2015 was one for the books
For such a small place, the Swannanoa Valley had a lot going on. Here are some highlights, by month, from the year’s Black Mountain News.
In January, homeowners at The Settings of Black Mountain and the town itself won a $1.5 million lawsuit that allowed for the completion of roads and other infrastructure in the community south of town. Owen High junior Jesse Foreman withdrew from school to play professional soccer in Hungary. Missionary doctor Hugh Farrior of Black Mountain died Jan. 2; Harriet Styles, a founder of the Swannanoa Valley Museum, died Dec. 24, 2014, but was lauded in January.
In January, the town of Black Mountain removed more than 50 trees from the Lake Tomahawk dam because state engineers concluded they posed a threat to the structural integrity of the dam. The town of Black Mountain awarded a contract for the creation of a bicycle plan. Owen High football running back and graduating senior Jager Gardner committed to Temple University.
In February, a Buncombe County Superior Court judge issued a preliminary injunction halting Montreat’s construction of a new town hall on Florida Terrace. Owen football player Tate Brown committed to East Tennessee University. Students at Community High School in Swannanoa ranked highest in the state for the Career Technical Education test scores. Montreat College has named one of the 30 most beautiful college campuses in the South by Best Colleges Online. Best College Reviews named Warren Wilson College the number one U.S. college among those that run farms.
In February, Jon Brooks announced plans for a restaurant and office space in the historic Junction Building (the old McCoy Building) by the railroad tracks. The Mount Mitchell Challenge and Black Mountain Marathon was held in temperatures that hovered around the mid-20s.
In March, Dynamite Roasting of Black Mountain added The Fresh Market to its retail accounts. A Virginia auction house auctioned off a piece of Swannanoa Valley history - a portrait of Elizabeth Patton-Crockett, the second wife of Davy Crockett. Beloved Black Mountain Police Department officer Johnny Raines died. Black Mountain aldermen increased players’ rates at the Black Mountain Golf Course in hopes of turning the course’s finances around.
In March, Buncombe County’s longest-tenured football coach, Kenny Ford at Owen High, announced his retirement. Owen softball pitcher Jaiden Tweed was listed sixth among strikeout leaders in N.C. softball. Family matriarch Flossie Kennedy died at 99 years of age.
In April, artists recreated the spirit of Black Mountain College with a staging of (Re)Happening at Camp Rockmont. The fast-moving Weed Lane fire that started March 30 burned 752 acres in Ridgecrest. Starting and ending at Pisgah Brewing Co., The Black Mountain Greenway Challenge raised money for town greenways. The generosity of two donors allowed Montreat College to announce construction of a $2 million athletic complex.
With a big free party in April, Pisgah Brewing Co. celebrated its 10th year in business. The Black Mountain Men’s Golf Association celebrated 30 years. Value-Penguin rated Black Mountain as one of North Carolina’s safest cities among cities of 15,000 or fewer people. Black Mountain writer David Madden was honored by the University of Tennessee Libraries and UT Alumni Association. Nathan Padgett was named coach of Owen High’s football team.
In May, the annual Black Mountain Garden Show and Sale attracted hundreds of people. Friends celebrated the birthday of White Horse Black Mountain owner Bob Hinkle at the music venue. Rock the Taste gave diners a sampling of what area restaurants were up to. Owen High School held its senior prom.
In May, the town of Black Mountain revised its minimum housing code that provides more protection for renters. Montreat’s Anderson Auditorium reverberated with Scottish bagpipes in one of the nation’s largest Kirkin’ of the Tartan worship services. Fulfilling its mission as it goes, Presbyterian Weekday School celebrated 30 years of service.
In May, the Asheville Christian Academy girls soccer team won its first state title. The N.C. Board of Funeral Service suspended the license of Wilson Family Funeral Service. Former Montreat College president Silas M. “Si” Vaughn died.
In June, the Watershed Football Club ‘s Open 4th Division team hadn’t lost a single match going into the division semi-finals. The Black Mountain Center for the Arts held its annual Art in Bloom home and art tour. At Black Mountain Neuro-Medical Treatment Center, volunteers planted a butterfly garden.
In June, some two dozen local residents gathered at the Carver Community Center to give feedback on the Black Mountain bike plan. Erik Bendl, aka The World Guy, pushed his boulder-sized globe through town on a Southern tour to promote diabetes awareness. Owen High, Community High and Asheville Christian Academy celebrated its graduating seniors.
In June, Broad River reported a spate of home break-ins. Black Mountain passed a $10.2 million budget that included no tax hike. The Black Mountain Center for the Arts held its annual Art in Bloom art exhibit and fundraiser. Black Mountain attorney Bryant Webster was honored by the state bar association for donating 1,300 hours of pro bono work. Owen High’s The Hoofbeat student newspaper was one of five high school newspapers to receive the Tarheel Award for excellence.
In July, some 300 riders biked in the annual Cycle to Farm event created by local bike enthusiast Jennifer Billstrom. Local winemaker Tom Mincarelli continued to win medals for his wine. Angela Reece took over for longtime Black Mountain clerk Darlene Whitenant, who retired. Montreat College started building its new black box theater. Under beautiful skies, Park Rhythms kicked off on Lake Tomahawk’s grounds, delighting residents with music and community.
In July, Sara and Bob LaBrant announced their retirement and the November closing of Friendship Lodge in Ridgecrest. Warren Wilson College was named a “best buy” by the Fiske Guide to Colleges. Owen High alum Steven Hensley, a pitcher, made his debut in the Mexican League.
In July, Rachel Allen, Don Collins, Larry Harris and Maggie Tuttle filed for Black Mountain aldermen seats. In Montreat, Kitty Fouche and Bill Gilliland filed for seats held by Jack McCaskill and Martha Campbell. The Warhorse Youth Football and Cheer league’s annual camp brought in a record number of children.
In August, the 48th Annual Juried Members Exhibit of the Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League was held at the Red House Studios & Gallery. The Black Mountain Sourwood Festival was held for the 38th time. Whitney Madden announced the return of the Source for Well-Being to the Swannanoa Valley. Warren Wilson College was named N.C.’s most gay-friendly college by eCollegeFinder.
In August, some 700 people went to Montreat Conference Center for “Dr. King’s Unfinished Agenda,” a three-day event meant to help participant rededicate themselves to Martin Luther King’s vision. Local storyteller and service station owner Bud Hall passed away. So did Ray Kirstein, who died in the same room in the Broad River farmhouse where he was born.
Denied because of Japanese internment during World War II, Ida O’Connell in August finally received her long-overdue high school diploma. Elvis, aka Frank Cooper, showed up at the Montreat Post Office. Middle school student Hunter White was recognized by the town for finishing fourth in the inaugural B.A.S.S. National Championship.
In September, Givens Highland Farms announced an addition - the new Meadowmont complex. The popular restaurant Que Sera announced plans to move to the historic Junction Building. Nearly 300 runners competed in the Rock the Quarry 5K at Grove Stone & Sand. In September, media specialist Lila Downs Morel, Owen district teacher of the year, competed for Buncombe County Teacher of the Year.
Rodney Ogle was named the 2015 recipient of the Association of Christian Childcare Administration’s Award for Excellence. Someone stole Rockette, a life-size scarecrow that the town beautification committee placed at the entrance to Town Square. The Black Mountain Lions Club held its annual charity “Run with the Lions” 5K. Local weaver Mikkel Hansen placed second at the N.C. Mountain State Fair for two pieces of woven art.
In October, the Swannanoa Community Yard Sale returned, attracting hundreds of shoppers and Swannanoa supporters. Warren Wilson College was named one of the “most Zen schools” by HerCampus, a college journalist-written website. Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry celebrated its 40th year of helping clients in the Swannanoa Valley. The ministry hired Sonny Moore as the new homeless shelter manager.
In October, the Black Mountain Center for the Arts hosted the Appalachian Pastel Society’s Juried Show in its upper gallery. Warren Wilson College poet Ellen Bryant Voigt was named a 2015 MacArthur Fellow. Owen High strikeout queen Jaiden Tweed committed to Presbyterian College. A new radio station, WHSP-LP FM (100.9) was created within The Church of the Incarnation in Black Mountain. The board of Warren Wilson College voted to divest endowment funds from fossil fuels over the next five years.
In October, Chloe Austin is crowned Owen High’s homecoming queen. Continuing its conference domination, the Asheville Christian Academy volleyball program produced a conference crown. Montreat College renamed the primary chapel on campus to Graham Chapel in honor of the Rev. Billy Graham and Ruth Bell Graham. Black Mountain resident O.L. Sherrill was one of three people named to the Fall 2015 class of Asheville Living Treasures. Owen High’s Jennifer Abshire was Buncombe County’s High School Counselor of the Year.
In November, the Owen High School Marching Band competed in the Grand Nationals Competition in Indianapolis, Ind. The Buncombe County Board of Elections nullified eight of 17 challenged voter registration in Montreat. Asheville Christian Academy boys soccer team won a state crown. The annual Howl-O-Ween Pet Parade at Town Square was the biggest ever.
In November, incumbents Don Collins, Maggie Tuttle and Larry Harris won seats on the Black Mountain board of aldermen. Winning the two open seats in Montreat were Kitty Fouche and Bill Gilliland. The Valley mourned Owen graduate Alex King, whose body was found by the French Broad River in Asheville in October.
In December, the town turned out for the annual Christmas parade and Circle of Lights at Lake Tomahawk. Former Owen football coach Kenny Ford was grand marshall of the parade. Owen High runners Garret Welsh and Hannah Feinsilber represented the school during the state championship cross country meet in Kernersville. The Owen Craft Fair at Owen Middle School gave residents one more place to Christmas shop.
In December, the Town Pump starred in a recently released music video by the band The Honeycutters. Deck the Trees at the Monte Vista Hotel raised money for Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry’s heating fuel fund. New Montreat mayor Tim Helms said Florida Trace would no longer be considered the site of Montreat’s new town hall. The Wenoca Chapter of the Western North Carolina Sierra Club named Warren Wilson College the “Green College of the Year.”
In December, Owen Middle School renamed its drive after retiring custodian Clarence Harper.