There’s nothing all that small about Waynesville, from its hopping Main Street to its dynamic arts scene (think heritage and contemporary crafts, public sculpture, theater and a certain annual folk dance festival). It’s steeped in history, but fully immersed in the present. Downtown events still on the 2013 calendar include the Apple Harvest Festival on Saturday, Oct. 19. That fête, celebrating its silver anniversary, promises to show off much of the best of Haywood County, from food and live entertainment, to juried arts and crafts. Oh yeah, and locally grown apples, too.
Did you know?
Waynesville is the site (east of the Mississippi) of the last shot fired in the Civil War. The gunfire came from the Thomas Legion, a regiment of Cherokee and white rebel soldiers, led by Waynesville native William Holland Thomas, who became the only white man ever to named a chief of the Cherokee.
In the 1996 movie My Fellow Americans, Jack Lemmon and James Garner are chased from a fast-food restaurant parking lot on Waynesville’s Russ Avenue.
Where to go
The Museum of North Carolina handicrafts in the Historic Shelton House. Built in 1875 for Haywood County Sheriff Stephen Jehu Shelton, the farmhouse originally sat on 100 acres. It was occupied by Shelton’s son, Will Taylor Shelton, who worked with the Cherokee and Navajo. Will’s collection of Native American artwork is exhibited along with Shelton family antiques and an extensive display of contemporary and vintage regional handicrafts of all genres.
Located on the corner of Shelton and Pigeon streets. Open May-October, Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. $5 admission. http://www.sheltonhouse.org.
Wheels of Time Through Transportation Museum, aka “the museum that runs,” houses the world’s premier collection of rare American vintage motorcycles, according to the website. Some 300 rare and historic bikes from Harley-Davidson, Indian, Excelsior and more are on display. The seasonal museum is open through Dec. 9 and will reopen in spring of 2014.
Located at 62 Vintage Drive, 926-6266. http://www.wheelsthroughtime.com.
Check out the “Old Time Music” metal sculpture on Main Street, near Mast General Store. The two musicians stand 15-feet tall and were made entirely of recycled items by Stefan "Steebo" Bonitz.
Visit Sculpture Garden Gallery, located inside and behind Walker Service Station at 136 Depot St. The garden is always open. Info at http://gracecathey.com.
Depot Street leads from the Gallery and cafe-lined tourist trek of Main Street, down to Frog Level, a national historic district. There, explore a number of antique and thrift stores as well as Panacea Coffee Company, which roasts and brews “good coffee for good people.”
Info at http://panaceacoffee.com
Most unique or noteworthy
Frog Level Brewing, home of the Tadpole Porter and the salamander Slam IPA.
For more info at http://www.froglevelbrewing.com.
In July of this year, the annual folk-dancing, music and cultural festival Folkmoot USA celebrated 30 years. The name is an Old English phrase meaning "meeting of the people" and brings folk groups from around the world to Waynesville and surrounding towns each July. To date, some 200 collectives from 100 countries have performed.
For more info, visit http://www.folkmootusa.org.
The 1940s-era Strand Theatre just reopened following a year and a half of renovations. Now an 80-seat boutique movie theater and listening room with classic films and vinyl-listening parties.
38 Main St., http://www.38main.com.
First settled in the 1780s, Canton has gone through a number of changes — not the least to its name. It was founded, in the 19th century, as Buford, before trying on the designations of Vinson and Pigeon Ford (practical, as the town sits on the banks of the Pigeon River). But finally it found its current moniker, which came from Canton, Ohio, along with the steel for the bridge that forded the river. What has defined the community for generations has been the paper mill than dominates its skyline (more on that in a moment), but Canton is also home to historical figures, notable celebrations and small-town charm.
Did you know?
Local author Michael Beadle, whose new history, Canton, was released through Arcadia Publishing, weighs in on some fascinating facts about that town. More info in these and other Canton facts can be found in Beadle’s book and below.
The paper mill: “The Champion Paper Mill, of course, is the main industry — now known as Evergreen Packaging, it was once the largest producer of 25-percent chestnut extract in the world and one of the largest mills in the world that produced paper for magazines, office paper and milk cartons. The operation began on Jan. 1, 1908, and has been running ever since. Champion sold approximately 90,000 acres of its land holdings to create the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is about 500,000 acres in size.”
Longevity: “One of the oldest church congregations in Western North Carolina (west of Buncombe County) is First Baptist Church of Canton (formerly Locust Fields Church), which was founded in 1803.” And, “Champion's former YMCA (the cultural epicenter of town for decades) opened in 1920 as the largest facility of its kind in WNC, west of Charlotte. Its softball teams won state and regional championships with the help of talented players like Softball Hall of Fame pitchers German ‘Nazi’ Miller and Wade Garrett.”
Famous folks: “Canton has been home to a number of talented musicians and singers such as Luke and George Smathers (who played mountain swing style music and earned N.C. Folk Heritage Awards while playing in bands that included Laura Boosinger and Grammy Award-winning David Holt). Another Canton native was longtime shape-note singer and guitar master Quay Smathers, who led shape-note singing at the historic Morning Star United Methodist Church in Dutch Cove.” Beadle adds, “Prominent novelist and poet Fred Chappell grew up in the Canton area and graduated from Canton High School. He's the author of more than 30 books and taught as a professor at UNC-Greensboro for 40 years before retiring.”
Where to go, what to see, what not to miss
Canton Area Historical Museum
Located on park Street, in the former canton Branch Library Building, the museum doubles as a visitor center. 646-3412; cantonnc.com
Originally constructed in 1932, the theater has been renovated twice and is currently a multi-use facility. cantonnc.com
Pigeon River scenic walking trail
Stroll for a mile and a half along the river, which runs through Canton. Bring snacks for the ducks and geese or use the boat access to go canoeing or fishing. cantonnc.com
Most unique or noteworthy
Sid’s on Main recently opened in the historic building that formerly housed the Imperial Hotel (advertised in 1916 as “one of the state’s best $2-dollar hotels”). Canton native Sid and Page Truesdale run the fine-dining restaurant and bar, which offers a culled-from-Americana menu (barbecue, a New Orleans po’ boy and a low country boil among other options). http://www.sidsonmain.com.
Three generations of the same family produce sought-after delicacies from Sunburst Trout Farm, such as rainbow trout fillets, smoked trout dip and exotic trout caviar. In 1948 it was the first commercial trout farm in the South, according to the company’s website. http://www.sunbursttrout.com
More than just the setting of a blockbuster film (and, more importantly, the epic novel of the same name, written by WNC author Charles Frazier), Cold Mountain is one of the Great Balsam Mountains. It might be the greatest of the balsams, actually, having also inspired countless landscape paintings and one darn-good seasonal beer.