by Briana Ulman
Asheville embraces unique atmosphere
Asheville, North Carolina is home to a variety of activities that contribute to its reputation as a unique place to live. The Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau acknowledged the city’s one-of-a-kind features in 2006 with the adoption of the city’s new slogan “Any way you want it.”
This time of year, it is common for high school students to embrace Asheville’s unique features by frequenting the drum circle, Asheville’s many restaurants, and local landmarks. Other features that are distinctive of Asheville are ghost tours, comedy tours, and contra dancing.
Quite a Fright
Visitors to downtown Asheville can take a tour of Asheville’s Mystery Museum, the home of Asheville’s original and oldest ghost tours. The museum, located in the basement of the Asheville Masonic Temple, is owned by Joshua P. Warren.
Warren has been featured on the Travel Channel, the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, TLC, and the National Geographic, Syfy, and Animal Planet channels. He also has a local radio talk show called “Speaking of Strange” which discusses paranormal activities.
Warren is an author as well. He has published two novels- “Haunted Asheville” and “How to Hunt Ghosts.”
Seeking Some Laughs
Another tour offered in Asheville is LaZoom Tours. In their comedy tours and haunted tours, attendees board an embellished purple bus and travel around downtown Asheville.
A sight often seen as part of the tour is a man dressed as a nun riding a giant bike. Three men participate in this activity as a part of LaZoom. Known as Sister Bad Habit, Sister Hairy Mary, and Sister Sauerkraut, the ‘nuns’ entertain LaZoom tour-takers as part of the comedy act.
Jim Lauzon, who acts as the cycling nun Sister Bad Habit, also owns LaZoom with his wife.
“I love Asheville. I feel like the city as a whole takes a responsibility for our success. About one fourth of each tour is made up of people that live here and come because they’re proud of Asheville. We had a freaky idea and made it happen. But it could only happen in a town like Asheville,” Lauzon said.
According to Lauzon, the city reacts well to the nuns’ appearances.
“One of the best reactions is laughing,” Lauzon said. “It’s awesome-the element of surprise, joy, and laughter all in one.”
Swing Your Partner
Asheville embraces its Appalachian roots through the popularity of contra dancing. Held at Warren Wilson College and concert venue the Grey Eagle, contra dancing typically features a live band playing music while a caller announces dance steps for participants to follow.
“Contra dancing is awesome because even if you don’t know what you’re doing, it is easy to learn and it’s really upbeat. Everyone is nice and helpful, and it’s fun to just dance. I think that contra is more popular in the summer because students don’t have homework or obligations like school the next morning,” junior Margaret Crownover said.
At Warren Wilson, contra dancing is not only popular for seasoned dancers and students, but for the occasional celebrity as well. Actor and 2011 Oscar nominee James Franco has been spotted at the college attending contra dances.
“Contra dancing is so much fun, and it’s in such a cool environment. I feel like it’s something that makes Asheville really unique,” Bruce said.
With all of the amenities offered in the city, many Ashevillians, from high school students to adults, can find a variety of ways to stay entertained.