Around Town: Wreath-making workshop focuses on Appalachian folklore, yuletide celebrations

FESTIVE FOLKLORE: Rebecca Beyer will lead a wreath-making workshop focused on local flora at the Black Mountain Public Library on Saturday, Dec. 11. “Plant uses are an important part of our region because they were a common language of sustenance and healing,” she says. Photos courtesy of Beyer

When you deck the halls with boughs of holly this month, you’ll be taking part in a winter tradition that goes back centuries.

Holly, along with pine, fir, oak, rose hip and other plants and trees, were believed to have powerful medicinal uses that led people of the past to incorporate them into celebrations of the winter solstice, says professional forager and folklorist Rebecca Beyer. This was particularly true in the Appalachian region.

“There are many regionally specific Christmas and winter celebrations and bits of folklore that weave between the plants of the yuletide,” says Beyer,  who has taught and presented at universities, conferences and gatherings over the last nine years and teaches foraging and herbalism classes at her school, Blood and Spicebush.

Pine, for instance, was an important winter medicine in Appalachian folk medicine, she says, and many people believed placing a pine top under a sick person’s bed was often enough to cure them.

The Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center will present Wreaths of Folk Magic and Medicine at the Black Mountain Public Library on Saturday, Dec. 11, 3-5 p.m. In the workshop, led by Beyer, participants will use local flora that have rich historical and folkloric associations. Materials will be provided.

“Pine, rosemary, rose hips and many more local beauties will aid us in creating wreaths that are not just symbolic of everlasting life, but also of the useful edible and medicinal plants that surround us in Appalachia,” Beyer says.

The Black Mountain Public Library is at 105 N. Dougherty St. The workshop is $30 for members and $40 for nonmembers. For more information, visit

Talking about Isaac Hayes

Isaac Hayes released two albums in 1971. The soundtrack to the blaxploitation classic Shaft made him a star. But the second release that year, the ambitious double-LP Black Moses, may have been an even greater achievement.

“He had an incredible run of creatively successful and commercially successful albums, but Black Moses stands as the pinnacle of his career,” says Asheville music journalist Bill Kopp. “It was not only an exemplar of the man’s inimitable style, it was an artistic, cultural and sociopolitical statement.”

Kopp will present Never Can Say Goodbye: Isaac Hayes’ Landmark ‘Black Moses’ at Citizen Vinyl on Thursday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m.

Kopp will be joined by musician/rapper Davaion “Spaceman Jones” Bristol to play select cuts from the the album and to lead a discussion about the music and its place in history.

“Isaac Hayes was one of music’s Renaissance men: He wrote, arranged, sang and played multiple instruments,” Kopp says. “Even today, his music is widely sampled, and he’s an influence on countless modern-day artists, whether they realize it or not.”

Citizen Vinyl is at 14 O. Henry Ave. For more information or to get tickets, visit


Organizers are seeking local residents to serve on an advisory committee for the African American Heritage Trail, which is expected to be completed late next year with the installation of up to 19 physical markers in and around downtown Asheville.

“The African American Heritage Trail is a step in the right direction towards inclusive storytelling,” Aisha Adams of Equity Over Everything says in a press release.

The trail’s advisory committee will consist of up to 12 Buncombe County residents and will provide insight and recommendations on the direction of the project, including trail themes, route, design and featured content. Committee members will also be tasked with promoting awareness of the project once it is complete.

Organizers will give priority to applicants who are current or past residents of historically Black neighborhoods and communities; connected to Black/African American youth, arts and education; involved in local historic preservation projects; members of a local Black faith community;  have direct, lived experiences related to local Black history; have experience with social justice issues and community activism; or are Black business leaders and/or tourism professionals.

The deadline to apply is Friday, Dec. 10. Selections will be announced by Dec. 20 with the first advisory committee meeting to be held in early January.

 For more information or to apply, visit

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks

Main Street in Weaverville will be lined with luminaries as the annual Candlelight Stroll returns Friday, Dec. 10, 6-9 p.m.

The event, sponsored by the Weaverville Business Association, will also feature music, caroling, horse carriage rides, holiday-themed crafts, a scavenger hunt and a visit from Santa Claus.

The Weaver House, Grapevine Clothing, 5 Little Monkeys Quilt & Sew, Meadowbrooke Bridal, Weaverville Yoga, Hoppy Trees Beer and Spritz Bar and other downtown shops and businesses will be open, offering refreshments and holiday cheer.

Businesses also will be collecting donations for the Weaverville Cops for Kids toy drive program.

For more information, go to

Seasonal Soireé

After a COVID-related cancellation in 2020, the Holiday Soireé returns to Daniel McClendon’s Lift Studios in the River Arts District on Saturday, Dec. 11, 7-10 p.m.

“You can expect a festive environment with light bites, libations and lots of art on display,” says McClendon, an Asheville-based visual artist who opened the studio in 2011. Original artwork will be on sale.

The event is open to the public, and people are encouraged to dress festively, though they are not required to. “That’s up to you,” McClendon says. “But I mean, why wouldn’t you?”

The Lift Studios is at 349 Depot St. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination and masks are required at the studio. For more information, go to

Wolfe tales

The Western North Carolina Historical Association will present the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award on Thursday, Dec. 9, 6:30-8 p.m., via Zoom.

WNCHA has presented the award annually for printed works that focus on Western North Carolina beginning in 1955, when Wilma Dykeman won for The French Broad. Originated by the Louis Lipinsky family, the award is now also supported by the Ruth Siegel and Jacques Sartisky Foundation and the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Advisory Board.

The award ceremony will celebrate the five finalists for the 2021 award with readings and remarks by each author.

This year’s finalists, chosen from an original group of 40 nominations, are:

This event is free, but registration is required. To register, visit

Arts funding

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners recently awarded the Asheville Area Arts Council $50,000 in American Rescue Plan funding to support the recovery of the creative sector.

“The arts council is grateful to Buncombe County government for recognizing the devastating impact the pandemic has had on the local arts sector and the important role these businesses play in our community,” the group says in a press release.


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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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