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Reminiscing and Re-Discovering Haywood County

Haywood County between the late 90s and early 2000s was unlike most other places on this side of the country in my mind. It was a very small town and not a whole lot of activities going on for young adults. My parents were immigrant workers and I had no choice but to learn English in the school system. All of my elementary school teachers were truly angels sent to live on earth - very resourceful and always made me feel welcome and at home. Everyone was super friendly and despite knowing there was a slight language barrier, I never felt at odds.

Growing up I became heavily involved in sports such as dance, gymnastics, and cheerleading. I quickly learned that Friday night football games were the highlight of the week in a small community like Haywood County. As teenagers we overlooked how lucky we were to have four seasons, but man did we love those snow days!. Snow days meant getting stuck inside with your best friends, watching movies, drinking hot chocolate and going sledding after warming up.

Springtime meant we were skipping school and driving up to the parkway to a waterfall or swimming hole, just to throw ourselves in freezing water that hurt everything in your body, down to your feelings. The smell of campfire on your clothes lingered year round because no matter what time of year it was, there was usually a gathering around a fires somewhere. Summer meant going to the Folkmoot parade, cooking out with your neighbors, going to the Lake Junaluska pool or going to the lake with your friends for the week. As summer ended and fall began, the leaves changed colors and reminded us that a new year was upon us and school was about to start again.

I moved away in 2012, for five years and swore I’d never look back again. Well I was wrong, I moved back in June of 2017 to be with family and help restore the house I grew up in, right in the heart of Waynesville. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and experiencing. The amount of growth and change that had taken over in just five short years was astounding. I would have never guessed a brewery would ever be on Main Street. I was automatically in love with the classic movie theater, The Strand, which I always hoped would reopen one day. The different road routes had me questioning if I even knew where I was going anymore, whereas before I never once had to think about where I was going. I don’t think I even remember Hazelwood before what it is now, because there wasn’t ever anything in Hazelwood really worth remembering. I was sad to discover that we no longer had the wide open garage-style Newsstand on Main Street anymore or the Drive-In movie theatre. We allowed certain things to leave while other things are getting better. Being a Haywood County native and local, I am so excited to see how this wonderful town will evolve this year and in the years to come. Here are a few photos from back then, in between, and now.