Reality Check
 
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The End of Bele Chere

Updated: Friday, August 2 2013, 09:22 PM EDT
Live entertainment, arts and culture, and plenty of food and beverages.

It was, as its name states, a beautiful life...but Bele Chere will soon be a thing of the past.

In tonight's Reality Check, the impact on Asheville and why some fear it could signal the beginning of the city's demise as a great destination.

This year's 3 day July festival will likely be the last.

"I know that all the locals avoid it."

As many, including visitors, have grown weary of Bele Chere.

Corinne Cates, visitor, "for a lot of businesses it probably gets customers in, people just touring but is it worth it if they're just sloppy drunk and just coming to party?"

That and ballooning budgets, as much as nearly half million dollars, have caused the festival to loose its luster.

"In 1979 you have to remember that downtown was vacant mostly."

Back then, it was so bad, leaders wanted to demolish old buildings.

Former city development director Leslie Anderson says Bele Chere was the road to revitalization.

Leslie Anderson, former Development Director "volunteers working with the city's planning department felt that a festival that brought people to the center city and highlighted the assets of the center city and got people familiar with the center city would be one strategy toward revitalizing downtown.."

The festival still boasts an economic impact estimated from $8 to $10 million, but the city says it's also been costly, losing as much as $450,000 a year in overtime, security and other expenses.

"It's introduced a lot of people to Asheville."

All while downtown merchants say the sweet benefits dripped away.

Andrew Chisholm, Chocolate Gems, "this section of Broadway is basically closed off.. so people have to search us out."

Some say is not what it used to be, but what it was, is something that created a buzz about Asheville.

A priceless community event that helped put Asheville on the map.

"The point is.. the festival had many other purposes it was fulfilling and i think we need to step back and really think about those other purposes."

Anderson says Asheville didn't become a destination without Bele Chere and it will be missed. The End of Bele Chere


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