(photographs taken at Carolina Beach, NC, about a 2.5-hour drive from Chapel Hill/Carrboro on 1-40)
The couple was celebrating an anniversary with an evening balloon ride over the Chatham County countryside. The balloon lifted at about 7pm Friday from a field in Silk Hope and floated West. Estimated travel is about 5 miles with calm winds.
(photographs taken via i-phone in Silk Hope, NC about 40 minutes southwest of Carrboro/Chapel Hill in Chatham County.)
The mighty North Carolina Zoo is one of the largest natural habitat zoos -- sans concrete and steel cages. It spans 500 acres and is nestled in the center of the state, a little over an hour's drive southwest of Chapel Hill/Carrboro. The vast park is divided into two regions -- North America and Africa -- connected by shaded pathways linking animal exhibits. Those wary of hiking between "continents" can opt to shuttle by air conditioned tram. A walking tour can take up to seven hours to cover the entire park. Arrive early. Apply sunscreen. Sport the sneakers with the squishy soles.
(photographs taken at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, NC)
More than anything, Bynum folk art legend Clyde Jones likes to make children smile. He has an unconventional way of going about it: by revving up his chainsaw.
It works. And kids aren’t the only ones smiling.
He starts with log remnants or an old stump. With a few swipes of his saw, a hammer and nails, and perhaps a coat or two of paint, a “critter” is born. Plastic flowers, tennis balls, artificial grapes, and bottle caps become eyes. A pair of panty hose or a clip-on braid becomes a tail. Some get saddles or a string of lights. The lucky ones get a frosting of glitter.
But the whimsical pieces aren’t for sale. He generously donates them to schools and to local nonprofits. And he gives them to folks he takes a liking to, which includes most of his neighbors, owners and waiters at area restaurants, his dentist, and Captain John's Dockside restaurant in Chapel Hill. In fact, when famed Russian ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov arrived in a limousine in 1991, Clyde politely refused to sell him one.
“You can’t buy one,” Clyde said. “But I like it when people come and take a look.” However, those interested in owning a critter will have a rare opportunity to bid on one at the 14th annual ClydeFEST celebration on May 2nd in Bynum where Clyde will be fashioning a critter on-site for auction.
The Chatham Arts Council honors Clyde with an annual full-day, smile-packed event for children called ClydeFEST. Kids play original Clyde-themed games, make their own art, eat food, and enjoy live entertainment. At Clyde’s Critterville, children get to paint and glitter their own Clyde Critter cut-out to take home. This year’s ClydeFEST is set for Saturday, May 2 from from 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. at the Ball Field in Bynum just south of Chapel Hill/Carrboro towards Pittsboro. Admission is $7 for ages 12 and up, $3 for ages 3-11, and free for children under age 3. In case of inclement weather, the festival will be held from 1-5 p.m. May 3rd.
(written by Bett Wilson Foley, photographs taken at The Barn at Fearrington in Pittsboro, NC)
(photograph taken at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, NC)
Beading and sequins, pearl strands and gloves. Teens from Chatham and Orange counties arrive in clusters -- many by school bus -- to participate in Cinderella's Closet of Chatham County. The organization helps high school girls who might not be able to afford prom by outfitting them in ensembles certain to magnify memories. Volunteer "fairy godmothers" usher the students -- referred by community organizations and school staff -- as they till through racks of more than 600 dresses in a rainbow of colors, sizes and lengths. Seamstresses ensure a perfect fit. Scores of high heels, heaps of make-up, rows of clutches and cosmetic bags leave some speechless. The wide eyes and giggles among the girls are infectious. The the reactions, immeasurable:
"Now I can't wait for prom!"
"I wanted to go last year but I couldn't afford a dress. The one I had really liked, my friend bought. I wish I knew about this last year."
"I love it...I really, really love it."
"Wow, now I can brag I fit into a size 13."
"Did you get the purple one? That one was really pretty."
"Raise your hand if you like red?"
"My mom wanted me to text her pictures."
"I'm having so much fun!"
(photographs taken at Cinderella's Closet of Chatham County)
"Mr. Rock was my music teacher who actually said one sentence to me," shared Henry Winkler with a crowd at The Barn at Fearrington. "He said 'Winkler when you get out of here, you're going to be okay.' And I kept that one sentence in my heart like Leo DiCaprio holds onto the wind at the end of that boat movie."
Best known for his role of Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli on the 70s & 80s sitcom Happy Days, Winkler was in town with his co-author Lin Oliver as part of their national tour for Here's Hank: Fake Snakes. The Hank Zipzer series is a chapter book collection for children based on the misadventures of a 4th grade boy. As part of his appearance, Winkler discussed his own challenges with learning -- he was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 30 -- and urged parents and teachers in the audience to connect with children to encourage them to succeed.
"Every single one of you is so powerful and everything you say is so important," he pressed. "And it is so important that if you know a child with a learning challenge, believe me, the kid on his own, on his or her own, knows they're not doing well. They don't need to hear it again. They don't need to be punished again. They need you to buoy their self image. Because when they are ready they will fly if you keep them above water. They will meet their destiny. It's the way the world works."
Waving his hands and speaking staccato to drive a point, he pulled anecdotes from his own children, all three of whom have been diagnosed with dyslexia.
"You look at your child, I look at my children, you know, they're supposed to have a great desk, a good light, and a chair. Max who came running into the bathroom one morning and he said 'Dad, I know that they make corn oil out of corn, how to they make baby oil?' So Max stood at his desk. Put his knee on his chair. Turned on the light and listened to music. And I said, like I was told, 'You can't listen to music while you are doing your homework.' But maybe, the music was a tunnel that allowed you to go through it, concentrate, because the grades were coming home. I learned to shut up. The children know."
(photographs taken at The Barn at Fearrington in Pittsboro)
Dripping in a Scottish accent, one storyteller analyzed why ladies' underwear seemed to grow in size as a woman ages -- from lacey bits to those large enough to "parachute" down when tossed in the air. Another found comic relief stuck in a snow storm with beer and Little Debbie cakes. The loft space resounded in chuckles and cackles as four storytellers from across the triangle wove yarn after yarn about self identity and family follies at the Cinderella's Closet of Chatham County Storytelling Evening at Chatham Mills in Pittsboro. The event raised funds for the local organization which helps high school girls who might not be able to afford prom by outfitting them from hairdos to heels.
Now in its fifth year, volunteers at Cinderella's Closet make an indelible mark on these girls taking on a role akin to a fairy godmother. The team provides students with gently used gowns of their choice and accompanying accessories -- shoes, jewelry and hand handbags --- free of charge for them to keep. Students are referred by community organizations and school staff. Appointments are made and girls receive white-glove treatment as they pore through racks of dresses in a bounty of colors, sizes and styles. To ensure a garment fits just right, a seamstress is on hand to dart, pinch, and stitch together the dress that could offer more than a magical evening, rather a boost in life, much like Cinderella's the evening she attended the ball.
Cinderella's Closet event occurs on March 19-21. They are still seeking volunteers and donations.
Haywood Billy Goats opened the evening.
(photographs taken at Chatham Mills in Pittsboro, NC)
Metal rings on bulls are typically inserted into the nasal septum to control a bull. It's a practice dating back to the dawn of recorded civilization. Known for fiery tempers, these powerful animals can be unpredictable and can pose a threat to handlers -- bull handling is a leading cause of injury or death for U.S. dairy farmers. Yet these 1,200 to 2,200-pound muscular animals tend to be compliant when led by a ring or a rope looped around the ring which is pierced through sensitive nasal tissue. A ring is often installed by a veterinarian using local anesthesia when a bull is about nine to twelve months of age.
(photographs taken at Fearrington Village in Pittsboro)
Heralding Angels, Twinkling Stars ... Globes, Pencil Sculptures and Umbrellas? The tradition of decorating Christmas trees spawned the much anticipated finishing touch, the tree topper. Historically these came in the form of Angels and Stars. Angels represented the divine messengers of the nativity story. Stars were symbolic of the star of Bethlehem, which according to the Bible, led the three wise men to discover the birth of Jesus. These days, Christmas tree toppers are less predictable, and indeed more imaginative.
Take the Triangle Christmas Tree Challenge for instance. Nearly 60 non-profit organizations -- including Chapel Hill's Women's Birth and Wellness Center -- joined in on the fifth annual decorating competition on display at Diamond View Park in Durham. This year's theme: "The Island of Misfit Toys." The first place winner was SPCA of Wake County who banked $5,000 for its organization.
(photographs taken at Diamond View Park in Durham)
Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance (Fall Festival, October 9-12) in Pittsboro, NC. The festival occurs twice a year, Fall and Spring, wooing thousands -- some trek from states as far as Vermont -- to revel in back-to-back performances in a natural playground for all ages.
(photographs taken at Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance Fall Festival, 2014)
"It was such a score. That guy has no idea," says Liz (left), 23, holding a pair of antlers against her forehead in an ebullient deer impression. Her sister Emily (right), 20, snatches up a matching pair, "THIS, was a steal!" Giddy from the triumph, the Raleigh sisters trot off to pore through the adjacent booth at the Raleigh Flea Market at the historic State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. About 45 minutes from downtown Chapel Hill, the flea market has been nationally dubbed as one of the best in the country (CNN, USA Today) for its volume of finds and one-of-a-kinds. Enticing thousands of visitors each weekend, it's open all year except during the State Fair (this past weekend was the last weekend before the fair hiatus, but reopens again November 8).
Each week you can catch some of the usual vendors: the "chairman" who sells a kaleidoscope of seats, the "Monopoly man" who offers refinished antiques donning a black top hat, and the "wrought iron man" who arrives at the grounds with a wooden open-air trailer of iron garden goods. Many of the nearly 600 vendors drive from neighboring states -- VA, SC, TN -- to unload antiques, crafts, musical instruments, food, clothing, plants, furniture, accessories, pet goods, jewelry, art and the list continues...
And yes, you'll spot the revolving oddities: street lights, space suits, retired church organs, antique wooden gurneys, and outdated street pay phones.
Do visit. Arrive with an empty car trunk. Pick up cash. Sport a pair of treads. And happy hunting.
(photographs taken at the Raleigh Flea Market at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh)
Metal dinosaur skeletons, soaring geometric forms, rolled paper on a plaster wall, gigantic primate images, and a teepee that when one steps inside, is beamed into a universe of planets. These are but a handful of sculptures flecked across the 17-acre JimGin Farm in Chatham County, yes a farm. Horses and potbellies reside there too, but it's the plethora of local art that lures hoards of families -- including leashed four-legged members -- to the Come Out and Play sculpture shows in August and September. For the past 13 years, the art show has been a staple at the home of Debbie Meyer and Eric Brantley. It has grown from less than a dozen participating artists to more than 60 this past year. An estimated 1,800 folks flock here to take in the art, purchase one-of-a-kinds, listen to live music, feed animals and delight in the potluck served by Debbie and her friends and family. Best part, artists keep 100% of revenues on sales. It's an event that has burgeoned over the years, but clings to its down-home roots.
While this year's show has come to a close, mark your calendar for next summer!
(photographs taken at the Come Out and Play final reception held on September 20 in Pittsboro)
"I know it sounds corny, but I like being connected to the earth and everything that it's capable of doing and having it be sustainable," says Emily. She lives on a 20-acre farm south of Chapel Hill in the town of Moncure in Chatham County, about a 25-minute drive from downtown. This is Emily's first foray into farming. About two years ago, she and her then fiancé bought the property with plans to transform it into a working certified organic farm complete with rows of vegetables, an apple orchard and farm animals.
"He's more an animal person. I like to see something grow from seed. It's representative of the life cycle. It's pretty cool," she says, then adds modestly. "We are still very much beginners. We are trying to do the best that we can."
So far they're growing okra, asparagus, tomatoes, blackberries, pears, squash and grapes, and will expand to include artichokes and an apple orchard. "We really want to diversify ourselves from really successful farmers doing annuals, so we'd like to do perennials."
In addition, they keep bees and care for about a dozen sheep, a few cows, and a pair of father-son donkeys, Ernesto and José. Not too long ago they raised chickens, but the hens began mysteriously disappearing.
"I've seen foxes out here. Something's out at night. When when it's almost dusk, we hear the coyotes way out in the woods," she says. "I miss fresh eggs. We should not be paying for eggs."
The couple sells their lambs' wool and honey locally and hopes to market an abundance of produce as crops continue to flourish. She also offers farm tours to families or home schoolers illustrating in engaging detail the process of growing crops and managing an animal farm. Her "lessons" so absorbing, even a fidgety four year old is incognizant of a pacing donkey near the barn.
"I like making it a better place. I like living off the land in a better way instead of causing harm," she says, then sighs. "It feels good ... it feels right."
(photographs taken on Emily's farm in Moncure, NC. Those interested in contacting Emily can email me at email@example.com)
Drive down yonder, about 12 minutes or six miles from downtown Carrboro, and enter a another world. No sidewalk coffee shops, no traffic. The town of White Cross retains much of its endearing rural nature. It's where century-old homes still stand and a volunteer fire station keeps watch over the town. But change occurs. The town's elementary school now houses the NC Writer's Workshop, and conventional farming has gone organic. Carrboro/Chapel Hill artists like to live in this community for its bucolic beauty and proximity to the sister cities. Despite its evolution, one thing remains constant: tractor pulling. The 18th annual White Cross Tractor Pull competition lures folks across neighboring towns to the White Cross Recreation Center. They converge alongside a baseball field to watch competitors -- from as far away as Florida -- on a McCormick Farmall pull a weighted sledge (looks like a modified truck trailer) down a dusty orange field.
As part of this motorsport, tractors in distinct classes pull the sledge with a designated weight. If a tractor completes the length of the 300-foot track, it's dubbed a "full pull." If more than one tractor achieves the course, additional weight is added. Drivers exceeding 300 feet go on to a pull-off. The winner pulls the sledge the farthest. "It ain't how fast you go, it's how far you go," announces emcee, Terry.
He's perched on a truck trailer bejeweled with a black and white umbrella and cardboard boxes of shiny gold-colored trophies. Behind the chain link fence, kids wear oversized ear protectors, fingertips hide beneath sticky ketchup, and heads bow for an opening prayer. Tractor pulling tugs along its own culture.
The event itself is somewhat slow, yet steady lasting from supper through the starlit sky. But it's Terry who seems to steal the show and illustrate its heritage. Here are a few of his lines:
- He's supposed to be at App State. I'd rather be at a tractor pull than at school. But you all know me.
- Get a can of beans and get in free. Can't beat that!
- We have some gun raffle tickets for sale. Five dollars. As long as you are qualified to own a handgun.
- That's tight pulling folks!
- I don't know who's going to win, but a tractor's going to win that class.
- I'd like to thank these girls here. They keep it straight...Controlled chaos here.
- My Weber looks like he's trying to get it on...all the way down the track.
(photographs taken in White Cross, NC)
Channelling modern-day Norman Rockwell at the Bynum General Store in Bynum, NC.
Once anchored by a cotton mill (shell remains), Bynum was a bustling community with an active general store, movie theatre and school. Today, most folks know the small village set along the banks of the Haw River as the home to critter artist Clyde Jones and his painted wooden creations spotted on porches and lawns throughout town.
On Friday evenings, Bynum swells when families flock to take in the free concerts as part of the Bynum Front Porch Friday Night Music Series. The concerts occur throughout the summer in an outdoor venue wedged between The General Store (now used as a community center) and a vacant building.
Bynum is about a 20-minute drive from Chapel Hill/Carrboro.
A Clyde Jones critter is raffled at the Bynum Front Porch Friday Night Music Series.
(photographs taken at The General Store in Bynum, NC)