For almost 21 years, Melody Foote showed travel writers what she considers the finer points of living in Fayetteville.
Now she has written a book about those points herself.
Foote, who was director of communications for the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau from 2001 to 2021, wrote “100 Things to Do in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Before You Die,” highlighting what she considers the best places and activities in the city.
The book is one of 175 in the “100 Things to Do Before You Die” series published by Reedy Press of St. Louis, according to fellow author Amanda Doyle. Reedy Press publishes about a dozen similar series, most primarily in the guidebook model, Doyle says.
Foote’s book is one of six written about North Carolina cities, according to Doyle. Others focus on Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston-Salem.
Foote and her husband, Al, moved to Hope Mills from New York in 1994. Al works in social services. They have two daughters, Amanda and Erinn.
This is the first book Foote, 54, has written.
“I was working with travel writers. I got to know the community really well because I took them on tours of the community,” says Foote, who is now an information officer with the N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality.
When she left the tourism industry, a friend, Connie Nelson of the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau, was approached by a publisher who wanted a connection in Fayetteville.
Foote was a good choice, Doyle says.
“I work with some other people, and we were prospecting for authors in other places,” says Doyle, who has written eight books in the “100 Things” series. “She had just so much to say about what was great in Fayetteville and her explorations over the years. We knew she would do a great job at it.”
‘A natural fit’
For Foote, it was a matter of putting what she already knew about Fayetteville on paper.
“It was really a natural fit because a lot of the places I kind of already knew about, and I did discover some new places,” she says. “I was able to look at the community from a couple of different angles because of the writers. They come in and we would do their itineraries based on their interests, so we would do home and gardens, or we could go to the theater or military sites.”
Foote was given about a year to write the book, beginning in March 2022. It debuted in bookstores and online on Sept. 1.
“I got a more well-rounded picture of the community because I really had to dig and find some things and try to be inclusive,” Foote says. “I dove into the history of the city a little bit more, and then there were sites that I talked to people who were real excited, eager and helpful.”
The “100 Things” books are formatted as an easy read and full of practical information.
The Fayetteville book is divided into categories: food and drink, featuring 21 places; music and entertainment, 17 places; sports and recreation, 26; culture and history, 17; and shopping and fashion, 19.
“It was fun because they were little 135-word stories” for each entry, Foote says.
The book is not actually limited to Fayetteville. It has 17 entries for Hope Mills sites; three for Spring Lake; and one for Fort Liberty — the popular July 4th celebration at the Main Post Parade Field.
Doyle says Reedy Press has two goals for the “100 Things” books.
“One is obviously for anybody who is visiting Fayetteville or thinking about visiting Fayetteville just to give them a good lay of the land,” she says. “But secondly, it’s really to give local people something to be proud of. There’s great stuff everywhere. It’s reminding people about what’s so great about the place you live.”
As she did when she worked for the Visitors Bureau, now called DistiNCtly Fayetteville, Foote says her book stresses the positive about the city.
“What’s not to like about that? There are negative things, but my focus was on the positive things. It’s interesting the writers that would come in; we have a negative perception of ourselves in a lot of ways, but they don’t. They’re coming into a new town to discover the hidden treasures.”
Foote remembers how welcoming the community was when she and her husband moved here.
“We didn’t feel like outsiders,” she says. “Everybody was from everywhere. It’s kind of a melting pot. I think the diversity, thanks to the military, makes the community stronger.”
Asked to name her three favorite things or places in the book, she lists ZipQuest Waterfall and Treetop Adventure, the U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum, and the dog-friendly Dirtbag Ales Brewery.
ZipQuest is “really fun,” she says.
“I tend to be kind of a chicken, but you’re strapped in twice and they’re really conscious of safety. And by the end of it, I don’t know, you feel like you’ve climbed Mount Everest or something. … You’re in the air for two and a half hours.”
She loves the stories told at the museum.
“One thing that is near and dear to my heart at the airborne museum is ‘Constant Vigilance.’ That’s the world’s first (exhibit) for special operations dogs killed in action. I was there when it was dedicated, and there were these big, strapping soldiers talking about the dogs that saved their lives. It was very moving.”
Dirtbag Ales Brewery is one of four sites in the book located on the same property; others are Dirty Whiskey Cocktail Bar, Napkins Shops for Sunday brunch, and Dirtbag Ales Farmers Market.
She also came upon some pleasant surprises along the way.
“The one thing I’m telling everybody about is the planetarium at Fayetteville State University,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it when I went there. We went to a regular show, and I was blown away.”
Clark Park and Nature Center was another golden nugget.
“I was really surprised to learn that they have live animals in there,” she says. “For kids up to maybe 10 and their families, it’s a great way to go and get out of the heat and spend an afternoon.”
She credits her husband, Al, for finding another “hidden treasure.”
When one of the stores she was writing about closed, she thought, “Oh gosh, I’ve got to find something else.”
He told her about Curate Essentials, a relatively new store in Haymount that sells pampering and alternative-health products.
Foote hopes to continue writing when time allows, but she is not ready to quit her day job just yet.
“It’s a place where I can use my skills and talents to really make a difference,” she says of working at the Department of Environ-mental Quality. She works mostly from home, driving to Raleigh two days a week.
But she is already thinking about updating her book.
“I’ve already found some new places that I wish I could have included,” she says.
Those places might include Back-a-Round Records downtown; Miller’s Brew Coffee in Haymount; and Barbara Ann’s Southern Fried Chicken in Hope Mills.
“The hardest part about writing this book was figuring out what to include in the book. Because I knew the community’s amenities well already, the challenge was figuring out what to include,” Foote says. “It took several revisions before I had my final list. And even then, as I was writing the book, it continued to evolve.
“This would be a different challenge if I knew little about the community and had to start from scratch.”
Luckily, for prospective readers, she knew her topic well.