Carrboro Commons

Southern Rail restaurant rolls into Carrboro

Posted on September 27th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

By Gregg Found
Carrboro Commons Writer


The newly-opened Southern Rail restaurant welcomed 450 guests on its opening weekend, and hostess Leslie Rautenberg got to greet almost all of them. Rautenberg said of the restaurant’s decorations, “this place has a lot of character, everywhere you look.”
Gregg Found photo

Southern Rail restaurant General Manager Spencer Pope refused to call the restaurant’s first day of business a “grand opening.”

“We’ll have an opening,” Pope said on Thursday, Sept. 20, a day before Carrboro residents could swarm into the train-themed restaurant next to Carr Mill Mall. “We just hope it’ll be grand.”

Such is the humble, community-based approach that Pope, owner Mike Benson and the staff of Southern Rail are taking to their foray into Carrboro’s downtown dining market.

“The problem with doing a brand-new restaurant is you run the risk of alienating people,” bar manager Steve Anas said. “We can provide a fun atmosphere that is respectful of the community in the feel of Carrboro – family-oriented but well-traveled.”

And Friday’s opening – despite Pope’s modesty the day before – was indeed grand.

He estimated that 250 people enjoyed the restaurant on Friday night, Sept. 21, and that 450 total had visited Southern Rail on its opening weekend, including a Saturday night cocktail on Sept. 22.

“I think it went awesome,” said hostess Leslie Rautenberg, who got to meet and seat almost all of the patrons.
Of course, Pope and Anas said, the first days of business weren’t without some usual glitches.

Second Friday Artwalk keeps things colorful

Posted on September 27th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

by Laura Davenport
Carrboro Commons Writer


Local artist Amy Richards displays her “little boxes” at DeWitt Law, a stop on the Sept. 14 Artwalk.
Laura Davenport photo

For the past six years, the second Friday of each month has been home to a tradition the towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill call the Artwalk. This free event attracts art aficionados and novices from all areas to enjoy good company, music, and of course, art.

All participating galleries and locations are open from 6-9 pm, and each usually highlights a specific artist or a certain movement. At several locations, refreshments of wine, crackers and cheeses are served.

The Artwalk has also been a way for up-and-coming artists, such as Amy Richards, to display their work and make a name for themselves within the art community.

Richards, a local artist, displayed her art at DeWitt Law, PLLC. Originally from California and Ohio, Richards says she took an interest in painting after she took a course while attending Kent State University.

“At first,” she says, “I didn’t really like painting, then I had one teacher who really changed my mind, and I fell in love with it.” She then went on to receive her degree in art education from Kent State and taught for two years.

Upon relocation to Carrboro, Richards also took a job as a professional nanny, which she says has had an influence on her artwork. “Sort of like ‘My Little Pony’ and a lot of plastics; it’s all about setting things up,” she says. “Different toys, mainly — that’s sort of the nanny-thing, also.”

Richards says she spends about 15 hours to create each of her “little boxes.” They are all on eigh- by-eight inch clay board boxes. She mostly uses acrylics and watercolors, and each piece comes with an average price tag of about $125.

Carrboro Film Festival growing like Topsy

Posted on September 27th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

by Marianna King
Carrboro Commons Writer

The judging has begun on about 50 entries for Carrboro’s second annual Film Festival. The only requirement for the films, other than a 20 minute maximum length, is that the creator brushed Orange County at some point in his/her life.

Why so inclusive? According to its mission statement, the festival’s goal is to “support and promote film and video artists in and around Orange County.”

As Carrboro gears up for the Sunday, Nov. 18, festival in Century Hall, Jackie Helvey, the event’s founder, reflects on its exciting beginnings and Nic Beery, the creative force behind the festival’s success.


Jackie Helvey, festival founder, poses by Carrboro Film Festival sign inside VisArt Video in Carrboro.
Marianna King photo

“Nic had just moved to Carrboro the weekend before the Carrboro Music Festival in 2005,” said Helvey. “He made a short movie documenting the festival and sent it to Gerry Williams, the chair.”

Helvey, also a founder of the Music Festival and 10-year member of its committee, recalls seeing the film and instantly recognizing the void in the Carrboro arts scene that needed filling.

“Even if was just a bunch of people coming to see 10 movies, it would be a cool thing,” said Helvey. “It did not end up as anything I envisioned. I thought it would be informal—some people will show up, we’ll watch movies, we’ll have fun. It ended up being this huge event, and that’s thanks to Nic, really.”

After discussing the idea with the Carrboro Art Committee and contacting a few local businesses to be sponsors, Helvey realized she would have the support needed to fund the event and reach the goal. There was an instant response.


A Mike Roig hand-sculpted “Kay Kyser” award and festival T-shirt are on display at Nested on Main Street, Carrboro.
Marianna King photo

“I went to Nic after some positive reaction,” said Helvey. “We didn’t know what to do. Nic’s a director so he was really good at planning the event. He was the one who had the idea—who made Century Hall look like a grand theater.”

While fewer films are being judged this year than last, Helvey expects a “standing –room only crowd” again. The 2006 committee received 86 submissions and showed 22 of those films on the festival night. About 50 submissions are being judged this year.

“Basically, if you know where Carrboro is, you could submit a film,” said Helvey. “No, really, in the end we decided it was better to be inclusive. We’re still small enough that we can accept all the submissions.”

A unique characteristic of the film festival is its lack of restrictions on production dates. A film from any point in its creator’s life may be submitted. One of Helvey’s favorite shorts last year was “Greased Elbows” which featured an animated troupe of dancing elbow macaroni. The film was produced for fun in college by banker Mitch Virchick ovehr 25 years ago.

Committee members are reviewing all submissions to choose which films will be shown on Nov. 18. The Blue Ribbon panel will decide which films receive one of the four large hand-sculpted Kay Kyser awards. Eight smaller statuettes will be given as craft awards for acting, directing, lighting and more.

A 1928 graduate of UNC and star of seven feature films, Kyser, whose granddaughter, Amanda Bryan, served on the Carrboro Art Committee, was the perfect choice as namesake for the awards. Kyser’s illustrious career began as the UNC bandleader and developed into a nationally broadcast swing band-era radio show, the Kollege of Musical Knowledge. Mike Roig, a local sculptor makes the recycled steel awards bearing Kyser’s theatrical trademarks, the mortarboard hat and megaphone.

The festival will be held on November 18 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Century Center in Century Hall in downtown Carrboro.

For more information, please visit the festival’s Web site at

Carrboro’s community garden: a growing concern

Posted on September 27th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

by Kate Newnam
Carrboro Commons Editor


In the face of a continuing drought, Lauren Craig waters a row of parched plants.
Kate Newnam photo

Each Saturday as the sun beats down and the temperature rises, a group of gardeners gather at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Park on Hillsborough Road to lend a hand in community food production. As part of the Carrboro Community Garden Coalition, gardeners with all ranges of experience have been working together since May to create a space for sustainable food production and community interaction.

The community garden began as an idea in the heads of friends and garden lovers April McGreger and Jay Hamm. “We have been friends a long time and had talked and dreamed about not only a community garden, but a community kitchen as well,” said McGreger.

After a community garden group working on private land by the ReCYCLEry was kicked off their plot, McGreger, Hamm and fellow gardener Sammy Slade began looking for a new community garden space in early spring. The group looked at the MLK, Jr. Park not knowing what the plans were for it, but knew it would be a great space for a garden.

“We came out here and it was huge and empty and had perfect sun,” said McGreger.

“We found out that there was a meeting to discuss the future of the park and presented the garden as one of the options,” said Slade.

After much negotiation, the Board of Aldermen turned the plot over for joint use by the Garden Coalition and the Orange County Partnership for Young Children.

On May 15, 2007, the group broke ground on their 75 ft. by 75 ft. garden with a rented tiller and lots of donated seeds. Local farmers and gardeners, many of which are involved in the Farmers’ Market, supplied the group with seeds for such Southern staples as tomatoes, peppers and melons.

What would Cat Baby say?

Posted on September 27th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

By Jock Lauterer
Adviser, Carrboro Commons


A 26-year-old George “Cat Baby” Cannada leads the CHHS football team onto Carrboro’s Lions’ Park field in 1963.
Jock Lauterer photo

Cat Baby would have loved the return of high school football to Carrboro.

That’s right, The inaugural football game on Aug. 31 at the new Carrboro High School off Smith Level Road was not the first high school football game played in Carrboro.

Not by a long shot. Back in my day, the downtown Chapel Hill High School, located at the site of today’s University Square, had no football field of its own. We had to truck across town to venerable old Lion’s Park off Fidelity Street in Carrboro for our “home” games.
An apartment complex now occupies the site of that Spartan athletic venue, as I remember it: a humble field and simple bleachers ringed by a corrugated iron fence.

But it was home to the Wildcats, and, to return to the theme, “Cat Baby” — the ubiquitous town character, unquenchable Chapel Hill High School sports fan and veteran newspaper boy, George Cannada.

Cat Baby may not have been the brightest bulb in the box, but what he lacked in mental firepower, he made up for with loyalty, steadfastness and his own brand of humor.

How Cat Baby got his handle, you’d have to ask local historian extraordinaire Bland Simpson to be sure. Maybe it had to do with the ‘50s pop expression of “cool cat.” Or maybe it came from the Wildcats’ team name, shortened to “Cats.” And since George was the quintessential CHHS fan, perhaps it was he who made the linguistic leap. He said “Cat Baby” all the time, so that’s what we called him.

Who really knows? What every Chapel Hill High School kid from our era does know is that the sound of Caaaaaaaaaaat! could only come from one person.

And that evolved into Caaaaaaaat Baaabbeeeee!

And then, Whattaya say Cat Baby!

This eponymous greeting was invariably issued from a generous mouth half-filled with “chawin” tobacco or a cigar, and a merry look on the big man’s face.

Dear Carrboro: Welcome to the Commons, round two

Posted on September 13th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

By Jock Lauterer
Lecturer and advisor
The Carrboro Commons.

Welcome to the Fall 2007 edition of the Carrboro Commons, a student-produced biweekly online source of stories, photos and commentary about this wonderfully eclectic community of ours.

I say “ours” because as a Chapel Hill native and now a resident of Greater Carrboro, I take pride in being a Carrburban — or whatever it is that we call ourselves.


Veteran editor-publisher Ken Ripley of the Spring Hope Enterprise (seated, center) is surrounded by the UNC Community Journalism class, which, addition to staffing the Carrboro Commons, will be running a “Bucket Brigade” to help Ripley as he recuperates from double hip replacement this fall. Staffers include, left to right, Laura Davenport, Gregg Found, Kate Newnam, Sam Giffin, Kendal Walters, Marianna King, Elyse Archer, Emily Burns, Cody Braun and Cameron Weaver. Instructor Jock Lauterer is at lower front right. Absent at time of photo is Jon Sullivan.

Photo by Vickie Ripley.

The Commons was created a year ago last fall, largely due to student initiative, plus the inspiration and encouragement of area journalists Robert “Bubba” Dickson and Kirk Ross, who launched their own independent community newspaper, the Citizen, in Carrboro last March. Not surprisingly, the Commons has a reciprocal relationship with the Citizen, and you will see an occasional Commons feature appearing in print in the Citizen.

As you read our stories and look at our pictures, remember this is a “lab e-newspaper,” with the dual purpose of informing Carrboro residents while providing journalism students with real-life, real-time experience under the full glare of public opinion. Instead of talking about community journalism, we’re doing community journalism. Such project-based learning is not without its risks though.

There will be, and have been mistakes. But be sure, when we make a fumble, we will acknowledge it immediately and publicly in the spirit of transparency. I look upon such stumbles as teachable moments and learning experiences.

That being said, enjoy the Commons, and give us your feedback and comments as you see fit. To register, go to and find the link to register beneath the spreading green tree logo.

Jock Lauterer teaches community journalism at the University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication where he can be reached at 962-6421 or [email protected] The Carrboro Commons is a project of the JOMC 459 Community Journalism class.

Jaguars hit the halls of new Carrboro High School

Posted on September 13th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

by Marianna King
Carrboro Commons Writer

Carrboro High School, the newest addition to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools system, began the third week of its inaugural school year. While it boasts an environmentally sound “green” rating, new technology and a smaller student body, the new school faced a few challenges typical of any opening.

About 70 more students than anticipated showed up for class, bringing the enrollment to around 610. Principal Jeff Thomas anticipates continued progress and plans to address overcrowding issues throughout the next few weeks.


Principal Jeff Thomas is proud of the new Carrboro High School with its state-of-the-art green construction.
Jock Lauterer photo

“We had an incredibly smooth opening with lots of excited and enthusiastic students and we are looking forward to a great year,” said Thomas. “We have more students than anticipated, so there are challenges that we will be addressing.”

His plans include hiring a part-time health and physical education teacher to take over one section of P.E. and two sections of health that CHS’s Spanish teacher is teaching. Other teachers will be asked to take on additional sections for additional pay, as well.

School leaders say redistricting created preliminary angst from students who feared that leaving former high schools would mean severed ties with friends. After slow initial enrollment, the city school system opened CHS to applicant admission. In conjunction with a delayed rush on enrollment toward the end of summer, actual enrollment numbers were slightly off when classes began.

The few temporary hurdles do not come close to outweighing the school’s many benefits. One of only two North Carolina schools to earn the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) distinction, CHS sets the standard for environmental sustainability. Teachers and students are already enjoying advancements in classroom technology, as well.

Music Festival celebrates 10 years in Carrboro

Posted on September 13th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

Cody Braun
Carrboro Commons Writer

The night before the Carrboro Music Festival 10 years ago, Gerry Williams was scared.

“Lots of professionals said we couldn’t do it,” the music festival’s creator and organizer says. Despite this advice, Williams went forwards with the project, which he says has been a great success.


Andrews and Williams proudly display the Carrboro Music Festival’s tenth-anniversary poster.
Cody Braun photo

“The next day, I was so happy,” he says. “I was taking down banners, and people were driving by and honking, saying ‘I had a great time yesterday.’”

The festival, which will celebrate its tenth anniversary September 30, has changed significantly since that first year.

Williams says the event originally took place as close to June 21 as possible each year to celebrate the summer solstice. “The first couple of years the crowd was just a couple hundred people around Carrboro,” he says. “The last couple of years, the police estimate was between 8,000 and 10,000.”

This year, to celebrate the festival’s anniversary, organizers arranged a special kick-off night of music at the Cat’s Cradle on Sep. 29, which will include performances by local groups Two Dollar Pistols, Tres Chicas and Great Big Gone.

A special anniversary T-shirt and poster will also be for sale throughout the festival. Kim Andrews, recreation supervisor at the Carrboro Parks and Recreation Department, works closely with the festival. “Every five years we’ll have limited edition posters and shirts to celebrate those anniversaries,” she says.

This year, about 160 musical groups, solo artists, dance troupes and more will play at 22 venues around Carrboro. Williams says that selecting the groups is one of the hardest parts of his job. “We had to send out so many e-mails saying ‘We liked your music, but…’ It was terrible,” he says.

New scooter store takes Carrboro for a ride

Posted on September 13th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

by Elyse Archer
Carrboro Commons Writer

Does spending $5 a week on gas sound like pure fantasy? For Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents, it’s now a reality, thanks to Carrboro’s new Scooters Inc.

The scooter store opened on 211 E. Main St. on Aug. 10. Dave Jansen, the store’s owner, is also the owner of Combustion Cycles, a motorcycle store in Durham.


Tonya Stewart, the store’s manager, shows off the “Latte” scooter with Quinn’s artwork in the background.
Elyse Archer photo

The small store might not be recognizable, if not for the vibrantly colored display of scooters outside. Once inside, a visitor will be greeted with a mini-showroom featuring several top-of-the-line scooters, as well as helmets and apparel designed specifically for scooter drivers. Its urban-chic feel is accentuated by several paintings by local artist Nathaniel Quinn for sale on the walls.

Tonya Stewart, the store’s manager and a Carrboro resident, has ridden scooters since she was young.
“Managing the store was just a natural fit for me,” she said.

The scooter store has been running smoothly since its inception, and sales average at about three scooters per week. All age groups, from high school students to retirees, have enjoyed purchasing new scooters. About 70 percent of customers thus far have been women, who frequently find scooters to be an enjoyable alternative to motorcycles, Stewart said.

Stewart cited numerous reasons for purchasing a scooter, whose small size and ease of handling fits in perfectly in a college town such as Chapel Hill, or smaller city such as Carrboro.

“They’re popular because they take up so little space, and you don’t have to pay for parking,” she said.

Riding a scooter is effectively the same as riding a bike, as a license isn’t necessary as long as the speed is capped at 30 MPH (all those sold at Scooters Inc. qualify as such). They also don’t require insurance, Stewart said.

Most of the scooters for sale are manufactured by SYM, a brand that originated in Europe and Asia and is now making its way into the United States. Base prices range from $1,899 for some of the most basic models, up to $2,290 for the more sophisticated ones. One of the most upscale scooters available is the “Latte” scooter, a blend of cream and mocha colors on a larger scooter frame.

WCOM hosts candidates in musical debates

Posted on September 13th, 2007 in Uncategorized by jock

by Gregg Found
Carrboro Commons Writer

Carrboro aldermen candidate Katrina Ryan will spend plenty of time focused on campaigns, fliers and policy arguments in these months leading up to the December elections. But on Saturday Sept. 1, she undertook a contest of a different sort – she spun tunes for Carrboro residents as part of WCOM’s “musical debates.”

The brainchild of WCOM disc jockey Tom Arnel, the musical debates feature two alderman candidates who share an hour of airtime – Saturdays from 5 to 6 p.m. – alternating songs or pairs of songs from their favorite artists and albums.


WCOM’s studio at the corner of Weaver and North Greensboro Streets are the site of the unique debates.
Gregg Found photo

But there is really nothing combative about these debates. Arnel said his idea was simply to get the candidates to play the music that’s special to them.

“I don’t want to make it into a political forum,” Arnel said. “Its more of what do you listen to, what do you enjoy?”

Ryan and candidate Chuck Morton kicked off the guest DJ series on Sept. 1, and although the focus wasn’t entirely musical – “Between songs they talked about local political issues,” Arnel said – the format was a success.

Ryan joked, “I had never met Chuck Morton before, and all anybody knew about him from my neighborhood was that he was in a band, and I was like, ‘Oh just my luck.’”

As for after the first impression, Ryan said, “It was really nice to meet him and he had some interesting local music.”

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