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Archive for February, 2010

Snowy View From the Top of Alarka

Julia Thompson photographed this winter scene at the top of Deep Gap Road in the Alarka community south of Bryson City. At 3000 feet, the scene includes a spectacular skyline view of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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Life is Just a Room Full of Chocolates

On Saturday, the Bryson City Presbyterian Church’s Fellowship Hall became the Calorie Capitol of the Smoky Mountains as twenty area chocolatiers competed in the Third Annual Chocolate Cookoff. The event is a fundraiser for the Friends of the Marianna Black Library.

This year’s judges (above l-r) were Bryson City Mayor Pro-Tem Kate Welch, owner/chef Richard E. Long of Caffe Rel in Franklin, NC and Asheville TV news anchor Victoria Dunkle of WLOS Channel 13.

(left) Chef Long admires the delicate detail of Fran Brooks and Becca Wiggins’ miniature Chocolate Cones, which won both the judges’ first place and the People’s Choice awards. Second place went to Robin Hamilton for her Killer Kahlua Chocolate Mousse Cake, and Diane Cutler’s Chocolate Orange Brownies came in third.

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They’re Learning a New Language …to Save It

This child is learning the Cherokee language, which over the past century and a half has almost disappeared from use.

In the late 19th century, in an effort to assimilate Native Americans into the European culture, the Bureau of Indian Affairs instituted boarding schools where children were immersed in the English language. In North Carolina, children attending these schools were prohibited from speaking Cherokee and, as a result, many gave up speaking their native language altogether.

Throughout this period, a relatively small number of Cherokees continued speaking their native language. Yet these generations are gradually dying off — to the extent that today, of the 13,000 enrolled members of the Eastern Band, fewer than three hundred Cherokee speakers remain. Of those, most are over the age of 50 and are not likely to be raising children in the language. It’s estimated that within twenty years, no Cherokee speakers would remain …unless something changes.

And things are changing. Today, a group of Cherokee school children are attending classes at the New Kituwah Academy where, for eight hours a day, Cherokee is the language spoken; and English is minimized. The Cherokee language immersion program is part of The Kituwah Language Revitalization Initiative, a project designed to reverse the loss of the Cherokee language and produce a new generation of Cherokee speakers.

Now located in the renovated Boundary Tree Motel property on US 441 in Cherokee, the program began in 1994 with the kindergarten class and will eventually encompass pre-K through grade five. For more information, visit the school’s website, Fluent1.com.

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Bryson City Librarian Makes One-of-a-Kind Musical Instruments

By day, Jeff Delfield is the Librarian at Bryson City’s Marianna Black Library. And in his spare time, he’s a maker of unique hand-crafted musical instruments, filling requests from as far away as Australia.

Above, he’s putting the finishing touches on a tackhead banjo with a distinctive “patchwork quilt” design — a specific request of the buyer. To achieve the multicolored pattern, Jeff constructed the rim from eight different woods. And to fully display the beauty of the woodwork, he hid the head tensioning system on the inside of the rim, a technique he borrowed from the makers of Irish Bodhrán drums. The head is calfskin, the neck walnut and the fretboard is made of bloodwood.

Jeff makes just one instrument at a time, a process that usually takes about six weeks. You can see more of his hand-crafted folk instruments, including videos, on his Deep Creek Strings website.

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