North Carolina-bound: February fun in the Tar Heel State

By Nick Fortuna

During February, many North Carolina residents are all about college basketball and the lead-up to March Madness, but there’s far more to the Tar Heel State than hoops. The Retro ‘80s Weekend hosted by Beech Mountain Resort and the town of Beech Mountain and the Wilmington Coffee Fest are just two of the many cool things going on amid the cool temperatures.

The ninth annual Retro ‘80s Weekend in Beech Mountain is a throwback to the era of big hair, leg warmers and Members Only jackets. The event takes place Thursday through Sunday, Feb. 20-23, and each day, skiers are encouraged to hit the slopes wearing apparel from the 1980s.

There will be live ‘80s music each night Thursday through Saturday, including performances by the Talking Heads tribute band Same As It Ever Was and the ‘80s tribute band Cassette Rewind. There’s also a late-night dance party, an ‘80s clothing contest and an ‘80s ski apparel parade at the top of the Beech Mountain Resort slopes.

Kids will have plenty to do. On Friday, Brick Oven Pizzeria will host an ‘80s-themed “family fun” event, and kids under 12 are invited to “cosmic sledding” down the sledding hill next to town hall. There are karaoke and ‘80s apparel contests for kids. The whole family is invited to a pancake breakfast, a “Let’s Get Physical” aerobic workout featuring games such as Skip-It and Twister, a “Name That Tune” competition and an ‘80s trivia night.

For some cool blasts from the past, play in the Galaga arcade game competition and check out the replicas of the ECTO-1 and DeLorean vehicles, featured in the classic ‘80s movies “Ghostbusters” and “Back to the Future,” respectively,

“Retro ‘80s Weekend is a customer favorite,” said Talia L. Freeman, the resort’s director of marketing. “People love the music and the relaxed atmosphere.”

Earlier this month, the third annual Wilmington Coffee Fest proved popular once again, immersing visitors “in a festival of all things coffee,” as organizers described it. The event was held Feb. 1 at the Hannah S. Block Community Arts Center and Waterline Brewing Co., which was a change from the prior two years, which featured the Wilmington Coffee Crawl, a walking tour of the city’s many craft coffee shops. 

Local and regional brewers kept visitors highly caffeinated from their artisan roasts. There were raffles, live music, food trucks and approximately 80 vendors on hand, offering fine tea, sweet treats, baked goods, local artwork and craft beer. For $18, visitors got admission, a commemorative ceramic mug and an ecofriendly tote.

For those who take their coffee seriously, the event was an opportunity to become an expert. Lectures and demonstrations covered the art of making specialty beverages, the history of coffee, how to open a coffee shop, espresso machine maintenance, the different types of tea and the similarities between brewing coffee and beer. 

Conservation is one of the themes of the Wilmington Coffee Fest, which offers composting onsite and donates a portion of its proceeds to the Plastic Ocean Project, a Wilmington-based nonprofit dedicated to removing plastic from oceans. Some proceeds also go toward preserving the Hannah S. Block Community Arts Center.

“We had a great turnout,” said event founders Krysta Kearney and Will Chacon, who operate coffee shops in downtown Wilmington. “We brought our local community and the surrounding areas together for the common purpose of enjoying company with a good cup of coffee. Furthermore, with the help of our composting team, all the participants and attendees, we succeeded in our environmental efforts to make this festival a limited-waste event.”