If you want to duck out of the sun and see some great examples of handcraft and art, there are nearly 150 chances to do so at Bele Chere. That’s how many artists and craftspeople set up for the festival this weekend.
From paintings to metal works to woodcarving to eclectic and inventive items, Bele Chere booths house a great variety of artworks, clothing, photography and jewelry. And you often get a chance to chat up the artist who made them. It is an opportunity to browse, shop and take in the colorful, vibrant and imaginative arts community that populates the Bele Chere festival.
#1: The Bands! For three days the music will soar in downtown Asheville and the crowds will soak it in. Free live music is the pulse of the festival and there are so many kinds to enjoy this year.
From local favorites like CrazyHorse and Colston and the Swayback Sisters, to national acts like Brandi Carlile and the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra, there is music to capture fans of all kinds.
Over the past few years, there has been an increased focus on local and regional musicians, giving festival goers a healthy slice of what music in WNC is all about, and this lineup is no different. Then there are the touring acts that bring their own sounds to the party. Together, these bands make Bele Chere a three-day smorgasbord for music lovers.
Antique Firearms ~ The Archrivals ~ ArtOfficial ~ Aunt Martha ~ Baby Rattlesnakes ~ Balsam Range ~ Blackberry Smoke ~ BoomBox ~ Boys in the Well ~ Brani Carlile ~ The Buchanan Boys ~ CrazyHorse & Colston ~ The Critters ~ David Holt & The Lightening Bolts ~ David Mayfield Parade ~ David Wax Museum ~ Delta Rae ~ Doc Aquatic ~ Dr. Dog ~ Ethan Andrew McMahan “Easy” ~ Grown Up Avenger Stuff ~ Inner Visions ~ Jody Medford & Cash Creek ~ Jonathan Scales Fourchestra ~ Kovacs & the Polar Bear ~ Lacy Green ~ Larry Keel & Natural Bridge ~ Lorraine Conrad Band ~ Los Amigos Invisibles ~ Lucero ~ Lyric ~ Michael Reno Harrell ~ Papa Grows Funk ~ Randall Bramblett ~ Sanctum Sully ~ Spicy Moustace & the Flavor Saviors ~ stephaniesid ~ The Swayback Sisters ~ Tennessee Hollow ~ The Travis Smith Project ~ Whitney Moore ~ Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band
One of the best parts of Bele Chere is wandering around the festival, running into unexpected friends and searching for treasures in artist booths or stumbling upon a fantastic street performer.
But sometimes, you want to get somewhere right now, be it a band or a bathroom, and you need to know how to make it from A to B.
Attendees can find information booths scattered throughout the Bele Chere grounds, both on the perimeter and in the center of the festival. Once there, volunteers are available to point the way and hand out festival maps.
There will also be roving information booths meandering about among the festival crowd and dishing out directions to fellow wanderers. Look for the people carrying signs that say “Bele Chere Info.” They know where to go.
For a peek at what to expect this year, click on this map of the festival layout or download your own printable copy here.
The Bele Chere festival is a great time full of free music, fun and performance, but it is also hot, crowded, subject to thunderstorms and sunshine alike. So make sure to enjoy it safely by following these tips from Asheville Fire Department Public Information Officer Kelley Klope:
Be prepared for crowds – think about the shoes you wear and the items you bring.
Because of the crowds, strollers are difficult to maneuver around.
Temperatures at Bele Chere are often very hot – prepare with sunscreen, water and protective clothing.
Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Water, juice, sports drinks or even milk will help. Soda is not an effective hydrator.
Watch your intake of alcoholic beverages. Drinking alcohol, even the day before exposure to heat, can exacerbate dehydration.
“Especially be aware of your children and limit their exposure to the heat and sun,” Klope says. “Please listen to your body and its reaction to the heat and sun and try not to wait until it is too late.” Take breaks in air conditioning or shade and take advantage of the misting tents located at Bele Chere.
Wear loose, light fitting clothing and a hat or use an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun.
Sudden thunderstorms often erupt in afternoons. Bring umbrellas or rain gear and be aware of safe places to go for cover (example – parking garages).
Asheville Fire Department will be onsite to treat injuries and heat-related issues, so seek help if you or someone in your party is experiencing problems. First-aid tents will be located at the corners of Patton Avenue and Church Street and at College Street and Lexington Avenue.
Not only are kids welcome at Bele Chere, we have a whole area of the festival designed just for them. Located inside the U.S. Cellular Center, the Children’s Area is a great place to cool off and explore a great variety of games, rides and crafts.
“Kids are interested in so many things, you just can’t go wrong.” says Basil Punsalan, Event Specialist with the City of Asheville. “There is always something new going on.”
The alcohol-free Children’s Area lets kids be kids (and gives parents a break) with the Frog Hopper ride, laser tag and inflatables to jump around in. There are also plenty of free events, art activities and presentations from fun and interesting groups like the WNC Nature Center, the Colburn Science Museum and the Urban Arts Institute.
Thanks to all the non-profits and volunteers who help make the Children’s Area happen year after year.
See the Children’s Area performance schedule below, and find out more information at belecherefestival.com.
Friday, July 27
1:00 – 2:00: Sun Soo Tae kwon Do
2:00 – 3:00: Asheville Area Music Together
3:00 – 4:00: Urban Arts Institute
5:00 – 6:00: Pretty Pitches Vocal Group
6:00 – 7:00: Elevate School of Life and Art Variety Show
Saturday, July 28
10:00 – 11:00: Asheville Area Music Together
11:00 – 12:00: WNC Nature Center
12:00 – 1:00: Animal Party
1:00 – 2:00: Kron Kids Story time
2:00 – 4:00: Rock Academy NC
4:00 – 5:00: Urban Arts Institute
5:00 – 6:00: Youth at Jazz
6:00 – 7:00: Mountain Thunder Cloggers
Sunday, July 29
12:00 – 1:00: WNC Nature Center
1:00 – 2:00: Asheville Fire Department
3:00 – 5:00: Asheville Music School
No. 5: DON’T bring the pets
Animals are not allowed in the Bele Chere festival boundaries, yes even the well-behaved ones. We know that pets are part of the family, but the crowds, the heat and the noises of the festival make it an unhappy place for dogs.
But please, do not leave pets in your car either. It is July after all, and that kind of heat is deadly to pets. Instead, for those people who can’t bear to leave pets at home (or those who get caught bringing their four legged friends into Bele Chere) there is Doggie Jail, a temporary kennel set up by the City of Asheville and operated by the Animal Compassion Network.
Located in front of Asheville City Hall and safely outside the festival, Doggie Jail is a fenced area with kennels provided by the WNC Nature Center. Owners pay $5 per hour to board their dogs, with a $20 maximum. Proceeds go to the Animal Compassion Network.
Volunteers, animal lovers all, give the pets attention and walks on a regular basis so that pet owners can wander the festival knowing their furry friends are taken care of.
Doggie Jail will operate Friday, 12p.m.-8p.m., Saturday 10a.m.-8p.m, and Sunday 12-6p.m.
This video gives a great perspective on why Bele Chere’s party animals should only be of the human variety:
You think we would throw a major event like Bele Chere a not show up with some way to get to the festival without driving? Multi-modal is the motto in Asheville!
Buses: The ART will be operating throughout the three days of the festival, dropping off all routes at the ART station, only one block form the Bele Chere boundary. You can even plan your trip ahead of time and keep up with transit detours during the festival at ridetheart.com.
Shuttles: The Bele Chere shuttles have become a crowd favorite, allowing festivalgoers to park at satellite stations and let someone else do the downtown driving. In 2011, the shuttles transported a grand total of 12,786 passengers to the festival. Two park and ride stations will be operating – an East shuttle at the Asheville Mall parking lot in front of Sears, and a West Shuttle at the K-Mart parking area on Patton Avenue. Like the ART buses, round trip fare is $2.
Bicycle: While bikes aren’t allowed inside the festival, they are a great way to get to the party. And leaving them in a safe place is no problem since Asheville on Bikes, Blue Ridge Bicycle Club and other organizations in the bicycle community host a great Bike Corral on Patton Avenue between Asheland and Coxe Avenues.
Or walk: If you are one of the lucky folks who live near or in downtown, just hoof it to the festival. You’re going to put on a lot of miles seeing and hearing all of the great things at Bele Chere. What’s a couple of more?
No. 7: But if you DO drive, City of Asheville parking decks await
Driving into Bele Chere? Don’t get caught snaking through side streets looking for the best deal. City of Asheville parking decks are open for business and located on Wall Street, Rankin Avenue and behind the U.S. Cellular Center.
“The city garages are the best deal in town. We charge $5 per car and we are in the heart of the festival,” says Parking Services manager Harry Brown. “Ironically, folks think we’ll be full and park further out while our decks, especially the Civic Center garage, usually have spaces available.”
Brown cautions drivers against parking in private lots around downtown. Many of those lots have posted notices limiting who can park there and cars can be subject to towing and fines. “I would hate for someone to park and enjoy the festival only to find their vehicle towed,” Brown says.
Check back for more of the Bele Chere Top 10, and Follow Bele Chere 2012 on Facebook and Twitter!
The 2012 Bele Chere Festival is just around the corner, taking place in downtown Asheville July 27-29. As excitement builds for the big weekend, we are kicking off “Bele Chere: Top 10 Things to Know.” Check back for more as we get closer and closer to the big event! See more information about Bele Chere 2012 at belecherefestival.com.
No. 10: Volunteers make it work
“Our Bele Chere volunteers are indispensable,” says Sandra Travis, the City of Asheville’s festival program supervisor. “The whole thing depends on them. They are the ambassadors for Bele Chere.”
More than 185 volunteers work shifts totaling almost 1,000 hours over the festival’s three days, from staffing information booths to working the children’s area to managing vendor setup and breakdown. “We just couldn’t do it without them,” Travis says.
Fortunately, there are volunteers who return every year to be part of the Southeast’s largest outdoor street festival and some have been coming back for 15 years or more.
“There is a kind of person who wants to be involved. They want to be part of the festival, not just a spectator” Travis says. “For that group, it’s kind of a reunion every year.”
But there are also new volunteers who show up every year, and there’s still room to jump on board for Bele Chere 2012. “It’s a great way to meet new people, have fun and be a part of something all at the same time,” Travis says.
Want to give it a try? Volunteer information and an interest form are available on the official Bele Chere website at www.belecherefestival.com or by calling (828) 259-5800. Volunteers must be at least 16 years of age and volunteers who work at least one 3.5 hour shift will receive a free Bele Chere t-shirt and snacks during their shift.
No. 9: Nonprofits get a Bele Chere boost
The Bele Chere festival is a huge event for the City of Asheville and a great party for music fans, families and art lovers. But for area nonprofits, the festival is also a major fund raising opportunity.
Nonprofits operate beverage stations, sell wrist bands and staff shuttle locations, and in return, receive a percentage of the revenue.
Competition to be part of the festival by nonprofits is high – 27 groups are selected every year out of a field of nearly twice that number. “For a lot of these groups, this is the biggest fundraiser of the year,” Travis says.
But it’s also a great opportunity to get exposure and get their message out there; nonprofit groups wear T-shirts, hang banners and distribute materials to educate the public about their cause. And, Travis says, it’s just plain fun.
Nonprofits participating in Bele Chere 2012 are:
Animal Compassion Network
Asheville Area Paralegal Association
Asheville Biltmore Rotary Club
Asheville Ski Club
Cataloochee Ski Patrol
Differently Abled News Network
Engineers without Borders
Explorer Post, APD
Knights of Columbus
Mountain Voices Alliance
Phi Beta Lambda
St. James AME Church
St. John’s Episcopal Church
St. Paul’s Methodist Church
The Mediation Center
West Asheville Rotary Club
42 acts, more than half of whom are local or regional acts, will perform on four stages over the three-day event.
Here is a selection from the press release from the City of Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department announcing the lineup:
Some of the local bands performing are: Floating Action, Secret B Sides, Kovacs & The Polar Bear, RBTS Win, Sirius.B, Doc Aquatic, Sonmi Suite, The Billy Sea, Sanctum Sully, Paper Tiger, The Vertigo Jazz Project, Lyric, The StereoFidelics, Do It To Julia, Papadosio, and Balsam Range. In addition, the winner of the Last Band Standing contest will open the festival on the Haywood Street Stage. Last Band Standing: The Road to Bele Chere 2011 is in collaboration with WNC Magazine.
Headliners for the event include Marc Broussard, Big Gigantic, Mambo Sauce, The London Souls, Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Jessica Lea Mayfield, Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, The Whigs, Apache Relay, Rebirth Brass Band, Hoots & Hellmouth, and Railroad Earth.
Bele Chere is the largest free street festival in the Southeast and is produced by the City of Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department in conjunction with the Bele Chere Board of Directors. Bele Chere is sponsored in part by Budweiser of Asheville and Clear Channel radio.
The Bele Chere entertainment selection is made with the help of a committee of volunteers, who spend a weekend listening to hundreds of submissions from artists. More than 750 submissions are received every year. A 2007 public input process and direction from Asheville City Council has resulted in an increased focus on performers from the WNC region.
Click here to visit the Bele Chere Festival website.
Click here to see more articles about the Bele Chere Festival.
Click here to see pictures from Bele Chere Festival 2010.
This weekend, a group of local music lovers will shut themselves in an Asheville hotel suite and spend three days listening to some 600 musical submissions for the 2011 Bele Chere Festival. The ritual takes place every year at the end of February and results in the entertainment lineup for the festival, held this year July 29-31.
Three groups will begin their day at 9 a.m., listening to three excerpts from each and every submission, scoring each and winding out the weekend with the list that will result in 37 musical slots on the festival’s four stages.
The Mad Tea Party is one of Asheville's local favorites that performed at Bele Chere 2010.
The three groups correspond with categories made up of musical sub genres: One focusses on styles like rock, americana and jam bands, another on blues, jazz, reggae and hip-hop, and still another for country, bluegrass and singer-songwriter.
“You have to commit to listening to everything that is in your category. It can make for an intense weekend,” says Cristin Corder Lee, Event Specialist with the Asheville Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts Department. The committees are provided snacks and meals and take occasional breaks, but otherwise they spend those hours listening to song submissions and reading band bios.
The process actually got rolling in December, when the call went out for musical submissions. Musical acts have the option of submitting online or mailing in CDs and information packets. This year, the submission deadline was extended to Feb. 18 to ensure the best selection possible.
The selection committee itself is also the result of an application process. Members are picked after a call for applications, and are typically selected based on their knowledge or enthusiasm for music.
“We’ve had people who have been involved in music production, in promotion, some who have been in bands or who write about music for local publications,” says Steve Busey, who has chaired Bele Chere Entertainment Committee for several years and now serves as the festivals’ chair.
Busey even points to a T.C. Roberson high-school student who was on the selection panel last year because of her love for country music. “And it was great to have a younger person in the group,” he says.
Though Corder Lee facilitates the selection process, neither she nor any other city staff actually participates in the voting process. “We want as much transparency as possible, and to give every one a chance to participate,” she says. She does, however, use the committee’s choices to put together the schedules for each stage, making sure each showcases different kinds of music. “We want to get as much diversity up there as possible,” she says. “We want to make sure there is something there for everyone.” She adds that six slots reserved for headlining acts are filled by an executive committee that makes picks based on factors like budget, band availability and genre of music.
A 2007 survey and a vote by Asheville City Council placed a higher emphasis on showcasing local music at the festival. Corder Lee says the festival’s recent lineups have easily exceeded the percentages mandated by that Council vote.
The complete entertainment lineup for the 2011 Bele Chere fest will be announced in June, though some performers may be announced as they are confirmed, and the festival lineup is always subject to change.
Since pedestrians are still walking around the festival area after Bele Chere closes, officers from the Asheville Police Department stand guard at the festival barricades, keeping the streets closed to traffic. By about 6:30, when pedestrian traffic has thinned enough, festival officials put out a call to APD officers and festival staff that vendor vehicles can enter the festival area, but general traffic won’t be allowed through downtown for several more hours.
Also at 6 p.m., City of Asheville Public Works crews begin collecting several hundred trash barrels and recycling containers, bagging the trash and recyclables at the curb for pickup by sanitation trucks. Meanwhile, Parks Maintenance staff begin taking down signs, moving information kiosks, and picking up barrels used at beverage tents. Later, city-owned Bele Chere gear will be transported to a storage building at the WNC Nature Center.
By 6:45, private companies contracted for Bele Chere are disconnecting extra power lines, packing up generators and hauling away some 80 portable toilets.
An hour later, the festival is almost down to nothing but the streets and materials left on the curb to be picked up by the tent rental company and Public Works crews. The “knuckle buster” truck used by the city’s brush collection crews circles downtown picking up concrete-filled buckets lent out by the city to weigh down displays, and the night is left to the process of cleaning sidewalks and streets.
At sunset, downtown Asheville is buzzing with the sounds of leaf blowers and street sweepers. Public Works crews blow debris from the sidewalk and middle of the street to the curb where it can be picked up by sweeper trucks operated by the city’s Stormwater Services Division. Despite the fact that street sweepers made rounds every night of the Bele Chere festival, it takes multiple trips to do a thorough job of sweeping away the festival’s remnants. In Pack Square and around Pritchard Park, the areas where food was served, the streets are given extra attention with a pressurized hose.
Crews and city officials also monitor and clean streets and parking lots adjacent to the festival, cleaning a perimeter outside the Bele Chere boundaries since crowds also impact those areas.
“We’re responsible for everything that happens during the festival. It’s our baby once it’s over,” said city sanitation official Henry Glaze. “We make sure everything, even outside the festival, is cleaned up.”
By midnight, once the sweepers have made their rounds and the crew chiefs are satisfied that all debris and dirt has been picked up, the city brings in a “flusher” truck, a vehicle that sprays pressurized water behind it and gives the streets one final rinse.
By morning, the Bele Chere staff still has bookkeeping to finalize, meetings to discuss how the festival went, and other details to put in place, but to the outside eye, Bele Chere is gone.
“The goal is that, once you come into downtown Asheville in the morning, it’s like Bele Chere never happened,” says festival Entertainment Director Cristin Corder-Lee.
How do you pack up a three-day festival in about six hours? After some 30 years of wrapping the Bele Chere festival, City of Asheville and festival staff have the system down to a sort of frenzied science. Multiple city departments, festival vendors and private companies all interact to make Bele Chere disappear overnight. With three main stages, hundreds of tents and thousands of attendees, the logistics involved are as detailed as putting on the festival itself.
“It truly is a massive effort,” said Diane Ruggiero, the city’s Superintendent of Cultural Arts, at a meeting to prep festival staff and volunteers for the task on Bele Chere’s final day.
By the time the festival ends on Sunday, event officials and staff have begun packing up the command center that has been located in the Exposition level of the Asheville Civic Center since Thursday. But the first thing festival goers will see coming down are the main performance stages. As soon as Sunday’s final musical acts finish their last songs, crews begin removing and packing the sound equipment, making room for the stage companies to break down the stage itself. Once reduced to their shells, the stages fold up and are hauled away like tractor trailers by the companies contracted to supply them.
“There will still be vendors packing by the time we leave,” said Production Manager Bill Clark, helping festival stage crews lower PA speakers from the Haywood Street stage.
As soon as 6 p.m. rolls around, many things begin happening at once. Vendors begin to pack up. Both food and arts vendors are well-practiced at breaking down their own booths, but festival Area Managers roam their specific sections making sure that everyone has quit selling their products and are on track to be off the streets by 8 p.m.
Almost immediately after the close of the festival, officials are piloting a fleet of golf carts through the streets to make sure all the pieces are in place for a break down that is safe and as efficient as possible. “We also want to make ourselves present and available if any problems come up,” said festival director Sandra Travis, motoring down Biltmore Avenue.
Within the boundaries of Bele Chere, there are approximately 210 trash barrels and 120 recycling bins. Still, without regular rounds by the City of Asheville’s sanitation crews, those containers would be piled beyond capacity.
Crew leader Booby Austin says teams of two crew members hit each container every 45 minutes on Friday, the slowest day of the festival, and bumped the schedule up to every 30 minutes on Saturday when crowds were the largest. They also scan the ground for litter on their routes. “If we see it on the ground, we go ahead and pick it up,” he says.
Still, at the end of the evening, after the festival day is over, crews circulate through the street with leaf blowers, piling litter along the curbs to be picked up by street sweepers. That process, Austin says, usually winds down around 1:30 a.m.