Whittier has been home to Elda Chafoya DePaz and her three children for less than a year, but it’s not their first summer in Western North Carolina.

In November, it will have been 12 years since DePaz, 36, left her native Guatamala to seek a better life in the United States. Life was hard in Guatamala, she said, with poverty everywhere you looked. She worked for a banana company there, tasked with separating 17 bunches per minute from the giant clumps of fruit that come from a banana tree. The work was done manually, with just a knife.

A boisterous crowd in a packed auditorium on the campus of Blue Ridge Community College engaged in a lively two-hour give-and-take with Congressman Mark Meadows over the economy, gun laws and the Mexican border wall, but most of the audience had just one thing on their minds — health care.

Public prayer in government has long been a contentious issue, but a recent court ruling has North Carolina municipalities scrambling to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the law while awaiting the challenges and changes that will inevitably come.

“I think towns that have practices similar to Rowan County will have to keep an eye on how the case progresses,” said William Morgan, Canton’s town attorney for the past three years.

Like bubbles bobbing atop bathwater, the sectors of Haywood County’s economy are separate but often attached to each other in ways not always readily seen. Although all the bubbles ebb and swell independently of each other, they also rise and fall with the level of bathwater in the tub.

As Republicans in Congress attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and Mission Health threatens to cancel its contract with the largest health insurance provider in Western North Carolina, thousands of people are wondering whether they will be covered and what the cost might be.

If Mission Health doesn’t strike a deal with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina by October, the health system may be pushing more Western North Carolina employers to sign up for its own health care plan — Healthy State — to keep their employees inside the Mission network.

I kept glancing over at the signs.

Strolling the long and busy corridors of the Folkmoot Friendship Center (Waynesville) this past Sunday evening, I couldn’t help looking at the signs posted on the walls next to the doors. “Argentina.” “Israel.” “Russia.” “India.” “Taiwan.” All of these foreign countries, these ambassadors from every corner of the world, each with their own set of social and economic issues, many mirroring our own.

The Folkmoot Friendship Center on Virginia Avenue in Hazelwood is central to the festival’s operation.

The 34th annual Folkmoot International Festival will return to Waynesville this weekend for 10 days worth of folk dance performances across the region. This year’s lineup features 10 performance groups from around the world coming to Western North Carolina to share their culture through music and dance. 

Sign ups for 2017 municipal elections close at noon Friday, July 21. The election will be Tuesday, Nov. 7, with early voting running Oct. 19 to Nov. 4 and absentee ballot requests open Oct. 6-31.

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