It's Saturday afternoon at Bele Chere and standing motionless in front of the Vance Monument, sun pouring down on his head, a street preacher holds a sign that starkly declares "Fornicators & Drunkards shall not inherit the Kingdom of God."
But just 30 feet away, the local beer tent is booming, with long lines even at this relatively early time. Drinking on the street at Bele Chere requires a $2 wristband, purchased at any one of a number of stalls around the festival.
All the local heavy hitters are here — Green Man, Pisgah, French Broad, Highland, Catawba Valley and Asheville Brewing all brought their wares (22 local beers in all) — and volunteers busily pour them, filling cups to the brim. It's $5 a pop, though Highland also has stands selling their Gaelic Ale, Oatmeal Porter and St. Therese's Pale Ale for $4. Barefoot wine is also available for $5 at some stands.
The local beer area has expanded over the years, as the number of local breweries has likewise grown.
Yes, Budweiser is also sold for $4 (in cans). But this is Beer City USA, and the local brews seem to be getting a large amount of the attention. The occasional customer grumbles about having to produce their ID before being served ("But I already showed it when I got the wristband!").
Revelation: a French Broad 13 Rebels ESB goes quite well with a plate full of spicy Indian food, though that may just be a personal preference.
Surrounding bars also did brisk business, and visitors to any number earlier in the week could see massive plats of beer being stocked, readying for the rush.
Of course, not everyone can always handle their alcohol, and by dinner time, one could already see some festival goers staggering around the street. One man, obviously not a fan of drumming, stopped under the balcony of a downtown apartment, where several musicians were playing, to shout up "I'm going to come up there and twist your f***ing throats!"
They kept playing. As the night died down, one could hear the type of loud bellowing that only comes after the blood alcohol content reaches a certain level, or see someone who'd had too much ducking into an alleyway to lose their lunch (or dinner).
All in all, however, festival goers seemed to enjoy themselves without causing too many problems, and a good time was had by most.