville Art Museum is at 2 South Pack Square. For more information, visit

Things that pass for knowledge

Asheville Guitar Bar will host a discussion of Steely Dan‘s classic 1972 debut Can’t Buy a Thrill as part of the ongoing “Music to Your Ears Series” Wednesday, Dec. 7, 7-8:30 p.m.

Music journalist and Xpress contributor Bill Kopp will lead the discussion with special guest Jake Wolf of Asheville Steely Dan tribute band Dirty Logic. In addition, Kopp will play tracks from the album, which features some of the band’s best-known songs, including “Reelin’ in the Years” and “Do it Again.”

“Before Can’t Buy a Thrill, few musical acts had successfully synthesized jazz, swing and Latin music elements into a rock or pop context,” Kopp says in a press release. “And those who did wouldn’t enjoy anything like the success that Steely Dan achieved.”

Asheville Guitar Bar is at 122 Riverside Drive, Suite D. Tickets are $10 at the door. For more information, visit

Wolfe finalists

The WNC Historical Association will honor five finalists for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award Tuesday, Dec. 13, 5-6:30 p.m. at the Reuter Center at UNC Asheville. The event also will be livestreamed via Zoom.

The ceremony will include readings by the finalists. The selected winner will receive $2,500.

Originated by the Louis Lipinsky family, the award has been presented annually by the organization since 1955 for printed works that focus special attention on Western North Carolina.

The finalists are Anne Chesky Smith for Murder at Asheville’s Battery Park Hotel: The Search for Helen Clevenger’s Killer; Lance Greene for Their Determination to Remain; A Cherokee Community’s Resistance to the Trail of TearsBrent Martin for George Masa’s Wild Vision: A Japanese Immigrant Imagines Western North CarolinaHeather Newton for McMullen Circle; and John Ross for Through the Mountains: The French Broad River and Time.

The Reuter Center is at 300 Campus View Road on the UNCA campus. The event is free, but registration for in-person or Zoom is required. To register, go to

Tribal Museums Day

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian will join other tribal museums and cultural centers across the country in the first Tribal Museums Day, organized by the Association on American Indian Affairs, on Saturday, Dec. 3. The museum will offer free admission during its regular hours of 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and will support Native artists during the holiday season in its store.

The Association on American Indian Affairs is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

“Tribal Museums Day will bring attention to our diverse Nations and cultures, stimulate tourism and grow Tribal economies,” the association says in a press release. “Tribal Museums Day will also support the vision and mission of each Tribal Museum by re-educating the public that our Nations are the primary experts of Indigenous histories, knowledge, cultures, lifeways and values.”

The Museum of the Cherokee Indian is at 589 Tsali Blvd., Cherokee. For more information, go to


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About Justin McGuire
Justin McGuire is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate with more than 30 years of experience as a writer and editor. His work has appeared in The Sporting News, the (Rock Hill, SC) Herald and various other publications. Follow me @jmcguireMLB

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