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McAdenville: A drive through Christmas Town U.S.A.

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Photo courtesy of Steve Rankin

Do you remember the final scene in “Field of Dreams,” the aerial shot of hundreds of pairs of headlights snaking single-file through the darkness to their floodlit destination? 

That’s what I imagine McAdenville, North Carolina, looks like from above in December — but without the contrast. Instead of dark Iowa cornfields, the drive-in pilgrims are surrounded on all sides by bursts of red, white and green light. 

Inching off Interstate 85 at exit 23, they turn onto Main Street and make their way, single-file, past the old brick duplex mill houses, then turn right onto Wesleyan Drive at the only traffic light in the center of town, then ease past the lake and the fire station, down the hill to the newer, Charleston-style homes of McAdenville Village. 

This is where Christmas Town U.S.A. comes alive these days, though none of the two-story houses with sweeping verandas existed 20 years ago. Now, however, they’re a sight to behold, every house adorned every December for the pleasure of tens of thousands who make their way to and through this town of 800 for an unfiltered dose of holiday spirit. 

From boomtown to bakery, Todd and its Mercantile endure

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Photo courtesy of Joe VanHoose

Helen Barnes-Rielly needed something to do besides tend cows in Todd, North Carolina.

Her husband Jack, a Todd native, had convinced her a decade ago to move to the unincorporated town on the banks of the New River between Boone and West Jefferson in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but there wasn’t much of a plan on what she could do when she got there.

Jack had an office on the second floor of the Todd Mercantile, a 19th Century wooden structure with a front porch, bakery and art gallery, among other amenities a sprawling community of about 2,100 might need.

Sometimes, things just work out.

Kathleen Kelly would be proud: The story of The Bookshelf

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Photo courtesy of Annie Jones

There’s a scene in You’ve Got Mail, about halfway through the film, where Meg Ryan’s Kathleen Kelly begins to realize that it’s just not working.

The day is coming to an end. The last customers file out. She flips the sign from “Open” to “Closed” in the storefront window, retreats to table — a children’s table — to get an update from Birdie, a character played so wonderfully by Mary Stapleton.

You see, in the film she and her small-yet-merry band of staffers have taken their fight with Fox Books — F … O … X — to the airwaves and streets and everywhere else in between. Yet, despite the crush of attention, the humble bookstore’s foot traffic continues to fall and its sales trend downward.

It’s a sobering blow to Kelly as she starts to wrestle with the reality that this store, this charming Shop Around The Corner, just might not make it through after all. Birdie kisses her on the cheek, leaving Kelly to do what she feels is best.