When husband and wife Mitchell Davis and Farrah Hoffmire came from Charleston, S.C., to look at properties in the area, they felt a special connection to a 63-acre slice of holler in Madison County. The seller, Tom Hare, said he “knew they were the ones just by looking at them and listening to what they were talking about.” Three years later, they’ve restored the historic farm and transformed it into a community cultural events space.
Davis and Hoffmire run the farm, located on Tug Fork Creek off New Leicester Highway, 2 miles from the township of Trust, with their business partners Edwin Self and Benjamin Gibbins. It’s also home to rescue goats, pigs, chickens, a dog and a cat named Wesa (Cherokee for cat). Having received their first special events permit from Madison County, they plan to hold small concerts and educational workshops, with the next show performed by Americana artist Tyler Ramsey on Saturday, Sept. 30, at 6 p.m.
The former owner, Hare, wasn’t looking for just anybody to take over the homestead. When the couple first came to look at it, he “pulled up on a four-wheeler — no shirt on, big beard,” says Davis. “He said, ‘I live next door. You wanna ride to the top of the mountain?’ And I was like, ‘Oh my God, this guy’s been scaring people away from here for years. I can get along with this guy.’ And it was true — both things — and perfect,” Davis laughs.
The property’s name, Rare Bird Farm, comes from an original musical that Hoffmire wrote and was producing with HEART, an organization she founded, when COVID hit. “It was about a community of creative misfits looking for meaning in life and finding it in being together and living a creative life,” says Davis. “We adopted it because it seemed to fit what we were doing [here].” Hoffmire is planning a theater camp with HEART for adults with special needs, slated for summer 2024.
The ivory-billed woodpecker on the logo is inspired by author Tom Robbins, whose novels make up a prominent portion of the property’s library, named after Robbins. It also houses a framed letter from Robbins to Davis and Hoffmire, which he wrote after the couple sent him some art and made him aware of his influence on the farm.
The farm is home to the four partners, and they have built spaces for artists and guests to relax, spend the night and “feel at home” as well, says Davis. The Tug Fork Barn, an old tobacco barn that can accommodate 75 seats, has a view up the mountain behind the stage. There’s also an 1800s chestnut barn they are refurbishing into a farm shop and community pottery space. Self is making the walls out of “dust-crete,” made from sawdust scraps and shavings. The back of the barn serves as a classroom and faces the medicinal garden, which is surrounded by apple, persimmon, pear and pawpaw trees.
“So, this could be like the Foxfire stories,” says Davis, referencing the library’s collection of the legendary Appalachian heritage books. “Tom got to learn the wisdom from whom he got the land, and now is teaching us the ways and and passing it on. And we hope to do the same.”
Rare Bird Farm is at 91 Duckett Top Tower Road, Hot Springs. For more information, visit avl.mx/d0q.
Longtime Asheville resident Krista Stearns says she created her company, Mountain Mural Tours, earlier this year to share the cultural experiences of the city she watched turn into a “tourist town.” She has now added a walking tour of the River Arts District’s graffiti to the mural tours she leads there and downtown.
“I wanted to create a healthy tourist experience that celebrates what is unique about Asheville, its art and what local artist residents contribute to our city,” says Stearns. “I’m superexcited, but it’s a completely different tour … so I’ve spent the last few months learning about graffiti as an art, as well as meeting and talking with the artists.”
The tour, which starts at the entrance of Marquee Asheville, winds around the various old warehouses of Foundy Street. Stearns talks about the history of the district, as well as the stories behind the art and the artists.
A former co-owner of West End Bakery, Stearns remembers the days when city officials were providing cans of paint to business owners to cover up graffiti. Now the city seems to have embraced the American art form, she says. She has also watched the RAD transform from a place she says you wouldn’t visit to a haven for artists.
“All these businesses pride themselves on the fact that they took over this abandoned business district and tried to make it lively and fun.”
Marquee Asheville is at 36 Foundy St. For more information, visit avl.mx/d0r.
Pride Festival returns
The Blue Ridge Pride Festival will kick off at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, with its annual welcoming procession from South French Broad and Patton avenues to Pack Square Park. The celebration will continue in the park until 7 p.m.
With a theme of “Advocate!,” this year’s event will feature over 200 vendors, 12 musical acts, including the Asheville Gay Men’s Chorus, and over 10 drag performers. The festival’s mainstage emcees will be Divine the Bearded Lady and Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality and welcoming procession marshal. She is also a member of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.
New this year, the League of Women Voters will run a voter registration drive. Festival organizers have also banned the sale of one-use plastics and are requiring food vendors to use compostable plates and cups. Advocacy vendors, which have been reduced to allow more accessibility for mobility devices, will be located near Market Street. All but a few are local LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations. “We’ve said goodbye to carnival fare and corporate Pride merch that needs to be brought in from cities or states away, in favor of highlighting local nonprofits, businesses and artisans,” organizers say in a press release.
Local soul singer Whitney Mongé and local soul and blues band Mama and The Ruckus will headline. Other live acts include Latin folk/pop band M A R and the Marmeladies, Charlotte-based rock band Big the Cat, bluegrass locals Laura Blackley and the Wildflowers, and queer Tennessee country band Dani Rae Clark and The Let Downs.
For more information, visit avl.mx/d0w.
Poet laureate visits WNC
Jaki Shelton Green, North Carolina’s poet laureate, will give a free reading and book signing at the Black Mountain Library on Tuesday, Oct. 3, 6-7 p.m.
Green, a writer from the Piedmont, was appointed poet laureate by Gov. Roy Cooper in 2018. The first African American and third woman to hold this honor for North Carolina, Green has won numerous literary awards including two N.C. Emerging Artist Grants, the N.C. Writers’ Network Blumenthal Award and an induction into the N.C. Literary Hall of Fame in 2014. She is the author of eight poetry collections and a professor of documentary poetry at Duke University, as well as the founder of SistaWRITE, an organization that provides writing retreats for women writers around the world.
Seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Black Mountain Library is at 105 N. Dougherty St., Black Mountain. For more information, visit avl.mx/d0x.