Sunday, Blue Zone Hosts “A Tasteful Affair” For RMH

More than two dozen local restaurants, bakeries, breweries and food vendors will be showcasing their wares for a cause this Sunday, November 1, from 6-8 pm at Kenan Stadium’s Blue Zone.

It’s “A Tasteful Affair,” an annual event to raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill. This year marks the 25th anniversary of A Tasteful Affair, one of the RMH’s biggest annual fundraisers.

It’s an especially big year for the Ronald McDonald House, which provides housing for families with kids receiving treatment at UNC Hospitals. They’re undergoing a major expansion, which will enable them to serve even more families. (The RMH houses nearly 2,200 families each year, but it has to turn away about 800 more for lack of room.)

Elizabeth Hullender of the Ronald McDonald House joined Aaron Keck on WCHL to discuss A Tasteful Affair.


Find out more about A Tasteful Affair and purchase tickets at this link.

Tar Heels to Fans: Where Are You?

UNC junior wide receiver Bug Howard tweeted on Tuesday what many Tar Heel fans in attendance were wondering during last Saturday’s game against Illinois. Where is everybody?

Despite Kenan Stadium’s capacity of 63,000, the announced crowd of 41,000 was UNC’s lowest since 2012, when 32,000 fans showed up in the pouring rain to watch a game against Idaho.

The tweet from Howard was an obvious reference to the fact that games at the Dean Smith Center routinely sell out, or are played in front of packed houses.


Howard’s tweet in question. (@ThaBugMan)

Not surprisingly, Howard found himself answering to the media just hours after posting his question online.

“I wasn’t sure about the attendance during the game,” Howard told reporters on Tuesday. “I just seen a picture of it.

“When I seen the picture, I was sitting with some basketball guys and we just had a talk. And they was just trying to figure out ways that they could help get people come out and support us.”

Without naming any of the basketball players he spoke with, Howard essentially agreed to take on the role of poster boy for the most recent Tar Heel football attendance crisis. Another game with under 50,000 fans in attendance would mark the first time since 2006 that’s happened on three separate occasions during a season.

It’s these kinds of stats that have players like senior offensive guard Landon Turner trying to come up with some non-basketball related solutions.

“I think the marketing department does a great job, as far as reaching out to the fan base,” Turner said, before offering his take. “I think, if anything, just kind of shifting focus from—obviously our season ticket holders we have now are important—but applying the same thing to people who aren’t, or who are on the fence, or who aren’t as interested [right now].”

While Turner focused on the business side of the dilemma, another Tar Heel wide receiver, junior Ryan Switzer, said it was something he learned in a sports marketing class that’s helped him understand what keeps fans from coming to games.

“We learned a lot about how the home atmosphere is a lot better [than the stadium],” he said. “You can see it on TV. You can have a cold beer in your hand while you’re sitting on the couch.

“Sometimes you can’t blame people for not coming, but we would certainly love to have 65,000 every home game cheering us on,” Switzer added.

Marquise Williams knows the Tar Heels will have to win more games if they want more fans. (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams knows the Tar Heels will have to win more games if they want more fans. (UNC Athletics)

All the talk about attendance, and the incredible atmosphere a packed stadium provides, had Switzer thinking back to his days as a high school player being recruited to play at UNC. Although, crowd size was not the final decision maker for him, he still hasn’t forgotten what some of those recruiting experiences were like at other top-flight athletic colleges.

“My most memorable visits were when I went to Penn State, and when I went to ‘Bama—where there were 105,000 people in the stands,” he said. “But Carolina’s a great place and there is few stadiums, especially on campus, like Kenan Stadium–just the all-around atmosphere.”

The real solution for the Tar Heels would be to keep winning games, which quarterback Marquise Williams has stated.

But it’s Howard who sent the tweet heard all throughout Chapel Hill, so he’s the one who forced he and his teammates to answer the tough questions. When asked why he wanted to see more fans out there, Howard’s response was simple.

“If we have a packed crowd—I mean, I feel like we feed off better, energy-wise, with a packed house,” Howard responded matter-of-factly. “So that’s why I feel like you should pack the stadium.”

It’s an easy formula. More wins leads to more fans, which leads to more energy. Which then leads to more wins—or something like that.

Either way, the Tar Heels have made a plea to their fans to show up and support their team this weekend and beyond. If the last two weeks have been any indication at all, they might be rewarded with a blowout victory.

Kenan Stadium Fireworks Boasts Biggest Audience Yet

Following the celebrations of July 4th in Orange County, the events of the day are still fresh in people’s minds, from the parades to the numerous outdoor activities. To close out the night, of course, was the nationally-recognized fireworks display at Kenan Stadium.

Production Manager for the Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation Department, Wes Tilghman, says that this Fourth of July produced the biggest audience the event has ever had.

“We just enjoyed a great evening celebrating with our community,” says Tilghman. “It was a record turn-out with a wonderful show. We estimate that crowd to be around 35 to 38 thousand; that’s actually estimated based on the number of seats we make available at the stadium each year.”

He also says that the show ran without any problems, thanks to the help of the local professionals.

“Everything went very smoothly,” says Tilghman. “All the folks at Parks and Recreation, who helped coordinate the event worked very closely with the UNC officials and our Chapel Hill Fire Department to make a great event.”

In graditiude, Tilghman says he offers his thanks to everyone that made the July 4th celebration this year such a success.

“Just a big thank you to all of those that were involved, especially those sponsors that support the event each year,” says Tilghman.

Tilghman also expressed his gratitude and praise for one local celebrity in particular for keeping the show going, and making this Independence Day something to remember.

“Mr. Ron Stutts is just an amazing Master of Ceremonies each year,” says Tilghman. “He makes that stage sing, and we really appreciate everyone’s support and contributions.”

Fireworks At Kenan Stadium

For the third consecutive year—after a short hiatus—Fourth of July Fireworks return to Kenan Stadium.

Leading up to the firework display at 9:30 p.m., the band Bull City Syndicate takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. The first 10,000 people through the gates receive a free glow necklace provided by Grace Church.

WCHL’s Ron Stutts will once again emcee the main stage; DSI Comedy also returns with its watermelon-eating contest; there will also be a juggling Uncle Same, face paining, and inflatable sports challenges.

Gates 5, 6, and the Blue Zone open at 7:00 p.m. Parking is available in the Craige, Jackson, Cardinal, and Rams Head decks. The Bell Tower lot will also be available for disability parking.

For more information about the 2014 Independence Day Fireworks, click here.

“Meet The Heels” Set To Get Fans Fired Up For Football

CHAPEL HILL—Kenan Stadium will come alive once again on August 3 as Tar Heel fans will have the chance to get geared up for another season of UNC football and the “Fedora Freak Show.”

The fan fest will occur just 26 short days before the Tar Heels kick off the entire college football season with a huge rivalry game against the University of South Carolina Gamecocks down in Columbia, S.C. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN nationwide on Aug. 29.

With high hopes for a special season, this year’s Meet The Heels will sure to be a great atmosphere for all in attendance.

The day’s festivities will begin when the gates to Kenan open at 3 p.m. The official Meet the Heels program is set to start at 4 p.m. Fans should use Gates 2, 5, 6 or either of the Blue Zone gates in the east end zone.

The event will be jam packed with ways for Tar Heel fans to interact with the UNC football team. And this includes autographs. Defensive players will sign from 4-5 p.m. and offensive players will sign from 5-6 p.m. Head coach Larry Fedora will be signing autographs from 4-6 p.m.

The kids will have plenty to get excited about as well. A Carolina Kids Zone will be located in the east end of Kenan Stadium featuring inflatables and games for children of all ages. The Kids Zone will close at 6 p.m.

In addition, free Carolina football trading cards, pocket schedules, and posters will be handed out until supplies run out.

Food will be sold from the concession stands and restroom facilities on the north and south sides will be open for the event.

Parking can be found in the Rams Head Deck and the new Bell Tower Deck for $5 and for free in the Craige, Cardinal and Jackson parking decks off Manning Drive.

Rockets’ Red Glare Caps July 4 In Chapel Hill

Fireworks at Kenan. (Photo by Susan Murray.)

CHAPEL HILL – Thousands of local residents turned out at Kenan Stadium Thursday night for another memorable July 4 fireworks display.

Ron Stutts emceed the event, put on by the Town of Chapel Hill in conjunction with numerous local businesses and organizations. Among the attendees were Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, new UNC Chancellor Carol Folt, and Chapel Hill Town Council member Sally Greene.

“It’s a great time to take some time out to enjoy some fellowship and fireworks,” Greene said. “I’ve got my son and my husband here with me, and we’re really enjoying it.”

After a week marred by torrential downpours, the rain held off all night — save for a brief sprinkle right before the fireworks got under way.

But the rain could not stop the show on Thursday; in fact, WCHL News Director Ran Northam said it only got the crowd that much more excited.

“(There was) a little tiny bit of a sprinkle just before the fireworks went off — that was greeted by many, many cheers,” he said shortly after the show began. “People (are) loving it now.”

The fireworks got underway right on schedule at 9:30, following an evening of entertainment featuring music from Liquid Pleasure and a watermelon-eating contest sponsored by DSI Comedy.

The show itself was not without incident: “One fire official did have to go down and put out a little bit of a fire there at the end,” Northam said. “There were a couple small fires there.”

And attendees were also surprised by another round of fireworks that started up after the 25-minute show appeared to reach its end. That second round lasted several more minutes, even as the lights in Kenan had already come back on.

Still, the show as a whole was an unqualified success — especially for new Chancellor Folt, who’s still getting oriented to Chapel Hill in her first week on the job.

“It’s been great,” she said of her first days in Chapel Hill. “I’ve just been meeting so many people, and everyone’s friendly — I keep hearing what a friendly place (Chapel Hill) is, and it’s absolutely true.”

More than the fireworks and the camaraderie, though, July 4 is a day to celebrate America — and in particular the Declaration of Independence, a document that not only established the U.S. as a distinct nation, but also expressed the fundamental values on which it would seek to build itself.

And Sally Greene says this year is especially noteworthy in that regard.

“This is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg,” she says. “Abraham Lincoln gave an address for the ages when he gave the Gettysburg Address — and what he was doing there was cementing the Declaration as the founding document which the Constitution must interpret…

“He really was reinforcing the Declaration of Independence as the founding document that would bring forth all of our rights and ensure us those liberties to this day. So it’s a time to remember that — a time to remember what’s fundamental about our democracy, and a time to stand up and fight for it.”

The Kenan Stadium fireworks show is a longstanding annual event—but 2013 marks its second year back, after budget cuts forced the town to cancel it in 2011.

Tar Heel 10 Miler Hosts More Than 5,000 Runners Saturday

CHAPEL HILL – A record number of runners hit the streets of Chapel Hill for the Sixth Annual Tar Heel 10 Miler early Saturday morning, and the first one to cross the finish line of the ten-mile course was Olympian Camas Kovacs.

“I (actually) feel pretty good,” Kovacs says. “It was just a test run for me. I’m (getting) back in shape and visiting North Carolina. I went to school at High Point University (and) graduated four years ago. Now I’m back on a visit. It was a good opportunity to put together the running the visit. It was a great course, too.”

Kovacs represented Hungary in the 2012 London Olympics’ marathon. He says Rio in 2016 is on his radar. He ran this year’s course in just more than 50 minutes.

The second place finisher in the 10 miler was UNC medical student Brock Baker.

“I won it last year, so I was hoping to win it again this year, but the guy who won ran a great race,” Baker says. “I ran about as fast as I did last year, so (I’m) overall pretty pleased with it.”

All week runners showed their support on Facebook and Twitter of those who were affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. Less than 12 hours before the race began in Chapel Hill, Watertown, Massachusetts police captured the second suspect in the bombings, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after a 24-hour manhunt.

Kovacs says Saturday’s race provided a great chance to celebrate as well as remember those who were affected.

“I was happy last night for (what) the police department did in Boston, so it was kind of motivation just to show everybody that we are runners (and) we still do what we like and they cannot terrorize us with these bombings or anything,” Kovacs says.

Baker says he wasn’t worried because he feels safe in Chapel Hill, and he says it was great to see everyone able to continue on despite that tragedy.

“It is a celebration; our hearts still go out to all those people that were injured and the families of those that lost their lives,” Baker says. “It’s a sad thing, but it’s also been really neat to see the way that everybody’s sort of been able to come together around that.”

Many smiles were seen Saturday morning at Kenan Stadium when more than 5,200 runners crossed the finish line. To see pictures from the event, click here.

Swinging Through The Arb'

For this season of Carolina Football, my route has changed.  For 26 years, I strolled down Pritchard Avenue, cut across Rosemary, Franklin, Columbia and Cameron Streets then coursed my way past Memorial Hall, through Polk Place, skirted past Wilson Library and the Bell Tower then made the climb up the hill to Kenan Stadium. 
Well, all that has changed.  I’m now in a cottage on Park Place and my walk to work has shortened but grown exponentially in historical value.  I’ve got several routes, but this Saturday, I’m making my way through the “Arb.”
Our campus garden is a living tribute to UNC botanist Dr. William C. Coker.  Created in 1903, the university appropriated $10 and a gardener; Swain’s Pasture—a low-lying boggy patch of ground that for decades was grazing ground for faculty livestock—became our beloved “Arb” or “Arboretum.”  Today, under the care of the NC Botanical Garden, our 5-acre wonder includes approximately 580 species of trees and shrubs.  As one approaches its entrance near Spencer Dorm, there’s a sign that reads, “The Coker Arboretum is a campus sanctuary for contemplation, plant study and quiet enjoyment.” 
Well, back in 1934, it was none of the above.  Our “sanctuary” was a stage—one worthy of Cecil B. DeMille both in scope and protagonist.
Enter stage right, Kemp Battle Nye.  Born in eastern NC but raised in Grassy Creek, Ashe County, Nye was a latter-day Hinton James. Reportedly, he walked the 147 miles from Grassy Creek to CH in seven days. Walking mostly at night to beat the heat and raiding roadside gardens, he arrived with $50 sown into the lining of his pants.  Nye could only afford one year here at Carolina and soon, thereafter, lied about his age and joined the Marines. 
Years later, he returned to Chapel Hill and opened Kemp’s Record and High Fidelity Shop at 205-207 East Franklin.  There, he called himself the “Franklin Street Frenchman” and he had more gimmicks than Carter has pills.  With loud speakers blaring out his music, he welcomed back students with “Nye’s Favorite Color is Green: Bring Your Money.”  He sold records by the pound or by the inch. He reduced prices on the hour.  He discounted records during rainstorms. There were all-night sales. 
Nye was the consummate showman and never was that better illustrated than back during his one year at Carolina.  Seems he once bet a fellow student he could cross a much more flora- and fauna-choked Coker Arboretum in its entirety without a foot touching the ground.  His inspiration was Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan of the Apes which had just been made into a series of motion pictures starring Johnny Weismuller.  Smitten by the Tarzan persona, Nye made the bet and the great Arboretum Tree Swing took place in 1934. 

On the appointed day, with the Arboretum packed with spectators, monitors took their stations along the nearly two city-block route.  Then, right on schedule, Nye emerged complete with loincloth, flexed his muscles and filled the air with a modified Tarzan yell.  He, then, scampered up a tree in the southwest corner of the Arboretum and zigzagged his way from limb to limb, tree to tree, as dumfounded spectators and squirrels looked on. 

Yep, he made it all the way across and won a week’s worth of free lunches—a bottle of chocolate milk and a sandwich each day.  Later, he even gave tours of the Arboretum and, of course, detailed his route—probably for a modest fee.
New Head Coach Larry Fedora promises a “don’t leave your seat” kind of season. Hey, shades of Kemp Battle Nye and the great Arboretum Tree Swing. 

Enjoy your walk and the spectacles of campus and, course, UNC football.

Re-Lighting the Night Sky

Almost exactly one year ago I wrote how I lauded the decision to cancel Chapel Hill’s annual fireworks display.  While the economy is only inching its way back and can not yet be called healthy and while town leaders are certainly still making tough choices, this year I write that it was wonderful to have fireworks burst again over Kenan Stadium.

Why the change of heart?  Because this year, in an acknowledgement that we’re all in this life and this town and this country together, lots of different people found a way to share the burden.  Donations at the stadium contributed about $8,000 toward the approximate $42,000.  That 8-thousand came from suggested donations of $-$5 so that means an awful lot of people dug into their pocket.
More help came from some local businesses at the prodding of a really wonderful guy (full disclosure: I married him!):  Barry Leffler, CEO of WCHL and worked with the town to raise money from the following businesses: 

Money isn’t the only way people helped bring back a terrific celebration: Police and fire departments for both Chapel Hill and Carrboro report no incidents that evening suggesting that whether people gave money and/or good behavior, they contributed to a wonderful birthday party for the nation. 
Could this idea of working together to find solutions seep out of our terrific town and creep, if not to Washington, then maybe to Raleigh?  I don’t really think so but maybe next year I’ll once again be writing to tell you that things have changed since last year!
Did you enjoy the fireworks?  Are there other opportunities for joint solutions you’d like to suggest?  Write to me at or leave a comment below.

Tips from Mayor Bloomberg

What a beautiful day and a beautiful graduation ceremony in Kenan Stadium on Sunday.

Congratulations to all involved (more…)