An organic celebration

There’s a whole lot to celebrate about organic food. It won’t expose you to harmful herbicides and pesticides (and thanks to new federal legislation, customers can also be sure it hasn’t been irradiated, genetically modified or fertilized with sewer sludge); numerous studies have found that it contains significantly more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micronutrients than conventional produce; it’s kinder to our topsoil — and it tastes better!

In this spirit, Pure Food Partners is presenting Asheville’s first “Organicfest” on Saturday, Sept. 21, 1-7 p.m. in City/County Plaza.

The one-day celebration will offer delicious organic foods, vendors selling a variety of products, live entertainment, dancing, educational presentations, mini-workshops, kids’ activities — and even a butterfly parade.

The event will enable organic farmers, retailers, educators and local groups to come together with the general public to celebrate and learn about the organic foods and products available in our community.

Scheduled entertainers are David LaMotte, Chris Rosser, Jeffrey Hyde Thompson, Dana Robinson, Sherri Lynn, BenJammin’, Jon Cooley, Shiva, Dawn Humphrey, Jim Wolfe and Lance Kurland.

Vendors include Bluehill Farm, Dancing Woods, Delicious Abundance, Eaglefeather Farm, Eco World, the French Broad Food Co-op, Herbworks & Everlasting, Natural Home, Natural Lifestyle, Natural Import Company, New life Journal, Red Moon Herbs and Sunset Valley Farm.

Assorted nonprofit organizations will also be on hand: the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, Carolina Animal Action, the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, the Mountain Tailgate Market Association, Pure Food Partners and The Bountiful Cities Project.

Pure Food Partners is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization dedicated to promoting and preserving food that’s organically grown, free from pesticides and preservatives, and is neither genetically engineered nor irradiated. PFP is involved in both local and national pure-food campaigns, public education, community outreach and educational events.

For more information, call 281-5955, or visit the Pure Food Partners Web site (

Art as therapy

“We work with the idea that everyone has intelligence in something. We find what a student is intelligent in — and we help them communicate through that medium,” explains Erika Schultz, program manager with Creative Clay Inc. (100 Weaverville Highway). The Asheville-based, nonprofit cultural-arts organization works with individuals who have developmental, physical or emotional challenges.

The students work in a wide range of media — anything from theater to pottery to music to fine crafts. Creative Clay, says Schultz, “offers students a safe place to go to explore themselves.”

But the program does far more than simply teach students art skills, she explains. “Students gain confidence in their everyday lives; we’ve seen a lot of that. When students find they’re good at something, that translates to the rest of their life.”

Creative Clay’s Asheville branch opened in April but moved to its present location — which boasts offices, studios (for painting, clay and theater) and a gallery/gift shop — last month. All the students have the option of selling their artwork in the gallery/gift shop. “It works like a regular gallery,” notes Schultz. “We’re their representing agents.”

Founded in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1995 by Grace-Anne Alfiero and Danielle Despathy-Rottenberg, Creative Clay was born out of these women’s desire to give students a safe, nurturing environment where they could learn and express themselves through the arts. Both had worked with developmentally disabled adults within traditional social-service agencies and had felt frustrated by those organizations’ lack of creativity in dealing with this population.

Beginning with little more than a clear vision — expressed by the motto “Art Speaks Without Words” — and $1,000 in grant money, Creative Clay now includes both a Safety Harbor, Fla., branch and the more recent Asheville location. In 1998, Creative Clay was one of 10 finalists for that year’s Brick Award, a national honor presented by the group Do Something (whose sponsors include MTV Music Television and Blockbuster Video).

Tuition is covered through a combination of scholarships, private fees, sponsorship arrangements and government subsidies. In North Carolina, Creative Clay is a Medicaid Waiver Provider through CAP (the Community Alternatives Program) and CBS (Community Based Services). This funding helps subsidize individuals with developmental challenges such as cerebral palsy, mental retardation and Down syndrome. The group has also received grants this year from both the Community Foundation of WNC and the Janirve Foundation.

For more information, call 658-8875 or visit the Creative Clay Web site (

Concert to benefit wildlife-rehab center

To help support our friends in the wild, a host of local musicians including Chris Rosser, Beth Wood, Jimmy Landry, Tony Harp and The Laura Blackley Band will be jammin’ out at the Grey Eagle Tavern and Music Hall (185 Clingman Ave.) on Saturday, Sept. 21, beginning at 6 p.m. Admission is $10, and all proceeds will go to support nonprofit rehabilitation center Wild for Life Inc.

Each year, the center nurses more than 200 wild birds and mammals back to health — including owls, hawks, possums, squirrels, rabbits and songbirds — and returns them to their natural habitat.

Mary Beth Bryman, who co-founded the center with Susie Wright, says, “Our goal is to provide a safe haven for those injured and often orphaned animals, with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into the wild.” The average cost of supplies and materials is $125 per animal.

Animals generally remain at the facility for 30 to 60 days, depending on their age, condition and the nature of their injury.

If you can’t attend the benefit but would like to make a tax-deductible donation to Wild for Life, call (828) 665-4341.

Stand up and be funny

So you think you’re funny, huh? Put those jokes and stories to the test at the Stand-up Contest at the Asheville Comedy Club & Deli (5 Biltmore Ave.) on Tuesday, Sept. 24, beginning at 8 p.m.

Club president Grant Fetters explains that there are two reasons for holding the event. “One, to showcase the local talent to the community and secondly, to find an MC to host our club and to announce the acts during show nights.”

Additionally, says Fetters, “This will also provide a working list for capable talent to help when a comedian that is scheduled is unable to show up on time [because of] airplane delays, car problems, etc.”

The contest is open to anyone who wishes to compete.

For more information, call 258-8273.

Heritage events highlight September calendar

One of the great things about living in Western North Carolina is sharing in the area’s rich heritage, whether it’s expressed through traditional crafts, music, dance or storytelling. Two upcoming events will highlight those treasures as they take participants a step back in time.

First up is Heritage Weekend — a three-day celebration of traditional crafts, storytelling and music that happens Friday, Sept. 20 (1-5 p.m.), Saturday, Sept. 21 (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) and Sunday, Sept. 22 (12-5 p.m.) at the Folk Art Center (milepost 382) on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This annual event also marks the 23rd Gee-Haw Whimmy Diddle World Competition. Admission is free.

Friday’s festivities will include old-time and bluegrass music performed by Buncombe Turnpike; a play by Buncombe Turnpike’s Tom Godleski depicting the life of Scottish settlers in WNC; and a lecture on woodcarver Wade Martin by Jerry Israel, followed by a book-signing by Martin.

The Saturday program includes demonstrations of such mountain crafts as basket weaving, broom making and woodworking with hand tools, as well as making hominy and apple butter. There’ll also be mountain music all day long, and of course the Gee-Haw Whimmy Diddle World Competition.

Craft demonstrations and music again top the agenda on Sunday, including the mountain ballads of Jerry Harmon. Traditional and contemporary storytelling by the Asheville Storytellers will round out the day’s offerings.

Oh, and in case you’re still wondering, a gee-haw whimmy diddle is an Appalachian folk toy consisting of the whimmy (a notched stick with a propeller on the end) and the diddle (a stick you rub over the notches in the whimmy). If you have the knack, you can make the propeller spin left or right, seemingly on command. Those same voice commands are traditionally used with horses or mules to cause them to veer slightly to the right (gee) or the left (haw) when pulling a plow.

The following weekend, catch the 28th edition of Mountain Heritage Day — Western Carolina University’s celebration of old-fashioned mountain life — on Saturday, Sept. 28, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. in Cullowhee.

The annual gathering typically draws upward of 25,000 people who come to enjoy traditional music and dance performed on three stages, dozens of demonstrations of authentic mountain folk arts, and craft and food booths along the midway.

Close-in parking is limited, and comfortable shoes are recommended. Free shuttles will operate throughout the day, and admission to the festival site is free.

For more information about Heritage Weekend, call 298-7928 or visit the Southern Highland Craft Guild Web site ( To find out more about Mountain Heritage Day, call (828) 227-3193.

Law-enforcement summit addresses all aspects of officers’ lives

“While the events of 9/11 increased our nation’s appreciation for the heroism of our law-enforcement officials and the dangers they face, there are few opportunities for officers to come together for a time of encouragement, reflection and spiritual renewal,” observes Florida law-enforcement veteran J. Paul Phillips.

To address this void, Phillips has organized the first annual Law Enforcement Summit, to be held Tuesday, Oct. 1 through Thursday, Oct. 3 at Lifeway Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville.

The summit, explains Phillips, “will provide practical information designed to strengthen the professional, domestic, financial and spiritual aspects of each officer’s life, as well as offer quiet personal time in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.”

So far, law-enforcement, military and judicial-branch representatives from 13 states are registered for the summit, which will include a special time of recognition for fallen officers and a full-dress opening ceremony to honor the profession.

Keynote speaker Dr. Bobby Smith is a former Louisiana state trooper who was shot and blinded in the line of duty. Entertainment will be provided by Steve Wiggins, the founder and lead singer of the Christian band Big Tent Revival, along with award-winning gospel singer/songwriter Squire Parsons and the band Promise.

Other summit speakers will include the Rev. Ralph Sexton Jr., special deputy and chaplain for the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department, and Wayne A. Barber, pastor, teacher and founder of To Live is Christ Ministries.

Leading the workshops will be former Greenville County, S.C., Sheriff Johnny Mack Brown (former president, National Sheriffs Association); training and educational consultants Betsy and Lyn Dunn (the founders of Directions Plus); law-enforcement veteran Jim Hammond (a former assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Tennessee); Sheriff Tim Hawsey (Escambia County, Ala.); Sheriff Ray Nash (Dorchester County, S.C.); retired Army Col. Eric W. Robyn; Capt. John Stuermer (Chattanooga Police Department); Terry L. Tweed, deputy and chaplain, Henderson City, N.C., Sheriff’s Department; and Grant Wolf, executive director, Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers.

The event is open to all men and women in the city, county, state or federal law-enforcement community, including the judicial branch and military. Attendees are encouraged to bring their spouses. The cost for the summit is $263 for private accommodations, $204 if sharing a room, and $145 if commuting.

Phillips is a graduate of the FBI National Academy who (under Gov. Reuben Askew) implemented Florida’s first statewide grand jury and later (under Gov. Bob Graham) organized and implemented The Governor’s Council on Organized Crime.

For registration information, call (800) 588-7222.

Fish for a cause

A new Asheville halfway house for women could use a little help.

Shine on Others provides refuge for women who are escaping domestic violence, struggling to overcome drug-and-alcohol addictions, or are HIV-positive, says founder/director Nanette Johnson. The little facility (which can accommodate four women) opened eight months ago and now needs to raise about $3,000 to keep its doors open.

To that end, a benefit gospel sing/fish fry will take place on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 3 to 9 p.m. in the parking lot at the foot of Coxe Avenue in downtown Asheville.

Shine on Others is also looking for a dedicated volunteer grant writer to help meet future needs. For more info on either the benefit or the volunteer position, call Johnson at 277-7680.


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