Posts Tagged ‘Raleigh’

We toyed with tradition, but fair still delivers

October 20, 2010

A Ferris wheel is still without seats a few hours after opening of the state fair

We tried a different tactic this year at the NC State Fair. After years of shuffling through the crowds, last week we arrived two hours after the fair opened its fall run. It was so squeaky clean you could smell detergent more than you could fried, greasy things. This was a little disconcerting. It was so uncrowded you could walk anywhere without bumping into anyone. This was a little depressing. The food lines were so short, you didn’t have time to work up an appetite. This was a little deflating. So, while we won’t go on a Saturday night, ever, we’ll likely skip opening day next year.

The Krispy Kreme burger has a star role

Still, we enjoyed ourselves. We saw the new Krispy Kreme burgers, got our free satchels at the Time Warner tent (although do I have any fondness for TW? No!), scarfed down some kettle corn, bought some fried frito pie thing that wasn’t very good, and finally found Joe’s Diner’s one-pound hotdog, which we wanted to meet, not eat. Wessel did enjoy the more reasonable quarter-pound version. We digested our intake while wandering through the Village of Yesteryear, the Got to be NC exhibit, the photos and art and of course the midways.

Youngsters with their lambs look hopeful while a judge inspects the animals

The two places that were crowded and lively — the State Fair Ark at the Exposition Center and the Livestock and Poultry in the Jim Graham Building — were holding several youth competitions. I chatted with a mom from Elizabeth City whose 13-year-old daughter was showing her lamb in one event and then quickly scurrying over to another building to show her goat. It was fascinating to watch the judges check the animals’ posture and muscle tone and the kids’ showmanship and control. How proud those children and their parents must be to show at the state fair! And if they win, well, all the better. Just seeing adolescents and teens being a part of something that’s not about TV, texting, shopping, and the kids themselves, well, that warmed my heart.

North Carolina apples as far as the eye can see

We also enjoyed the big and not-so-big veggies, the lovely array of apples, mostly from western NC, and the hay competition. Yup, hay.

Now get yourself to the fair! You have until Sunday, Oct. 24.

A museum and its art, transformed

May 28, 2010

The new expansion (photo The North Carolina Museum of Art)

I admit my bias – when the North Carolina Museum of Art was about to unveil its 127,000-square-foot, $50 million expansion, I thought, ho-hum, how interesting could anything in Raleigh be? Plenty, it turns out.

I left the press preview last month blown away by the architecture, landscaping, interior, and, oh yeah, let’s not forget the art. (I swear I was not influenced by the yummy free lunch of grilled salmon and crunchy asparagus.) The new works were impressive and the old ones looked new under a new light. Kudos to architect Thomas Phifer and the thousands of other pros who accomplished this achievement.

“In a new light” was in fact the headline accompanying a review of the museum in our local paper, “The News & Observer.”  Light is the dominant element here, from the cool metallic walls of the shiny exterior to the sunlight-filled galleries, thanks to the 360 skylights. Natural light pouring into museum galleries!? Unheard of, right? But the museum staff utilized the latest in state-of-the-art light filters to control the natural light instead of blocking it out all together. Seeing old masters in full daylight is somewhat shocking, in a good way, and the more contemporary work looks right at home.

Rodin sculptures around a reflecting pool

Outside the building are areas of beautifully balanced landscaping, reflecting pools, sculptures, including  a new cache of Rodins (some are indoors too). I’ve had about enough of Rodin, but I appreciate the importance of the museum acquiring 29 castings.

Overall, there is just a lot to love here. I could tick off a list of works on the walls, but really you need to come see for yourself. While you’re at it, enjoy the walking and biking trails in the 164-acre park the museum sits on.

Open-air dining area with Patrick Dougherty tree branch sculpture

Do make sure you leave time to eat. The food is great (even when you have to pay), and the wall of the long open-air dining area is covered with a delectable Patrick Dougherty sculpture. Called “Out of the Box,” it’s made of red maple sapling branches and boughs from the area.

We are so lucky to have this sculptor based in Chapel Hill, one town over.

Roxy Paine’s stainless steel tree outside the new museum expansion

Not to focus on trees, but if I had to pick a “favorite new piece,” it would be “Askew,” Roxy Paine’s stainless steel sculpture outside the museum. The 43-foot-tall work is one of his “Dendroid” tree-like sculptures, with branches formed from various sizes of pipes and rods. This series of photos taken during the installation is fascinating, though I’d rather imagine that the tree simply sprouted one day, like Jack and the Beanstalk, filling the blue sky with its shiny limbs and beckoning visitors to explore the treasures inside and out.

What in tarnation? It’s Reinbarnation

July 29, 2008

Wessel and I have been doing a lot of bicycling lately in rural areas of North Carolina. If you’re not from these parts, you’re probably thinking, isn’t that all there is? While if you live in an NC metro area among the suburban sprawl, you’re probably asking, are there rural spots left? Absolutely, there are!

We’re “training” for a 62-mile annual group ride called BikeFest, organized by the Carolina Tarwheels cycling club. There’s also a century option (100 miles), but we’re just too plumb lazy, not to mention the thermometer will likely reach between 90 and 100 the day of the ride. Back in the day, a 62-mile ride was just a ride. Now it’s a minor ordeal. And so we train.

Tobacco barn in Stokes County, NC

Tobacco barn in Stokes County, NC

One thing we love passing by during our rides are old barns, in various states of health or decline. They come in all sizes and shapes, but our favorites are pine tobacco barns, still fairly common sights in North Carolina. These were where the tobacco leaves were hung to be dried and cured.

When I first moved back here, five years ago, I was a bit repulsed by the state’s tobacco past. But now I’ve reconnected with my childhood, having grown up in Wake County, just outside of Raleigh in the 1960s and ’70s.

What I recall are rows and rows of tobacco plants on red-clay farms that practically covered the state. (Sadly, North Carolina leads the nation in the rate of lost farmland, with the state shedding more than 6,000 farms and 300,000 acres of farmland since 2002, according to the USDA.)

Crumbling tobacco barn in Surry County, NC

Crumbling tobacco barn in Surry County, NC

Yes, tobacco does awful things to people, but the plants are beautiful, and many families and businesses depended on the crop. So as much as I scorn smoking, I do have a fondness for the agricultural tradition. OK, minus the slavery, of course. I’m not winning over any of you, am I? So let’s just stick to barns then, and forget the tobacco part.

Diane (right) talks to Roger Dinger (mirror image)

Diane (right) talks to Roger Dinger (Click to ENLARGE this mirror image)

Because I write regularly about NC artisans, I’ve come across several who use reclaimed barn wood for different things. By far the most impressive use has been by Roger Dinger, who lives outside of Siler City. (Yes, Andy and Barney used to go there! It really exists!) Not only are Roger’s furnishings and home accessories from barn wood absolutely gorgeous, he came up with the best name ever for his company — Reinbarnation. Perfect! I wrote about him for the News & Observer in the spring. You can read the story, and check out his goods, on his website.  I traded him reprint rights for objets d’art, and Wessel and I now own two much-prized Reinbarnation mirrors.

Tag with mirror made frm wood from a cure house in Silk Hope, NC

Tag accompanying mirror made from tobacco barn in Silk Hope, NC (Click to ENLARGE)

Not only is Roger’s work wonderful, he adds a tag to each item that says what farm the wood is from. He truly is recycling the state’s history. (And, yes, he can ship a part of that NC history to you.) Thank you, Roger, for perpetuating the legacy of North Carolina barns, and in fine fashion at that.