cary cycling race

Cary Cycling Race Pictures

Brian Speice Photography-5Cary, NC — We sent our summer photo intern, the fabulous Brian Speice, to take some pictures of Cary’s first “closed loop” cycling race downtown.

Cary Cycling Race Pictures

The race, called the Orange Star Criterium, was put on by Town of Cary and Cycling Spoken Here. Big ups to both of these fine organizations for expanding the envelope in Cary.

But information has been scarce for the general public. Is it a secret? Readers are invited to browse our sources in case more details become available.

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Reflections on Backyard Chickens

backyard chickensCary, NC — Backyard chickens crossed the road to legality about a year ago in Cary after years of discussion and debate among citizens and Town Council members. Pro and anti-chicken “special interests”—as Mayor Weinbrecht called them—ruffled quite a few feathers as they lobbied for and against Cary residents’ right to keep hens for eggs and companionship. Read more


At Cary’s Aradia Fitness, Pole Dancing Stays In The Family

aradia-pole-dancing-caryCary, NC — When Terri Kerr opened America’s first Aradia Fitness franchise in 2007, few would have considered trying pole dancing as their weekly exercise regimen. But the sport has quickly merged towards the mainstream over the past six years, thanks in large part to the success of pole dancers on television shows like America’s Got Talent. Now in her fifties, Kerr is passing ownership of the successful studio on to her daughter, Dakota Fox. Read more


Cary Photo Journal: Road Trip to Pittsburgh & Ohio

road-trip-pittsburghCary, NC – A couple of weeks ago, our photo intern Brian Speice took a road trip to Pittsburgh and Ohio. We said “bring your camera.”

A Cary Point of View

Of course, people from Cary travel all the time, all over the world. Some of them take pictures. Some, like Brian, are really good photographers.

Which raises the question, do Cary-ites have a particular point of view? Do we see the world a certain way? Is there a “Cary-school?”

Lest you think, dear readers, that we are just gilding the lily, you’ll recall that we’ve done other photo essays by Cary-ites abroad – in Berlin, New York, New Dehli and elsewhere.

Add this one to the Cary Road Journal collection.

Cary Photo Journal: Road Trip to Pittsburgh & Ohio

From photographer Brian Speice:

“Hal, Here are 14 of my favorite pictures from my trip! Other than the first three (traveling pictures) and the last one (shot in Ohio), they were shot around Pittsburgh (where we had the most time to just walk around and do street photography).”














Photos by Brian Speice. Text by Hal Goodtree.


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School of Rock this Summer in Cary

school of rockCary, NC — What would happen if your elementary school music teacher held a summer School of Rock? That’s what kids in Cary are finding out this summer. Read more


The History of Cary Academy

cary academyCary, NC – Now entering its sixteenth year, Cary Academy still looks and feels new, despite its columned, classical-style design.  The ancient inspiration for the private, 6-12, college prep school’s 65-acre campus stands in sharp contrast to its pursuit of the “cutting edge” in middle and high school education.

The Beginning of Cary Academy

“Discovery, innovation, collaboration, and excellence” has been the school’s motto since it first opened its doors to students in 1997. These were still the main traits highlighted by Ann Goodnight, one of the school’s founders, and Martina Greene, Dean of Faculty, when I talked to them about Cary Academy’s history.

The experience of volunteering at her son James’s public middle school—where she felt strong student-teacher relationships were lacking—sparked Goodnight’s vision for a private school with higher educational standards.

“I was very concerned about what I was seeing,” Goodnight remembered, “our son… his day was sliced and diced … teachers hardly knew their students. Children need more nurturing at a middle school level than at any time in a person’s life,” she added.

Goodnight raised her concerns with her husband, Jim Goodnight, SAS co-founder.  Together, they decided to build an institution that would provide what public schools in the area were missing.

Planning a New School

In 1994, the Goodnights, along with Ginger and John Sall, Cary Academy’s other founders, began gathering a team of experts to lay the school’s physical and conceptual foundations: contractors, architects, designers, and the school’s first head.

The planning process ignited some controversy in the media and among public school officials.

“We were being criticized for turning our backs on public schools,” Goodnight recalled. But she stressed that improving public schools was always one of their main commitments: “our idea was that maybe we could build a model and … share best practices with public schools.”

Goodnight explained that the founders faced another challenge in recruiting students, which “really took a leap of faith” on the part of the parents. The first “brave” Cary Academy parents risked sending their children to a brand new school with no reputation, Greene remarked, “who wants their child to be the subject of an experiment gone wrong?”

For the teachers, though, Cary Academy was “exciting, attractive,” and offered a “sense of opportunity” to design a creative curriculum with few, if any, limitations from the administration. During the first few years, both the teachers and students had to be comfortable with a great deal of change. “It was exciting and scary,” Greene said, “now we’re in a more settled period… but we don’t want to lose that sense of innovation.”


Technology in the Schools

Indeed, innovation—especially of the technological sort—has played a key role in the school’s curriculum since the very beginning.

Goodnight said her husband “was very keen on incorporating technology in the school. He thought that would be such a transformational tool in the classroom.”

In the mid-nineties, Cary Academy’s 1:2 computer-to-student ratio was revolutionary. Less than a decade after its opening, the school offered each student a personal tablet computer, again pushing the frontiers of technology in education.

Both Goodnight and Greene expressed a profound admiration for the faculty, especially in regards to their adaptability and creative use of technology. “Their spirits for innovation in the classroom have been extraordinary,” Goodnight attested.

Greene also noted that the way teachers use technology has evolved since the school first opened its doors. Computers, once used for simple tasks like recording grades and sending messages, now allow students to “produce and create things” through more complex programs.

“Technology keeps on changing and we roll with it. That’s what makes Cary Academy great,” she said.

 Alumni Community Grows

Over the past decade and a half, Cary Academy’s community has grown into another one of its greatest assets, according to Greene and Goodnight.

Alumni are now reengaging with the school in different capacities, even as teachers. “That creates a whole new sense of community. The alumni network is an ever-growing pool that we can turn to,” Greene commented.


Foreign-Exchange Program

Perhaps the school’s most unique feature, however, is its foreign exchange program, which has always been a critical part of the language curriculum. Every year, one hundred upper school students travel to five different countries: Argentina, Austria, Chile, China and France. While there, they put the language skills they’ve acquired since middle school to use, living with a family and interacting daily with their hosts’ culture.

“That travel experience that every student has in their foreign language has turned out to be one of the best components of the Cary Academy experience,” Goodnight said.

According to Greene, the original Head of School, Don Berger, was committed to developing an exchange program that every student could participate in. This experience, which Martina said “pushed students out of their comfort zone,” aligned perfectly with the school’s mission of discovery.

At the program’s launch, only 65-70% of students traveled abroad; today, participation has increased to 95-98%. “We take [the program] for granted,” Martina admits, “this is not normal!”

Challenges Ahead: Tempering Balance with Ambition

Looking forward, Greene said the school’s biggest challenge will be to take on the “race to nowhere” idea: a pervasive, almost excessive sense of ambition that drives students to overachieve and to stretch themselves thin over academics, athletics, and other extracurricular activities.

“How can we tone some of that down a little bit, so that students have time to enjoy themselves?” Greene asked. “This question is larger than our school alone,” she acknowledged; most private schools struggle to help highly-motivated students find a healthy balance under the pressures of teachers, peers, parents, and their own perfectionism.

Greene said she hopes to find a way to “bring more sanity to students’ and teachers’ lives.”

New Head of School

I asked Greene how she feels about the fact that Dr. Michael Ehrhardt will be the next Head of School, effective July 1, 2013. She is eager for a fresh perspective, and hopes Ehrhardt will be able to “energize” the school. “Change is more exciting than scary,” she added.

Cary Academy by the Numbers


For more info, visit


Story by Jamie Berger, Cary Academy ’09. Photos by Brian Speice. Inforgraphic by Hal Goodtree.

Cary Pictures: July 4th at Booth Amphitheatre

cary-pictures-koka-boothCary, NC – We sent our  talented photo intern Brian Speice to get some Cary Pictures on July 4th at Booth Amphitheatre. Independence Day never looked so good. Read more

Fire Station 8 Dedication in Cary

[Editor’s Note: This summer, CaryCitizen is rich in talented, smart interns. We sent Austin Cooper, a rising senior at UNC Chapel Hill, to cover the opening of Fire Station #8, a “climate showcase” building designed with environmental sustainability in mind.

“How was it?” I asked Austin on the phone. Long silence. I could sense his disapproval. Read more

Angst Report: College Grad Returns to Cary


Story by Jamie Berger, CaryCitizen’s summer writing intern. Photo by Brian Speice, CaryCitizen’s summer photo intern.

Cary, NC – The deceptively innocent question, “So, what’s next?” becomes somewhat of a cruel cliché when asked of soon-to-be college graduates or recent grads. We hear it so many times that our responses start to sound scripted. In many cases—at least when the answers are less than promising—they actually are, because “I don’t know” never satisfies. At least for me, directing this question inwards provoked a series of existential crises that eventually escalated into a full-blown quarter life crisis. Yes, that’s really a thing. Google it.

Until a couple weeks ago, my answer was “I’m going to gain some professional experience for a year or two before returning to law school or grad school.”  In other words, “I have no idea.”  In other other words, “I’m going back home ‘til I can figure it all out.”

It wasn’t just my uncertain future, the scary headlines about unemployment rates among college graduates, my impending eviction from academia’s comfy cradle, or the prospect of an endless cycle of internships that generated my final-semester panic. I was also horrified of ending up back at home. In Cary.

There has been a bit of hubbub lately surrounding Cary’s lack of “Millennials,” also known as Generation Y. I was one of this age group’s few representatives at the recent Imagine Cary Summit, where I learned that Cary has a significantly smaller percentage of residents between the ages of 20 and 29 than Raleigh, Wake County, and North Carolina. Most of us who grew up in Cary in the late 1980s and early 1990s leave for college… and don’t come back.

Nevertheless, I did end up there after graduation, and found myself savoring my time in my hometown. Few other places are as serene as my own backyard in one of Cary’s “older” neighborhoods – though not beautifully manicured like other lots in town, its lovely wildness and quiet, scurrying life dazzle on late afternoons in summer. Creeping ivy and half-foot saplings are slowly reclaiming the shady, forest-bound yard where I used to play badminton on bare feet. My house, now over twenty three years old, shows its age in well-worn carpet and dated wallpaper. Timeworn photos of middle school friends have faded on a sunlit wall. This place has grown up with me.

I was beginning to look forward to spending more time in Cary—realizing my nightmare of “ending up” there was more like a dream—when I was offered an internship in Washington, DC that I couldn’t refuse. I haven’t spent more than several weeks at a time in Cary since I left for college four years ago, and this summer will be no different.

Sometimes I don’t even fully unpack my bags; I live out of a suitcase in my own house.

Now that I’m living in DC, I couldn’t be happier. It has everything a person of my generation could want: the freedom of not needing a car, dense, walkable neighborhoods, a plethora of (often free) cultural offerings, restaurants serving almost every type of cuisine, and immense opportunity to explore many possible answers to the question, “So, what’s next?” After only a week here, I’ve already caught the bug of urban life.

But my ephemeral Cary summers—and Christmases and Thanksgivings—will still be some of my favorite parts of the year. Cary is not only a calming escape from college or, now, professional life; it’s also where the people (and animals!) I love are most concentrated. After living in rental after rental after rental, Cary is still the only place in the world where my bed, my room, my backyard, my town exist. As a transient twenty something, I treasure the sights, smells, and comforts of my one and only home, and I’ll always go back there, if only for a couple weeks at a time.


Here are a few of our favorite stories from previous CaryCitizen interns and student-contributors.

Lovett, A Cool Evening At Booth


Story by Travis Toth, summer music intern for CaryCitizen.

Cary, NC – As the sun set over Koka Booth Amphitheatre, Delta Rae finished up their set and the crowd in Cary waited patiently for the main event. Finally, the acoustic band took the stage, but where was their front man? After a charming instrumental intro, Lyle Lovett entered from stage right and joined in for a catchy tune called “Choke My Chicken.” The evening was off to a great start. Read more