News

Lilly Knoepp

Downtown Sylva has a new addition - a sculpture of Harriet Tubman.  Meet the local woman behind the sculpture. 

The 9-ft bronze sculpture called “Journey to Freedom” sits in Bridge Park.

“Looking at the sculpture, I'm like that’s not my face but those are my hands, those are my feet, that’s my body. Like I am Harriet Tubman too.”

That’s Jada Bryson. She’s a dance teacher in Franklin where her family has lived for as long as they have records. She was dancing at a Macon County Women’s History Trail event when she was approached by Cashiers sculptor Wesley Wofford.

Undiscovered Acts Flourish At MerleFest

Sep 23, 2021
Cory Vaillancourt

There was plenty of disappointment last year when MerleFest became a casualty of the pandemic.  This year, the show went on.  America’s premier “traditional plus” music festival returned, once again giving undiscovered acts their chance to shine.

Cory Vaillancourt

The state legislative committee that will undertake redistricting in North Carolina made its way to the mountains Tuesday evening for its only meeting in the region.  

Almost 200 people showed up to the campus of Western Carolina University to listen and share comments about the redistricting process. About 50 people spoke during the public comment period.   

Kathleen Barnes represented the Transylvania County NAACP. She said she drove two hours to the meeting which she called “a public health risk” identifying that some people in the room were unmasked.

BPR is pleased to announce the addition of three new programs and a refreshed weekend schedule beginning Saturday October 2, 2021.

Code Switch and Life Kit

Two long-time members of Transylvania Regional Hospital board of directors resigned Monday, saying they were “embarrassed” to have supported the sale of the Mission Health System to giant HCA Healthcare and that they now fear for the future of the Brevard-based community hospital under HCA’s profit-driven management.

Lilly Knoepp

The Confederate monument known as 'Sylva Sam' is Jackson County now has its updated plaque. 

County commissioners in August voted to change the plaque on the statue outside the old Jackson County courthouse to remove the Confederate flag on it as well the inscription to ‘Our Heroes of the Confederacy.’ 

The changes were completed Monday afternoon, says Commissioner Gayle Woody.  

Public hearings are underway on redrawing North Carolina’s political maps, including a meeting Tuesday, September 21,  on the campus of  Western Carolina University.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

A little after noon Sunday in Asheville’s Pack Square, the first sounds indicating a turning point for the Asheville Symphony Orchestra came from Alicia Chapman, an oboe player testing out a series of reeds for optimal outdoor performance.

“There is a pilot light, a flame that’s inside when I play music,” Chapman said. “I was a little afraid, ‘oh my gosh, it’s dimming,’ but when you have a chance to actually, like today, be around your colleagues and your loved friends and make music together, that pilot light just flames up again and you realize ‘ahh, there I am.’”

Courtesy of Town of Franklin

The town of Franklin has hired a new town manager who is a familiar face in Western North Carolina. Amie Owens was previously the assistant town manager of Waynesville. BPR spoke with Owens during her first day on the job.

“I think each town has its own challenges. I was so excited to see a manager position open in Western North Carolina because that’s pretty rare these days,” said Owens. She served as assistant town manager in Waynesville from 2016-2020 and in Altavista, Virginia from 2020 – 2021.

Owens is a native of Haywood County, North Carolina.

The Porch: The River

Sep 17, 2021
Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

In this episode of The Porch, a production of the BPR news team, we hear from -

Lilly Knoepp

Campgrounds are a way of life in Western North Carolina – and have been long before the current camping craze which helped bring more than 12-million visitors to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park last year.  BPR went to Laurel Bank Campground in Haywood County.  Camping there is more than a weekend activity or a vacation.  It’s life – and family. 

Sherrie Lynn McArthur still remembers growing up at Laurel Bank Campground in Cruso. She is now 66 years old.

ALLEN NEWLAND / A SHOT ABOVE PHOTO

On August 17th, historic flooding caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred devastated Western North Carolina.  Haywood County was hit hardest, as six people were killed in the Cruso, Canton, and Bethel areas.

Cleophus Hethington

A nationally-acclaimed eatery in Asheville that honors soul food and African foodways has a new chef de cuisine. The new head of the kitchen at Benne On Eagle plans to shift the restaurant’s flavors and focus. 

Mike Martinez wearing a jean jacket and sunglasses stands outside the BPR studios smiling.
Catherine Komp/BPR

BPR is pleased to announce that Mike Martinez has joined the organization as an announcer. Mike will be the local voice guiding listeners through weekday programming like 1A and The World as well as several weekend shows on BPR News and BPR Classic.  

Anthony Mulcahy

In one sense, Christopher Paul Stelling is always ready to tour. He drives a Ford Transit van with a lofted bed in the back, and bins of albums, shirts and buttons beneath, along with a makeshift lounge behind the front seats. 

“I got that with 25,000 miles on it, it’s got 155,000, I got it in 2017 and I didn’t tour last year,” he said. “You kinda use vehicles like Kleenex.” 

On this day, he’s pulled the van into the parking lot of Summit Coffee in the River Arts District and walked to a nearby picnic table to talk about the path to his newest record, “Forgiving it All.” Stelling launches the album Sept. 25 at the Grey Eagle in Asheville. 

Don Pedi holds a dulcimer and is seen outside, wearing a plaid shirt and brown hat.
Courtesy Don Pedi.

Musician and educator Don Pedi has hosted music programs on BPR since 1985, starting as a fill-in host and eventually developing “Close to Home” which brings listeners traditional, old-time and classic folk, often curated around themes, every Saturday from 8:00 to 10:00 PM.  

Matt Bush

On August 17th, flash floods caused by the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred left six people dead in Haywood County, and devastated homes and businesses there and in neighboring Buncombe and Transylvania Counties.  While the analysis is ongoing of what caused such rapid and destructive flooding in these tight spaces, one reason is inescapable - climate change.

NPR

Tuesday is the last day for California voters to get their ballots in on the recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat. The campaign to remove Newsom says that he has mismanaged the response to the pandemic and prioritizes undocumented immigrants, among other complaints. Democrats say the recall is a partisan attempt to steal power.

COVID Surge: 51 Dead In August. 'We're Running Out Of Ambulances'

Sep 11, 2021

Jessica Vaughn, a 33-year-old mother of five, was found dead in her Asheville apartment. The cause: COVID-19.

Brianna Justus, a 31-year-old expectant mother, went from healthy to COVID intensive care patient at Mission Hospital in less than a week. Her baby, delivered by emergency cesarean section, survived. Brianna Justus did not.

Lilly Knoepp

Eastern Band of Cherokee held its general election on September 2nd. The unofficial results for the new tribal council and the three referendum questions on the ballot. BPR’s Lilly Knoepp spoke with Holly Kays, outdoor editor and staff writer at the Smoky Mountain News about the election results.

Courtesy of EBCI Tribal Council

The Eastern Band of Cherokee will not officially recognize same-sex marriages on the Qualla Boundary.  BPR was at Thursday’s tribal council meeting when the vote was taken…

“Still determined. Resolve is still there.”

The next virtual meeting of the BPR Community Forum is scheduled for Wednesday September 15, 6:00-7:30 PM via Zoom. 

Cass Herrington / BPR News

A local therapist is releasing her first children’s book this weekend. Omileye Achikeobi-Lewis is a trauma-focused counselor and artist. The book, “My Heart Flies Open,” is based on a series of 20 paintings of a Black girl doing yoga. 

Congressman Madison Cawthorn, Republican representing western North Carolina, spoke this week to Macon County Republicans in Franklin. The organizer estimated the crowd at more than 200 people. The Macon County Republican Party posted a 1-hour, 28-minute video on its Facebook page, but removed it after Cawthorn’s remarks attracted nationwide scrutiny. A copy of the video can be found on YouTube here.

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

President Joe Biden has formally given a federal disaster declaration to three counties in Western North Carolina that were devastated by the remnants of Tropical Storm Fred last month.  

Blue Ridge Public Radio informs you with reliable, fact-checked journalism you can trust and cultural connections you depend on. Both BPR News and BPR Classic and all the programs you love and count on are possible thanks to support from listeners like you.   

BPR’s Fall Membership Drive is happening now, and you can help us meet our goal of $250,000 by Wednesday, September 29.

Courtesy of Western Carolina University

Despite recent severe weather, this year’s fall leaf forecast for Western North Carolina is looking bright. Here’s when colors will be at their peak:

The fall colors of red, orange and yellow will be best at high elevation in mid-October says Professor Beverly Collins, who teaches biology at Western Carolina University.

“I think our color change at Cullowhee, which will be at about 2,000 ft will be at about end of October,”  said Collins.  

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Tom Godleski’s newest play sounds far different than when he first brought it to Asheville’s Magnetic Theatre

 

“He presented me with a very rough script. It was not written in a play format at all,” recalled Artistic Director Katie Jones. “But he had a pretty decent story and then some beautiful songs.” 

 

“They said ‘We are going to do your play, but it’s not ready,’ and I was like ‘what?’” Godleski said. “I thought it was okay. I was satisfied with it and I was happy with it.”

“I cannot tell you how many plays I read that have great dialog and nothing happens,” Jones said. “But in this, it was like, something’s happening. We just need to help him hone in on the characters’ voices and the dialog.”

 

The finished play, as it will premiere on Magnetic’s stage, is a bluegrass musical called “The Sparrow and the Whippoorwill,” and it tells the entwined stories of a war veteran and a nurse who cares for him. It premieres Sept. 10 and runs through Sept. 25 at the Magnetic.

Lilly Knoepp

  A second flood didn’t occur in Haywood County this week. Despite a voluntary evacuation, that allowed locals to continue their cleanup from flooding more than two weeks ago.  

The ground is still muddy outside Juke Box Junction Restaurant where Peter Constantian is sitting outside. He points to how high the water level in the Pigeon River rose during the flood.

“They said the water came all the way up to the floor boards, and maybe a little bit came through the floor boards but the basement was totally flooded,” said Constantian.  

Unforgiving Contexts

Sep 2, 2021

In this episode of Going Deep, our hosts take some time to slow down and dive into two topics in the sports world which are getting varying degrees of news coverage - athlete mental health (a lot) and race-norming in the NFL (very little).

(Music featured includes Brain by Lobo Loco)  

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