Our passion at Mountain Xpress is highlighting what’s important locally, including local government and politics, happenings, the environment, wellness, food, arts and entertainment. While we remained true to that focus throughout 2017, national issues often shaped local events, and our coverage reflected readers’ engagement with big-picture themes.
From the Women’s March on Asheville attended by thousands the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January to our report in November on the tactics of emboldened radical protesters, we’ve grappled with the local impact of forces that originate far from home. Stories in our Wellness, Green Scene, Food and Arts and Entertainment sections likewise considered the local ramifications of national conversations on race, climate change, social justice, health care and more.
At the same time, we never want to stop showcasing what makes our area unique, from our vibrant arts scene to the nuts and bolts of local government to the colorful personalities found only in Asheville. We balance the increasingly polarized terrain of the national media landscape with stories that appeal to different points of view and empower us all to be more active and engaged participants in our community.
We’re proud to remain a locally owned, independent media company supported by the hundreds of dynamic businesses that advertise in our pages. And we’re proud to serve this community with a free weekly issue and the best and easiest-to-navigate local news website. Thank you for reading!
Short-term rentals debated
Jan. 4 — A commentary by accessory dwelling unit owners John Farquhar and Jackson Tierney sparked an avalanche of online comments on short-term rentals, an issue that continues to generate plenty of discussion in the face of tourism and the shortage of affordable housing.
Restaurant scene booms
Jan. 11 — With more than 100 downtown eateries filled to capacity on many nights, we investigated whether Asheville’s restaurant market is oversaturated or still has room to grow.
Artists stand up
Jan. 18 — Recognizing in advance that its 15th annual event would take place a week after Trump’s inauguration, the local fringe arts festival sought to “promote a respectful and open and affirming creative space.”
Jan. 20: Donald Trump sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.
Massive march in Asheville
Jan. 21 — Asheville’s Women’s March drew thousands to downtown. Xpress’ online coverage included photo galleries from several local photographers.
Thriving from the start
Jan. 25 — A story in the first of our double Wellness issues highlighted efforts to ensure infants receive the attention and affection they need in the first year of life.
Opioid abuse a matter of public health
Jan. 25 — As part of our ongoing coverage of the opioid abuse crisis, Xpress showed how county officials, law enforcement personnel and health care providers increasingly are framing addiction as a public health issue rather than a crime.
Feb. 1 — In our second Wellness special issue, a story on the health benefits of plant-based diets generated extensive discussion, with over 70 comments debating the pros and cons of diets free of animal products.
Affordable housing a hard nut to crack
Feb. 8 — Housing for those of modest means is in short supply in Asheville. Xpress looked at steps local government, organizations and individuals are taking to ease the crunch, and whether those measures are equal to the challenge of housing the city’s workforce.
Taking on toxic waste
Feb. 22 — New methods for removing toxic waste are being rolled out at the CTS Superfund site and elsewhere in the Asheville area. Xpress explained how the methods work, what they can do and what remains unknown about the effectiveness of the new “in situ” approaches.
Enough to eat
Feb. 24 — For Asheville residents who depend on public transit for shopping or errands, improved bus service could help alleviate food insecurity.
Labor down but not out
March 1 — Local labor advocates aren’t giving up the fight to keep unions alive. Xpress highlighted the history of unions in WNC, along with new strategies organizers say are aimed at assuring workers a fair piece of the pie.
March 8 — “Mozart is just an entry point,” said David Whitehill of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra about the Asheville Amadeus festival, which returned for its second year and a longer run in March.
Kids these days
March 15 — The two-part 2017 Kids Issue focused on the theme “What Matters to Me?” We received about 450 entries from students who attend more than 30 local public, charter, private and home schools, along with an after-school arts program. In a heartfelt essay, fifth-grader Oliver Henry Perez wrote, “I am a proud black boy who is confused. I am confused why people with different skin colors don’t have equal rights. Black people have their rights, and white people have their rights, but why are they not equal?”
Black students left behind
March 22 — The achievement gap between black and white students isn’t unique to Asheville, but it’s worse here than in any other school district in the state. Xpress investigated why that is — and what the Asheville City Schools are doing about it.
Art and social justice
March 29 — The Arts and Entertainment section’s focus on the intersection of art and social justice included “Mobilization through art.” Local artist Nicole Townsend introduced her one-woman spoken-word show “Existing While Black” in April, with a second installment in November.
Time to get growing
March 29 — Our Farm & Garden section sprouted in this issue. Features on agriculture and gardening run weekly throughout the growing season.
Environmental sustainability was a big focus of our month-long Sustainability Series in April, but it was by no means the only lens we used to examine this critical concept. Stories in our Food, Wellness, Arts and Entertainment and News sections took on the theme across many topics and disciplines.
April 5 — Buncombe’s five charter schools stand out compared with statewide peers for their community-directed approaches to education. But do all racial groups benefit equally from charters? With the exception of the Francine Delaney New School for Children, Xpress found, not necessarily.
April 5 — We checked in on the bold claim that wild nuts could be WNC’s food of the future, reducing the region’s reliance on big agriculture.
Costs hamper composting
April 12 — Xpress found that progress toward a city composting program has stalled in the face of high costs.
Short but sweet
April 19 — An annual moviemaking festival asks students to pick a John Newbery Medal winner or Honor book and figure out how to tell the story as a movie in roughly a minute and a half. Asheville’s festival launched in April.
April 26 — The imminent retirement of baby boomers could have an outsized impact on Asheville’s many small businesses. Local groups and service providers are encouraging business owners to start planning for their company’s next chapter.
Every year, Xpress compiles a wealth of information to create the definitive guide to the Asheville area’s eating and drinking scene. We print 85,000 copies of our 100-page pocket guide, which includes a listing of readers’ favorites from our Best of WNC poll.
Weed to succeed
May 10 — Some say it will never happen, but Xpress took a look at how legal marijuana might play a role in combating opioid abuse and increasing teacher salary supplements.
May 17 — As part of our Older Americans issue, Xpress presented profiles of four active senior residents who reveal the potential of aging as a gateway to a dynamic stage of life.
Making a joyful noise
May 17 — Supported by a national grant, many of Asheville’s Jewish musicians came together to record Jewish songs of all genres, from traditional folk songs to modern pieces.
Asheville’s cup runneth over
May 24 — In the cover story for the 2017 Asheville Beer Week issue, writer Edwin Arnaudin explored how the success of Western North Carolina’s craft beer industry is spurring growth in other sectors of the economy.
May 31 — In one of the Opinion section’s most popular pieces, Burnsville resident and naturalist Tal Galton wrote an appreciation for two of our native firefly species: the synchronous firefly and the “Blue Ghost” firefly.
When it rains, it pours
May 31 — Spending millions to fix stormwater problems is a hard sell. But a changing climate, aging infrastructure and rapid development mean Asheville’s stormwater woes are likely to get worse before they get better.
Bees here now
June 7 — Over 150 local volunteers aren’t waiting on the scientific establishment to crack the case of honeybee population decline. They’re collecting data to help researchers solve mysteries that could mean life or death for the bees.
June 14 — Have you ever eaten a paw paw fruit? Boosters say the taste is nothing like its stinky smell. Xpress highlighted efforts to increase interest in the native fruit-bearing tree, which is valuable to pollinators.
June 21 — Xpress reports on every formal meeting of Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. As the city set its property tax rate, issues of policing, transit and affordable housing dominated discussions that saw a big increase in the amount of citizen participation compared to previous years.
June 28 — With the Fourth of July on the horizon, our cover story tapped Asheville chefs and cookbook writers for tips on crafting the perfect picnic.
Celebrating the makers
June 28 — The Center for Craft, Creativity and Design teamed up with Blue Spiral 1 on the 10th anniversary of the first survey of studio craft in the region. Forging Futures was an exhibition of 24 makers.
July 5 — Staff writer Max Hunt’s thoughtful and inclusive reporting went beyond polarized positions on the issues surrounding Asheville’s three Confederate monuments.
Death and burial come home
July 12 — Local mother Catherine Ashe penned a moving commentary about the decision to have a home burial for her infant son, James, who passed away last January. “We had cared for him in life; now we would care for him in death,” she wrote. “It seemed only natural to bring him home to the place he’d known his whole life, to give us time to adjust to losing him, to give his sisters (ages 3 and 5) time to see him, say goodbye and understand that he was gone.”
July 12 — Mills River farmer Bradley Johnston developed a more natural product that is unique in the local market. His grass-fed Jersey cows carry a gene that makes their milk more digestible for many people.
July 19 — Readers hungry for context about the issues facing marginalized residents gobbled up a deeply researched two-part series that examined food access issues in Asheville’s predominantly black Southside community.
July 19 — Over the past year, Xpress highlighted important art and craft anniversaries, such as when the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands celebrated its 70th year.
July 26 — Progress toward providing non-English-speaking community members greater access to Asheville-area government services varies by agency, our reporter found.
Aug. 2 — At a time when many planned greenway projects stalled due to funding shortfalls, we highlighted the Woodfin Greenway and Blueway’s early fundraising successes. Additional stories in the issues of Aug. 16, 23 and 30 also focused on the key role the French Broad River plays in WNC’s environment and economy.
Best of WNC
Aug. 9 — Mariachi bands are popular at WNC quinceañeras, the celebration for the transition from childhood to adulthood for teenage Latinas. “The mariachi interpretation is all about happiness,” said musician Acencion Inestroza.
Tending the tiny
Aug. 9 — Readers enjoyed “Nurses in Mission’s NICU go above and beyond,” a good-news wellness story that gained thousands of online views. The piece highlighted the devotion of nurses who go the extra mile in caring for the hospital’s youngest and most fragile patients.
Eclipse mania strikes WNC
Aug. 21 — The path of a total solar eclipse passed over parts of WNC, prompting myriad events and their ensuing traffic jams. Xpress’ coverage of the astronomical rarity included this cartoon by local artist Brent Brown.
Xpress first with Wanda Greene story
On Aug. 16, Xpress broke the news that multiple anonymous sources reported former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene was under investigation by the FBI. On Aug. 18, we confirmed that story. Our news team continues to follow developments as they unfold.
Can’t get good help
Aug. 23 — One restaurant owner described the search for labor over the past half year as “six months of hell.” All 10 restaurants Xpress contacted for this story on a food service worker shortage complained of the same problem.
Hitting the books
Aug. 30 — Xpress significantly increased our coverage of the local education scene in 2017, including this special back-to-school issue.
The combined wisdom of thousands of local residents is gathered in our guide to the winners of the 2017 Best of WNC reader poll. We print 55,000 copies of the biggest, most exhaustive and most participated-in survey about WNC (short of the U.S. census).
Sept. 6 — What’s behind Duke Energy’s rate hike request? We crunched the numbers to find out how the utility is justifying its proposal to raise electric bills for residential and commercial customers.
New feature launched
Sept. 6 — Our new history feature Asheville Archives made its first appearance in this issue. Drawing on sources from the period, the article highlighted Asheville’s final trolley ride in 1934.
Clash of the titans
Sept. 6 — With Mission Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield locked in a contract dispute, Xpress explored the impact of the impasse on patients and other local health care providers, as well as the likely outcomes.
Shining a light on Beacon plans
Sept. 13 — Xpress alerted local residents to a public comment period for the redevelopment of the contaminated site of the former Beacon manufacturing plant in Swannanoa. Prior to our coverage, public notification of the opportunity to weigh in had been decidedly low-key.
Pride and Joy
Sept. 27 — Since taking the title, Ginger Von Snap, Miss Blue Ridge Pride 2016, has raised awareness of underrepresented subdivisions on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, like transgender youths and those who are gender-fluid.
Sept. 27 — Xpress marked the fifth annual CiderFest NC with an update on the local cider industry. New business models and specialty stores are emerging alongside national and state associations, helping established and new producers better educate consumers and grow their brands.
Passion for craft
Oct. 4 — In WNC, craft — from heritage traditions to edge-pushing studio work — is more than just a pastime. It’s an observance of regional culture, a dedication to the integrity of handmade goods, a link between form and function, and, in the end, a passion. Xpress highlighted this vital part of the local art scene with a special pullout guide to American Craft Week.
Keeping it real
Oct. 11 — In “Place, Race and Poverty: Solutions Start with Valuing Cultural Realities,” Joseph Jamison delved into the issue of food insecurity facing both WNC’s urban minority residents as well as rural whites. “Just like geography, understanding and valuing the unique landscapes of cultural realities is necessary to develop effective solutions that tackle problems as they are and at their origin,” he wrote.
Secrets of success
Oct. 11 — Among the articles accompanying our annual focus on women in business, a story highlighting networking opportunities for area women also included tips from local female business leaders for connecting with others in business and life.
Stuck in traffic
Oct. 18 — Buncombe County’s population grew 7 percent over the past five years, adding new residents and new housing developments throughout the county. Increased traffic had some residents experiencing road rage and speaking out about infrastructure they see as overburdened.
Oct. 18 — Our in-depth look at proposed updates to the city’s 2013 Food Action Plan preceded Asheville City Council’s Nov. 28 decision to revamp the plan.
For the love of animals
Oct. 25 — “It’s almost incomprehensible how many insects they actually eat,” said Katherine Caldwell, a biologist with the state Wildlife Resources Commission, of the role of bats in the WNC ecosystem. In addition to bats, our annual animal issue included stories on exotic birds, cats and livestock, as well as a historical account of what surely must have been the first ostriches to live in Asheville.
Accompanying our campaign to raise funds and awareness for worthy nonprofits, this year’s Give!Local guide showcases 37 organizations that make a big difference where we live. We distribute 40,000 copies of this guide in support of the giving project. Special shoutout to Ingles Markets, which underwrote the printing of this year’s guide!
Antifascist in Asheville
Nov. 8 — Homegrown activists of all stripes are working to effect change among an increasingly divided populace. At times, their controversial tactics receive more attention than the social shifts they advocate.
Land at risk
Nov. 15 — Once conservation nonprofits have protected a special piece of land from development, their work has just begun. In our fall nonprofit special issue, we showed how land conservation groups deal with invasive species, pests, the effects of climate change and other threats.
Nov. 15 — MCs Larry Williams, aka Po’folk, and Davaion Bristol, aka Spaceman Jones, jousted in a rap battle at New Mountain’s Sol Bar.
Flavorful mix of traditions
Nov. 25 — In our Thanksgiving issue, Xpress’ Food section explored Cherokee food traditions on the Qualla Boundary.
With more than 400 local independent businesses participating in an incentive program that raises funds for the Asheville City Schools, the Go Local program is a project of the Asheville Grown Business Alliance. Xpress prints 40,000 copies of this 48-page directory, which helps cardholders find the great rewards associated with the program.
Shop (local) till you drop
Dec. 6 — Among the many retailers featured in our annual specialty shops issue, local businesses specializing in herbs and supplements shared the spotlight.
Dec. 13 — In a multimonth investigation, Xpress followed Brother Wolf’s plans to relocate to a yet-to-be-built animal sanctuary outside Asheville. Those plans have prompted questions about shifts in the organization’s mission.
Dec. 13 — The pre-Thanksgiving closure of the area’s only poultry processing plant took many of WNC’s small farming operations by surprise. Our reporter found that the shutdown raised uncertainty about the future of pastured poultry in WNC.
Sins of omission
Dec. 13 and 27 — The first two installments in a three-part series on Asheville and WNC’s nonwhite literary scene explore why authors of color have long been missing from the local canon.