Bele Chere means beautiful living. Every summer since the 1970s people from all of the state of North Carolina (and elsewhere) gather in downtown Asheville, NC for three days of music, markets, and food. It was originally created to boost the local economy, but this past July could have been its last.
Some say it costs the city over $400,000 to make Bele Chere happen from start to finish, despite street permits costing $250 per person (or more) and vendor tents costing thousands. (Entrance is free.) But, no one knows the fate of Bele Chere quite yet.
This year I overheard people saying they hope a do-gooder, benefactor will waltz in with enough funds to carry it on. Or, may it really is just time for change—for the show to end in one sense but start anew in another. By welcoming events in the fall and spring instead, like the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit and Moogfest, perhaps the citizens and the city will both benefit. But, I can’t help but wonder if something altogether different, and more important, will be lost by ending a festival like Bele Chere where such a diverse group of people come together in one place they all call home.
Whatever the outcome going forward, the past remains that every time I’ve gone, for most summers over the past 10 years, I’ve left feeling that I left my heart in Asheville. There’s something magical about the festival, the people, the cool and calm swagger and vibe to it all. Maybe it’s my western North Carolina roots. Maybe it was you, maybe it was me, but it sure felt right.
Downtown Asheville, North Carolina
Saluda, south of Asheville : The Gorge zipline