As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches and many in our community prepare meals for their families, I would like to recognize the positive aspects of Widespread Panic visiting the Civic Center this weekend.
Although some in the community will look upon this stop as another nuisance (see Molton cartoon from the Nov. 12 Xpress), Panic fans have been loyal, generous and compassionate members of the community. I would hope that the citizens of Asheville realize the benefits of Widespread Panic visiting our town and think twice before stereotyping concert attendees as troublemakers.
When Panic comes to town, I ask you to focus on the needed economic boost it provides—from the hotel reservations to the bars and restaurants to the Civic Center box office. But more importantly, take a look at the efforts of fans to leave their mark on our struggling community. For many years, a nonprofit organization called Panic Fans for Food has raised awareness of hunger issues, encouraged patrons to bring nonperishables to the shows and collected donations that directly benefited the local food banks in the cities Panic plays. Since 2002, Widespread Panic fans have donated more than $3,000 and 1.5 tons of food to [our] MANNA FoodBank.
As an educator, I have sponsored numerous food drives at my schools before shows and educated my students on the pressing need to think compassionately and generously. As a middle-school football coach, I recently organized an event called the “White Out to Wipe Out Hunger” at one of our games, and we collected over a ton of food to help MANNA. Inspiration for hosting these events stems directly from the music of Widespread Panic and the people I have met along my travels.
This year, the band members themselves have jumped on board, supporting this community service with public service announcements about food drives at several concerts (see widespreadpanic.com for more info). Nonperishable food items will be collected at the Civic Center concerts both Friday and Saturday, to benefit MANNA FoodBank.
As Widespread Panic comes to Asheville, please focus on the positive contributions of these fans: the dollars we spend in our cities, the excitement of friends gathering in our towns, but most importantly our dedication to worthy charities and causes like feeding the hungry.
— Chris Cowan
Public school teacher/football coach