fr gilesWaynesville leaders have granted a free pass on many of its aesthetic development standards to pave the way for a large warehouse facility being built by Giles Chemical, the Waynesville-based company that is the largest North American manufacturer of Epsom salts.

haywoodBusiness is booming for a Waynesville factory that mixes and packages Epsom salt. Giles Chemical has doubled its employees over the past decade to 150 and plans to build a 35,000-square-foot warehouse to accommodate its growing trade.

Folkmoot USA has finalized its capital improvements and business plan for the Folkmoot Friendship Center in Hazelwood. 

Since taking over ownership of the building from the county last year, Folkmoot has been working on plans to renovate the building to accommodate year-round programming for the organization.

fr riverbendIt’s been 32 years since Benfield Industries in Hazelwood burned to the ground, 25 since the Environmental Protection Agency designated it as a Superfund site and 13 since cleanup on the site finished. 

But the work’s not done, according to the most recent EPA monitoring. The agency is hoping that its latest remediation plan for the former chemical distribution company site will take care of creosote contamination in Hazelwood once and for all. 

fr pathwaysIt’s official — TV personality Ty Pennington is coming to Waynesville, and Haywood Pathways Center has secured $50,000 of its $300,000 fundraising goal to renovate the old Hazelwood prison.

fr pathwaysWith the lease drawn up and fundraising underway, most people attending the Haywood County Commissioner meeting last week figured that approving the lease for a trio of Christian groups to renovate the old Hazelwood prison would be a matter-of-fact agenda item. But when the public comment session opened, it became clear that all were not in favor. 

fr folkmootAn old elementary school in Waynesville that serves as a giant bunkhouse for troupes of international performers during the signature Folkmoot festival each summer is being relinquished by the Haywood County school system and turned over to Folkmoot for good. 

fr haircutIt’s got more names than the Bible. The “round-over,” the “lollipop,” and the “bob” to name a few. No matter how you call it, Haywood County’s favorite way of trimming trees is despised by tree experts, yet it’s probably here to stay.

fr hazelwoodPatty Atkinson took a short break from helping the constant flow of customers at a local family pharmacy in the heart of Hazelwood to talk about the evolution of the community around her — from a bustling blue collar factory town to a mostly deserted streetscape to a quickly changing, thriving pocket of Waynesville.

Want to see, for free, one of the best examples of folk art to be found in Western North Carolina? Then head to the humble Hazelwood community in Haywood County and view what some of the residents living there have created using simple Christmas lights and inexpensive or homemade decorations.

This is truly art from the heart.

Thousands, literally thousands, if not actually millions, of lights festoon the trees and decorate the small former mill houses and the trailers that line Hyatt Street. Here, after dusk — in a blatant, unapologetic display of keeping-up-with-the-neighbors — one finds lit candy canes, Santas, reindeer, stars and more. Much more, starting sometime late in October until whenever the residents decide it’s time to take them down.

There are so many decorations per house that most of the people who participate in this volunteer neighborhood extravaganza are forced to buy or build individual sheds just to store their Christmas supplies.

There is a story bandied about Haywood County that the extravagant Christmas lights display on Hyatt Street started with a neighborhood competition gone mad. That, however, is not true. Though there was, indeed, at one time community Christmas lights competitions in this region, including here in Hazelwood.

The Christmas lights gala on Hyatt Street started simply enough, and this is how: more than two decades ago, some of Ronald and Cecile Fish’s then-neighbors decided to move to Pennsylvania. They gave Ronald and Cecile Fish two strings of Christmas lights rather than pack them.

From a single acorn grows a mighty oak.

Ronald Fish put up those two strings of Christmas lights, and something deep inside him grew three sizes that day. The next year, he put up more lights. Then more, and more each year, and Ronald Fish soon found the strength of 10 men, plus two, and hung lights from the house, the trees, the fence; he built more decorations, added reindeer and Santas and American flags and more, much more. Ronald Fish couldn’t stop and to this day he is still adding lights to his collection.

“I counted them one time, some years ago, and it was something over 100 strings — that’s 10,000 to 20,000 lights,” he said.

There’s a lot more than that in the Fish yard now, too many to count.

Down the street a few houses away, Ronnie Cook one Christmas season noticed the Fish yard aglow. Cook was struck by a wonderful, awful, idea: he would have more lights than his good friend Fish. He began stringing lights on trees, on his house, down the sidewalk, up the shed; he couldn’t stop and to this day he, like Fish, is still adding to his Christmas lights collection.

Across the street from Ronald Fish and a mere two houses or so from Cook, Juan and Rosy Camacho grew envious, too, of their neighbors’ yards and houses. Their mouths hung open a moment or two, until they knew what to do and so they ceased crying, “Boo Hoo.”

The Camachos started visiting box stores, thrift stores and more. They bought cases, perhaps even truckloads, of Christmas lights, and decorated their home and yard, too.

“It’s a competition thing,” Rosy Comacho freely admitted.

Other residents joined in. Though a few houses here on Hyatt Street are determinedly undecorated and dark. Perhaps in protest, or perhaps in sheer surrender to the virtuosity displayed by those who are decorating for the season.

The electric bills for these Hazelwood residents who do participate in this Christmas light festooning are insane. Cook’s jumps about $150 a month, the Camachos’ bill goes up at least $50 (they just started in the game about six years ago). And Ronald and Cecile Fish admit to their bill doubling, though they demurely shy away from saying what that electric cost is before the doubling.

One wouldn’t, after all, want to appear to brag over one’s neighbors.

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