Here’s a look at some of what’s happening around the mountains:
• Out in Asheville reports that the International Freedom Conference, which bills itself as “the largest gathering in the world for those struggling with or impacted by homosexuality,” will meet at the Ridgecrest conference center July 15 to 20. The newspaper writes: “As they look around this city in the mountains, they will see a viable lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community that is the shimmering rhinestone on that Bible Belt they hold so dear.”
In a separate story, the newspaper reports that the Asheville Coalition for Equality will be sponsoring a number of events in response, including a seminar and film screenings.
• Folks in Fletcher are taking a hard look at what’s next for the town’s Police Department in the wake of Police Chief Langdon Raymond’s upcoming retirement. Two former Henderson County sheriffs, who run a consulting business together, as well as former Hendersonville Police Chief Donnie Parks, are competing for the job of interim Fletcher police chief, reports the Hendersonville Times-News.
• There’s still unease over the future of Haywood Regional Medical Center, according to the Smoky Mountain News. “Doctors are nervous that Haywood Regional Medical Center will run out of money before fully recovering from the Medicare and Medicaid crisis, forcing the hospital to shut its doors and leaving the doctors with nowhere to practice.”
• In McDowell County, a 63-year-old woman who disappeared from The McDowell House assisted-living facility in Nebo was found dead on Tuesday. She was reported missing Sunday morning.
• Republican presidential candidate John McCain dropped by Montreat last weekend to meet with the Rev. Billy Graham and his son, Franklin Graham.
• The Buncombe County Libertarian Party is on the verge of disbanding, reports The Daily Planet. The newspaper talked to party Chairman Bernard Carman, who said he’s stepping down and is looking for a replacement.
• On the Fourth of July front, The Cherokee Scout reports that Murphy’s volunteer fire department has a new electronic firing system to shoot its fireworks, allowing the firefighters to step back and enjoy the show. “Last year, when we lit the fuses by hand, we had three seconds at the most to get away from it,” Fire Chief Al Lovingood said. “We had to wear full protective gear like we were fighting a fire, but when the shells went off, the force really hit you, shook up your insides.”
• Here’s a novel way to celebrate July Fourth—go fishing. “For 24 hours on July 4, anyone in the state can fish for free and without a license in any public waters,” reports The Watauga Democrat. “The purpose of the free fishing day is to show people how much fun fishing can be,” said Kent Nelson.
• “The jersey girls are here.” That’s the top of a Waynesville Mountaineer story about a big sale Saturday of 65 of the finest jersey heifers in the nation. It’s all part of the 51st National Heifer Sale, to be held at the Haywood County Fairgrounds.
• If you’re into Civil War history, consider the Bethel Rural community Organization’s fourth annual Cold Mountain Heritage Tour. The tour celebrates the history of the Haywood County community fictionalized in novelist Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, as well as the real home of Inman, the main character featured in Frazier’s book.
• Last but certainly not least, The Mountain Times paints a word-picture in reporting on the summer concert series in West Jefferson: “It was one of those nights that flatlanders might dream of: sunshine on the High Country green grass, talented musicians pouring out high precision bluegrass, mountains all around, and friendly neighbors enjoying each other’s company. Ashe County residents really do have it made.”
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor