Bele Chere is a great place to see all the things that make Asheville famous and great. Here are two wonderful examples in the form of the City Building and the WLOS broadcast truck. But there are even more downtown during these three days. The Grove Arcade, Flat Iron Building, S&W Cafeteria building, Pack Square and St. Lawrence’s Basilica are only a few.
2. You Get to See Lots of Big, Tall Stuff.
Where else do you get see a giant grocery bag next to a giant building? Seriously, though Bele Chere is a place where you can see what you usually don’t.
This may be a good time to point out that Sunday is a family friendly day at Bele Chere. This means the vendors on the street are not allowed to sell alcohol. So if you’re not used to seeing alcohol this would be the day to go. If you are, well, make sure to come on Friday and Saturday. Hey, the town slogan is “any way you like it.”
3. The Food is Really Good and Really Diverse
For years the S&W Cafeteria and other Asheville restaurants provided residents with great food. Bele Chere carries on the tradition with food vendors and local restaurants located smack dab right in front of it. If you want to sample the best food Asheville has to offer, head to Bele Chere.
This is a great example of a local merchant with a booth in front of their business. Click here to find out more about the wonderful folks at Kilwin’s.
3. Attend Great Concerts
Actually on this stage(the Battery Park Stage) that night you could have heard Sanctum Sully, Floating Action and The Whigs. There were three more of these stages around the downtown area, each featuring over forty groups.(For a full listing of who of where when click here, its really impressive.) And actually, I think these were free. Maybe.
4. Hear Great Musicians on the Street
At Bele Chere you’ll find groups standing there performing on the street. Just for you. The group above is the Big Nasty Jazz and they were literally in front of Wall Street. I though they did a great job, but you don’t have to take my word for it. A video of their performance is on the WNC Travel VideoBlog on YouTube.
5. Meet Local Artisans
Every year artisans from far and near converge on Bele Chere to display their skill and talent. The picture above is of the Woodrow Instrument. This is a cross between a dulcimer and a banjo. I’m quoting from the website of The Woodrow Stringed Instrument. Click on that link to visit Dan William’s website where he’ll tell you all about this amazing instrument. Its a fascinating instrument unlike any I’ve ever heard of. Dan and his son Aaron were only one example of the gifted people I met at Bele Chere 2011. You too can meet these examples of quality American craft if you visit Bele Chere 2012.
6. Meet Celebrities
Seriously, a lot of celebrities come to Bele Chere. Most are news personalities and musicians, but there are others.
7. Meet Street Performers
The photograph is Mary the Bronze Statue Lady. She is one of several living statues that operate in the Asheville area. If you are interested in contacting her she said just to talk to The Silver Drummer Girl. Click here to go to The Silver Drummer Girl’s website. This is a truly amazing art form which stretches back to the Renaissance. I consider myself privileged to have met Mary and recommend you visit the website above.
Living statues may be the most memorable group of street performers at Bele Chere but they aren’t the only one. Not five yards behind where Mary and I were standing was the Ingle’s Ultimate Air Dogs Display. Click here to watch a video of the action from the Citizen Times. Those lucky dogs. It was so hot I’d chase a frisbee for a chance to cool off.
8. See Great Corporate Exhibits
Bele Chere is a great time for merchants–local and national— to tell people about themselves. They set up booths advertising what they sell and alot of the time they’ll give stuff .
This is the new Chevy Volt. Its electric and you can find out more about it by clicking here. They were giving out free tote bags.
This is the famous Elmer Ingle produce truck I’ve seen in their ads. And just to the left of it Ingle’s was giving out some yummy samples.
These are only two examples of corporate exhibits at Bele Chere. Up in front of the BB&T building Aaron’s was having a drawing for appliances. I won a free appetizer at the 123 Main Restuarant.
9. Buy Great Stuff at All the Booths
This could be the biggest reason to go to Bele Chere. Its a festival full of booths that are full of all sorts of nifty merchandise and other great things.
This next booth demonstrates one essential you must have at Bele Chere: a broad brimmed hat.
This is Hats for Humanity, which benefits Habitat for Humanity.It was sponsored by the clothing store AdLib, whose store is at 23 Haywood Street. Click here to visit their very impressive website.
Let me take a moment to discuss hats. Broad brimmed hats, not baseball caps. I always wear one, especially when its sunny. A hat is a must at Bele Chere. There’s a reason that cowboys wore sombreros. So, whether you grab a hat here or somewhere else, wear one. Sunglasses are also an essential, but I think I’d rank a broad brimmed hat over sunglasses.
This is the booth for Ten Thousand Villages, a great nonprofit program of the Mennonite Church. Their goal is to allow artisans around the world to earn a fair income. They do this by giving you and me with the chance to buy unique, quality merchandise. Their goods have a “authentic” feel to them that reminds you of the places they come from and the people who made them. Click here to visit the website of their store on 10 College Street in Asheville. Or click here to visit the website of their store at 303 Lookout Road in Montreat. Or click here to visit the Ten Thousand Villages national website to locate other stores closer to you.
This was the booth for WNCW, a local public radio station that provides our area with nationally acclaimed programming. You can hear it locally at 88.7 on the FM dial. They have translators in Charlotte(100.3 FM and 99.1 FM), Boone(92.9 FM), Wilkesboro(90.9) and Greenville, SC(97.3 FM) . To hear them anywhere on earth click here to visit their website. You can also request a song on their website.
10. Bele Chere is a Great Time to See What You Can See the Rest of the Year.
Okay, that was clumsy. I just wanted to mention that if you don’t make it to Bele Chere you should still visit downtown. There’s lot of wonderful things to see and photograph the rest of the year. St. Lawerence’s is only one of the hundreds of things downtown you should visit repeatedly. For the top five things you should see in Downtown Asheville any day of the year click here.