Blog :: 2017

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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BMW Performance Center is your personal danger zone.

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Are you ready for an afternoon thrill? If you like your hands behind the wheel and want to take an engine to its limits with no fear of blue lights in the rear-view mirror? Make your way to the BMW Performance Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Your day begins with the basics by getting to know your instructor and the cars. Professional drivers provide insight into each of the BMW vehicles. You quickly graduate to a course designed to challenge your skills, where you learn how to properly maneuver the vehicles around obstacles.

At the performance center you are encouraged to test the brakes-stopping on a dime on a wet track, or open up the engine from zero to sixty in under five seconds. The course not only tests the limits of the car, it will test yours. This bucket list experience is a great day or two escape from the Plateau.

My favorite part of the day was the timed lap race in the M240i. Speed, cut corners, but dont knock over the cones, all while trying to beat your friends times to earn bragging rights. If you apply your skills, you could win the best time of the day. I finished in 24.3 seconds, and I challenge you beat it.

What cars do you get to experience and test drive to the max?

BMW M240i Horsepower: 320 Torque: 330 lb-ft Weight: 3,535 lbs 0-60: 4.6 seconds

BMW 340i Horsepower: 320 Torque: 330 lb-ft Weight: 3,695 lbs 0-60: 4.6 seconds

BMW 650i Horsepower: 445 Torque: 480 lb-ft Weight: 4,275 lbs 0-60: 4.3 seconds

BMW X3 Horsepower: 300 Torque: 300 lb-ft Weight: 4,230 lbs 0-60: 5.3 seconds

BMW X5 Horsepower: 300 Torque: 300 lb-ft Weight: 4,680 lbs 0-60: 6.1 seconds

The excitement and laughter alone is worth it. The fun of skidding around a circular wet track and nearly losing control of the car is a rip-roaring blast. When you understand the type of car you are driving, your insight into speed, braking, lane-changing, and taking fast corners brings your driving skills and entertainment to a whole new level.

Whether youre with your buddies or your spouse, this experience is something you wont soon forget. The center also offers corporate retreats. A little healthy competition and fun is always good for office morale. With an onsite cafe offering options for every diet, you are well taken care of during your day-long adventure.

Want to try your skills off-road instead? The two-day driving school provides you the opportunity to pilot the X vehicles through various terrain obstacles and adverse conditions you may not think the cars (or you) can handle.

Sometimes you just need to step on the gas pedal and get out there. Open it up, channel your inner race car driver and show them what youre made of. If youre ready for acceleration, perhaps its time to cross racing off your bucket list.

If you find yourself wanting more, test your hand at the M School Experience, where you only drive the M Series vehicles; its an experience guaranteed to quench your thirst for speed.

Warning: You could get hooked.

P.S. - If you have a new driver in your family, they also offer a driving school for teens!

All drivers classes start at $849.

BMW Performance Driving School 1155 SC-101 Greer, SC 29651 1-888-345-4BMW bmwperformancecenter.com