For some, the dog days of summer are a slow point in the annual news cycle, but that wasn’t the case in North Carolina this year. Let’s recap seven of the hottest local stories from summer 2015 (in no particular order).
1. ROCKING WITH THE ROLLING STONES: Venerable rock band The Rolling Stones brought decades of hits to Raleigh this summer, filling most of N.C. State’s Carter-Finley Stadium with music fans during football’s offseason.
2. SHARK ATTACKS UNNERVE BEACHGOERS: Nature almost wiped out the summer surfing season when one or more sharks started what to some felt like a feeding frenzy along North Carolina’s shoreline. In all, there were at least eight shark bites reported in less than a month, including two teens who lost limbs in June.
But why was it news this summer? Was it because more people were in the water? Or was it heightened media awareness of a frequent and natural event? The shark bites briefly affected coastal tourism before the waters calmed down.
3. POLL SIZES UP “DEEZ NUTS”: As national pollsters noted Donald Trump’s quick rise among Republicans, a local polling firm added the little-known candidate “Deez Nuts” to the mix in August.
Nine percent of North Carolina respondents said they’d vote for the distinctively named candidate, who turned out to be an Iowa teen with enough humor to join the federal election process. Were N.C. residents unaware of the joke or just tired of all the polls? Either way, it didn’t make for a flattering revelation.
4. RETHINKING RALEIGH’S DRINKING LAWS: Bars and restaurants in downtown Raleigh this summer had to quickly cope with regulations limiting where and when people can drink on city sidewalks being used as patio space.
5. TAR HEELS ON TV: The HGTV show “Love It or List It” filmed an entire season – 26 episodes’ worth of home renovations – in and around Raleigh. Not to be outdone, a Wake Forest couple appeared on another HGTV show, “Vacation House for Free,” to overhaul a home at Carolina Beach.
The Triangle’s food trucks also got some air time this summer. The chef from American Meltdown appeared on “Cutthroat Kitchen”; “A Few Great Bakeries” profiled the Durham baker who makes Chez Moi rum cakes; and Pho Nomenal Dumplings competed on Season 6 of “The Great Food Truck Race.”
6. SUMMER OF DISCONTENT?: One of this summer’s somber stories was the fatal shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., by a suspect whose pre-attack manifesto displayed frequent Confederate and racist references. Simmering tensions stemming from Charleston – and other recent incidents – reached the Triangle in a number of ways.
Monuments to Confederate soldiers in Chapel Hill and the state government complex in Raleigh were defaced with graffiti containing the phrase “Black Lives Matter” amid protests and memorials that were more peaceful. Those protests against Confederate symbols also sparked a large pro-Confederate rally in Hillsborough. In related action, Gov. Pat McCrory said North Carolina specialty license plates should stop displaying the Confederate battle flag, though that change has not yet occurred.
7. FROM SAUNDERS HALL TO CAROLINA HALL: There was enough momentum at UNC-Chapel Hill to rename a campus building from Saunders Hall to Carolina Hall this summer. Why the rename? Noted historian and Confederate Army Col. William Saunders also was reputed to be a 19th-century Ku Klux Klan leader.
The decision in May to change the name created a tempest on campus among some students and faculty who wanted the building to be named for black writer Zora Neale Hurston, but UNC officials decided to use a more universal name.
8. NC BUDGET TALKS DRAG ON: Yes, according to the headline of this article, this list should only have seven items. But for some, the summer isn’t over yet. North Carolina legislators are still negotiating a final state budget, sparking debates about funding for driver’s education and teachers’ assistants. Will lawmakers, who have thrice extended budget deadlines, reach agreement by Sept. 18?