The Beat

Leaf season is peaking this week throughout much of Western North Carolina. And the spectacular natural phenomenon is attracting the attention of local and national media outlets alike.

TripAdvisor, a national Web outlet that bills itself as "the world's largest travel site," revealed last week that Asheville topped its survey as the best fall-foliage destination in the U.S. The site calls our town "a spectacular location for leaf-peeping" where "travelers can enjoy the beautiful views by pedaling through the Appalachian Mountains on one of many biking trails, or hop in the car for a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway."

Besides posting daily updates on the best places to spot fall foliage, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported that "Cooler Weather in Asheville Area May Boost Fall Leaf Colors." Early October saw warmer, drier weather than normal, which could shorten the fall leaf season, Western Carolina University associate professor Kathy Mathews told the paper.

"We may be in for a fast, short season, because the trees are heat-stressed," said Mathews. "We have had very limited rainfall and high temperatures."

In an online post, Xpress encouraged readers to "Show Your Colors" by sending in autumn-leaf photos that will be featured in an upcoming slide show. E-mail your photos to Xpress staffer Michael Muller at mmuller@mountainx.com.

It's also no coincidence that the Junior League of Asheville picked what's arguably the area's most beautiful season to hold its inaugural "Fall Gala: Masquerade in the Meadow."

The nonprofit is celebrating its 85th year of civic leadership in Asheville with an Oct. 23 fundraiser at The Ramble's Longmeadow Park in Biltmore Forest. According to a press release, the outdoor full-moon event will feature aerial performers, music, food, beverages and a raffle beginning at 6 p.m. Music will be provided by the 17-piece Asheville Jazz Orchestra and Alleycats Mobile Dance Party, among others.

Guests are encouraged to get into the spirit of the season by adding some feathered flair or a mask to help lend the evening an air of mystery.

"Autumn is a season when nature is bringing many events together at one time to cause a bounty of colorful change, while the shorter days and cooler nights give a sense of change in the air that feels mysterious and exciting," writes events chair Sarah Nie. "The turning of another season is a signal to all that from change, great beauty, growth and improvement strengthens a community."

The Junior League of Asheville aims to strengthen the local community by promoting volunteerism, developing women’s potential and enhancing the community through effective action. Over the past 85 years, the group — currently comprising more than 400 women — has contributed countless hours of volunteer service and returned more than $1 million in direct funding to community-improvement projects.

— Tickets for the Masquerade in the Meadow are $50 each, which includes food and beverages. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to ashevillefallgala.com.

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