By D. Lanier Shook July 27, 2013
1.The Perfect Photo Op WithIcons (and maybe get on TV!)
is a great place to see all the things that make Asheville famous and great. Two wonderful examples are the City Building and WLOS broadcast truck. Bele Chere is when you can stroll around Asheville and not have to stay on the sidewalk. If you ever wanted to stand in the middle of the street and get the perfect picture of The Grove Arcade, Flat Iron Building, S&W Cafeteria building, Pack Square or St. Lawrence’s Basilica, then this is the time.
Also there’s lots of media presence so you might end up on tv or the radio! (This is not a guarantee, unless you do something shocking and embarrassing in which case you will end up on tv and YouTube.)
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, meaning there’s no alcohol sold. If that doesn’t matter, then make sure to come on Friday and Saturday. Hey, the town slogan is “any way you like it.”
3. Try Nearly Any Food You’d Want
Bele Chere is the place to get almost any kind of food you want from food vendors and from 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. (And Asheville has some pretty awesome food.)
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
Bele Chere is a great place to hear great bands. This year there will be forty seven musical groups there and you need to click here to find out about all of them. That’s where you’ll find reviews of each one, along with links to their websites and sites where you can sample their music for free. There’s also a link to the Bele Chere website so you can find out who’s playing when and where.
4. Hear Great Musicians on the Street
Asheville wouldn’t be Asheville without street performers. This is a group we were privileged to hear a few years ago, Big Nasty Jazz. They were set up at Wall Street near the Flat Iron Building. To hear what I heard click here to view their performance on YouTube.
5. Meet Local Artisans
Every year artisans from far and near converge on Bele Chere to display their skill and talent. I was privileged to meet Dan and Aaron Williams, who were offering festivalgoers the Woodrow Instrument, a cross between a dulcimer and a banjo. If you want to know more about this amazing invention you need to click here to visit thier website.Dan and his son Aaron were only one example of the gifted people you can meet at Bele Chere.
6. Meet Celebrities
Seriously, a lot of celebrities come to Bele Chere. Most are news personalities and musicians, but you never know who you might meet.
7. Enjoy Asheville’s Street Performers
Mary the Bronze Statue Lady is one of several living statues that perform in the Asheville area. If you are interested in contacting her she said just to talk to The Silver Drummer Girl, so 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. In fact the reason you’re seeing a photo of the Chevy Volt is because they were giving out free tote bags. So click here to find out all about the car. (And if you’ll send me a free tote bag, I’ll put your photo and link on the blog. DISCLAIMER: Photo must be family friendly. We’re not that kind of blog.)
Another corporate booth was from Ingle’s Markets featuring the famous Elmer Ingle’s produce truck you’ve seen in their ads. And just to the left of it Ingle’s Markets was giving out some yummy samples.
Bele Chere is a great place for businesses large and small to tell potential customers about themselves. Aaron’s was having drawings for appliances in front of the BB&T Building and I won a from 131 Main Restaurant. You can click here to visit their website and, as always, if you give me a free appetizer I’ll link to your website, too.
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 that will remind 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.
Bele Chere has the feel of one great big museum because of the booths. Each one is like a display, showing you something else wonderful about this city. It makes the whole festival feel like one big museum where they cranked up the lights and down the AC.
10. Bele Chere is a Great Way to Appreciate Asheville in a Whole New Way
Bele Chere lets you see downtown Asheville up close and personal. It slows things down and adds even more color than usual. You get to walk in the street, and that’s just plain cool.
This weekend is the perfect time to see your favorite sites and discover a few new ones. It’s a great time for photo ops and sidewalk dining. Or you could probably find somewhere you can eat in the middle of the street. For my list of the top five things you should see in Downtown Asheville any day of the year click here.
11. This is the Last Year of Bele Chere as We’ve Known It
Bele Chere has been an Asheville institution for decades, but this is the last year we’ll be able to enjoy it. (You can click here to read about the end of Bele Chere, including comments by the Mayor’s Office or you can click here to get CIty Council’s answers to my questions.) So get down town and enjoy it while you can.
12. DID I MENTION IT WAS FREE?