While not quite as attention-getting as the impending end of the world would’ve been, the “tube-ocalypse” sucked in a drove of zombie-hungry readers this year: The most-viewed story on Mountainx.com in 2014 was “Asheville Tries for Tubing World Record with ‘Zombie Float.’”
Dubbing their event the Tube-lcalypse, organizers announced they would try to break the Guinness world record for linked tubers and crush the previous tally of 620 floaters held by Portland, Ore. Plus, Asheville would try to beat its former “Beer City USA” poll nemesis in style, encouraging its legions of participants to dress as zombies.
On a chilly day in late September, 548 zombie-clad participants joined hands as they tubed down the French Broad River through town. But they were just 87 people shy of the world record mark. Organizers immediately said they would try again next year.
More than just a fun competition, the event aimed to raise funds for a local environmental nonprofit and awareness of the river as a destination for outdoor recreation. After decades of neglect, Asheville’s section of the French Broad is in a renaissance as more boaters and floaters flock to its waters and new bars, restaurants and music venues line its banks.
Here’s a look at the rest of the top-10 most-viewed stories of 2014 on the Mountain Xpress website, as measured by Google Analytics.
Comedian Kristen Wiig spent much of the summer in Asheville — along with actors Zach Galifianakis and Owen Wilson — filming a bank heist movie called Masterminds. In their off hours, the stars made big local waves as they were regularly spotted out on the town, visiting a range of Asheville restaurants, bars and shops.
On Sept. 3 Wiig spent most of her segment on the Late Show with David Letterman painting a funny picture of the city for a national audience. The Xpress post documented the segment in which she described Asheville as “a little kind of hippie town” where “people who used to follow the Grateful Dead have moved … to die.”
As Asheville undergoes a boom in bars that specialize in cocktails for those with discerning tastes, a growing number of people in the local industry are criticizing legal restrictions on serving mixed beverages. This story explored some of their concerns, from Alcoholic Beverage Control’s rules governing specialty liquors to state laws banning ingredients from being stored or infused in Mason jars.
This cover feature tapped into the blogosphere buzz about picturesque miniature dwellings and the cost savings and lifestyle simplification they make possible. Several local builders have started specializing in such structures, hoping to find business success that fits with their environmental values.
Amid the swelling interest, however, the July 15 article also chronicles many remaining hurdles. In addition to financial and legal barriers, mainstream culture continues to trumpet the message that bigger is inherently better. And there still seems to be more people curious about tiny homes than folks willing to actually live in one. Still, if some of the ideas being kicked around this year come to fruition, they could have a substantial local impact.
A Charlotte metal band made headlines for covering the Lexington Avenue Brewery’s music room with pig blood during a June 22 show, causing major damage. In the wake of that incident, this post reported that the brewery was unlikely to book more concerts in the room.
In the months since, several shows were cancelled, and the renovated room has been primarily used as a private event space. The changes didn’t effect the LAB’s main front stage, restaurant and brewery.
Xpress movie critic Ken Hanke panned this film, calling it “shameless propaganda melodrama.” His critique attracted attention for its declarations that the movie is so “morally dubious” in its portrayal of Christians as a persecuted minority in America that it might give “God a faint wave of nausea.”
Since being named the “new freak capital of the U.S.” by Rolling Stone 14 years ago, Asheville has arguably only gotten weirder. And on Sept. 1, this post noted that Travel + Leisure Magazine further burnished the town’s eccentric credentials, naming Asheville the No. 1 “Quirky Town” in America.
“Is it the thinner mountain air or that the locals are standing too close to a vortex? Either way, these North Carolinians are tops for eccentricity thanks to both old and new charms: the vortex-laden terrain, which purports to send off good energy; the Friday night drum circle in downtown’s Pritchard Park; and the seemingly bottomless love of local beer,” the influential travel magazine reported. It went on to recommend that visitors sample the beer-and-moonshine “hop tails” at the Grove Park Inn, “the BRÖÖ shampoo at the Earth Fare shop, or the port cake at Short Street Cakes.”
Historically, food systems in the Appalachian Mountains relied on tight-knit communities working together to create food security on a local level. These traditional agricultural systems made food and food production an intimate and inextricable part of daily life. This July 23 article explored how in modern times, those everyday interactions — with the plants, animals and the practice of raising them — are becoming less and less common.
Some local groups are working to counter that trend, holding classes on traditional agriculture, permaculture, wild food and medicinal herbs. Their goal is to support a resurgence of these principles and an integration of of older “folk systems” into the modern economy.
Despite rightward-streaming state and federal political currents, Buncombe County emerged on election night, Nov. 4, as a small sea of Democratic blue. In several important local races, Democratic candidates toppled Republican incumbents or maintained their positions of power. Republican legislators Tim Moffitt and Nathan Ramsey both fell. Democrats kept control of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. And Todd Williams unseated long-time District Attorney Ron Moore.
The results marked a political pendulum swing from two years ago, when Republicans celebrated historic local gains. And they could have a substantial local impact in the years ahead.
This Sept. 3 story reported on the transformation of a seven-acre patch of land along the French Broad River from a scrap-metal yard into a major new entertainment, recreation, food and beer hub.
The music venue on the property at 665 Riverside Drive opened to the public a couple of weeks later, hosting the official zombie float after-party. But construction at the site will continue into the new year. A restaurant, two bars, indoor and outdoor performance stages, as well as river access points are all scheduled to open in 2015. The development is one of many that are revitalizing Asheville’s French Broad riverfront.