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Tag Archives: Western North Carolina

A Glimpse of Asheville

DSC00004Located in the mountains of Western North Carolina, lays the beautiful city of Asheville. Whether you come here in the fall to see the leaves change color on the parkway, a spring visit to the Biltmore House to see the flowers bloom, or for a summer vacation to enjoy all the outdoor activities you can imagine, Asheville is the perfect place to visit any time of the year.  

This small city is a great place to be if you’re traveling here with your family, by yourself, or with your significant other. The adventure of Asheville begins as soon as you step foot in downtown. Here you will find some of the best restaurant and small shops. You will not want to miss a trip to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge! Call us here at Wilcox Travel and we would love to set you up a tour of downtown Asheville so that you can learn the history of the wonderful town. While you are downtown make a trip down to the River Arts District to enjoy multiple art studios and experience the culture of Asheville. If you are a fan of the night scene then you will love some of the bars there are, including Aloft hotel where you can go on the roof and see all of the city under the stars.

Just ten minutes from downtown Asheville located in Biltmore Forest sits The Biltmore Estate. The house is one of the biggest private homes in the US and the estate is one of the largest that is still privately owned. Don’t forget to get your tickets at the front gate because you will not want to miss out on the walk through tours they offer of the home. A visit to the Biltmore Estate can last all day and will still leave you wanting more. Surrounding the house are the estates gardens, a pond, and many walking trails, including one that line the French Broad River. Not to mention the many dining options they have from snacks to completely formal, which is great for celebrations and special occasions. You can enjoy a free tour of the winery and if you are of age, free wine testing when the tour is complete! The options at The Biltmore Estate are endless.

After you have enjoyed two of the most famous places in Asheville you will want to continue your adventure outdoors! Surrounding Asheville are many hiking trails, waterfalls, places to zip line, a tubing experience down the river, a drive down the parkway, and much more. The hiking trails range from very easy, something the whole family can do and then there are strenuous ones for the most adventure seeking outdoor lovers! While on your hike or outdoor adventure there will be plenty of opportunities to view the wildlife. There are also great places to horseback ride, or play golf in the valley of the mountains.

If you love to shop there is something for you too! Besides the many shops in downtown Asheville and Biltmore Forest, an outlet mall recently opened up fifteen minutes down the road with plenty of stores for all different tastes.

There are so many activities to do you will want to spend as much time in Asheville that you can! Enjoy your adventures and come see us here in these beautiful mountains we call home. Contact Wilcox Travel so we can help you plan the perfect trip to Asheville, NC.

Wildlife spectacle lies just over Smokies

The four of us met in Asheville that morning bound for the wildlife spectacle along the Hiwassee River in southwestern Tennessee. Many of the local lakes were still frozen, so the largest concentration of sandhill cranes in the Southeastern United States (outside Florida) was not in the wildlife refuge but along the shores off the Hiwassee River.

The cranes, along with thousands of ducks, were standing around on the sand bars or feeding along the semi-frozen shoreline.

Hundreds were also feeding in the nearby fields among the cattle — a quite amazing sight really. Not quite the African savanna, but almost. Small flocks of American pipits also fed in the fields, and large flocks of red-winged blackbirds wheeled and landed amongst the unconcerned livestock.

A new visitor center had been built down on the end of Blyth’s Ferry Road honoring the Cherokee removal along the Trail of Tears, which was a peaceful site to spend a little time before heading to the new overlook high on a bluff over the Hiwassee River. The cranes were still distant, so we looked for a closer vantage point on the other side of the river (another part of Blyth’s Ferry Road).

The rest of the late afternoon was spent watching evening flights of ducks, as well as enjoying and photographing flock after flock of sandhill cranes en route to their evening roost — probably also on one of the river islands.

Black-crowned-night-heronAn adult black-crowned night heron (rare at this season) flew in to feed, and a winter wren sat bobbing on the rocks seemingly oblivious to our presence.

At the end of a long day out birding, it's always nice to retire to a good hotel and have a good meal. Our hotel in Chattanooga was barely three months old — a very smart, modern hotel with a sleek modern look — and dinner was at a locally owned and operated restaurant, always a good find in our increasingly homogeneous world.

Brainerd Levee, which is part of the greenway system that goes through a large part of Chattanooga, is always a great birding spot. Despite the sunshine and rapidly warming temperatures, most of the water was still frozen and the ducks were all elsewhere, but several still flew by maybe checking on the status of the water and included gadwall, American wigeon, northern shoveler and green-winged teal.

By the time we turned toward the parking lot, the ice had receded a little and about 25 teal were feeding feverishly in the shallow water, again oblivious to our close proximity. A real treat was the number of Wilson's snipe that was being flushed from the short grass around the pool. They flew up only to quickly land again and then disappear into the vegetation, demonstrating their incredible camouflage.

An adult red-shouldered hawk showed itself very closely, and small flocks of Eastern bluebirds, Eastern meadowlarks and American robins were feeding along the grassy banks.

We ended our weekend tour at the large Chickamauga Dam, just north of town, where an extraordinary number of white-winged scoter had flown in — part of the invasion of sea ducks that has been prevalent throughout the Southeast this winter. A very showy long-tailed duck was also present, along with several common goldeneye and a good selection of loons and grebes.

The four-hour drive back to Asheville was not bad, and all of the snow had now gone — a great trip with thousands of cranes and ducks and a great birding spectacle not far from us here in WNC.

Wild Birds Unlimited
Simon Thompson has lived in Western North Carolina for 18 years. He owns and operates Ventures Birding Tours, He co-owns the Asheville Wild Birds Unlimited Store. For more information, drop by the store or check his website at

Employer registration Open- 2014 Homecoming Job Fair

The Economic Development Coalition and the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce partner annually with numerous workforce and industry allies to promote employment opportunities in advanced manufacturing, health care, and other growth industries in Western North Carolina. Residents, students, graduates and former residents are encouraged to attend this one-stop opportunity to meet directly with representatives from companies that will be hiring in 2014 or organizations promoting awareness to potential future employees.  The event will be held Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at the Davis Event Center within the WNC Ag Center.  Employers may register online at for Western North Carolina’s largest recruiting event!   No registration necessary for job seekers. 

Job seekers are cordially invited to a FREE JOB SEEKER CONFERENCE presented by WNC Human Resource Association and the Asheville Chamber of Commerce in conjunction on Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at AB Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium from 1- 5 PM. Free parking will be provided.


During the Job Seeker conference, attendees will learn the three R’s of finding a job: Research, Resumes and Relationships. Attendees will receive real time advice from HR experts regarding every piece of the job seeking process: from the cover letter to the thank you letter. Participants will also get to see a real live fashion show sponsored by Goodwill’s Success Outfitters.


In the last hour of the program, attendees will have the opportunity to practice their new skills. They will attend a mock job fair with representatives from sundry industries represented in Western North Carolina. This is a practice run for attendees to try out what they just learned, ask honest questions, and make some connections within the workforce.


In conjunction with the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County (EDC), Jacob Holm Industries, a global nonwoven manufacturer, today announced the expansion of its manufacturing facility in Candler with over $45.9 million investment in facilities and equipment. The total project could exceed $60 million when it is complete.  Jacob Holm’s investment in Buncombe County will bring 66 new positions to accommodate the addition of a new product line.  The project is contingent upon approval at public hearing.  The company, which originally located in Buncombe County in 2005, currently employs 82 workers at the Candler production facility.


 Jacob Holm Industries, founded in 1794, is headquartered globally in Basel, Switzerland.  The Buncombe County facility is the headquarters for its U.S. subsidiary. Jacob Holm Industries is one of the world’s leading nonwoven corporations, offering high-quality products for the personal care, home care, hygiene, packaging and industrial markets.This additional production line is planned to start commercial production in Q1, 2015.  

 “Jacob Holm Industries is pleased to announce this new technology investment at our existing operation in Candler,” said Jacob Holm President, Steve Landon.  “Since opening our doors in Western North Carolina back in 2005, the company has been impressed with the local community, the availability of a quality workforce and the willingness of state and local officials to support our goal of becoming the premiere non-woven manufacturer in North America.”  

“We applaud the long-term vision of the Jacob Holm team, who have worked quietly for the past several years to make this commitment possible,” said David Gantt, Chairman of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. “Companies don’t make this level of investment without the greatest confidence that local workforce and community partnerships will not only meet market demand, but exceed expectations.  Today is a great compliment to the people of Buncombe County and a sign of momentum in our regional economy.”


 “Actions like the one Jacob Holm Industries is announcing are critical to the vitality of our community.  The expansion of this firm creates additional high wage jobs that support our families and neighborhoods while simultaneously building our tax base to fund schools, services and infrastructure,” said EDC Chairman Paul Szurek.

For more information on Jacob Holm Industries and employment opportunities, please visit


        The EDC for Asheville-Buncombe Countyis a public-private partnership committed to: creating and retaining high quality jobs, community leadership, and being a resource for better business decisions.  The EDC accomplishes this mission through its four core services: business retention and expansion, small business and entrepreneurship, research, and marketing and recruitment.  The EDC is funded by Buncombe County, the City of Asheville, the Town of Weaverville, the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the AVL 5×5 Campaign.

        The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce is a 2,000+ member organization representing 86,000 employees.  Chamber members collaborate with community organizations and coalitions to support the community and each other with the mission of increasing the region’s livability by advancing its economic vitality.  The Asheville Chamber works diligently to ensure that Asheville continues to prosper while also protecting the natural beauty of the area.  In 2006, the Chamber moved to a new location and is now home to the 4,000 square foot Visitor Center which welcomes 200,000 visitors per year.

Haywood revives film commission

Haywood County is no stranger to the silver screen. It was a star in the blockbuster movie “Cold Mountain,” and will be there again when “Serena” comes out later this year. But neither of these place-based novels set in Haywood were actually filmed here — the production companies went overseas instead.

But Haywood’s tourism leaders aren’t giving up on the idea of turning the county into a film hotspot — not just for movies, but TV shows, reality shows, commericals, even catalog shoots.

They have revived the idea of a Haywood Film Commission, something that was around in the 1980s but had fizzled over the years. 

“And we’re going to change that,” Seymour said.


Roll Camera

When a production company begins looking around for potential locations to film, whether it be a major motion picture, independent project, music video or commercial, there are three categories they address — location, support services and crew. 

Location could be a bustling city or backwoods farm, where support services can encompass catering, engineers and makeup artists, while crew can be those with editing and marketing backgrounds. The possibilities are as endless as the positions that need to be filled when the cameras roll.

“We’re trying to really put together a database of what we can offer here in Haywood,” Seymour said. “It can get a little frustrating because when we currently get these requests, the deadlines are within 24 hours, and for me to just think off of the top of my head of who to contact for these services can be almost impossible. We need this new database to be more efficient.”

The revival of the film commission comes at a crucial crossroads for the North Carolina film industry as a whole. As of now, the state offers a robust 25 percent tax credit and other incentives for companies looking to film here. But, that credit is due to expire at the end of 2014.

“It would put the state at a great disadvantage,” said Scott Hamilton, CEO and president of AdvantageWest Economic Development Group. 

Advantage West has targeted the film industry in recent years as an economic catalyst worth courting.

“We work a lot to try and get these productions in and that’s what we’ll do as long as North Carolina is competitive and private investors see the opportunities and value of investing in the film traditions,” Hamilton said.

But AdvantageWest has seen significant budget cuts from the state. It’s lost 75 percent of its funding — a drop from $1.1 million to $337,000 — forcing it to seek private donors and sponsors to fund its economic development efforts.


Carolina Cinema

The economic impact of the film industry on North Carolina is massive. 

In 2013, there were 5,700 production days, $254 million in spending and 25,000 job opportunities, with filming taking place in more than 30 counties.

For Western North Carolina, reality shows like “Moonshiners” and “Hillbilly Blood” are made in our own backyard.

In terms of the big screen, classics like “The Fugitive,” “Dirty Dancing” and “The Last of the Mohicans” all had parts shot in Southern Appalachia.

In recent years, the major movie series “The Hunger Games” was filmed in and around Brevard. Now, tour companies in the area offer Hunger Games fan weekends with tours of filming locations and even role-playing games.

“It is my understanding that during the filming of ‘The Hunger Games’ they spent $5,000 a week on ice and $10,000 a week on flowers, stayed in local motels, rented homes, so all of those industries in the private sector benefited from that success,” Hamilton said. “We will continue to promote this region as a strategic location, a viable location to film and complete their productions with a talented crew base and a very iconic and diverse topography.”

So, with the state tightening its belt, AdvantageWest will keep its WNC Film Commission up and running.

It had 34 completed projects, from big-time productions to local documentaries. Add that number to the 234 film inquires in 2013, and one can see the potential that lies in the region.

“We’ve already had one completed project for 2014 and one major scouting of the region — we’re off to great start,” said Amanda Baranski, director of the WNC Film Commission. “There’s also a very strong community of local filmmakers and large pool of talent, so we have lots of opportunities.”

But the uncertainty of where funding for the larger WNC Film Commission will come from does open the door for collaboration — cue the Haywood County Film Commission.

“We all can work together,” Seymour said. “My goal is to make our film commission so established and so out there that if these production companies aren’t sure what they may need, then they can come directly to us.”


Haywood to Hollywood

And while Seymour is collecting information for the Haywood County database, she can’t help think about how ideal her surroundings are for production companies.

“There are lots of things around here that can play anything,” she said. “You have Waynesville and this quaint downtown setting, then you have Canton with its unique industrial feel to it. We have so many things that these companies are looking for.”

With the ball finally rolling for Haywood County, Seymour already has another long-held dream waiting to emerge from the back of her mind — a film festival. Between The Strand at 38 Main and Haywood Arts Regional Theatre in Waynesville, the Colonial Theatre in Canton, Lake Junaluska Conference Center and the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds, she’s sees the promise the county has to host an event, perhaps something on the smaller, more local scale.

“It’s not every person for themselves. These are things we all need to work together on. We can do anything,” she said. “There are so many possibilities with this, and you’ve got to start where I’m starting right now, which is getting the information about the county and moving forward.”



Want to know more?

If you’d like to know more about the Haywood County Film Commission, how to be part of its database and where to fill out an application, click on or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . 

For the database, there are three categories: location, special services and crew. The businesses and positions desired to be included in the database include categories like accounting, acting, art, assistant director, camera, catering, choreographer, construction, costumer, craft service, dialect coach, director, editing, electric, food stylist, greens, grip, hair, locations, makeup, marine services, medic, model maker, music, paint, personal assistant, post production supervisor, producer, production assistant, production manager, production office, production supervisor, projectionist, property, publicity, script, set decoration, sound, special effects, still photography, stunts, transportation, tutor, VFX, video and wrangler.



By the numbers

In 2013, there were 5,700 production days, $254 million in spending and 25,000 job opportunities, with filming taking place in more than 30 counties in North Carolina.

For Western North Carolina, film-related activity that went through the WNC Film Commission included:

• 34 completed projects in the region

• 80 location scout inquiries using WNC digital database 

• 86 Haywood County locations submitted to digitial location database

• 154 film-related inquires

• 20 film scout visits

*Data provided by AdvantageWest Economic Development Group.

Smokies, Blue Ridge tourism loss over funding-related closures expected to hurt Western Carolina

ASHEVILLE — The usually much-anticipated spring and summer seasons in Western North Carolina’s national parks will come with fewer places to camp on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park; a disappearance of rangers and their familiar Stetson hats; and longer waits for restrooms, picnic areas and visitor centers to open.

The full effect of the so-called sequestration budget cuts on the National Park Service hit full force this week, when park administrators devised plans to meet the budget slashing.

All parks must cut their budgets by 5 percent, including the parkway, the most visited of all national park units, for the rest of the year. Parkway superintendent Phil Francis said the immediate effects will mean the loss of some 40 jobs and all seasonal interpretive programs for the remainder of the year to accommodate the $784,000 budget cut.

“We’re going to cut 21 seasonal interpretive jobs. There are four districts between North Carolina and Virginia — the cuts will be equally distributed,” Francis said. “We’ve got four maintenance seasonals we won’t be able to hire, a handful of seasonal rangers in the campgrounds we can’t hire.”

Continue reading at the Asheville Citizen-Times

Spring blossoms bring color to WNC

Plants expected to produce unusually vibrant colors, due to the mild winter and rainy weather

Springtime in Western North Carolina displays a beautiful illustration of color that lasts throughout the Summer.

The plants and trees are beginning to produce flowers which display vibrant colors such as pink, yellow, red, purple, blue, gold, and orange, which will exhibit more color than usual, due to weather conditions.

Fall in WNC is famous for its gorgeous display of multicolored foliage, but Spring delivers different types of colors from the wildflowers and blossoming plants, which are just as breathtaking as the fall foliage.

“Many travelers come to Haywood County to see the flowers throughout the year,” explains Lynn Collins, Director of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority. “The colors during the spring are truly breathtaking, much like the fall foliage.”

If you are planning to make a trip to Western North Carolina this year, below you will find a list of bloom times for various plants in the area, with many of them budding in the spring and blossoming throughout the summer:

March April

Over sixty different flowers and plants grow during the springtime. Here’s a few you can expect to see:

• Trout Lilly, Bloodroot , Jack In The Pulpit, Oconee Bells, Dwarf Iris, Lark Spur, Wild Strawberry, Showy Orchid, Dogwood, and Red Bud.

May June

The summer also brings many types of flowering plants and trees, here are a few:

• Catawba Rhododendron, Wild Hydrangea, Sundrops, Galax, Houstonia, Flowering Raspberry, Bull Thistle and Coreopsis.

July – September

Late summer displays even more blossoming plants and flowers:

• Black Eyed Susan, Milk Weed, Bee Palm, Bell Flower, Turtle Head, Cardinal Flower, and Goldenrod.

“Tourists want to know in advance what is blooming in order to plan their trip,” said Collins. “Since blooming depends a lot on weather and elevation, there is no exact schedule. However, with all the variety that we now have in flowers and trees, you can always see some vibrant colors from Spring to Fall, no matter when you come.”