Tour de Canary

The grassroots Canary Coalition coordinates public events designed to educate public officials and focus national attention on WNC’s air-quality problems. And if you haven’t taken notice of their efforts, it could be a reflection of just how bad things have gotten: Over the past three decades, the average visibility in the Smokies has plummeted by 75 percent (from 60 miles to a mere 15 miles).

On Sunday, July 13, Kenilworth resident John Cram (seen with St. Francis, below) is hosting charity tours of his lakeside gardens to benefit the coalition. Tickets ($15) and directions to the garden are available at New Morning Gallery, or at the gardens on the day of the tour. Refreshments will be provided by Mark Rosenstein, owner of The Market Place restaurant.

The gardens will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with organized tours at 11 a.m. and 1, 3, and 5 p.m. Kenilworth Garden is located on Lakewood Drive, about four blocks east of the intersection with Wyoming and Kenilworth roads.

For more information, call New Morning Gallery (274-2831).

–Cecil Bothwell

It’ssssssssssss a reptile beauty pageant

“So, is there a bathing-suit contest?” I ask WNC Nature Center staffer Tracy Trout when I get her on the phone.

“Well, no.”

“Oh. How about a talent contest?”

“Oh gosh, no, there isn’t, but maybe for next year that would be good.”

“So, no tap-dancing, baton-twirling? … I guess there’s no evening wear either?”


“Well, do you ask the contestants questions, like, ‘What do you plan to do with your title if you win?’ or ‘If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?'”

“We should do that. I like that.”

By this time, I get the distinct feeling that Trout is humoring me.

Apparently, the contestants — whom, Trout informs me, include snakes, turtles and lizards — compete in such species-specific categories as Largest, Smallest, Longest, Shortest, Most Colorful and Best Accompanying Display. The turtles also compete for the Turtle Queen Crown, while the snakes vie for Most Likely to Escape (personally, I think this one does take talent) and the coveted Silver Scale Award (which requires pet owners to give a public speech on why their snake should win).

Participating pet owners are encouraged to help educate the public by creating a display with information about their particular reptile, and by being prepared to share tips about care and handling with visitors that day.

The Reptile Beauty Pageant happens Saturday, July 19 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Festivities will include reptile and amphibian presentations, exhibits, and arts and crafts; judging begins at 3 p.m. Admission is $5 adults, $4 seniors, and $3 children (friends of the Nature Center get a 50-cent discount).

For more information or to register your reptile, call the WNC Nature Center at 298-5600 or visit their Web site (

— Lisa Watters

People with disabilities are consumers too

“People with disabilities are about a fifth of our population,” notes Carol Hubbard, executive director of ACCESS Independent Living. “That is a big market that’s often overlooked.” Businesses, she says, are losing money if they aren’t accessible to this population.

Hubbard hopes to use an upcoming workshop — “ADA Compliance? Access? Why Should I Care?” — to help get that message across. The free event happens Wednesday, July 23 from 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in UNCA’s Owen Conference Center (donations will be gratefully accepted). The general public is invited. Small-business owners (especially those in the hospitality, restaurant and retail sectors) and those who’d like to advocate for people with disabilities will especially benefit from the workshop. Early registration is encouraged.

The presentations will be informative, fast-paced and resource-packed, promises Hubbard. Among the topics covered will be “Evaluating Accessibility/Compliance Resources,” “The Disability Experience,” “Facts/Figures: A Large, Growing Untapped Market” and “Etiquette, Language and Good Manners.”

“We’re trying to get rid of [the words] ‘disabled’ and ‘handicapped,'” Hubbard explains. “We are people first. We’re trying to get everyone to shift [to using] ‘people with disabilities.'”

There’ll also be a brief simulation exercise using wheelchairs, earplugs, blindfolds and immobilized joints to give participants a taste of what it’s like to be disabled.

“People get it once they’ve spent 15 minutes in a wheelchair,” says Hubbard.

A midmorning break (complete with cake) will celebrate the birthday of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And awards will be given out to businesses that have voluntarily provided good access to their facilities (nominations are welcomed).

“Our numbers are growing by about a million a year,” notes Hubbard. “As you age, if you’re lucky to live a long time, the odds of your having a disability just go up astronomically.”

For more information or to register, call ACCESS IL at 250-9929 or visit their Web site (

— Lisa Watters

Teachers and artists unite

Who are these people, and why are they doing the funky chicken?

Actually, these Asheville and Buncombe County schoolteachers and artists were doing a creative-movement exercise as part of this year’s Teacher Training Institute for Arts-Integration, sponsored by the Asheville Area Arts Council and the UNCA education department.

Recently, 20 second-, third- and fourth-grade teachers from five local schools spent an intensive week at UNCA exploring their creativity with the help of partner artists. This was the second stage of the three-year project; the same participants attended another five-day session a year ago.

During these sessions, the teachers immerse themselves in a selected art form (such as puppetry, music, African drumming, Adinkra cloth printing, theater arts or quilting). They then try to integrate their new skills into the standard curriculum. Teachers get additional help from their partner artist, who spends at least one week in their classroom during the school year.

Participating teachers and artists have gone on to lead students in such projects as creating puppets to perform reader’s theater, printing Adinkra cloth (traditional West African textiles) to teach literature lessons, playing Celtic music to trace Appalachian heritage, and quilting scenes from reading lessons.

“This hands-on, creative learning process makes the information much more memorable,” explains Arts in Education Coordinator Adrienne Crowther. “The students have fun while the lesson becomes a part of them.”

— Lisa Watters

Documentary calls for death-penalty moratorium

“Growing mounds of powerful evidence … suggests that the [death penalty] system is so badly broken that it’s time to stop executing people temporarily in order to step back and take a hard, sober look at it,” proclaims Daniel Barber, producer of the video Burden of Proof.

The 32-minute film (recently released by the Asheville-based New Context Video Productions) marshals such evidence in advocating a death-penalty moratorium in North Carolina. Burden can be viewed online at (both broadband and dial-up-connection options are available).

Included are interviews with law professors, former N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Exum, current and former state legislators, and rape victim Jennifer Thompson, whose mistaken identification put an innocent man in a North Carolina prison for 11 years.

There’s also footage of Sister Helen Prejean (the author of Dead Man Walking), former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, and the mother of current death-row inmate Alan Gell (whose death sentence was recently overturned because of compelling evidence of his innocence).

The documentary, promises Barber, “will give some of the most ardent death-penalty supporters second thoughts about the reliability, the level of fairness, and the quality of justice provided to the people of North Carolina by the state’s death-penalty machinery.”

Burden of Proof is also available on video; it can be ordered for $20 (plus tax and shipping). Significant discounts are available for orders of multiple copies.

For more information, call New Context Video Productions at 253-6287.

— Lisa Watters

Benefit planned for local assault victim

At times, music put in service of community has moved mountains. And the inaugural Southern Hospitality Benefit Show is banking on a little civic seismic shifting in our own big hills of home.

The concert — slated for Friday, July 11 at Club Fusion (81 Broadway; 254-5552) — will benefit Richard Roubaud, a local man faced with medical expenses he can’t meet following an assault in downtown Asheville last Halloween night.

“There’s a huge potential to help [here],” said event organizer Taylor Webb, a member of participating band 99 Years.

Joining Webb’s group will be fellow Asheville acts Senatobia and Reunion Tour. Showtime is 9:30 p.m.; admission will be $8.

This show for Roubaud is just a beginning, he says.

“If we’re successful … there will definitely be more of these,” Webb adds. “My M.O. for this is to help one person at a time.”

And Roubaud really could use the help, he recently wrote Xpress. The assault, he noted, left him indigent and unable to work.

“I suffered a broken nose, two black eyes, a shattered eye socket, a broken jaw from one side of the face to the other [and a] broken humerus bone,” he continued. “My medical bills … exceeded $28,000.”

For more information or to make a separate donation, contact Taylor Webb at (828) 628-4099, or at

— Frank Rabey


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