It’s just about that time again. In a little over a week, thousands will descend on downtown for Bele Chere, the massive annual street festival with which Asheville enjoys a love-hate relationship.
In my years here, I’ve heard no small amount of local vitriol directed at the three-day event, for reasons economic, cultural and visceral. Locals will grumble, boycott the event or plan their vacations to get the hell out of dodge while it’s going on. I’ve heard local business owners both look forward to the influx of business (especially downtown) and wish Bele Chere died an undignified death and never came back. I’ve known locals who stick around to condemn the event as mostly a gathering place for the most uncouth breed of out-of-towner imaginable, but who still end up taking at least an hour to roam about themselves, if just to grab some chicken on a stick and watch the street preachers argue with their detractors.
An informal poll here in the Xpress office reveals similar splits of opinion, with responses including “burden, definitely burden,” “strong boon,” “depends on the music, not going just for the funnel cake,” and “it helps some businesses in downtown, but really hurts the rest.”
On the interest of civic (if not always civil) discourse, let’s make this an open question. Ashevilleans (and others): What say you? Is Bele Chere a boon or a burden, and why?
Photo by Jonathan Welch from 2009 Bele Chere