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JCVB Blog

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau BLOG is published weekly with news and feature articles on visiting the county.

Ham & Yam Time Again

Ham & Yam Time Again


It's time for the Smithfield Ham & Yam Festival in Downtown Smithfield, scheduled for May 6th with a wealth of activities for the entire family.  For the complete schedule of events and all things Ham & Yam, visit the official visitor website for the festival, www.hamandyam.com.


Ham History


The Ham & Yam Festival is a celebration of the agricultural history of Johnston County. The area was once a rural farmland where ham producers and sweet potato growers made a living. Because of this, the focus of the festival remains food. Attendees can find many varieties of hams and yams at the festival – barbecue from the cook-off, country ham biscuits, sweet potato cheesecake pies, country ham pimento cheese, sweet potato smoothies, sweet potato lemonade, baked sweet potatoes, sweet potato funnel cake, and more! If you don’t know the history of the Ham & Yam festival you should read an older, but still relevant article, by Smithfield native Emily Wallace. You can access it here. If you do know the history of the Ham & Yam festival, then you know that this will be the 33rd year.

A lady doesn’t divulge her age, but I will say that the Ham & Yam Festival has been going on longer than I’ve been alive, which means the Ham & Yam festival has been a staple of my life as a Johnston County native. I can see in my interest and anticipation for the festival how I’ve aged over the years. As a child, my joy in attending the festival was an impending glee regarding what wonders I could persuade my mother to buy me: sand art, a princess ribbon crown, possibly something I could have monogramed. As an adult, I take pleasure in a slow perusal of the vendors, looking for locally-crafted things I could use in my house: oh, look, handmade kitchen towels… I’ll take 8, thanks. Growing up has some hard truths to it. Maybe this year I’ll buy a flowing, sparkly ribbon crown just to prove a point to myself.


Family Fun in the Triangle


Ham & Yam is also about arts and entertainment. There are craft vendors, as well as games and rides, a 5K race, a What’s That Yam Thing? Contest, pig races, and more. Three stages include performances throughout the day, including performances by Nantucket at 2:30 p.m. and The Ultimate Eagles Tribute – On The Border at 7:00 p.m.

See you soon in Downtown Smithfield! conveniently located near I-95 and Highway 70, just 30 minutes from downtown Raleigh.

 

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Howell Woodstock Celebrating Earth Day

Howell Woodstock Celebrating Earth Day


If you’d like a way to celebrate Earth Day this year, the annual Howell Woodstock will take place on Saturday the 22nd of April. The event goes from 1:00PM to 5:00PM and is located at Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center in Four Oaks. Take the kids for nature hikes, browse food and craft vendors, and enjoy educational displays. The Tobacco Farm Life Museum will be joining the festivities this year as well as the Science Club from Clayton Elementary. In addition, Jeremy Stroud will be demonstrating Wilderness Survival and Howell Woods will also be partnering with the JCC Science Dept. and the NC Science Festival to offer some hands-on activities.

“This year’s Howell Woodstock is shaping up to be another great event,” said Jordan Astoske, Director of Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center

Howell Woodstock offers many free, fun activities for the family including fishing, mule wagon rides, astronomy, and reptile displays. Kids can enjoy recreational activities like a rock climbing wall and inflatables.

“We are excited to once again be offering this family-fun day out at Howell Woods,” says Astoske. “This is such a beautiful time of year on the Howell Woods property, and we hope folks will come out and bring their families and have a great time with us.”

Visitors to the area the weekend of the 22nd are encouraged to attend. Howell Woods is located a few miles off of Exit 90 on I-95. Whether you're looking for a day trip opportunity or a family excursion, put Howell Woodstock on your calendar. 

Howell Woods is a unique 2,800-acre natural resource located at 6601 Devil’s Racetrack Road in the southeastern part of Johnston County. Programs, activities, and other recreation experiences like bird watching are offered at Howell Woods at other times of the year during spring, summer, and fall. Continue to check their website below for additional information regarding everything they have to offer both locals and visitors to Johnston County.

Howell Woodstock will be held rain or shine. For more information about the event and Howell Woods, please call (919) 938-0115 or visit www.johnstoncc.edu/howellwoods.

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NC Beer Month is Full of Beer and Cheer

NC Beer Month is Full of Beer and Cheer

It’s the time of year again! NC Beer Month is in April! Our JoCo brewers are ready to welcome you with cheers and beers!

When Deep River’s Paul and Lynn Auclair set out to open Johnston County’s first legal brewery in 2013 they had a vision for an award-winning brewery that would have a beer for every type of craft beer lover and would strive to use locally grown ingredients whenever possible. A short time later, Double Barley Brewing came on the scene making Johnston County an even more enticing place for beer-lovers to visit. Double Barley also uses local ingredients and packs a punch, with a tendency towards dark, strong beers.

Both brewers have expanded production and distribution since they opened. Johnston-County-made beers also win awards. In 2016 Deep River took home Silver at the NC Brewers Cup for their Munich Dunkel – “I Think I Left My Shorts in Munich”. They also took home a Bronze for their Barrel Aged Imperial Milk Stout. Double Barley’s “Double Dubbel” Belgian Style Ale won Gold at the NC Brewers Cup and their “Touché” IPA won Silver at Summertime Brews.



This April, for NC Beer Month, you can expect small batch beers from Double Barley, as well as a BBQ Cook-off at the brewery on April 14th. Deep River will be celebrating with its 4 Year Anniversary Party, April 7th-9th, and is releasing a collaboration with another award-winning brewery, Mother Earth out of Kinston. The collaboration will be a hoppy, Australian-style IPA.

Johnston County is part of the Triangle beer scene and conveniently located just minutes from Raleigh, which makes it a perfect craft beer day trip destination. Visitors can also make a weekend out of their visit with the Sip & Stay package. It’s a wonderful weekend itinerary for couples, girlfriends, craft beer & wine enthusiasts and visitors that enjoy spirits and local foods.

Included among the many deals in the package are coupons to Deep River Brewing Company and Double Barley Brewing. The package also includes a special offer room rate, as well as deals on area shopping, dining, and attractions. For more information visit www.johnstoncountync.org/sipandstay.



To learn more about Deep River and Double Barley visit www.deepriverbrewing.com and www.doublebarleybrewing.com. Both breweries will also be participating in state-wide events and festivals for NC Beer Month. For all things #NCBeerMonth related visit www.ncbeermonth.com.

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The Art of the Cocktail is Being Revived in Clayton

The Art of the Cocktail is Being Revived in Clayton

When you think of a bartender in these modern times you probably imagine a harassed, busy, maybe friendly person hastily taking orders and doling out drinks behind the counter in any given restaurant, tavern, or club. At their best bartenders are welcoming, knowledgeable about the drink menu, and attentive. At their worst, they are rude, short, apathetic and happy to serve you a hastily-mixed version of whatever you ordered.

We can blame this iteration of the bartender on prohibition (like so many other things). But before prohibition a bartender was a sort of Renaissance man, able to expertly serve his bar patrons a concoction fit for their preferences and tastes while understanding enough about each of them to know where along the bar to linger, to listen, or to avoid. He was an artist who knew enough about his craft to make the best popular drinks of that era and to even create his own recipes.

“An excellent bartender can read their customers – they recognize what they want, when they need space or when they need attention. Beyond detailed service, bartending means a deep understanding of ingredients combined with proper execution.”

That definition comes straight from Zack Thomas, bartender and Renaissance man himself. Zack is the Bar Manager and Beverage Director at Clayton’s brand new jazz-influenced cocktail lounge Revival 1869. Revival will be opening the 24th of this month and is the culmination of more than a year’s hard work on the part of owners and entrepreneurs Mike Stojic and Maleah Christie. Both of them immediately knew Zach would the perfect person to be the face of their lounge.



Zack’s background includes work at Foundation, a popular Raleigh nightlife spot. Born in Boston, Zack moved to Raleigh in the early 90s and then back to Boston for college where he started bartending. When asked why he then moved back to Raleigh again, he said it was because he missed it too much.

“I felt at the time that Raleigh was experiencing a cultural revolution, which is also sort of the same feeling that’s led me to Clayton and to Revival. There is a feeling here of being on the cusp of something. The idea that Clayton could have a true nightlife scene is something people are excited for, and I think that what Mike and Maleah are doing with Revival is going to be the moment that kicks it all into full gear.”

So, what will visitors to Revival 1869 experience? Well, excellently crafted cocktails for one. And hot jazz music for another. The bar will feature classic cocktails like the Sazerac, the Old Fashioned, and the Hemingway Daiquiri. A seasonal menu will also feature all original cocktails created in-house. Limited beer, wine, and food items will be available, all with trends towards local and regional sourcing. For example, you’ll certainly be able to find Broadslab Distillery products on the menu. Music will also be a huge focus at Revival. There will be live jazz music every Saturday night and alternating Thursday nights will feature jazz jam sessions and solo pianists and vocalists.



Mike is excited for what Zack and Revival can bring to Clayton’s downtown scene, “We want to go back to the visionary aspects of what cocktail making was 80 to 100 years ago, and get back to treating it like an art.”

Which brings us back to the resurgence of the career bartender. The best our modern-day vernacular can muster up is mixologist. Which makes them sound like alcohol chemists. Which they are. But, they are also so much more. The bartenders you’ll find at Revival, including Zack, will be passionate and meticulous.

According to Zack, his vision for Revival is, “to reintroduce the cocktail culture to Johnston County, which has a long history of spirits. I want Revival to be an interpersonal place of great cocktails shared among people who have a love for good drinks, community, and history. I also want our service to be on-point every single time – fresh ingredients, fresh juices squeezed in-house daily, and a knowledgeable staff.”

Finally, the most important question. What is Zack’s favorite drink? A Rum Manhattan, as it turns out, for its rich, decadent, funky vibe. This could also easily describe the atmosphere at Revival. It’s soon to be one of your favorite places to visit in Johnston County.

There used to places you could go to relax and unwind. Where you could lounge with friends and discuss important or whimsical things. Where the bartender was a magician and every glass full of his own special brand of magic. Where the gin was cold and the piano hot.

And now, in downtown Clayton, there will be again. You could call it a revival.

___________________________________________

Stay tuned-in to everything going on at Revival 1869 by following their Facebook page. Revival will open its doors to the public on Friday and Saturday evening March 24th and 25th. They will be closed Sunday the 26th. After that, regular hours will be Thursday through Sunday with exact times to be announced.

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Up-coming Event Celebrates JoCo Art & Food

Up-coming Event Celebrates JoCo Art & Food


The Johnston County Arts Council will host its eighth Annual Art and Food Festival Gala on March 16, 2017 at the Paul A. Johnston Auditorium on the Johnston Community College Campus. The event is from 6:00-8:00PM and tickets can be purchased in advance by calling Executive Director of the Arts Council, Darlene Williford, at 919-738-9622; she noted that if she is unavailable when you call to be sure and leave a message stating you want tickets. Or you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Tickets are $40 each or 2 for $75.

The fundraiser will generate monies to assist the Arts Council with funding for the 2016-2017 Artists-in-the-Schools program, to provide scholarships for Johnston Community College students studying Fine Arts, and to fund free community programs including: visual artists paint-outs, Johnston Health art exhibits, and Music for the Lunch Bunch.


Showcasing Local Artists & Chefs


There will also be an art show for the event. Artwork will be on display and available for purchase from Johnston County’s most talented visual artists. There were over 50 pieces in the categories of painting, photography, and pottery in last year’s show.

In addition, attendees will be treated to delicious sample dishes from twelve to fifteen of Johnston County’s finest restaurants. And participating restaurants will compete for awards like Best Entrée, Best Dessert, Best Presentation, Best Side Dish, Most Original Dish, and Best Appetizer. Attendees will have the opportunity to vote for ‘People’s Choice Award’ of Best Restaurant.  Participating restaurants last year included Anthony’s Pizza and Pasta, Parkside Cafe, The Serving Spoon, Sherry’s Signature Cheesecakes, and Simple Twist.


Last Year’s Winners


Winners last year included artists Christer Berg, Mary Jones, Kyle Wilson, and Frank Grubbs while restaurant winners included Anthony’s Pizza & Pasta, The Serving Spoon, and Parkside Café. For the full list of 2016 winners please click here to view our blog on last year’s event.

The mission of the Johnston County Arts Council is to provide quality opportunities in the arts for every Johnston County resident. For more information on their events and initiatives please visit their Facebook page.

For a list of events happening in Johnston County, including arts and entertainment events like this one, please visit johnstoncountync.org/events.

 

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Looking Forward to Spring in JoCo

Looking Forward to Spring in JoCo

 

 

 

 

 

 


1. Picking strawberries. This activity is perfect for families with little ones. Johnston County has a few working farms that open their fields to pickers, or just show up and buy them pre-picked by the bucket. Click here for a list of berry farms and farmer's markets sure to have this sweet, red fruit.

 

2. With the weather turning warm and breezy, Spring is a great time to enjoy the Beer, Wine, and Shine Trail. In the Spring months our family-owned, award-winning vineyards are green with grapes growing on the vine and waiting for the late Summer harvest. Sit on the porch and enjoy a chilled glass of wine and take home a bottle of your favorite. Don't forget that April is NC Beer Month. Johnston County's breweries will have special release beers and great weekend events happening in celebration. Visit the Beer, Wine, Shine Trail website to learn how to travel along the trail and then click on each trail location's website for more information on events and products.

 

3. For parents of young, energetic kids it's been a long winter of being cooped-up indoors due to the weather. Take the family outside to explore, play, and learn. The Neuse River also offers an excellent opportunity for canoers and kayakers. For a list of places in Johnston County to hike, bike, and play visit our Nature & Recreation page.




4. Explore Johnston County's Downtown areas. All of our historic downtowns are very walk-able with shops, restaurants, and museums. You never know what sort of unique treats your might find, like the Hills of Snow snow cone which is a local, seasonal favorite - opening in March. Spring also starts our festival season. You can learn more about all our events here.




 

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301 Endless Yard Sale Works to Add Participants in 5th Year

301 Endless Yard Sale Works to Add Participants in 5th Year

A variety of towns located along US 301 in the counties of Johnston, Halifax, Wilson, Nash, and Harnett are planning for this year's 5th Annual 301 Endless Yard Sale, taking place Friday and Saturday of June 16-17, 2017. Along the 100-mile stretch of highway, the communities join together with vendors offering deals, antiques, collectibles and more.

Organizers of the sale this year are focused on further community involvement up and down the sale to increase vendor and shopper attendance. Reports from townships and vendors who participated in last year's 301 Endless Yard Sale show that the event continues to grow. However, there are still sparse sections along the 100 plus mile event and town leaders are looking to change that. A trend organizers are hoping continues this year is the participation of non-profits and private residences. Local businesses aren’t the only ones who can capitalize on sale traffic by setting-up yard sales and vendor booth spots in their parking lots and on their lawns.

“Here in Johnston County businesses along 301 have been selling vendor spaces in their parking lots and having sidewalk sales for the last 4 years,” stated Ashby Brame, who works for the Johnston County Visitors Bureau and helps organize the sale. “Where we’ve seen the sale grow is that now schools, like South Johnston’s Booster Club, and churches have started opening their parking lots to vendors. In addition, residential stretches of country road outside the major towns that used to be blank now have more and more private residences working together with neighbors to offer very robust yard sales along 301.”

The planning of this event also continues to grow in scope as participation and attendance increases. Town managers, tourism representatives, health department officials, and employees with emergency services all remain an integral part of the planning process. In addition, this year organizers hope to work with NCDOT to set-up a system along the route to track increased car volume the weekend of the sale to get the most accurate count of how many people attend the 301 Endless Yard Sale.

Preparations are underway for welcoming tons of visitors who are invited to explore the country roads of Halifax, Nash, Wilson, Johnston and Harnett Counties to look for that unique collectible along the 301 Endless Yard Sale. Towns are working on providing additional events and amenities for vendors and shoppers. Downtown Smithfield will be having a concert event Friday night the 16th. The Wilson Fairgrounds will be offering on-site spaces for vendors wishing to camp-out with their booth. Smaller towns like Micro, Lucama, Elm City, and Enfield hope to have an increased vendor showing this year.

It officially starts Friday, June 16th and runs through Saturday beginning at 7am and ending at 5pm daily. For more information on the event and contacts in each town's vendor locations, visit the official website, www.301endlessyardsale.com.

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Meet Our 2017 Visitors Guide

Meet Our 2017 Visitors Guide

The ink has just finished drying on our brand new Visitors Guide, also known as the "be a tourist in your town" guide.

We here at the JCVB are certainly excited to be bringing you a wealth of information in this compact brochure. The Johnston County visitors guide includes where to stay, shop, dine, drink, explore, tour, and experience the best of JoCo. Also included in the guide is a list of annual events and the months in which they occur, a guide to recreation in the county, and a list of wedding and event venues.

Visitors can find the guide in welcome centers and visitors centers around North Carolina. If you're already in Johnston County then our guide can be found in your hotel, at the Carolina Premium Outlets, and in most of our tourism partners' businesses like museums and restaurants in the towns of Benson, Four Oaks, Selma, Smithfield, Clayton, Cleveland, and Kenly.

The guide is used by the JCVB through-out the year as a promotional tool at media events, trade shows, sales appointments, and industry events to showcase the best that Johnston County's business owners and locals have to offer visitors, groups, journalists, and brides!


You can click the photo below to access a PDF version of the 2017 Visitors Guide.

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Racing in Johnston County – 2017 GALOT Schedule

Racing in Johnston County – 2017 GALOT Schedule


Start Your Engines! Come out to GALOT Motorsports Park for an evening of fun for racers and spectators alike. GALOT will be hosting many different racing events throughout the year. There is something on the schedule for every type of racing fan.

At least three times throughout the year GALOT is very excited to present Mad Mule Pro Mod Shootout racing at GALOT. This is going to be a thrilling racing spectacle with regional racers bringing their own cars and going toe-to-toe in an eighth-mile drag race. The series will follow the same rules and points as Extreme Outlaw Pro Mod with the exception of limiting the field to 8 cars. If you're a fan of drag racing or looking for some fast-paced entertainment, these race events are for you.

New to GALOT this year is the MTC Drag Bike Nationals, a can’t-miss event for racers with a love of motorcycles. The supercharged, nitro burning Pingel Top Fuel machines will highlight the thirteen class, all motorcycle, drag racing weekend in July. Alongside the 200mph Top Fuel bikes, the ManCup Pro show will also feature pro action in Pro Fuel, Pro Mod, Pro Street, Pro Open and Real Street categories.

And back by popular demand this fall is the Monster Truck Throw-down. This is an especially great event for kids and families. The list below includes all currently planned events with more to be added. Mark your calendars for a fun year of racing at GALOT.

March 4th: Mad Mule Pro Mod Shootout

March 25th: Carolina N/T Small Tire Tour and Grudge Racing

March 30th - April 1st: PDRA

April 8th - 9th: NHRA Lucas Oil Divisional

April 22nd - 23rd: Get-A-Load-Of-This Car Show and Swap Meet

May 2nd - 6th: K&N Spring Fling

June 2nd - 3rd: Mule City 300 (NTPA Grand National Pull)

July 1st: Mad Mule Pro Mod Shootout

July 8th: Carolina N/T Small Tire Tour and Grudge Racing

July 15th - 16th: MTC Drag Bike Nationals

September 7th - 9th: PDRA         
          
September 16th: Carolina N/T Small Tire Tour and Grudge Racing

October 6th - 7th: Monster Truck Throw-down

November 4th: Mad Mule Pro Mod Shootout

For more details, and more events as they are added, visit GALOTmotorsportspark.com or call the track at 919-894-1662. GALOT Motorsports Park is located at 555 Dragstrip Road Benson, North Carolina 27504. Racers and spectators interested in over-night accommodations can look for special rates at area hotels, as well as local dining and shopping deals, by visiting johnstoncountync.org/GALOT.

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New, Renovated, and Unique – Meetings in JoCo

New, Renovated, and Unique – Meetings in JoCo

Updates and Renovations


Meet outside the city and outside the ordinary when you plan a conference, trade show, or other gathering in Johnston County. Our location next to the Triangle, 45 minutes from RDU International Airport, and at the convergence of I-95 and I-40 make Johnston County an ideal place to hold a meeting.

With historical downtown areas and rural farmland, meeting planners have a unique mix of urban, modern, and rustic locales to choose from. Venues and services are being added and expanded upon in the county all the time. In 2016 Brick & Mortar, downtown Clayton’s event space and catering company, announced it will remodel their interior to provide events for up to 220 people. Broadslab Distillery in Benson, NC announced plans to open a meeting and wedding venue by Summer of 2017 that will hold 330 people.


Secluded and Beautiful Venues 


Due to the number of beautiful scenic farms, Johnston County also offers off-the-beaten-path venues for meeting planners looking for an experience removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. Locations like Camp Nellie, Lazy-O Farms, and Portofino offer venues by ponds, in horse barns, and under the southern night sky stars.


Amenities and Assistance

There are hotels with varying amenities and price-points spread throughout the county, many of which are close to meeting venues. In addition, locally-owned and chef-operated restaurants provide catering services that will wow your meeting guests with surprising twists on southern staples.

The Johnston County Visitors Bureau is a great resource during the initial stages of your meeting planning. We are ready to help with all your groups needs and can provide you a comprehensive view of the area and help you find the right fit for any size gathering.

Contact us for complimentary help with:
•    Securing accommodations for your attendees
•    Navigating through service provider options available
•    Providing your attendees local information to enhance their visit

For assistance planning your meeting in Johnston County, contact the JCVB at 919-989-8687. Our Sales Manager, Sarah Campbell will gladly assist you.

For a full list of Johnston County meeting venues please click here to download our Meetings and Facilities Guide.

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Trail Rides, Theater Dinners, and Tasting Tours

Trail Rides, Theater Dinners, and Tasting Tours

Celebrate Valentine’s Day in JoCo



Black Creek Hill Farms Valentine's Day Couples Trail Ride
February 14th by reservation only

Includes a 1-and-a-half-hour trail ride for two including a simple picnic lunch with beverage of choice. Information available by calling 919-524-5096.

Private Candle Light Valentine's Tasting & Tour
February 12th through the 26th by reservation only

This couples package includes a private candle lit guided wine tasting for two in one of our barrel gallery rooms, a selection of meats, cheeses, and chocolates to accompany your tasting, a private guided tour of the Winery, two souvenir stemless wine glasses, and a bottle of wine of your choice. Sit back, relax, and enjoy each other while savoring a variety of wines paired with a selection of tasty treats.

Tickets and information available here.

The Clayton Piano Festival presents the 5th Annual Valentine's Day Gala at the Wagner House
February 14th at 6:30PM

Internationally acclaimed husband and wife duo, Craig Ketter, piano and Valerie Gonzalez, soprano take listeners on a journey through some of the greatest solo piano and vocal works having to do with love of all kinds - successful, unsuccessful, dramatic or humorous.

Ticket price includes a four-course dinner, concert, and reception. Tickets and information available here.

The Good ‘Ol Girls Dinner Theater at Gregory Vineyards
February 11th at 5:00PM

Two of Nashville's leading singer/songwriters redefined the modern Southern woman in Good Ol' Girls, a musical about love, loss and laughter. The price includes the show and a prime rib dinner served with salad, baked potato, cheesecake, and tea. The evening begins between 5:00 and 5:30PM.

Please contact Gregory Vineyards at (919) 894-7700 to reserve your seat. More information is available here.

Valentine Food & Wine Tour
February 9th at 6:00PM

Eat, Drink & Fall in LOVE on our Valentine's Food Tour! More information is available here.

Harbor Valentine Ball 2017
February 11th at 7:00PM

Raise awareness and money for a fantastic local organization that aids survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault! Harbor's Valentine Ball will feature music from the Central Park Band, a silent auction, and great food! Attendees will receive two wine/beer tickets and there will also be a cash bar.

Call 919-938-3566 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to purchase tickets! Purchase tickets by February 8th. More information available here.


For an on-going list of events happening in Johnston County, including additional Valentine’s events that could be added as details are finalized, go to www.johnstoncountyevents.com.

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Read the JCVB 2015-16 Annual Report

Read the JCVB 2015-16 Annual Report

Click here to read the Johnston County Visitors Bureau’s 2015-16 Annual Report with financial statements and highlights from the activities of the staff.  The JCVB staff is engaged every day in promoting Johnston County, our hotels, shopping, attractions, and events to attract visitors to our county…who are leaving their dollars behind!!!  

The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, Visit NC Team announced that domestic visitors to and within Johnston County spent $221.72 million in 2015, an increase of 3.2 percentage from 2014.  Tourism growth in the county continues to be strong and already in 2016 revenues are at record heights.

Our marketing and communication efforts are primarily focused outside the county and along our interstates to reach the traveler who has many choices on where to stop and stay along the way.  However, in 2017 we are committed to increasing the communication to our internal customers within Johnston County on the mission of the Bureau. This includes our continued partnerships with the tourism industry, non-profit organizations in the county, our town tourism marketing committees, the Johnston County Sports Council, and the Johnston County Hospitality Association.  

Our primary goal which is mandated by enabling legislation is to utilize the local room tax to market our tourism industry partners helping to bring economic prosperity to the county.  However, we also want you to know us as an agency and our vision for tourism in the county.  We invite you to connect to us on social media, visit our offices, or attend a board meeting... working together we will continue to see great things happen in Johnston County!

With warm regards,


Donna Bailey-Taylor, CDME
President/CEO

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Weddings in Johnston County - Expos and Expectations

Weddings in Johnston County - Expos and Expectations

Locals and visitors alike seek to make Johnston County their wedding destination. A JoCo wedding can be rustic, unique, elegant, outside in a vineyard, or inside a whimsical historic home. And with the right team, it can be all those things at once.

I have worked on the fringes of the wedding industry for years. Never as a planner, but as a provider of wedding services and a member of an association comprised of event planners. Weddings can be exceedingly elaborate or frugally modest. I have never been married, but I have lived through some weddings, let me tell you, and I have two pieces of advice.

The first tip is this: designate a wedding planner. Notice that I did not say hire. I said designate. Wedding planners are angels from God sent to organize chaos into control, cheer in your corner, wipe the sweat from your brow, fight some of the harder battles for you, and make it look like walking on air. This makes them exceedingly qualified to get you from "She said yes!" to the post-reception send-off with supreme grace. This can also make them expensive depending on the level of service you are asking of them. You certainly get what you pay for (in the best possible way). However, in the event that you cannot hire a wedding planner, designate a trusted friend or family-member (not an immediate family member) who you trust to be honest, organized, and un-biased. If it helps, call them a wedding coordinator. They will help you coordinate all the details that you can't quite accomplish on your own. After all, someone has to tell the wedding party when to walk down the aisle while you stand out of sight of your groom.  

The second piece of advice is this: go to a wedding show held within the geographical region that you wish to get married. This holds especially true for destination weddings. If you are not familiar with the area, a wedding show will introduce you to vendors within the local wedding industry. If you live in the area you want to be married in, you're not off the hook. Even if you have been planning your wedding since you were 5 years old (twice-over now that you have a Pinterest), you don't know what you don't know until you attend a local wedding expo. How many cake makers, reception venues, florists, transportation companies, caterers, and wedding planners are in your area? You don't know. Because even though you live here, you've never gotten married here. Or maybe you have... this is a judgment free zone.


The excellent news is that there are 2 up-coming wedding expos in Johnston County.


The 3rd Annual Bridal Expo is happening at The Farm January 29th from 11AM to 4PM. They will have several vendors from the wedding industry, including photographers, videographers, caterers, bakeries, florists, DJ's, travel agents and more! Advanced tickets are $7/person and tickets at the door will be $10 (cash only). The Farm also be giving tours of their venue throughout the day.

The 2017 Clayton Wedding Expo is on Saturday, February 4th, from 10AM to 2PM at The Clayton Center. Discover the latest bridal trends as you chat with 35+ vendors about everything from venue selection to catering and from bridal fashions to honeymoon destinations. The event also will feature food tastings, giveaways, and door prizes. The Clayton Wedding Expo is free and open to anyone planning a very special event in the coming months. Pre-registration for the Expo is not required, but it is highly recommended. The first 100 pre-registered brides will receive a free gift bag. Pre-register here.

You can also browse a list of wedding venues in each town within the county at any time at the Johnston County Visitors Bureau website here. We are all here to help you say I Do in Johnston County.

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Ava’s London Comes to Smithfield in New Exhibit

Ava’s London Comes to Smithfield in New Exhibit


The Ava Gardner Museum in Downtown Smithfield, NC unveiled a new exhibit on the 10th of December last week. The museum has displays that change annually so that visitors to the museum can see new items from the vast collection the museum curates of Ava’s clothes, costumes, photos, personal mementos, art, letters, and props. This year’s exhibit is called Ava Living in London and highlights Ava’s life in London from the movies she filmed there to her time as a permanent resident starting in 1968 up to her death in 1990. Ava Living in London exhibit

Close to 100 people attended the unveiling and ribbon-cutting ceremony including Ava’s great-niece Ava Carol Thompson and family, Ava’s niece Mary Edna Grantham, Smithfield Mayor Andy Moore, Smithfield Town Manager Mike Scott, Executive Director of the Johnston County Visitors Bureau Donna Bailey-Taylor, as well as Teresa Grant from the Johnston County Board of Education. Many of these people assisted in cutting the ribbon to officially unveil the exhibit. During the ceremony, Ava Gardner Estate Trustee and Museum Director Deanna Brandenberger presented a framed photo of Ava, gifted to the estate from the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences in London, to Ava Gardner Museum Board Chairman Rick Lotz in honor of this year’s international success. This aforementioned success stems from the recent honor Ava received as an English Heritage Blue Plaque recipient with multiple events in London surrounding the honor, which the Ava Gardner Trust and family members of Ava’s attended.


Ava Loved London and London Loved Her


Deanna Brandenberger, Director of the Ava Gardner Museum, states that, “The Ava Living in London exhibit is the grand finale of nearly three years of work to have Ava honored in London, to make connections in international communities, and to portray a side to her that people have rarely seen, because it was the most private time in her life. I am very grateful to have the chance to draw attention not only to Ava Gardner’s Museum & Estate, but also to the charities she still supports, and the communities of Smithfield, Johnston County, and North Carolina that she continues to promote as an ambassador of unique history and culture.”

The unveiling event even had a proper English tea, provided by local coffee shop Grapes & Grounds. The Ava Living in London exhibit is an avant-garde tableau which demonstrates digitally Ava’s prowess on the screen, but also portrays her at home and “out-and-about” in the city she loved so greatly! The museum has a great many items on loan just for this exhibit including a stunning evening gown from Harrod’s, personal make-up, and everyday items that carry the capricious charm with which Ava was recognized. Visitors to the Ava Gardner Museum will have the opportunity to view the Ava Living in London exhibit, included in the cost of admission, for the next year. 

Exterior to the Ava Gardner Museum
Johnston County Charm Meets London Chic


The new exhibit is the finishing touch on a whirl-wind Fall for Ava, her estate, and her museum. The trip to London involved events beyond the blue plaque dedication, including a collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum Clothworkers’ Centre to view their facility and the gifts Ava donated to them from her own collection – pieces that will more than likely be on display during the V&A museum’s 2017 fashion exhibit. Representatives of Ava’s trust also attended an evening banquet hosted by the state tourism team Visit North Carolina in downtown London and got to meet members of the film-making and tourism industry while representing Ava and North Carolina.

All these events created buzz for the opening of the exhibit, which Brandenberger said was apparent in the attendance at the unveiling, “The premiere exhibit had a wonderful turnout by our community. It was great to see people from different organizations, fans, partners in the business community, and people who work every day to bring Ava to life with their love and hard work come together for the event. We do it in the hopes that our visitors may continue to enjoy Ava for generations to come.”

Learn more about Ava and how to visit her museum at www.avagardner.org.  Make sure to follow the museum on Facebook and Twitter for current news.

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Rebekah Todd Brings the Hustle in New Album

Rebekah Todd Brings the Hustle in New Album

UPDATE: Since I spoke with her last, back in 2015, Rebekah Todd has been hard at work hustling her way to new music on a full-length studio album (her second). She has been meeting with people in the industry, executing a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the making of her album, writing, recording, and producing said album, planning an album release tour, and then after all that working to actually release the album. That’s where I found her when I reached out to catch-up.Rebekah Todd Drops New Single Called Hustle

I like to keep up with our Johnston County talent. There are crazy amazing people from this area making waves in all sorts of artistic mediums. Rebekah was born and raised in Benson, but she calls Wilmington home now. And she swears that even if Crooked Lines is a huge hit (it will be) she’s not feeling the NYC, Nasheville, or LA vibe. Maybe we’ll keep this North Carolina gem right here in North Carolina. Crooked Lines will debut on the 17th of February, only 9 weeks away. If you want a taste of what the album will sound like you can listen to the single “Hustle”, released today exclusively on Spotify. You can also pre-order the album on iTunes or Amazon.

If you want to hear Rebekah live – she often tours under Rebekah Todd and The Odyssey because that’s the name of her full band – stay tuned to her website and the soon to be released dates for that album release tour I spoke of above. The closest she’ll come to JoCo is The Pour House in Raleigh. Her live shows are much like her new album – groovy and complex.

I asked her how she was feeling post-production and pre-release, “It’s been a blur of a year, but the album sounds amazing! I’m so pleased with it!” If “Hustle” is any indication, this album is going to take Rebekah places, and I couldn’t be happier for her. This musical soul has a salt of the earth quality thanks to her raising, one that the music industry could use more of. For example, for the top donors to her Kickstarter campaign she hand-crafted works of art to send them, thanking them for their support. Stay classy Rebekah, and keep hustling.


Originally posted July 10th, 2015

As I move through the dim atmosphere of the bar I look around at the sparse crowd of early arrivals - it's barely 9:30PM - I know who I am looking for but not sure if I'll know when I find her. Some people look different in person than what you image from promo pictures and YouTube videos. But, as I look to my right and find Rebekah Todd sitting at a booth with her band I am pleased to find that she looks exactly as you imagine her. The long cotton fringe sleeveless vest and the brown wool felt panama-esque hat on her head make her look like the love child of Stevie Nicks and Patti Smith. Appropriate given her musical chops.

Though many musicians can seem or actually are aloof, Rebekah is instantly warm and friendly while introducing me to her band and making me feel welcome in their circle. The noise of the bar fades to the background while we chat about music, muses, and Johnston County. For those of you not in the know, Rebekah Todd is from Benson, NC where she grew-up, in her own words, weird, "I was constantly trying to find ways to channel this creative energy I had." She admits that she had a few close friends but often preferred being alone with her latest project - painting, knitting, and papermaking to name a few. She recalls a funny story of using her mom's kitchen blenders in order to shred paper, adding water to make pulp, "she found me and her kitchen in a mess and was not any less mad when I simply explained that I was making my own paper".

It was this level of intense creativity that lead Rebekah to song-writing. She had been singing her whole life and writing music felt like an extension of that. It was her father who suggested a musical instrument, "he had a really good point," she says, "about having to rely on others to make the music, having to find a band or a partner. If I could play an instrument then I could be a singular act if I wanted to, it would lend me flexibility and autonomy. So he bought me a guitar." She was 16 at the time and her Dad's intuition paid off. By the time she went to college at East Carolina University she was able to make extra money playing gigs at local businesses - just her and her guitar.

While having an amazing repertoire of original songs - more on that in a minute - Rebekah's live shows include an impressive collection of covers. Songs like Superstition, and Rhiannon which is a tie for her favorite cover (the other favorite being The Thrill is Gone). I asked what sort of music had an early influence on her own sound, "classic rock, my Dad listened to a lot of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. I also love soul, like Aretha Franklin, so my own style is sort of a blend of rock, soul, and folk."

 I ask her about her newest album Roots Bury Deep, out February of last year, and how writing is going for the next album, "I wish I could be like those artists who are disciplined enough to write an hour every day, but I have to wait until I really feel it. That might mean going days without anything and then spending hours writing when the right feeling and inspiration comes over me."

What was her favorite song off the last album? "Wishing Well is very meaningful to me even though it isn't the most popular on the album." I make a mental note to give it another few listens. You should too. The sultry tones of Rebekah's voice that make covers like Rhiannon feel so right in her capable hands elevates the haunting lyrics of Wishing Well and takes the song to a whole new level.

I asked about a manager and she just shakes her head, "I do it all on my own." This seems dubious to me, with my miniscule knowledge of the music industry. How do you know what to do and who to talk to and how to negotiate things? That's my true technical talk right there. She just laughs, "I taught myself.  When I started I was just working for tips and now I've done 100 gigs this year alone - it's only July! I've learned how to self-manage and the terrain that goes along with that." Rebekah has in fact turned herself into a booking agent as a side job. It evolved out of her knowledge in self-booking; she had so many gigs coming in that she was having to pass them up and she had the thought to start booking them for other artists and friends (and getting a small portion of the cut, as booking agents do). Truly entrepreneurial. But, then, that's the new music business... sports isn't the only industry moving slowly towards a free agent model. A lot of artists do it all on their own. Her latest album was financially supported by fans and sponsors through Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a website that allows artists and other individuals to raise money for social campaigns or creative endeavors.

Rebekah Todd is often a lone act, just her and her guitar, but she switches it up a lot. As a group act she is Rebekah Todd and The Odyssey - her band. However she is currently touring with The Oblations, a band out of Chapel Hill, making them Rebekah Todd and The Oblations. She confided in me her dream celebrity collaboration would be Neil Young. This just makes me want to ask her to sing Heart of Gold. But instead I ask her if she has anything else she wants to tell me about her music, "I think I'm going to switch my guitar out for electric soon, go less acoustic. I'm ready to be edgy, add more rock to my soul." That sounds like something I'm ready to hear.

I ask her if she gets back to Benson these days with all the touring and what she loves about it. Her answer is wonderfully honest, "If you had asked me this question 5 or 6 years ago I would have had a different answer, but what I like most now about my hometown is the comfort of returning to the familiar. Benson never changes, not where it counts, and it's nice to be able to come back to that."

I asked her what place or business she misses the most, "it's crazy, but, El Charro. I cannot get chicken quesadillas like that anywhere else."

The deliciousness of Johnston County's unique Latino restaurant options seems like as good a topic as any to end on. This further confirms my growing notion by this point that not only is Rebekah Todd one heck of a musician, but a funny, kind, southern soul. If you haven't given this JoCo talent a try, please do. You can listen to all her music here, catch her video performances here, and get info about her latest tour dates here. Rebekah plays festivals and events in Johnston County from time to time - for a full list of events visit www.johnstoncountyevents.com.

Thanks for taking the time Rebekah, you rock!

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Johnston County Hams and Christmas

Johnston County Hams and Christmas

Update: This blog was originally posted last year around this time. It remains an important statement about what Johnstonians hold dear during the holidays and at other time of strife and joy. The making and sharing of food is a language of its own. A Johnston County Ham on the table at Christmas is a gift that can be shared. Rufus Brown and his team's hard work paid off this year especially. The 2016 "Made in America: Gifts From Each of the 50 States" list in Parade Magazine has a Johnston County ham as the gift to get from North Carolina. Hams can be purchased from the Ham Shop in Smithfield or ordered online through the Johnston County Hams website

Blog Post Originally Titled As Long As There is You and Food

In a recent article published on the Southern Foodways Alliance website, Johnston County native Emily Wallace discussed the battle between Smithfield, VA and Smithfield, NC to be Ham Capital of the World. The article, called Ham to Ham Combat is both fascinating and funny. You can read it here.

More importantly, her interview with Johnston County Hams owner Rufus Brown produced quite the interesting quote, highlighted below.


Today, Brown says, the majority of local customers buy hams just once a year for their holiday tables. Folks call relentlessly. “I tell some of the people who work here, I say, ‘Listen. Their whole house could burn down, they could lose all their presents, but if their refrigerator made it through the fire with that ham in it, that Christmas would be fine,'” says Brown. “They say, ‘Nah, you’re crazy!’ But I say, ‘Once you get through one Christmas, you’ll see.'”


As a native of Johnston County myself, I can add validity to Brown's conviction that what matters most to locals around the holidays is food. It always seemed particularly cruel to me that the Grinch not only took presents and decorations, but emptied out the contents of all the kitchens in Whoville. What sort of monster takes the Roast Beast?! Johnston County Hams

This notion stems from a deep belief I have ingrained in me as a southerner that any obstacle, hardship, or unpleasantness we face shrinks to insignificance when we gather around a table filled with food and good company. And maybe that's not strictly southern, maybe it is simply human. But, our belief that presents and decorations are secondary to the tradition of a holiday meal shared with friends and family is not the only "food tradition" that southerners hold dear.

In fact, a good look at the history of southern hospitality reveals an unwavering notion that food is how you show that you care. When a family suffers a tragedy, when a new neighbor moves in, and on every major holiday, people provide food in support and in solidarity. As we mourn together and celebrate together, Johnstonians know that the best way to say 'I love you' or even 'Merry Christmas' is through providing nourishment - pies, cakes, casseroles, pudding, and, yes, ham. Below is a picture of the coveted Johnston County Christmas ham.


Instead of attempting to describe how amazing this ham is, I'll let Johnston County Hams do it for me, "For over 60 years and across two generations of renowned curemasters, we at Johnston County Hams in Smithfield, North Carolina have hand crafted "cured" country hams inspired by the techniques used by America's early colonists."

Another family-owned Johnston County establishment catering to our obsession with food is Atkinson Milling Company. Open since 1757, no I did not type a number wrong, and owned by the Wheeler family going on three generations now.

I asked Andrew Wheeler, third generation Wheeler at Atkinson's, to share what Christmas means to his family. He said that Christmas for the Wheeler family is always celebrated on Christmas Eve at Grandma and Papa's house (that's Betty and Ray Wheeler, the first Wheelers to own Atkinson's Mill, pictured below), "Traditionally, Grandma cooked the whole spread. The foods that are Wheeler family traditions are fresh greens, Grandma's macaroni and cheese, a BIG pot of chicken pastry (Atkinson's of course) and hushpuppies (obviously Atkinson's as well!). The greens are always grown and delivered that week by Colon and Coy Batten, longtime Wheeler family friends."

Ray and Betty Wheeler
But he can't just list the food, because, as I have pointed out, food means more than something to eat, it means heritage and home, "Papa loves Grandma's homemade macaroni and cheese, so it is a staple. And Grandma always made the best pastry. It was perfectly seasoned and never stuck together. The hushpuppies are significant to our family because our Atkinson's Regular Hushpuppy Mix was Grandma's own personal recipe and the very first product our company ever made after plain cornmeal."

"After everyone eats, all 34 of us (yes there are 34 of us, hence the BIG pot of pastry) pile into the living room to open gifts. In recent years Papa has taken over the gifting from Grandma and it is always a lot of fun to see what he picked out for everyone. He gets all the grandchildren a gas card and a funny gift. For example, last year my wife received a bottle of aftershave and I got a can of soup. It is always a treat to laugh at everyone's crazy gifts and his unique spellings of all our names (Papa is known for his inventive spelling). While all the gifting is going on some of the children and grandchildren have a little wrapping paper fight. Grandma scolds everyone saying that she is going to take a switch to us all. In my 26 years she never has; we're all starting to think she's not entirely serious."

Atkinson offers a wide range of cornmeals, biscuit mixes, breaders, and grits. The best product for the holidays, in my opinion, is the Atkinson's Cinnamon Flake Biscuit Mix. Try using it to make the cinnamon roll recipe on our website here. You can get more Johnston County Christmas recipes here.

No matter your holiday tradition, favorite foods, or family recipes, I hope that you, like the Wheelers, are gathering together with those closest to you. Merry Christmas from Johnston County! May your new year be filled with more nourishment then a slice of Johnston County Ham on top of a warm, buttery Atkinson Milling Company biscuit.

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Celebrate New Year's Eve at The Farm

Celebrate New Year's Eve at The Farm

If you’ve been to, or heard of, Farm Fest then you know that The Farm in Semla, NC puts on one heck of a show. Last year, their first ever New Year’s Eve bash was a packed-house success. This year’s event will be no different. Dance and groove to the sounds of Jim Quick and Coastline. Enjoy small bites provided by Backyard Bistro catering. Cheers to the new year in style. And watch the ball drop on the big screen at midnight!

The Farm asks that you come dressed in your festive attire (no jeans please) and celebrate 2017 with wonderful music and great friends. Doors will open at 8:00PM and there will be a cash bar including beer, wine, and soft drinks.  You must be at least 18 years of age to join the party. Taxis will be available outside after the event for those that will need a ride home.

This year, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau has worked with area Smithfield hotels to offer an exclusive hotel rate for visitors that have tickets to The Farm event and need accommodations in the area. There is a link to purchase tickets on this page here. Participating hotels are located just miles from the venue and include Baymont, Best Western, Country Inn & Suites, Holidays Inn Express, Sleep Inn, and Super 8.

Trent Lassiter, General Manager at The Farm Entertainment Venue is ready to put on the event again, “We are excited to be ringing in 2017 at The Farm!  This is our second year hosting a New Year's Eve event like this and it's sure to be a good time.”  

The Farm’s other events like Farm Fest and Beach Fest draw hundreds of people from all around the eastern part of the state.  People are looking for unique events to attend and The Farm’s packed calendar proves that Lassiter is willing and ready to offer it, “Lots of people from our area, not to mention visitors and travelers on I-95, used to have to drive over to Raleigh and other places for a NYE party such as this. But now, they can toast the new year in Johnston County with a fun night of entertainment at a great venue.”

For more information on New Years at The Farm and hotel rates, visit our dedicated webpage. To find out more about The Farm’s events and concerts throughout the year, visit their Facebook page.

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Johnston County Holiday Celebrations

Johnston County Holiday Celebrations

The holidays in Johnston County brings to mind my childhood and a Christmas filled with twinkling lights, the sounds of the season, and my breath fogging up the cold air as I eagerly awaited Santa at the end of the town Christmas parade.

In the spirit of getting the most out of the holidays, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau has completed for the second year in a row a list of holiday events happening in all of Johnston County's towns - parades, light shows, tree lightings, and other special celebrations.

For more information on each listing visit www.johnstoncountyevents.com, a site provided by the JCVB that you can return to throughout the year for events and festivals happening each month around Johnston County.

I hope that you enjoy this magical time of year with family and friends and that these events give you the opportunity to spend time together celebrating the season.

You can also download this document here: 2016-joco-holiday-events.pdf

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Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday

Everyone has their own opinions surrounding Black Friday. Some would classify it an obsession. Some, a tradition. While others find it's slow erosion of Thanksgiving Day and family-time appalling. Whether you're spending Friday the 25th of November in front of the TV on the couch or in line at a store, you certainly have the next day, Saturday the 26th, to go shopping or shop some more. And the Saturday after Thanksgiving has, for the past 6 years, been known as Small Business Saturday.

Started in 2010 and championed by American Express, Small Business Saturday is one day out of the year where shoppers are encouraged to focus their attention and buying-power on small, locally-owned businesses. These are the shopkeepers on the corner, the chefs serving-up homegrown dishes in the kitchen, the artists and growers and merchants on main streets across the country. They have hand-made, hand-picked, and personally-selected items in their stores that would make the perfect Christmas gift for someone on your list. They can help you pick the most cheerful decorations, the perfectly-paired wine, or provide a warm meal to keep you going while you shop the day away.

The best part is that whether you're a local or a visitor to Johnston County this holiday season, small business shops and restaurants are all around. They're waiting to welcome you this Saturday. In fact, the Johnston County Visitors Bureau (JCVB) has been working on creating and posting videos that highlight all the many things to do along the main streets in Johnston County. You can view the Benson video here, the Clayton video here, and the Smithfield video here. Don't forget about Four Oaks' boutiques and general store and Selma's plethora of antique shops. Keep on the lookout for videos coming about these area's as well. This Saturday would be an excellent time to check out all these downtown areas for yourself.

It is on days like Small Business Saturday that we can reflect on how important these businesses are to our local economy. And tourism, by definition, exists to support and sustain the success and growth of these businesses by bringing in visitors from outside the county to enjoy everything that JoCo has to offer. So this Saturday, thank a small business owner and get all your friends and family Christmas presents that have been "sourced-locally".

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Ava Gardner Museum to Unveil New Exhibit in December

Ava Gardner Museum to Unveil New Exhibit in December


The Ava Gardner Museum in Downtown Smithfield, NC will unveil a new exhibit on the 10th of December. The museum has displays that change annually so that visitors to the museum can see new items from the vast collection the museum curates of Ava’s clothes, costumes, photos, personal mementos, art, letters, and props. If you have yet to see last year’s exhibit you have a few more weeks before it comes down. The current exhibit includes artifacts and information associated with Ava's friend and costar Omar Sharif, who sadly passed away last year. The exhibit also includes a tribute to her husband Frank Sinatra in honor of his 100th birthday and a commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Ava's death, both of which were observed last year.

This year’s exhibit will be titled “Ava Living in London” and will highlight Ava’s life in London from the movies she filmed there to her time as a permanent resident starting in 1968 up to her death in 1990. The unveiling event on the 10th will include a homage to a traditional English tea, sponsored by local business Grapes & Grounds and starting at 10am.

Though Ava is from Johnston County, she was also happy to call England home for many decades. She stated multiple times that it reminded her very much of North Carolina. “And strangely enough, England proved to be very much like North Carolina. The English use expressions I’ve never heard anyplace else but back home, so I felt comfortable with them right away,” quoted from Ava’s autobiography titled “Ava, My Story”.

The exhibit will include publicity shots from her time filming there, video from those films, and tableaus recreating iconic scenes from her life in London. Deanna Brandenberger, Director of the Ava Gardner Museum, states that it will be an exhibit like never before seen at the museum, “In conjunction with receiving the honor of the Blue Plaque in London, we have decided to uniquely portray Ava’s life in London where she lived 32 years.”

In Ava’s own words, traveling and living abroad had a profound effect on her life for the better, “Pandora [the film] got me outside these United States for the first time and introduced me to the two countries, England and Spain, where I was to spend much of the rest of my life. One trip abroad, honey, and I almost never looked back.”

The exhibit opening coincides with plans to recognize Ava at multiple events in London. As Brandenberger mentioned, The English Heritage will be dedicating a London Blue Plaque to Ava Gardner at her last home, 34 Ennismore Garden on November 4th, 2016 at 10am.  Last month the British Film Institute (BFI) honored Gardner at the famous London Film Festival during a screening of Seven Days in May in which she co-starred with Kirk Douglas, the BFI’s classical artist of the year. In addition, the renowned Victoria and Albert Museum’s Clothworkers’ Centre houses twelve of Ava’s couture fashions that were donated by Ava and her family. Some of the pieces are slated to become part of the Balenciaga exhibit that will be put on display for the public next Spring.

The Ava Gardner Museum is located at 325 E. Market Street, Smithfield, NC and additional announcement on events will be posted on social media as well as on the museum’s website, www.avagardner.org.  Make sure to follow the museum on Facebook and Twitter for current news.

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Beer Wine & Shine Trail

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Travel around the county to four award-winning wineries, two breweries and get a taste of brandy along the way!  Receive a Free $30 coupon book when you complete the trail.

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Meeting Planners

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Johnston County offers conveniently located and affordable conference facilities for meetings, reunions, and unique destination weddings sites.  Why not select a historic home or horse farm for your next event?

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Group Tour Operators

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Groups have discovered exits along I-40 and I-95 for outlet shopping, music theatre, museums and heritage sites.  Call today for custom itinerary planning.

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Hotel Packages

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We have created several special hotel packages including a Girlfriends Getaway for outlet shopping, we know you need a break and great deals on shoes!  Click here to book your getaway today.

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Check out what other travelers say about Johnston County, North Carolina on TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor
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