Lake Monster Parade offers accessible family fun

TWO IF BY SEA: This creation by the Mountain Fairy Hair team is one of many homemade creatures that will be at the Lake Monster Parade on July 31 at Lake Tomahawk. Photo by Erin Lee

Look out, Nessie! The mythical aquatic scene is growing with the debut of the Lake Monster Parade on Saturday, July 31, at 11 a.m. at Lake Tomahawk in Black Mountain. Water creatures, mermaids and pirates of all ages are invited to attend in costumes — the more homemade, creative and silly, the better — and take a lap around the lake.

The free inaugural event comes from the mind of Jeannie Regan, the program director of SkillSet at UNC Asheville’s STEAM Studio and the tech director at Asheville Performing Arts Academy. The Black Mountain resident was moved to action after fielding numerous inquiries from families about financial aid for this summer’s SkillSet camps, in addition to talks with community members about their needs to cut back on summer activities due to income loss brought about by the pandemic.

“I thought it was sad that, after the dismal school year that many of these kids have had, they were not going to have many fun summer activities or camps to look forward to,” Regan says. “I wanted to come up with something fun, free and creative for my local community to participate in.”

As the school year wound down, Regan also first heard the urban legend of the giant snapping turtle that lives in Lake Tomahawk and eats ducks. She started thinking about what else might be lurking in the beloved community pond and decided to combine that intrigue with the need for a joyful event. Regan says feedback has been unanimously positive and that multiple local entities, from the Black Mountain Library to DotDot Crafters Club, are hosting costume and crafting sessions to encourage community participation. In turn, she hopes to see the parade become an annual offering that can evolve as more individuals become involved.

“People are excited about it,” she says. “I think the idea of dressing up in something silly for no good reason is quite appealing right now. I’ve seen some photos of costumes and heard about people’s plans, but many people are keeping their creations a secret until the parade.”

For more information, visit

Excalibur nights

The Montford Park Players open The Sword in the Stone on Friday, July 30, at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre, 90 Gay St. The play follows young King Arthur — known then as Arty — and the wizard Merlin, who takes the boy on a journey to show him what is required to be a great ruler. The production is directed by Kristi DeVille and stars Brendan Nickerson (Arthur), Stephanie Hickling Beckman (Merlin), and a supporting cast that includes Kathy O’Connor, Badi Mirheli, George Heard, Gabe Holland and Zay Hickling Beckman. Performances take place Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. through Saturday, Aug. 28. Tickets are free and may be reserved online at

Studio friends

Local artists Jonathan Bidwell and Aaron Hill celebrate the grand opening of their new studio at Pink Dog Creative, Suite 104, on Friday, July 30, 6-9 p.m. According to Bidwell, he and Hill were inspired to launch the venture out of a shared love of painting and fun, and chose Pink Dog for its lively mix of artists and makers throughout the building.

“It’s a tight little community,” Bidwell says. “A group of us paint together one night a week, and afterwards we’ve been hanging out on Aaron’s front porch drinking beers, singing and playing songs, and eating tasty food.”

In addition to establishing the studio, Hill has been creating an unusually large work that’s a figurative piece of one of his friends. “The composition really excites me, but I’m also very interested in using a technique that forces me to focus on the process in a way that preserves a lot of the beginning stages of the work,” he says. “This style of painting pushes me to leave a lot of marks and accidents I may make along the way. I really see this as another step in my journey as a painter.”

Meanwhile, Bidwell is excited to resume making live performance paintings, which he’d been unable to do during the pandemic. The process involves him painting onstage alongside musicians and creating a work from start to finish in front of the audience. He’ll accompany Del McCoury on Thursday, Aug. 5, and Sam Bush on Wednesday, Aug. 11, both at the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre. “The end result is wildly different than my studio work, and I have a ton of fun performing live,” he says.

To learn more, visit

Songbag style

The Hendersonville Symphony begins its Simone, Sandburg and the American Orchestra summer and fall celebration with “The American Songbag” on Saturday, July 31, at 7:30 p.m. at The Center for Art & Entertainment 125 S. Main St., Hendersonville. Inspired by Carl Sandburg’s 1927 anthology The American Songbag, the HSO’s principal wind quintet of Esther Waite (flute), Shannon Thompson (clarinet), Kelly Vaneman (oboe), Sonja Coppenbarger (bassoon) and Christopher George (horn) will perform folksong-inspired works by Anton Dvorak, William Grant Still and Valerie Coleman. Tickets are $29-$33 and may be purchased online at

New gallery, part deux

Local painters Alicia A. Armstrong and Jeremy Russell have opened a combined studio and gallery space under their respective names at 24 N. Lexington Ave. People may view recent oil works by Armstrong including “Mama Tired,” featuring a bear in a bathtub and “Gold Ass Horse,” starring an equine with a shiny derriere. Russell’s latest abstract creations include “Hanging out the Laundry,” a 5-by-5 acrylic on canvas, as well as “Harvest,” an autumnal oil on canvas.

“After the crazy couple of years I’ve been through, it is amazing to have something as public as this space,” Russell says. “Spending lots of time with patrons is also very rewarding and what this space is all about. I look forward to meeting so many new people and [having] endless dialogue about creative pursuits and intuitive impulses.”

Learn more at

Experienced fiction

Asheville-based author William D. Auman has a new novel out called If Trees Could Testify … The mystery is based on the true story of Madison County’s Gahagan murders, which began with a double homicide in 1983 and led to defendants being arrested and charged 18 years later. Auman was the principal defense attorney in the case, and his fictionalized account is spiced up by biker gangs, organized crime and such colorful characters as the draft-dodging son of a snake-handling minister. For more information, visit

Vroom in the valley

The Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center hosts Black Mountain’s inaugural classic car show in the parking lot across from 304 Black Mountain Ave. on Saturday, July 31, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Rock the Classics will feature cars from the 1900s through the 1980s, including historic Edsels, Shelbys, Chevrolets and Volvos. Prizes will be awarded for Oldest Car, Best in Show and People’s Choice. The day also includes live music from country rocker Andy Buckner, children’s activities and a 50/50 raffle, with half of the proceeds going to support the museum. Free to attend. To learn more or register a car, visit


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About Edwin Arnaudin
Edwin Arnaudin is a staff writer for Mountain Xpress. He also reviews films for and is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA) and North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA). Follow me @EdwinArnaudin

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