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.

Smoking in the Foothills Festival

By Jenny Kane

Right as we arrived in downtown Lenoir at around 11:30am on that Saturday, October 21st, we could already here the sound of live music playing and people crowding around the small area. Most of the shops on the strip were closed apart from a coffee shop and a restaurant that were located side-to-side. The entire festival was only two blocks long, but it was entirely lined with barbecue vendors, craft vendors, and information tents. Right at the center of the festival was a stage tucked into a patio with a live band playing folk and blue grass tunes. Entire extended families were filing in to get seats on the grass and the smoky aroma of barbecue filled the entire event.  

 

Eager to try some of Lenoir’s famous barbecue, I went up to the tent that had the most trophies in front of it. We found out that on top of the festival was both a barbecue competition and a poker tournament, and restaurants, vendors, and poker players actually come from across the nation to compete in this festival. That would also explain the large crowd of bikers with their affiliated gang jackets, as they made up the majority of the crowd that surrounded the poker tent.

 

However, I was slightly disappointed that there were only two barbecue tents from North Carolina, and only one of those two was actually from the City of Lenoir. Nonetheless, I was already hungry, so I hopped in line at the most decorated tent, knowing well what I was going to order. I asked for a half a rack of ribs and the woman kindly responded that they took cash only. I immediately panicked as I hadn’t been able to reach an ATM yet and was out of cash. What shocked me the most was when the woman told me she would give me the ribs and I could come back and pay here that day once I got to an ATM. Luckily, my friend Claire had a ten-dollar bill and took care of it for me, but I was extremely appreciative of the respect and honor that woman gave to me, knowing that if it came down to it, I would of course come back with the cash. My next question to her was where they were from. She said she and her mobile restaurant partners had driven all the way from Ohio to be at this event and were on their way to several others afterwards.

 

Digging into the first rib, I was immediately in barbecue heaven. It was like nothing I had ever tasted before. The glaze was thinner than I had expected but had the perfect blend of acidity and sweetness that every good barbecue should have. The base was clearly tomato, also something I had never experienced before. Finally, the pork melted right off the bone, and I finished all six ribs and made sure to lick my fingers after and tell the vendor how much I loved them.

 

After sitting and watching the band play while eating my ribs, we decided to walk around a little more to get a sense of what other vendors there were. We had been to a few festivals and farmer’s markets already on our journey and were happy to see that this festival had all local soap, candle, and craft vendors—nothing too commercial. Everyone we talked to was extremely kind and friendly, and it was amazing to see how many outreach groups were there spreading their information and trying to reach out to the community. Overall, this was the most comfortable I felt on our entire trip, as there wasn’t a moment that I felt like we didn’t fit in or felt like tourists.

Right Place, Right Time: Lake Lure has a lot to Offer

By Claire Gaskill

        Along the winding road of Highway 64 lies Lake Lure. This small town is known for its parks, historic landmarks, and, as denoted by its name, winding lake. Lake Lure is not vast in size, with a population just shy of 2,000 people, but it’s landmarks cannot be missed during a journey down Highway 64. When traveling from the west, you will first stumble upon the grand entrance to Chimney Rock State Park. A quick turn in will lead you through a tree lined climb up to the state park entrance. The road, which is surprisingly wide enough to fit two-way traffic, is a difficult drive. However, the clearing at the top that houses the Chimney Rock entrance is a welcome surprise. The entrance is home to a guardhouse that must be passed through before being admitted into the park. While waiting in line to speak with the park guard, the view is incredible. You can see Chimney Rock and the hike up along with a beautiful blue sky and autumn leaves if you, like us, visit on a clear October morning. Be advised, however, that admission into the park is not without cost. At a rate of $13 per adult and $6 per child, tickets to this unique experience can be purchased both online and at the park entrance gate. This seemingly steep admission cost caught us by surprise. As a result, we turned around and braved the treacherous drive once over to see what else Lake Lure had to offer.

            Suffering from car sickness from the windy drive along Highway 64, the Lake Lure Beach and Water Park was a welcome sight. This park was not only beautiful, but it was free.  A small information building sat just beyond the parking lot as the first stop in the park before venturing beyond to find basketball courts and grassy fields, each leading to Lake Lure. Sitting down a hill, the lake, which is the namesake for the town, can easily be confused for a river. Its narrow and winding path is home to docks and boats, and its shoreline is fairly undeveloped beyond a smattering of houses. The public access to the lake’s beach is free of charge and full of outdoor resources. We were not alone on our early Saturday morning visit: a pick-up game was taking place with children on the basketball court, locals were walking along the lake, and families were enjoying a picnic breakfast on the park picnic tables. That being said, just driving through, there was not much to do at the lake beyond enjoy the much need fresh air to settle sick stomachs. After an enjoyable walk, we once again piled into the car in search of our next destination.

            Lucky for us, the next destination was right across the street. Upon pulling out of the beach parking lot, we were shocked to see what appeared to be a village of tents, especially so early on Saturday morning when the rest of the town appeared to still be sleeping and store fronts were closed. We were eager to park and see what all the excitement was about. To our thrill, we had lined our trip up perfectly with the bi yearly Lake Lure Arts and Crafts Festival. The festival happens each year for two days during a weekend in October and for three days during Memorial Day weekend. For more information on the fair, read For Lovers of Crafts and Good Times by other student visitors that also experienced the Festival. As fans of soaps and candles, we were beyond impressed by the offerings of this festival.  With rows and rows of vendors as well as a few food trucks, the over 60 artisans presented their homemade creations under white tents.  Their work ranged from fairly expensive pottery to more unique homemade dolls and children’s toys.

We were first attracted to the candles at the Fresh Scent Soy Candles booth. The Spains, an outgoing and friendly husband and wife duo that run the business, educated us on their products, associated benefits, and the creation process. As we smelled all of their unique candle flavors, they were thrilled to share a detailed account of what differentiates their product from candles sourced from stores. Each soy candle is sold in a glass, mason-like jar and priced at $10. We were so impressed by the candles and their maker that we collectively purchased two. After walking around and fully immersing ourselves in all the festival had to offer, our final stop was Bully Bites. Attracted to their tent by their bulldog mascot, this homemade, all natural dog treat vendor was a great end to our visit. After chatting with the baker, we learned that although these dog treats rival their store-bought competitors, they are very different. They are fresh, meaning they either need to be refrigerated or frozen, and contain ingredients that contend with human food. Creating these treats is an effort to make dogs healthier; only wholesome ingredients are used and preservatives are omitted for a high-quality product. Excited by the healthy differences in these dog treats, we bought two unique $10 bags to bring back to our pups. As we paid with our credit cards, we were surprised by the connectivity of such a remote event. Although it took a second to load the Square app due to minimal internet service, it was fairly common to accept credit cards at the festival.

After a successful stop and multiple purchases, we headed back towards the car. Fulfilled by our time in Lake Lure, we were excited to get back on the road.

Fly Away at the Carolina BalloonFest

By Claire Gaskill

            It’s not every day you see one hot air balloon. At the Carolina BalloonFest, however, you can see handfuls of these helium filled flying baskets. This event entertains families with over 50 balloons the third full weekend each October. Located at the Statesville Regional Airport in Statesville, North Carolina, this festival is grand to say the least; it attracts locals, visitors, and sponsors for a three-day event by holding a variety of scheduled activities centered around hot air balloons and families. That being said, timing arrival to the festival with the scheduled events is essential and preplanning is a requirement to truly maximize the experience.

            Tickets can be purchased online, and it is important to do so in advance. We learned the hard way that the event times will sell out, especially during balloon lightings and lift off. Therefore, a pre-purchased ticket well in advance will ensure you get the most out of your experience. We were disappointed to have missed the Evening Glow Window event (where the balloons are lit up during dusk) due to tickets being sold out. Furthermore, the balloon launch occurs only twice a day at most (weather conditions can alter the schedule), so if that sight is one you are seeking, planning attendance during the short window where balloons take flight is essential. However, do not fret if you cannot arrive during your ideal time. The festival has a variety of activities and a packed schedule. No matter your arrival time, you will find something exciting to fill your festival visit.

            When we arrived at the festival at 10am on Sunday morning, we were by no means the first ones there. The crowd, seemingly early risers, was vast and parking was already a hike from the event itself. Multiple entrance gates and parking lots funneled into the open field at the airport that housed the event. The informal setting was contained by a radius of sponsor tents along the near side and vendor tents (which included food and crafts) along the far side. In addition to the variety of tents, the perimeter also included an alcohol section, featuring booths from local wineries and breweries, and an area for children with bouncy houses and other carnival games. Inside the circle of tents and vendors, the festival was fairly bare. There were two balloon activities and a stage for the performers who were scheduled to join later in the day. A colorful carpet of picnic blankets also covered the dewy grass where parents sat watching their kids play in the open field. Immediately, we were drawn to a tent selling fudge and candied apples. After laughing with the friendly vendor about the lack of fresh fudge around Elon, we decided on a flavor and continued exploring.

            Beyond wondering through the maze of vendors, visitors also had the opportunity to wait in one of the two lengthy lines to spend $5 for a chance to go for a small lift in a tethered hot air balloon. Given this was the only way to truly experience riding in one of the balloons at the festival beyond scheduling a pricey and limited private flight, the line was extremely long. We decided to save the time and money and skip that opportunity.  There was also an additional hot air balloon that visitors could pay for the opportunity to take a picture inside.

            Since we were trying to save our money after paying for the admissions ticket, we were surprised by the lack of activities available to us through the ticket purchase. The number of sponsors in comparison to vendors and the additional cost of many of the attractions was a surprise. We did, however, have the free opportunity to watch a hot air balloon be set up.  This process allowed us to see how the balloon goes from being rolled up in the back of a truck to taking flight. That was a really interesting and unique experience; it was the highlight of the festival for us!

            As we pulled out of the parking lot and drove down the narrow dirt road exiting the airport, we reflected back on the experience a little disappointed by the lack of opportunities a general admissions ticket furnishes. If we were to do it again, we would really consider the schedule of events before going. We felt that it was not worth visiting if there was not an event you were really interested in happening. For future trips, we decided the best way to maximize the experience is to purchase a ticket well in advance for a time period when the balloons are scheduled to take flight. After coming to these conclusions, we were back on the road to our next destination.

Taylorsville’s 38th Annual Apple Festival

By Micaela Soucy

The town of Taylorsville is nestled between two major North Carolina cities, Winston-Salem and Charlotte. It lies just off of Highway 64 at the cross section of Highway 90 and Highway 16. Driving into town we passed many commercial shops and restaurants crowded together. This gave the impression of a town influenced by financial gain instead of a town dedicated to its locals and the mom and pop shops that come with such a town.

 

However, the amount of people attending the Taylorsville Apple Festival that day gave a completely different impression. The website for the festival claims “the Taylorsville Apple Festival is held on the third Saturday of October and draws thousands of visitors to enjoy the day of entertainment, food and fun!” One thing they got right was the number of attendees the event draws in. Walking through the streets of downtown Taylorsville felt like pushing my way to the front of the crowd at a concert, a never-ending struggle against bodies also pushing in all directions.  

 

This festival has been around since 1988, which makes this year’s the 29th annual festival. Each year approximately 35,000 attendees pack the downtown streets lined with booths and food carts. Three stages are set up throughout the town also, featuring youth performers, gospel performers and more. Crowds stand or seat themselves in front of these stages to enjoy the music with family and friends. A big grassy area houses the Kid’s Korner, which features blow up slides with lines of kids and a decent sized petting farm with goats, ponies and even a camel.

 

Venturing up and down the streets, we were highly disappointed with the items and food that we saw. The table booths displayed repetitive articles of jewelry, clothing and art. A lot of it didn’t even look like it had been handmade. We were expecting booths that would feature items one would see at a craft fair, but it wasn’t the case. As for the food. Being an apple festival we imagined there being different types of foods made with apples. Candy apples, apple pie, apple sauce, apple cobbler. We also thought there would be tons of different kinds of apples to purchase. However, the only things we saw were apple cider and one small tent selling a few types of apples. The majority of the food stands sold fair food: fried dough, nachos, pretzels, cotton candy, etc.

 

We had arrived to the festival at around 2:00 p.m. and despite having a semi-big lunch we were craving something to fill our stomachs. As we passed food stand by food stand and only saw fair food, we came to the realization we weren’t going to find anything better. We had to eat something they were selling. As we passed one food truck the same word slipped out of all our mouths at the same time: “Dapples…”

 

Our minds immediately went to the assignment we had in class where we had to write about a time we tried a new, weird food. Upon approaching the truck, we were greeted by a friendly young woman. “What’s a dapple?” we asked.

 

“A dapple is an apple ring fried in donut batter.”

 

That was all she needed to say. We were convinced. Even knowing I have a gluten allergy, I still wanted to eat a dapple. The three of us eagerly received the cardboard tray full of fried apple rings sprinkled in powdered sugar.

 

My first bite into the fluffy exterior was like heaven to my taste buds, especially since I haven’t eaten anything containing gluten for quite some time. However, as soon as my tongue touched the apple slice, it was immediately revolted. It was hot and slimy and seemed like the apple taste had been cooked right out of it. The texture was the weird part though because it contrasted too much with the doughnut dough.

 

Upon completing the dapples we realized our stomachs weren’t agreeing with the fried apple slices. Unfortunately, it was a day full of disappointments. I think this stemmed from the fact that our expectations were vastly different from reality. Had we done more research we might have known what we were getting ourselves into.

 

Despite my unenthusiastic assessment of the Taylorsville Apple Festival, the other attendees appeared to enjoy their time there. I don’t encourage readers to think that my experience is necessarily going to be their experience. Events like this are all what each individual makes of it. I do encourage readers to visit and explore the festival to experience it on their own.

Never Blue

By Jenny Kane

Hendersonville is a lively town home to a variety of shops and restaurants that line the downtown streets. Arriving on a beautiful Friday afternoon in October, we were able to witness the hustle and bustle of the throng of tourists and locals as they sat out sipping drinks at cafes or browsed the shelves in the locally owned shops. Smiling faces greeted us everywhere we went, providing a warm sense of welcome.

 

The streets of Hendersonville at night are much emptier than during the daytime hours. However, the people that once populated the streets are now seated in the various restaurants enjoying a delicious and filling dinner. With the amount of options available in the town it’s amazing anyone is able to come to a decision. There are restaurants for those craving a quick bite in a casual setting, for those hoping for a longer meal with multiple courses, and for those looking for something in between.

 

Jenny and I spent our night at the bar of Never Blue, a restaurant known for their offerings of tapas that feature a variety of cuisines from around the world. And honestly, I don’t think there is enough buzz surrounding this place. We ordered an assortment of tapas so that we could experience the many tastes they claim to offer. We started with the hummus plate that came with fried naan bread, carrots, celery and house pickles, and the chili-garlic shrimp, which consisted of mini shrimp swimming in a spicy-sweet house-made chili garlic sauce. The hummus, while still good, was nothing special and tasted like something I could have picked up from the grocery store. The shrimp, however. Oh, the shrimp! Now I’m a huge shrimp person as it is, but the sauce was just the right amount of spicy and sweet and had the perfect mixture of chili and garlic. It was my favorite dish of the entire trip.

 

From there we ordered separate dishes based on our own interests. Jenny got the beans and rice and the tuna poke. I got the eggplant fries and an al pastor taco. The eggplant fries were nothing like what I expected them to be, but that was probably because I was expecting something similar to a real French fry. The consistency, however, was very different. These fries were much softer and mushier, which left a weird texture in my mouth, almost like baby food. And you definitely have to enjoy the taste of eggplant in order to enjoy these fries. The taco, which had pork and onions and a pineapple salsa on a corn tortilla, was another one of my favorites from the weekend. I am a huge fan of incorporating pineapple into as many dishes as possible (yes, this means I like pineapple on pizza), so the fact that this ingredient was a factor in the taste just made it all the better.

 

The friendly atmosphere of Never Blue only added to the feast we enjoyed that night. Sitting at the bar allowed us to converse with other restaurant patrons, something that helped us gain valuable knowledge about not only Hendersonville, but also some of the other towns on our itinerary. But out of all the places we traveled to that weekend, our experience at Never Blue is the one that I value the most. My stomach will eventually lead me back to Hendersonville and the exquisite cuisine at Never Blue.

1841 Café Review

By Jenny Kane

1841 Café is one of the many restaurants and shops nestled along Main Street in Lenoir, North Carolina. Lining the sidewalk in front of the entrance there lies a makeshift deck with tables and umbrellas for the lucky few who get to dine and enjoy the outdoors. The interior offers much more room with multiple dining rooms and a long bar. Unfortunately, we timed our visit to line up with that of the BBQ festival in town, so we ate in a nearly empty restaurant. Despite this, the exceedingly animated hostess was able to fill the café with an air of hospitality and kindness unlike any other restaurant.

 

There seemed to be a theme among employees at the café as our server was almost as outgoing and sociable as the hostess. She reminded me of a young grandma feeding her grandchildren. When the entire table ordered salads because of our previous 24 hours of heavy eating, she exclaimed, “I hope you’re saving room for dessert!” We were sorry to disappoint her.

 

My plate consisted of a bed of spring mix with tomatoes and cucumbers topped with chicken salad and dressed in a delicious raspberry vinaigrette. Simple but delightful, I enjoyed this dish very much as a light lunch. The portion size, though huge, was enough so that I could eat until I was just full. The chicken salad was what piqued my interest when I was looking at the menu and it did not disappoint. I’ve always heard that the key to a good chicken salad is to put just enough mayonnaise so that the ingredients are covered, but not so much that the ingredients are drowning. 1841 Café must have heard this secret as well, because their chicken salad was perfectly dressed in the right amount of mayonnaise. The addition of the raspberry vinaigrette added a touch of sweetness that made my mouth tingle.

 

To add another taste to my palate, I ordered sweet potato fries with a spicy mayonnaise on the side. It’s hard to mess up fries so it’s no surprise the café did an excellent job with those as well. They were cooked just how I liked them, still soft, but a bit crispy as well. The spicy mayo added a heat to fries that I’ve never experienced before. My stomach left content.

 

Though Lenoir is a small town with not much to show except for the annual BBQ festival, I could find myself traveling back down just to bask in the friendliness of the town and its locals. Working at a restaurant is no easy task, yet the staff contributes such a positive presence that it’s hard not to respond equally as affable. For anyone traveling through the Lenoir area needing a bite to eat, I suggest stopping at 1841 Café.

Black Rose Public House: An Irish Pub in the Heart of the Foothills

By Jenny Kane

Our stomachs were growling as we arrived to downtown Hendersonville at around 3pm on a Friday afternoon in the middle of October. In spite of this ravenous hunger, we searched for the nearest sports bar we could find. What we encountered was an Irish pub called Black Rose Public House right at the center of the downtown area, only about 20 yards from the city courthouse. Looking at their menu, the pub seemed to offer a variety of both American and Irish dishes as well as a full bar with 24 hand-picked beer and cider taps. The bar looked newly renovated and was preparing for the Halloween festivity as seen by its intricate decorations. There were a few parties sitting both in and outside, enjoying the sunny fall afternoon. We decided to sit at the bar and immediately began scanning the menu for the heartiest dishes they served. I also took a chance to look over the list of beers they had on tap, and was appreciative to see that a majority were from local Hendersonville and Asheville brewing companies. Looking up from the menu I saw four flat screen TV’s, playing both the local news and the golf channel, which gave me a feeling of surprising comfort in this new place after driving three long hours and not having eaten anything since the early morning.

 

When the bartender suggested the Black Rose Burger, I knew I had to try it. Leaving my usual picky tendencies behind, I told the bartender to load the burger up with whatever came on it and tested my fate. What came from the kitchen only a short fifteen minutes later was a massive black angus cheeseburger with white cheddar cheese, freshly slices pickles, onion, and tomato on a brioche bun, and on the side, beer-battered French fries. I was in heaven. Taking the first bite I thought I would never be able to fit the entire thing in my mouth, but I managed. Next was an explosion of savory charred flavor with a background of acidic pickle that complemented each other magnificently. I housed it down in 5 minutes and washed it down with a cold Hendersonville Pale Ale. Not only was the bartender extremely friendly, but the entire atmosphere of the pub was emanating with warmth and comfort. Before leaving, I made sure to ask what led upstairs when first walking in the door. Surprisingly, the restaurant expands into an upstairs dining and bar area for large sporting events or holidays. Although it was a slow time of the day, it was hard for me to imagine a completely full house in a relatively small, cozy place in Hendersonville, who’s population hardly exceeds 13,800 people.

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.

West Wood Fired Grill & The Poe House

By Maggy McGloin

Arriving late to Hendersonville on a Saturday night, the limited options of open storefronts left us with one mission: find the perfect eatery and bar. After some online research, supplemented by searching around the downtown corridors, we stumbled upon West Wood Fired Grill, an apparent town favorite. The restaurant describes themselves as an establishment that “create(s) handcrafted food with a Mediterranean aesthetic, and feature whole-wheat thin crust pizzas, organic pastas, rustic salads and soups, desserts and breads” (West First Wood Fired Pizza). When we walked in, we were immediately transfixed by the scent of smoky pizzas, fresh vegetables, and a warm aesthetic. The dining room and bar area were bustling with business, so with a wait-time of 45 minutes, we decided to take a few minutes to explore the town and its surrounding shops.

 

After walking outside into the brisk cold of Foothills October, we stumbled into the nearest bar we could find to escape the weather. Little did we know that this would be one of our favorite spots along  Highway 64. The Poe House sits around the corner from West First Wood Fired Pizza, with an inconspicuous basement entrance framed with crows and purple lights. The entrance opens into a warm, inviting room equipped with an acoustic guitar player, racks of wine hung clumsily on the wall, and a dim ambiance created by candlelight. The Poe House was a rustic alterfullsizerender-2native to the usual bar we had become accustomed to college towns. The bar describes themselves as “coming off somewhere between English Pub and trendy wine bar. The Poe House is a legendary hangout for locals and visitors alike. A cozy place to enjoy live music, a craft beer from our ever-changing draft list or a flight of hand selected wines.

 

The drink menu incites a debate between ordering a classic IPA or going for something a bit more local to Hendersonville and the surrounding area. Surprisingly, the bartender recommended the best drink to be the “cookie dough beer.” This beer was brewed specially in North Carolina and had a cookie dough aftertaste due to a manipulated brewing process–inspired by the flavors of Ben & Jerry’s. While we enjoyed our drinks, taking photos and recording notes of the experience, another patron of the Poe House approached us to ask what we were doing. We explained to him the Highway 64 project, capturing culture along North Carolina’s most historically rich highway. He said in return, “What a fun class that must be; you all should cherish not being stuck in a classroom.” After enjoying our beers, a small appetizer of Apple Brie Crostini, and some good conversation with both Henderson locals and visitors alike, our buzzer for West First signified that it was time to move upstairs.

 

After being seated at West First, we ordered a caprese plate and three different craft pizzas–including unique toppings such as honey and goat cheese–to share. The restaurant was dimmed; everyone feeling as if they belonged to a similar jovial fellowship. “An imposing glass mosaic tiled oven stands like an altar at the center of a dynamic open kitchen where cooks rhythmically perform the culinary rites and pizzas are tossed, pastas are sautéed, and homemade desserts are carefully plated,” says the restaurant’s website. We learned that all of the grains for pasta and pizza are hafullsizerenderndmade in the early morning and served up until dinner time. The produce and cheeses are outsourced as locally as possible, giving business to the booming farms of local Hendersonville.

 

The rest of the night was filled with warm exchanges, delicious Italian food, and reflections upon our trip thus far. Getting a legitimate taste of downtown Hendersonville only encouraged us to take a deeper look at what the small, yet bustling town has to offer.

 

The Annual Statesville Pumpkin Festival

By Kate Flinn

A stop in Statesville led to an unexpected surprise of closed roads and throngs of people: the annual Statesville Pumpkin Festival, a beloved community tradition that marks the start of the fall season for this quaint little town. Almost immediately upon arrival, we fell upon the festival’s main stage, garnished to theme with hay and various fall squashes. A young band occupied the stage, performing a twangy, though otherwise on-key, rendition of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” Excited about this sudden turn of events, we decided to tackle the festival head on.

Statesville is one of the oldest towns in the state, founded in 1789 shortly after North Carolina joined the United States. Due to a series of fires that plagued the original infrastructure, most of what is today recognized as historic downtown Statesville was constructed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The town’s pride for the history and community are evident throughout the festival. Festival-goers interested in learning more about Statesville are encouraged to visit the town’s historical collection, just down the street from what locals refer to as “the square.” For those seeking out recreation, the festival boasts attractions for attendees of all ages. Guests can stroll down historic Main Street and choose from a huge selection of local food vendors. From traditional North Carolina barbeque to enormous Greek gyros, this festival has it all. Personally, I opted for an appetizer of one of my favorite treats: a powdered sugar covered funnel cake.

Aligning with the peculiar human passion for smashing things, attendees of all ages can line up for the chance to bludgeon a pumpkin with a large sledgehammer. Sounds relatively straightforward, right? Yet these attempts may be the most entertaining part of the festival. For as many people lined up to try, there were observers in the crowd, watching five- and fifty-year-olds take a crack at it with a good laugh.

For those willing to fight the crowds and branch out into the streets surrounding Main Street, much more awaits at the Statesville Pumpkin Festival. Diving headfirst down a side street, one will find a sea of merchandise vendors. Hesitantly glancing at a few of the vendor’s booths, we spotted everything from handmade jewelry to mason jars of from-scratch butters and jams. The plethora of options is nearly counterintuitive, inducing an over-stimulated trance that makes it difficult to choose where to begin.

One stand in particular–the unbranded soy-candle tent with over fifty unique flavors–was a big hit for any self-diagnosed candle addict. Of the couple selling the candles, it was the husband who began making candles when a back injury put him out of work. He and his wife import the soy locally from Raleigh and use scented oils to craft their signature flavors including “Sandalwood” and “Clean Linen.” After smelling every single scent they had to offer, at least twice, I settled on the “Ocean Breeze” scent and walked away excited about the new addition to my collection.

Amidst the seemingly endless expanse of tents, booths, and vendors, non-shoppers may enjoy strolling through the Festival’s antique car show. From vintage pickup trucks to glimmering muscle cars, the assemblage of old-fashioned automobiles is bound to transport visitors through time. Though hours could be spent milling through the festival’s beer garden or watching the line up of scheduled performances, for the sake of the college student budget, it was time to end our day there. Though our experience at the Statesville Pumpkin Festival was unplanned, the sounds, smells and history of historic downtown Statesville will stick with us long after we continue our journey down Highway 64.