Here roll in the monsterous, rumbling, diesel-fuming trucks, their engines aching under the anticipation of the concession-hungry mob. Here rouses a summer-slumbering town, yawning slightly as the streets swell with harried townies and tourists alike. Here arrive the twin spirits of our age, Hustle and Bustle, guiding an army of logo-clad workers armed with neck-dangling laminated badges.
Here awakens the thing—this starving beast, now mawing at the air for its annual meal—called Bele Chere.
By tomorrow morning, this city will be changed.
Walk around tonight by the sodium lights, and one can feel the change in one’s bones. Ghostly workers in the dim haze of cooling streets, working under the growling hum of generators and the stinging clang of metal piping falling on asphalt, will create a tent city to rival any refugee camp. To see it happen is an eerie thrill known only by those who have lived it.
Purple prose aside, tonight is the last chance you’ll have to see the Asheville you know for a few days. Most of your favorite haunts will be crowded, and those that aren’t will probably be closed to avoid the chaos. Bele Chere is another place all its own.
We’ll be following it all here on the blogs. Be sure to check out our Mountain Xpress booth at the corner of Battery Park and Haywood, and feel free to post your thoughts and observations of the festival as comments in the field below.
—Steve Shanafelt, A&E editor