Good picks

Apples of all hues, hefts and idiosyncrasies are the undisputed stars of Hendersonville’s biggest event of the year — but there’ll be no shortage of juicy (though family-oriented) entertainment throughout the long weekend.

In what promises to be one homegrown highlight, The Bouncing Bears — Henderson County’s precision jump-roping performance team — takes the stage on Saturday, Sept. 2.

Since 1996, when the team was first organized at Balfour Elementary, its head-turning young athletes grabbed headlines with their mastery of eye-hand coordination and fancy footwork. Imagine jumping 4 to 5 feet in the air, ropes (yes, that’s plural) flying like lasers, all at 120 beats per minute!

The Bouncing Bears do just that and a lot more, performing year-round through a dizzying schedule that includes festivals, parades, special events and workshops. The group is also represented by the American Heart Association and works to promote exercise by raising funds for the annual “Jump Rope for Heart” event (the sport is widely touted as one of the best cardiovascular workouts available).

The Bouncing Bears began when Balfour Elementary mom Becky Kelly was searching for an after-school activity she could share with her daughter, then a second grader. Jumping rope seemed like a natural solution — a good physical workout with an honored place in popular culture to boot.

Kelly recalls with gratitude the support of Balfour Principal Mike Pressley and physical-education teacher Ann Whitmire as the Bouncing Bears took shape. Though long popular in other parts of the country, jump-roping teams weren’t any too plentiful in WNC.

“They really went into uncharted territory,” she notes.

The evolution of the team was slow but steady. “I didn’t have a clue,” says Kelly, recalling her rapid in-service training as team coach. “At first, we watched videos, went to workshops across the state and just practiced, practiced, practiced!”

Interest soared as the recognition and success of the Bouncing Bears grew, and membership on the team came to be a coveted goal of many Balfour students. (Each September, tryouts are held for a limited number of slots.)

The Bouncing Bears currently number approximately 30 jumpers, with varsity and junior-varsity squads whose members range in age from 7 to 18. The oldest member is Kelly’s now-college-age son — who, along with his younger brother, began his duties as a middle-school-age helper for his mom. Both boys’ enthusiasm for the sport quickly lured them onto the team. In fact, The Bouncing Bears maintains a membership well stocked with original members.

The team’s next goal is to perform in official competition — someday, maybe even the Olympics (seems a national movement is under way to make jump-roping an exhibition event in Seoul in 2004).

Whatever else is on the horizon for The Bouncing Bears, you can’t beat precision jump-roping for instilling a sense of accomplishment (not to mention an unequivocal unity of purpose!) in kids.

Oh yeah, and it’s lots of fun to watch.

The Bouncing Bears of Henderson County perform at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2, at the Hendersonville Courthouse Plaza. For more info on this and other events, call Apple Festival Headquarters at (828) 697-4557 or visit the Web site at www.ncapplefestival.org

PRODUCTION, PLEASE PUT THE FOLLOWING THREE SIDEBARS IN SEPARATE BOXES, THE FIRST TWO WITH APPROPRIATE PHOTOS FROM WEB SITE

Be happy

The Apple Festival’s choice menu of entertainment and satellite activities includes outdoor concerts under the stars each evening at Courthouse Plaza (see additional sidebar for complete entertainment schedule).

Bring a lawn chair or blanket and settle back for the sweet, seasoned nostalgia of headlining act The Original Tams (famous for such smooth beach classics as “Hey Girl” and “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy”). The Tams perform Saturday, Sept. 2, beginning at 6 p.m.

Sunday closes with the classic R&B and retro soul of The Mighty Kicks (beginning at 6:45 p.m.).

For more info on these and other events, call Apple Festival Headquarters at (828) 697-4557 or visit the Web site at www.ncapplefestival.org

Beyond bumper cars

New this year is the Teen Challenge area (sponsored by Wachovia) — an interactive, physically challenging set of activities for older kids that includes an obstacle course, a climbing wall, a gladiator joust, a giant slide, a speed-pitch site and much more.

The Teen Challenge happens Sept. 1, 5-9 p.m., and Sept. 2 and 3, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., in the Wachovia parking lot. Tickets run $1-$5.

For more information on this and other attractions, call Apple Festival Headquarters at (828) 697-4557 or visit the Web site at www.ncapplefestival.org

Apple Festival entertainment schedule

Friday, Sept. 1

• 10-11 a.m.: Opening ceremonies• 11-11:30 a.m.: Hendersonville High School chorus• 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Blue Ridge Express (bluegrass)• 12:30-1:15 p.m.: Randy Smith (singer/songwriter)• 1:15-2 p.m.: The Dowden Sisters (old-time ballads)• 2-3 p.m.: Senatobia (rock)• 3-4 p.m.: Monday Morning (alternative Christian rock)• 4-4:45 p.m.: Studio L (dance)• 4:45-5:15 p.m.: Smoky Mountain Cloggers• 5:15-5:30 p.m.: Dickens the Clown (roving performer)• 5:30-6:30 p.m.: Kings Creek (bluegrass)• 6:30-7 p.m.: Southern Lights Square Dance • 7-10 p.m.: The Buddy K Big BandSaturday, Sept. 2• 9:45-10:30 a.m.: Merle’s Dance Place• 10:30-11:15 a.m.: The Bouncing Bears of Henderson County (jump-rope team)• 11:15 a.m.-noon: Old Chunk of Coal (traditional gospel)• noon-12:45 p.m.: Pat’s School of Dance• 12:45-1:30 p.m.: Jan Hranek and Puppets (folk and dulcimer)• 1:30-2:30 p.m.: Hendersonville Community Band (variety)• 2:30-2:45 p.m.: Dickens the Clown (roving performer)• 2:45-3:45 p.m.: Straight Shot (country, Top 40, rock)• 3:45-4:30 p.m.: Green Valley Cloggers & Appalachian Valley Cloggers• 4:30-5:30 p.m.: Hendersonville High School Jazz Band• 5:30-6 p.m.: Southern Lights Square Dance• 6-10 p.m.: The Original Tams (beach)Sunday, Sept. 3• 10:15-11 a.m.: To Know (Christian adult contemporary)• 11-11:45 a.m.: Pure Heart (contemporary Southern gospel)• 11:45 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: The Pearls (contemporary folk)• 12:30-1:15 p.m.: His Praises (First Baptist Church choir members)• 1:15-2:45 p.m.: Rock & Roll Reunion (oldies)• 2:45-3:45 p.m.: Jim, Jane & The Knothole Gang (bluegrass)• 3:45-4:15 p.m.: Jack Roper (magic and comedy)• 4:15-5:15 p.m.: Sound Investments (oldies)• 5:15-6:30 p.m.: The Lonesome Road Band (traditional bluegrass)• 6:30-6:45 p.m.: Dickens the Clown (roving performer)• 6:45-10:30 p.m.: The Mighty Kicks

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