Business Without Bele Chere
For the first time in 35 years, tents, vendors and crowds are not packing the streets of downtown Asheville on this last weekend of July. Bele Chere is gone and with it, the hundreds of thousands of people who came out for the festival.
"When they started it, Asheville was really slow. Now, Asheville is pretty vibrant all on its own," says Andrew Chisholm, owner of Chocolate Gems.
Progress is a two-way street in Asheville. The iconic street faire has seen an evolution over the last 35 years. As the city's population grew, many opinions have shifted.
"When I first got here, it was awesome," says Ash Summers, a fan of Bele Chere. "It was unlike anything I had ever experienced just having this free festival with music everywhere in the streets."
Initially, Bele Chere was meant to revitalize downtown Asheville. In recent years, the festival has been known to drive locals out of town.
"It's like I'm not sure if my perspective changed or [the festival] actually changed because over the years, I just kinda realized this is a lot of toursits who just want to drink and party," says Summers.
Bele Chere's road blocks hit hard for many local businesses, especially on Broadway Street, where detouring traffic was detouring customers.
"It was actually the slowest week in July," says Chisholm. "So, I expect this year will be a bit better because people can get around like normal."
Now, the weekend goes on as any other and Asheville moves forward with a momentum built over the last 35 years.
"The people that are coming to Asheville for what Asheville is appreciate it more without Bele Chere," says Chisholm.
Bele Chere organizers consider the festival to be the biggest in the Southeast. Last year, the city pulled the plug after deciding it could not longer afford the event.
By: Hope Hanselman
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