Written by: Jason Sandford
Asheville, NC-- City staffers are moving ahead with the planning and organization required to stage the city's massive downtown street party known as Bele Chere in two weeks, but the atmosphere around this year's party is distinctly different.
"It's odd, because we're working so hard to produce this year's Bele Chere. But the situation we're in is that the city budget that was adopted does not include funding for Bele Chere next year," said Sandra Travis, program supervisor for city festivals.
Asheville City Council members, facing a $5 million budget shortfall, said earlier this year that they were inclined to stop providing taxpayer money to produce the event, which draws thousands of visitors into downtown for food and craft vendors, as well as a slew of free music. City Council made it official two weeks ago when it adopted its 2013-14 fiscal year's budget, one that didn't include any money for Bele Chere next year. The city is spending $494,000 on the event this year.
Travis said the new city budget cut three full-time festival staff positions, as well as three part-time workers, one seasonal worker and three intern positions. With the loss of those positions, city staffers are looking at whether it will continue to produce its other events, such as the recent July Fourth festivities downtown.
"There's no longer a festival staff, so the city is in the process of deciding what events to produce, and if so, how," Travis said.
The Bele Chere festival will take over downtown July 26-28. There will be four music stages, two food courts and 140 arts and crafts vendors. Headlining acts include Wanda Jackson, a 75-year-old rockabilly pioneer, Randall Bramblett, Mountain Heart, Rory Kelly's Triple Threat, Johnathan Scales Fourchestra and Yo Mamma's Big Fat Booty Band.