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Bele Chere 

6th sense

One of the largest and most established festivals in the Southeast, Bele Chere has provided entertainment for family-values crowds and decadent partiers alike. With bands, arts and crafts, clothiers, and food vendors, the yearly event draws hundreds of thousands to Asheville. Try getting a hotel room downtown between July 28 and July 30 and you'll see the premium put on accommodations close to the action.

Asheville already draws some colorful characters on any day of the year, compared to more staid North Carolina cities (let's not name names). During Bele Chere, every alternative culture you can imagine is represented: New Age lesbians mix with Baptist families, old-school hippies mingle with new-school Trustafarians, skate rats zoom by old folks, college kids dance with blue-collar locals -- all there to enjoy the live music, food choices that extend from the typical fair fare to treats offered by the mountain town's eclectic downtown eateries, and booth upon booth of handmade arts and crafts.

At night, the music continues as local nightspots such as Jack of the Wood, Stella Blue and Tressa's open their doors and fill quickly, with crowds often spilling out into the streets.

The Bele Chere festival is free, but some of the bands are not. This year's ticketed acts include Southern blues rockers Gov't Mule, on July 28 ($15), and Train, on July 29 ($20). Country-rock progeny Shooter Jennings is also scheduled to play the festival, according to his Web site, as is a variety of other acts, including the journeyman poet/rocker/wildman Col. Bruce Hampton and his jammy Codetalkers, singer-songwriter Martin Sexton, bluegrassers Steep Canyon Rangers, funksters Phat Phunktion, the reggae band Mystic Vibrations, bluesman Watermelon Slim and many more.

Even the reality-TV craze has invaded Bele Chere. Twelve people will live for three days on the "Urban Challenge IslandBele Chere festival in Asheville, NC" in hopes of winning Bele Chere Urban Challenge 2006. Much like its television counterparts, Urban Challenge is expected to test physical and mental capabilities. (If you're so inclined, you can apply by June 2 for one of the 12 slots.)

Bele Chere is July 28-July 30 in downtown Asheville. Festival is free, some events cost. www.belecherefestival.com. Source: www.belecherefestival.com

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  • On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds gathered at Camp North End on Statesville Avenue for Charlotte's first black alternative music festival. We captured some of the bands in action on stage, but mostly we surveyed the grounds as fans, families, vendors and more lounged around the sprawling, colorful Camp North End site. It was a great day of music, food, fun, and sweet, autumn sunshine. (Photos by Mark Kemp)
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