Photo courtesy of ExploreBrevard.com | It’s rumored these squirrels are descendants of an escaped carnival animal.
Have you ever seen a luminously pale squirrel prowling around WNC? In our neck of the woods, this is a relatively common experience — so much so that these critters are an unofficial mascot of Brevard and the headliners of the city’s annual White Squirrel festival.
This Memorial Day weekend, these quirky creatures are top of mind as White Squirrel Weekend returns to downtown Brevard with three days of live music, food, craft beverages, 75+ local vendors, and other squirrel-centric activities. The event kicks off the evening of Friday, May 26 and runs through the afternoon of Sunday, May 28.
But why so much hoopla for a pale squirrel? That’s because they’re incredibly rare. In fact, only a dozen spots in the country have white squirrel colonies. Unlike the more widespread albino squirrels, these squirrels are leucistic (meaning they have dark rather than pink eyes) and represent about one-third of Brevard’s total squirrel population. Moreover, Brevard’s white squirrels are especially exceptional due to their unique coat pattern.
There are several theories about how these squirrels arrived in Brevard, including this especially wacky tale about a pair escaping from a Florida carnival truck. However, the NC Cooperative Extension says that the squirrels are simply a “naturally occurring lighter colored variation” of the native grey squirrel.
In 1986, Brevard passed an ordinance establishing the city as a sanctuary for all squirrels, but especially the white ones, making it illegal to “hunt, kill, trap, or otherwise take any protected squirrels within the city.” Then in 1997, Brevard professor Robert Glesner founded The White Squirrel Institute, which researches and protects these local enigmas.
The first White Squirrel weekend took place nine years ago, and to this day, remains a quirky staple of WNC culture. Interested in attending the festival? Here are a few more helpful resources:
Forest Bathing with Fireflies | Thursday, May 25 | 7:45-10:45 p.m. | Location revealed to prior to event, Asheville | $125 | Trek into the forest at night to see the Blue Ghost fireflies glimmer and glow.
Friday, May 26
ABSFest Burlesque& Sideshow Festival | Friday, May 26-Sunday, May 28 | 7-10:30 p.m. | The Grey Eagle, 185 Clingman Ave., Asheville | $25-$35 | Asheville’s original burlesque festival returns for its 14th year, attracting renowned circus and burlesque artists from across the country.
GrindFest | Friday, May 26-Sunday, May 28 | Depot St., Asheville | Free | Expect music, games, live performances, food, local vendors, and employment + partnership opportunities, all in the name of celebrating Black entrepreneurs and business.
Gallabrae | Friday, May 26 - Saturday, May 27 | 6-9 p.m. | Downtown Greenville & Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Hwy., Greenville | $20.00 | Be Scottish for a day and celebrate Celtic culture with bagpipes, heavy athletic competitions, a car show, and more at one of the biggest Scottish Games in the region.*
Saturday, May 27
Women’s Chainsaw Master Class | Saturday, May 27 | 9 a.m.-5 p.m. | Near New Leicester Hwy., Asheville | $200 | Learn to use a chainsaw with confidence and skill at this class covering chainsaw safety, saw maintenance, basic cutting skills, and felling techniques.
Therapeutic Slow Flow Yoga | Saturday, May 27 | 10-11 a.m. | Mount Inspiration Apparel, 444 Haywood St., Asheville | $0-$15 | All bodies are welcome at this class, which explores meditation, breathwork, and movement.
Sunday, May 28
River Lodge Market & Neighborhood Cookout | Sunday, May 28 | 12-6 p.m. | Wrong Way River Lodge & Cabin Campground, 9 Midnight Dr., Asheville | Free | Hang around a fire and shop local goods at this neighborhood cookout.
Disney Finding Nemo Jr. | Sunday, May 28 | 2 p.m. | Wortham Center for the Arts, 18 Biltmore Ave., Asheville | $20 | Check out Asheville Junior Theatre’s performance of the classic Pixar film-turned-musical.
80%. That’s the percentage of Asheville residents who support a ban on single-use plastic bags and Expanded Polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) disposable foodware products. Nearly 7,000 residents opted to participate in the survey. City officials say they hope to finalize an ordinance by fall. (WLOS)
At its May 23 meeting, Asheville City Council held a public hearing on the proposed $239.7 million operating budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year. There will be a final vote on Tuesday, June 13. Also on the action agenda: new funding for repairs + maintenance at Harrah’s Cherokee Center and downtown parking garages.
Howl at the moon for Foundy Street’s Full Moon Dance Party on Saturday, June 3 (which just so happens to be Editor Laura’s birthday). The event, which runs from 9 p.m. to midnight, includes tunes from DJ Griffin White and Altumatum, a special night market, tarot, oracle readings, and other mystical magic.
East Asheville has a new tree nursery, thanks to a partnership between the City of Asheville and Asheville GreenWorks. For $1 per year, GreenWorks will lease the city-owned property at 80 Hardesty Ln. and grow trees, with the goal of planting them free-of-charge in public spaces. (Asheville Citizen-Times)
Spotted: a herd of elk taking a sunset stroll through Bryson City. The presence of elk in the region has steadily increased since they were reintroduced into Great Smoky Mountains National Park about twenty years ago. (WLOS)
Congrats to Asheville Area Habitat Humanity on winning the “Best in Accessibility” award in Habitat for Humanity International’s house design contest. The winning home, named The Deerfield, was designed for adults age 55+ with aging-in-place elements in mind. Tour the house.
Pop quiz: What’s the body’s most abundant protein? The answer: Collagen. NativePath’s Certified Grass-Fed Collagen Powder is made from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows and contains 18 grams of protein per serving. Start incorporating it daily to support skin elasticity, joint health, bone strength, and muscle growth and maintenance.*
We’re excited to introduce you to Pirani, an Asheville-based stackable tumbler brand that’s featured in our online store (Six & Main). These insulated tumblers were designed to make convenience less wasteful and help stop the waste of disposable cups. Shop sustainably now.
5 Points Diner is a lively, lovely spot. | Photo via 5 Points Diner
Thanks to all our hungry, frugal readers who wrote in to share their local lunch recommendations. After looking into your suggestions, we’ve got three more great spots up our sleeve.
Note: We’re sticking pretty strictly to our $10 and under promise.
Thai Chili Asian Bistro, 1550 Hendersonville Rd. | This Thai restaurant will leave you absolutely spoiled for choice with 20 different lunch specials under $10, including everything from massaman curry and lo mein to pad ka-pow.
5 Points Restaurant, 258 Broadway St. | There’s plenty of beautifully (and speedily) executed meals to be had at this iconic diner, including an $8 lamb gyro, a $10 chicken gyro with french fries, and an array of sandwiches, melts, and types of cheeseburgers.
The West End, 757 Haywood Rd. | On Wednesdays, stop by this West Asheville staple for an $8 soup and salad combo. There’s also a $10 adult grilled cheese on the menu daily.
Interested in doing more to support our white squirrel pals? Consider “adopting” one through the White Squirrel Institute. Proceeds will support the local preservation and conservation of these squirrels.