Lindsey Deal

By Jordan Stanley

Lindsey Deal emerged from a swung-open wooden door behind the cash register in the same way Deal Orchards appeared from the road. Driving along Highway 64, the storefront for the orchard looked like a white tin warehouse, named for, perhaps, the bargain-priced produce inside. In reality, it was for the man whose family had founded and run the business for generations, carried on still today. The cashier, busy ringing up boxes of apples, apple butter, apple cider, and old-fashioned candies, called Lindsey on her flip phone to answer a few questions on the business; and there he came, extending a long tree-branch arm beckoning into his office.

Lindsey Deal is a human torch of North Carolina apple country. A tall man with grey hair and beard, Lindsey wore black baseball cap and khaki button down, both branded by the “Enjoy North Carolina Apples” insignia, the “O” of “Enjoy” a bright red fruit. His accent was certainly Southern, a characteristic of his Taylorsville community though occasionally too thick for Northern ears. He was curidsc_0520ous about how Northern eyes saw his little piece of North Carolina, prioritizing a good impression of a place he clearly took pride in. In fact, Taylorsville had been, he said, the capital of the American apple industry for decades, which his great-grandfather had a hand in.

Ready and eager to embark on a thorough history of NC apple country, Lindsey relaxed into his leather desk chair, hands laced together across his belly. His personality was strewn across the wood-paneled walls of his office. From the NRA sign on the back of his office door, to the two elk heads mounted on the wall, to the mosaic of family photos–his children, grandchildren, and ancestors who he introduces–a presumably conservative, Southern persona emerges. Yet throughout his explanations of the culture of his region, his face lit up with enthusiasm. According to Lindsey, this county used to be the moonshine capital of the country, connecting to the popularity of NASCAR in the community. He claims that NASCAR stems from moonshiners “pumping” up their cars to escape the law during Prohibition. Through his stories, Lindsey’s character slowly evolved into a richly diverse man both of traditionalism and understanding.

While the Deals originate from Kentucky, the Deal family has been harvesting apples in the county surrounding Taylorsville for well over 100 years. As Lindsey regaled the history of Deal Orchard, he rose from his chair to point to the largest frame on the wall. Inside is a black-and-white photograph capturing three rows of men, most of whom were dressed in their Sunday best–as Lindsey pointsdsc_0511 out, some of whom wore farmer’s overalls, and two of whom sported bushy white beards. The entire scene, set outside on an agricultural property, looked like it could have been torn from a Civil War history book. One of the two white-bearded men, however, was Lindsey’s great-grandfather–the original Deal’s Apples. The photo is of the first North Carolina Apple Growers’ Association, a group established to align NC apple farmers to compete and cooperate with larger wholesale produce markets. While Lindsey’s great-grandfather chose to partake in this industry, his brother (Lindsey’s great-uncle) chose to start a hardware store. Many will recognize it today as Lowe’s Home Improvement. Now onto the sixth-generation of apple Deal’s, Lindsey’s daughter left her job working numbers at Lowe’s to help run Deal’s Orchard with Lindsey’s other son.

At Deal Orchard’s Lindsey sells about 80,000 bushels of apples per year. The very units used for apple sales has evolved over the years, he says, in correspondence to changing gender norms. According to Lindsey, the apple industry began selling half bushels because a bushel box was too heavy for women–who did all the shopping–to carry. When women went back to work, however, they stopped buying apples in such large increments altogether. Lindsey said that women will full-time jobs were more likely to buy groceries for the night or a week, too busy to make pies or other more elaborate dinner measures apple-related extras in addition to employment. From this, the industry developed the “peck,” an even smaller increment of apples. While describing how feminism altered the apple industry, Lindsey remained a neutral tone, not condescending to a movement that altered his family’s practices. Rather, he was empathetic overall, if not overtly supportive–employing a level of respect that created interest amongst his NRA poster and elk heads.

As a well-established apple man, many beginning farmers come to Lindsey to ask advice to begin an orchard of their own. Lindsey laughs to himself when this happens, knowing how they underestimate the “hard parts” of farming. To establish an orchard, one must purchase land, equipment costing upwards of $6,000, and seeds to plant the trees. From there, farmers have to wait at least six years for the trees to grow for any return on their investment. He tries to pass on some wisdom, of course. For example, Lindsey has his orchards scattered across Taylorsville rather than in one area, so if there is a storm, not every orchard is impacted. One hailstorm can knock out a farm for 18 months, Lindsey said; when there’s bad weather, most people don’t even think about how this affects the farmers.

To continue constructing a behind-the-scenes look at the farming process-and to build the empathy of the farmer’s life–Lindsey provided a tour through his refrigeration units and warehouse. The massive refrigerator, full of innumerable wooden crates, smells crisp and sweet like ice-cold cider. There is actually cider in the fridge, which is outsourced for production due to strict health standards but made from Deal apples. Lindsey said, while he would like to, it is impossible to grow organic fruit in the East. There’s too much rain, which promotes fungus and rot without chemicals. Deal Orchards are, however, GAP (Good Agriculture Practices) certified.

He proceeded to walk through the entire apple-sorting process, from the conveyer belts, to turning on the washing mechanisms, to showing how each moving process worked–how apples were sorted by hand and through machine into high and low quality piles. He pointed to a 30-foot stack of boxes, with High Quality and Low Quality written in different colors. Years back, Lindsey’s customers would switch apples from high and low quality boxes in attempt to pay the lower price, so Lindsey color-coded the boxes so he wouldn’t be swindled.

Finally he approached a box of small red-green apples, the size of which make them most appealing dsc_0507to deer hunters. These were Bushy Mountain Limbertwigs– native to the region and the very apple that his great-grandfather grew to found Deal Orchards. He picked up one apple and offered a bite to anyone with “good teeth.” The consistency was firm, difficult to chew, but flavorfully balanced between tart and sweet. He took another apple and placed it on the ground, proceeding to step and place his entire weight on it. Then he picked up the apple again to reveal that there were no dents or bruises.

The day with Lindsey concluded with one last question: What was his favorite apple? He answered that if he was ever out in the orchard–after all the customers had come and gotten their pick–and he saw one last Golden Delicious, he would climb to the top of a tree to get it.

From there he returned inside to his office, encouraging a car ride through the orchards, just off to the west. Lindsey Deal tucked himself away as quickly as he had shown himself; he was a representation of the apple country in the nicest way: a man of history, tradition entwined with progression, and a Southern hospitality that opened and welcomed an eye into Taylorsville, North Carolina.

Smiley’s Barbeque

By Maggy McGloin

Lexington, North Carolina: the country’s home for delicious barbecue. Lexington is known for its vast history of barbecue since the town created its own preparation style. “Piedmont-style sauce is not tomato-based,” says Katie Quinne, a writer for Our State, North Carolina. “It still uses lots of vinegar but has a slight touch of ketchup that makes the mixture sweeter and redder, but not thicker.” Going forth, we knew that Lexington’s distinct, vinegar taste had always been in somewhat of a “battle” with their Eastern, ketchup-based counterpart.  How coulddsc_0649 there be so much argument about barbeque? we thought. Could we even tell the difference?

We arrived in Lexington on a cloudy, Sunday morning with empty stomachs and a desire to learn more about what made this town unique. After our hour-long ride, we pulled into a deserted downtown Lexington. Sunday does not seem to be the day for explorations of a small, southern town. The town was quaint, cute, and looked like it had the potential to be a thriving scene on a weekend night. The walls adjacent to different stores were painted in muted greens and cream colors, looking like the perfect canvas for future wall art. There were flower beds still peeking out of window boxes due to the unnaturally warm autumn that had graced all of North Carolina this year. Soaking in the silence of the normally-thriving town, we got back in our car to visit (what we heard was) the best barbecue indsc_0641 all of Lexington, North Carolina.

We entered a scene that was far more ecstatic than the downtown area we had just left. Smiley’s Restaurant was filled with post-church diners, some with large families and some eating in solitude. They were all there for one purpose: to enjoy the best of what Lexington has to offer. We took our places and each ordered the specialty: sliced pulled-pork sandwiches. After our first bites, we instantly knew that Lexington barbecue trumped any other kind we’d had before. The sandwiches were garnished with sweet, apple-based cole slaw that perfectly fused the sweet and saltiness of the tart vinegar-base. The buns were toasted to perfection, there was no need for any extra sauces, condiments, or even a side dish. After our meal, our waitress approached us and stated that we “simply could not leave without trying the house-famous banana pudding.” We obviously gave in to that temptation and split one three ways.

As we exited the restaurant, we could not grasp the attention of any of the employees to ask our questions; Sundays were busy and each waitress and waiter were occupied. So, we poked around the restaurant to see what diversified Smileys from the rest of the barbecue restaurants in the area. One wall was plastered with newspaper clippings displaying the multiple occasions, people, and places the restaurant had catered to. The most eye-catching was a newspaper article from Lex ington’s local paper which described Christmastime in Lexington. “It’s a local tradition in the barbecue dsc_0647capital of the world,” said James Romoser, a reporter for the paper. “And for the people who prepare the meat, it means that the days before Christmas are a sleepless marathon of cooking over a smoky barbecue pit.”

Though it was a small taste, we classified Lexington as one of the most barbecue-savvy towns we had ever visited. We left Smiley’s with full stomachs and a newfound appreciation for the ancient process of seasoning meat.

A Changing Industry: Apple Growing in the Foothills

By Kate Flinn

The average traveler passing through Taylorsville, North Carolina might not stumble across Deal Orchards. The orchard was at least a twenty-minute drive from what we believed to be downtown Taylorsville, though it was hard to be sure. After some back and forth, we detoured off Highway 64 in pursuit of one of the Foothills’ most celebrated Apple houses. The industrial sprawl of Taylorsville quietly slipped into rolling hills dotted with small shops and quaint farms. Though the drive seemed to stretch on mu ch longer than twenty minutes, the faded “Deal Orchards” sign eventually slipped onto the dashboard horizon.

The packed down dirt parking lot was full of cars and a bus of visitors from outside of town who had traveled to buy Deals apples. They filed in noisily, a moving hungry horde. Inside the orchard’s storefront was a large, open space; its high ceilings and large windows flooded the room with natural light. Boxes and boxes of apples populated the middle of the room, tempting visitors to explore the unique varieties one might only find in this region of the country. Along the perimeter of the shop were yellow shelves of various homemade jams and butters, cheeses, and produce that were visibly fresh, based on light packaging alone.

Approaching the counter, the woman behind the cashier smiled sweetly: “How can I help y’all?”

In response to some questions about this orchard we had stumbled across–how old it was, who was in charge–she responded with a short chuckle and replied, “Y’all are going to want to talk to Lindsay.” After making a call on her walkie-talkie, we stepped to the side and waited for “Lindsay” to come find us.

After a few minutes, the large wooden door a few feet behind the counter swung open, and a tall man who appeared to be in his seventies entered the room. The woman gave him a nod in our direction. The man took a few steps in our gedsc_0513neral direction, and we were met face-to-face with Lindsay Deal:  the man behind every aspect of the growing, harvesting and marketing for one of the largest, and oldest, apple orchards in North Carolina. His face was colored initially skeptical, noticeably sizing us up as outsiders. Upon a brief explanation, however, he was more than compliant to talk about North Carolina culture across the Foothills. He opened that same wooden door he had come through just a few minutes age before, and invited us into his office.

Lindsay gestured for everyone to take a seat in one of the three chairs nested between the heavy wooden desks and stacks of papers. The wood paneled walls of Lindsay’s office boasted an expansive collection of family photos, most of which appeared to be taken at the orchard over its various stages of existence. The office felt like a time capsule for the growth of this man’s family business.

Lindsay needed no encouragement to start talking about his family’s experience as apple growers. Lindsay’s great-grandfather planted the first Deal orchard back in 1939. “There were once 200 independent apple growers in this area,” he began. “We all used to pick our apples and then pedal them over in Winston and Charlotte.” Suddenly pushing back his faded leather desk chair, Lindsay walked over to a particularly large faded photo hanging on the wall. Pulling the frame down, he gazed at the photo of a group of men–all dressed in suits but for two pairs of overalls. A small plaque below the photo read, “The First Brushy Mountain Apple Growing Co-Op.” Lindsay went on to explain that in 1957, the growers in this area formed the Brushy Mountain Apple Growing Co-Op. Each grower contributed one thousand dollars and would bring the month’s pick to adsc_0512 single seller who would then sell their apples to the major grocery chains.

“As time went on the way people bought apples began to change, so the way we sell them had to change as well,” Lindsay continued. Returning the frame to its rightful spot on the wall, his eyes lingered on the aged faces nostalgically–perhaps for the people in the photograph, or just for a simpler time. “People are more conscientious about their finances these days,” Lindsay said with a sigh. “They’re just buying enough apples to get them through the week, whereas they used to buy them in bulk.”

We learned that Deal Orchards was one of the first successful orchards established in Alexander County. With an aging population of apple growers in the region, much of Lindsaydsc_0529’s competition has tapered out over the years, leaving just three or four primary orchards to spearhead the Foothill markets. Lindsay and his team have their process down to an absolute science and are Good Agriculture Practices-Certified. If you find yourself traveling through Alexander County, be sure to stop by the Deal Apple House and get a taste of what this family’s combination of passion and expertise has produced.

Burgess Produce

By Kate Flinn

Burgess Produce is one of the Foothills’ hidden gems, nestled right off the shoulder of historic Highway 64, just outside of scenic Lake Lure. Like us, if you aren’t looking for it, you are likely to zip right past this charming little produce stand. Winding along the highway, our interests were piqued by the small structure’s hand painted sign and the display of fruits and vegetables out front, so we pulled a U-turn and headed back to see what we had stumbled upon.

Pulling onto the road’s dirt shoulder, which doubled as the parking lot, we hopped out and approached the small wooden structure that houses Burgess produce. The building’s exterior was eclectically decorated with wind chimes, dream catchers and various tin and copper pots and kettles. Though none of the items seemed to go together, each somehow belonging, and creating a visual backdrop for the spread of produce before us.  Bins of onions, potatoes, cucumbers and tomatoes with the varied color and shape, guaranteeing authentic freshness, piled in and around the wide, doorless entrance.

Stepping inside the building, pots and pans of various styles line the ceiling, sometimes substituted with the occasional woven basket. The right corner of the room is filled with busheldsc_0605s of apples, each labeled in the same cursive handwriting. Above them lies an entire wall of cowboy hats in every color you imaginable. To the left appears about every type of butter and jam known to man, each in the same gold-lidded mason jar. The place gave me that same feeling I get in my grandmother’s attic, cluttered yet somehow everything seems to hold some sort of memory or value.

A young girl, no more than 8 or 9 years old, stood behind the counter, soon joined by an older woman coming in through a back entrance. She gave the young girl an affectionate pat on the head and offered me a “let me know if I can help.” I approached the counter in the hopes of learning a bit more about the stand. All it took on my end was a “so how long have you been here?” and the woman was happy to oblige.

“This is has been the family business for over 100 years,” the woman replied. Looking down at the young girl, she continued,“my daughter right here is the 4th generation since we started the shop.”

A slender elderly man strolls in through the same back entrance, garbed in a worn-out hat and camo puffer jacket, and does not hesitate to jump into the conversation. Pointing at my own Cubs hat, he begins to search his pockets, eventually revealing a laminated postage stamp. He passes it to me, the tiny face of a baseball player, and leads with an abrupt, “You know who that is right?” I didn’t. “That’s my great-grandfather Smoky Burgess,” the man said matter-of-factly. He explained that Smoky Burgess, was one of the few ball players to ever play for both the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox–a genuinely surprise for a dsc_0606Chicago local.

The man who had just schooled me in Chicago sports history was Donald Burgess, patriarch of the Burgess family and current owner of Burgess Produce. His great-great-grandfather had founded the stand, and the business had been passed from generation to generation ever since.

Donald proceeded to whip out his smartphone and scan through photos of each of his four children. Pride glinted in his eye, a quiver sneaking into his voice as he described the different cities each of them had moved and what job they were working now. Once Donald moved to help another customer, it appeared time to untangle from the branches of the Burgess family tree and return to the road. Not wanting to leave empty handed, I purchased a large jar of “Homemade Amish Peanut Butter,” which turned out to be the best peanut butter I’ve ever tasted.

The Factory Coffee Shop

By Maggy McGloin – 2016

As any trip with anticipated adventure should begin, the exploration down Highway 64 began with clear eyes, caffeinated bodies, and an overall excitement to see what was ahead. The first stop on the highway was the town of Mocksville, just about an hour outside the Elon bubble.

The car rolled into a town seemingly barren of existence, pulling into the parking lot of the grand Town Hall, currently being cleaned with high-power hoses. It was 11 AM, late enough in the morning that shops should be open on a Saturday morning, yet every single one was closed. The streets, too, were relatively deserted–a sporadic passerby occasionally punctuating the quiet . After passing a darkened doll storefront, the town’s GOP office, a pub amongst few restaurants, the sidewalk lead to the one open business: The Factory Coffee Shop, an obviously-new addition tdsc_0430o the town. It turns out the shop had only been open for six months and was part of the new effort to revitalize downtown Mocksville.

Inside the store provided cappuccinos and a muffins, set with an ambience made by modern touches, such as acoustic music, seating areas for people who wanted to work, and an industrial-looking bar. There were also accents that kept the shop true to Mocksville’s heritage, however. By the cash register, there was a large bulletin board displaying flyers, business cards, and artwork provided by Mocksville locals–a physical manifestation of the town’s activity hub. There was also an out-of-place old-fashioned bike hung on the wall, one of the first visible decorations upon entering the store. It seemed the bike, though visually different, would provide insight as to what The Factory was all about.

As she whipped up another cappuccino,dsc_0428 the barista, Ayenna, explained a bit more about Factory, as well as what it means to be a Mocksville local. She confirmed that The Factory was the newest addition to downtown Mocksville, but the building itself was historically valuable, once a pharmacy from the early 1900’s. To pay homage to what the building once was, the owners hung up that bike–which once belonged to the pharmacist–on the wall. “He used to ride the bike up and down main street to make prescription deliveries to people’s homes,” Ayenna said. “The pharmacist knew where everyone lived and what each family’s’ prescriptions were.”

Ayenna was vibrant, compliant, and happy to answer questions about how long she’d lived in Mocksville and whether or not she enjoyed the familiarity of the town. She said that she grew up in Mocksville, surrounded by people who always said “that if you don’t get out of Mocksville by a certain point, you end up staying there your whole life.” Ayenna stated that when she was younger, she wanted nothing more than to move away from Mocksville. As she gets older, however, she admits to becoming more content with staying there. Knowing that the town could seem uneventful to outsiders, she continued to describe the different things there are to do in Mocksville: “There’s a movie theater fifteen minutes away,” she said. “And high school sports are a really big part of the community.”

The local high dsc_0431school homecoming game is one of the most exciting events in Mocksville during the fall. Ayenna pointed to the windows of the town’s favorite pub across the street, scrawled in orange paint: Beat the Mustangs!  Evidently the homecoming game was the night before and has been held in the same location for 65 years. “The whole community came out and they had all of the homecoming kings and queens from years’ past come out on the field,” said Ayenna.

When asked what her favorite Mocksville event was, Ayenna stated matter-of-factly, “the mattress car races.” For visitors who have no observed such an event, a mattress car race consists of Mocksville locals gathering on the main downtown strip to race their mattresses down the hill. “I can watch the races from the window of The Factory,” she said. Looking out the window, the image of those same mattresses plummeting down main street painted a stark contrast to the empty road, a quiet extension of Highway 64.


Downtown Cruisers in Lenoir

By Dustin Swope -2014

The town of Lenoir is one of North Carolina’s best examples of a community that keeps up with the times without cleaving itself into an urban metropole and a suburban sprawl. Residents come off as bright and polite, but there’s no denying that Lenoir is by most accounts a quiet, reserved town. Once a month, however, Lenoir becomes a near-unrecognizable sea of activity as the downtown undergoes a remarkable transformation to host the Lenoir Downtown Cruisers Auto Show.

Normally when you hear crowds, you think of elbow-rubbing that turns into elbow-throwing, small children without the words they need to tell their parents that they want to go home, and of course, sweat stains. The type of crowd that the Lenoir Downtown Cruisers pull together is so far from that uncomfortable image, but I have to say that the October 2014 rally was exceptionally pleasant. The main streets in downtown Lenoir are shut down for the auto show, reserving all roadside parking to put the cars on display and leaving plenty of space for attendees to drift from one eye-catching ride to the next without bumping into one another or causing a traffic jam.

According to estimates from the friendly folks working the event and Lenoir Downtown Cruisers President, Steve Cardwell himself(!), this particularly rally had attracted between 400 and 600 registered drivers looking for some well-earned recognition. Add in the throngs of Lenoir locals, car enthusiasts, and people just looking for a light-hearted saturday among good company, and it’s no surprise that the total headcount for the auto show was approaching 5,000 during peak hour. What was surprising was that all of these people, complete with cars, booths, and the like, could pack this modest little town without it feeling, well, packed!

Downtown Lenoir Cruisers

The key here is the sprawl: Lenoir offers the auto show both sides of nine blocks and three parking lots. This spaces everything out so that each car gets its own stage and a cut of the spotlight, but it also makes for a pretty enjoyable stroll around the area as you make your way along. Not once in over three hours did I see one non-owner touch a show car, and this without one yard of electrified cattle fencing or a hyper-alert owner treating visitors as if they’d come with the explicit purpose of kicking a headlight in. With such a relaxed environment, it was hard not to strike up a conversation with owners about their cars; they can tell when people like their cars, and they always have a great story behind their ride.

Another great thing about the Lenoir Downtown Cruisers shows is that there is no shortage of diversity, in either cars or drivers. If you have your heart set on finding a ‘42 Chevy pickup truck like your grandfather used to drive and show your friends a 2014 Corvette ZR1 like the kind you’re going to buy as soon as you cash your next paycheck, you’re in luck – The two cars will probably be parked right next to each other.

Lenoir Car Show

Take a minute to talk to the drivers and you’ll encounter reason after another to keep believing that anything is possible. For instance, a seventy-year old man showcasing a convertible pink ‘74 Cadillac he won in a poker game and a mother of three running the family’s Pontiac Firebird in stock drag races on the weekends would be highlights in their own right at most other events. At the Lenoir Downtown Cruisers shows though, these two characters aren’t just real, and it’s not just that they’re at the same place at the same time. No, this auto show pulls together car enthusiasm that defines families and perforates entire communities, so it should be no surprise that pink Caddy-driving grandpa is drag-racing mother of three’s father in law – Each blazing their own trail in the four-wheeled world, but coming together to share with and celebrate each other here in Lenoir.

The Lenoir Cruisers are definitely one of the most eclectic, open, and mutually appreciative automotive communities I’ve ever encountered, but if you spend enough time at one like I did, you start to realize that people come here to celebrate more than cars; people are here to celebrate what living in a community of family and friends means to them. Once I’d explored every avenue of downtown Lenoir, asking how people came to own their cars and what their day-job was along the way, I sat down at the speaker’s square to enjoy the live music and take in the scene from afar. Even from my stationary viewpoint, there was no shortage of children holding their parents’ hands, couples old and young alike walking together, clusters of kids out for a night on the town with minimum parental supervision, business owners affirming their place in the community, out-of-town’ers visiting Lenoir for the day to spice up their weekend and see a new side of North Carolina, and so on. It was the kind of scene that makes you think about what matters most, and I think that the Lenoir Cruisers auto show makes it very clear what that answer should be.

Asheboro Fall Festival

By Caroline Zybala – 2014

Miranda and Jewelry

Street View

On a brisk October Saturday, with the sun offering a warm glow, our group traveled to Asheboro for their annual Fall Festival. After having to turn around because we passed the main part of town where the fair was being held, we were able to park in the local court parking lot. Entering the fair from the side, we were immediately inundated with a mass of people and various tents that lined the street.We attempted to approach the fair in the most logical manner, wanting to see everything there in an efficient

manner. Staying to the right and filtering through the tents, seemed to be the most logical option, so we began our journey into the mass of people. Immediately, we were inundated with the sights and scents of the festival. Tents of all types, representing different organizations, had people calling out to the patrons of the festival, advertising their delectable treats or handmade crafts. With the

upcoming election, there were various tents with political parties handing out flyers of information for their respective candidates and issues. After winding through the many tents, nobody purchased any of the many deep fried treats, so we headed to grab some frozen yogurt to save ourselves from some grease.


Cow 3
Cows were dressed up by their owners and paraded for a contest

Cow 4 Cow 2 Cow 1

For Lovers of Crafts and Good Times

By Taylor Hill, 2013

It would seem that the town of Lake Lure has its fair share of attractions; of course with the expansive lake itself, which visitors get a mesmerizing view of while traveling Highway 64, the Blue Ridge Mountain range, its regal stature impossible to oversee, or the Town Beach, a man-made body of water that sits at the forefront of the large mountains, littered with floating inflatable platforms and plastic sliding tubes that lead into the depths of the water. These, being the most noted, are understandable reasons why Lake Lure is a recognizable western North Carolina tourist location, however, the town gives you yet another motive for visiting, specifically during the rustic fall months.

Lake Lure’s Arts and Crafts Festival – a title that holds no secrets- is a celebration of everything creative and locally made. From hand-crafted furniture, to intricately pieced jewelry, the Festival has no shortages in merchandise, and the sellers are not shy about informing visitors on the techniques and strategies implemented to produce such fine crafts. A product of the Hickory Nut Gorge Outreach–a charity organization that caters to the needs of residents within the Hickory Nut Gorge vicinity– the Arts and Crafts Festival is an annual event that hosts any artisan (after they have gone through the proper application process) who would like to showcase and/or profit from their talents . In 2013, the festival spanned the weekend of October 19th-20th, lasting from 10am-5pm each respective day, and was stationed, as it is every year, in the lot of the Arcade Commerce Center with a gorgeous view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

With over 60 artisans present, however, it is hard for visitors to even take notice of the majestic mountains along the horizon, between maneuvering through curious and awestruck attendees and meeting the likes of guests who come from all over. The vendors, usually amongst the older crowd, have separate tents for the purpose of housing their setups and are welcoming to any buyers or people who are just intrigued by their artistries. Regardless, there are trades to appease everyone in attendance, some being more abundant than others.

Among these are the artists who bring self-made paintings and drawings to the festival. These range from pastel watercolors, with unbelievably vibrant hues and elaborate detail to penciled and chalk abstract sketchings of intangible figures. The subject of the pieces varies from vendor to vendor, some taking a keen fondness for recreating natural environments in the artwork including animals, bodies of water, landmarks etc., while others had a knack for portraits of others and household objects like coffee mugs, tea kettles and furniture. Along those lines, there are always artisans present who represent the craftsman’s league and display hand-made chairs, ottomans, and benches, all of which exude a brilliant shine from being polished thoroughly. Materials for these pieces cover mahogany, oak, pine, birch walnut and maple and often contain personalized inscriptions from their creators. Another large numbered group of crafts, which is always in attendance, come from proclaimed jewelers whose pieces showcase the mastery of complex beading patterns, glass welding and delicate carving.

As if this bevy of designs was not enough to satiate visitors, vendors supply a variety of food and guests are more than welcome to eat in the picnic area adjacent to the creek. To accommodate festival goers further, entertainment is provided through song and dance from performers who emphasize the Bluegrass ambiance of the area, wielding guitars, fiddles, harmonicas and banjos.

Festival coordinators Yvonne and Kevin Cooley take explicit time and effort in constructing a lineup that accentuates the diversity of craftsmanship and variety of expertise alive in North Carolinians, which is why the Lake Lure Arts and Crafts Festival is always a success. It is a flawless exhibition of the cultural elements that comprise of the interesting and never dull foothills region.

Visit the Arts and Crafts Festival’s site!

Lexington’s Legacy: the 30th Annual Barbecue Festival

By Brynna Bantley, 2013

Lexington, North Carolina: Barbecue Capital of the World. To some, this may seem a daunting and mighty title to uphold; but for the citizens of Lexington, it’s simply tradition.

Lexington is nestled in the western part of North Carolina’s Piedmont region, with U.S. Highway 64 running through its center and time-honored barbeque sauce running through its veins. This town, whose spirit partially centers around the classic American cuisine, found it suitable to pay tribute with an annual barbeque festival. Mr. Joe Sink, Jr. founded the festival in 1984, unknowingly launching a ritual that would become one of the Country’s most popular food festivals. Upon its conception, the first festival provided some 3,000 pounds of barbeque to approximately 30,000 people. This year, the event celebrated its 30th anniversary by welcoming over 200,000 visitors to uptown Lexington. I, fortunately, was one of those guests.

On Saturday, October 26th, 2013, two fellow barbeque-lovers and I traveled on Highway 64 from Elon to the Mecca of barbeque. My excitement was through the roof as I could hardly wait to get my share of pulled pork, coleslaw, and corn bread. Seeing as the festival is always held on one of the last two Saturdays in October, the drive is sure to be a scenic one, and indeed it was. The prime time of the season when leaves are transforming into their deep reds, oranges, and yellows, provided for a beautiful and picturesque drive.

When we approached the outskirts of the town, it was evident that this was going to be a crowded, congested affair. Not yet near the center of town, people already roamed the middle of the streets, forcing cars to pull over and park in makeshift lots which seemed to be sitting directly on top of people’s front yards. We paid $3 to park, got out of the car, and were immediately swallowed into the flow of people heading towards what we could only assume was uptown Lexington. We passed multitudes of people handing out flyers, menus, free energy drinks, all of which I took but then immediately regretted; I should have brought a bigger bag.

Finally, we reached what seemed to be the beginning of the festival’s route. Tents, booths, and vendors lined the streets and side roads of uptown Lexington. A town of normally 19,000 was now, somehow, hosting over 200,000 people. To say there was very little elbowroom would be an understatement. Quickly overwhelmed, I decided to look up a map of the festival on my phone for guidance. I stared in awe at the diagram that showed nine blocks of over 400 exhibitors that lay ahead of us. Six stages were also noted on the map, soon to be graced by country superstars such as Darius Rucker, Joe Nichols, and Brett Eldridge, along with many more talented artists. My heart sped up at the thrill of seeing Darius Rucker perform, for free no less! I made a mental note to make it to Stage 1 by 3:15.

We walked along N. Main Street, passing vendor after vendor. The merchandise was what you might expect from any typical town festival: handcrafted jewelry, hand-knitted scarves, artisanal bath soaps, and carved wooden bowls. Something there seemed to be significantly more of, however, was pigs. Not actual pigs, but pig-themed paraphernalia. Aprons with pigs on them, ceramic pig figurines, pig outfits for your dog, even Bibles with pigs on them. Anything you can think of, I assure you, was at the Lexington Barbeque Festival and was undoubtedly decorated with pigs. Spread throughout the town, if you were to wander down the side streets as I did, you could also see giant colorful pigs, part of a public art initiative called “Pigs in the City”. These oversized pigs were made primarily of fiberglass and were all painted by local artists. My personal favorites were “Swine Lake”, dressed as a ballerina; “Girl Snout”, the Girl Scout pig; and “Rain or Swine”, a pig accompanied by his very own umbrella.

So, we made our way through the festival, pig by pig, hoping that we would soon find the kind of pig we came for: barbequed. Every few feet, we encountered wafts of delicious smelling food. A woman would pass with a savory Bloomin Onion, then a man with roasted corn on the cob. We were salivating and starving, searching desperately for some highly-acclaimed Lexington ‘que. But everywhere we looked we were met with the usual fried delicacies (and the unusual, including, no joke, fried butter) instead of pulled pork and Brunswick stew. I am inclined to say that no such food tent even existed at the Festival, for I never saw one. Nevertheless, we voyaged onward through crowds of people and past countless attractions.

After having spent the majority of the day wandering and exploring uptown Lexington, we decided to call it a day and head out. Don’t fret though; I had not yet aborted my mission to find authentic Lexington barbeque. Perhaps it would be better anyways, I thought, to stop at a small local joint instead of elbowing my way in line at one of the tents (if one even existed). So we made our way back to the car, after having a brief panic attack over forgetting where we parked, and left the mass organized chaos that was the Lexington Barbeque Festival.

Back on Highway 64, I stopped for gas and kept my eyes peeled for any small barbeque joints that caught my attention. Not too far out, right on the side of US Hwy 64, stands Randy’s Restaurant, serving Lexington Style Barbeque and Country Cookin’. From the looks of it, an old brick building with a low roof and few windows, you wouldn’t think much of the place. Indeed, it’s not the fanciest of establishments, but holds it’s own in terms of quality food and service. We were immediately seated amongst small families and groups of co-workers who seemed to be on their lunch break. I made the assumption that this was a local joint, frequented by folks who wanted quick, quality food at a reasonable price. And reasonable it was; I ordered the pulled pork barbeque plate with coleslaw, green beans, and cornbread, all for six dollars. At last the time had come, the meal for which I had been waiting.

A barbeque aficionado of sorts, I rated this meal high on my list. The coleslaw, I ordered white as opposed to red, was finely chopped and had an even flavor profile between sweet and savory, not too vinegary yet not too mayonnaisey. The green beans were reminiscent of home, cooked for hours with bacon and onion, and reminded me of some of the best BBQ I’ve had from my native Atlanta, Georgia. The pulled pork was the most foreign thing on my plate, for I have never encountered barbeque sauce with such a thin and vinegary consistency. Iconic of this region in North Carolina, the standard is a vinegar-based “red sauce” seasoned with vinegar, ketchup, and pepper. It was unlike the thicker, sweeter barbeque sauce that I’m used to, but tasty all the same. I devoured the meal, having worked up an appetite from the day’s excitement, and was finally satisfied with my Lexington BBQ experience.

The Annual Barbeque Festival was a spectacle of a lifetime, a spectacle that has been recognized the world over for its excellence. The event has been listed as one of the Top Ten Food Festivals in the U.S. by Travel and Leisure Magazine, as one of the Top Ten Great Places to Celebrate Food by USA Today!, and as one of the 1000 Places to See in the USA and Canada Before You Die in the book based on the best-selling series. Needless to say, the Annual Barbeque Festival survives off and thrives on the faithful tradition of Lexington Barbeque; a tradition that started a hundred years ago and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. As any connoisseur would know, Lexington truly is the best of the best; it’s barbeque, and it’s festival, are legendary.

Siler City Farmers Market

By Grace Elkus and Brynna Bantley, 2013

The Siler City Farmer’s Market is more than just a produce stand. It’s a community of local farmers and craftspeople, all eager to share their handcrafted products and personal stories with any passerby. Small though it may be, the farmers market is vital to the town of Siler City.

Many of the vendors are family-run businesses, including Lindley Farms Creamery. Casey Campbell, who was selling the creamery’s products at the farmer’s market, is the fourth generation of the farm, which has been around since the 1930s. Originally just a milk farm, the family opened up the creamery side two years ago in and now sells cheddar, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses, along with a variety of cheese spreads, seasonal ice creams, and their well-known and innovative fresh mozzarella cheesecakes. “It was an accident,” Campbell said of the cheesecakes. “We tried to make cheese and it flopped, so my mom put eggs and stuff in it and baked it. It came out really good.”

The process is now perfected. Fresh whole milk is taken from the farm’s 150 Guernsey and Holstein cows and is then pasteurized in the farm facility, which turns it into mozzarella cheese curds. The curds are mixed with a few ingredients, baked in the oven, and glazed with a “special” sour cream topping.

The creamery is owned by two sisters, Janice Lindley and Ann Campbell. The dairy and farming is managed by Lindley and her nephew, J.B., and the creamery is operated by Campbell and her daughter Casey.  Whether the business will continue to stay in the family, however, is up in the air. Casey said she isn’t sure whether she will take over the business, because although she feels confident with the creamery work, she is less familiar with her aunt’s side of the business. “I pull the cheese, and help pasteurize the milk, and then package and label everything,” she said. “But I really don’t know that much about the farming side.”

Campbell’s brother has already made a decision not to be involved in the family business, choosing to pursue a pharmaceutical career instead. He did, however, contribute to the slogan, ‘From Moo to You’. “He’s so uncreative, and when he said that, we were like, ‘actually, that’s pretty good!’” Campbell said.

Campbell’s favorite product is the pumpkin cheesecake, which is only sold in autumn. Other seasonal products include a Key Lime cheesecake in the spring and German Chocolate, Caramel, and Molasses cheesecakes for the winter holidays. The creamery, which is located in Snowcamp, is about a 15-minute drive from Siler City. Although none of the products are sold in grocery stores, they can be found at local farmers markets, and orders can be placed and picked up at the farm.

While we were chatting with Casey about our project and the reason for which we were interviewing her, she pointed in the direction of another tent and said, “That’s the guy you really want to talk to.”

So while Campbell brainstormed cheesecake flavors, we found Tom Mastej of Silk Hope Organic Produce sitting close by under his own tent, brainstorming something else entirely.

His tent was plush with various types, sizes, and colors of vegetables, many of which were tomatoes. “I just took three pounds of these tomatoes, put them in a five gallon pail, added two cups of honey and water, and six months from now I’m gonna have tomato wine,” he said. “And if I wait a year, it’ll be even better.” We found this innovative, crazy endeavor to perfectly reflect his personality.

Mastej, whose unofficial slogan is, ‘If it’s not fun, I don’t do it,’ has owned and operated Silk Hope for 12 years. Apart from two guys who he says ‘are a bastard to work for,’ Mastej runs the farm all by himself. Born and raised in New Jersey, he said he moved down to North Carolina “to live.”

“The city, you live there all your life, you’re there, you think it’s fine,” he explained. “But after you move away, you go up and visit and you’re driving along the Jersey Turnpike and you wonder, ya know, I need a gas mask, how did I live here?”

His desire for the slower, simpler pace of the south is evident. His reasons for moving down here seem to be rooted in this yearning for small town America, and anyone who understands this endeavor as financially motivated is poorly mistaken. “You ever hear the story of the farmer who became a millionaire?,” he asked. “He started with two million and now he’s got one? Well, it’s true.” But this sad fortune does not deter Mastej, nor does it dampen his spirits. He’s not in it for the money — it’s his passion for how food is grown, prepared, and consumed that keeps him in the business.

What’s more, his passion has given way to knowledge and advice. He advises everyone to eat their vegetables raw, to never eat anything that has been genetically modified, and, above all, don’t put anything in the microwave. “Might as well just kill yourself,” he said, “because that’s what you’re doing.”

So if microwaving is killing us, what’s curing us? Mastej has an answer to this as well: “Garlic spikes,” he said. “Nowadays, the ways the laws are, everything’s becoming so draconian that you’d be arrested for saying this and saying that. But I’m gonna tell you anyways. For thousands of years,” he said as he holds up long, thin green blades, “these have kept the doctors out of business.” He hands us each a piece to try and, after biting off a small taste, we would have warded away any vampires to say the least. Garlic spikes are the cuttings from garlic bulbs and can be used to season just about anything, including soups and stir-fry.

Manej is a charming, personable, and vibrant individual who exemplifies the character of all the vendors at the market. Their love of food, local goods, and conversing with people keeps them coming back every Saturday.