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Pop Into Rocky’s Grill & Soda Shop

Will Thalhimer (2022)


After the long four-hour drive from Elon to Brevard I decided it was time to find a place to eat.

While working my way through downtown Brevard I came across one of the places I had found

in my research. Outside hung a sign which read, soda shop, with the emblem

of a milkshake between the words. It hung from the classic red and white striped canvas that

guarded the small outdoor seating. Below it, windows decorated with Christmas delight. 

Peeking inside I could see customers speckled around the pharmacy sitting in red leather booths

and on barstools facing the kitchen.  After walking in, I took a seat at the bar assuming that this

would be a quick in-and-out meal. The room was covered in antique pharmacy signs, some

representing specialty drinks, others used to cheer up the mood of the guests that read them. 

A very cheerful waitress named Anna came over and welcomed me at the bar. I explained to her

my reason for coming in and she was delighted to hear that I chose her restaurant. She explained

to me that Rocky's Soda Shop has been around since 1941 however, at that time it was a pharmacy,

best known for its rare soda fountains which had just recently been brought to the public. She also

told me that all of the wonderful decorations including the barstools and the signs were the original decor. Even the red and white vinyl floors were replaced to look exactly like they once did in the 40s. Something about this fact made me extremely comfortable sitting there alone in an unfamiliar town.

                                                                                                              While exchanging pleasantries with one of the chefs working in front of me he told me to                                                                                                                        order the pimento cheese hotdog as they were known for their hotdogs and their homemade                                                                                                                pimento cheese. He had me at pimento cheese. He asked if I want two hotdogs instead of                                                                                                                       one but I denied his offer which I fully regret now. 

                                                                                                              After scarfing down my hotdog I continued my conversation with Anna and the chef. Anna                                                                                                                       generously donated a Brevard magazine to me while teaching me the history of the shop.

                                                                                                              It is currently still run by the same family, the Varners. Unfortunately, I didn't get to speak with                                                                                                              any of the family members however, I did see one pass through the dining area and he greeted me with a kind wave. Everyone seemed so happy to be exactly where they were without a single complaint and it rubbed off on me. Luckily for me a kind lady who sat far to my right sneakily paid for my meal and ran off before I could thank her. I didn't even get a name, but it just felt like the thing to do at a restaurant like this. So I did what any sane person would do and paid for the next person's meal. If you ever find yourself in Brevard take it upon yourself to stop in Rocky's Soda Shop, and if you're feeling generous, pay for the person's meal next to you, it might just make their day.


The Sound of Brevard

Will Thalhimer (2022)


While winding around the wooded streets of Brevard you may come across the beautiful Brevard Music Center. Started in 1936 by Davidson College faculty member, James Pfohl, the Music Center was located in Charlotte, NC. After leading the program for several years the location was moved to Brevard, where the town began to host a festival of concerts. 

Once the ownership switched to Henry Janiec the center began an opera program named after Janiec.

Currently, Brevard Music Center has 6 ensembles: Brevard Music Center Orchestra, Sinfonia, Concert Orchestra, Festival Orchestra, Symphonic Winds, and New Music Ensemble.

On the property, the center has four separate venues, each located on creatively designed roads named after musicians and instruments. The largest is an outdoor auditorium that seats 1,800 audience members. This location hosts over eighty public concerts which are free for locals. This rustic auditorium sits directly next to a well-kept pond. Recently, a new area dubbed Parker Hall, which seats 400 opened its doors in 2022 for theater and opera productions.


One of the most popular and important parts of this campus is the Summer Institute they host. Upwards of four hundred teenage students come to learn how to use various instruments including piano, composition, voice, jazz, and opera. There are a total of two divisions for students to apply to, one for college students and the other for high school students. During their time in the institute, students share log cabins on the beautifully wooded campus comprising 180 acres. The institute is led by none other than acclaimed conductor Keith Lockhart who led the Boston Pops and the BBC Concert Orchestra in London.


Smoke On BBQ Food Review

Will Thalhimer (2022)

Confined to a small blue outpost, The Smoke On BBQ team works magic into their


After talking to multiple locals at other restaurants I was pointed towards Smoke

On, a small drive-through-only, barbecue spot that serves brisket, ribs, burnt ends

and so much more. 

I decided the best order for me would be the burnt ends and ribs. Surprisingly I

was served almost instantly with a bright smile from the cashier. Instead of

parking in the lot, I drove across town to the beautiful music center and enjoyed

my meal facing the pond. The ribs were evenly slathered with their homemade

barbecue sauce, as I took my first bite the meat rolled off the bone. I was greeted

with a burst of smokey vinegar flavors. Once my ribs were nothing but bone I moved

on to the burnt ends, one of my favorite Southern dishes.

Large chunks of what looked like brisket were delicately spread across my fries. In my opinion, they were not your ordinary burnt ends, they didn't have that shiny smoker finish that you often find. However, I am not one to dislike meat so I dug in. The cashier was correct they were the “perfect amount of fat”. Although there was no “melt in your mouth” experience it was still very delicious. I would heavily recommend the exact same order and make sure you save room for the side of perfectly seasoned crispy fries. 


An Eclectic Wonderland: Lézard Brevard

Kyra Letsinger (2020)

When I think about immersing myself in the culture of a location, seeing art and visiting shops immediately comes to mind. When I visited Brevard, I was lucky enough to experience both of those things in the same location. Lézard Brevard is an eclectic wonderland of art from dozens of talented local artists. Located in a 150-year-old farmhouse, the shop has everything from quilts to jewelry to ceramics and so much more. In April of 2019, owner Pam LeBauve opened Lézard with her college-aged daughter after living in Brevard for just over 2 years. While Pam had another job nearby, her passion for art and creativity remained. When what was Mountain Forest Pottery went up for sale, Pam and her daughter determined that they could not pass up the amazing opportunity to connect to the community, each other, and their creative sides. Since its opening, Pam says she’s found her tribe in both the over 50 artists that have chosen to showcase their work at Lèzard Brevard and the customers that stop by to shop and take classes. 


Lèzard Brevard is truly a celebration of the town of Brevard and that mission shines through the minute you walk in the door of the shop. Stickers, wall decor, pillows, picture frames, and photos honoring the town these artists call home are placed throughout the shop, between the jewelry, hand-made glasswork, paintings, and more. I truly want to buy everything; I’ve never seen a shop that has so many items I want to buy. Talking to Pam, I can tell just how special each of the pieces in her shop are to her. The art in Brevard makes it home for her, and honestly, it makes it feel like a sort of home for me, too. It makes me want to buy everything even more. That said, I can’t help but become nervous when I consider how COVID-19 must impact the business. Pam explains to me that despite the first 2 months of quarantine being pretty scary, Lézard has done an incredible job adapting to the situation over the past few months. The shop has begun shipping products, they’ve been awarded local businesses grants, and they’ve started offering outdoor classes in a previously unused space that they have transformed into a creative oasis. Pam has also begun strengthening the business’s social media presence, sharing information about products, artists, and classes on the business’s Instagram and Facebook pages.


While I’m chatting with Pam about the incredible resilience she’s shown during the pandemic, one of the business’s artists, Kathy Treadwell, arrives at the shop to drop off some new pieces. She explained that she settled in Brevard for many of the same reasons as Pam; it was a place she and her husband frequently visited, and when a move became inevitable, they decided to settle in Brevard because of its natural beauty and wonderful people. As with most artists that share their work at Lézard, Kathy heard about the shop through word of mouth and quickly decided it would be a fantastic place to share her pieces. Kathy specializes in tole paintings, which is the decorative painting of metal and wooden objects such as chests, plates, glasses, etc. Her glasses and plates are stunning; she freehands all her work, even when she’s making multiple of the same pieces in a set. I cannot imagine how long each one must take with that much detail. 


I could have stayed in Lézard Brevard for hours fawning over the quilts and paintings, but I have to head out. Before leaving, I buy two of the cutest pieces of jewelry I’ve ever seen, Christmas presents for my friends. I still regret not buying more. Leaving the shop and heading to my next stop in Brevard, I can’t help but become excited for the next time I’m able to visit and experience more of the incredible work of the artists of Brevard.

Searching for the Elusive White Squirrel

By Dani Halliday (2016)

There was a heavy chill in the air that clung to our bones. A thin fog hovered above the ground of the Brevard College campus, making the empty campus feel abandoned and creepy. We were here for a reason and would not leave without seeing the elusive white squirrel of Brevard.

Images of white squirrels were everywhere in the tiny mountain town of Brevard, NC. There was a white squirrel store, white squirrel statues in the hotels, white squirrel forms on the traffic lights, and even a giant mural of a white squirrel diving into a pile of nuts painted on the side of a restaurant.

The white squirrels weren’t residents of the town initially, but according to the Transylvania Times (the local newspaper of Brevard and other towns in Transylvania county), a carnival truck overturned in 1949, releasing two white squirrels with gray streaks down their backs into the wild of the Great Smoky Mountains. The squirrels were found by Mr. Black, who found them eating in his pecan grove. Black passed these squirrels to H. H. Mull, who subsequently passed them along to his niece, Barbara, to attempt to breed them, which failed. Eventually, one of the squirrels escaped and then Barbara released the other. Breeding apparently was easier in the wild of the mountains because now there are significantly more white squirrels than the original two. In 1986, the white squirrels became a protected species in Brevard with a vote by the Brevard City Council stating that is “shall be unlawful for any person to hunt, kill, trap, or otherwise take any protected squirrels within the city.” This law does not extend to the non-white squirrels of the area, though. While there are other white squirrel sightings in other states, such as Kentucky and Illinois, only Brevard holds a White Squirrel Festival every May.

The receptionist at the Holiday Inn we had stayed in the night before recommended the college campus as the place where we would most likely find these rare creatures. We set out into the brisk 35-degree air at 9:00 am to begin our search.

We scoured the campus, which housed only 729 students, seeing beautiful brick buildings, massive trees, and copious amounts of brown squirrels, yet no people or white squirrels. Brevard College is a private, four-year institution, home to the Tornadoes. It stands on the outskirts of downtown Brevard, a prime location, and is about 120-acres. These are 120 acres that white squirrels can roam free on without any fear for their safety.


We passed underneath a clock tower which was built with bricks engraved with names from back in the 1900s. The brick buildings, white pillars, and trees scattered around campus reminded me of Elon on a much more rural scale. We wandered aimlessly around campus scanning the ground and the trees for a flash of white. We knew they were out there. We would find one.

Finally we saw it. It hopped around the ground, standing out a stark white streaked with gray against the fallen yellow and brown leaves and the dark green grass. It looked just like any other squirrel: same tail, same twitching nose, same large dark eyes—except for the white fur of course. We had to wonder as we followed the creature, much too close for its liking, whether the white squirrels were treated differently by their brown squirrel brethren. Were they allowed near the other squirrels? Did the white squirrels act as an exclusive group and not let the brown squirrels into their white squirrel club? These were questions only the white squirrels could answer for us, yet our friend had darted up a tree, out of sight.

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