Buzzworm news briefs

Yo dawg, meet me at Yappy Hour

Yappy Hour
Courtesy Asheville Humane Society

A pack of drooling, hairy, crotch-sniffing customers will swarm the Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company (aka the Brew ‘n’ View) on June 1, all trying to get free daiquiris just for looking cute. And thanks to their two-legged counterparts, those dirty dogs are going to get just what they begged for.

It’s the kickoff of the third annual Yappy Hour series, a “happy hour for dogs and their people” organized to benefit the Asheville Humane Society. From 5-8 p.m., pooches can get in free and partake of “doggie daiquiris,” spring water and “arf d’oeuvres” supplied by Bone-a-fide Bakery. Humans have to ante up 10 bucks to get in, but that’ll buy them some treats — vegetarian appetizers and a glass of beer or wine — plus the warm-and-furry feeling of supporting the Humane Society’s programs and services while giving their four-legged friends a chance to socialize.

“This event has quite a following,” says Carolyn Paden, the society’s public-relations director. In past years, Yappy Hours have attracted as many as 200 people, a “huge success” for a fund-raiser, says Paden. And if this event gets your puppy’s tail thumping but you just can’t make the date, check out the Humane Society’s Web site (www.ashevillehumane.org) to find out about the other three Yappy Hours scheduled this summer.

— Rebecca Bowe

Shootin’ the breeze with the FBI

It’s not every day that ordinary citizens get a chance to cut loose with a .40-caliber Glock or an M-4 assault rifle. That was part of the program for the area’s first FBI Citizens’ Academy.

Before repairing to the Asheville Police Department’s firing range for a whack at the weaponry of one of the better-armed law-enforcement agencies, however, participants were given a rundown on the FBI’s role and a peek at its training routines.

Several of the city’s top dogs and community leaders showed up at the agency’s offices in Asheville’s Federal Building May 20.

“It’s a really intense process to become an FBI agent,” said Council member Bryan Freeborn, referring to a training video shown to the group. “It’s not for the average person. It definitely took away a lot of glamor someone might [imagine about] becoming an FBI agent.”

The group was also given a history of the FBI and its current role in law enforcement. And seeing past and present juxtaposed, noted Freeborn, led to some deeper discussions. Agent Rick Schwein fielded questions about such touchy issues as the FBI’s role in protecting citizens’ civil rights despite having investigated the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil-rights pioneers.

The Citizens’ Academy outreach program, which has existed for several years in other parts of the country, also spotlights the bureau’s efforts to combat terrorism and cyberterrorism.

“I think this is a post-Sept. 11 kind of thing,” said Freeborn, adding that he’d come away with a different impression of the FBI. “You get a personal interaction with FBI agents and their environment that the average person is not going to get,” he said. “And then we went out and shot some guns.”

— Brian Postelle

Don’t live in Asheville? Tough luck, suckers

It’s not uncommon for Asheville newcomers who’ve fallen madly in love with their adopted hometown to brag about it to friends and relatives imprisoned in whatever soulless burg they’re unfortunate enough to call home. And among the more excitable, the praise can become so ebullient as to seem like a taunt, the subtext being: Dude, your city blows.

Once those giddy newbies have settled in for a few years, though, the glowing reviews may become a bit more circumspect. You don’t want everybody moving here and ruining it, right? Better to keep it on the down-low. But someone forgot to tell the various national magazines and newspapers that continue to trumpet our fair city to zip it.

Rolling Stone gave us our official freak bona fides a few years back, while the perennial New York Times and Los Angeles Times articles ensure that we will never suffer a drought of visitors intent on colonizing the latest happening place. Now, however, Forbes and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance have joined the list of magazines touting Asheville as a mecca of some sort.

This year, Forbes ranked the city 24th out of the nation’s 200 largest metro areas as one of the best places in the nation for business and careers (up from 31st last year). Meanwhile, Kiplinger’s placed Asheville seventh on its “50 Smart Places to Live” list. And apparently it’s not smart to live anywhere else in North Carolina, since no other Tar Heel city made the cut.

The Kiplinger’s citation reads: “A virtually franchise-free downtown, world-class cuisine, amazing crafts, live music venues and fine arts make this city tucked into the Blue Ridge mountain range one of a kind.”

Asheville made the Forbes list based largely on elements important to business. The city scored high for its comparably low cost of doing business, coming in at 19th place. The magazine’s equation factors in labor, energy, taxes and office space. Asheville fared less well in income growth (101st), educational attainment (121st) and, inexplicably, culture and leisure.

And while such rankings don’t guarantee an influx of new businesses and residents, they can provide another good reason for coming here, says Ray Denny, vice president of economic development for the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.

“I’ve never had anyone tell me that they moved here because of a survey,” he says. “But gosh it feels good, and by gosh, we take advantage of it by including it in our marketing pieces. At the very least, it’s helpful.”

— Hal Millard

Local ministers to receive civil liberties award

Not known for dodging hot-button issues, the Western North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is honoring three Asheville ministers who have stopped performing civil marriage ceremonies to protest North Carolina’s exclusion of gays and lesbians.

“They’re fearless,” said chapter Vice President Jim Cavener, talking about the Rev. Joe Hoffman of the First Congregational Church/United Church of Christ, the Rev. Howard Hanger of Asheville’s Jubilee! community, and the Rev. Mark Ward of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville. Separately concluding that state marriage law discriminates against gay and lesbian community members, all three announced during the past year that they would participate only in religious marriage ceremonies until gay and lesbian couples gain civil marriage rights in the state.

The three will receive this year’s Evan R. Mahaney Memorial Champion of Civil Liberties Awards, created to recognize individuals or organizations exemplifying the exercise of civil liberties granted in the Bill of Rights and the 14th and 18th amendments. Mahaney, a former chapter president and longtime civil libertarian, was a journalist in the Southwest for many years before retiring to Asheville.

“He was a dynamo of a guy,” said Cavener. Mahaney posthumously received the first award in 2003. Subsequent awards have gone to the group Women in Black (2004) and the Asheville Global Report (last year).

A related local controversy also influenced the chapter’s decision. “The actions of the Wolf Laurel [Ski] Resort galvanized our community this last year on the issue of equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians,” explained board member Alex Cury, “and it seemed these three men had taken a courageous stand.” The resort terminated a business contract with a local photographer after a wedding picture from her Massachusetts marriage to her lesbian partner appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times (see “Broken Vows,” Jan. 18 Xpress).

“We’re excited about it,” Cury said about the awards, “and hope to achieve gay marriage rights all around the country.”

“This is not an isolated thing,” observed Cavener, noting that some Quaker meetings have taken a similar position for years. And more recently, Lutheran, Methodist and Presbyterian congregations across the state have started getting involved in the issue. But the fact that three “mainstream, downtown clergy” almost simultaneously announced their withdrawal from the civil rites in support of same-sex couples caught the chapter’s attention, said Cavener.

The group will present the awards at its upcoming annual meeting. In addition, the People of Faith for Just Relationships will receive a monetary gift in memory of Mahaney. The co-founder of that year-old organization, the Rev. Steve Runholt, will be the featured speaker at the awards presentation. Runholt, the Warren Wilson College chaplain, is also pastor of the Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church.

The awards ceremony is open to the public, though only chapter members may participate in the business portion of the meeting. The WNC chapter has nearly 1,300 members across the region, which extends from the Statesville area to North Carolina’s western border. There are also student chapters at UNCA and Appalachian State.

The WNC-ACLU annual meeting takes place Saturday, June 3, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church (corner of Charlotte Street and Edwin Place in Asheville). For more information, call 253-5088 or 252-7666.

— Nelda Holder

Eat my dust

They ran the roads of Madison County and on down in Polk, down dusty, red-clay back ways and hollers all over these parts, bootleggers in souped-up ’34 Ford coupes outrunning revenue agents to deliver cases of shine.

And the legacy of those free-spirited outlaws is now the nation’s top spectator sport: stock-car racing, led by the premiere drivers of NASCAR.

Spawned in these parts, the sport has long been a bastion of drawling good old boys. But today, professional stock-car racing is dominated by attractive, young, telegenic drivers hailing mostly from outside the South. Heck, even the racing season’s end is now feted in a black-tie affair in New York City.

And the demographics reflect that shift: Nearly 40 percent of stock-car-racing fans are female, 53 percent are professionals or managers, and 44 percent earn $40,000 or more per year, according to research compiled by Appalachian State University. No longer the domain of hot-rodding rednecks, the sport is now a billion-dollar business.

But despite the nationwide spread of racing’s lure and its ascent of the social ladder, the heart of the sport still resides in Dixie — the land where it all began.

For Daniel S. Pierce of UNCA, stock-car racing is both a passion and an academic specialty. The associate professor of history will bring his tale of the sport’s origins to the public in a free talk on Tuesday, June 6, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Leicester Branch Library (1561 Alexander Road).

A noted scholar of Southern-fried racing who’s written about the sport in such journals as Southern Cultures, Pierce will explore the social and economic forces that produced a generation of young men whose love for speed birthed the high-dollar mass entertainment we know today.

For more information, call 683-8867.

— Hal Millard

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