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BIRD’S EYE VIEW — A webcam mounted to Mast General Store in Waynesville serves up real-time footage of downtown, an ideal way to keep tabs on the street during special events, like this screenshot captured during a recent car show.

Follow the holiday merriment from afar this year by tuning in to a new downtown Waynesville webcam.

The real-time footage allows anyone, anywhere to spy on downtown — an ideal way to check on festival crowds, the current weather or even find out what store your hubby popped into while Christmas shopping. It also provides a bird’s eye view of parades, just in time for the Waynesville Christmas Parade on Dec. 9.

“That’s a great way for people to watch it without being here,” said Joey Fuseler, general manager of Mast General Store. “You see a solid two blocks of Main Street.”

The webcam, mounted on Mast General Store, pans up Main Street and back again on a continuous loop. It’s the brainchild of Waynesville Town Manager Rob Hites who was looking for an easier way to answer one of the top inquiries they get at town hall: what’s the weather like in Waynesville?

“We constantly had people calling to ask us what the weather was like, and how busy was it at our festivals and whether the leaves were changing yet,” Hites said.

Hites often saw TV stations cut to real-time webcams during the weather and began looking into the idea for Waynesville.

“It occured to me if the television stations around the state were using these webcams as part of their weather broadcasts, it would be good publicity for the town,” Hites said.

The next question, of course, was where to mount it.

“We simply walked up and down the street,” Hites said. “What we were looking for was a location that could pan both directions of Main Street, with enough clearance that it could also pan into the mountains so you could see the colors of the trees, the snow or the weather up high.”

Mast General Store offered the perfect vantage point and was more than happy to accommodate it. Mast General Stores provides internet connectivity and electrical connection for the webcam, and in exchange for hosting the cam, Mast’s logo appears in the corner of the picture.

“We couldn’t have run the camera without our sponsorship with Mast General Store. They have been exceedingly helpful and wonderful to work with,” Hites said.

Fuseler said the webcam will come in handy this winter when making the call on whether to open when it snows.

“Being able to keep an eye on conditions on Main Street will be helpful for anyone who manages employees downtown,” Fuseler said.

Another virtue is being able to check in on crowds during downtown’s many special events.

“It is kind of neat to see how busy it is, or if you see a lull you can head on down,” Fuseler said.

When the camera was first installed, his seven-year-old begged to look at the webcam each night before going to bed. Visibility is still surprisingly good after dark, he said.

“The street lights really illuminate Main Street,” Fuseler said.

As the webcam pans up the street, it pauses briefly and zooms in on the distant ridges. The momentary diversion from Main Street gives viewers an idea of what the weather is up on the mountainsides.

“People would call from Florida wondering what the weather was like at their summer house, so we deliberately programmed to pan the way it does,” Hites said.

Waynesville’s webcam is hosted by a company based in Boone called Resort Cams, one of the leading platforms for webcams in local communities around the state.

Waynesville got a grant of $5,200 from the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority to cover the upfront cost of the webcam. The town picks up the tab for the $1,500 annual service fee for hosting and equipment maintenance.

The annual contract with Resort Cams also includes marketing of the webcam with television stations and travel sites. Within just a few days of the webcam being installed this summer, Hites saw it featured during a WLOS weather broadcast.

“I have people stop me all the time and say ‘I saw Waynesville on the weather,’” Hites said. “It’s doing exactly what we hoped it would.”

Check out the webcam for yourself on The Mountaineer’s homepage at themountaineer.com.

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