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Volunteering Opportunities at The Village Green

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The Village Green is preparing for a busy 2018 summer season and is asking for volunteers.

  • Groovin’ On the Green - Saturday, May 26 and continued every Friday through August. Volunteer by enjoying Groovin' under The Village Green tent from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, accepting donations and answering questions.
  • July 4th Fireworks - There are two shifts available, 5 to 7 pm or 7 to 9 pm. Responsible for receiving donations, volunteers will have preferred parking and a prime spot to watch the fireworks. 
  • Farmers' Market  - Locally Grown on the Green occurs every Wednesday through September 5. This volunteer position is already filled.
  • Pots on the Green - Saturday and Sunday, June 30 and July 1 from 10:00-5:00 pm. Volunteer at this two-day festival that celebrates the Plateau's extensive pottery culture. Enjoy sitting under a shady tent during one of two shifts 10:00-1:30 PM and 1:30-5:00 pm. Volunteers are still needed on Sunday, July 1. 
  • Cashiers Plein Air Festival - July 17 - 21, 2018. Pick your favorite volunteering role: wet room, hospitality, operations, or artist demonstration. 

Volunteer by emailing volunteer@villagegreencashiersnc.com

 

To Be Young and Happy: A Kid's Guide to the Plateau

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You sip strong coffee, reclined in an Adirondack chair, ankles resting on the railing of your deck. You take in the view of early morning Lake Glenville and smile at a little family of ducks gliding past your dock.  A hummingbird hovers over a nearby flower and that’s when you hear it.
“Mom, I’m bored.”
My own mother might have rolled her eyes, but that was way before children went to robotics classes on the weekends, learned Chinese in kindergarten, and could program a home’s electronics system in thirty seconds flat.
Fortunately, the Plateau offers infinite variety of activities for all tastes, many of which are a breathtaking change for children tied to computers and tablets during the school year.
The possibilities range literally from A to Z, as in art classes to zip lines, and even include some things to do on those dreaded rainy days. And, many experiences and activities can be had free of charge.
Starting at A, as in animals, High Hampton Inn (828-743-2411) offers a llama “show and tell” Thursdays at 4 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 and 4 p.m. Your children can mingle on the lawn, pet the animals and learn interesting llama lore.  If this is a hit, you may want to consider playing nine holes of golf with one of the llamas as your caddy. Call Craig Hartle, High Hampton’s director of golf, to make arrangements to have a llama (supervised by a handler) carry your bag for nine holes. Family memories start here!
B is for vacation Bible School, and a random survey of area churches makes clear that summer guests are warmly welcomed. Most are for one week of mornings and include music, art, and play.
C is for Chattooga River, site of Sliding Rock, a favorite destination for family outings, thanks to its slippery rock face slide into a natural swimming hole.
D is for day camp at the Sapphire Valley Resort (828-743-7663) which offers walk-in, half-day or full-day experiences that include swimming, sports activities, art projects, and treasure hunts. The counselors are beloved by the regulars, who enjoy being recognized by them throughout the town on weekends.
E is for Highlands’ Easely an Artist (828-526-2933), open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 to 2. Walk-ins are welcome (children under 6 will need an adult with them) and the studio provides canvas, paints, brushes, easels and aprons.  In addition, a children’s day camp will be offered each Tuesday this summer from 10-3. All your child needs to bring is a sack lunch.
F is for fly fishing. Local options include the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail (800-962-1911), the first and only fly fishing trail in the United States.  Its fifteen stops offer brook, brown, and rainbow trout, open waters and small streams. Guide service, as well as beginner’s instruction, is also available through Brookings Anglers, with locations in both Cashiers (828-743-3768) and Highlands (828-482-9444).
G is for gem mine, as in Jackson Hole Gem Mine in Highlands (828-524-5850), where children can receive instruction and help with gem identification. The mine is protected from rain, so weather is never an issue.
H is for horses and Arrowmont Stables in Cullowhee (828-743-2762) offers great experiences for all ages and skill levels.  David Sellers explains that children, beginning at age 6, will enjoy their trails. Every ride begins with a 45-minute orientation, during which the children receive helmets, learn basic safety practices and meet their horses. There are five trails from which to choose, depending on experience level, and the outing usually lasts about two and a half hours.
I is for indoor swimming, available year-round at the Highlands Pool Complex (828-526-1595), next to the Civic Center. Extended summer hours begin on Memorial Day. The pool is enclosed in glass, making it delightful rain or shine.
J is for jet ski, awaiting you at Lake Shore Marina (828-743-9998) on Lake Glenville. The rentals come with gas, and dogs up to 100 pounds ride free!
K is for kayaks, also available at Lake Shore Marina on Lake Glenville.
L is for library, and there is no greater resource than the Albert Carlton Library in Cashiers (828-743-0215) or the Hudson Library in Highlands (828-526-3031).  Both offer calendars rich in offerings for children, like reading programs that reward independent reading, Lego Club, “crafter-noons,” weekly story times and special presentations from notables like Professor Whizzpop and the Snakes Alive expert. The calendar also includes regular showings of movies like “Moana” and “Trolls.”
M is for movies, and the Highlands Playhouse (828-526-2695) is one of the nicest venues for screen entertainment.  Movies are shown Fridays through Tuesdays and include a wide variety of offerings, many suitable for children. Great snack bar too!
N is for Highlands Nature Center (828-526-2623), a wonderful hands-on learning center for all ages. Children can see a working honeybee hive, play scientist at the microscope stations and dive into the “touch and learn” table centers. Check the Center’s calendar for special programs this summer, like “Going Batty” and “Salamander Meander”.
N is also for National Registry of Historical Places, of which Cashiers’ Zachary Tolbert House is one.  In addition to offering tours on Fridays and Saturdays from 11-3, which could be of interest to older children, the setting offers beautiful walking trails and a shaded pavilion perfect for picnics.
P is for playground, and nothing beats Cashiers’ Village Green to induce creative play and just plain healthy exhaustion. Designed by local children in 2002, this play space includes slides and swings, lots of climbing structures and even a playhouse and puppet theater.
Take a picnic to enjoy under shaded shelters nearby.
R is for Red Bird Golf Links (828-743-1991), a public driving and nine-hole executive course in beautiful Sapphire Valley. Check the calendar for golf clinics, open to all ages.  
S is for sun and sand which can be enjoyed in full at the Pines Recreation area on Lake Glenville. Open sunrise to sunset, the area features a swim beach, fishing pier, and a free life jacket loaner board.
T is for tennis. Public tennis courts are available through the Cashiers Recreation Center (828-631-2020). Check out a key from the Center’s office and enjoy the courts, which are located near the Cashiers swimming pool. First come, first serve (no pun intended).
V is for visual arts, and for visual arts there is no place like the Bascom (828-526-4949), the jewel of Highlands. Eight children’s day camps are offered throughout the summer, according to Billy Love, the director of education, with instruction in painting, pottery and mixed media. Additionally, the Bascom offers “art by appointment” whereby a child can receive one-on-one private instruction. Check out the family events too, like the old-fashioned barn dance.
W is for Whiteside Mountain, a wonderful two-mile hike along the Eastern Continental Divide. It’s a relatively easy hike, perfect for children eight years or older, along with their parents or grandparents, and offers breathtaking views as well as informational plaques along the way. You’ll see the signs on Highway 64 between Cashiers and Highlands and find easy parking inside the park area.
Y is for “Yosemite of the East,” another name for Panthertown Valley in Sapphire Valley. Acre upon acre of beautiful mountain valley, featuring waterfalls, streams, rare vegetation and wonderful hiking trails.  It is recommended that a visitor allow at least a half day to enjoy the site. Bikes are welcome on main trails.
Z is for zip line and children have choices: Highlands Aerial Park (828-526-8773) offers a variety of options for youngsters, including the “Brave Indian” for children five years and older and the “Mountain Top Canopy Tour” for those at least eight years old. In Sapphire Valley (828-743-7663), children eight and older can experience the “Vordach,” which includes training and thirteen zips.
The clever reader has noticed the lack of an O, Q, U or X activity and there will be no apologies offered, because the variety of children’s activities goes way beyond a mere a,b,c listing.  
As proof, where else can children experience the once-in-a -lifetime experience which will be ours this summer when Cashiers becomes shrouded in darkness for nearly two and a half minutes August 21?  The Cashiers Eclipse Festival, which will celebrate the out-of-this-world happening, is the most perfect retort to the whine of “there’s nothing to do...”  
 

Portrait of Enchantment: Discovering the Curiosity of Bali

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Bali. The name alone sounds exotic, yet few will become intimately connected to the magic this island invokes. Google search Bali, and a much different portrait is painted than what you will see when you arrive. If it is purely magical beaches you seek, Bali may disappoint. 
If you have adopted the term “conscious travel,” then you will fall in love with the undeniably breathtaking architectural treasures and the culture this destination provides. 
Think of New York City or a Florida surf shop beach town and Mexico, with some magic sprinkled in. The Hindu-influenced island intrigues with the daily practice of offerings. The Balinese spiritual ritual is a small box filled with flowers, incense, leaves, and often a cracker presented on the steps of entrances to stores, temples, statues, and homes. Representing gratitude or welcoming abundance, the daily offering is a reflection of the culture and simplicity of the island. 
Listed as the number one tourist destination on TripAdvisor, Bali is accepted by the Western world as the place for a yoga or meditation retreat, and to the Eastern world as a tropic holiday. The beaches near the southern half of the island are for surfing and the place the Aussie’s escape to catch the waves. Yet, in my experience, Bali is more culture than postcard bliss. 
Many have seen the movie, Eat Pray Love, and associate Bali with finding love or peace, but the  Bali portrayed in the movies is one you must seek in remote spots. This is not to say the island is not beautiful. Majestic palms and rice terraces are stunning, as is the active volcano Mount Kintamani. And I cannot forget to mention the hundreds of ornate Temples that stir you emotionally, from sheer elegance and energetic attraction. 
Flying into its capital city, Denpasar will give you Bali’s urban perspective. With the island’s rapid tourism growth in the past ten to twenty years, getting around can take some time. Something you need to be aware of when traveling to Bali: keep your New York state of mind, and take it all in, as there is beauty everywhere you look. 

WHERE TO STAY

Seminyak. This vibrant beach town reminds one of SoHo in New York or Brooklyn. From incredible food to boutique shopping and local discoveries it is the “now” hot spot in Bali. 

HOTEL RECOMMENDATIONS

Location and comfort is my philosophy, so here are two very different suggestions:
/ W Retreat and Spa. The pool/beach area is one-of-a-kind, and the restaurant menu selections are divine. Accommodations are top-notch and customer service and security are a level above any other place in this area. 
Travel Tip: If you don’t stay at the W, visit the WooBar for drinks and food and you can use the loungers, pool, and beach access. 

/ Tony’s Villas. There are many Balinese villas in the area. If you are traveling with a budget in mind, they offer private bungalows, pool, and 24-hour room service across the street from the W and the beach. If you want to step it up, stay in their private villa with private pool for an oasis retreat.

WHERE TO EAT

Coffee. Revolver - Known for their coffee, they do serve light sandwiches. They close at 6pm.

Breakfast. The Shelter - Fresh, organic, and hands down my favorite spot. Try the avocado toast. 

Dine on the Beach. La Lucciola - Pasta, fresh fish, salads, good wine list. Try the duck salad. 

Out on the Town. Ginger Moon - Asian-inspired, modern eatery. Try the babi guling (suckling pig) an authentic Balinese dish. 

Rooftop Dining. Moonlite - The view is great and the fish is incredible.

All-Around Great Cuisine. W Resort (any of the restaurants) - From tapas to complete meals and an expansive drink selection, it is an easy go-to if yo u don’t want to travel far. Try the curry at Star Fish Bloo.

DAY TRIPS

/ Ubud. A city about an hour north (traffic time) of Seminyak, Ubud is home to temples, silver and goldsmith shops, and nature. Plan at least a day to see the sights. 
Batuan Temple - For a small donation of $10,000 Rupiah (approximately 75 cents USD), a traditional sarong is wrapped around you, allowing you to enter the elaborate Hindu temple. 
Monkey Forest - A tropical monkey park in the middle of Ubud city center. Monkeys are literally walking, swinging, eating, playing right next to you. Entrance is $40,000 Rupiah (approximately $3 USD). It is worth seeing, however don’t look the monkeys in the eyes, and keep your belongings close, as it is not uncommon to see a monkey escaping up a tree with a new treasure. 
Tegenungan Waterfall - Escape the busy streets to the sound of nature at Bali’s second largest waterfall. It does cost $10,000 Rupiah (approximately 75 cents USD) to visit the falls. 
Bali Zoo - If you enjoy animals and want to see what Asia has to offer, a trip to the zoo may be in store. If you are looking for an exotic experience, it is a safe place to ride an elephant, approximately $50 - $80 USD to do so. 
Tegalalang Rice Terrace - This is one of the most breathtaking scenes in Bali. Take a photo, walk the terrace, or enjoy lunch overlooking the green hills. 

/ Mount Kintamani. One of two beautiful mountain peaks in the active volcano of Bali, this bicycle tour takes you 25 kilometers downhill through the real villages of Bali. Meet a family, see how they live, and enjoy the landscape of original Bali. Anyone can do it, as there is not much pedaling, but don’t forget it is downhill!

/ Hike Mount Batur. If you want to be active (2-4 hour hike) and don’t mind waking up early, do the sunrise hike at Mount Batur. The views are breathtaking. 

/ Uluwatu and Padang-Padang Beach. Uluwatu is famous for its surf. Jump in the big waves and join the many Australian surfers or watch from terraces while sipping a cocktail or enjoying the local beer, Bintang. Accessing Uluwatu can be frightening with its many steps and mysterious scenes, but worth a view and some photos. If you are looking for something more low-key, down the road is the more relaxing Padang-Padang Beach. 

/ Tannah Lot Temple. The Hindu temple is located in the water. Watch or receive a Hindu blessing or shop for a souvenir in the busy market. Sunday seems to be less crowded here.
 

 

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Silver Creek Real Estate Group's Global Network Leads Industry with $372 Billion in Home Sales

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- Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® has led the industry in sales for over 10 consecutive years. -

Silver Creek Real Estate Group announced today that its global real estate network, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®, continues to lead the industry in sales, with $372 billion in U.S. home sales in 2017, $55 billion ahead of its closest competitor. Among the top 500 U.S. real estate firms, LeadingRE was responsible for more sales units than any other group, with 24.5% of the total units, totaling 1.1 million transactions.

“Independent brands continue to resonate with consumers, who are drawn to the authenticity and local expertise of firms that are deeply rooted in the community,” said LeadingRE President/CEO Paul Boomsma. “When these firms are further strengthened by the connections and resources of a global network like ours, they offer home buyers and sellers the best of both worlds – locally and globally.” 

LeadingRE is the largest network of top independent residential real estate firms, and network affiliates are widely recognized as the premier providers of quality residential real estate and relocation services. As a member of LeadngRE, Silver Creek Real Estate Group is aligned with 565 market-leading brokerages in over 70 countries and has access to award-winning professional development programs and events, innovative technology and marketing resources, industry-leading referral network and connections to people and opportunities worldwide.

 

The Reach of Art: A Visit to the Bascom

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Cross the covered wooden bridge just off Franklin Road in Highlands, and you will find yourself on the magical campus that is The Bascom. Set on six lush acres of what was once Cranes Horse Farm, this extraordinary center for the visual arts is a sensory treat for anyone who loves art. You know you are somewhere special long before you walk through the door. To ones right is the original horse barn which has been transformed into a ceramics center. The main building, designed by the Atlanta architectural firm of Lord Aeck Sargent, is composed of wood, glass, and stone to pay homage to the natural materials that are native to our part of the world. A walking nature trail surrounds the campus, containing a variety of site-specific sculptures comfortably positioned among indigenous plants and flowers. An outdoor amphitheater, tiers defined by stone seating, is the perfect setting for weddings, classes, and guest lectures. Like the warm hostess that she is, Teresa Osborn, meets me at the Centers front door. As executive director, she quickly explains how she sees the Centers three important missions: exhibition, education, and outreach. This is no hushed gallery of hands-off, important artnor is it intended to be. The exhibition aspect of the Centers mission is everywhere you look, as the 30,000 square feet of space abound with remarkable pieces created by artists from the Southeast, many of whom call the Blue Ridge Mountains home. Oil paintings mix comfortably with photography and pottery, the occasional piece of primitive furniture and whimsical pieces like a room-size tree composed of discarded clothing. One can also find jewelry, basketry, and wood-turned vessels here. The collections are fluid so visitors can enjoy a totally unique experience each time they come. A fun aspect of this art center is the opportunity for hands-on creativity. Check out the smARTspace loft on the third floor, and try any of many self-directed art activities. A wishing tree downstairs invites visitors to write their deepest desires on papers to hang from a tree. The wishes are as random as you would expect, from I wish I was a horse to I wish I could destroy my computer and phone. These two areas speak to Teresas deepest passion: that art be a unifier, accessible to all, regardless of income, ability, or anything else. Education is unquestionably a big part of The Bascoms mission as well. The Center offers artist residencies, fellowships and internships in ceramics, photography, sculpture and community, which is a teaching position involving outreach to all ages. Residencies range from two weeks to one year and afford artists housing, teaching opportunities, unlimited studio access, and the opportunity to sell their art. The community at large is a huge focal part of the educational component, and an adult education calendar offers a palate-pleasing menu of everything from Playing in the Clay to Highlands Landscape Photography. In addition to after-school classes during the school year, area children (and visiting grandchildren) are invited to eight different art day camps in the summertime. Private lessons, too, are available for all ages through Art by Appointment. Outreach, says Teresa, warming to a subject dear to her heart, is a yearlong activity, diverse and widespread. Area youth are served through school programs: the Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Gordon Center for Children, to name just a few. The needs of our adult community are addressed through programs like those at Cashiers and Jackson County Senior Centers, the Center for Life Enrichment, the Chestnut Hill retirement community, and the Eckerd Living Center. It is no small feat that admission to this visual feast is free. Thanks to year-long sponsors, such as Delta and The Chaparral Foundation, The Bascom is accessible to everyone. A robust membership lends further support, as do various sponsors of individual exhibits. The vision for this Center began in the 1980s, when Watson Barratts estate made possible an exhibition space in the Hudson Library. Proceeds from the sale of his family home on Satulah Mountain founded The Bascom, which honors the maiden name of his wife, Louise Bascom Barratt. Although he died in 1962 when Highlands was still a village, his belief in the need for a permanent gallery was prescient. Today, more than 20,000 individuals visit The Bascom each year, and that does not include all those who learn and create at the Center, or the thousands of people who are enriched through the outreach programs. A centerpiece of Teresas delightful, art-cluttered office, is a charming piece of decoupage, teeming with buttons and ribbons and miniatures, created by a gentleman who struggled with developmental challenges. His family, she says, was stunned and thrilled to see how much joy he gleaned from the compilation of this masterpiece, and she keeps it in a place of honor to remind her always, of the life-changing possibilities of art. The Bascoms ever-growing impact in the community is a living testament to Watson Barratts foresight and a gift to all of us who call these mountains home.

A stroke of timeless tradition

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One of Americas favorite backyard pastimes is one that distinguishes Cashiers and Highlands from many other mountain towns. What is it? Croquet. The traditional game played with wooden mallets and balls brings laughter and competition to the area known for its lush landscape of waterfalls and golf courses. From tournaments to weekly gatherings, summer on the green takes on a whole new meaning with over 1,600 croquet players in the highlands of Western North Carolina. It is a sociable spectacle where teams face off to hit a ball through a course of hoops or wickets (as Americans have named them). Croquet dates to the 1400s, but it didnt become a recreational activity in the United States until the 1860s. The game turned into a tradition for many East Coast families, and has remained part of the lifestyle on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau. Despite its French name, croquet is very English. The polished appearance of the wisely dressed players and immaculate grass can be deceiving. Players must outwit their opponent(s), creating a slight dog-eat-dog aspect to the game. If you can manage to roquet, or hit a rivals ball, you might gain a slight edge with gaining an extra shot. Strategy is the key, as you should consider not only your current shot, but the one after that and the one after that, making this game an authentic technical challenge. The classic game of croquet brings the community together for social events throughout the season. With clubs offering wine and wicket hours, it is common to see players sip their favorite vintage in between running a hoop.

The Plateau offers a myriad of courts for the croquet-lover to choose:

the Chattooga Club is an East Coast croquet treasure with its world-class courts and facilities. Offering a nostalgic feeling of the early 1900s with its scenery and services, the club is postcard perfection. It is a United States Croquet Association (USCA) member club.

Cedar Creek Racquet Club is minutes from both Cashiers and Highlands with a course overlooking its lake. Down-to-earth in nature and perfect for a family-friendly escape, its named one of the top twenty tennis facilities in the country by World Tennis Magazine.

Burlingame is nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains and adjacent to the Horsepasture River. It is breathtakingly beautiful, and its croquet lawn is an integral part of member activities. It is a United States Croquet Association (USCA) member club.

The Country Club of Sapphire Valley is known for Wednesday Twilight Croquet, Friday Croquet Mixer, and Sunday Wine and Wickets. Prefer to watch? Take in the serene vista from the Mountain Verandah and watch the competitive spirit unfold. Highlands Country Club is distinctive with its Donald Ross designed golf course and unspoiled mountain landscape. Tuesdays and Thursdays play host to Wine and Wickets at this alluring, sociable croquet lawn.

Cullasaja Club is known for its par-72 championship golf course designed by Arnold Palmer, as well as Ravenel Lake, and the cascading waters of the Cullasaja Rivers; however, the private club opened a full-size croquet court, The Lawn at Cullasaja, in 2013.

Highland Falls Country Club is set amongst heart-stirring long-range views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Enjoy the social game while breathing in fresh mountain air, or visit with friends on the croquet pavilion, which offers a wood-burning fireplace, wet bar, and washrooms.

Lake Toxaway Country Club is set amongst peaceful woodlands, offering a regulation-sized croquet lawn. With a 20-acre golf learning center, five Har-Tru tennis courts, and a private lake, this club is deeply rooted in scenic elegance. It is a United States Croquet Association (USCA) member club.

Trillium Links & Lake Club is the perfect lake escape in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a private residential, lake, and golf community known for wine and wickets each Monday and Thursday afternoon during the season.

Tips to enhance your croquet game: Use a regular golf ball rather than a croquet ball when practicing. Keep your head down and make good contact in the ball, and take note of your swing. This will help you recognize how fast or hard you are hitting the ball, creating a more precise rhythm for your swing.

Vero Beach to Asheville

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The airline originated to enhance the flying experience. With a goal to make your time flying more personal and hassle free, Elite Airways is bringing Western North Carolina and Florida travelers good news. With a new nonstop flight between Vero Beach Regional Airport (VRB) in Florida to Asheville Regional Airport (AVL) in North Carolina, residents and visitors now have the ability to travel between the two destinations Thursdays and Sundays.

Elite airways prides itself on customer service. As a pet-friendly airline, they never charge change fees, and the first bag always flies free. Their goal is to provide a quality and memorable travel experience. The airline headquartered in Portland, Maine also offers service between the following cities:

Asheville, NC - Vero Beach, FL

Bimini, Bahamas - Melbourne, FL

Bimini, Bahamas - Newark, NJ

Halifax, Canada - Portland, ME

Melbourne, FL - Bimini, Bahamas

Melbourne, FL - Newark, NJ

Melbourne, FL - Portland, ME

Melbourne, FL - Sarasota/Bradenton, FL

Newark, NJ - Bimini, Bahamas

Newark, NJ - Melbourne, FL

Portland, ME - Halifax, Canada

Portland, ME - Melbourne, FL

Portland, ME - Sarasota/Bradenton, FL

Sarasota/Bradenton, FL - Melbourne, FL

Sarasota/Bradenton, FL - Portland, ME

Vero Beach, FL - Asheville, NC

Vero Beach, FL - Newark, NJ

President of Elite Airways John Pearsall stated, We look forward to providing the service in Asheville and sincerely thank airport and community leaders for their support.

Elite Airways operates CRJ 200s with 50 seats and CRJ 700s with 70 seats, which have an impeccable safety record. Early booking one-way flights start at $179 each way, but can go as high as $229. Round trip fares start at $358.

Nonstop jet service to Asheville is a unique addition at VRB, and one that has been highly sought after by passengers who would rather take a nonstop flight versus a ten hour drive. The airport is pleased to see new markets and travel opportunities open up to the area, and we thank Elite Airways for expanding its service at Vero Beach Regional Airport, said Airport Executive Director, Eric Menger.

Highlights of Vero Beach: The small coastal town is quite charming and offers a quaint main street with boutique shopping, the beach, ceviche at Gloria Estefans Costa dEste Beach Resort & Spa, and dinner at Ocean Grill.

Highlights of Asheville: The impromptu mountain city offers restaurants, craft breweries, and a variety of outdoor activities.

**Elite Airways also charters planes throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America.

A Mountain Christmas

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Christmas on the Plateau is much more than a single day or a week. It seems to begin the moment one pushes away from the Thanksgiving table.

The kick-off event takes place the day after Thanksgiving, November 24, so that any guests in town for one holiday can immediately begin celebrating the next. The place to be is Cashiers' Village Green, where from 2 to 5 p.m., Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in the Village Green gazebo to hear the Christmas wishes of local boys and girls. There will be games, a few tasty treats, and hot drinks as guests await the traditional lighting of the Cashiers Christmas Tree, a spectacular 65-foot spruce. The lighting will take place between 5 to 6 p.m., accompanied by holiday music. Stay to roast marshmallows and make s'mores around the fire pit.

Meanwhile, over at the Bascom Center for the Arts in Highlands, there will be Gingerbread Workshops at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on both Friday, November 24 and Saturday, the 25. Families should register in advance to attend and come prepared to build personalized gingerbread houses, which will be entered in a contest for Bascom gift certificates.

On Saturday, November 25, Mr. and Mrs. Santa will make their way to Highlands at Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park. An added attraction will be the reading of the Christmas story by local ministers. Song books will be distributed for a community sing-along and local merchants will be offering hot chocolate and cookies. The tree lighting, which takes place at 6:30 p.m., will be especially dramatic as all the other business lights will be turned off for that special moment.

If you're in the park for the tree-lighting, be sure to check out the ice-skating rink which will be open extra hours during the Christmas holidays. The charge to use the rink is just $5 and ice skates are provided. The rink, which opened for the 2017-2018 season on November 9, will be available for extended hours throughout the holiday season beginning each day at 1 p.m. For more information regarding the holiday schedule, call the Highlands Recreation Department at 828-526-3556.

With the lighting of these community Christmas trees and the season's kick-off comes thoughts of a tree for one's own home. There is no better place to find a live tree than here in Western Carolina, where Christmas tree farms are a cottage industry. Our region's elevation, excellent soil, and well dispersed rainfall contribute to its deserved reputation as a reliable source for Christmas trees

A perfect place to visit is the 80-acre Tom Sawyer's Tree Farm in Glenville, where families can choose and cut their own Fraser Fir trees, measuring from three to 12 feet. While the tree is being packed to take home, visitors can check out the farm's charming village populated with Christmas elves, a craft tent for creating Christmas art, and a storytelling room. Move to the big red barn for food, drink, and evergreen selections, participate in a scavenger hunt and then drop off letters to Santa at his own post office. A ride in a horse-drawn carriage can round out a memorable experience. Tom Sawyer's is open through the season until Christmas Eve for people arriving to the mountains later in December. Please note, because of his busy schedule in December, Santa will only be at the farm on weekends.

Of course, you could choose to create a truly indelible family memory with the Christmas Tree Package from Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, the luxury hotel which is included on the National Register of Historic Places. Spend one night, enjoy dinner at Madison's, and take in such family-friendly amenities as popcorn, holiday movies, and games in the Kelsey Game and Theater Room. You can even ask an elf to come to your room to tuck in the children. Awake the next morning and drive to a local tree farm with a voucher for a five-to-six-foot Christmas tree. Now that's a holiday kick-off!

The month-long celebration continues the following week with Highlands' Olde Mountain Christmas Parade, Saturday, December 2 at 11 a.m. This tradition draws participation by area marching bands and school groups and boasts a live nativity scene including real camels, the Mountain Garden Club Dancing Ladies and, of course, Santa Claus. Small children are encouraged to bring bags for the candy that is distributed from the various floats. The merchants in Highlands will be competing in a holiday window decorating contest, making Main Street and surrounding streets perfect for strolling all day long.

Cashiers hosts its Christmas Parade on Saturday, December 9, at noon. This year's parade is titled Silver and Gold Bells, It's Christmas Time in the Village and honors the Village Green's 25th anniversary and the Volunteer Fire Department's 50th. Look for another appearance by Santa and then head to the nearby Community Center for the tenth annual Christmas luncheon showcasing Cashiers Cares. The luncheon provides a timely opportunity to learn about the work of this neighbors helping neighbors organization which supports ten local charities. A hot dog luncheon will be provided by Cashiers Rotary Club, and Santa (he's everywhere!) and Mrs. Claus will be guests of honor for those wanting photos.

Christmas, of course, would not be Christmas without special music and The Cashiers Adult Community Chorus is practicing for its Christmas concert to be presented in the Sanctuary of the Cashiers United Methodist Church on Sunday, December 3 at 3 p.m. Selections include the God with Us! cantata, Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, and Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.

Another community offering on December 5 at 7:30 p.m. is the Rhythmic Circus performance of Red and Green at Western Carolina University's Bardo Performing Arts Center. A family-friendly celebration of the season, Red and Green is a song and dance extravaganza of rapid-fire tap backed by a seven-piece band.

Of course, merchants from Highlands to Cashiers will be a big part of the holiday spirit with lots of festive temptations. One must-see is the famed Christmas Cottage on Main Street in Highlands which has been a local landmark for more than thirty years. Richard Osborne, who owns the shop with his wife Teresa, says that Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones themed ornaments are very popular this year, as is an electric climbing Santa who walks up and down a ladder that can be leaned against a wall. Animated Christmastime televisions are also flying off the shelves. A visit here will fortify you for the rest of your holiday shopping and preparations.

And, before you know it, it's here!

Packages wrapped, family safely gathered, pantry fully stocked. By Christmas Eve it's time to slow down and remember what the season is all about.

Chasing a Four-Generation Dream of Traditional Malt Whiskey

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In Scotland, whiskey is both an artform and a part of daily life. Distilleries can be found in every nook and cranny of the country. The tastes of this spirit vary with the style and distillation process, and favorite brands are unique to personal likes and dislikes. During a recent visit to the region of Speyside, Scotland, I fell in love with a traditional single malt whiskey. Benromachs story is as legendary as its whiskey. A four-generation family ambition to own a distillery came true in 1993, when the Urquhart family of Gordon & MacPhail purchased Benromach to create a true handcrafted single malt whiskey. The passion for this liquid runs deep in this family, dating back to 1898 when John Urquhart started working with Scottish distiller Gordon and MacPhail. In 1915, John was named a senior partner, and the pipeline dream of owning a family distillery was born. His son Michael, who joined him at Gordon & MacPhail in 1933, worked hard in perfecting the single malt essence of days past. Benromach opened its doors in 1898, however when the Urquhart family purchased the distillery in 1993, it had sat empty for ten years. It was a clean canvas to create the masterpiece that the heritage of Benromach represents. With the use of copper stills and local Romach Hills spring water, the family set out to do something unheard of today, making whiskey by hand. At Benromach, they believe in a manual distillery. Every process is done manually by feel, sound, taste, and sight. Nothing happens with the machinery if the distiller does not make it happen. The process is unique to the distillery and instills a sense of pride in the makers and the product. Benromach uses the finest malted barley grown in Scotland, along with a combination of brewers yeast and distillers yeast in their recipes. They took what is known as a classic Speyside whiskey recipe and made it their own. Its obvious while touring their facility and conversing over a tasting that whiskey is their breath of life. In speaking with Distillery Manager Keith Cruickshank, his eyes brightened and spirit poured out in his words. The product packaging and the earth floor that stored their hand-filled casks offered simple, classic elegance and a natural feel that tugged at my heart and taste buds. Fairly new in terms of Scottish whiskey distilleries, they are certainly making a name for themselves, and were the first to create an accredited organic whiskey. With barley purchased from a local farm and environmentally friendly casks, the soft bourbon-esque whiskey has been a hit. My favorite single malt at the tasting was Benromachs 15-year whiskey. Its maturity, smoky whisper finish, and deep color from the sherry cask offered a bit of dark fruit taste up front. Its sister, the 10-year, offered a stronger smoke in the nose and could be considered a good entry-level whiskey for those trying the Scottish heritage liquid for the first time. Traditional single malt whiskey is not a commonly produced product. Blends can mature faster, offering income to distillers two or three times faster than a single malt. The Urquharts stand by the integrity of the single malt, the process, and their commitment to their values. Whiskey is the Urquharts calling, their lifes work. Each new generation to join the family business are custodians of the DNA to their whiskey process.

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In Search of Fulfillment: FireMoss Pottery

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For Justin Allman, there is a delicate dance graced in the presence of now and the whisper of unfulfilled dreams. His hands mold shapes and surfaces, while his mind breathes existence into his stories of art.

The potter blends the emotional reflection of Japanese art with the sovereign richness surrounding Western North Carolina, creating characterized pieces. Justins inspired personal style is meant to draw emotion and be representative of a place you are, and a place you have dreamed of being.

The resemblance to Japanese pottery art - from 1550 AD to modern times, intimately connects with that of modern North Carolina art. His passion for culture is showcased in his degree in history, deeply invested in the studies of Chinese and Japanese days of old. Intertwining inherited and unforgiving times past of Japan and North Carolina, the two styles fuse, capturing the eye and the heart.

My work represents struggle. Nothing new when it seems to be in the sense of art. However, mine represents the struggle of every single man, woman, and child. Natural scenes of a snake in a patch of rhododendrons represents its daily struggle to feed itself and protect itself from other predators. We are no different every day we struggle, work, fight, and push to survive in our world. I want people to remember that fight, by seeing my work and to never let go of their dreams and to keep fighting, Justin expressed.

Justin Allmans studio, Firemoss Pottery, is in Cashiers, North Carolina. From hand-building to wheel-throwing, his techniques provide his guests with a variety of ceramic mugs. Sipping from one of his coffee mugs, his desire is you will be reminded of how full your cup truly is. A metaphor for life, and how fulfilled you choose to be.

Choosing to live among the magic of Cashiers and Highlands, after graduating from the Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Meyers, Justin Allman enjoys being part of the local artistic community. He and his family vacationed here for 27 years, naturally drawing him back to the serenity.

Justins touch personalizes each artistic treasure, differentiating each mug, vase, sponge holder, bowl, drink mixer, plate, and more.

He offers private lessons, kiln parties, and two carving workshops a year to teach his technique. For more information, visit his website at firemosspottery.com.

FireMoss Pottery 107 Lance Rd. Cashiers, NC 28171 239-331-0054

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