Buzzworm news briefs

Friends in deed

For more than a quarter-century now, the Land-of-Sky Regional Council has been recognizing organizations and individuals who’ve made a significant contribution to restoring and enhancing the French Broad River.

The 28th annual Friends of the River Dinner — part of this year’s French Broad River Month celebration — happens Tuesday, June 8, 6:30 p.m. at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research & Extension Center (455 Research Drive) in Fletcher.

“Again this year, we have several outstanding recipients who care deeply about the river and volunteer their time to make a difference,” reports Bill Eaker, director of environmental programs at Land-of-Sky. “I hope that the people of the region will come out and help us show our appreciation to the award winners for their contributions and improvement of the French Broad.”

The event will also feature old-time mountain music performed by Cary Fridley; a buffet dinner catered by The Red Radish; and a special keynote address by Bill Holman, executive director of the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Holman will discuss issues affecting our state’s streams, rivers and lakes and how his organization can help local communities address them. Bob Caldwell of WLOS-TV will emcee the festivities, and Transylvania County Board of Commissioners Chairman Ray Miller and Buncombe County Commissioner David Gantt will present the awards.

The dinner costs $10 per person; those wishing to attend are encouraged to make reservations ASAP.

For more information or to make a reservation, call Linda Herrera with Land-of-Sky Regional Council at 251-6622.

— Lisa Watters

Summer art makes national splash

The Asheville Art Museum was tapped as one of 10 sites nationwide to take part in the pilot phase of an arts-education initiative created by the National Endowment for the Arts. Summer Schools in the Arts is designed to enhance the quality and availability of arts education for young people. Each participating program will receive a $25,000 grant; the Asheville Art Museum’s Summer Art Camp will offer a variety of visual arts classes to students in grades K-12.

Up to 350 students will participate in single or multiweek sessions in drawing, large-scale drawing, composition, and historic and alternative photography. Next fall, a local gallery will exhibit at least one work by each young artist.

For more information, phone 253-3227.

— Cecil Bothwell

Participatory democracy

The Buncombe County Democratic Party has announced that citizens can contribute ideas for the national platform for this year’s election by logging on to http://democrats.org/platform/index.html, or by attending one of the platform workshops being held around the country in advance of the national convention (slated for July 26-29 in Boston). Recommendations can also be sent to the Democratic National Committee, 430 S. Capitol St. SE, Washington, D.C. 20003.

The Republican Party has no plans to solicit public input on its platform, according to a party spokesperson in Raleigh. The Republican Convention will be held in New York City Aug. 30 to Sept. 2.

— Cecil Bothwell

Rollin’ in the holler

Snowboarding is pretty slack this time of year, unless you can afford to travel toward the poles or someplace that’s a couple of thousand feet higher (say, the Rockies, Andes or Himalayas). Or, you can think about wheels.

Mountain boarding is the latest sport to transcend birth in one element only to blossom in another. As surfing begat skateboarding, and ice skating begat rollerblades, snowboarding picked up its wheels 10 years ago. Californian in origin, the epicenter for mountain boarding 2004 may be right here in WNC.

Burl Holler, a mountainboard park in Fletcher, will play host to the 2004 RIDE national mountainboarding championship on July 31, with a preliminary event slated for June 5. (RIDE: Rolling In Dirt Everywhere.)

The events will include Big Air and “dirtboardercross” races which run over berms, rhythms, step downs and other dirt features. Organized in four-person elimination heats, the first two riders across the line advance in the competition until only four riders remain. Then it’s an all-out do-or-die for the cash prizes.

Justin Rhodes, Burl Holler’s proprietor, told Xpress, “The Big Air competition will feature flips, huge spins, supermans and other difficult tricks. Supermans involve the boarder going up in the air, horizontal, with both feet out of the board, then getting back into the board and landing.” Competitors perform these antics eight to 15 feet off the ground. Big air indeed.

Professional riders from all over the world and the United States will be competing this weekend, including representatives of France, the United Kingdom, Hawaii, California, New Hampshire, Colorado and many others.

Admission is free to the June 5 event. Pro racing begins at 11:30 a.m.; Pro Big Air will begin around 3 p.m.

For more info and directions, call Justin Rhodes at 650-9726, e-mailJustin@mountainboardshop.com or log on to www.theRideTour.com.

— Cecil Bothwell

N.C. progressives hold founding convention in Greensboro

A newly conceived progressive wing of the N.C. Democratic Party holds its founding convention Saturday, June 5 in Greensboro.

Known informally as the “Green Dog Democrats,” the progressive caucus will be a formal auxiliary of the state party (like the Young Democrats) working to build a “strong, diverse, and progressive electoral movement across North Carolina for economic, social and environmental justice,” according to a press release.

The nascent organization cites such statewide concerns as the loss of jobs, good wages and benefits; declining environmental health; a worsening health-care crisis; and the high cost of political campaigns. At the national level, the group proposes a strong commitment to peace and “a moral and internationally cooperative approach to world affairs.”

The Progressive Democrats will gain a seat on each county executive committee in which it’s organized. And, once chartered statewide, the PDNC would also be entitled to a seat on the State Executive Committee.

The June 5 convention will be held at the Friends Meeting House, 801 New Garden Road in Greensboro (across from the Guilford College playing fields). The Progressive Caucus Founding Convention starts at 10 a.m.; a Progressive PAC Founding Convention begins at 2:15 p.m.

The cost for lunch and materials is $10 (vegetarian lunch available if requested in advance); to preregister, go to http://www.greendogs.org/ and send a check to Progressive Caucus, c/o 1143 Miller St., Winston-Salem NC 27103.

— Nelda Holder

MANNA: mission possible

This week, communities across the country will zero in on the problem of hunger and its impact on our nation’s children.

Locally, MANNA Food Bank and many agencies serving the needy will observe National Hunger Awareness Day on Thursday, June 3 — and cap things off with MANNA’s Blue Jean Ball on Saturday, June 5. The fifth annual Blue Jean Ball takes place 7 p.m. to midnight at MANNA’s warehouse in Asheville, at 627 Swannanoa River Road.

The Blue Jean Ball (where the dress can be as casual as blue jeans) is a way of responding to the problem by raising funds and sharing the Food Bank’s mission, which is to involve, educate and unite people to end hunger in the region.

Staff and volunteers will transform MANNA’s warehouse (which is usually filled with canned and packaged foods and fresh produce) into a festive party venue with the theme ONE BIG TABLE: Making It Grow. The hand-sewn quilts of Eula Mae Lavendar also will be on display, adding to the down-home flavor of the event.

The ball will feature 20 of the area’s best restaurants and caterers, along with a silent auction and entertainment including The Consultants of Swing (jazz standards and jump blues with twinge of western swing), Red Mango (Latin-flavored folk), County Farm (traditional/eccentric mountain music), the Ribtips (jug band) and the Tried Stone Missionary Baptist Church Praise Team (gospel).

All proceeds benefit MANNA Food Bank, and will help get food and fresh produce to people in need via various distribution methods, including 342 charitable organizations in 17 Western North Carolina counties.

Tickets ($65/person, $80/person for reserved seating) are still available. For more info, call MANNA Food Bank at 299-3663.

— Tracy Rose

Stretching faith’s boundaries

Whether you feel like a spiritual road trip or would rather stick closer to home, two upcoming events aim to broaden participants’ religious horizons.

Navajo medicine man Gibson Gonnie will bring his storytelling tradition to the Unity Center in Fletcher on Sunday, June 6. He’ll speak to teens (11 a.m., free) and to an audience of adults and teens (2:30 p.m., love offering) about “The Circle of Life” and finding one’s purpose in life. Gonnie was born and raised on a Navajo reservation near White Cone, Ariz., and was trained as a medicine man by his father, Hasteen Gonnie (who’s now 104 years old).

For those willing to go farther afield, the local nonprofit Center for Diversity Education is chartering a bus for its annual Houses of Worship trip to Atlanta. Although past trips have been limited to teachers, this year’s tour is open to the public, with a special focus on parents accompanying their middle- and high-school students.

The Tuesday, June 8, expedition ($65/adults, $40/students) includes stops at Al Faroque Mosque, The Temple on Peachtree (featured in the movie, Driving Miss Daisy), Martin Luther King Jr.’s gravesite, the Civil Rights Museum, Ebenezer Baptist Church, DeKalb Farmer’s Market and the BSS Hindu Temple.

For more info about the Unity Center event, call 684-3798.The Houses of Worship trip leaves Isaac Dickson Elementary School at 5:30 a.m., returning at 10 p.m. For details, call the Center for Diversity Education at 232-5024 or e-mail dmiles@unca.edu.

— Tracy Rose

Spotlight on Wall Street

More than a decade ago, the producers of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze selected Wilmington to shoot that family-friendly action film. Now it’s Asheville’s turn to get in on the turtles-in-the-movies action.

If all goes as planned, the low-budget independent film Loggerheads (starring Bonnie Hunt of ABC’s Life With Bonnie) will shut down Wall Street to vehicles for most of the day on Thursday, June 3, location manager Zack Atkinson reports.

Pedestrians will still be able to stroll the picturesque street — except when the cameras are rolling. And Atkinson told Xpress he’s had a good response from most of the businesses he’s contacted on the street.

But back to the turtles: They show up during the movie’s beach scenes (shot at Kure Beach, south of Wilmington) and serve as a sort of metaphor, Atkinson reveals.

“It’s a family drama,” he said of Loggerheads, repeating what a fellow production member was saying in his other ear. “A three-part … story, set in the three regions of North Carolina.”

In addition to the Wall Street location, another scene is scheduled to be shot along the Blue Ridge Parkway, though Atkinson was still furiously working out the logistics.

“Patience is a virtue,” he observed. “Especially dealing with movies.”

— Tracy Rose

Bizworm

Keeping up with the Polk folk

Tryon — When your thoughts turn to Polk County, you probably conjure images of green peaks, falling water, equestrian equipage, bucolic vistas … and high-speed Internet service, right?

Right on every count. e-Polk, a nonprofit corporation, has brought fiber-optic Internet connectivity to Tryon and Columbus. The project, dubbed Pangaea, offers the sort of fast, broad-bandwith Internet access that’s usually found only in urban centers — and for 20 to 60 percent less than commercial carriers. The new system has been up and running for two weeks.

Jeff Byrd, e-Polk’s chairman, told Xpress that the project was made possible by a $375,000 grant from the e-NC Authority, which focuses its efforts on improving Internet connections in rural parts of the state, and a $22,000 grant from the Polk County Community Foundation. “We just lit up [two weeks] ago, and at this point our clients constitute institutional Polk County: the schools and community college, county offices, libraries and the Tryon Town Hall.”

The advantage of fiber-optic over cable-modem service lies in the upload speed, Byrd explained. “With cable, the download speed is about three times the upload speed. For most users, that doesn’t matter. But for businesses that need to upload a lot of information, it is critical.”

Now that the service is available, Byrd says users seem to be popping out of the woodwork. “A man with a business in downtown Tryon contacted us because he is involved in import and export to the Pacific Rim. He wanted low-cost phone service to China.” And he’ll save a bundle, it seems — Tier-1 lines cost $800 to $1,200 a month, compared to $450 for Pangaea.

Don Davis, owner and president of Asheville’s NewEraCom, worked closely with e-Polk to develop a wireless link between Tryon and Greenville, S.C. Davis told Xpress: “The e-Polk project is trend-setting. A great many communities could benefit from the kind of initiative they have created — pooling local resources and searching for state and federal grants that can make it happen.” Davis added, “Using a wireless link to a major backbone carrier allows a small, rural community to reach the big markets.”

And as Byrd observed: “You’ll be able to run a major Internet business from downtown Tryon with this system. You won’t have to locate your business in a major city to do it.”

— Cecil Bothwell

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