Around town: Driving tour of a ‘lost’ community

DOWN IN THE VALLEY: Bascombe Burnett, whose home was in the North Fork Valley, was one of many forced to move so a reservoir could be built. Burnett’s grandfather, Frederick Thomas Burnett Sr., and his wife, known as “Granny Else,” settled this area in the 1800s. Photo courtesy of Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center

North of Asheville along the Blue Ridge Parkway, as travelers approach Mount Mitchell, they may notice an especially brilliant blue body of water in the valley below. They are seeing the North Fork Reservoir, historically named the Burnett Reservoir, one of two lakes that provide water to the city. On Saturday, March 23, 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m., the Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center will host a driving tour of the historic community that once thrived there before it was flooded to accommodate the reservoir.

The tour will follow a route within the 22,000-acre, public-use-restricted watershed, featuring several historic sites on the basin’s east side. Participants will be able to walk through the ruins of the settlement, as historic interpreters and descendants of settlers share stories. Highlights include a stop at the moss-covered stone walls of Sunnalee Lodge and the home of sawmill operator, schoolmaster and justice of the peace William Henry “Champ” Burnett — who got his nickname from wrangling bears. Guides will also discuss the watershed’s use as a filming location for the Hunger Games series.

Much of the community’s history was lost when residents were forced to leave in the early 1900s when the City of Asheville flooded the valley to create the reservoir.

The tour costs $130 for museum members and $175 for nonmembers, and advance registration is required. Attendees may drive their own vehicles if they have four-wheel drive, a transmission with extra low gears and proper ground clearance. To ride in a museum-provided vehicle, the cost is $50 for museum members and $75 for nonmembers.

For more information and to register, visit

Remembering Malcolm

On March 9, local singer-songwriter Malcolm Holcombe died of respiratory failure after a battle with cancer. Born in Weaverville on Sept. 2, 1955, Holcombe grew up in Swannanoa. His influential career began with stints in The Hilltoppers and Redwing. He later pursued a solo career, composing raw folk and country tunes that earned him praise from fellow musicians such as Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams and Darrell Scott.

In the early 1990s, Holcombe relocated to Nashville for a short stint before returning to Western North Carolina where he continued to pen songs and perform. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2022.

On Feb. 25, a week before his death, Holcombe posted a live performance on his Facebook page. The 30-minute concert began with “Mama Told Me So” — a song with the lyrics, “born into this world for a little while, one day I’m gonna lay down and leave you with a smile.”

“There was no figure more brilliant, memorable, authentic or selfless than Malcolm,” says Martin Anderson, WNCW radio host. “He was always eager to perform live at our station, and he would always leave us on the edge of our seats with his songs and his between-song banter of wisdom and wit; nuggets of further brilliance we refer to as ‘Malcolmisms.’”

Performance by Asheville’s uncensored Barbie

Barbie Angell — local playwright, poet and fashion designer — will perform Barbie Angell Uncensored: An Unfiltered, Uninhibited and Unapologetic Event on Wednesday, March 27, 8 p.m., at the LaZoom Room. The 90-minute “stand-up comedy, poetry slam and public confession booth” is a collection of works from Angell’s career, including poetry, selections from her autobiographical play, Death by Sparkle, and excerpts from her children’s book, Roasting Questions.

Angell discovered her gift for writing poetry while growing up in a children’s home in Aurora, Ill. She says she turned to her journal as a rare place of privacy in the home, transforming her thoughts into poems.

Voted “Best of WNC” poet by Xpress readers for several years, Angell also hosts local festivals and large events such as Planned Parenthood’s Condom Couture and the Reproductive Rights Rally. She is currently creating and selling upcycled clothing, some of which will be available for sale at the event along with her original artwork and prints.

Tickets are available for a suggested donation of $20.

The LaZoom Room is at 76 N. Biltmore Ave. For more information and tickets, visit

Storytelling in Weaverville

The Storytelling Concert Series at the Weaverville Center for Creative and Healthy Living continues, with the next performance on Friday, March 22, at 7 p.m.

Storyteller Tim Lowry of Summerville, S.C., and Highlands author and actor Lee Lyons will perform What I’ve Learned So Far, a collection of stories about “love, life and lunacy” that reflect the wit and wisdom of their mountain, South Carolina Lowcountry and Scots-Irish backgrounds.

Other upcoming events include a storytelling workshop student showcase on Thursday, June 13; a performance of local amateur storytellers on Thursday, Aug. 15; and Native storytelling on Monday, Nov. 11, sponsored by the Wilma Dykeman Legacy — a nonprofit dedicated to honoring the life and social justice values of the Western North Carolina author and activist.

The Weaverville Center for Creative and Healthy Living is at 60 Lakeshore Drive, Weaverville. For more information, visit

A cult classic at Hendersonville Theatre

Sordid Lives, a black comedy cult classic, opens at the Hendersonville Theatre on Thursday, March 21, at 7:30 p.m, with a pay-what-you-can night starting at $5 per ticket.

A legless Vietnam vet, an oversexed therapist and an ex-convict bar singer are some of the characters whose “sordid lives” get exposed when a family reconvenes in a small Texas town after the matriarch’s sudden, accidental death.

“Though Sordid Lives is a side-splitting comedy, it is at its core a heartwarming play about accepting our loved ones for who they are,” says Victoria Lamberth, the theater’s artistic director, in a press release. “In a time when LGBTQIA+ individuals are increasingly under attack throughout our country, Sordid Lives is as relevant now as when it was first produced.”

Written by stage, film and television writer and director Del Shores in 1996, the play later inspired a film starring Olivia Newton-John, Delta Burke, Beau Bridges and Leslie Jordan.

Additional showtimes are Fridays, March 22 and 29, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, March 23, 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 24, 3 p.m., and Saturday, March 30, 3 p.m. The March 22 performance will be followed by a reception hosted by Wine Sage and Gourmet, and the March 30 event will include a Hendersonville Pride Party.

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

Voices of the River contest seeks entries

RiverLink, an Asheville-based nonprofit with the mission of protecting the French Broad River and its watershed, is accepting submissions for its annual Voices of the River Art and Poetry Contest.

Children grades K-12 in the French Broad watershed are invited to submit “original and creative works that reflect their personal experiences, observations and/or feelings regarding the French Broad River,” according to a press release.

This year’s theme is “What is your favorite memory from beside the river or in the water?” with categories in 2D art, 3D art and poetry. The deadline for submission is Friday, April 19.

Winners will receive prizes from local businesses that support the preservation of the French Broad River. Submissions will be displayed at Black Wall Street AVL, kicking off with a special gallery event open to the public on Saturday, May 11, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Black Wall Street AVL is at 8 River Arts Place. For more on RiverLink, contest guidelines and submission 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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