Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Crazy Over Chick-fil-A

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/29/2013 No comments
I guess when you've always had access to something, you tend to not make a big deal over it. I've lived in the South my whole life, where a Chick-fil-A restaurant has always been nearby. Growing up in Rembert, SC, I would eat at Chick-fil-A from time to time when I visited Sumter Mall (back in my day it was called Jessamine Mall). But I didn't become a regular until I attended the University of South Carolina (shout out to my Gamecocks!), where there was a Chick-fil-A in our student union (shout out to the Russell House), and we could purchase a chicken sandwich combo on our meal plans. Yeah, I ate enough chicken sandwiches and waffle fries over the course of those four years to last me a lifetime.

Years later though, while living in Augusta, Georgia and eventually here in Charlotte, Chick-fil-A has simply become another staple in the fast food chain for me. Don't get me wrong, they make the best chicken sandwiches in the business (and can someone tell me how come Chick-fil-A's Hi-C Fruit Punch tastes better than everyone else's?), but I don't eat as much fast food now that I'm in my 30s. And while I love food, I don't think there are many restaurants, or dishes for that matter, that excite me to near-orgasmic levels. But Chick-fil-A causes that reaction in many people, particularly those who don't have the opportunity to eat there as often as they would like. There are more than 1,700 Chick-fil-A locations and growing in 39 states, but the Georgia-based franchise is still most-heavily concentrated in the South (the states with the most locations are Texas, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia--those five states comprise about half of all the Chick-fil-A restaurants).

And the fact that you can't buy Chick-fil-A in New York--no, Mayor Bloomberg hasn't banned them because of the size of their cups; there just aren't any locations (well, one on NYU's campus but that's it)--meaning millions of people who live in one of the most populated states and the most populated city, NYC, have either never experienced the famous chicken sandwich, or can only get it when they travel out of state.

Celebrity socialite and Californian Kourtney Kardashian ate at Chick-fil-A for the first time ever when she and her boyfriend Scott Disick visited Charlotte three years ago, when Scott celebrated his birthday at the now-defunct Butter NC nightclub. "We went to the mall in Charlotte during the day to shop and eat Chick-Fil-A, which we were told was AMAZING," Kourtney wrote on her website at the time. "We were not let down, we were all dying over the chicken sandwiches with pickles… yum!" Then last year, while pregnant with their second child, she famously tweeted: "Chick-fil-A and a water birth. No big deal," which included an Instagram photo of her Chick-fil-A cup. Guess she's hooked now.

Whenever Charlamagne Tha God, radio personality for New York City's Power 105.1 FM The Breakfast Club morning show and MTV2 host, visits the South, usually to host a party, one of his highly touted (tweeted) stops is Chick-fil-A. He's a South Carolina native, so his cravings now come from the deprivation in NYC. I remember him making the chicken sandwich chain his first stop last year when he came to Charlotte during CIAA Week; when he came this year, a flight delay caused him to miss his coveted Chick-fil-A breakfast. More recently, he was in Myrtle Beach during Memorial Day weekend and tweeted: "FYI my fellow fat minded f#@!s the Peach milkshake Is back at Chick Fil A." And he's often, comically, talking about what Chick-fil-A (and another Southern delicacy, Krispy Kreme) will cause people to do.

So why am I talking about all of this now? Because this afternoon I was on Twitter and saw a few photos (see below) of people camping out in the parking lot of the new Chick-fil-A that's holding its grand opening tomorrow (May 30) at 10001 Rea Road, in the Blakeney area of south Charlotte. Apparently, they're aiming to be one of the "First 100," which is a promotion Chick-fil-A holds each time a new location is opening, offering the first 100 people a chance to win free Chick-fil-A for a year (one meal per week for 52 weeks). These folks are crazy over those chicken sandwiches and waffle fries!

Credit: @BlakeneyCFA

You can keep up with the madness on the Chick-fil-A Blakeney Twitter @BlakeneyCFA and Facebook.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Charlotte's Bid for the X Games Ramps Up

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/25/2013 No comments
Last month, ESPN announced that Charlotte was one of four finalists for cities to host the summer X Games for three years beginning in 2014. The other three cities being considered are Austin, Chicago, and Detroit. If Charlotte is selected, the majority of the extreme sports competitions would take place at the racing complexes at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In recent weeks, speedway officials have ramped up (see what I did there?) excitement around the possibility by launching an official website, social media accounts, and making appearances at popular Charlotte events.

This rendering shows what an X Games ramp could look like inside the zMAX Dragway at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Photos credit:

ESPN launched this annual event in 1995 as the Extreme Games, held in Providence, Rhode Island. Two years later it was rebranded as the X Games and relocated to California, where the bulk of its run has taken place over the years. The X Games have grown significantly during the past decade and has helped many of its competitors become superstar athletes. The games now feature nearly 20 competitions in four categories: BMX Freestyle, Moto X, Skateboard, and Rally Car.

According to a study by the LA Sports & Entertainment Commission, the 2010 X Games in Los Angeles had an economic impact of at least $50 million (stats from study provided by CMS). The study also shows that in 2010, ESPN broadcast 31 hours of original content live during the games, reaching all 50 states and 175 countries. So, this would bring national and international attention to Charlotte, would be a huge benefit to the local economy, and it would be another boost to Charlotte's reputation as a great city to host large events.

Charlotte Motor Speedway, of course, is in the midst of hosting several days of events during its busiest schedule of the year, with this weekend's Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race, which comes after last weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race. ESPN and X Games officials are scheduled to visit Charlotte June 4 and 5 as part of their decision-making process, and they're expected to announce the chosen city this summer. I wonder if our connection with ESPNU and the recently announced SEC Network will carry any favor?

Fans showing support for X Games Charlotte at a recent Alive After Five event in Uptown.

You can get all the latest info and support the efforts for Charlotte's X Games bid by visiting:
The speedway has also created this promo video:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

So the "buzz" is real again in Charlotte. After several months, heck, even years, of fans wanting the Hornets name and mascot to return to Charlotte's NBA team, Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan announced last evening that the team has officially submitted their application to the NBA to change their name to the Charlotte Hornets, beginning with the 2014-15 season. They've created a new marketing campaign called "Back The Buzz" and have launched a website, The Hornets returning is major news, obviously, for the city, but also for the state, region, across the entire league, and for millions of people who grew up Charlotte Hornets fans.

Photos credit:

Aside from all the fanfare and away from all the sports reports you're reading, let me tell you what this all really means to you.

In Jordan's official statement, he said, in part: "The response we received during the process of researching this decision was overwhelming and made it clear to us that you wanted the Hornets name back in Charlotte." I believe that. I've lived in Charlotte since 2005, moving here a couple of months before the Bobcats embarked on their second season and first in their new Uptown arena (which eventually would be named Time Warner Cable Arena). Back then, many fans couldn't let go of having lost the Hornets to New Orleans, despite having been granted a new NBA franchise so quickly, thanks to NBA Commissioner David Stern and original Bobcats owner Bob Johnson.

Initially, I was against the idea of Charlotte getting the Hornets name back. I felt like the city and fans needed to embrace this new era, and stop holding onto the past. This was my view, and I'm one of those people who grew up a Charlotte Hornets fan, from my small town in South Carolina. I even chastised Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in December 2011 for wearing a Charlotte Hornets hat to a Bobcats home game (sitting next to Jordan at that). And, of course, up until a few months ago when the New Orleans Hornets announced they would be changing their mascot to the Pelicans, Charlotte getting the Hornets back wasn't even possible.

After grassroots campaigns like "Bring Back The Buzz" and "We Beelieve" launched a year or two ago and gained momentum, and after I met John Morgan of We Beelieve during the taping of an episode of 282 last year, I started to warm up to the idea. Now, it's no longer just an idea. It's on the path to becoming reality.

The Bobcats are going to have to spend a few million dollars as the team becomes the Hornets--new logos, uniforms, team colors, signage at the arena, around the city and the NBA; new merchandise--which means it's going to be extremely difficult to sell Bobcats gear during the 2013-14 season (expect major markdowns). Essentially by listening to the desire of fans and making this investment, Jordan is showing his commitment to this city and franchise, something that's been questioned in the past. I think some of his moves over the past couple of years, including his many philanthropic deeds in the community (the Book Bus, for example) and the purchase of an Uptown condo and, more recently, a mansion on Lake Norman, have quieted that doubt.

So now the move is on you, Charlotte. You asked for the Hornets, and they'll be yours again. You're going to need to pack out home games during the 2014-15 season, when your newly named team amasses another losing record. This isn't me being negative, this is my presumption based on recent history. The Bobcats finished with the worst record in the NBA in 2011-12 and the second-worst in 2012-13. That's the result of poor decisions and failed moves in the NBA Draft and with trades, and I don't expect the team--which is currently without a head coach--to play much better next season. In 2014-15, I expect the former-Bobcats-now-Hornets will continue to be far below .500.  But you're going to need to cheer them on at TWC arena, because those of you who frequently touted the nostalgia of the Charlotte Hornets often talked about how Charlotte Coliseum had sold-out crowds for several years, even when the Hornets weren't that good (364 consecutive home game sellouts from December 23, 1988 through November 21, 1997, to be exact). Because y'all were excited about the team. (In 2010, as part of Charlotte magazine's "Where Are They Now?" feature, I gave an update on all 15 players and the head coach of the inaugural 1988-89 Charlotte Hornets team, including Muggsy Bogues, Rex Chapman, Dell Curry, and Kelly Tripucka.)

Another thing that's often pointed out is how Charlotte Hornets gear, referred to as retro or throwbacks, saw a resurgence in popularity a couple of years ago and the trend continues today. My "Summer of the Snapbacks" blog post from nearly two years ago continues to get ridiculous traffic, largely from people Googling snapback hats, including the Hornets kind. Fashion is largely based on fads, but you're going to need to show your support by buying the "new" Charlotte Hornets stuff, beginning with the Back The Buzz merchandise Jordan Brand has just launched.

Time to show and prove, Charlotte Hornets fans.

Monday, May 20, 2013

I don't think I've ever posted a "selfie" before. So, if I'm going to go the popular, smart-phone/social-media-propelled route of vanity, it may as well be for a great cause. The Isabella Santos Foundation has launched its 3 Wishes campaign to raise awareness for childhood cancer.

The Charlotte-based nonprofit's namesake is the late Isabella Santos, a remarkable seven-year-old girl who died last summer from a rare form of childhood cancer called neuroblastoma. ISF was founded in 2009 by Isabella's parents while their little girl battled the disease. In just a few years, the foundation has raised more than $350,000 for neuroblastoma research and other children’s cancer charities.

Isabella Santos. Credit:

Now, with the 3 Wishes campaign, you can honor the memory of this beautiful little girl by doing something you probably often do: Post a selfie. But take it a step further by including three wishes you would want to see realized by children battling cancer.

My 3 Wishes are:
  • That princesses get kisses.
  • You'll always have reasons to smile.
  • Outgrow your "Proud Cancer Survivor" T-Shirt.

You're asked to post your selfie on Twitter, Instagram, and/or Pinterest and use the #ISF3Wishes hashtag; and post it on ISF's Facebook page. Spread the word too, particularly to your friends who have social media accounts full of selfies (you know who you are).

In my list of wishes, I got the idea for the first one from a touching video ISF recently created about Isabella's life. Shortly after the three-minute mark, there's a scene taken from the Santos's home videos showing Isabella, who looked like she was only about four years old at the time, telling her little brother Grant that: "Princesses need kisses."

I've seen several creative #ISF3Wishes posts, created by parents (with artistic abilities far better than me) and many featuring children close to Isabella's age, such as this one on Facebook:

Visit and follow on Twitter @TheISFoundation.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

It's college graduation season, with young men and women all over the country receiving their degrees after four (or more) years of hard work. Many of them are lucky in that their commencement addresses are delivered by high profile, inspirational, and successful people (Lou Holtz spoke at my college graduation 11 years, I'm getting old). Of the news clips of graduation speeches I've seen so far this weekend, First Lady Michelle Obama's commencement address Friday at Bowie State University stands out the most.

Both the First Lady and President Obama have to walk fine lines when talking about race. As the United States' first-ever African-American First Couple, when discussing the all-important-yet-sometimes-overly-sensitive topic of race, they run the risk of black people feeling they don't address race enough and white people thinking they talk about it too much. I'm generalizing here to make a point, but I think you understand what I'm saying.

So I'm happy to see that when Mrs. Obama spoke in front of the 2013 graduating class at the historically black university in Maryland, she delivered a message they needed to hear (and thanks to the Internet, the whole world can hear it). Below are a few of her notable remarks (click here for the full transcript):
  • For generations, in many parts of this country, it was illegal for black people to get an education. Slaves caught reading or writing could be beaten to within an inch of their lives. Anyone -- black or white -- who dared to teach them could be fined or thrown into jail. And yet, just two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, this school was founded not just to educate African Americans, but to teach them how to educate others... And since then, generations of students from all backgrounds have come to this school to be challenged, inspired and empowered.
  • So back then, people were hungry to learn. Do you hear me? Hungry to get what they needed to succeed in this country. And that hunger did not fade over time. If anything, it only grew stronger. I mean, think about the century-long battle that so many folks waged to end the evil of segregation...
  • But today, more than 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 50 years after the end of “separate but equal,” when it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can’t be bothered. Today, instead of walking miles every day to school, they’re sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper. Right now, one in three African American students are dropping out of high school. Only one in five African Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 has gotten a college degree -- one in five.
  • But let’s be very clear. Today, getting an education is as important if not more important than it was back when this university was founded. Just look at the statistics. People who earn a bachelor’s degree or higher make nearly three times more money than high school dropouts, and they’re far less likely to be unemployed. 
  • And as my husband has said often, please stand up and reject the slander that says a black child with a book is trying to act white. Reject that.


Watch the video below of the First Lady's full commencement speech.

I often hear (or read in the comments section of online articles) people questioning the need of HBCUs (historically black colleges and universities) today, or assertions that the continuation of black colleges is discriminatory or racist. This is an example of where healthy and honest discussions are needed. To answer that question simply, as the First Lady pointed out, Bowie State was founded in the mid-1800s when that was only the way blacks could get a higher education. So, after the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, were those universities, with their rich histories and traditions, supposed to close down since black students could finally attend college practically anywhere? (And don't forget, blacks continued to face resistance at many mainstream colleges on through the 1970s). Secondly, most HBCUs today, like Bowie State and Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte (Civil Rights icon and former Congressman and U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young spoke at JCSU's commencement this morning), aggressively recruit students of all races. The reason they're referred to as HBCUs is because they're "historically black" (I didn't attend an HBCU, so I don't need to defend them other than to speak the truth). We can't deny history; let's embrace it and move forward. And focus on the alarming statistics the First Lady stated.

By the way, Bowie State is a member of the CIAA, which holds its annual basketball tournament in Charlotte. Institutions of higher learning make up the CIAA, despite all the partying and debauchery the events surrounding the tournament have become known for.

Who spoke at your college graduation? Was it memorable?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

May is a significant month in Charlotte's history, and over the next two weeks there's a coordinated effort to recognize a brave step the city and its residents took 50 years ago. "From Sit-ins to Eat-ins" celebrates the desegregation of Charlotte that occurred in May 1963. It's great to see that several organizations are coming together to present these events. I hope it serves as a reminder to us that 50 years isn't all that long ago, and if people from different walks of life could work together decades ago on something as serious and monumental as desegregation, most of our issues today aren't as difficult as we make them out to be.

Below are details from the press release, including the list of community events (admission is free, except where noted).

Charlotte made national headlines in May 1963 when Chamber of Commerce members led by Mayor Stan Brookshire voluntarily joined with African American leaders to go two-by-two and desegregate Charlotte’s leading restaurants. This “eat-in” came three years after the sit-in movement had opened lunch counters.

Charlotte Civil Rights activist Dr. Reginald Hawkins triggered the action, leading a march on May 20, 1963 from Johnson C. Smith University to the Mecklenburg County Courthouse and declaring “We shall not be pacified with gradualism; we shall not be satisfied with tokenism.  We want freedom and we want it now.” His call echoed a spirit of revolution dating to the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence demanding freedom from England, which tradition holds was signed on May 20, 1775, a year before the 1776 US Declaration of Independence.

The successful desegregation on May 29-31, 1963 – a year before the 1964 U.S. Civil Rights act required desegregation of “public accommodations” – pushed Charlotte into the national spotlight. The city’s progressive action contrasted sharply with the massive resistance then going on in places such as Birmingham, where police chief Bull Connor turned fire hoses and police dogs on young Civil Rights protesters that same month. It was a key turning point in Charlotte’s emergence as a major Southern city.

Organizers of this two-week celebration include: Levine Museum of the New South, Mecklenburg Ministries, The May 20th Society, Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Relations, and Mert's Heart & Soul, with assistance from Charlotte Center City Partners, Charlotte Chamber, Queens University, Johnson C. Smith University, and the Carolina Room of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Sunday, May 19

From Sit-ins to Eat-ins: History Makers Panel Discussion
Several participants from the 1963 desegregation march in Charlotte will be a part of this panel discussion, including the son of Charlotte activist Dr. Reginald Hawkins, who marched beside his father in 1963; Jack Claiborne, who is a long-time reporter for The Charlotte Observer and covered the Civil Rights movement locally; Evan Faulkenbury, who has studied Dr. Hawkins’ life; and Patricia A. Albritton, board chair of Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Relations Office. 2:30 p.m. First United Presbyterian Church, 406 N. College St.

Monday, May 20

March from Johnson C. Smith University to the Mecklenburg County Courthouse
Scheduled speakers include Malcolm Graham, attorney Charles Jones, James Ferguson, Dr. Reginald Hawkins, Abdullah Salim Jr., and Mayor Anthony Foxx. 10:30 a.m. Johnson C. Smith University, 100 Beatties Ford Rd.

Annual Noon Commemoration of Mecklenburg Declaration
Event will include cannons, a reading of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, and a celebration of Mecklenburg County’s 250th anniversary. 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. The Square, corner of Trade and Tryon streets in Uptown.

The May 20th Society 8th Annual Speaker Series featuring Isabel Wilkerson
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Warmth of Other Suns will connect her research on 20th century African American history with the Charlotte 1963 history. 7:30 p.m. $12. McGlohon Theater at Spirit Square, 345 N. College St.,

Wednesday and Thursday, May 29 and 30

“From Sit-ins to Eat-ins” Event
To mark the city's historic desegregation, some of today’s civic leaders will kick off two days in which Charlotteans are urged to invite someone of a different race to lunch. Throughout Charlotte.

Thursday, May 30

“From Sit-ins to Eat-ins” Community Festival
Music and munchies set the mood in 1963. Participants in the 2013 eat-in reflect on history, share what they’ve learned, and suggest hopes for future. Hosted by Mecklenburg Ministries’ “Friday Friends.” 5:30-7 p.m. Levine Museum of the New South, 200 E. Seventh St.,

You can also find details at and

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Charlotte was abuzz yesterday on social media (and I assume in coffee shops and around water coolers—people still talk there, right?) with the city and a few of our residents being prominently featured in a New York Times article titled, "Young Americans Lead Trend to Less Driving" (posted online Monday night; ran in Tuesday's print edition). The writer cites studies and uses the Queen City to explain that "Charlotte and other American cities have not abandoned their cars or their sprawling growth. But ... that American driving patterns have downshifted — perhaps for years to come." It's an interesting read.

Here are five things that stood out to me as I read the article:
  • The first paragraph describes Uptown Charlotte as "a pedestrian-friendly quarter with new office buildings, sparkling museums and ambitious restaurants." I couldn't have explained it better myself in 13 words.
  • Shouts out to my friend Ted Boyd, director of Historic South End, who recently partnered with me on an event, for being photographed and interviewed.
  • According to the article, Dan Mauney is opening two stores in South End, "one to sell women’s shoes and another men’s underwear." This is the first I've heard of that. Dan is most known as a co-owner of Sloan boutique in Dilworth, and as an organizer of the annual "BRIEF! A Fete for Fashion" men's underwear/swimwear fashion show and fundraiser.
  • The writer mentions the success of the light rail, and that "President Obama has nominated the city’s mayor, Anthony R. Foxx, to be the next transportation secretary." I anticipated that would be included in the article. But I think it should've also been addressed that Charlotte is currently struggling with its plans for a streetcar.
  • The driving trends could be reversed one day with "the emergence of self-driving vehicles [that] 'may re-empower elderly people to continue using cars far into their last years,' offsetting any potential decline from younger adults." Self-driving cars. Need. To. Happen. Now!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The annual Steve Smith Football ProCamp is taking place June 10-11, 2013, and Showmars is giving away four spots to the camp with the Carolina Panther great. The camp is for children in grades first through eighth, and parents can enter to win a free registration for their child by filling out an entry form at any of the 28 Charlotte-area Showmars locations. Winners will be contacted on May 24.

Steve Smith autographing T-shirts at his Charlotte camp. Credit:

The Steve Smith Football ProCamp, which takes place at Ardrey Kell High School and costs $149 to attend, is sold out. So this contest is one of the only ways you can get your kid in at this point. The features of the camp, according to the website, include: learning from and interacting with the 12-year Panthers veteran, a limited edition Steve Smith Football ProCamp T-shirt, autographed camp team photo with Steve, opportunity to participate in contests and win prizes, fun and educational experience stations and fundamentals, and more. In past years, Steve's teammates, like Cam Newton and DeAngelo Williams, have joined him at the camp, to the delight of the youth.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Last Saturday, May 4, I held an invitation-only event titled "Charlotte’s Web: A Celebration of CLT Bloggers & Digital Tastemakers" at Oak Room in South End. It served as a five-year anniversary party for my blog,, as well as an opportunity for me to partner with some other great sites:,, and Each of them played an important role in helping make the event a success.

The event began at 7:30 p.m., and ran until Oak Room opened its doors to the public at 10 p.m. We featured delicious food, catered by All American Pub, while DJ Shogun played an awesome mix of music. The highlight, easily, was when I gave away prizes throughout the night such as: a 5Church gift card, two pairs of tickets to the Charlotte magazine BOB Awards (May 23), two gift certificates to The Boulevard at South End, two tickets to the Urban League of Central Carolinas Young Professionals Leadership Awards (June 22), a Chobani gift basket, a Workout 180 from Edison Nation, two passes to the final round of the Wells Fargo Championship, and more.

When the event started, I tweeted the #CLTweb hashtag for the first time. And over the next three hours, our guests tweeted using the hashtag more than 100 times.

Below are a few photos from Charlotte's Web. You can view more than 50 photos from the event on the Grown People Talking Facebook page. Photos by Jon Strayhorn/MAC330.

On the right, I'm addressing the crowd. On the left is my twin brother Marvis, of

Ted Boyd of

My girlfriend Andrea chatting in front of the Twitter screen.

Glenn Burkins of and Mike Kitchen of the Sol Kitchen.

Freelance writer Lauren Bongers and TV news reporter Katie Burcham.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

If you're civic-minded, politically engaged, or just want to get more insight into the well-being and future of Charlotte, there's a great event coming up that you should mark your calendar to attend. An Evening with Charlotte's Mayors is a free public forum, taking place Tuesday, May 21, 7 p.m. at Dale F. Halton Theater at Central Piedmont Community College (1206 Elizabeth Ave.). All six of Charlotte's living mayors will be on the panel: current Mayor Anthony Foxx (who's leaving his post soon to join the Obama Administration) and former mayors: North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, Richard Vinroot, former U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, Harvey Gantt, and Eddie Knox.

Charlotte mayors present and past. Top, left to right: Mayor Anthony Foxx, Gov. Pat McCrory, Richard Vinroot; bottom: Sue Myrick, Harvey Gantt, and Eddie Knox.

The forum is billed as an "historic discussion [that] comes at an intriguing time in Charlotte's history. A crucial mayoral election looms while concerns swirl over the city's future: growth without annexation, the widening gap between the affluent and poor, and rising tensions over control of the airport and a persistently high unemployment rate." Award-winning documentarian and TV journalist Steve Crump will moderate the evening, and audience members will be allowed to ask questions.

The event is free to attend, but registration is required by clicking here.  Doors will open at 6 p.m., the forum begins at 7, and a dessert, wine, and coffee reception will follow. The event is sponsored by The Charlotte Observer, PNC Bank, and CPCC.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Many of the top male and female swimmers in the country will once again hit the pool in Charlotte this week for the 2013 SwimMAC Charlotte UltraSwim Grand Prix, taking place May 9-12 at the Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center in Uptown. Several USA Olympic swimmers are competing, including superstar Ryan Lochte (holder of 11 Olympic medals and new reality TV star), Rebecca Soni (six-time Olympic medalist and world record holder), Chloe Sutton (five-time U.S. national champion), and Charlotte's Cullen Jones (winner of a combined two gold and two silver medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics). The swim meets will also feature rising stars like Illinois high school senior Olivia Smoliga.

Chloe Sutton is pretty, fast. Credit: Tumblr 

Find the full list of swimmers scheduled to compete in each event on the Charlotte UltraSwim psych sheet.

Ryan Lochte is scheduled to swim in seven events here.

The Charlotte UltraSwim is the fifth of six stops in the 2012-13 USA Swimming Grand Prix Series. The video below highlights what the Charlotte event has meant to this city and the sport over the years, and it features a Q&A throughout with Charlotte-native and two-time Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Ricky Berens.

Online ticket sales for the Charlotte UltraSwim have ended but a limited number of tickets may be available for purchase at the will call booth at the event. Visit for complete details.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

My First Time: Taco Mac Sports Grill

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/05/2013 1 comment
When there's a new place--especially a restaurant--opening in Charlotte, if it's being raved about, usually it's not long after it opens that I try out. But occasionally, a first visit eludes me for a while. That was the case with Taco Mac Sports Grill.

I was working with a colleague today on an assignment in University City, and there was a Taco Mac nearby. The only Taco Mac location in Charlotte I was aware of until now was the SouthPark one. But tonight I learned there are three around here, with the other being in Huntersville.

If you don't know the Taco Mac story, it originated as a single restaurant in Atlanta nearly 35 years ago, opened by some Buffalo, New York natives who had the goal of serving great Buffalo wings in the ATL. Over the years, the menu and popularity grew, and today there are 24 locations in the Greater Atlanta area. So for decades, they focused on expanding in ATL, and they opened a lone location in Chattanooga, Tennessee several years ago. Those were the only cities you could find them, until they expanded to Charlotte with the opening of the one in SouthPark in September 2010, University in May 2011, and Huntersville in October 2011.

So back to my experience tonight, before walking into Taco Mac, I told my colleague, who's visiting from New York, that I hadn't dined at Taco Mac before but that I'd heard two main things about it: a lot of TVs and a lot of beers. Sho nuff are.

Taco Mac in University has more than 100 beers on draft, 115 in the bottle, and 70-plus TVs (the numbers vary per location; SouthPark has 140 beers on draft). One of the things I really like is that inserted in the massive beer menu is an informative front-and-back one-sheet. One side is labeled "Today's Beer Update" and it features a list of beers that have just arrived, that they're running out of, and beers that are gone, along with the specials of the day. The other side of the sheet defines the "Beer Styles," explaining the characteristics of the different lagers, ales, IPAs, and such, which is extremely helpful for a beer novice like myself.

With so many beers to choose from, I decided to go with one of the local craft beers, The Olde Mecklenburg Brewery Fruh Bock. I'm not really a beer lover, but I thought it was a pretty good lager. And, of course, there's the food. If I'm at Taco Mac, I may as well try the tacos, right? (Don't let the name mislead you, it's not a Mexican restaurant.) I ordered three of the hard-shell Beef Street Tacos. They were good, but not much different or more exceptional than tacos I've eaten before. Next time I visit, and it won't take me as long to go back as it took me to go for the first time, I'm going to try the Buffalo wings, since that's Taco Mac's signature item.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

#CLTweb... It's A Party Y'all

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/04/2013 No comments
Right now, "Charlotte’s Web: A Celebration of CLT Bloggers & Digital Tastemakers" is going on, an invitation-only event I put together with a handful of great partners. I'll post a full gallery of photos from our professional photog next week, but for now here's a quick camera phone pic of guests early in the evening enjoying the Twitter wall of #CLTweb.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Kriss Kross Changed My Life

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/02/2013 No comments
People everywhere are saddened by Wednesday's death of Chris Kelly, one half of the 1990s teen rap duo Kriss Kross. And if you're an 80s baby like me, you're feeling especially sentimental. Kriss Kross will forever be known for their chart-topping, massive-selling hit single, "Jump." Hearing it played today during news stories of Kelly's untimely death brought back so many childhood memories--middle school dances and talent shows, for example--and the song still makes you want to move. Many people label Kriss Kross, who were discovered and produced by a barely-legal Jermaine Dupri, as one-hit wonders, even though their 1992 debut album, Totally Krossed Out, also featured "Warm It Up" and "I Missed the Bus." But when they burst onto the scene with the release of "Jump," the two 13 year-olds--Chris "Mac Daddy" Kelly and Chris "Daddy Mac" Smith--changed my life.

It's not because they wore their baggy clothes backwards--I didn't have over-sized jerseys and jeans (seriously, Kriss Kross were probably dressed in size 40 jeans) like they had (but I wanted them) so it would've looked crazy if I turned my pants around (as if wearing clothes backwards isn't already crazy). The reason they changed my life is because they were only two years older than me when, in March 1992, I watched them perform "Jump" on television for the first time, on In Living Color.

See, you gotta understand. This was 1992, during an era when MC Hammer had rap music on lock after a string of successful hits (including "U Can't Touch This," 1990; and "Too Legit To Quit," 1991). Also in the early 90s, Vanilla Ice had a massive hit (do I even have to name it?), Naughty By Nature had us asking "Who's down with O.P.P.," and this was a time when there was a lot of fun--and dancing--in rap music. But as catchy and trendy as they were, those were all adults performing those songs. When Kriss Kross came along, here were two kids, who didn't look much different than me, doing something amazing.

When I watched them on that episode of In Living Color, and the way they had the cast and crew, including a little-known Fly Girl whom, years later, we would come to know as Jennifer Lopez, jumping and hanging onto their every word, that inspired me. My twin brother and I had formed our own little rap group with two other friends a few months earlier, and had recently won a talent show. I remember watching Kriss Kross on that Sunday night (In Living Color gave us a reason to look forward to Sunday night, even though that meant the weekend was almost over and we'd soon be getting ready for bed for school), and thinking that my prepubescent rap group--Stone Cold Gentlemen was our name at the time--needed to step up our game.

When I got to school the next day, my friends were all like, "Did y'all see Kriss Kross last night?" But the confidence, finesse, and talent Kriss Kross exhibited in front of that national television audience transcended music for me. It made me, at 11 years old, feel like I wanted to do something great. It made me feel like I could be great. And that's how you want kids to feel growing up, even if the inspiration is coming from two rapping, baggy-crisscrossed-clothes-wearing youngsters.

Rest in peace, Chris Kelly.

My First Time: Nova's Bakery in South End

Posted by Jarvis Holliday On 5/02/2013 No comments
I had a coffee meeting yesterday afternoon with an editor for one of the publications I write for. When we were scheduling the meeting, I suggested we have it at Nova's Bakery in South End. I hadn't been there before, so I figured now would be a good time to check it out.

There are actually two Nova's Bakery locations. This one opened last fall at 1515 South Boulevard (in the former Laurel Market space), and the main one is located in Plaza Midwood--they also set up shop on Saturdays at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market. All told, Nova's has been making fresh European breads and pastries in Charlotte since 1996, and eventually began serving coffee.

We all hold meetings from time to time at coffee shops/bakeries, but rather than go to the big chains like Starbucks and Panera all the time, I try to support the mom-and-pops. And the great thing about the South End location of Nova's is that it's opened 24 hours a day (Nova's joins Amelie's French Bakery in NoDa as, I believe, the only two 24-hour coffee/bakery spots in the Center City and surrounding areas).

I enjoyed a large cup of Brazilian roast coffee and two croissants--one almond-filled and the other chocolate. The croissants were fresh and tasty, but I wish there was more filling. As for the building, it's a quaint space, with free WiFi, seating inside for eight to 10 people, and seating outside for 10 to 12.

Visit for more details.

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