Mountain Xpress hit the streets in the sweltering afternoon on Saturday, and the streets hit back. Or they talked back. We asked some of the most steadfast, ever-present fixtures of Asheville life about another steadfast, annually recurrent fixture: Bele Chere. We asked three questions and received, for the most part, three answers.
The three saints atop the Basilica of St. Lawrence
Since there are three of you, I’ll ask you one question each. I’ll start from the left with you, Saint Stephen. What part of Bele Chere do you most enjoy?
Saint Stephen: I must say, I love it when a lost balloon floats by. Even though it makes kids sad, it’s nice to feel like the party is coming to me.
And you, in the middle, Saint Lawrence, what is your least favorite part of the festival?
Well, I like the idea of food, but, when it comes down to it, I just don’t enjoy eating rich (and messy!) foods in the hot sun, let alone in front of so many people.
And, finally, on the right, Saint Aloysius, what is something that you do every year at Bele Chere?
Saint Aloysius: Without fail, every year since I moved here in 1909, I’ve stood here on the ledge and listened to the bells once every hour, starting at 9 a.m., until midnight.
Excuse me, Miss. I know you’re in the middle of dancing, but I’d like to ask: what is your favorite part of Bele Chere?
Bronze Woman: Oh, I’m not dancing. I’m being whisked. I’m whisking. Whisking is my favorite part of everything.
Great. Well, what is your least favorite part of the festival?
Well, as I’m sure you noticed, there is a bronze little girl over there, yeah, the one with her hands open. I just feel bad that I have nothing to give her. I just wish someone at Bele Chere would give her a ball, a watermelon, something round.
That’s understandable. Well, what is one thing that you do absolutely every year at Bele Chere?
I look into the distance with the wind in my hair. I also drink at least a bucketful of light beer.
Hello, Mermaid Toilet Paper Dispenser made by Lone Swan Design at booth 811. What is your favorite part of Bele Chere?
Mermaid: I just like to roll with the waves of people.
Cool. What’s your least favorite part?
I get pretty wiped out.
I see. Well, what is something you do every year?
I watch people make weird faces while they half-read an out-of-date newspaper.
Good afternoon, Huge Inflated Cartoon Dog. What is your favorite part of the festival?
Huge dog: I’m a pretty simple huge inflated cartoon dog. I just like to feel the sun on my face.
That’s nice. What’s do you enjoy the least?
Well, honestly, the whole “air dog” thing is a farce. I mean, I am literally an air dog. You don’t see me putting on the sass, so to speak.
What is something you do every Bele Chere?
I like to hold a syntactically confusing neon orange sign.
Excuse me, Porta-Jon? What is your favorite part of the festival?
Porta-Jon: Please, call me Jon. This may sound vain, but I enjoy being more important than the President of the United States for at least 20 to 45 seconds, even if it’s just one person every once in a while.
OK. Well, what is your least favorite part?
What? Are you kidding? You have to ask? Look at what I am. Obviously, I hate that I can’t go see a movie at the Fine Arts Theater.
Well, one more question. What is something you do every year?
I stand somewhere and wait for someone to call me on my cellphone. Seriously. My number is right on the door. I’m not looking for anything serious. Just want to chat.
Vance Monument, it is an honor to speak with you. What is your favorite part of the festival?
Vance Monument: The honor is mine, which is to say, I am honored. I love just standing around and talking with my skyline-mate and good friend, the BB&T building. BB! Come over here! I’m talking to the Mountain Xpress.
BB&T: Hello! Forgive me for shouting. I may have a lot of floors, but I have one of these craft beers and I feel like a pup-tent.
Vance: That doesn’t make much sense, but that’s why I love you. Hey, look: there’s a roof party on top of the Vanderbilt. Let’s go, BB!
Neapolitan Ice Cream Cone! Always nice to see you. What’s your favorite part of the festival?
Chocolate: I’ll answer that! It’s great to be here. Ice cream is the best part! Everybody thinks so, except the lactose intolerant, people with cold-sensitive teeth, vegans, or adults.
Interesting. OK. Well, Vanilla, what do you just hate about Bele Chere?
Vanilla: I hate what I always hate … everything! JK! That means “just kidding,” BTW, which means “by the way,” BTW. I hate sand. Can I say what I love? Chocolate Jimmies.
Strawberry Ice Cream — please tell us what you do every year at Bele Chere.
Strawberry Ice Cream: Bele Chere? What’s that mean? Is that some antebellum-style wife-swap?
Photos by Rebecca Sulock.