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Interview with Gail Godwin about Grief Cottage

Started by Rob Neufeld in AC-T Book Reviews Aug 3, 2017.

Ellington in Asheville--a survey

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Oct 6, 2017.

Dave Minneman, heroic portrait

Started by Rob Neufeld in Local History Aug 25, 2017.

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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The Tale of Ononis

The Tale of Ononis by Rob Neufeld Part 1: The Making of a Celebrity ❧  Hare Begins His Tale  Ononis was my region’s name.People now call it Never-the-same.I’ll start with the day a delivery came. The package I got was a devil’s dare,Swaddled and knotted in Swamp Bloat hairAnd bearing, in red, one word: “Beware!” Bloats are creatures from the Land of Mud Pies,Wallowing in waste with tightly closed eyesUntil fears bring tears and the bleary bloats rise.   ❧  Hare’s Colleagues  I asked my boss,…See More
Friday
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event

Drop Your Troubles: A Solo Storytelling Performance with Connie Regan-Blake at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

December 1, 2018 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Join this internationally renowned storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she transforms a packed theater into an intimate circle of friends with old-timey charm, wisdom, and humor. We’ll also welcome the Singer of  Stories, Donna Marie Todd, who will perform her original story, “The Amazing Zicafoose Sisters.” Connie’s last two shows at BMCA have sold…See More
Nov 6
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Explore the Landscapes of Story and Telling at Lenoir-Rhyne Center for Graduate Studies

January 23, 2019 at 10am to February 27, 2019 at 12pm
A Storytelling Offering in Asheville, NCWednesday Mornings 10am-12pmJanuary 23 – February 27, 2019 This winter Connie is excited to offer a learning opportunity to warm-up your storytelling voice and creativity!  Join her in Asheville, NC at Lenoir-Rhyne University for six story-work sessions with a weekly format that allows for skills to grow over time while encouraging a consistency in discovering, revisiting and refining your stories. During these weekly sessions participants are invited…See More
Nov 6
Connie Regan-Blake posted an event
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Explore the Landscapes of Story & Telling at Lenoir-Rhyne Center for Graduate Studies

January 23, 2019 at 10am to February 27, 2019 at 12pm
A Storytelling Offering in Asheville, NCWednesday Mornings 10am-12pmJanuary 23 – February 27, 2019 This winter Connie is excited to offer a learning opportunity to warm-up your storytelling voice and creativity!  Join her in Asheville, NC at Lenoir-Rhyne University for six story-work sessions with a weekly format that allows for skills to grow over time while encouraging a consistency in discovering, revisiting and refining your stories. During these weekly sessions participants are invited…See More
Oct 28
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Connie Regan-Blake presents A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories at Black Mountain Center for the Arts

April 6, 2019 from 7:30pm to 9pm
Join nationally celebrated storyteller, Connie Regan-Blake, as she hosts her workshop participants in an enchanting evening of storytelling in “A Slice of Life: An Evening of Stories.” The event will be hosted by the Black Mountain Center for the Arts, just a short drive from Asheville nestled in the picturesque mountains surrounding the area. Call the Center for advance tickets (828) 669-0930 or order…See More
Oct 28
Connie Regan-Blake updated an event
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Connie Regan-Blake's Taking Your Story to the Stage Workshop at StoryWindow Productions

April 5, 2019 to April 7, 2019
The focus of this “Taking Your Story to the Stage” 3-day workshop is on storytelling performance. Each participant is asked to come with a story that is almost “stage-ready.” Set in Connie’s home tucked in the beautiful mountains surrounding Asheville, NC, this workshop provides a supportive, affirming…See More
Oct 28
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Let’s say every word is precious

Let’s say every word is precious (Part of Living Poem) Let’s say every word is precious.Say every word is precious.Every word is precious.Every word precious.Every word.Word.--Rob Neufeld, Oct. 16, 2018See More
Oct 17
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Oct 12
Nancy Sutton replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion Metamorphoses
"Poignant in so many ways!   "
Oct 3
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Metamorphoses

Metamorphoses (Part of Living Poem)Hear audio: Metamorphoses%20181004_0192.MP3 So Apollo committed the first rape.He’d come back from exterminating Python,The Bane of Humanity, now his arrow-victim,And stopped to mock…See More
Oct 2
Joan Henehan replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"Fantastic, that will be very helpful."
Sep 22
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

First Drumbeat

First Drumbeat(Part of Living Poem) The time has come.Call it a drum,Or a crumb,What’s left of life. I used to tell a jokeWhen my life was wide,And I was a stud,And not a dud—I knowI’m not a dud.  I’m a dude,A dad.  But everyone mustRebut the dud chargeAt summing up time. Oh yeah, the joke,A trademark one for meIn that it’s not funny. I used to say I’ll never retireFrom writingBecause if I’m ever…See More
Sep 22
Rob Neufeld replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"Thanks for the prompt, Joan!  I have attached the whole work in progress as a doc at the bottom of the table of contents page: http://thereadonwnc.ning.com/special/living-poem"
Sep 22
Joan Henehan replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"Is there a way from this website to print everything or might you send me such a document to bayjh@icloud.com?"
Sep 22
Julia Nunnally Duncan posted an event
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Julia Nunnally Duncan at Marion Branch McDowell County Public Library

October 24, 2018 from 4pm to 5pm
Julia Nunnally Duncan will be launching her new poetry collection A Neighborhood Changes (Finishing Line Press, 2018) at a book presentation and signing to be held at the McDowell County Public Library in Marion on October 24.See More
Sep 21
Rob Neufeld replied to Joan Henehan's discussion on Reading Living Poem
"This could be interesting--thanks!  I'm at 828-505-1973 (my home business office).  And RNeufeld@charter.net."
Sep 20

Tourism’s booming and looming presence over time

by Rob Neufeld

 

PHOTO CAPTION: Bus tours were a focus of tourism funding in Asheville.  From 1950-1968, White Transportation, whose vehicle and driver are pictured here, provided the city its transportation services.  Citizen-Times file photo.

            July 21, 1983 is a historic date.  That’s when the N.C. General Assembly first allowed Buncombe County to collect a hotel occupancy tax, create a tourism development authority and use the money to advertise regional tourism.

            Pigeon Forge was cited as the shining example of municipal self-promotion.

            The page in the Citizen-Times that reported the legislative go-ahead also featured an article about the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild’s 36th annual fair in the Civic Center; and a column by Bob Terrell that conveyed the dismay of Vanderbilt Apartments residents over the cigarette butts, smashed paper cups and crumpled bags that littered the sidewalk in front of the vacant Ivey's store, formerly the 1920s Bon Marche building.

            The Vanderbilt Apartments for the elderly—a government-funded project—had once been the George Vanderbilt Hotel, a 1920s showpiece built by Citizens Hotel Corporation to match Edwin Wiley's Grove's nearby Battery Park Hotel.  The Vanderbilt had been stripped of its façade in 1969 to meet federal standards for un-showiness.  Then, in 1999, Public Interest Projects restored some of the decoration while engaged in also stabilizing the crumbling exterior.

            In its heyday, the hotel had been familiar to F. Scott Fitzgerald when he’d stayed downtown.

            Fitzgerald had enshrined Asheville’s Golden Age when, in his novel, “The Great Gatsby,” he had Nick Carroway, his narrator, spot Jordan Baker and remark, “I knew now why her face was familiar—its pleasing contemptuous expression had looked out at me from many rotogravure pictures of the sporting life at Asheville and Hot Springs and Palm Beach.”

            Fitzgerald had also acted as a prophet of the Crash when, according to Anthony Buttitta in his memoir, “After the Good Gay Times,” he’d declaimed to Buttitta, “The Boom spawned the Bust…bringing in its wake misery, economic chaos, and a plague on everything spiritual.”

            In the wake of the plunge, Asheville’s Sinking Fund Commission decided, in 1936, to pay off Asheville’s Depression debt over a period of 40 years, for that’s how long Moses had wandered in the desert.

            Thus, the promised land of fruitfulness again became available to Asheville in 1976.  Did the enthusiasm include a study of what had gone wrong in 1930?  Or should such a nagging concern be swept aside because, for investors and planners, there’s only one path to overflowing prosperity in the “Paris of the South,” and it’s not farms and it’s not factories?

            That phrase, “Paris of the South,” oft cited as Asheville’s nickname, is not one I can find in any literature before 1990.  “Land of the Sky,” a more outdoorsy moniker, was the big byword since the 1890s.

            In 1886, a pamphlet had touted the area as “Nature’s Trundle-Bed of Recuperation.”  But then, as the city cleaned up, it viewed disease—namely, tuberculosis—as a deterrent to tourism, and the sanatoria were phased out.

            Asheville’s Board of Trade tried out the slogan, “Where the Snow-Birds Nest” in 1899; and in 1924 the Chamber of Commerce broadened that to “Center of the Beautiful Blue Ridge Playground.”

Mountains were the selling point more than markets.  In 1960, the Asheville Tourist Association invented the phrase, “Gateway to the Smokies” (which, I admit, attracted me).  Even as late as 2000, the Buncombe County Tourism Authority came up with, “Altitude Affects Attitude.”

 

The golden goose

 

            Tim Reid reported in the Citizen-Times on Aug. 26, 2001 that John Winkenwerder, a third-generation Asheville hotel owner, had said that diverting the room tax revenue away from tourism would be “like killing the goose that lays the golden egg.”

            The tax had just been raised from 3 to 4% (it’s now 6), and City Council members wanted to use some of the money to renovate the Civic Center.   

The idea didn’t fly.  It went against the fundamental idea of the occupancy tax, which hotel owners had at first opposed because, Winkenwerder explained, they feared that “no matter how good a (tax) program you put together, in the long run the political powers will corrupt and ruin” it.

            State Rep. Martin Nesbitt, after a few years of debate, managed to pass the tax authorization by promising hotel owners control over expenditures.

            In its first year, the Tourism Development Authority garnered $59,000 and put chunks of its small pie toward ads for bus tours and conventions sites.  Since then, the revenue has increased 30-fold to $17.5 million.

            As hinted by the Vanderbilt tenants, Asheville had been in bad shape in 1983.  Convention advocates had to promote hotels located outside of downtown.  It wouldn’t be until 1985 that the Bon Marche building would be converted to Haywood Park Hotel.

             By the 1990s, downtown Asheville began to claim a renaissance, which by 2010 seemed to have few limits.

 

A history of stress

 

            In the 1920s, the stresses of such development were in some ways similar to those of today—escalating property values and an influx of second-home buyers, for instance—and in some ways different.  Saloons, stray dogs, and free-ranging livestock had come under attack a century ago.

            The major stress, as it turned out, had been the stretch of over-investment.  And yet, even after the crash, local visionaries were still putting their chips on tourism with faith in it as an economic savior.

            Plans for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway went forward; and the Biltmore Estate opened to tourists.

            “Any city it was thought, could host industry,” Richard Starnes writes in his 2005 book, “Creating the Land of the Sky,” “but few played host to hundreds of thousands of visitors year after year.”

            Has tourism been given a surer footing in 2017 than in 1925 (that’s when Asheville had increased property taxes to support advertising)?

            Is tourism creating stresses that could become harmful, even to tourism?

            In the 1920s, big industries often provided housing to its workers (with mixed results, admittedly).  How has the tourism industry done that for employees whose wages make it hard for them to get affordable housing?  Might the hotel room tax be put toward housing?

            The projects that the TDA now supports must demonstrate that they will increase hotel stays.  Would a stable and happy workforce, living in good homes near their places of work, benefit hoteliers and visitors?

            Tourism today has put stresses on neighborhoods, which want to maintain their charm; as well as on people wanting to tap into the tourist economy by renting homes and apartments to vacationers.  Are those concerns mutually exclusive?

            Do vacation rentals provide desirable alternatives to hotels, and do they compete with them?

            In the spring of 1937, Asheville native Max Whitson, living in Florida, rented out his Oteen cabin to Thomas Wolfe, who had come home again, at least physically.

            “Tom heard I had a cabin up near Recreation Park and wanted to rent it for the summer,” Whitson recalled in 1971.  “I took him up there and he was delighted with the place.  ‘If I can’t write here,’ he remarked, ‘I can’t write anywhere.’”

 

Rob Neufeld writes the weekly “Visiting Our Past” column for the Citizen-Times.  He is the author of books on history and literature, and manages the WNC book and heritage website, “The Read on WNC.”  Follow him on Twitter @WNC_chronicler; email him at RNeufeld@charter.net.

 

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