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    Posted May 20, 2012 by
    Charlotte, North Carolina
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    City smackdown: Charlotte

    Quirky Charlotte - the unique, weird and fun side of the Queen City

    What began as just labor has turned into a labor of love. I publish the website Charlotte on the Cheap (http://www.charlotteonthecheap.com). Every day I write about free and cheap things to do in Charlotte, North Carolina. The three years I’ve run this website have brought me closer and closer to the city that I’ve adopted. I’ve lived here for 23 years but in the last three I’ve learned the city from the ground up and discovered the energy, spirit, and quirkiness that you might miss if you just pay attention the heavy hitters like banking and NASCAR.

    I’ve taken my dog to get his picture with a drag queen at a street festival in Plaza Midwood. He wore a pink feather boa. (My dog, that is.)

    I’ve gone to a Full Moon Drum Circle at the Square and Trade and Tryon. This is the big-establishment center of Charlotte, but on this night belly dancers and drummers took over, competing for pavement and air space with a street preacher and a brass band.

    I’ve spent an evening at Buskapalooza, an event organized by a local filmmaker who is documenting the street performer culture in Charlotte. Several city blocks were filled with musicians, magicians, break dancers, jugglers, and artists. There was also one guy in front of Ri Ra Irish Pub singing and playing guitar, unaware that he had become part of an organized event. When he forgot the words to Johnny Cash’s Fulsom Prison Blues, a passerby stopped and stood next to him to sing along.

    What else? I’ve celebrated Day of the Dead at Pura Vida Worldly Art in NoDa, listened to a harmonica concert at Amelie’s French Bakery and Café as I sipped coffee, heard some fine story-telling by members of the community at Crossroads Charlotte’s “The Cankerworm” event. I’ve attended Meck Dec Day, where Charlotte celebrates the signing of the nation’s first Declaration of Independence (a year before some redhead up in Virginia wrote that other one; and, please, save your history debates for the saloons) with re-enactments, heroes on horseback, and cannon firing.

    If it's not too crass, I'll also mention that all of these events were free to attend.

    These events were organized by regular people who worked together to create something unique. Don’t get me wrong. We’re indebted to Wells Fargo and Bank of America and other organizations for their sponsorship of major events. Without them we would not have the rich cultural life that we enjoy here. But it’s the passion and drive of small business owners, independent artists, and other everyday folks that make Charlotte interesting. Admire the gleam of the towers in Uptown. But then direct your gaze to street level. Look at each other. Because the heart of Charlotte is its people.

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