Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: The Asheville Parade committee won’t let the Only One Earth Coalition march in the Holiday Parade. The group marched last year without incident. It’s a coalition of peace, environmental, and economic justice groups from Buncombe County. The group has appealed, but the committee said no. They claim the group is controversial. The signs just call for peace and economic and ecological justice. They were fine last year. They won’t say what changed. What’s going on here?
My answer: Nothing says, “Happy Holidays” quite like saying, “And don’t come back!”
Real answer: This is indeed the case this year. The Only One Earth Coalition will not be allowed to participate in the Holiday Parade, which is coming up sooner than you think: Saturday, Nov. 18. The Asheville Downtown Association puts on the event, which is in its 77th year.
“We don’t have a comment,” Downtown Association Executive Director Hayden Plemmons said when I reached out with questions.
The Only One Earth Coalition website notes that it is “an assembly of local groups dedicated to working for peace, justice, and a harmonious relationship with life on Earth. Our common purpose is to be a positive voice and an actor to address the life-threatening and planetary crises we face today.”
The coalition’s group include these organizations:
- ANSWER Coalition AVL (PSL)
- Asheville Democratic Socialists of America
- Asheville Food and Beverage United
- BeLoved Asheville
- Brass Your Heart
- Circle of Mercy Asheville
- Elder Sage Community Garden
- Green Grannies
- Health Care for All WNC
- Land of the Sky UCC
- Poor People’s Campaign WNC
- Reject Raytheon AVL
- Sunrise AVL
- Sunrise UNCA
- Third Act Asheville
- Physicians for Social Responsibility
Ken Jones, a spokesperson for the coalition, first explained the name comes from the slogan for the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, with the idea being Earth is the only home we’ve got.
Jones said he thought last year’s parade, which the coalition participated in, went off fine.
“There were 80 of us in that group — it was humongous,” Jones told me. “We were very well received. We carried a great big huge model of the Earth, we gave out stuff to kids, we had a marching band. It was cool. Nobody said anything to us, so we applied again this year.”
And they got rejected.
Jones said this year they supplied a list of participants in their application and sent the parade coordinator a list of illustrative messages the coalition planned to use.
Jones said he heard the coalition was rejected on the basis of its signage last year.
“(They said) some of them (participants) had violated their regulations about being political,” Jones said, adding that two members of the coalition met with three Downtown Association representatives. They reportedly had a “pretty nice conversation,” Jones said, but they were notified of the violation — and told that no group in the coalition could apply separately.
“They were punishing us from last year,” Jones said, noting that three signs in particular were problematic, even though two had been through the formal application procedure. “I have to scratch my head and wonder about that, because they could have just told us, ‘Don’t use those three signs again.’”
One sign read, “Stop (W)arming the Earth,” and the second read, “Green New Deal for Asheville.” The third sign, from Physicians for Social Responsibility, was not carried in the parade but stated, “Support the United Nations treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.”
“They changed it to a little sign that said, ‘Ho, ho, ho. Nukes have got to go,’” Jones said. “That’s the one they carried in the parade that they objected to. Because of that, they said we can’t be in it this year.”
Naturally, the coalition is disappointed, Jones said, as the Holiday Parade is so well attended, and the coalition is unique in Asheville.
“We sort of present to the public that there’s a lot of social justice movement in Asheville, and that we’re part of the fabric of the town — we should be represented,” Jones said. “And really, it was kind of a celebratory march. There was no one angry, nobody sort of saying, ‘Down with this’ or ‘Down with that.’ It was very positive and upbeat.”
The Downtown Association was “very final” about the decision, Jones said, and a followup letter came a couple of hours after the meeting confirming the decision.
“This decision is a result of the non-compliance with parade policies during the 2022 Asheville Holiday Parade, where certain members of the Only 1 Earth Coalition displayed signs that were not approved by parade organizers, violating established guidelines,” the letter states.
The association’s application for the parade makes it clear that it has a list of rules, as the parade “is a complex event with many moving parts, dozens of staff and volunteers, and more than 100 entries.
“It only runs smoothly if everyone follows the rules, implements our guidelines and adheres to direction from organizers,” the application states.
The application is also pretty clear about the parade not being political.
“We respect and embrace the diversity of causes in our community; however, the parade cannot be used to promote special interests, no matter how worthy,” it states. “The Parade Committee reserves the right to refuse an entry into the parade if, in its sole judgment, it determines that the entry is political, partisan/social issues, unlawful, obscene, vulgar, defamatory, offensive to local community standards, or otherwise considered to be inconsistent with the standards, theme, quality, or purposes of the Asheville Holiday Parade.”
Further, the application states, “No demonstrating or protesting, positive or negative, is allowed by Parade participants. The parade is not the appropriate venue for this activity.”
Question: I have heard from two different individuals recently that the Sav-Mor arm of Ingles supermarkets might be closing. If that is the case, what will become of the Grace Plaza shopping plaza which has been a staple in north Asheville since opening up in 1973? For anyone who has lived here long enough, it originally included a Winn-Dixie, where Sav-Mor is now, as well as Eckerd drug store which ultimately became Rite Aid, which is now vacant after a merge with CVS, and Rose’s Department Store, which became a Stein Mart in 1994 but has been empty for years. There are only a few businesses left on the lower side of the center, but generally speaking it is past its heyday at 50-plus years. That is such prime property, so I am curious to.know if you can find anything noteworthy that is planned for the property that the developer or owner would discuss?
My answer: I’m not sure why the phrase “past its heyday at 50-plus years” felt like a personal attack. Maybe I’m just overly sensitive as I approach 60.
Real answer: Ingles Markets Inc., based in Black Mountain, owns and operates nine Sav-Mor discount grocery stores, including this one. The property is owned by Grace Plaza Holdings, LLC, care of Ingles Markets Inc., according to Buncombe County property records.
I reached out by email and phone to Ingles Markets Chief Financial Officer Pat Jackson, who is also the corporate spokesperson, but did not hear back.
I also called three Sav-Mor stores, and two of the three managers I spoke with said they have not heard anything about any potential closures. One said Sav-Mor has actually been bringing in some Ingles store managers to get the discount stores cleaned up and looking better.
Property records show the Grace Plaza location was sold in October 2022 for $6 million to the Ingles-held company. The seller was Avon Investment Associates LLC, which is dissolved but had local businessman Lowell Pearlman listed as the registered agent.
The property does not have any current construction permits on file with the city of Asheville. So it looks like it’s in a holding pattern.
If I hear back from Ingles, I’ll provide an update.
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