Around Town: The Haunted Trail returns with family-friendly fun

ALL AGES: The Haunted Trail at the Adventure Center Of Asheville is designed to be family-friendly. Photo courtesy of Asheville Plays

The Haunted Trail bills itself as “Asheville’s only family-friendly haunt,” and there’s a reason for that.

“We believe it’s important for kids and their developing minds to have an outlet for Halloween that is more advanced than painting pumpkins but also not aggressive and vulgar,” says Lauren Rivas, creative director of Asheville Plays, which runs the trail. “This event from entrance to exit has been created with families in mind.”

The 10th annual Haunted Trail gets underway at The Adventure Center of Asheville on Friday, Oct. 7, 6-9 p.m., and runs Fridays and Saturdays through the end of the month, with additional days and hours the week before Halloween.

The trail and related activities are open to all, but organizers say the suggested age range is kids 3-12.

With that in mind, the event features an aerial glow trail in Treetops Adventure Park, a Pirates Cove and a Little Ghouls play area for families with smaller kids. And every night at 6:30, there will be a sneak peak tour for youths who still aren’t sure about being scared, even for fun. The trail is actor-free at this time, allowing parents to decide if they want to experience the full trail show.

Speaking of the trail, it features 15 live-action scenes portraying classic Halloween themes, including crowd-favorite Frankenstein’s monster, Hansel and Gretel battling the witch and a circus scene. “The circus is as truly scary as our show gets, because clowns are just inherently freaky,” Rivas says. “We put this scene first, so if you don’t like clowns just walk fast.”

New this year is a lava walk bridge and erupting volcano.

Also on tap is an activities tent as well as pizza from Mellow Mushroom and a selection of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages.

For every ticket sold, The Haunted Trail will donate four meals to MANNA FoodBank. Over the course of the 2020 and 2021 events, it donated more than 38,000 meals.

“I truly believe in the power of creativity and the magic of imagination, and want to create a show that encourages everyone, but especially kids, to explore that artistic creative side of themselves,” Rivas says.

The Adventure Center of Asheville is at 85 Expo Drive. Tickets are $18-$40; children 3 and younger enter for free. For more information, including additional days and times, visit

Oh, the horror

Horror movies hold a special place in the world of indie film.

“A lot of up-and-coming filmmakers start within that genre because it’s so accessible,” says Madeleine Richardson, co-founder of Asheville’s Cat Fly Film Fest. “It’s really easy to take a camera into the woods and shoot something Blair Witch Project-style.”

Just in time for Halloween season, Cat Fly Film Fest will present Cat Fly or Die Thursday-Saturday, Oct. 6-8, at various venues around town, including Fleetwood’s Chapel, The Odd, Different Wrld and the Funkatorium.

“Focusing on horror and thriller really speaks to the mission of the [Cat Fly Film] festival itself, which is to provide a platform for rising Southern filmmakers to screen their work,” Richardson says.

Cat Fly or Die is a rebrand of Cat Fly Halloween, a one-day film fest that was held three times, most recently in 2019.

The event has expanded to three days and will include 13 curated Halloween-themed films, along with a live-scored short. Several of the films are from Asheville filmmakers, including Jennifer Trudrung (Posture), Joshua Overbay (Spyder), David Gwaltney (Trigger Warning) and Hamish Horton (director of the music video for Machine 13’s new single “Jai”).

Also on the schedule are a live podcast reading of local horror anthology podcast series Palimpsest, cabaret theatrics from South Carolina band Wasted Wine, comedy and more.

“This time of year is when we like to get experimental,” says Brittany Jackson, Cat Fly co-founder. “Since it’s not the main festival, it’s a great time to try new things.”

For a full list of films, times and venues, go to

Brick by brick

James Vester Miller built many of the historic brick churches, public buildings and homes that still stand in downtown Asheville. But the work of the renowned mason has gone largely unrecognized until recent years.

“He worked with high-profile businessmen, architects and engineers, which earned him the respect for them to use him and his craft, to produce a large part of Asheville’s landscape and cityscape,” says Ali Rivera, Miller’s great granddaughter. “However, he was not documented like his caucasian counterparts.”

Miller’s life and work will be in the spotlight with a new walking trail and website presented by Buncombe County Public Libraries’ Special Collections and The Preservation Society of Asheville & Buncombe County.

The trail and website will be launched Saturday, Oct. 8, at 11 a.m., with a program at Pack Library’s Lord Auditorium. Asheville photographer Andrea Clark, Miller’s granddaughter, will speak about her grandfather.

The free program will focus on the launch of the new James Vester Miller website, designed by UNC Asheville student AJ Jolly under the guidance of Victoria Bradbury, assistant professor of new media. Participants will be encouraged to walk the trail or join a guided tour that will take place following the program, noon-2 p.m.

The website includes an interactive map for the trail, as well as information on Miller’s background and the East End Neighborhood. Rivera says organizers hope schools will use it when teaching U.S. and U.S. Black history.

Among the buildings featured on the trail are St. Matthias Episcopal Church, Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, the YMI building and the Asheville Municipal Building.

“The trail gives people an opportunity to physically explore the structures he built and have a better sense of his legacy,” Rivera says. “His masonry is truly an art, and amongst adversity he still prevailed, leaving a mark for us to view today.”

Pack Memorial Library is at 67 Haywood St. The Miller website can be found at

It’s alive

The Magnetic Theatre will present the world premiere of The Frankenstein Rubrics Friday Oct. 7-Saturday, Oct. 22.

The play, written by David Hopes, explores possibilities from familiar threads of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein. “We know the story, but what if the creation takes on a life of its own, and what if, by the act of making the monster, the scientist was changed as well?” reads a press release for the event.

Directed by Doug Savitt, The Frankenstein Rubrics features Evan Eckstrom, Daniel Henry, Morgan Miller, Daniel Moore, Strother Stingley, Jon Stockdale and Hannah Williams.

Performances run Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.

The Magnetic Theatre is at 375 Depot St. For more information, visit

Ellis wins award

Longtime arts advocate John Ellis recently received the Asheville Arts Council’s John Cram Arts Leadership Award for his service to the area arts community. He will be honored at this year’s State of the Arts Brunch on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at The Orange Peel.

Ellis served as executive director of the Diana Wortham Theatre, now the Wortham Center for the Performing Arts, for two decades. During his tenure, he created the Mainstage Series, which brought nationally renowned touring shows and artists to the theater.

“I was blessed to spend the final 20 years of my career in arts management in Asheville,” Ellis said in a press release. “The Wortham Center was created to assist in the revitalization of downtown Asheville, and it has been fascinating to watch the growth of downtown over the years and to see the role the arts and the Wortham played in that growth.”

The Orange Peel is at 101 Biltmore Ave. For more information or to reserve a seat at the brunch, go to

NC State Fiction Contest

The annual N.C. State Fiction Contest is accepting entries through Friday, Oct. 14. The competition is open to all North Carolina residents, including out-of-state and international students who are enrolled at North Carolina universities.

Contestants may enter one story in each of the two contest categories: The James Hurst Prize for Fiction, which must be a an unpublished short story of no more than 5,000 words; and the Shorter Fiction Prize, an unpublished short story of no more than 1,200 words.

This year’s guest judge is S.A. Cosby, author of the New York Times-bestseller Razorblade Tears and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize-winning Blacktop Wasteland.

No emailed entries are accepted. Mail entries to:  N.C. State Fiction Contest, Department of English, N.C. State University, Campus Box 8105, Raleigh, NC 27695-8105. Entries must be postmarked by Friday, Oct. 14.

For more information, go to

Dykeman honored

The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority awarded the late Wilma Dykeman the annual William A.V. Cecil Leadership Award,  given those who have made a significant contribution to the travel and hospitality sector in Asheville and Buncombe County.

Dykeman was a writer, speaker, teacher, historian and environmentalist who dedicated her life to chronicling and sharing the stories of the people and land of Appalachia. The award was accepted by her son Jim Stokely during the BCTDA annual meeting on Sept. 22.

For more information, visit

Marshall plan

T-Mobile awarded a $50,000 Hometown Grant to the town of Marshall to repair the roof and structure of the historic Madison County Arts Council building.

“The Madison County Arts Council is working diligently to renovate and restore this building for the purpose of having more spaces available for our arts, children, town and public,” Marshall Mayor Nancy Allen says in a press release.

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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