Around the Region: Bele Chere in Asheville July 30-31

Published 8:44 am Monday, August 1, 2011

More than 250,000 people are expected to visit Asheville this weekend, July 30-31, for the 33rd annual Bele Chere street festival.
The event, which begins today and continues through Sunday, will feature arts and crafts, food, children’s activities and a wide range of musical acts. More than 700 acts, including 42 hired by the festival, will perform over the course of the festival in downtown Asheville.
A variety of dancing acts, from Zumba to ballroom, will perform at the Lexington Avenue Interactive Performance Area, while musical acts will be featured on four stages downtown.
The festival may not have as many well-known headliners as it’s had in the past, but it does have an eclectic mix of up-and-coming musical acts, including electronica duo Big Gigantic from Colorado, roots/Americana band Railroad Earth from New Jersey and bayou soul singer Marc Broussard.
The six-piece band Holy Ghost Tent Revival, the Rebirth Brass Band from New Orleans, folk band Apache Relay and singer Jessica Lea Mayfield are also among the many acts that visitors can enjoy at no charge at the downtown stages.
A volunteer committee, which selects the acts, has a $75,000 budget for entertainment. The city said that’s not enough to hire major acts, but it is enough to land many popular regional acts, including several that have performed previously in Asheville at the Orange Peel.
The overall budget for the festival, put on by the city and the Bele Chere board of directors, is $500,000.
Arts and crafts vendors from all over the country will showcase ceramics, woodwork, metalwork, fabric, paint and more along the streets of Asheville for the festival.
A children’s area, with free children’s performances, crafts and ticketed rides, will be on the arena level of the Asheville Civic Center on Haywood Street.
Bele Chere will have two food courts, highlighted by many Asheville restaurants, and beverage stations, which will offer alcoholic drinks on Friday and Saturday.
Bele Chere continues from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. on Saturday and from noon -6 p.m. on Sunday.  Shuttle service for the festival will run every 20 minutes from the Asheville Mall east of downtown and from the K-mart Plaza on the west side of town. The shuttles begin at the start of the festival each day and continue until an hour past the end of the festival.
The Carolina Panthers training camp will return to Spartanburg on Saturday after the NFL and its player’s association ended a lockout that began in the spring.
The Panthers will gather at Wofford College for their annual three-week camp that attracts many visitors and provides a boost for local businesses. Last year the camp attracted nearly 27,000 visitors. Chris Jennings, executive director of the Spartanburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, said this year’s camp likely will draw even more interest. Media members and fans will be eager to get a look at new Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera and quarterback Cam Newton, the first overall pick in the 2011 draft.
According to Jennings, the economic impact of the camp in direct spending is estimated at close to $800,000, and this year’s total likely will be higher.
The Panthers have trained each summer at Wofford College since their inaugural season in 1995.
According to the Panthers’ website, the training camp, held at Wofford’s 60,000-square-foot Richardson Physical Activities Building, has been ranked in the top five in the league for fan friendliness.
All training camp practices are free and open to the public. The first practice will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. Another will be held at 10:45 a.m. on Sunday. The full schedule is viewable at
Much of Buncombe County and Asheville will move, along with Polk County, from North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District to the 10th District, according to a redistricting map approved this week by the N.C. General Assembly.
More than half of the residents of Buncombe County and more than three quarters of the residents of Asheville would be shifted from the 11th to the 10th district if the map is approved by a federal court and U.S. attorneys. Those residents would join the residents of Polk, Rutherford, Cleveland, Gaston, Lincoln and Catawba counties in the 10th district.
Except for the portion of Buncombe County that’s in the 10th district, the 11th district would include all of the far western counties of the state, including Henderson County.
The redistricting, completed every 10 years to account for population changes reflected in the latest census, was led this year by Republicans, who have a majority in the state’s legislature. Democrats have complained that the new districts segregate black voters and traditionally Democratic areas to help Republicans win more seats in surrounding districts. Republicans, who hold a majority in both chambers of the N.C. legislature, said they were drafting the maps to comply with state and federal laws and court rulings.
The new maps, which may face legal challenges, are expected to give Republicans a better chance at filling seats on Capital Hill and give state GOP lawmakers a better chance of retaining control of the N.C. General Assembly.
The state’s legislators also approved redistricting maps for the state House and Senate. According to the proposed N.C. Senate redistricting map, Polk County would be included in N.C. Senate District 47 with Rutherford, McDowell, Mitchell, Yancey and Madison counties. Henderson and Transylvania counties would be grouped with southern Buncombe County in District 48. The rest of Buncombe County would stand by itself in District 49.
The proposed state House district maps showed Polk grouped together with Transylvania County and the southern portion of Henderson County in District 113. Rutherford County would stand by itself in District 112, while Buncombe County would be split into three districts.
The Republican-controlled S.C. legislature also approved a congressional redistricting plan that has drawn complaints from Democrats. The plan, approved 24-16 in the Senate and 75-33 in the House, may benefit Spartanburg County because it combines the metropolitan areas of both Spartanburg and Greenville counties in a new 4th Congressional District.
The western part of Spartanburg County, which includes about 40 percent of the county’s residents, would be grouped with the eastern half of Greenville County, which includes about 60 percent of the county’s residents. A previously proposed redistricting map separated Spartanburg County from Greenville County, potentially limiting its influence in Columbia. The final map approved by the legislature moves about 19,000 Spartanburg County residents from the Chesnee area to the 5th Congressional District, while a large part of southern Greenville County is moved to the 3rd District.
The Republican-led legislature agreed to put the state’s new congressional district in the Upstate, improving chances that it will result in another Republican representing South Carolina in Washington.
The N.C. House overrode this week a veto by Democratic Governor Bev Perdue on a bill that’s designed to discourage abortion. The bill requires women to wait 24 hours and receive counseling before proceeding with the abortion. Women also must view an ultrasound of the baby before the operation.
The N.C. House approved the override by a vote of 72-47, drawing applause from pro-life advocates in the gallery. Following the override vote, Gov. Perdue said the Republican’s social agenda has “invaded a woman’s life as never before – by marching straight into her doctor’s office and dictating the medical advice and treatment she receives.”
The N.C. Senate was expected to consider an override of the veto on Thursday.
State Administrative Law Judge Joe Webster issued a ruling this week that allows schools in Macon County, N.C., to start the new school year earlier than required by state law.
The state requires a 10-week summer vacation, but the district received a waiver to start three weeks earlier in order to help students who are falling behind and improve reading skills for many of the students.
The district said the earlier start will allow it to schedule week-long remedial reading sessions at three different times during the year.
The group “Save our Summers-North Carolina,” along with a parent, challenged the waiver given to the district by the N.C. Board of Education. The plaintiffs were seeking an injunction to stop the district from starting school ahead of schedule. However, Judge Webster ruled that the plaintiffs did not sufficiently show a hardship caused by the earlier start.
The exception offered by the state board and the ruling by Judge Webster may clear the way for other districts to seek such exceptions in the future, said school officials.
Students in Macon County won’t be alone when they return to school next week. Schools in Ashe, Avery and Madison counties are also starting next week because they have lost many days as a result of heavy snow in recent years.
Students in Greenville County schools will see a new lunch menu this year that replaces tater tots with tofu and french fries with fresh vegetables.
The school district has partnered with the Culinary Institute at Greenville Tech to revamp the district’s lunch menu and offer healthier options.
The district is putting 300 cafeteria workers through culinary training this summer. They are learning how to make salads, salad dressing, homemade soups, whole-grain pastas, black bean burgers and tofu.
Jennifer Sharp, the nutritionist for Greenville County Schools, said the district has fifth graders with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and Type 2 diabetes and needs to do something to improve the health of students. She adds that 41 percent of the county’s children are overweight or obese.
“If we are giving them something that will keep them full longer and help their brain power, how do you argue with that?” she said.
The 2011 BMW Charity Pro-Am garnered more than 5 million television viewers this year, an increase of about 13 percent over last year.
The golf tournament, which has raised nearly $8 million for more than 150 charities since it began 10 years ago, has been carried by the Golf Channel. The channel features the tournament for more than 20 hours over four days, giving viewers a chance to see the best players on the PGA Tour’s Nationwide Tour and the many celebrities who participate in the pro-am. The coverage also gives viewers a look at the region’s scenery.
The tournament has been held at the Thornblade Club in Greer, the Carolina Country Club in Spartanburg and Bright’s Creek Golf Club in Mill Spring.

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