Asheville Mountain Real Estate Blog

Asheville, NC real estate for sale. Information for buyers, sellers and mountain homeowners, without pressure. Rich content for those who are far away about what it is like to live here through the generous use of media. And some nostalgia with our, "Baby Boomers' Fun Stuff", Thanks for stopping by.

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Location: Mars Hill, NC, United States

A small, highly personalized real estate firm specializing in mountain homes and land in greater Asheville.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Labor Day in the Mountains

It is labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of summer, a time for BBQ's, the outdoors, and travel. Greater Asheville has no shortage of events tinged with inimitable local flavor.

Driving to Asheville?
The NCDOT now has a feed on all road construction projects, apparently updated frequently. Readers may click here to get a report by region.

Things To Do
*The Lexington Avenue Arts & Fun Festival, on Sunday, September 6, from 11:00 AM until 9:00 PM. This 8th annual event will feature 3 musical stages, performers here. Not to engage in hyperbole, but if you have not been, this is a must see, must be there event, as their website says "all local and all original".

The Citizen Times provides us with their Labor Day Weekend Guide. Events include:
*Shindig on The Green, Saturday, September 5, an outdoor gathering of mountain music.
*The 63rd Annual NC Apple Festival, in Hendersonville, 8 AM until 10 PM, from Friday, through Monday, with an array of events including, literally dozens of musical acts, and of course, apple focused vendors, and a parade.

Mountain Express comes across with their ongoing weekly feature, This Weekend on a Shoestring.

Have fun, be safe, and...

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Asheville: More Best Of Designations

We have written any number of times about the various "Best Of" lists that greater Asheville has graced. Today we look at some more recent honoraria.

Top Ten Trout Towns
From Ashvegas, we learn of yet another outdoor oriented nomination, this time from Forbes Magazine. Trout fishing is quite prevalent here in Madison County, just north of Asheville. In fact, every town, and most parts of the county are not without a fishing outfitter.

If angling is your pursuit of choice, then please visit our resources page for all things related to trout fishing in the Western mountains.

Here is a link to the full list of towns on the Forbes list, in photos.

Southern Living Magazine: Reader's Choice Awards
Carolina Mornings alerts us to a whole slew of notations for various local attractions, all located in greater Asheville that made the reader's list.

For the complete results of this poll, have look over here, and see which of your favorite locales may have made the grade. Categories include such things as best festivals, best scenic view, best southern city, and best family destination, among others.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday: Media Day

As the guy at the feed store said this morning, the day is "gray and groggy". So, let's just engage in a little local roundup and start the week in an upbeat way.

Asheville in The Wa Po
The Washington Post had an article about Asheville this past weekend. Entilted, "Asheville, NC Has a Song in its Heart", the focus was not so much on local music as it turns out.

The overview did mention the Friday Night Drum Circle, which in just couple of years went from nuisance to the official city calendar. But the remainder dealt with Biltmore House for the most part.

Madison County on DIY Network
Something that escaped our notice was the presence of the DIY Network in our own Madison County. Courtesy of Ashevegas, we learn about a home being built there and featured by DIY in the Little Pine area of the county.

Nice country up there in Little Pine which rises from The French Broad River. It's a bit riddled with stalled subdivisions these days including some Ted Turner money from what we have heard in the past. The area could use the boost is our feeling

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Uniquely Asheville

An occasional installment of ours covering what makes our fair city the hip and eclectic place that it is.

Friday, August 14
Arts 2 People, and The Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival brings us the First Annual Freaks of Asheville Calendar with a photo exhibit at at Pack Place downtown.

Ashvegas has the details for this event which is designed to "capture the power and personality of Asheville eclectic and unbridled cultural creatives.", (sic). We have previously noted Asheville's prominent place nationally as a vortex for artists and creativity.

This weekend on a shoestring, from Mountain Express.

Thursday, August 20
With the help of The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, also known as ASAP we have The Asheville Tomato Walk. This is a collective effort to feature the peak season of locally grown tomatoes with such things as tomato cocktails, and tomato entrees at several independent restaurants.
Every month, ASAP’s Get Local restaurant program invites diners to join farmers and chefs in celebrating a featured, local food. All eateries participating in Get Local highlight the same ingredient when it’s at its peak—and each creates their own, unique dishes.
While on the subject of "local", check out Mountain Express' Keep it Local feature, complete with coupons! Good deals from local businesses.

Saturday, September 6

The Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival is a must see if you're here, really fun with a celebratory feeling. Enough said.

Saturday, September 13
Organic Fest, "Celebrating Everything Organic" takes place on Battery Park Avenue downtown from 10:00 AM until 6:00 PM. The event includes live music, more than 80 vendors, arts & crafts, and stuff for kids. The event is apparently one of the largest organic festivals in the nation.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

Baby Boomers: August 7, 1955

Coming into the weekend with a significant day in baby boomer history, the birth of the transistor radio in 1955.

Our streets, beaches and backyards would never be the same after rock and roll went mobile. The sound was glorious mono, with those earphones, as opposed to headphones.

To commemorate and entertain, here are The Everly Brothers, performing the # 3 song of the year for 1960:

2 minutes and 7 seconds



Filed Under: Baby Boomer Stuff

Friday, July 31, 2009

Of Beer, Budgets, and the Weekend

Time for another local post, some news bits and stuff for the weekend.

Best Beer City, Squared
Back in May we noted Asheville's designation as the Best Beer City in America.

July has brought another accolade in that vein, this time Best Craft Beer City, by way of Imbibe Magazine. Be sure if you are in town to check out and support Asheville's local breweries.

In Other Beer News
The sad state of the state budget is well known. As happens everywhere in such circumstances, legislators look for new streams of revenue, and a proposed increase in the beer tax drew a lot of ire, even spawning a Facebook group.

That tax package was defeated, to the relief of local brewers and enthusiasts. Tony Kiss writes in The Citizen Times today on the aftermath, the future, and the local beer scene in general.

Speaking of Budgets
WNCW, FM 88.7 is a huge fixture in local culture among all age groups. The station has a truly unique format. It would not be uncommon in the space of 15 minutes to hear anything from Miles Davis to bluegrass.

The station is now a victim of the state budget dilemma, to the tune of $200,000. A special fund raising drive has been launched in response. Online pledges can be made here.

And The Weekend
Riverlink sponsors the annual Rockin' RiverFest on Saturday. Music, entertainment, and full details here. Photo galleries from previous festivals and more here.

Doc Watson, David Holt and The Oak Ridge Boys appear at Biltmore House on Saturday.

And of course, The Weekend on a Shoestring.


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Thursday, July 30, 2009

New Home Sales: June 2009

New home sales were reported earlier this week. Both of the following statements are true.

New home sales in June, 2009 were at their highest level since November 2008, but it was also the second lowest June since 1963, when record keeping began. Barry Riholtz notes that the worst June on record was 1982 and offers the following:
Then, 34,000 new homes were sold. There are twice as many households in America today as there were then, so relative to population this was the worst June ever, by far.
Point taken.

Digging further, new home sales for June, 2009 remain 21.3% less than June, 2008, 72% less than the peak in 2005. The reported rise over May, 2009 is actually within the margin of error.

This means any increase for June over May, might not have occurred at all. These are not items to get too excited about just yet from where we sit. Things are bunching up though. As futures traders would say, "The market is trying to form a bottom."

This article from Paper Economy focuses heavily on inventory of new homes and comparisons to previous market bottoms. Months of supply dropped to 8.8, however the number of homes for sale, and new homes completed remains elevated with respect to previous markets.

New home sales in the South were down 34.4% from one year ago.

New Homes vs Existing Homes
New home sales and the builders have taken a particular beating when compared to sales of existing homes, (EHS). EHS have benefitted from the large degree of distressed sales and lower prices in that mix. Foreclosures and short sales have been anywhere from 33% to 45% of total EHS for some time now.

This artificially raises the number of existing homes sold and hurts sales of new homes, to the point where long standing relationships between these two market segments have been fundamentally altered. Calculated Risk examines this graphically.

What that means for the future is a matter of theory. What it means for a recovery is that the number of distressed properties, delinquencies and foreclosures remains a problem.

Summary
It's getting interesting, we have touched most of the all time lows, and are kind of hovering there. Data over the next 3 or 4 months will give us clues for what to expect in the last quarter of 2009.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Existing Home Sales: June, 2009

Released late last week, let's examine how the market fared with respect to sales of existing homes. In few words, less bad than it was.

Existing home sales increased 3.6 % in June, 2009 vs the prior month, as well they should if anything resembling a normal seasonal pattern is in place. This segment of the market however remains 0.2% less than one year ago, which was nothing to brag about.

33% of existing home sales are distressed in nature, either foreclosures, or short sales. Thus, the amount of "normal" sales activity remains disguised and depressed. We continue to see this as a notable blemish, often overlooked.

Months of supply dropped slightly to 9.4. 6 months of supply is a place we would like to be, so the overhang in inventory is still with us. Prices declined by 15.4% from a year ago.

Our perspective is probably most represented by an article that appeared in Market Watch:
"The acid test is whether sales can push on beyond the pre-Lehman trend of just under five million over the next few months," said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics".
For context, Lehman fell sometime in mid September, 2008. One could say it was when things went from bad to worse. At least that was what it felt like at the time. It would be good to get back to such levels, without such a large percentage of distressed sales.

A final hurdle to get back will be the ability of the market to shoulder the expected increases in inventory once things do improve. Sources of this new inventory will range from individual sellers waiting for better times, to the restart of idle subdivisions, to bank owned properties not yet listed for sale, among others.

We stand in the camp that expects this to be a significant test.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Bele Chere: 2009

It's the last weekend in July, and Bele Chere, the largest street festival in the Southeast returns to Asheville.

Essential Resources
*Official Site
*The Citizen Times outlines the three decade evolution, and changes for 2009.
*Overview from The Citizen Times, complete with video and recent articles.
*Mountain Express Bele Chere Guide: Music is on the main page, right sidebar for other events.
*Festival Map (pdf)
*Park, Ride & Shuttle Locations: Asheville Travel Blog
*The Food, from Mountain Express
*Events for Kids

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Baby Boomers: Peter and Gordon

It's been a long while since we took a break from real estate and posted a Baby Boomers feature.

It was last weekend, that we learned about the sudden passing of Gordon Waller, one half of the 60's duo Peter and Gordon.

P and G were the first British band after The Beatles to garner a US # 1 hit, a distinction in itself. They had quite a decent run between 1964 and 1968.

Sometimes referred to as The Everley Brothers of the British Invasion, here is a partial list of their hits, some forgotten, but quickly remembered within the first few bars by clicking the links:

World Without Love (#1): Written by Paul McCartney, the performance looks to be from Shindig!, Nobody I Know (#12), I Don't Want To See You Again (#16), from The Ed Sullivan Show.

Woman (#14) a particularly nice clip in color and performed live, the tune was another penned by Mc Cartney, this time under a pseudonym, and Lady Godiva (#6). Our selected video clip will be, "I Go To Pieces", (#9), from 1965:

2 minutes and 15 seconds, written by Del Shannon.



Filed Under: Baby Boomer Stuff

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Housing Starts, June, 2009

The Census Department released its monthly series on housing construction late last week. Let's go behind the headlines and see what happened.

Calculated Risk notes that new permits, starts and completions were down 56%, 46%, and 27% respectively from one year ago.

Paper Economy examines the all important single family segment where we see permits, starts and completions down 28.9%, 28.2%, and 36.1% respectively from June, 2008.

The Big Picture looks at the same data and takes several media outlets to task for emphasizing the rise over May, 2009 as being significant.

This is another example where typical seasonality in real estate gets ignored by mainstream media outlets. That is to say, permits, etc, always rise in the first half of the year.

Ignoring the fact that the last thing the real estate market needs is more inventory in the form of new homes, then the question would be how the most recent construction data compares to what it did in the past.

Does this June, or the first half of 2009 show us anything of promise in new construction? Click for some graphic evidence showing single family starts since 1969. 40 years worth of Junes, none lower than this one.

In the end, the depressed building numbers are a necessary evil to reduce inventory as a partial remedy for recovery. This fact will remain, no matter what fluctuations might come in succeeding months of construction data.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Asheville Metro Economy Outlook

Last evening was the 10th Annual Asheville Metro Economic Outlook. We were unable to attend, and to our disappointment, there is scant reporting online.

The Economic Development Coalition For Asheville & Buncombe County has its economic snapshot up for May, 2009 at any rate.

Since that page does not appear to get archived, we will recap the numbers here vs. May, 2008:
Home Prices: (7.7%)
Homes Sold: (42.7%)
Building Permits: (56.8%)
Value of Building Permits: (56.7%)
Hotel/Motel sales: (13.8%)

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday Numbers

We're keeping a close eye on economic news lately, spurred by the notion that things are down, but not by as much. Not that this should be a basis for calling a bottom.

But still, the news bears watching for any turnarounds, and then, like any good commodities trader, to look for confirmation in the next month as new numbers get released.

Economic News of The Day: June, 2009 Retail Sales
US Retail Sales Rose: On the face of it a good sign. The key qualifiers to a headline like that however would be:
Sales at U.S. retailers rose in June, helped by incentives at car dealers and higher gasoline prices that boosted service-station receipts.

The 0.6 percent increase was larger than forecast and the biggest gain since January, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. Purchases excluding automobiles and gasoline dropped for a fourth consecutive month.
It is important to note that those comparisons are on a month to month basis. Calculated Risk, looks at the same data with its usual array of great charts, noting that the June, 2009 numbers were 9.6% less than one year ago.

From Market Watch: A look at the back to school sales period where sales are expected to fall for the first time in six years. Back to school represents the second largest retail segment in the calendar year.

Personal Consumption Expenditures, (PCE),
are traditionally a leading indicator out of a recession. They actually rise coincident with the end of a recession. When PCE shows some gains on a year over year basis, we will stand, take notice, and look for other indexes to follow suit. Still time for buyers or sellers to sit and watch.

Ironic Economic News of The Day
Bernard Madoff is headed to the same prison once occupied by Charles Ponzi.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday: Things We Read

Just a collection of items from online publications, no deep analysis.

Department of Odd Juxtapositions
The Wall Street Journal reports on declining divorce rates, apparently caused by the recession.
A May survey by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, a national organization for financial professionals who work on divorce cases, found that the recession was delaying divorces, and inspiring "creative divorce solutions" in living arrangements.
The Washington Post on the other hand notes that the national rate of household formation has dropped as a result of the recession.
Government data suggest that the recession has helped push down household formation. Between March 2007 and March 2008, the number of new households -- which is defined as any group of people sharing living arrangements -- grew by 772,000, to a total of 116.8 million, compared with an increase of 1.63 million a year earlier, Census Bureau data show.
Department of Mortgages
By way of Matrix, as many as one in four mortgage defaults are strategic in nature, wow. One of the functions in that study is the percentage loss of equity with falling home values.

What are the latest trends for defaults and delinquencies? We keep seeing that prime delinquencies are rising, and that loan modifications turn out to have a pretty high rate of redefault. Interesting chart on the matter here.

Home Values
A study of values getting a lot of exposure is this one from PMI Group, which examines more than 300 metropolitan statistical areas in the US.

The study assesses the risk of further price declines using percentiles. The study is short enough and can be read here, but the map gives a nice visual summary. As one would guess, red is high risk.

On The Local Scene
Harrah's Cherokee Casino bucks a trend and plans groundbreaking on a new 532 room luxury tower. Completion will be in 2012.

The Great Smokies, our national park gets ready to award stimulus funds to improve faciltities and the visitor experience.


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Friday, July 10, 2009

Travel & Tourism in a Resort Market

Today we look at travel and tourism for its particular importance to greater Asheville real estate.

The Basics
Like many resort, retirement, or vacation areas, our real estate market, especially in the adjacent counties, is traditionally fueled by buyers from outside of the region.

Today's visitors are tomorrow's buyers. Real estate and tourism are thus linked. There was an independent study in our county, presented by a developer that claimed as much as 80% of real estate activity here could be categorized as resort, vacation, second homes, retirement, and so forth.

Our outlook for tourism in the second half of 2009 is bearish. There are too many negative indications in that sector this far into the season.

Consider that seasonal operations like white water rafting make their money in literally 60 days, from June 15th and August 15th. More than 400,000 people take a NC raft trip each summer. Visitor traffic in that industry drops off drastically five weeks from now by as much as 60%, and then drops again after Labor Day to a relative trickle.

The good news is that attractions and accommodations will be discounted, many are at present. There is after all, a concerted effort to market Asheville as a value destination. Back in May, USA Today mentioned us as a top summer bargain, some nice publicity.

Summer Travel
July 4th weekend kicks off the most intense six weeks of summer travel. Gallup however reported for the week of July 4th, 2009 that Americans spent 37% less money than the same week in 2008. Hot dogs won out over steaks is the tongue in cheek analysis.

2008, the year of $4.00/gal gasoline, gave birth to the word "staycation" indicating that we were spending leisure time at home. Despite lower gasoline prices in 2009, Vehicle Miles Driven, as reported by the US DOT have dropped strikingly since late 2007.

On a percentage basis, Americans have cut back on their driving to a larger degree than in either of the great oil shocks in the past 35 years.

People in local tourism often say that one of our great strengths is that we are within a day's drive of half the population in the US. With five weeks left in the peak season, that observation seems to hold less weight than in the past.

Hospitality Indexes
Hotel RevPAR, (Revenue per available room): This is reported weekly. Occupancy was down 6.0%, rates were down 7.4%, with RevPAR down 13.0%. The Asheville Citizen Times reports similar trends during the month of May, not a precise time line comparison, but nevertheless, (ED Note: Citizen Times articles eventually disappear from their original locations):
Hotel sales in Asheville were down by almost 14 percent in May compared with the same period last year. The occupancy rate was down 11 percent for May, the last month for which figures are available.
This trend has been going on nationally for some time. Bloomberg takes an in depth look at the hotel industry. Indexes are in the post September 11th ballpark, with larger decreases at the luxury end. The Wall Street Journal echoes similar numbers from a Commerce Department analysis in Mid June.

Restaurants are down on a national basis. May, 2009 marked 21 consecutive months of traffic declines, as reported by The National Restaurant Association.

And Locally?
Beyond the occasional newspaper piece, hard data is difficult to come by in local tourism. Most of it is anecdotal, but leisure and hospitality employment is down almost 10%. Asheville's flagship destination looks to be in a cut back mode for 2009, with rumblings about other noted mountain destinations as well.

Last summer, a couple of large attractions were on record about shrinking their marketing strategies. An example would be to weight brochure distribution more heavily within a 4 hour radius of Asheville. Formerly, some attractions distributed to a 12 hour radius or more.

One would assume, with five weeks to go in the peak season, that similar strategies are in effect for 2009. Time will tell us soon what transpires in real estate, at which point we will all anticipate leaf season traffic.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Asheville Events

Let's get away from statistics and trends for a while. Here's a quick roundup of some events of note for the coming days.

Opening Friday July 10
From The Asheville Travel Blog: Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tours. Let's explain.

One of the peculiarities of weather in a mountainous region such as ours is that certain areas get a lot of rain. In fact, some portions of Western NC are categorized as temperate rain forests. The canopy tours are a combination of zip lines and "sky bridges" allowing a first hand look at several ecosystems in a veritable rain forest environment.

Saturday July 11
The 4th Hot Doggett 100: Right here in Mars Hill. Three different bike rides including a 3 mile family option. Event organizers stress that the entire event is a ride, not a race.

More than 300 riders are expected, and we have seen a number here all week riding and acclimating to our back roads. Nice maps, courtesy of UNC-Asheville, with a narrative from The Citizen Times as well.

Saturday and Sunday, July 11-12
From Ashvegas, a rundown on 3 outdoor fairs in various locations in town. The events range from sales of recycled goods to The Big Crafty on Sunday, smack downtown at Pack Square. The Crafty features more than 100 independent artisans from the area.

A fan of street fairs? Stay in touch with the Asheville Street Markets blog, and The Asheville People's Market.

And of course, what is by now a tradition when we do these kinds of postings, This Weekend on a Shoe String.

July 16-19
The 62nd Edition of The Crafts Fair of the Southern Highlands
July 16-19, full details at the website, and cheap too, kids under 12 free, adults just $7.
crafty

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Real Estate Statistics: May, 2009

The May, 2009 numbers were reported over the last portion of June. We covered them individually at the time, but round them up here in one place each month. A little late this time around, but nevertheless.

The Quick Summary
New homes remain a very troubled sector. Existing homes, if not exactly showing signs of recovery, are at least less bad. A whole slew of forward looking indicators continue to languish. Most numbers hover around record levels, though less new records were set this month.

Supply and Demand Data
New Homes
Permits, Starts, and Completions: The index is comprised of several sectors, the most important indicator being single family units which declined by 35.1%, 40.9%, and 43.4% respectively. The amount of single family activity here hovers near record lows dating back to 1968.

Inventory and Sales: Perhaps the big story is that despite such drastic declines in permits, etc, for more than two years now, that inventory on a months of supply basis has declined only 4.7% in the last year.

New home sales now represent the lowest number since record keeping began in 1963, and have declined 75% from their peak in 2005. A major factor in this trend has been the low prices and large percentage of distressed/foreclosed properties in the existing homes data.

Existing Homes
Inventory and Sales: Inventory declined. The raw number of homes vs. one year ago is no longer setting records, though still high. Months of supply dropped to 9.6, still more than we would like to see.

Sales were 3.6% less than one year ago, while prices dropped 16.8% over the same time period. In the South, sales of existing homes fell 9.9%. Distressed sales which had routinely been 45% of the total dropped to 33%.

In the existing home sales sector at least, this is a collection of numbers that are less bad. There is still a distance to go to find equilibrium. We stand in the camp however that waits for new sources of inventory to enter the market as signs of life show themselves.

Looking Ahead
New inventory would come from would be sellers who have held off for better times, as well as distressed properties not yet listed by banks. This will slow any recovery. In particular we look ahead to new and rising rates of foreclosure that will make inventory reduction more difficult.

The idea of a new wave of foreclosures has been out there for some time now. This link is a particularly good recap and graphic that illustrates the notion.

The PHSI, (Pending Home sales Index), is not persuasive in terms of calling a bottom, and has lost its capacity as a forward looking indicator with the market distorted as it is. The MBA, (Mortgage Bankers Association), Application Survey does not show any indications of support. Time to sit back and watch.

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Friday, July 03, 2009

July 4th Weekend

Yep, the peak of summer is upon us.

Here is quick round up of things to do on the holiday weekend if you plan to be in the area. The weather looks to be pleasant, in the low 80's as this is written.

Friday July 3
Check out the Pritchard Park Drum Cirlce from 6PM until 9:45PM, for a taste of something uniquely Asheville. For those unfamiliar, check out this 47 second video to get a flavor of what it's all about.

From Ashvegas, at one of the main live music venues in town, The Grey Eagle, at 9:00 PM T Model Ford, authentic Mississippi blues.

From 5:30 to 8:30PM, at the Asheville Area Arts Council, the opening of a new photo exhibit, by Dark Topography. We love that name, and do peruse his website from time to time.

Saturday & Sunday July 4 & 5
The Citizen Times: Listing of July 4th events by town. It's 4 pages long, they didn't miss much.

Mountain Express provides its own lineup, including the latest edition of This Weekend on a Shoestring.

The Lexington Avenue Bizarre Bazaar, a downtown must see, is on for Saturday from 11AM until 4PM. The Bazaar runs every 1st and 3rd Saturday.

Shindig on the Green, a celebration of mountain music and heritage returns at 7:00 PM. Click for maps, and a fun time.

Visit a North Carolina historic site. All 27 are closed on Friday however.

For those driving, NC State Troopers will be out in force, with an emphasis on speeding. AAA Carolinas is projecting a decline of 2.7% for road travel vs July 4, 2008.

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