• Sept. 8 fish fry (Thu): Asheville City Council candidate Keith Thomson is holding a free, open-invitation catfish-fry dinner, 6 to 7:30 p.m., at the Randolph Learning Center (90 Montford Ave., next to the new Asheville Chamber of Commerce). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
• Sept. 12 town hall meeting (Mon): City Council candidate Dwight Butner invites the public to a town hall-style meeting at noon in the Haywood Park Hotel atrium.
• Sept. 19 mayoral forum: From 7 to 9 p.m. at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel, the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County will present a forum for the primary candidates in Asheville’s mayoral race, following a pre-forum “meet and greet” with City Council candidates. Open to the public.
• Sept. 21 community forum: The West Asheville Business Association is sponsoring an open community forum for candidates for Asheville City Council and mayor at 6:30 p.m. The forum will be held at the West Asheville Community Center (970 Haywood Road, behind the fire station and West Asheville Library).
• Sept. 21 pub party: City Council candidate Bryan Freeborn is hosting a “Political Pub Party” featuring “music, fun, and progressive politics,” starting at 9 p.m., at the Westville Pub (777 Haywood Road in West Asheville).
• Oct. 5 candidate forum: The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce’s 2005 Candidates’ Forum, highlighting Asheville mayoral and city council candidates, takes place from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Resort. This forum is open to Chamber members only. A reservation is required to attend, and the $5 registration cost includes lunch. Reservations can be made online at www.ashevillechamber.org, or by calling 258-6118.
• Voter deadlines: To vote in the Oct. 11 primary election, you must be registered by Friday, Sept. 16. Absentee voting by mail for the primary begins Friday, Sept. 9, and ends Monday, Oct. 10. One-stop absentee voting begins Thursday, Sept. 22, and ends Saturday, Oct. 8, at 1 p.m. For further information, contact the Buncombe County Board of Elections at 250-4200 or visit www.buncombecounty.org/governing/depts/Election.
[Candidates, organizations and citizens: Send your campaign-event news — as far in advance as possible — to (fax) 251-1311, or “Campaign Calendar,” Mountain Xpress, P.O. Box 144, Asheville, NC 28802.]
Organicfest invades Pack Square
September is National Organic Month — scheduled for harvest time and established to recognize the organic movement’s growing importance. In that spirit, local nonprofit Pure Food Partners is sponsoring Organicfest 2005. The event happens Saturday, Sept. 10, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in downtown Asheville’s Pack Square. Organics, note the organizers, are one of the fastest-growing consumer-driven industries in the United States.
Now in its fourth year, Organicfest has been adopted by the city and is co-sponsored by Asheville Parks and Recreation as well as more than a dozen local and national businesses. The event will include a full day of local musical acts and dancing. An Organicfest Market on the Square will feature organic food and refreshments, clothing, herbs, flowers and natural arts and crafts. Drawings throughout the day will award gift certificates, baskets of organic goodies, free samples and other giveaways. Environmental groups will offer information on organic living, organic gardening, farming and related matters.
At 1 p.m., the Organicfest Garden Parade (formerly known as the Bug Parade) will give kids an excuse to dress up like pollinators, predators or plants while taking a closer look at where food comes from.
The festival, says organizer Debi Athos, aims to “celebrate, highlight and promote the pure, organic food and products available in our community; create a connection to the people who grow and supply organic [items]; and find out why organic is good for people and the planet.”
For more information, call 253-2267 or visit the Web site (www.organicfest.org).
— Cecil Bothwell
The days are growing shorter and the leaves are starting to turn color — harvest time is upon us. To mark the occasion, Western North Carolina’s vibrant pagan community will hold their sixth annual Pagan Pride Day on Saturday, Sept. 10, from noon to 8 p.m. at UNCA’s Alumni Hall.
The day will kick off with a harvest celebration led by members of the pagan community, followed by workshops on topics such as pagan parenting, belly dancing, drumming, yoga and chanting. Other attractions will include a children’s area with face painting and crafts, and a vendor’s area with books, jewelry, pottery and other offerings.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn what paganism is in a friendly, nonthreatening environment,” notes Lylith Hawk, a member of CERES (the Coalition of Earth-based Religions for Education and Support). Hawk emphasizes that members of many Earth-based religions will be represented at Pagan Pride Day, including Hindus, Shamans, Druids and Wiccans.
Live music will close out the day (starting at 5 p.m.), featuring performances by Mary SunBear, Josh Jordan and Ben Jammin. There will also be divinations and raffles; among the items to be raffled off are a one-hour massage, an astrological chart, psychic readings, energy healings and a gift basket of handmade herbal products.
The event is open to the public and free of charge, but attendees are encouraged to bring a donation of nonperishable food. The donations will be given to Helpmate, a local organization that assists victims of domestic violence. And in response to Hurricane Katrina, the organizers of Pagan Pride Day will be collecting cash donations for the American Red Cross.
For more information about Pagan Pride day, visit the CERES Web site at (www.ceres-wnc.org/ppd).
— Brian Sarzynski
Affordable housing on the Web
Five years ago, Van Gottel was a social worker working with at-risk homeless families in Charlotte when he realized there just weren’t enough resources to help people find affordable housing.
Gottel decided to combine his interest in technology and his skills from a former career in marketing to create socialserve.com, an Internet search tool to help people find housing they can afford. The nonprofit has grown by leaps and bounds, and now serves hundreds of communities in 10 different states — receiving funding from Fannie May and HUD, as well as housing authorities and local governments in the communities in which it serves.
Now folks in Western North Carolina can also take advantage of the service, either by going to socialserve.com, or more directly to wnchousingfinder.org. Once there, they can search for properties by rent, amenities, handicap accessibility, subsidies and other criteria in Arden, Asheville, Brevard, Hendersonville or Weaverville. Both the Land-of-Sky Regional Council and the City of Asheville are partners in the WNC effort.
Currently, notes Outreach Coordinator Nina Fedele, there’s a definite imbalance in the looking-to-rent and properties-for-rent ratio. “There’s 500 searches a day on wnchousingfinder.com … and we only have 40 to 50 properties listed,” she explains.
“We really want to reach landlords and say, ‘Listen, this is a free service, and there’s all these opportunities to fill your vacancies that are being missed,'” she adds.
Fedele also stresses that the service isn’t just for affordable housing. “Any property can be listed on there,” she explains. “It covers the entire market.”
Socialserve.com also offers a toll-free call center with bilingual staff. Both potential tenants and landlords can call the center for more information or if they feel uncomfortable using the Internet.
For more information, call the call center at 877-428-8844.
— Lisa Watters
Herbs for her
From the distant past to contemporary high-school history classes, we seem to share an assumption that herbalism is a feminine craft. Whether the image is of Indian gatherers, witches, midwives or grandma brewing tea for a sore throat, there is a sense of deep wisdom, patience and gentleness connected to wild crafting and plant remedies. Maybe it is an innate outgrowth of motherly nurture, in the same way that invasive surgery and chemical medicines might be seen as a (stereotypically masculine) form of hunting or fighting against disease.
The modern herbalist movement has erupted — in the form of women’s conferences across the United States in the past decade. This month, the movement makes its way to WNC. The first Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference will be staged at Black Mountain’s Camp Merrimac, Sept. 16-18.
Organized by local herbalist (and Xpress contributor) Corinna Wood under the auspices of her business, Red Moon Herbs, the event is cosponsored by Greenlife Grocery, New Life Journal, WNC Woman, and the North Carolina School of Holistic Herbalism.
In addition to keynote speaker Susun Weed, more than a dozen local and regional presenters will offer workshops on all aspects of plant medicine, women’s health, botany and belly dancing. Cost for the weekend begins at $250 (including camping), with add-ons for meals, cabins or other accommodations.
For more information, visit www.redmoonherbs.com or call (888) 929-0777.
— Cecil Bothwell
Nonattachment for beginners
There’s something about sand art. Not the kind associated with preschoolers and food coloring, or the prepackaged pieces culled from beaches. We’re talking about the meticulously crafted sand paintings that take days to complete — only to be destroyed (or left to the whims of the elements) upon completion.
After all, nothing’s permanent — which is one of the lessons Buddhist sand artists teach with their colorful mandalas.
When China’s Cultural Revolution tried to stamp out Tibetan Buddhism, scores of crimson-clad monks and nuns began making their treacherous way — on foot, no less — across the Himalayas to India and Nepal. Now, decades later, this exiled Tibetan community is carefully preserving its cultural heritage. Songs, dances, spiritual philosophy and artistic techniques are all being passed on to the next generation, and much of this schooling takes place within monastery walls. Like the complex mantras the monks chant, Tibetan sand painting is an ancient practice handed down from teacher to student in an unbroken lineage that can be traced to the sixth century B.C.
On Friday, Sept. 9, the monks of the Sera Jey Monastery in southern India return to the Asheville area as part of the 2005 Shiwa Monks Tour. The Tibetan group will craft an elaborate sand mandala in the cafe area of Greenlife Grocery. They’ll also perform traditional Tibetan Buddhist chants and dances and even sell Tibetan handicrafts. The free, weekend-long program offers a chance to meet the monks, learn a bit about the culture, and make a donation to support the monastery’s programs.
Sera Jey Monastery now houses some 2,500 Tibetan refugees, and new refugees reportedly continue to arrive. Even providing just one meal a day requires considerable funds, and these touring monks are here seeking financial aid for this and other projects, including building a new home for the affiliated Kadampa Center in Raleigh, N.C. Besides buying crafts and making a contribution during the programs, Greenlife shoppers can also donate at the cash registers.
On Sunday, Sept. 11, the monks will complete their mandala. And following a 2 p.m. closing ceremony, the group will ritually dismantle the intricate sand art in a nearby body of water.
For more information on the Shiwa Monks Tour, visit the Web site (www.shiwatour.org) or call Greenlife Grocery at 254-5440.
— Alli Marshall