As Xpress turns a page on its 15th anniversary, we've got a lot to look back on. Below are key moments in the paper's evolution from a scrappy startup to WNC's leading free weekly.
1987: Green Line, founded by Jeff Fobes (now publisher of Xpress) as the newsletter of the WNC Greens, begins publishing, on a monthly basis. In the course of its seven-year life, it challenges local sacred cows, opposes the use of the French Broad River for drinking water, questions water and air permits for Champion Paper Mill, opposes clearcutting on the Asheville Northfork watershed, sounds an early alarm about acid-rain effects on Mt. Mitchell, questions the U.S. Forest Service's overemphasis of burning and herbicides, questions Biltmore Forest's lack of racial diversity, covers the North Carolina grassroots push to allow alternative-medical practitioners and stirs up a lot of loyal readers with its Toughman contest photomontage ("Buns and steel"), featuring a cover shot of scantily clad ring girls, about the year's Toughman contest.
Aug. 10, 1994: After phasing out Green Line, Fobes starts Mountain Xpress, which publishes its first issue on this date. A welcome notice on page five reads: "You are reading a locally owned, independent, investigative newsweekly committed to setting a standard of journalistic excellence in Western North Carolina. … Here's our goal: to keep you informed, entertained and interested in the local scene — from city hall to dance hall."
1995: Xpress launches its Web site at www.mountainx.com.
1997: Xpress uncovers the exclusive Black Mountain Rod and Gun Club, an all-male group of current and former Asheville City Council members and city staff, along with other well-connected folks, which has been allowed to meet at the North Fork Reservoir, which is closed to the public.
1998: Xpress launches Blue Ridge Flavors, an annual magazine-style dining guide that will run for 10 years.
1999: Xpress publishes the first of many official Bele Chere Festival guides in partnership with the city of Asheville.
2000: Ken "Cranky" Hanke starts writing movie reviews for Xpress. His first two are the horror films "Lost Souls" (two stars) and "The Exorcist 2000" (four stars).
2003: Xpress wins a Society of Professional Journalists award for humorous commentary.
May 2003: Buncombe County Sheriff Bobby Medford threatens to jail Xpress reporter Brian Sarzynski for reporting on Medford brandishing a riot gun on protesters outside the county jail. Medford does not follow through on the threat (and is himself later convicted of corruption charges and sent to prison, following years of investigation of his malfeasance by Xpress writer Cecil Bothwell and a federal trial).
November 2003: Xpress publishes the official guide for the first annual Asheville Film Festival. (It will publish several others at subsequent film fests.)
2004: Xpress wins Association of Alternative Newsweeklies award for investigative reporting on the Buncombe Sheriff's Department, and a Gold Award from the International Festival and Events Association for Xpress' official guide to Bele Chere.
2004: Xpress begins a partnership with the WNC Green Building Council, publishing a biannual Green Building Directory (the directory is now published each spring).
2005: Xpress wins N.C. Press Association award for photo illustration, and Association of Alternative Newsweeklies award for food writing.
2006: Xpress wins Association of Alternative Newsweeklies award for food writing.
March 2006: Xpress and six other publications found the Community Publishers Group — a cooperative effort among local newspapers and magazines to consolidate some distribution services. The initiative, which continues today and includes additional partners, helps combat disorderly distribution spots by sharing space in compartmentalized, multipublication boxes.
Feb. 8, 2006: After a three-and-a-half-year run as a freestanding publication, the Asheville Disclaimer begins appearing as a full page of parody news in every issue of Xpress. The inaugural page features an installment of "Kid Care with Arnold (Crapacan)" and a depiction of Mayor Terry Bellamy in a bikini with "mayor" sash.
2007: Xpress wins two awards in the N.C. Press Association's Best Ad Contest, and is awarded twice by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies — for columns and ad design.
August 2007: Anne Fitten Glenn, aka Edgy Mama, starts writing a weekly parenting column for Xpress.
Oct. 17, 2007: Xpress publishes its largest issue ever, a 120-page Best of WNC package. A year later, the 2008 Best of WNC issue comes in at the same size.
2008: Xpress wins awards from both the N.C. Press Association and the Society of Professional Journalists for reports on the CTS of Asheville contamination, as well as one from the NCPA for Web site "general excellence."
June 2008: Xpress publishes the first of its revamped annual dining guide, Asheville Eats and Drinks.
September 2008: At the height of the gasoline crunch, the Xpress distribution team perseveres, delivering thousands of copies of the paper via public busses.
November 2008: The print edition of Xpress appears in a new format. The paper is about one-inch shorter, while offering some new extras, including color printing on every page and a stapled binding.
Dec. 7, 2008: Xpress holds its first Best of WNC Showcase at the Orange Peel, featuring food, music and other entertainment from winners in the paper's annual reader's poll.
2009: Xpress wins three awards from the N.C. Press Association, for columns, investigative reporting on an attack against a WNC summer camp and Xpress' official guide to the 2008 Bele Chere.
March 2009: Xpress launches Asheville Street Style (ashevillestreetstyle.com), an online "record of Asheville's unique and evolving DIY fashion."
April 1, 2009: Xpress pulls a fast one, announcing on its Web site that the print edition will disappear and that the regular content on mountainx.com will be replaced entirely by Twitter feeds from staff and community members. The new Twitter-powered newspaper, or "Twaper," sparks scads of local comments and garners national news coverage. By the end of the day, the truth is revealed: The Twaper is an April Fool's stunt, albeit one with (somewhat) serious intent.
June 26, 2009: With co-sponsors the Asheville Brewer's Alliance and the Orange Peel, Xpress helps coordinate the Beer City Bash — a celebration of Asheville winning a national vote (along with Portland, Ore.) for the right to be called Beer City USA.
Aug. 19, 2009: Xpress celebrates its 15th anniversary with a special issue, which you are reading at this very moment.