Thursday, May 21, 2015

My David Letterman story: Scholarships for 'C' College students

I guess it's share a David Letterman story day. Here's mine. It was 1983. Maybe '84. I was working at the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate as a typist and newsroom aide and had begun doing some writing for the newspaper. I had also started taking classes at LSU. The editors told me I had to take some news writing classes because the Publisher said so. So I did. I was reading the info board in the journalism department and there was a notice about scholarships. Peaked my interest. Particuarly since I was paying my own full-time tuition. It was a scholarship from David Letterman, offering journalism students with a C average a full ride. Said not to bother if you had anything above. I couldn't apply, but learned a helluva a lot about David Letterman that day. Laughed my ass off.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Downtown After 5 in Asheville exists became of a humble farmer who shared his stories

June 20, 2014 - Annual honoring of the unknown farmer responsible for Downtown After 5 series

Asheville's Downtown After 5 concert series has grown extremely popular and is celebrating its 26th year this summer. Ask someone how it all got started and you'll probably get some answer about how much time and sweat a certain few volunteers put into making it happen. And that's true. And I'm thankful for their hard work to helping it grow. But, if you ask how it all began, you get a blank stare. Newcomers to Asheville - and some not so new residents - possess not a clue about its humble beginnings.

It was the summer of 1987 and we had a booth set up for Bele Chere on Lexington Avenue. (Bele Chere - now defunct - was Asheville's huge summer party that pretty much closed all of the downtown streets.) We were giving away balloons, hoping to attract customers to our booth so we could promote Asheville's first arts and news independent publication, our new baby and business. It was called Out 'n About. We had only been publishing for 3 months, beginning in April 1987. Bele Chere hadn't been taking place that long and still had a homey feel. No rules and regulations about how booths had to look. You paid your fee; you got your space. We set up a very home-spun wooden stand that would not have won any best decorated awards, and commenced to doing our thing.

An older gentleman wearing overalls and a baseball cap, sweat pouring down his neck, approached us with a small cardboard table and a box. He asked if we minded if he sat in the shade of our booth, set his table up, put out voter registration cards and try and get people signed up to vote. Sure. Why not? He was doing a great thing. We were shocked when he told us how many people had turned him away. We were the last booth he was going to ask before heading on back to the house.

Maybe they were afraid of how he looked. His overalls were a bit dirty, his face aged with lines earned from years of working mountain fields, growing and harvesting tobacco. He had a long, scraggly beard, his white mustache stained from his enjoying his own hand-rolled, homegrown tobacco. And he did have a bit of an odor about him. But, hey, it was July. We were all sweating and not smelling our Sunday best. He was just the kind of character we liked. We knew he'd have some good stories to share.

And, share he did. He talked about Friday nights down at the end of the street where we sat. There's a big parking lot there (where Downtown After 5 now takes place) and it once was home to the Lexington Avenue Farmers Market. According to our new friend, people would come from all over the mountains to buy and sell their goods. But, mostly, they were there for the fun that started happening about the time the sun went down. Goods sold, bellies full, it was time for a pickin', a dancin' and a visitin'. Folks would stay until the wee hours of the morning, say their good-byes and see you next week.

What a wonderful picture he created for me. Community farmers, musicians and just the average people coming together to celebrate their culture and simply enjoy one another's company. So after Bele Chere was over, I wrote a column describing what I had learned that weekend. I talked about how Bele Chere was great, but the City could only put on an event that closed so many downtown streets once a year. But why not shut down one area each Friday and bring back some of the life and community my farmer friend had described? Downtown Asheville was definitely not the hustle and bustle it is today and any event to get people downtown seemed like a grand idea to me. It would need to be on a different street each week, so as to let people know that there were more businesses open than they perhaps realized.

The Downtown Commission had just formed that year and the new leader called and said, "loved your column, now put your actions with your words and let's get something going next year. How about calling it Downtown After 5? Hopefully, we'll get some workers to stay and some others to come down and join in on the fun. I'll worry about the money, the rules and regulations and beer permits. I need you and Alphie to book the local bands and publicize the event as much as you can." So we spent that year readying for the next summer, never doubting for a moment it wouldn't happen. We didn't have all that much money allotted for paying the musicians. It was all a labor of love and a vision of what could come to be.

And, happen it did. Not too many people came out that first year, but we were pleased anyone attended at all. I think we capped out that summer at maybe around 200 people. The first concerts happened in places like on top of the Wall St.or Rankin Ave. parking deck. There was one in an enclosed private parking area over on Broadway which fit about 50 cars at the most. And there was one in front of the downtown library that almost didn't happen. The rain poured. People ran for cover under awnings. And just when it looked like we'd have to call it off, the skies cleared and the party started right back up.

We were able to do one every Friday during the summer months and I do miss the intimate locations of those first events. Our hands on involvement from that first year changed to simply promoting the event and helping make it as popular as possible. A group of very dedicated volunteers came on board and the event finally changed to once a month because it was growing, and the logistics for once a week were just too much.

So, we have what we have today. Downtown After 5 attracts thousands of people. There are two bands at each event, one lesser known local band and a better known band, sometimes local. Not always. It's serendipity that it takes place at the old Lexington Avenue Farmer's Market location. My farmer friend would be happy. Every one that I go to, I make a secret toast to him and thank him for sharing his story. Because without that story and his dedication to getting people to vote, Downtown After 5 would not be what it is today.

Learn more about Downtown After 5 here: http://www.ashevilledowntown.org/

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Happy 19th Birthday, Zach!

Dear Zach - For once, I am at a loss of words. My beautiful, funny, little boy has grown up so fast. And into such a handsome, still funny, incredible man. And person. My eyes are tearing up as I write this. I am just so darn proud of you. And soon, you’ll be going off on your own. Making your own way, just as you always have done. And, as you have always done, follow your heart. It’s a good one. I can’t wait to see what else Zachary John Dowd Hyorth is going to give this world. You rock, my son! I love you with all my heart and the world 100 times over. Mom

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I charge us each with being aware. It is our duty.

Goodnight my friends. My prayers this eve show my distress and sadness over so much harsh disagreement between us all. Because I know each one of you love deeply and passionately. My hope lies that each of us realize we have been chosen to shape the new scary world. Or else we would we not be thrown together - back together in many cases. That responsibility means we are to discuss, poke fun at, even disagree, with much, very much respect. I charge us each with being aware. Love to all... #shutdown

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Asheville City Proclamation honoring AHS Cougar Band to be presented at community send-off fundraiser & concert Sat, Jan. 12

This story starts with my son, Zach. He is a junior at Asheville High and a proud Cougar Varsity football player. In August, at the first home football game, we heard this pre-game announcement:

“Folks, you are now watching the Asheville High Cougar Pride Band … participants in the 2013 Presidential Inauguration.” We found out later that the AHS Band would not only be the group representing Asheville; they were going to represent all of North Carolina. They are the only band and color guard from North Carolina who made the cut, who got the invitation.

Back then, when we were still sweating through the last heat of summer, the words didn’t hit home. And then they did. No matter who won the 2012 Presidential election, one thing was for sure … the Asheville High Band would be in Washington, DC in January 2013 for the parade, the galas, everything

The football season went on; the band was always there. Playing the Cougar fight song, win or lose. Football season ended; the election came; and went. Band members and their parents quietly organized fundraisers.

But by mid-December they were still short $10,000. Unfortunately, not all band parents could contribute enough money and they had run out of planned fundraisers. Band Director Will Talley, with all of his band directing and musical talents, was not sure how to get the word out, nor did he have the time. But he was sure of one thing, “I want no band student from Asheville High left behind.”

Jump to Tuesday, January 8, 2013. Following an extensive social media campaign Talley reported, “I’m very, very happy to say we have reached our original lower goal of $85,000 with the help of the social media campaign and community donations that came through on our website via Pay Pal. No student who wants to go will be left behind.”

The last minute flurry of tweets and retweets raised a total of $10,000 in one month. “So, we’ve upped our goal to $90,000 to make sure all costs are truly covered,” Talley said.

You still have time to help with the AHS Band 2013 Inauguration Trip Support Campaign by taking part in one of these events:

1)   AHS Band's Pre-Inaugural Concert and Silent Auction is this Saturday, Jan. 12 at AHS Auditorium on McDowell St. The Silent Auction begins at 1 p.m. and the Concert begins at 3 pm. (http://www.ashevillehighbands.com/silent-auction.html to see a list of items to be auctioned off.) Suggested donation: $10 at the door.  This is a community sendoff!  Be among the first to hear the Band's Parade and Festival Concert music. Asheville City Councilman Gordon Smith will present a City Proclamation honoring AHS band, recognizing our Asheville teenagers.

2) “10% Benefit at Nona Mia" today Thursday, Jan. 10 from 4-6pm.  Dine in or order out. Nona Mia will write AHS Band Association a check for 10% of all food & drinks sold tonight during these after-school hours. Nona Mia is located at 1050 Haywood Road in West Asheville.

3)   “20% Benefit at Mela" the popular Indian restaurant in downtown Asheville on Sunday, Jan. 13. Eat lunch or dinner at Mela the day after the Pre-Inaugural Band Concert and Silent Auction, and Mela will write the AHS Band Association a check for 20% of all food and drinks sold that day. Mela is located at 70 N. Lexington Avenue.

4)   Donations are gratefully accepted on the AHS Band's webpage.  Just go to <ashevillehighbands.com> and click on the donation button.

*shameless plug: I am a local writer, networker and special events coordinator/fundraiser and downtown Asheville pioneer. (That' means I owned a business in downtown Asheville and promoted the area early on when most people thought I was crazy for doing so. Glad to have proved them wrong.) I'm also really proud of Zach for pushing me to step forward to aid the AHS Band. I am very honored to have been one of many who were able to help them raise $10,000 in one month and nudge City officials to give them the Proclamation. Our teenagers deserve this recognition, and so much more. But that's a tale for another time. Please contact me at outaboutwnc@gmail.com if I can be of any assistance to you with your social media/public relations, special event or fundraising campaign

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Just another Saturday night in Asheville

Awesome Saturday night. Drove through Lake Julian to see Holiday lights with Alphie, Zach and his girlfriend, singing Christmas Carols to which we didn't know all of the words. Lots of humming. And giggling. Dinner afterwards, down south. Been a while since I've been out that way, so it was a welcome change.

Then met a friend to sing some karaoke in downtown Asheville. She, of course, sounded better than I, but we didn't care. End of the night, 300 lb bouncer carrying some 120 lb dude over his shoulder. The girl working the door went and got his?? car, bouncer threw him in back seat. Window down, the poor fool's foot 
hanging out the window. I have a feeling girl working door drove his car from the club's parking lot to somewhere around the corner, shoved his foot inside the window, locked the door, threw his keys inside and left him there for the night. Ewwww, I bet that car didn't smell too good this morning. Just another Saturday night in Asheville.