by Eric Ginsburg
Every week, we do our best to bring you the most pertinent information about our three little cities that could.
Sometimes that takes the form of a list, like a recent compendium of “7 Triad sandwiches you haven’t tried, but must.” Plenty of other outlets put us on lists, often in the form of idiotic clickbait written by someone Googling in Indiana (or India) or a computer algorithm in Silicon Valley. Those sorts of compilations have little relevance to Triadians, but the idea behind them is sound; people appreciate easily digestible, relevant and authentic lists on things they care about. And so the Triad Book of Lists was born.
The idea is to see past the individual components of our cities, and beyond municipal borders themselves, to take in the Triad as a collective force. Even as we chronicle what’s great about this area and attempt to spell out some specifics, we acknowledge that the best thing about the Triad may be that there are so many incredible things happening here that many, many of them are inevitably left off lists like these.
We’re not interested in whitewashing the negative aspects of this area, but we want to reflect to our neighbors — both actual and potential — the incredible and inspiring things that make the Triad a wonderful place to live.
Here’s a look at the best of who and what we are as a region as an attempt to provide a cohesive snapshot of the Triad, particularly for those residents who grow weary of our shared home or those outsiders who are considering joining us.
Top 5 things about the Triad
- It’s an incubator
The region is an incubator in so many ways. It’s affordable, which means that getting an idea off the ground is cheaper, making your vision more accessible. There is a plethora of available space and empty buildings — the bones already exist. The Triad is filled with supportive and interlocking communities, meaning that support for grassroots efforts materializes and people enthusiastically support new ideas. And this region is a training ground across disciplines, thanks in large part to the significant number of higher education institutions.
- The diversity
Our cities are incredibly diverse, which can be measured in many ways. The Triad is home to large immigrant and refugee populations. Religious diversity is apparent too, in institutions such as the American Hebrew Academy, Wat Lao American Buddhist Center and the Greensboro Islamic Academy. And then there’s the Moravian and Quaker history. Greensboro is a majority-minority city, and Winston-Salem practically is as well. The cities are influenced by nearby rural North Carolina too, and together this confluence of people means rich differences of perspective, experience, ideas, cultures and more. TCB knows at least one couple who moved back to the Triad from Asheville because they wanted to raise their kids in a place with genuine racial diversity.
- The size
The Triad is small enough to enjoy perks like an almost complete lack of traffic. It’s easy to run into people you know, adding to a sense of community, but the Triad is still large enough to find privacy. And to explore new things — you could never truly see it all, and even if you came close, change is happening quickly enough that you’d have to start over. It’s small enough to get the mayor on the phone, but big enough that touring acts like Taylor Swift don’t pass by.
- The geography
Geography is destiny, we’re fond of repeating. Three cities being so close together is a rare gift if you know how to take advantage of it, be it for a night out to dinner or attracting a company. We’re in the center of the state, which means that numerous state parks, mountains, beaches and cities including the Triangle, Charlotte and Asheville are in striking distance. The Triad is well situated on the Eastern Seaboard too, and not just in terms of positioning for industry, transportation infrastructure or a getaway to Charlottesville or Charleston, but also the weather. While it snowed and rained in the Northeast last weekend we enjoyed 70-degree weather, but we’re still in a climate where we enjoy the four seasons.
- The people
It sounds like a cliché but it is the most essential factor. People here are friendly, educated, innovative and active. We’re a socially engaged bunch, taking direct action to solve problems rather than waiting for someone to come and do it for us. This manifests in so many ways including the Winston-Salem Black Panthers’ ambulance system that served the ignored, black part of town. More recently, people in Greensboro started a homeless day shelter called the Interactive Resource Center, and generated the brilliant idea of hosting a blanket-fort party to encourage donations. In High Point, people are talking about community gardens next to playgrounds so parents can multitask. It’s that abundance of ingenuity and spirit that sets us apart.
13 sets of people who should meet or collaborate
One of the greatest benefits of having three cities so proximate to one another is the opportunity to connect with people who hold similar passions who operate in a different — yet accessible — community. It’s the kind of thing that happens regularly, and it is heartening that this inter-city connectivity appears to be occurring with greater frequency.
There are plenty of examples, including RiverRun Executive Director Andrew Rodgers working with Greensboro filmmaker Harvey Robinson on “Crooked Candy,” Triad Stage joining forces with Hanesbrands Theatre or SECCA, Elsewhere and Chaos Kitchen co-hosting an event together.
Our Editor-In-Chief Brian Clarey talks about part of our mission being to act as connective tissue, bringing people together who would benefit from each other’s insights, experiences and ideas. It’s like professional and social matchmaking, drawing commonalities between similar work or concepts across communities that we cover.
One of the most rewarding parts of our recent anniversary party was the ability to introduce these folks in person — connecting the folks behind Preyer Brewing in Greensboro with Hoots and Small Batch in Winston-Salem, or the host of WFDD’s Dining Room series with Greensboro restaurateur and food movement vet Mary Lacklen. Senior Editor Jordan Green enjoyed introducing former Guilford County Republican Party chairman Michael Picarelli to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board member and Democrat Elizabeth Motsinger.
But there are so many other people that I would hope could sit down together and get to know each other, letting ideas bounce around and germinate.
For simplicity’s sake, the first person mentioned in each duo lives in Winston-Salem while the second person lives in Greensboro.
- Artists Laura Lashley and Beka Butts have a similar eye for pattern and colors, and would appreciate each other’s aesthetics.
- Both John Bryan and Eric Robert have sunk considerable time and money into renovating huge mills, though Bryan’s West End Millworks has more tenants.
- Former alderman and Winston-Salem State University professor Larry Little and Black Lives Matter activist Irving Allen would enjoy an intergenerational conversation about the legal system, community organizing and policing.
- Poets Jacinta White and Kayla Lewis have an affinity for the spoken word, and would probably end up hosting events together.
- It would be surprising if preeminent foodie Nikki Miller-Ka and Ethnosh organizer Donovan McKnight hadn’t met yet, but a deeper conversation about food might spring forth some pop-up ideas.
- Photographers Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez and Stephen Charles would appreciate each other’s work and likely get along easily.
- Winston-Salem City Councilman Dan Besse and urbanist/writer Kristen Jeffers would have a rich conversation about city planning, development and the future.
- The folks at Reanimator Records, which is also a bar/show space, would enjoy hanging out with the dudes at Revolution Cycles, where there are 10 beer taps. Maybe they’d end up creating some freaky side project together.
- Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership leader Jason Thiel and downtown Greensboro consultant April Harris no doubt know each other, but a longer or more frequent conversation would lead to actionable, urban ideas.
- Freelance journalist Jonathan Michels and Bennett College journalism professor Tom Lipscomb wouldn’t run out of things to discuss.
- Councilmen Derwin Montgomery and Jamal Fox have much in common, both in terms of their jobs, their districts and being the youngest members of their respective city councils. They already know each other, but should still team up.
- Black Mountain Chocolate pastry chef and chocolatier Megan Peters and Crafted restaurant owner and chef Kristina Fuller could potentially create the most fantastic of food events together.
- Visual artist Evan Hawkins projects trippy, acid-like moving images behind Jared Draughon for Must Be the Holy Ghost, but Hawkins’ skill could be adapted for a Dance from Above event at the Crown.
8 tips for newcomers
First of all, welcome! We’re glad to have you. It may take you a little while to orient yourself, especially on our somewhat confusing roadways. So here are a few things that might be helpful to know off the bat, in no particular order, as you settle in.
- It’s what’s on the inside that counts
The beauty of these cities doesn’t always throw itself at your feet. Part of what’s great about living here is that you need to dig, to explore to find what you’re looking for, but you can consider us your shovel. Yes, we know some of the architecture in downtown Greensboro is atrocious, and that downtown High Point is a ghost town. But scratch a little bit more below the surface, and we’ll pretty sure you’ll like it here.
- Dream big
Welcome to the place where your dream of taking over an abandoned warehouse and turning it into some sort of artistic, collective compound can actually happen. But get plugged in first, because that sort of thing is already going down, and people will stand behind you more quickly if they’re part of the loop. This is the kind of place where you can really leave your fingerprint.
- We’re unpretentious
At least, most of us are. In cities this size, it’s hard to be that full of yourself — the whole big fish/small pond thing. That means most people around here are humble and welcoming, which is a huge asset. (Oh, and a lot of us don’t understand that Northern sarcasm, and we don’t drive aggressively like they do in the Northeast either.)
These cities can feel insular sometimes — in smaller cities (like Winston-Salem), people band together to support each other for the long haul. That means you might feel like it’s taking a while to break in. Or maybe you’ve been here for a little bit and things are starting to feel constricting or repetitive. There’s some truth to that, but remember that people run into their exes in larger cities all the time — it’s about networks. Whenever the Triad feels small, push through and you’ll realize there’s much more to explore. Join the bike polo teams in Winston-Salem or Greensboro, try a kickball league or go paddle boarding at Lake Brandt.
- High Point is underrated
This bears repeating even for lifelong Triadians, including High Pointers; the Third City is way cooler than you think. Go talk to the folks at the 512 Collective to learn what’s up, cruise around and look at the uncommon art outside of furniture showrooms and sneak onto High Point University’s campus. High Point will surprise you with its crepe shop, unexpectedly spectacular bookings like Black Violin, its existing and two planned breweries and businesses like Swedebread or C’est L’amour macaroons.
- Serious arts
We take the arts seriously here. There’s an arts school in every city, such as Weaver Academy in Greensboro, not even counting UNC School of the Arts, and strong communities support people across disciplines with aboveboard and underground projects. The list is endless, but it’s worth mentioning things like Press 53 in Winston-Salem and the Bryan Speaker Series out of Guilford College. The arts community may be strongest in Winston-Salem — hell, it’s the City of Arts & Innovation — home to the South’s oldest (and very active) arts council, the beautiful and vibrant Hanesbrands complex and a downtown arts district.
- Great neighborhoods
All of the Triad’s cities are home to some pretty astounding neighborhoods that boast a community and cohesive character. The cool kids in Winston-Salem mostly live in the West End or Southside, while their counterparts in Greensboro are spread across Fisher Park, Aycock and Glenwood. But much could be said about Ardmore and Westerwood or Lindley Park, three similar, artist-packed communities, as well as countless other areas of the Triad.
- Get outdoors
The parks system here is incredible. Take the trail around Salem Lake, for example, or the extensive mountain-biking paths in north Greensboro. There’s more coming, too, including LeBauer Park and the Downtown Greenway in Greensboro and an art park and Bailey Park in Winston-Salem. Check out the Oak Hollow Marina in High Point while you’re at it, or join the High Point Cycling Classic. Don’t miss greenways like the underappreciated Strollway in Winston-Salem or the Bicentennial Greenway in High Point either.
5 things only people from Greensboro will understand
- What a “Whirlie” is
- How to drive under the bridge when the train backs up traffic at the South Elm Street crossing, and how jarring the train horns are downtown
- That business attire is more casual here (maybe it’s due to the city’s history of producing jeans?)
- How adorable the red pandas at the Greensboro Science Center are
- What “Hamburger Square” means
You’re basically a Winston-Salem native if you…
- Ever argued with someone that yes, Maya Angelou did live here
- Are sick of hearing jokes about how phallic the Wells Fargo Building looks
- Know that the West End Opera House has nothing to do with cantatas
- Remember more than one previous name for Mary’s Gourmet Diner
- Can’t go out for a drink without running into an ex, but it’s okay because you’re still friends (the city is too small not to stay cordial)
You know you’re from High Point if…
- You understand the magic of the Biscuit Factory
- You know what “La Ha,” also known as “La Hac,” is
- You moved to Greensboro to be in a bigger city
- You pay the city for electricity
- You’ve been to “The Store” in Oakview more than once.
1 thing only people from the Triad will understand
- What the Triad is (and no, it has nothing to do with organized crime in China)
10 randomly assorted awesome Triad things
- The Center for Creative Leadership, which is famous enough that someone in the back of a butchery in Barcelona asked if I knew of it.
- The endless amount of restaurants to explore, including excellent international options like the brand new Kool Runnings Jamaican restaurant in east Winston.
- The long history of civil rights activism, from the well-known Sit-In Movement to people like Albion Tourgée or the union organizing of Local 22.
- Unusual spaces aren’t uncommon here, making it easy to forget just how unique things like Geeksboro and Elsewhere truly are.
- Winston-Salem’s connection to the film industry, including RiverRun, movies like George Washington, A/perture Cinema and UNC School of the Arts grads like David Gordon Green.
- Speaking of RiverRun, the Triad’s festivals, particularly those in Winston-Salem, are first class. That goes double for Phuzz Phest, and new ones such as DashPop music fest and the Carolina Brewsfest Craft Beer Festival (in High Point).
- There are so many rad, super-small businesses and collections of people doing interesting things, such as SmallBatch Kombucha, Electric Pyramid and Unicorn Press.
- The Triad is home to so many freakin’ colleges. Where else can you find two historic women’s colleges, four public universities including an arts-based one, two community colleges, and a number of other schools including the nationally recognized Elon Law School and Wake Forest University? And don’t even get me started on High Point University.
- Yeah, we don’t have any real pro sports teams here, despite a brief layover as the Hartford Whalers transitioned into being the Carolina Hurricanes. But Greensboro is Tournament Town, hosting all sorts of lower level competitions ranging from water polo to the ACC college baseball tourney. And there are three minor league baseball teams here, boasting central ballparks and excellent names.
- Parking is so absurdly easy here, and it’s free on weekends. Plus, somehow Winston-Salem hasn’t realized that charging a quarter per hour is laughably cheap.
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