Bele Chere; Cultural Celebration or Uncontrolled Simpletons?

Confrontation

Cultural Celebration or Uncontrolled Simpletons?  by Liz Clark

What started 35 years ago as a local artisan’s street fair, Bele Chere—’Beautiful Life’ in Scottish— has become the Southeast’s largest free music and street festival, drawing over 350,000 visitors for three days of mirth and merriment. Lynne and I were determined to fully experience this rich cultural heritage, its many artists, musicians and culinary delights, for Bele Chere, 2013, would be the last one held in downtown Asheville. Although the festival is hugely popular it is not without controversy.

Liz-with-Christopher

With a towering cityscape as our backdrop we wandered aimlessly through the heart of downtown Asheville. Along with stages featuring headline musicians, we encountered talented street performers around every corner, adding to the artistic character of this event. The arts and crafts were an extraordinary representation of local as well as international talent. The vast array of food trucks and vendor stalls catered to the tastes of both the simple and sophisticated palate.

It didn’t take long however for our idealistic impression of this once grand festival to be shattered. Yep, that controversy I alluded to earlier roared its ugly head in the form of well-endowed, topless buskers seeking dollars for photo opportunities. I’m not sure if they were trying to be culturally relevant but their tainted clothing and skin gave off a hillbilly effect. Evangelical street preachers and atheists yelled at each other through megaphones, condemning born sinners and God worshipers alike. Those arguing the righteousness of their beliefs created heated encounters, teetering on physical exchanges. With the increase of alcohol sales the crowd joined in the riotous ruckus. Confused and concerned parents wanting to expose their children to an artistically cultural experience had no way of controlling just how much exposure this entailed. However, as initially intriguing and exciting as this all was, it became largely annoying as the days progressed.Oh My!

After three days of exploring Bele Chere we understood the need to discontinue what has become such a large event in this sweet little town of Asheville. The emphasis on a culturally significant celebration has being sacrificed to crowded, uncontrolled, free-spirited simpletons!

Unfortunately the Bele Chere of old is long gone.

With that being said, I wouldn’t have missed it and would go again if it were at a different venue.

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The Lighter Side of Bele Chere

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