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Dale Neal Joins Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Staff
Starting May 1, veteran writer Dale Neal is joining the staff of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area to serve as digital communications manager.
A native North Carolinian, Neal graduated from Wake Forest University and earned his master’s degree from the prestigious MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. He joined the Asheville Citizen-Times in 1983 and covered every beat including police, county government, religion, books, business, entrepreneurs, editorials, and features. In September 2016, he journeyed as a reporter to Islamabad and Karachi, Pakistan, as part of a U.S.-Pakistani Journalism Exchange through the International Center for Journalism.
Neal most recently won first place in feature profile writing from the North Carolina Press Association in the state’s largest newspapers category. His story “Sheriff of Legend” revisited the many stories surrounding E.Y. Ponder of Madison County and the old jail he ran in Marshall.
Neal is also an accomplished novelist. His first novel, Cow Across America won the 2009 Novello Literary Award. He published the critically acclaimed The Half-Life of Home in 2013. He currently teaches fiction for the Thomas Wolfe Center for Narrative at the Lenoir-Rhyne University Graduate Center of Asheville. He also serves on the board of trustees for the Thomas Wolfe Memorial State Historic Site in Asheville.  
“I’ve always been enthralled by the many stories of the Southern Appalachians. My grandparents had a small farm on the far side of Watauga County and I spent my childhood roaming their backwoods, playing in their barn,” Neal said. “Those adventures would serve me well in a long newspaper career chronicling the people and places of Western North Carolina. I’m looking forward to helping the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area preserve and promote our rich mountain heritage, from arts and music, to natural beauty and our working family farms, and of course the lore of the Cherokee, our mountains’ first people.”
New Appalachian Mural Trail—New for 2017

Many murals are telling the stories of communities large and small throughout the mountains and foothills of Western North Carolina, and the new Appalachian Mural Trail (AMT) aims to link them together and provide information and access to these outdoor artworks.
The goal is to bring visitors to participating communities, thus not only enhancing the interpretation of history and culture to be found there, but also to support local economies. The website, http://muraltrail.com/index.htm, will be an interactive resource to guide visitors to all murals on the trail. 
Presently, there are murals in twelve counties, all located in communities near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Trail organizers intend to inspire other small Appalachian communities to create their own high quality outdoor heritage murals, with paintings of folk tales, Cherokee legends, mountain music, and the beauty of the land.
Vote for Appalachian Mural Trail and Support Grant Application
To support the new trail and also communities needing funding for a mural, trail organizers have been approved for a USA Today ‘Communities Thrive’ grant. The next step is an online popular vote at www.act.usatoday.com between April 12 and May 12. One vote per person per day is allowed, so you can vote every day for the mural trail. At the end of the voting period, those receiving the highest number of votes will become finalists and advance to the judging.
Dedication Event May 6
On Saturday, May 6, the Appalachian Mural Trail will dedicate four murals in Asheville—the Triangle Park mural depicting the history of the African American Block area; the Shindig mural on the wall at Pack's Tavern; the Chicken Alley mural that tells of chickens that used to roam the alley in the old days, and the Lexington Gateway mural, a composite of people who have made up Asheville over the years including chess players that met in a park downtown, a Native American potter, an African American fiddler, a moonshiner, a quilter, and a mountain man and woman. Both of these latter murals are on Lexington Avenue. Special music and storytelling are planned to celebrate the launch of these four murals into the new AMT.
Want to Become a Part of the Mural Trail?
Communities interested in joining the trail are encouraged to contact Doreyl Ammons Cain, mural trail Director at artist@muraltrail.com
"Mentors and Heroes"—New Exhibit by David Holt
"Mentors and Heroes, Photography by David Holt," is on display through May 6 at the Western North Carolina Office of Archives and History, 175 Riceville Road, Asheville, open Monday - Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday 10 am to 2 pm. The exhibit is free and open to the public.
The exhibit includes over 30 black and white portraits of Holt’s many musical mentors and heroes from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Among those featured in the exhibit are Madison County ballad singers and Doc Watson, with whom Holt traveled and performed for many years. Holt calls Watson his “musical father” and most important mentor.
In addition, the exhibit includes several musical instruments from Holt’s personal collection. The “Tree of Life” open back banjo custom made by Bud Soesby and Wade Mainer’s 1953 Gibson are among those on display.
David Holt is a four-time GRAMMY Award winner who, in addition to being a musician, story-teller, and radio and television host, has done important work documenting and sharing the stories and images of many significant American musicians. In Holt’s words, “These folks have a power and wisdom that you just don’t see in the modern world. They grew up before self-doubt was invented.”
For more information and directions, go to http://www.ncdcr.gov/westernoffice or call 296-7230.
Registration Now Open for Growing Greenways Workshop
Registration is now open for the May 19 workshop, Growing Greenways: Cultivating Support & Success in WNC, from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville. Click here for more information and to register for the event.
The meeting will focus on generating and sustaining public and political support for greenway project development. The goal of the event is to empower greenway advocates to succeed and to expand their influence throughout the western region of North Carolina.
Keynote address will be given by Ed McMahon, who holds the Charles E. Frasier Chair for Sustainable Development and Environmental Policy at the Urban Land Institute. Nationally known as an inspiring and thought-provoking speaker, he is a leading authority on topics such as the links between health and the built environment, sustainable development, land conservation, smart growth, and historic preservation.
Additional topics will include:
•Techniques to Involve Private and Corporate Citizens
•Increasing Participation from Minority and Rural Members of the Community
•Case Studies from Other Regional Trail & Greenway Projects that are Supported by Friends Groups
•A Primer for Overcoming Barriers to get Greenways on the Ground
The workshop offers an option for recreation and planning professionals to receive CEUs . Questions? Contact Judy Francis, Judith.Francis@ncparks.gov, 828.296.7230 x 226.
New Luthiers Exhibit to Open at Smith-McDowell House
Beginning April 26, the Smith-McDowell House will have a new exhibit titled, The Luthier's Craft: Instrument Making Traditions of the Blue Ridge, funded in part by a grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. 
To celebrate the exhibit, on Saturday, May 20, from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm, The Crafty Historian program will be making hand-crafted instruments such as a mouth bow (history's oldest string instrument), a kazoo, a shaker, even a cardboard box guitar.
The program is open to the public; fee is $5 for each crafter and includes a visit to see the exhibit. Click here to make your reservation.
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Blue Ridge National Heritage Area  •  195 Hemphill Knob Road  •  Asheville, NC 28803


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