Darts and laurels

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 1, 2012

Laurels to the selection of a local Miss Cheerwine: Post columnist Mark Wineka.
Sort of.
A press release announcing Wineka’s selection as the newest Miss Cheerwine arrived at the Post via email Thursday. It said: “An unlikely candidate has triumphed over a highly competitive field in the search for the new Miss Cheerwine, and the family-owned, Salisbury- based company is thrilled, if slightly stunned, to announce Mark Wineka as the new Miss Cheerwine.”
Wineka and his co-workers dismissed it as a prank. Still, there are no dumb questions. A query — “This is a joke, right? — brought confirmation that Wineka was not the company’s new national “brand ambassador.” But Cheerwine’s Tom Barbitta, senior VP for marketing and sales, did assign Wineka an elite role:
“He is the winner of Miss Cheerwine search only for Salisbury, NC ;)”
Wink, indeed.
The press release included little-known details about Wineka, referring to his “wide-hipped” pickup, his 32 years at the Post, the curl of his moustache and his bubbly personality. He once said his middle name was “Bubbles.”
The company won’t need to shoot a promotional photo. The Post pieced together an appropriate portrait in January to accompany the column in which Wineka nominated himself for the job — “a Miss Cheerwine with cojones.”
Barbitta says he’s not quite sure what put Wineka over the top.
“Maybe it was the picture of him holding up a glass of Cheerwine in cutoffs and a midriff-revealing plaid shirt that did it; maybe it was a moment of clarity; maybe it was just plain inevitable. But we knew it had to be him.”
For those interested in the real new Miss Cheerwine, look for an announcement on Monday. She is likely to fit Cheerwine’s original vision — a charming, effervescent young lady from the South.
But she could never fill Wineka’s stilettos.
• • •
Dart to some unwanted visitors to North Carolina — new species of ticks and the kudzu bug. Researchers say the proliferation of tick species could foretell an upswing in cases of tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. They’re especially concerned about a little sucker known as Ixodes Affinis, a South American tick previously contained to coastal areas but now showing up farther inland. Researchers don’t know why the ticks are migrating to new areas, but say the shift has been occurring slowly but steadily over time and could be related to climate change. Meanwhile, the kudzu bug invasion is proceeding much faster. Kudzu bugs, which feed on legumes and are native to Japan, were first spotted in North Carolina in 2010 and have now spread to about half the state’s counties, according to researchers. While the bug does like to feed on kudzu, it isn’t likely to help eradicate the rampantly growing plant. Of greater concerns is how much of a risk established kudzu bug colonies may pose to another favorite snack, soybean plants. The quarter-inch insects, which are oblong in shape and olive-green in color with brown speckles, also like to congregate on crepe myrtles and magnolia trees, as well as light-colored siding. Fortunately, they apparently don’t eat the latter.